THRILLING TALES FROM BEYOND THE ETHER

Can Giraffes Change their Spots?
by Jenny Schwartz

The Old New Ensign
by M. D. Jackson

The Eight Arms of Death, Part One
A Jack Brand Story
by John M. Whalen

Serial: Deuces Wild
In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six
by L. S. King

Issue 23
June 01, 2007
“The Deep,”  by  Tomislav Tikulin 
Pg. 2

Table of Contents
Table of Contents 2
Overlord’s Lair 3
Can Giraffes Change Their Spots?, by Jenny Schwartz 5
The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson 12
The Eight Arms of Death, Part One
A Jack Brand Story, by John M. Whalen 24
Featured Artist: Tomislav Tikulin 34
Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six
by L. S. King 36
The RGR Time Capsule 44

Overlords (Founders / Editors): L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn, Johne Cook

Venerable Staff:
A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor
Shannon McNear - lord high advisor, grammar consultant, listening ear/sanity saver for overlord Lee
Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand
L. S. King - lord high editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, webmistress
Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle washer

Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): Scott M. Sandridge, John M. Whalen, David Wilhelms, Shari
L. Armstrong, Jack Willard, S. A. Miller

Serial Authors: Sean T. M. Stiennon, Lee S. King, Paul Christian Glenn, Johne Cook

Cover Art: “The Deep,”  by  Tomislav Tikulin

Without Whom... Bill Snodgrass, site host, Web-Net Solutions, admin, webmaster, database admin,
mentor, confidante, liaison – Double-edged Publishing

Special Thanks: Ray Gun Revival logo design by Hatchbox Creative

Visit us online at http://raygunrevival.com

All content copyright 2007 by Double-edged Publishing, 
a Memphis, Tennessee-based non-profit publisher.
Rev: 20070601b

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007 
Pg. 3

Overlord’s Lair

I’m not sure what the climate is like on your planet, Maybe it was just being on Elphara, but when the
but on mine, or my local area anyway, it’s been lovely little martinet of a lieutenant picked up the salad bowl
and warm. Makes you want to sit in the yard, prop and handed it for me to take, I immediately thought
your feet up, and grab a good story or two—and use about three different ways to kill him and dispose of
your ray gun on the noisy neighbors. But I digress. To his corpse.
help with the ‘good story’ part, we offer this issue.
Unfortunately the martinet held my future in his
We begin with “Can Giraffes Change their Spots?” hands, so I nodded politely and took the bowl.
by Jenny Schwartz. When giraffes around the globe
change colors, two scientists are confused, and the “Put it in front of the old man,” the lieutenant said,
enterprising aliens responsible are horrified. his clipped Old Family accent sounding archaic in this
New Fleet gathering. “And if he starts eating it with his
Giraffes were the perfect hosts. They occupied one hands just smile at the old bastard and walk away.”
continent and had outposts in zoos around the globe.
His disdain made me want to laugh. I felt my mouth
Zod finished tinkering with the delta chromosome warping into a wobbly smile and I desperately tried to
of the neo-virus and laid down his crawtech. think about something else. My eye was drawn to a
flitter as it performed a deceleration descent. Another
“All done,” Zod leaned back on four tentacles with a load of officers was arriving from one of the orbiting
grunt of satisfaction. “We can release this over Earth warships.
and pick up the results on our way back from Sola-
Vma3.” I knew I had stared at it too long when the lieutenant
asked, “Is something wrong, Private?”
“Fine,” Aiin sharpened a gold-tipped tentacle. It
was the data that interested her, not the method of Next, get ready for undersea adventure with “The
collecting it. “Spin the neo-virus and let’s get going.” Eight Arms of Death” by John M. Whalen. Jack Brand
journeys to Nemuria, a city at the bottom of the
Zod winked at his partner, the glare of one orange Tulon Inland Sea, where he meets a doomed race of
eye dimming a moment before blazing anew. “To hear people.
is to obey.”
Brand glanced back toward the dome. The four
Zod dropped the giraffe-modified neo-virus into denizens of the underwater city had spotted him and
the exo-vortex cone, and cut the cone loose from the were speeding his way. They moved like porpoises, their
spaceship. bodies rippling through the water. Cursing his luck, he
shifted the spear gun to his other hand and tore the
“Bye-bye, baby,” yawned Aiin. She stretched a long Plasma-Pistol from the holster fastened to the leg of
aqua tentacle to the control board and tapped ‘burst.’ the diving suit. The way the creatures plowed through
The spaceship vanished from the solar system. the water toward him, their intentions did not seem
Within the tumbling exo-vortex cone, the virus friendly. As they got nearer, Brand saw one of them
multiplied. The cone penetrated the Earth’s heated unhitch something from the belt at his waist. The filmy
outer atmosphere and then, in the gentler stratosphere, outline of a net appeared in his hands. Another raised
dissolved. Released, the viral bodies dispersed and an arm, and a trident suddenly flew through the water
floated down to earth. Some even landed on giraffes. toward him. It moved at a miraculous speed, as though
propelled by some force other than the creature’s
What happens when a lowly soldier tries to better arm.
himself and catches the eye of the mad-as-a-hatter
fleet admiral? Find out in M. D. Jackson’s “The Old Brand dodged the trident and fired. The plasma
New Ensign.” beam hit one of the creatures in the shoulder. But

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007 
Pg. 4

before he could get off another round, they were on
him. A trident struck Brand’s pistol. One of the tines
penetrated the plasma chamber, setting off lightning
bolts of electricity that knocked the gun from his
hand. Useless now, it floated to the ocean floor. Nets
floated above his head and dropped over him like
dark, shadowy spider webs.
And yes, I finally wind down Slap and Tristan’s
adventures with the Eridani and the Confeds in Deuces
Wild, “In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six” by—me: L. S.
King.
Stuck in the capital city during an enemy attack, Tristan
wonders if Slap is still alive.
The whine of hover bikes grew behind Tristan. He
spun. Three of them. He grabbed a plasma grenade
and lobbed it. One bike took the hit, but the other two
swerved, flanking him. He dove to the ground, firing
left, rolling, and firing right. He missed.
The bikes circled to make another run. But Tristan
had more time to aim. Hot sand sprayed in his face as
he fired. He rolled again, coughing and blinking, and
fired toward the sounds of a bike.
He held still in the ensuing, relative quiet, listening
for a bike as the dust settled. He raised his head, and
found himself staring up at the bike’s rider, a laser
pistol leveled at him.
So sit yourself on a nice patio chair, grab some zlati
ale, put your feet up, and enjoy!
Oh, and don’t forget to hide the ray gun!

L. S. King

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007 
Pg. 5

Can Giraffes Change Their Spots?
by Jenny Schwartz

G iraffes were the perfect hosts. They
occupied one continent and had outposts
in zoos around the globe.
turning blue with orange splotches was a cracka-
doodle of a crisis.
“Who knows where it will end?” cried Conrad,
Zod finished tinkering with the delta chro- pounding his desk and spilling his coffee. “What
mosome of the neo-virus and laid down his if humans start to change colour? How will we
crawtech. distinguish between races?” Worst of all, what if
“All done,” Zod leaned back on four tentacles he turned a minority colour?
with a grunt of satisfaction. “We can release this Conrad shuddered, spilling the rest of his
over Earth and pick up the results on our way coffee, and faced the necessity for urgent unpleas-
back from Sola-Vma3.” ant action. He phoned his wife’s brother.
“Fine,” Aiin sharpened a gold-tipped tentacle. It Jackson Forbes was tall and lanky, his bony
was the data that interested her, not the method face gentled by wide brown eyes heavily rimmed
of collecting it. “Spin the neo-virus and let’s get with long lashes. When he took off his glasses, the
going.” eminent scientist had the endearingly defence-
Zod winked at his partner, the glare of one less look of a baby giraffe.
orange eye dimming a moment before blazing Most people regarded Jackson as a pedantic
anew. “To hear is to obey.” successful scientist, one who had an in with the
Zod dropped the giraffe-modified neo-virus establishment. Conrad, however, knew better.
into the exo-vortex cone, and cut the cone loose He saw Jackson as a lily-livered, doom and gloom,
from the spaceship. environmentalist panic merchant.
“Bye-bye, baby,” yawned Aiin. She stretched “If Jackson had his way,” Conrad often told his
a long aqua tentacle to the control board and wife, “industry would be stifled and the economy
tapped ‘burst.’ The spaceship vanished from the die. We’d all starve in rags while monkeys and
solar system. butterflies multiply.” This was gross calumny since
Within the tumbling exo-vortex cone, the Jackson, as a rich man’s son, had inherited both
virus multiplied. The cone penetrated the Earth’s a large industrial stock portfolio and economic
heated outer atmosphere and then, in the gentler sense, but Conrad’s wife had long since ceased
stratosphere, dissolved. Released, the viral bodies to argue with him. She practiced therapeutic
dispersed and floated down to earth. Some even voodoo instead.
landed on giraffes. Now, however, the unthinkable had happened:
Faced with rainbow giraffes and the potential
#
social catastrophe of rainbow humans, Conrad
Conrad Bilkem Sr, Congressman for a deluded had found a use for his brother-in-law’s scientific
state, had an agile brain, which he usually drove credentials.
only along certain well-defined tracks, but he “Jackson, we need to know what’s causing
could recognise a crisis when he saw one. Giraffes giraffes to change colour, and we need to know

