Marilyn picked Jack up from his motel in the America News Network helicopter. The rest of the Blue Nasties were already inside. Everyone was in costume and sporting their slashing weapons. Marilyn had returned to her human form.
No one said anything for ten minutes as they flew. They all just looked out of the windows.
Marilyn broke the silence. ‘We’re going after the Cosmonaut. He’s trying to destroy the manned mission to Mars launching from Johnson Space Center tonight. I will be aiding you personally on this mission.’
Sam looked at Jack. He heard her voice in his head. Aren’t we going to ask her what the heck is going on?
Jack had been dreading this. He cleared this throat. ‘Marilyn, the team and I have been wondering what’s been up with you lately….’
Marilyn glared at him. Then her eyes softened. ‘I don’t know….’ Her eyes hardened again. ‘Focus on the mission.’
The helicopter landed in front of Space Center Houston. It was a complex of white buildings with a spacecraft on top of an airplane outside the entrance. Scientists and engineers were streaming out of it.
An Asian man in a lab coat ran up to them. ‘Thank Einstein, Newton, and Darwin you’re here, Marilyn! The Cosmonaut is headed for the spaceport right now! He’s going to sabotage the manned mission to Mars! It was supposed to be secret! Someone must have leaked it! It was Nigel from accounting, I just know it! He’s had it in for me for years! I’ve evacuated all non-essential personnel, but the spacecraft is unguarded!’
Marilyn nodded. ‘It’s alright, Director Tofu. The Blue Nasties are on the case. What’s the quickest way to get to the spaceport?’
‘Through the RockeTech Worlds of Tomorrow! Be careful, though! The Cosmonaut has left his Spacemen slasher gang there to kill anyone trying to stop him!’
‘We’ll deal with it.’
Sam leant close to Jack and whispered. ‘Isn’t it weird how much influence the media has in our society? Marilyn has NASA working with slashers.’
‘Focus on the mission,’ said Jack.
The Blue Nasties headed into Space Center Houston. There was a reception area with rockets on display everywhere. They followed the signs to the RockeTech Worlds of Tomorrow. There were ten doors leading to ten different planets.
‘Ten doors and six of us,’ said Marilyn. ‘We’ll find the Cosmonaut faster if we split up.’
‘Right,’ said Jack. ‘We seem to work better that way anyway.’
Sam raised her hand. ‘Can Lobo come with me? She can’t use the Zone.’
Marilyn shook her head. ‘No. If she wants to stay with us, she has to pull her weight.’
Sam frowned, but Lobo licked her hand.
As they entered the doors, a voice tour played. The voice was that of a cheery 1950s American housewife. ‘Welcome to the RockeTech Worlds of Tomorrow! Ever wondered what it would be like to live on another planet in our Solar System?! Well, wonder no more!’
‘Want to return to nature?! Become a lumberjack on the Lumber Yards of Venus!’
Reptilian thought he saw something moving through the trees. He revved his chainsaw and prowled over to the spot. A twig snapped behind him. He spun around to find the Lumberjack swinging his fire axe.
‘Want a permanent winter wonderland?! Become an ice miner in the Ice Mines of Neptune!’
Nordic Alien saw Puck slowly rolling through the mouth of the ice cave. He took an ice pick from the pile beside him and threw it at her.
It did nothing.
He threw three more.
It did nothing.
He threw everything he had at her.
It did nothing.
He turned around and ran. He heard the buzzing of roller skates behind him. A bladed hockey stick impaled him through the chest.
‘Want some sun, sea, and sand?! Become a salt farmer on the Salt Farms of Uranus!’
Tentacle Monster stroked his poisoned harpoon. When the Blue Nasties tried to swim across the pool, he’d jump out from behind the salt mound at its centre and stab them to death! The Zone couldn’t protect you from poison! A figure appeared at the beach entrance. It was Mezu!
Mezu started to walk on water across the pool.
Tentacle Monster gritted his teeth. Zone-using punk! Whatever! Let’s see your magic save you from this! He jumped out from behind the salt mound and thrust his poison harpoon at Mezu.
Suddenly, Tentacle Monster was underwater. His headless body sank beside him.
