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The Queen of Cassiopeia was standing there as well, along with the disgruntled American General.
“Von Schtorr has been entreating me to provide an introduction. He has many particular gifts that are interest to us. And besides that, he is a physician. He has made the most passionate protestation about a wish for your friendship, Lael.”
“Only friendship,” said Von Schtorr. “I wish only to be your friend.”
Lael quickly, but somewhat condescendingly, translated for the benefit of the American General, who responded with an expression of gruff distain.
Cassiopeia took a deep pull on the cigarette holder between her lips, agitating the coal and making it flare. “When there is so much affection between a man and woman, they should be lovers.”
“Yes, the fastest way to put an end to it,” Trichmann retorted.
A wistful smile played upon Lael’s lips. “Not always.” Lael glanced to the Queen, expecting to find confirmation. The two women regarded one another as if they shared many intimate secrets. “It is a beautiful thing to stay friends with a man after he has ceased to be a lover.”
“But not as satisfying as leaving him broken and suicidal,” replied Cassiopeia with a laugh. She was joking of course, but evidently she had certain experience of what she was joking about.
“Von Schtorr needs to see our elaborate ruse up close. He’ll understand better when he sees how it is put together. It is a work of art the like of which the world has never seen before. And like any form of art, it plays upon the mind with illusions that illuminate the truth that lies beneath. Have you ever flown, Wolfgang?”
“I don’t like airplanes.”
“You have never been in my hands,” said Cassiopeia.
In the history of humanity, had there ever been a fighting force superior to the legions of man-eating flies that obeyed commands of their human masters? The jet black clouds massed across the horizon, their opacity bursting to aqua brilliance as they drew near. Their collective buzzing rose to a treble roar.
The tide of the war turned quickly as the irresistible power of the flies tore through the allied forces and civilians fled. Finally, the Fatherland had broken the dismal stalemate of the Western front, that absurd gash of trenches into which great nations dumped the fruits of their industries and the fruits of their loins.
Von Schtorr watched the babbling hysterics of terrified commanders and retreating troops. He tasted triumph through the countless mouths of his insatiable airborne legionnaires. Surely there had never been cleaner victories than the fields of polished bone he left behind.
For the first time in his life, Von Schtorr understood the glories of conquest. Battle roused the spirit. He came in touch with the values of his ancestors. But none of them, not his father, nor his father’s father, nor anyone in their long lineage of warriors ever enjoyed such an intoxicating sense of invincibility. They may have wished for it, or lied to themselves to feel a semblance of it, but they could have never truly known it.
Veringer and Trichmann remained to conquer Europe while Von Schtorr headed for America with the Expeditionary Force of the Central Powers.
He was ready to conquer the New World.
From Twilight Patrol #2: Maggot Czar of the Everglades
From “The Tethers”
“There are some things that not even the Lord of Heavens can change,” shouted Diego, as he lay down the cards that would doom them all. “Four Aces beats four Kings.” Diego Diablo!
A wayward losing bet brings Orville Wootin to the legendary Isla Lajana, off the coast of Cuba. It promises endless delights, and even perfection itself. But the island itself is yet another game of chance, full of odds that no one would dare to lay.
There was too much light and too much darkness, and those who saw it– or failed to see it—were blind drunk anyway. Despite the full moon, the Cuban night was impenetrable, for the sky was shot with painfully bright flashes of lightning which seared the vision and pained the eyes. It was as if someone were playing with God’s own light switch. A storm had knocked out electricity all over the island. Apart from that which was wasted in the sky, there was no current to be had for love or currency.
Orville Wootin and some of the young pilots took refuge in a bar. By the flickering of candlelight and lightning, they settled in to play poker.