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Can Giraffes Change their Spots?, by Jenny Schwartz Pg. 6

fast.” a small protest. “Aren’t you jet lagged?”
The President backed up Conrad’s demand, “No.” And the stepped-up campaign to under-
and Jackson went to work. He had substantial stand the changes in giraffes began.
funding and confidence in his own abilities, but #
weeks followed days and stretched into months,
and Jackson was no forwarder. His lovely brown “The phlan on *sta4 is growing well,” said Aiin,
eyes were bloodshot, and if he heard Conrad’s two tentacles flicking expertly through the data
bullying demands one more time he would punch cubes. “The Xi, *sta4’s dominant sentient species,
that fat cat in his fat gut. At which point, Jackson are cooperating nicely.”
faced the reality of his own frustrated failure and Zod wrung two tentacles together with the
decided to call in his own expert. He sent a team pleased gesture of a Phog who has seen his
of marines to track her through the Congo and investment return dividends. “If this new planet,
bring her back. Earth, proves as suitable a farm as *sta4, we’ll be
Henrietta Illich was an Aleut from Alaska, and vacuuming it in. Lots and lots of lovely phlan. Lots
the world’s foremost giraffe expert. At the age of and lots of lovely money.”
seven, on a trip to the zoo, an enormously leggy “It depends on the humans,” said Aiin sharply,
giraffe had eaten her straw hat, and Henrietta less inclined by nature to count her phlan before
had fallen in love. Short, dark haired and inde- it ectoplasmed.
structible, Henrietta had learned all there was to “Ha!” said Zod. “Earth’s a dandy planet,
know about giraffes. perfectly suited to humans. What could they
Jackson had tangled with her once over the have to war about?”
desertification of Africa, which was decreasing #
her beloved giraffes’ habitat. Where Jackson was
willing to compromise over strategies to deal Jackson and Henrietta were nose to nose
with global warming, Henrietta showed no mercy. despite their nearly foot difference in height.
When she learned of Jackson’s industrial stock Jackson loomed over Henrietta, and she glared
portfolio, he really feared he’d collect a black up at him.
eye; but fortunately, Henrietta was too short to “I tested for all this while you were playing
deliver. in the Congo. Food, trace nutrients, changes in
“What’s Henri doing in the Congo?” Jackson weather patterns, radiation levels, fungi, bacteria,
demanded fretfully of his pet rat, Fido. He—Jack- pollution. Nothing! Now, you’ve wasted all this
son, not the rat—knew the answer: Henrietta time re-testing, and still nothing!”
was in pursuit of a dream. If the Congo hid pygmy Henrietta’s eyes narrowed to slits. Her voice
elephants, why not pygmy giraffes? grated. “Don’t make this my fault. Of course I
“Here I am,” Henrietta burst into Jackson’s wouldn’t trust your data.”
office. Fido scuttled onto the desk to greet her, Jackson straightened to his full height and
and Henrietta spared him a quick ear scratch. tried to pull out his hair. Words failed him.
“I’ve read all the papers you sent along with the Henrietta’s glare faltered. “I didn’t mean it
marines. I can think of a couple of things you’ve quite that way. I just meant that you operate so
missed.” far inside the establishment that someone could
That didn’t surprise Jackson, but he did venture easily have falsified your data. I mean, look at

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Can Giraffes Change their Spots?, by Jenny Schwartz Pg. 7

your brother-in-law.” “Bother,” Aiin threw the data cubes against the
Jackson’s rage dropped a level, too. “I prefer wall of the spaceship. “Phlan levels are low on
not to.” Not that Jackson had much choice, since Earth. Lower per sentient capita than Rixx. It must
Conrad had taken to invading the lab. Jackson be all the energy humans waste balancing on two
sighed. “What’s left to check?” legs, that and the fact that they’re cunning.”
“I’ll run the blood tests again,” said Henrietta. Zod stared mournfully through the view
She was calm now, and hitched herself up onto screen at Earth. “We had such high hopes of
Jack’s desk, where she sat kicking thoughtfully at Earth. Humans must be very hard to satisfy.”
his chair. Jackson prowled his office, while Fido Aiin snorted through her snorkel and it turned
squeaked in a corner. “The change has to be a distressed red. “Now all we need is to be caught
cellular,” continued Henrietta. “The good thing,” altering Earth’s poxy ecosystem by the Board’s
and her face split with a fond smile, “is that the scouts and we’ll lose our phlan licence and our
giraffes don’t seem in the least bothered by their ship, all for nothing. Those wretched giraffes had
colour change.” better recover now they’re free of the neo-virus.”
“They are,” said Zod in an awestruck voice.
#
He tapped the view screen excitedly with two
“Zod!” shrieked Aiin. tentacles. “Look. Alleluia and cut the cake.”
“Oh, my wobbly eels.” Zod felt faint. Aiin was equally pleased. “Then let’s get the
They stared through the view screen at Earth. Hades out of here.” The spaceship whined as she
“The neo-virus is meant to leave the host upped power to the engine preparatory to a swift
unchanged,” said Aiin. She pointed an accusing shedding of this annoying solar system.
tentacle. “Those giraffes have changed colour.” “Uh, Aiin,” Zod really wished he hadn’t looked
Zod changed colour, too. The Phlan Harvest- back at Earth, and in particular, at those two
ers’ Board had very clear, rigorously enforced tiresome humans, Jackson, and Henrietta.
rules of non-interference. The neo-virus was the #
allowed means of measuring phlan levels, but it
was explicitly designed not to interfere with its Conrad slammed open Jackson’s office door.
host. His tinkering with it had been a bad idea. Henrietta, looking up from her happy viewing of
Aiin was equally worried. She waved her live giraffe footage, decided to follow him in and
tentacles wildly. “Quick. Suck up the virus. Maybe see the show.
the creatures will change back. Maybe no one “You’ve fixed it,” boomed Conrad. He could
will notice.” bask now in the scientific glory of his brother-
“Some hope,” said Zod, but he activated the in-law. “The giraffes are back to their original
vacuum, and the little spaceship quartered the colour. So, how did you do it? A new drug? Laser
Earth, sucking vigorously for seventy-two hours. treatment?” Conrad sat and crossed his legs,
While Aiin occupied herself with converting gripping one ankle happily.
the phlan data coming in from the neo-virus into “Actually,” Jackson cleared his throat. “We’re
data cubes, Zod maintained a mournful watch for not responsible. The giraffes changed back by
Phlan Harvesters’ Board scouts, and a desperate themselves.”
watch for signs of the giraffes returning to their Conrad’s bonhomie vanished. “You mean
pre-virus state. those damn fool animals could change colour

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Can Giraffes Change their Spots?, by Jenny Schwartz Pg. 8

again?” “Prepare to meet the humans,” said Mod, and
“Yes.” the view screen went black.
“Well, hell.” Conrad stormed out of the office. “Maybe we can outfly him,” said Zod. In his
“I guess that means the end of our funding,” desperation, Zod forgot the furto-charger fitted
said Henrietta. to scout ships. Aiin didn’t. She tapped the landing
Jackson slumped in his chair. He looked green. button.
But then, Henrietta shrugged, she felt green too. Zod whimpered. He maintained a litany of
Conrad had that effect on sensitive people. foreboding as he and Aiin exited the spaceship,
Henrietta made the effort and dismissed were gathered up by Mod, and tumbled towards
Conrad from her mind. She pulled a folded the house where the two humans stood on the
printout from her pocket and dropped it on the porch and watched them coming.
desk in front of Jackson. “Look at this.” “Did you put anything in the coffee, Jackson?”
He unfolded the paper slowly. “A virus?” asked Henrietta, staring at the approaching
Jackson hazarded. Hope dawned in his eyes. “The visitors.
giraffes have a virus?” “No,” Jackson goggled at the aliens. “Perhaps
Henrietta shook her head. “I can’t find any I should have.”
evidence beyond this image; even the original A snort of irrepressible laughter escaped
slide from which this was taken doesn’t show the Henrietta. She edged nearer the warm humanity
virus any more.” of Jackson and he responded by wrapping an arm
Jackson groaned. He looked up at Henrietta. around her and hauling her even closer.
“Let’s go home.” The three alien creatures tumbled towards
“Pardon?” them, for all the world like giant pompoms
“My house. I’ll cook you dinner. Let’s just get composed of retractable tentacles. The largest of
out of here.” the three was a sage green, easily visible in the
“You’re on,” said Henrietta. starlight. It rolled along just behind the smallest
of the trio, which glowed a strong turquoise blue.
#
The third alien was a bright unmissable yellow,
Jackson’s home was an old sprawling house like neon. As they came closer, it was possible
with a wide front porch set some distance from to distinguish from among the tentacles five
its neighbours. eyes on each, similar to snails’ stalk eyes. Each
“Oh, no,” hovering above Jackson’s house, Zod pompom had a snorkel, wider at the base than
groaned. He knotted two tentacles so tightly that the surrounding tentacles, which scented the air.
they turned orange. “The neo-virus has gone Presumably somewhere in the mass of tentacles
rogue. Now we’ll have to call in the scouts.” was a mouth.
“Ahem,” an image shimmered onto the view The mid-sized alien rolled to a stop just short
screen. of the veranda. “Greetings. I am Mod and this
Zod groaned again, longer and louder. They is Aiin,” a wave at the smallest alien, “and Zod,
were caught. and thank goodness for the xeno-translator that
A scout from the Phlan Harvesters’ Board makes this conversation possible.”
circled their ship. It would have to be the sternest “Thank goodness, indeed,” returned Jackson
of them all, Mod. with suspicious politeness. Henrietta felt him

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Can Giraffes Change their Spots?, by Jenny Schwartz Pg. 9

shake with hidden laughter. Really, these “When Zod sucked up the virus, you and
pompoms were ridiculous. Jackson were taking blood samples from a giraffe.
Mod continued his burbling introductions, The virus, sucked out of the giraffe, was loose in
explanations and reassurances. He re-introduced the atmosphere and entered you and Jackson.
Zod and Aiin as phlan harvesters. That’s when it went rogue. It established itself
Jackson was captivated by the notion of phlan. in your unused DNA storehouse, the only way it
Mod went over it for him one more time. couldn’t be sucked up.
“Phlan is a high demand drug with us Phogs. “Let me get this straight,” said Henrietta in
It serves as both an individual mood booster a dangerous voice. “You’re saying that a new
and a crowd control agent. All sentient carbon- primitive virus has colonised some of the junk
based creatures produce phlan when they’re DNA in our human genome?”
happy. That’s because all carbon brains think “It’s not possible,” said Jackson, unwinding his
via electrical impulses. When sentient, the elec- arm from around Henrietta and giving her a little
trical impulses are stronger, or more frequent, push—as if that might make her see sense.
either way, in happy brain states this electricity “Possible, impossible,” Zod waved his tentacles
is strong enough for the energy to radiate from wildly. “It happened.”
the creature. This energy is what we call phlan. Mod ignored them both and concentrated on
Most sentient beings use it, without being aware Henrietta.
of doing so, to regulate their emotions. So people “I’m afraid it’s a little more complicated than
who want to be happy, go to where other people that. Humans have a small discredited branch of
are happy. Hence the euphoria of a good party. microbiology which holds that an ancient virus
“However, only us Phogs learned to do this can re-emerge from DNA.”
consciously, and then we worked on how to “Ah,” Aiin snuffled her satisfaction.
collect the energy. The important factor was to Mod waggled his tentacles gravely. “A virus
find planets where the dominant sentient species does not think. It is not consciously purposeful,
was sufficiently happy that excess phlan pools but it will try to live, to reproduce and survive via
developed in its atmosphere. Locating and har- any medium it can. Survival, you must understand,
vesting these pools is the phlan farming from is the continuation of the genetic material that
which Zod and Aiin make their living. the virus contains. Sometimes the virus survives
“Their first step is to measure the amount and and copies itself within the bloodstream; more
distribution of phlan on a planet. They do this by rarely, it co-opts its host’s DNA.”
releasing an inert virus to reproduce within a host “I made it possible,” Zod’s tentacles quivered
species and later sucking it back up. They then alarmingly. “Me, with my tinkering.” Aiin gave
read out the amount and nature of phlan stored him a surreptitious pinch to behave himself.
in the virus bodies. Unfortunately, this time on “The virus,” continued Mod, “was originally
Earth, the virus went rogue.” lifted from a segment of our Phog genome. It
“Ha!” Henrietta suddenly saw the light. “Hence is the portion responsible for our sensitivity to
the giraffes’ colour change.” phlan. Since that DNA segment is now in you
“That was only a superficial alteration,” said both, you have Recognised Mutant Status under
Mod. “There’s more.” Phog law. That means we at the Phlan Harvesters’
Zod winced. Board have a responsibility to work with you to