‘Want some excitement in your life?! Become a lightning farmer on the Lightning Farms of Saturn!’
As soon as Sam Jacinto stepped through the door, Great Galactic Ghoul hit her with the cattle prod.
She laughed. ‘Quit it! Quit it! That tickles!’
He kept hitting her, but she kept laughing. She was a monster!
She pushed him away. A gust of wind sent him flying into the electricity pylons. Electricity ripped through his body.
She cringed and pulled at her collar. ‘Sorry!’
‘Want some peace and quiet?! Become a gravedigger on the Graveyards of Pluto!’
Grey’s heart was pounding. Why did he ever agree to this?! He loved Mother Russia and all, but there was no way he was going to fight the Blue Nasties with a spade! He looked around for somewhere to hide. There were only graves. He got in one of them and went stone still.
He heard the panting and bounding of a dog moving across the room.
That must have been Loco Lobo. She’d passed him by. Thank Stalin!
He got out of the grave.
Loco Lobo was sitting right there.
She gave a wolfish grin and bit down on his neck.
‘Want a man’s world?! Become an iron miner on the Iron Mines of Mars!’
Little Green Man ran through the cave complex.
He turned left. There was the devil woman! He turned right. There was the devil woman! Around every corner was the devil woman! The devil woman had not been mentioned in the Cosmonaut’s plan!
Eventually, he reached a dead end.
He turned around and found the devil woman right in front of him. He swung his pickaxe at her, but she caught it in her four hands and crushed it. She placed her hands on his chest and started to melt him. The last thing he saw was the devil woman’s smiling face.
‘Thank you for visiting the RockeTech Worlds of Tomorrow! Whether the future of interplanetary colonisation is under capitalism or communism—we’re hedging our bets—we hope that you’ve learned that life on another world will be fun and profitable!’
Jack and the others reassembled outside at the spaceport.
Spaceman was floating towards the rocket headed for Mars. He didn’t look so tough in his puffy white space suit holding his flimsy USSR flag. However, the Zone was always a gamechanger.
‘Be ready for anything,’ Jack said to the others.
The Cosmonaut turned around, stretched his hand out, and spoke with a Russian accent. ‘Zona Osobyy: Nul' Sila Tyazhesti!’
The Blue Nasties started flying rapidly into the air.
Jack didn’t need to know Russian to understand what the Cosmonaut had said: ‘Zone Special: Zero Gravity!’
Instead of panicking, Jack, Puck, Mezu, and Sam launched a simultaneous attack.
‘Zone Technique: Fire Whirl!’ said Jack.
‘Zone Technique: Icicle!’ said Puck.
‘Zone Technique: Wind Wave!’ said Mezu.
‘Zone Technique: Whirlwind!’ said Sam.
They threw their slashing weapons at the Cosmonaut’s head.
The slashing weapons hit home.
The Cosmonaut fell.
The Blue Nasties went into free fall and crashed to Earth. Lobo made sure to land on Jack, winding him.
Jack coughed. ‘Thanks, Lobo.’
Lobo barked and licked his face.
Once everyone had recovered, they got up and walked over to the Cosmonaut. Jack had expected more of a fight from a member of the Big Five. Lying there, bleeding through his space helmet, the Cosmonaut didn’t look dangerous at all.
‘Why?’ said Jack. ‘Why were you trying to destroy the manned mission to Mars?’
The Cosmonaut slowly reached out his hands to Jack and Marilyn.
‘You want us to take your hands?’ said Jack.
‘It’s a trap.’ Marilyn stepped forwards and flexed her four clawed hands. ‘Let’s just kill him and be done with it.’
Puck blocked Marilyn with her arm. ‘Wait a minute, boss. I know a few Russians back in Canada. They’re a very straightforward people. If this guy was going to attack you, he’d just attack you.’
Sam put her fingers to her temples. ‘I’m getting a funny feeling in my head. It’s like a phone is ringing. I think he wants to communicate with you telepathically.’
Jack nodded. ‘Marilyn, you said you’re not sure what’s been up with you lately. This guy has been to space, and he seems mysterious, so maybe he knows.’
Marilyn scowled at him. ‘That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever—’
The Cosmonaut sat and up grabbed Jack and Marilyn by the hands.