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Can Giraffes Change their Spots?, by Jenny Schwartz Pg. 10

‘grow’ phlan on Earth.” Jackson looked interested.
“Sensitivity to phlan,” muttered Henrietta. “We’re very sorry about the trouble we’ve
If, and it was a big if, the virus segment had the caused,” said Zod tentatively.
same effect for humans as it did in Phogs, then... “Not to worry,” said Jackson cheerfully. “There
“Of course. Conrad would dissipate all phlan in an could be advantages.” A glare from Henrietta
area. That’s why Jackson turned green.” hurried him on. “Planned phlan growth will help
“Green,” repeated Aiin, interested. She tapped us save our planet and ourselves.” It might even
and tangled her tentacles in swift calculation. “So redeem Conrad.
in moderate phlan you’d flush red, and high phlan “So all’s well that ends well,” said Aiin, deter-
areas, purple.” minedly upbeat and with one eye swivelled to
“Green. Purple.” Jackson sounded winded. assess Mod’s reaction.
“What about the giraffes?” asked Henrietta, “Ahem, all is well for the humans.”
annoyed that the Phogs had risked them by intro- Henrietta snorted that that was a matter of
ducing the not-so-inert virus. opinion. Jackson pushed his luck and sat beside
“Forget the giraffes,” said Jackson. He was her on the porch swing. Their hips nudged com-
starting to think through what an increase of panionably. Henrietta looked at Jackson’s gentle
phlan could mean for humanity. brown eyes behind his glasses.
Henrietta narrowed her eyes at Jackson, but “We share the child minding,” she said, just
she, too, could see the benefits of phlan growth before Jackson kissed her.
for people and the planet. Greater cooperation The Phogs retreated tactfully to the scout’s
as a result of improved emotional well being ship.
would lead to better decision making, leading Mod wrung two tentacles together in a
to improved environmental controls and, most pleased gesture. “That went well.”
importantly, a better global environment for “What?” said Zod and Aiin together.
giraffes. “It’s the obvious next step in phlan harvesting,”
“Can other people be given the rogue virus?” said Mod. “Mutants grow the phlan and sell it on.
asked Henrietta cautiously. You’ll have to spend a few weeks tutoring them
“No. A rogue virus is too dangerous. We and roughing out the strategy for phlan growth.”
destroyed it,” said Mod. His yellow colour tinted It took a couple of seconds for the implica-
an indescribably sly orange. “You’ll just have to tions to register with Zod, then he roared. “You
pass on the mutation the old fashioned way— slimy sea urchin devil. You set us up.”
through your children.” “A little tinkering with the virus we sold you,”
Children! Henrietta grasped the arm of the admitted Mod with becoming modesty. He
porch swing. Her biological clock had never ticked, waggled a cautionary tentacle. “Now, don’t do
let alone sounded an alarm. Giraffes, she had anything rash. You don’t want to jeopardise your
long ago decided, were much more satisfactory monopoly contract for Earth, do you?”
than toddling monsters.
Mod continued blithely. “Of course, the prob-
ability of passing on the appropriate piece of DNA
is increased if you have children together.”
“Oh dear,” Henrietta sat on the swing chair.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Can Giraffes Change their Spots?, by Jenny Schwartz Pg. 11

Jenny Schwartz
Jenny Schwartz is an Australian writer. Double
Dragon eBooks published her first fantasy
novel, The Walk Alones. Her short stories
have appeared in Beyond Centauri, Dragons,
Knights, and Angels, and the Lorelei Signal.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007 
Pg. 12

The Old New Ensign
by M. D. Jackson

M aybe it was just being on Elphara, but
when the little martinet of a lieutenant
picked up the salad bowl and handed it for me to
Fleet Admiral Odett looked to be about a
hundred and eighty years old. He was tall and
imposing, but his skin and his hair were ghostly
take, I immediately thought about three different gray. I put the salad bowl on the table in front
ways to kill him and dispose of his corpse. of him, and stood back respectfully. The old
Unfortunately the martinet held my future man scowled at the bowl, then looked up at me
in his hands, so I nodded politely and took the in confusion. It was disconcerting, having the
bowl. admiral of the fleet suddenly single you out. What
“Put it in front of the old man,” the lieuten- would this legendary war hero say to me, Wilfred
ant said, his clipped Old Family accent sounding MacDonald, a lowly grunt who was dressed like
archaic in this New Fleet gathering. “And if he common house staff?
starts eating it with his hands just smile at the old “Where are the dressings?” he growled.
bastard and walk away.” I opened my mouth, which wasn’t a bright
His disdain made me want to laugh. I felt my idea because I had no idea where the dressings
mouth warping into a wobbly smile, and I desper- were, and I had no idea what to say. Fortunately,
ately tried to think about something else. My eye Lady Odett, sitting to his right, came to my rescue
was drawn to a flitter as it performed a decelera- by pointing out that the dressings were in little
tion descent. Another load of officers was arriving bowls at his elbow and chastising him for being
from one of the orbiting warships. so grumpy.
I knew I had stared at it too long when the A dark haired officer at Odett’s left raised his
lieutenant asked, “Is something wrong, Private?” glass. “I’ll have another of these,” he said.
“No, sir,” I replied and turned away with the I smiled and took his glass. I had no idea what
bowl. ‘one of these’ was, but the fellow standing at
We were in a garden on the estate of Fleet the bar, dressed in similar house livery knew. He
Admiral Odett. An al fresco luncheon was poured one carefully and handed it back to me. I
being served. The grounds were full of fleet gingerly carried it back to its owner.
officers, milling around, enjoying drinks and hors As I placed the drink in front of the officer,
d’oeuvres. Captain’s bars and lieutenant’s stripes Admiral Odett looked up and burst out, “Willy!”
surrounded me. I ignored them all and headed A handsome looking female captain with red
straight for the admiral’s table. hair was approaching the table, flanked by two
Fleet Admiral Jefferson Odett was a legendary lieutenants. “Admiral,” the captain said. “It’s a
figure, or so everyone kept telling me. He was a pleasure to see you again.”
great war hero. I was a grunt. Odett stood. “Look, Sarah,” he said to Lady
Well, that’s not strictly true. I was a field Odett. “It’s Willy!” He reached over and gave the
medic, which is slightly better than a grunt. But captain an affectionate hug.
not by much. I backed away and returned to the kitchen.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 13

The chefs were preparing the feast that was assignment was temporary. After it was done, I
soon to be enjoyed by the officers. The little would go back. Where I would serve next was the
martinet strolled amongst them, inspecting, as decision of the officer in charge of the house staff,
if he had any real authority over them. I felt a the little martinet. That was the other problem.
renewed disdain for the self-important little The martinet spied me returning. “What took
twerp and wondered again whether brig time you so long?” he asked. “Did you do what you
would have been preferable to this. were ordered to do?”
I smiled. “Yes, Sir. I put the salad down in front
#
of the admiral as ordered. Then I got a drink for
I’d been given a choice. Serve time in the another admiral.”
brig, or be transferred, temporarily, to the Fleet The martinet narrowed his eyes at me. “Did I
Admiral’s house staff. I thought myself fabulously tell you that you could do that?” he asked. “Was
fortunate and chose not to go to the brig. fetching drinks part of your orders from me?”
I’d struck an officer. I knew what the penalty I did not lose my smile. In fact, it probably
would be, and I can’t honestly say I struck him in became wider and threatened to turn into a rictus
anger. I did strike him on purpose, though. At the grin. I wanted to throttle the little bastard. “No, Sir,
time I thought that the brig would be preferable it was not,” I replied. “But I thought it prudent not
to another ground campaign. to refuse the request of a high-ranking officer.”
It would have been the third for our unit. It He stared at me and an expression of gleeful
meant a hard slog across the surface of some indignation began to form on his face until I
backwater, breadbasket world. Close combat with realized what I’d forgotten. “Sir,” I put in hastily.
the enemy and then me to deal with the awful He took a step closer to me, his expression
burns made by the enemy’s energy weapons or deadly. “Rumor has it that the Kreoch are massing
the horrid gashes left by their cutting weapons. an armada near Dorvack. Perhaps you’d like to
All the time my guts churned in fear, listening be stationed there. That’d be a change for you,
to the agonized wails of men and women dead wouldn’t it? You would actually be on sight when
or dying, while all around the air would be alive the ground assault began, instead of just arriving
with weapons fire and explosions. after it was mostly over. You’d experience some
I simply couldn’t take it. The more I thought real combat for a change, instead of just mopping
about the upcoming drop, the more I knew I up. How does that sound, eh?”
couldn’t go through with it. So I picked an officer, I wondered how that would sound to the
practically at random, and I hit him. martinet. Faced with the prospect of an imminent
Kreoch attack, this little bugger would pull every
#
string within reach to get himself shipped as far
The fleet psychiatrists are very good. They away as possible. I doubted he’d ever seen any
recognized my motivations and diagnosed my real action. In fact I’d be surprised if he’d been
problem in their report to the commander in anywhere near a battle as it was going on. If he
charge of my court martial. Given the mitigating had been, I wouldn’t doubt his first actions would
circumstances, my sentence was either reduced be to wet himself and cry for his mommy.
brig time or service with the house staff. “Doesn’t sound appealing, Sir,” I managed
There were two problems. One was that the through the smile that was becoming harder and

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 14

harder to maintain. Then I said something that I who’d been flanking the red-haired captain. The
hadn’t expected to say. “I’d rather stay on here. one the admiral had addressed as Willy. They
You know—get myself posted to the admiral’s took a furtive look around to make sure nobody
staff.” I heard myself blurt out. was looking at them, and then stepped into the
The martinet stepped back, his angry expres- kitchen door.
sion suddenly changing to a disbelieving stare. The kitchen staff ignored them, and I should
“You’ve got to be joking,” he laughed. have just ignored them as well. They were officers
Inwardly I was kicking myself in the ass for and whatever they were doing was none of my
even voicing such a vain hope, but I didn’t want concern. But I was in a foul mood, and they were
the little martinet to know that, so I shrugged dif- trying so hard to be furtive I had to find out what
fidently. “Stranger things have happened,” I said. they were up to.
The martinet shook his head. “To get on the I sidled over to the lieutenants as they stood
admiral’s staff you’d have to…” in front of the stasis unit. They were examining
“Sir?” I asked, not nearly as casually as I’d the door and murmuring to themselves.
hoped. “What do you want?” I spoke up from behind
He gave me a sardonic and nasty grin. “You them.
would have to prove yourself so invaluable that They both started like they’d been caught with
the admiral would have no choice but to let you their pants around their ankles.
join.” He smiled then, and shook his head in One of them was tall and red-haired. The other
disbelief. “You might as well forget it. When this was shorter and darker. The shorter one had a
is over you’re going back into combat, and that’s lopsided grin that he favored me with. “Hello,”
all there is to it. Unless you manage to pull off he said in what I’m sure he thought was a most
some sort of miracle, that is.” He let out a short charming demeanor. “Just examining your stasis
bark of laughter and turned and walked away. unit. How thick is the door?”
I let out the breath that I hadn’t realized I’d I had no idea. The admiral’s stasis unit was the
been holding. Inwardly my guts were churning. I largest I’d ever seen. It contained enough food
had held onto the slim hope that a transfer from and cold storage provisions to last a year. The
this temporary assignment would land me in a stasis unit kept everything fresh as the day it was
better—a safer—position than the one I’d come picked. The only other thing I knew about stasis
from. Now it was looking like my future consisted units was that they had to be perfectly sealed
of a one-way passage to the worst fighting that from the outside air, and you didn’t want to get
the Alliance had ever seen. caught inside of one once the door was closed or
I was just wondering how much brig time you’d be in the equivalent of cryo-sleep.
I would get for striking the martinet when I “It’s thick enough,” I said.
noticed two officers strolling around outside the “Of course it is,” the taller one said, not smiling.
open kitchen door. What attracted my attention “Let’s go, Jack.”
was the fact that they were so desperately trying Jack nodded, gave me a little wave, and then
not to attract any attention. In a gathering full followed the taller one out.
of strutting and smiling officers these two were #
behaving positively cagey.
I recognized them as the two lieutenants The rest of that day was uneventful for me.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 15

The gathering began to break up as the sun went This was my chance. This was opportunity
down. Fleet Admiral had gone to bed, I guess, and pulling me up by the lapels and saying ‘Wake
the other captains who had come at his behest up, sonny!’ If I could recover the admiral’s stolen
decided to return to their ships. property and finger the two thieves, then the
Some of the younger officers stayed ground- admiral would have no choice but to put me on
side to take advantage of shore leave. Parum his staff.
wasn’t far from the admiral’s estate, and an Sure, it was only a stasis room door. It would
excursion into Elphara’s capital city held the have been better if it were his daughter, or grand-
promise of a good time for fleet officers. daughter, or even a cherished pet, but beggar-
I finished up my work without further incident poor knights errant can’t choose their quests.
or run-ins with the martinet. There were cots set I raced back to my cot, quickly threw on my
up for the extra kitchen staff, and I gratefully fell pants and boots, and headed out the backdoor to
into one. find the thieves. They’d stolen a stasis unit door, a
I hadn’t been asleep for long when I was substantially large trophy. They shouldn’t be hard
woken by a noise. Two years as a field medic to spot, I reasoned.
whose services were needed at any time had The estate’s back garden was dark. Elphara
made me a light sleeper. had two moons, but neither of them were in the
The cot I was using was in a room just inside sky at that time. I knew roughly where the landing
the back door of the estate. The door to the room field was for the flitters that had come and gone
was open, and as I lay awake, I could hear voices. throughout the day, though. I reasoned that the
They were coming from the kitchen. two lieutenants would make for there.
I turned over. It was none of my business if Halfway there I ran into a group of officers
one of the other house staff wanted a late night coming back from Parum. They were loud and
snack, so I tried to go back to sleep. But when I boisterously drunk. I joined them as I approached
most definitely heard someone say, “Watch the the landing field. I could hear the sound of a small
door jamb, Jack,” my curiosity got the better of shuttle as its engines lifted it off the ground, and I
me. saw its lights as it ascended. My guts clenched in
I slid out of my cot and padded quietly into frustration. If the two lieutenants had a getaway
the kitchen. There was no one there and nothing planned then they were likely on that shuttle.
seemed amiss until I noticed the door to the stasis I stuck with the drunken crowd as they
unit. That is, I didn’t notice it. approached the landing field. There was one
It was gone. Someone had taken it. shuttle still on the ground. The shuttle pilot came
It didn’t take a genius to figure out who the out of the hatch as the crowd approached. “For
culprits were. The two lieutenants had obviously what ship, Sirs?” he asked.
come back and appropriated it. But why? Some They were all officers from the same warship,
kind of prank? the Avenging Wind. The pilot nodded and
I thought about raising the alarm, but that gestured for the officers to board the shuttle. I
would mean waking the martinet. I would also boarded along with them.
lose precious time trying to explain what I knew Though very inebriated, the officers had no
and why I knew it. Meanwhile, the door was trouble finding their seats and strapping them-
getting further and further away. selves in. Long practice had made them masters

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The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 16

of the procedure even when they were blind hadn’t eaten much for dinner.
drunk. I was unfamiliar with the harnesses and The pilot angled the shuttle towards the
seats. I’d been on plenty of shuttles, but I usually Avenging Wind. Like all fleet ships, she was
rode in the holds with the rest of the grunts. beautiful and ugly at the same time. The pilot put
Instead of sitting with the drunken officers I the shuttle through the docking hatch, spun her
took the seat next to the shuttle’s pilot. “I think around with seeming carelessness to the point
you’ll find it more comfortable in the main seating where my stomach lurched again. We backed
area, Sir,” the pilot said as he went through his into the airlock, connecting with a slight lurch,
pre-liftoff check. When I didn’t vacate my seat he and the pilot began shutting down the shuttle’s
looked up at me and saw immediately that I was engines.
no officer. When he was satisfied, he opened the back
He scowled at me, but I was undeterred. hatch and favoured me with an excited grin.
“There was a shuttle that just left the field,” I said. “Good luck, Sir,” he said. “I hope you catch them.”
“Do you know where it was going?” I nodded, unstrapping my harness. “Thank
“Why should I tell you?” the pilot asked, his you. You’ve been a great help,” I said. I almost
tone belligerent. said something about including his name in my
That was a good question. I thought fast. “I’m report, but I thought that might have been laying
Agent MacDonald—Fleet Security. There are it on too thick. Instead I made for the back hatch
two lieutenants aboard that shuttle that I have where the drunken officers were staggering out.
reason to believe are in illegal possession of a I’d been aboard warships before, but usually
piece of valuable property belonging to the fleet with a group of groundsiders and usually with
admiral. I’m trying to stop them before they break someone shouting at us about where to go and
Elpharan orbit.” where not to go. The airlock led us into an access
Well, it was all true. Apart from the Fleet tunnel. One side was clear plexi and afforded a
Security angle, that is. Besides, if I returned with view into the cargo bay. There was only one other
the admiral’s stolen property, I was certain they’d shuttle docked at an airlock. That was the one
turn a blind eye to any tiny lies I might have told that had taken the two lieutenants.
along the way. I made my way over to the airlock to which
The pilot weighed my story, decided it was it was attached. The shuttle was empty. I had no
too improbable not to be true, and gave me a idea where they might have gone, but the tunnel
small smile. “There were two lieutenants on that afforded only two exits. The drunken officers
shuttle. They’re heading up to the Avenging Wind, were exiting one way. I chose the other.
just like us. Strap in and I’ll have you there in no I found myself in a nondescript corridor. There
time.” were hatches along its length at regular intervals,
I nodded my thanks and managed to work the but all were closed. I looked left, right, up and
harness around me as best I could, hoping that down. That was when I spotted the scratch on
the pilot wouldn’t notice how clumsy and inex- the deck. It was long and snaked up the deck. It
perienced I was with it. We lifted off smoothly was the kind of mark a heavy stolen stasis door
and soon broke out of the atmosphere. Once we might make if it were being carried between two
were in freefall my stomach did its usual lurching lieutenants.
maneuver. I gritted my teeth and was thankful I I dashed up the corridor, following the scratch.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 17

It wasn’t continuous. There were spots where getting ready to go to work. Beyond them I saw
they managed to heft the door up off the deck, a large section of exposed conduits. The exposed
but inevitably it would come back down and circuitry was active and blinking.
leave its mark. They both looked up as I stepped through the
As I was following it, I heard a voices that hatch. “What are you doing here?” the larger one
sounded familiar. I was moving quickly to follow asked, his voice muffled by his helmet.
the trail, but I slowed as I approached the open “You stole that door,” I said, feeling an odd
hatch out of which the voices came. I took a look sensation as I spoke. “I want it back.”
inside and was surprised to see Fleet Admiral “How did you find us?” The smaller one—
Odett standing with a group of ensigns. He was Jack—asked.
wearing an ensign’s uniform and was addressing “The door left a mark on the deck,” I said. I
the red-haired captain—Willy. could feel an odd vibration in my jaw muscles
“Ensign Jefferson Odett, reporting for duty, Sir!” and my ears.
the old Admiral barked, saluting the captain. The “I told you we should have used a nullgrav
other ensigns looked at the captain in complete harness,” the larger lieutenant said in an accusing
confusion. tone.
The captain approached the admiral and Jack stood up, put his hands behind his back.
spoke to him in a low voice. “Jefferson, what are Through his helmet’s faceplate I could see him
you doing?” she asked giving me a self satisfied, superior smirk. “Well,
“I’m going to show them that I’m still me, Willy,” you caught us,” he said, without a trace of concern.
the admiral said. “I’m not old. I’m not incapable. I “You might as well take the door and return it.”
know how to do this. I can do this.” “I intend to,” I said, the vibrations in my head
The captain scowled in consternation. beginning to get irksome. “And I’m going to report
“Jefferson, I can’t let you...” you to the admiralty. And I’m going to… going to…”
“Yes, you can, Willy,” he said it quickly. “You The two lieutenants began to swim in my vision.
signed the order. An order given you by the Fleet The room began to grow dark, then nothing.
Admiral’s office. You can’t stop me.” #
The captain gave the admiral a look that would
have blistered steel. The next thing I knew I was lying on the floor
I shook my head and moved on. If the old of the kitchen in the admiral’s estate. My head
admiral wanted to get himself signed on as hurt like hell, and I had a close-up view of one of
an ensign aboard a warship, it was none of my the floor tiles.
business. I had two thieves to catch. “Oh, my God,” a voice erupted from behind.
The mark on the deck I’d been following dead- “What is going on?”
ended at a closed hatch. I hesitated for only a I was curious about that myself. I managed to
moment before opening the hatch and stepping roll myself over and was rewarded with a sight of
through. the martinet staring in open-mouthed incredulity
The hatch led to a small maintenance chamber. at the stasis room sans door.
I saw the two lieutenants, both of them wearing I could smell the provisions within that were
atmosphere suits, holding the stasis room door. already going bad, chief among them the various
They had welding equipment out and were clearly seafoods. Fish that should normally be as fresh

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 18

as the day they were caught were now quietly “Put me to work!” the old admiral shouted.
spoiling along with vegetables, fruits and other “I can do anything you set out for me, you
foodstuffs. bastards!”
I managed to sit up and immediately wished “Admiral…” one of the lieutenants, the shorter
I hadn’t. The martinet stared down at me with a one, Jack, began in a soothing tone.
look of murderous fury. “What have you done?” “Is this the uniform of an admiral?” The fleet
he managed in a voice strangled by outrage. admiral shouted, pointing to his ensign’s insignia.
“It wasn’t me,” I protested. “There were two “I know the duties of an ensign and I can do them!
lieutenants from the Avenging Wind… I’m not old and senile! I can do them! Give me a
The martinet narrowed his eyes at me. “Are bloody order!”
you accusing Captain Laurentian’s officers?” As the security guards led me away I could still
“Captain Laurentian? You mean Willy?” hear the old admiral shouting. I saw lieutenants
That did it. The martinet’s eyes flashed open. and other ensigns shaking their heads or regarding
“She is Captain Laurentian to a lowly private like each other with uncertain looks. I wasn’t expe-
you!” The martinet crouched down to favor me rienced with life onboard a warship, but I could
with a venomous look. “Ever since you were tell when things weren’t running smoothly, and
assigned here you have been disrespectful and it was clear to me that the presence of the fleet
insubordinate. Give me one good reason why I admiral in an ensign’s uniform was disruptive to
shouldn’t ship you off to the furthest hell-hole that life in a big way.
that I can find!” I didn’t have much more time to think about
Well, he asked. And perhaps my reason wasn’t that. Our happy little parade arrived at the brig,
the best idea, but my head was hurting and the and I was put into one of the cells. The bars
little martinet was shouting right in my face. Still, clanged shut, and I sat down on the little bench
that was the second officer I’d slugged in as many that they call a bed. The security guards left, and
weeks. But it felt surprisingly good to watch the I was alone.
martinet dealing with the blood that gushed sat- But not for long. My first visitor was the
isfyingly from his nose. martinet. He was still dabbing at his nose with
a bloody cloth, and he looked like he wished he
#
could open the bars and have a go at me. Not that
Naturally, I ended up back in the brig. he’d stand a chance. The little twerp may have
Two security officers escorted me into a shuttle. had some basic combat training, but I doubt any
I thought we’d be going to the brig at Headquar- of it stuck. He was from one of the old families
ters just outside Parum, but the shuttle continued and that connection probably exempted him
up and out into orbit. And I found myself once from anything strenuous or dangerous.
again in the docking bay of the Avenging Wind. Still, he stood before me, favoring me with an
The two security officers escorted me off the angry glare. “I am going to send you so far away
shuttle and through to the ship’s brig. On the way from Elphara and the central systems. I am going
I spied the two lieutenants. I almost cried out at to find the most backwater hell hole, right in the
them, but I saw they were with the fleet admiral. line of Kreoch expansion, and I’m going to leave
He was still in an ensign’s uniform and he was you there. You’re going to think that you died and
shouting at them. went to hell, because that’s where I am sending

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 19

you—straight to hell!” Jack let out a little smile. “Oh, that. The
He shouted the last words through the bars at housing covering on that panel cracked. In order
me. I didn’t get up off my bunk, just stared at him. to replace it we had to find a very dense material
A feeling of cold unreality enveloped me. and we didn’t have any. Your stasis chamber was
The martinet turned on his heel and walked made of the very material we needed. That’s why
out with as much dignity as his bloody nose we borrowed the door.”
would allow. “Stole it, you mean. But that still doesn’t
I’d done it. I’d made one more bad choice. explain why…”
What was I thinking? Sure, the fleet admiral was “Several shunts run through that bulkhead.
as loopy as a drunken shuttle pilot’s flight path, They carry power directly from the ship’s engines
but serving on his staff would have been better through to various parts of the ship. On older
than going back out there. Now I was facing the vessels like the Avenging Wind, these shunts
prospect of being exiled to some lonely outpost develop quirks. They vibrate, they resonate with
and waiting for the Kreoch to roll in and wipe me the engines. You can feel it vibrating the air. It can
out. As I sat there in my cell, I felt numb. create some weird harmonics.”
I lay down on my shelf and thought about my I remembered the strange vibration I had felt
life, all the missteps I’d made, all the chances I’d in my head when I confronted them. “But why
blown. I was feeling very sorry for myself when I did I pass out?”
had my second visitor. “This particular shunt produces an unusually
It was the smaller lieutenant, Jack. I sat up as dense combination of vibrations,” Jack explained.
soon as I noticed him standing in front of the bars, “But what’s really curious about it is that these
his hands behind his back. “I’m Lieutenant Jack vibrations induces biphasic wave forms and, inev-
Church,” he said. itably, delta waves, in the human brain.”
“What do you want?” I asked, my hostility “Delta waves?” I asked.
rather evident. “Delta waves. That’s what your brain produces
Jack shrugged. “I’m sorry you’re in this little naturally when you’re asleep. A few minutes of
jam.” exposure and you’re sleeping like a baby.”
Little jam? “I have you to thank for it,” I I snorted a grim laugh. That’s why they hadn’t
replied. I felt a dull anger building up inside of me. been concerned that I had found them. It was
I wanted to scream and shout, to reach through also why they’d been wearing atmosphere suits.
the bars and smack the lieutenant. All they had to do was wait until I keeled over.
A look of consternation passed over his “But why did you have to steal the door?” I asked.
features. “I’m sorry about that. We’ve paid “This is Elphara, for pity’s sake, the home base of
for the door and the spoiled food out of the the fleet. Surely you could find enough quantities
Avenging Wind’s coffers. Admiral Odett’s estate of the same material somewhere.”
is satisfied.” Jack’s smile faltered. “Well, that’s true,” he
“Oh, and that makes it all right, does it?” I said. “But then we’d have to put in a requisition
asked. I wanted to tell the lieutenant to get lost, and questions would be asked.”
but it wouldn’t do any good. I forced myself to “Ah, I see. The original housing cracked because
be calm. “What happened in that room,” I asked. of… what, neglect? Dereliction of duty?”
“Why did I pass out?” Jack shrugged. “A bit of both,” he admitted.

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The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 20

“Our lieutenant commander had grown lax in his He’s been finding himself promoted out of active
maintenance scheduling. Replacing the housing duty for years. The man built the fleet from
had been a low priority and it kept getting put nothing. He was the one who dragged us back to
off.” our feet when we’d been defeated by the Kreoch
“So why all the secrecy? Why not just call it and put us back in the fight. Now the fleet that
regular maintenance?” he re-built is pushing him out. He wanted back in.
“Because…” Jack hesitated. “Because Wants to prove he can still be useful.”
according to the maintenance records, we’d “Why didn’t he sign up to be a soldier?” I asked.
already replaced it.” “It’s easy to become a foot soldier. Anyone can get
I heaved a sigh. “So covering your asses has in. Just look at me.”
sent mine into hell. That’s just lovely.” “Because the army requires a physical exam.
Jack winced. “I feel bad about it all. I really Fleet personnel who are being promoted
do.” or demoted aren’t required to take one. He
“Then get me out of here,” I said. thought it out very carefully. He just signed an
Jack shook his head. “I can’t. I just can’t.” order demoting himself to ensign and assigning
“Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? All your problems him to the Avenging Wind. Where he’s now our
are solved. Too bad about the poor bastard who problem.”
has to take the fall for your indiscretions.” I shook my head. Here I was in the brig about
Jack’s shoulders slumped. “I wish I could say to be shipped out to the furthest, most dangerous
that all our problems are solved. We have a doozy corner of the galaxy, and this privileged, trumped
right at the moment.” up little twerp was worried about his ship not
He still had a problem? The selfish bastard. running smoothly. He was a typical fleet type. He
“The fleet admiral who’s trying to be an ensign? thought he was better than anybody else. He was
My goodness, my heart bleeds for you.” part of an elite group that thought they could get
“It’s a serious disruption to the ship,” Jack away with anything and let some poor bastard
protested. “Everyone knows who he is and no one hang for it just because he didn’t have family con-
wants to give him any orders. And when they do nections or history with fleet service.
it’s usually the lightest work they can find, which I couldn’t help it that I wasn’t born into wealth
just makes him more belligerent.” or privilege. I wasn’t one of the old families,
“Why not just give him something hard to nor was I one of the new fleet wealth. I was a
do?” dirt-poor backwater boy who’d made the wrong
“Because the captain’s an old friend of his. choice in signing up to be a grunt just because
She’s made every excuse not to break orbit I didn’t have the money to finish putting myself
around Elphara in hopes that he’ll change his through school. If I were in this lieutenant’s place,
mind. If she got wind that one of us had put him I’d be well dressed and well fed at the university
to work doing something that gave him a heart in Parum, and my only worry would be where to
attack we’d be sharing that brig cell with you.” get a date for the weekend.
I shook my head. “You’ll forgive me if I find it The unfairness of it all crushed me like a
hard to work up a lot of sympathy for you. Why is weight. I was intelligent and articulate. I had
the old man doing this anyway? Is he senile?” prospects, but no money. And now I was going to
Jack shook his head in disgust. “I don’t know. hell because of a lousy stasis room door.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 21

Jack couldn’t look me in the eye. He stared at Jack led him to a certain maintenance room.
his shoes for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, He gave the old admiral a scanning device and
then turned away. “Sorry, old man.” He mumbled he ordered him to use it to scan the deck looking
as he headed out of the brig. for micro fractures. The admiral grumbled about
“Wait!” I shouted after him. being given such a light task but he set to work.
He stopped, turned back, and regarded me Jack made a hasty retreat.
expectantly. If the old admiral noticed the open access
I had no idea what to say. I just didn’t want panel with its newly fashioned housing resting
him to go. I didn’t want to be left alone with my against the bulkhead, or the odd vibration in his
predicament. I’d wanted to throttle the little head, he said nothing about it. He merely flicked
bastard only a moment ago, now I didn’t want to on the scanning device and went to work.
be deprived of his company. Jack, meanwhile, donned an atmosphere suit
That was when my brain started working and I and waited. After the vibrations had done their
had an idea. “Get me out of here,” I said. work, he and the other lieutenant replaced the
Jack shook his head. “I can’t…” housing, fastening securely the new piece of
“Yes you can. If you can fudge the records equipment that started life as a stasis room door.
about replacing a conduit housing that you didn’t Then they shucked the atmosphere suits, being
actually replace… If you can steal fleet property careful not to disturb the old admiral who was
and get away with it… then you can get me out of sleeping peacefully sprawled out on the deck.
here and get me assigned to this ship. What do Then Jack summoned Captain Laurentian.
you say?” Captain Laurentian never gave the newly
He narrowed his eyes at me. “And what makes made housing a second look as she gently woke
you think I’d stick my neck out to do all that? I’ve the old admiral from his slumber. “Jefferson,” she
already dodged one bullet. Why should I do it said to him, tenderly. “Jefferson, wake up.”
again?” The old man stirred, blinking in confusion.
“Because I can solve your problem for you. I “Willy? Where are we?”
know how to get the fleet admiral out of your “We’re on the Avenging Wind. You were given
hair.” a task to perform. Do you remember?”
That got his interest. He turned back around The admiral nodded, still blinking in confusion.
and stood in front of the bars of my cell. “I’m “What happened?”
listening,” he said. “You fell asleep,” Captain Laurentian said with
such pity and sadness that there was not a dry
#
eye amongst the ensigns and lieutenants who
I didn’t see it all happen. I was still in the brig, had gathered outside the room to see.
of course. But Jack told me all about it after- The admiral broke down then. He could not
wards. ignore the truth. He was an old man, and he could
Jack found the old admiral harassing midship- no longer do the things that he used to do. He
men in the lounge. He told him he had an assign- was an old soldier who missed his chance to go
ment for him to do, and ordered him to follow. out in a blaze of glory and now had to settle for
Fleet Admiral Jefferson Odett, now merely Ensign just fading away. Given a choice of being busted
Odett, followed the lieutenant. for dereliction of duty, the old admiral took the

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The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 22

honourable way out. He retroactively rescinded “Hey,” I shouted at their retreating backs.
his order demoting him to ensign and transfer- “Where are you going?”
ring himself aboard the Avenging Wind. He rein- One of the guards turned back. “We had
stated himself as fleet admiral and went home orders to deliver you to Teppesh,” he shrugged.
quietly, ashamed and chagrined, but perhaps a “We’ve carried them out. Brig’s that way,” and he
little wiser for it. pointed a finger past me.
I’m told that Lady Odett was quite pleased “But…” I sputtered. “You can’t just leave me
with the turn of events and welcomed her here!”
husband back to his estate with open arms. She The guards looked at each other. “You know,
had a meal prepared for him, and the food was he’s right,” one of them said, then he walked
fresh and unspoiled thanks to their brand new back to where I was standing, pulled out a key
stasis room door. and unlocked the cuffs. He held them up, jiggling
Perhaps I made it sound a bit more dramatic the steel rings slightly. “Property of the Avenging
than it was. Like I said, I wasn’t there and I only Wind,” he said, then turned around and headed
had Jack’s word on what actually happened, and back down the passage with his fellow guard.
I find that Jack’s word and the truth are not close Well, I stood there, absolutely stunned, not
companions. knowing which way to turn. If I didn’t report to
Once the admiral was home, Captain Lau- the brig I would be listed as AWOL and hunted
rentian gave the order to get underway. The down. On the other hand, I could hop a ship and
Avenging Wind broke orbit from Elphara and head out to some backwater world where no one
headed to Teppesh Station. I spent the entire trip would ever find me.
in the brig, and when we docked at Teppesh two I was standing there, contemplating a life on
burly security guards came and escorted me from the run and not liking it very much, when a voice
my cell. piped up from behind me. “It seems that the
Well, I had a real head of steam going at that Avenging Wind is in need of crewmen.”
point. I had given Jack a solution to his problem, I turned around to see Jack Church standing
and now I was being thrown to the wolves. I there, grinning at me.
imagined that Jack had taken all the credit for the “We’re always short staffed,” he went on. “And
idea and was now basking in the adulation of his officers have a certain leeway when it comes to
fellow crewmates, while I was being sent to the picking their staff.”
furthest reaches of hell. “Their staff?” I asked.
I should never have trusted him. The one time Jack nodded, came over to me, put an arm
that I actually trust an officer he turns around around my shoulder, and began leading me back
and screws me. Typical. up the long narrow passage back to the Avenging
The two brutish security officers led me, cuffed Wind. “I received a promotion recently, a reward
and angry, out of the Avenging Wind’s hatchway, for a certain situation that I sorted out for the
up a long narrow passage and into Teppesh. captain. In my new position it seems I’m entitled
We stood at the outermost ring, watching pas- to an assistant. I have complete discretion in this
sengers embarking and disembarking. Then the matter and can select any available crewmem-
guards turned around and headed back down ber.”
the passage, leaving me standing on my own. I regarded him doubtfully. “Your assistant?” He

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Old New Ensign, by M. D. Jackson Pg. 23

nodded. I let out a breath. “But I’m not a member
of this ship’s crew. I’m just a grunt with a history
of disciplinary problems.”
Jack’s grin widened and he held out a clipboard.
“Sign these and you’ll no longer be a ground
pounder. You’ll be a junior spaceman.”
I favoured him with a hard and suspicious
look. I knew at that moment that signing up with
him would either be the greatest thing to happen
to me or the biggest mistake I’d ever made since
joining the army.
I heaved a deep sigh. “Where do I sign?”

M. D. Jackson
This is a story set in the same universe as the
author’s novel, DEBT’S PLEDGE.

M. D. Jackson has a story in the upcoming
SAILS & SORCERY anthology from Fantasist
Enterprises as well as several stories and a
short novel from Ricasso Press.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
"The Battle for Monday Morning," by Jordan Lapp Pg. 24

The Eight Arms of Death, Part One
A Jack Brand Story
by John M. Whalen

Two thousand miles from the Tulon Desert, the Inland clear plastic helmet at the incredible sight spread
Sea lies between three giant land masses that form out before him. Nemuria! He’d always thought
the main continents of the planet. The sea is deep, the tales of the undersea kingdom were made up
unexplored, and mysterious. Myths and legends by sailors who’d soaked up too much Synth-Rum.
abound regarding this vast, unexplored body of water. Even standing there with the city right before
One of them concerns the existence of a city that lies his eyes, he had the feeling what he saw wasn’t
somewhere in the sea’s unfathomable depths. A city real at all. But the buildings were real enough
under a crystal dome, inhabited by creatures who and so were the creatures he saw moving along
are said to be half-man, half-fish. Other legends tell the streets. He noted the dish revolving on top
of great treasures, ancient shipwrecks. Many have of the dome. A surveillance device? He observed
searched for these treasures, and never found them. the plants and rocks that dotted the sea floor
And many have sought Nemuria, the city at the bottom in the distance between the city and the hill he
of the sea, and never found it. Until now... stood on. They should provide enough cover to
get close enough without being detected. Brand
PART ONE hefted the spear gun in his gloved hand and

A gigantic crystal dome, approximately
five miles in diameter, lay on the sandy
floor of the Inland Sea. Schools of hammerhead
moved forward.
He crept slowly from rock to rock, plant to
plant. About fifty yards away from the dome, he
turtles and silver sting-fish swam placidly around saw what appeared to be an air lock that gave
it, paying it no mind. It had lain there on the sea entrance to the city. A steel door opened suddenly,
floor for thousands of years and was as much the muffled clang echoing through the water. He
a part of the underwater environment as the ducked behind the leaves of a plant, and gaped
sand, the aquatic plants, and the fish themselves. in amazement at the four creatures who swam
Something that looked like a radar dish revolved out of the lock. They were human in shape, but
on top of the dome. A pale green light emanated they were light green in color and their hands
from the dish, blinking erratically. Inside the dome, and feet appeared to be webbed. Short tunics,
pink and white coral towers, which looked more belted tightly at the waist, covered their torsos
like sculptures than the buildings they were, rose and some shiny skin-tight material covered their
perhaps a hundred feet. Between the buildings long muscular legs. They carried three-pointed
ran narrow streets where beings walked and tridents and wore frog-like helmets over their
went about their daily business. heads.
A thousand yards away, across the ocean floor, A shadow fell over Brand from behind. He
Jack Brand stood on a low hill in a Maximum turned and saw razor sharp teeth. His pulse
Depth Immersion Suit. He looked through the quickened as a lion-shark, a good fifteen feet in

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The Eight Arms of Death, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen Pg. 25

length, raced toward him. Brand could see the toward the air lock.
ring of worm-like tentacles that surrounded its A fine job he’d made of it. He’d flown 2,000
head like a lion’s mane and gave the fish its name. miles and dived a thousand feet to rescue Christy
He felt the cold, lethal gaze of its green eyes as Jones and get himself caught like a Tarnusian tuna
it charged. Instinctively, he raised the spear gun in a Jakaran fisherman’s net.
and pulled the trigger. The steel shaft swooshed #
through the water, and struck the fish in the center
of its head. A red cloud of blood billowed, as the Christy Jones, adventuress, gambler, pro-
lion-shark writhed and twisted in the water. prietress of the Milky Way Casino. The woman
Brand glanced back toward the dome. The who’d saved his life in the Tulon jungle, had left a
four denizens of the underwater city had spotted frantic message on his Com-corder. She’d found
him and were speeding his way. They moved Nemuria, she’d said. She was on a boat and the
like porpoises, their bodies rippling through the city’s inhabitants were after her. She managed to
water. Cursing his luck, he shifted the spear gun give her coordinates before the message ended
to his other hand and tore the Plasma-Pistol with the sounds of struggle. How she’d gotten
from the holster fastened to the leg of the diving here, and why she’d come, he didn’t know.
suit. The way the creatures plowed through the As the deep-sea creatures carried him toward
water toward him, their intentions did not seem the submerged city, Brand thought back to the
friendly. As they got nearer, Brand saw one of day he left Christy in Tulon Central. Christy! She
them unhitch something from the belt at his waist. wasn’t like any other woman he’d ever met.
The filmy outline of a net appeared in his hands. He’d stayed with her after she got out of the
Another raised an arm, and a trident suddenly hospital and recuperated from the wound she
flew through the water toward him. It moved at a got from Frank Cassidy’s Electro-Pistol. Things
miraculous speed, as though propelled by some had happened between them. But the day came
force other than the creature’s arm. when he knew he had to leave. He’d vowed to
Brand dodged the trident and fired. The plasma find his sister, or discover what had become of
beam hit one of the creatures in the shoulder. But her, after her abduction by the Wilkersons. And
before he could get off another round, they were until he’d done it, he knew he wouldn’t be any
on him. A trident struck Brand’s pistol. One of the good for her. Or for himself. And he left Christy.
tines penetrated the plasma chamber, setting off It was a mistake, he realized now. He’d never
lightning bolts of electricity that knocked the gun find another woman like her. When he left her,
from his hand. Useless now, it floated to the ocean he told her if she ever needed him, all she had
floor. Nets floated above his head and dropped to do was call. She’d called. She hadn’t forgotten
over him like dark, shadowy spider webs. The him. Maybe there was a chance he could fix that
creatures darted around him in circles. mistake.
In a moment, he was bound up in the nets like The creatures pulled him through the air lock
a caterpillar in a cocoon. He still had the spear and the metal door clanged shut behind them.
gun, and a long knife in the sheath fastened to Pumps whirred as the water in the air lock was
the leg of the suit. But the nets bound his arms so drained away. The creatures unraveled their nets.
tightly he was unable to use either weapon. The They took his weapons. As the water level dropped,
creatures grabbed up the netting and towed him Brand took his helmet off and climbed out of his

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The Eight Arms of Death, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen Pg. 26

diving suit. He stood there in the red tunic, black the other denizens of the city, she was green-
pants, and Krylor boots he’d worn under the suit. complected, but even with that strange tint she
His captors removed their frog-like helmets. He was lovely to look at. Long dark hair fell to her
was surprised to see that other than the green shoulders and cool, dark eyes watched Brand as
color of their skin, and the webbed hands and he approached.
feet, they seemed almost completely human. Next to her on the dais, stood a small, twisted
“Come with us,” one of them said. figure, who glared malevolently at Brand. Dressed
Brand was astonished to hear the fellow in black, this creature stood less than four feet
speak English. He looked at the circle of tridents tall. A grotesque hump rose between his shoulder
surrounding him and didn’t see any point in blades. His head was shaved bald but a thick black
arguing. They escorted him down a long corridor beard covered his small, evil-looking face.
to a glass elevator. They got into it, and the car “Your majesty, Queen Anemone, and High
shot upward rising above street level. Brand saw Priest Narvo,” one of the guards said, bowing.
the city spread out below them. He saw buildings “Here is the stranger we discovered outside the
that appeared to be homes, shops, a marketplace. dome.”
They were made from crushed shell, burnished The woman on the throne continued to look
coral, and stone that could have been carved at Brand silently for a minute, her eyes moving up
from hardened lava. One structure in particular and down his tall frame.
caught his attention. It was a large white building “Who are you, Land-walker?” she asked finally
with marble pillars. There was a large octo-pod in a tone of cold command. “And what are you
carved in gold, its tentacles splayed out ominously doing in Nemuria?”
over the front entrance. The hair on the back of Brand told her his name. “I’m looking for
Brand’s neck stood up as some animal sense of someone, a woman, a land-walker, I guess you
danger, a foreboding of evil, swept over him at would call her.”
sight of the building. “And you believe she’s here?” the queen
The door behind them split open. They asked.
marched across a wide terrace and passed “I got a radio message from her, saying she
through a gallery decorated with scarlet drapes was being taken here against her will. I found her
and delicately woven tapestries. Electric chande- boat up on the surface.”
liers hung from the ceiling, emitting a pale, wan The high priest interrupted. “The woman you
glow, which reminded Brand of candlelight in a seek is here, Stranger, with another man from
mortuary. Suddenly the lights blinked off and on, your world. But no one who enters Nemuria may
as though the power were about to be shut off. leave it. The three of you are prisoners.”
Brand noticed the air in the place was warm and “Prisoners?” Brand said. “Why?”
clammy, almost stagnant. “Nemuria’s location has been kept a secret,”
They passed through a high archway and the priest said, “only because we have never let
entered a large room with a large plate glass anyone who has stumbled upon us return to the
window that looked out into the sea. Two figures outside world to reveal it. It is the ancient law of
occupied the room. A beautiful female dressed in Nemuria and will be obeyed. You best prepare
a red silk robe and wearing a jeweled crown sat yourself. Three days hence, the three of you will
on a throne carved from a giant clam shell. Like be offered to Tarku in sacrifice in the Great Temple

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The Eight Arms of Death, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen Pg. 27

of the Sacred Octo-pod.” try.”
Suddenly, the lights in the room went out, When the doctor had left, Anemone glared
and a weird stillness fell over the place. The air down at the high priest.
seemed to have stopped circulating. The guards, “Dr. Sylvus is right,” she said. “There is a
the queen, and the high priest all looked around remedy and I’m tempted to try it, whether the
in alarm. ancient texts forbid it or not.”
The lights came back on and running footsteps “Careful,” Narvo said, jabbing a bony finger in
made Brand turn. Another one of the creatures, the air at her. “Even a queen may not risk the ire
this one older, with a long, white beard, ran into of Tarku.”
the throne room. He stopped at the foot of the “That monstrous beast you call a god!”
dais and bowed hurriedly. Anemone said. “Enough, Narvo. You will leave
“Your Majesty,” he said. us.”
“You dare barge in here unannounced?” the “Yes, Your Highness,” the high priest said. “I
high priest snapped. will go to the temple and pray for the salvation
“It’s all right,” Anemone said. “What is it, Dr. of Nemuria—and her queen.” He bowed low and
Sylvus?” backed out of the throne room, leaving the queen
“The machines that maintain our city and the with Brand and the four guards who had brought
air plant that provides oxygen are losing power by him. Regaining her composure, she turned her
the minute,” the scientist said. “We are running attention to him.
out of energy. I fear a catastrophe will happen if “You and your friends came to Nemuria at an
something is not done soon. I’ve warned everyone inopportune time,” she said.
this would happen, but no one would listen.” “Nemuria doesn’t seem to be very friendly to
“You must find a solution before it’s too strangers at any time,” Brand said.
late,” the queen said. “Go back to the laboratory, “How did you come here, Land-walker?” she
Doctor.” asked.
The scientist shot an angry glare at the high “In a ship that can travel in both the air and
priest. “There is a solution,” he said, “If only under the sea,” Brand said. “I left it parked not far
someone would dare defy this superstitious from here.”
priest and his evil cult.” “These waters are deep,” she said. “Through
The high priest’s eyes widened. “Careful, our televisor I saw how you were able to walk
Doctor,” he said. “You would not want your words along the bottom in that suit you wore. Your
to be taken as blasphemy.” fellow land-walkers had similar suits. Tell me, how
“Is it blasphemy to prefer life over a creed deep can you go?”
that will bring only death and destruction to “About 1,500 feet,” he said, wondering why
Nemuria?” she was so curious about his immersion suit.
“Silence!” Narvo said. “If I were you, I’d return The queen seemed to struggle with something
to your laboratory and test tubes. Responsibility within herself, then shook her head.
for the fate of our kingdom lies in your hands.” “You should never have come here, Land-walk-
“Go, Doctor,” Anemone said. “You must find er,” she said “There is no escape from Nemuria.
some way out of this.” It is the ancient law, even though I wish it were
The scientist bowed. “Yes, Your Majesty. I will otherwise. I despise Narvo and the whole degen-

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The Eight Arms of Death, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen Pg. 28

erate line of priests he has descended from. But Brand saw Christy sitting on a bunk in a corner of
he holds the people in the icy grasp of fear, just the cell. She stood up.
as his predecessors did. Even now as Nemuria “Jack! Is it you?” Even in the dim light coming
teeters on the brink of catastrophe, the people from the corridor, he could see her clear blue eyes,
would rather follow the ancient ways than try to even bluer than the day they met in the jungle.
save our city from extinction.” They stood looking at each other for a moment.
She waved a hand at the guards who had She seemed smaller than he remembered, more
brought him. vulnerable.
“Take him away,” Anemone said. “Take him to “You came,” she said.
his friends.” “Did you think I wouldn’t?”
She looked down at him sympathetically. “At “I didn’t know who else to call. I sent a Mayday
least, I can do that much for you, Land-walker.” before they came up on the boat and grabbed
Again the lights blacked out, and Brand felt me. But I doubt if anyone picked it up. Out here,
the floor of the throne room tremble under his there’s nothing. I used your private frequency. I
feet. When the lights returned, he saw Anemone shouldn’t have dragged you into this.”
looking out at the sea through the window on the “You did the right thing,” he said. “Although, it
other side of the room. doesn’t look like I’m going to do you very much
“I fear we all have little time left,” she said good.”
quietly. “So you’re Jack Brand,” a man’s voice said from
the other side of the cell. Brand turned and saw a
#
man sitting in the dark on the edge of a bunk on
The guards led Brand down several floors on a the other side of the cell. He was sandy-haired
winding flight of well-worn steps at the rear of the and of average build. His half-open shirt revealed
palace to a dungeon at the lowest level. As they bandaging wrapped tightly around his torso.
traversed the stairs, Brand thought about every- “Jack, this is Dan Russell,” Christy said. She
thing the queen and high priest had told him, and cleared her throat nervously. “He used to be an
what he had overheard the scientist, Dr. Sylvus oil rigger for Trans-Exxon. I, uh, came here with
tell them. That the city was in some dire peril was him.”
obvious. And that he and his fellow “land walkers” “How are you, Russell?” Brand said.
were in serious jeopardy was also apparent. But “I’ve been better,” the man said. “I’d get up to
somehow, the most troubling news of all was that shake your hand, but—”
Christy Jones was being held in a dungeon, and “His immersion suit was torn in the fight when
she was not alone. She had traveled here with they captured us,” Christy said. “He was nearly
someone another man. He wondered who. killed.”
In the dungeon, the air was even danker, and Brand couldn’t help notice the real concern
more humid than on the upper floors of the in Christy’s voice. But he also sensed her uneasi-
palace. A musty smell assailed Brand’s nostrils, ness due to the situation. He stepped over to the
as another guard met them, and they walked injured man and shook his hand.
along a dimly lit corridor lined with barred cells. “How did you get here so fast?” Christy asked.
The dungeon guard took out a ring of keys and “Col. Thompson at Security Force HQ owed
unlocked one of them. The door swung open and me a favor. He lent me a submersible Sea-Jet. I

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The Eight Arms of Death, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen Pg. 29

fed the coordinates you’d given in the message “Let’s just sit tight for now,” Brand said. “Sooner
into the plane’s computer, and found your boat. or later a chance will come along to get out of
It wasn’t hard to find this place after that. How in here. We’ve got to be ready for it.”
the world did you two end up here?” “It was damn good of you to come here,”
“By accident,” Christy said. “We were looking Russell said. “I know you and Christy used to be
for treasure.” an item. Hope there’s no hard feelings between
“Treasure?” Brand said, shaking his head. “Still us.”
looking for that pot of gold, eh?” Brand wished he hadn’t said that. It was too
“A guy from Aldebaran came into the Milky decent of him.
Way one night, and lost heavy at poker,” Christy “Right now, there are more important things
said. “He put up a CD as collateral. There was a to worry about.”
digital 3D topographical map on it. He said it led “Just the same,” Russell said, “There’s
to a chest full of treasure here at the bottom of something I want to say. If you get a chance to
the Inland Sea. An ancient ship of some kind sunk make a break for it, make sure you get Christy out
somewhere near here. I didn’t believe it, until he of here. Don’t worry about me. The shape I’m in,
showed me this.” I’d only slow you down. We clear about that?”
She took a gold coin the size of a silver dollar “Dan,” Christy interrupted. “Don’t talk that
out of her pocket and handed it to him. It felt way. If we get out of here, we’re all going together.
heavy. Brand guessed it was made of pure gold. Right, Jack?”
There were strange markings on it. An octo-pod Brand wished they’d both shut up. Russell
was engraved on its surface. was proving to be too nice a guy. Too bad, Brand
“I had it checked out,” Christy said. “Found out thought. He didn’t want to like him. He didn’t
it’s from the ancient Nemurian civilization that want to like anything about him. And the more
existed here on Tulon thousands of years ago. I Christy talked the more he could see that she
thought it was worth a try. I convinced Dan to really cared for him.
come along.” “That’s right,” he said. “We’ll all go together.”
“Looks like we came all the way out here for #
nothing,” Russell said. “We looked all over. No
sign of any treasure. And then these things found “I need your help.” Queen Anemone said. “You
us and brought us here.” may think it strange that I have had you brought
The lights in the dungeon suddenly went out here—a prisoner, a stranger from the world on
and they stood in the darkness as black as any the surface—to ask for your help, but that is the
tomb. truth.”
“That’s another problem,” Brand said. “This Brand was in the throne room alone with
city is in some kind of trouble. We may not have Anemone. It was the next morning, and Anemone
much time before all hell breaks loose.” seemed even more beautiful than the day before.
The lights came back on again. She wore a blue silk tunic that came to mid-thigh.
“Me and my bright ideas,” Christy said. “I Gold necklaces adorned her neck and the air was
never should have let that Aldebaran and his CD rich with perfume. Seated on her throne, with the
sit down at the table. Look what’s its gotten us sea-window in the background, Brand realized he
into.” was probably looking at the closest thing to a real

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The Eight Arms of Death, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen Pg. 30

live mermaid he would ever see. from it, the two natural elements of water—
He’d spent the night in the cell with Christy hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen powers the
and Russell. They’d talked into the small hours, great machinery that keeps the city functioning.
trying to plan some kind of escape, without much The oxygen is necessary for our air supply. Our
success, and then each crawled separately into ancestors managed to bring four of the crystals
their bunks and slept for several hours. After they with us, but the fifth was lost. The ship carrying
woke up and ate the meager breakfast that had it fell into a deep gorge, and it has never been
been brought to them, two guards came to the recovered. We have used all four of the lenses.
cell and told Brand he had been summoned to Each lasted one thousand years. The fourth lens
the throne room for an audience with the queen. is now depleted. My engineers tell me there may
“I have a task I wish you to undertake,” be only a day or two before the end comes.”
Anemone said. “If you accept it, you and your “Why don’t you evacuate and go back to live
friends will go free, and you will be richer than on the surface?”
your wildest dreams. If you refuse, I will have no “We can never return to live on land. We have
choice but to turn you over to the high priest.” been down here too long. We have changed too
The intensity and seriousness that Brand had much over the centuries. We are not fully aquatic.
seen in Anemone yesterday when she had spoken We still need to breath air. But we are no longer
to the scientist, Dr. Sylvus, was even stronger fully human either. The sun of the world on the
now. surface burns our skins and blinds us. The air that
“I’m listening,” Brand said. you breathe on the surface sears our lungs. We
“Nemuria is dying,” the queen began. “Soon can only breathe the purified air manufactured
there will be no energy to power the city, no air under the dome that covers our city. We are
to breathe. The machines that pressurize the city doomed to remain here forever, either in life or
and keep the sea from crushing the crystal dome in death.”
will stop running. Nemuria will go dark and slowly “Why didn’t your scientists try to find another
suffocate and then the city will be torn apart by energy source during all this time?”
the power of the water outside. But you, Land- “Somehow we never thought this day would
walker, you have come here for a reason, even if come,” Anemone said. “We took it for granted
you do not know it. You have been sent here by that the resources we depend on will always be
the fates to save Nemuria.” there.”
Brand was startled. “How?” he asked. “They thought that way back on Earth once,”
“Let me start at the beginning,” Anemone Brand asked.
said. “Four thousand years ago, we Nemurians “But there may be a way to save Nemuria,”
were once land-walkers like you. Our civiliza- Anemone said. “The gorge into which the fifth
tion even then was advanced. Our scientists lens fell is not very far from here. It is called the
foresaw the great sun storm that turned half of Black Gorge. It has that name for two reasons. It
Tulon into an arid desert. They built Nemuria as is so deep no one has ever been able to reach the
an undersea refuge. We came down in five sub- bottom and live. It is also the lair of Tarku, the
mersible ships. Each of the ships had a special monster that Narvo and the high priests from
crystal lens aboard. The lens is part of a filtration times before have turned into a god. When I saw
system that draws from the sea, and separates you on the televisor walking along the sea bottom

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Eight Arms of Death, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen Pg. 31

in your diving suit, an idea occurred to me. With when I tell them I’ve found their treasure for
your suit you may be able to go where no one them.”
has ever been able to go. I am offering you and He looked up at the queen. “Before agree to
your friends your freedom if you will go to the your offer, I want my friends removed from your
bottom of the Black Gorge and bring back that dungeon. The man needs medical attention.”
crystal lens. Do you think you can do this? Will “It will be done,” Anemone said. The queen
your diving suit be able to go that far down?” studied him silently for a moment. “You love the
“Depends on how deep the gorge really is. But female land-walker. Is that not why you came
what about that octo-pod?” here?”
“Take whatever weapons you need and kill “She saved my life once.”
that foul beast.” “You did not answer my question.”
“And the high priest? He’ll never stand for “That’s right,” Brand said. “I didn’t.”
that.” “Something came between the two of you in
Anemone’s eyes flashed with anger. “I will the past? And now another man has taken your
deal with Narvo. It is time the high priest be place.”
exposed for what he is. My people have endured “It’s a long story,” Brand said.
the tyrannical reign of superstition imposed by “I sense something in you,” Anemone said.
him and his kind for too long. Too many have died “Something drives you, that does not drive most
under his sacrificial knife on the Altar of Tarku. Kill other men. An anger. A rage. Is that what has
the octo-pod, Land-walker. If you accomplish this come between you and the woman?”
task, not only will your name live forever in the “Let’s just say I made a promise to myself
memories of my people, you will be rich beyond a while ago. Something I have to do. I thought
your wildest imagination.” I couldn’t settle down until I kept that promise.
“What do you mean rich?” Maybe I made a mistake.”
“The lens lies in a chest full of treasure—jewels “Mistakes can be corrected.”
and gold—more than you can imagine. It will be “I thought so too. But sometimes it’s too late.”
yours, if you succeed.” #
“So that’s where the treasure is,” Brand said,
a rueful smile playing on his lips. “Isn’t that a Two of the strange, half-human, half-fish crea-
kicker.” tures—their long, green, webbed fingers working
“You know of it?” carefully, their wide-spaced eyes peering intent-
“No, but my friends have been looking for it.” ly—checked the oxygen tank and pressure gauges
“They would never find it. Will you do what I on the back of Brand’s diving suit. Anemone stood
ask?” at the outer door of the airlock control room,
“It’s a pretty tall order, but I don’t have much watching them work.
choice,” Brand said. He let out a hollow sounding The lights in the control room blacked out and
laugh. Brand heard the sound of generators shutting off.
“What is amusing?” the queen asked. Down here at the base of the city, he could feel
“Life,” Brand said. “The way it works.” the floor shudder. Then came the whirring sound
“What do you mean?” of engines restarting and the lights flashed back
“Christy and her partner will be very surprised on.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Eight Arms of Death, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen Pg. 32

“There is not much time,” Anemone said. “Our ancient laws. No stranger ever has or ever will
engineers say now there may be only a matter of leave this undersea kingdom.”
hours.” “Let me give you a little word of advice, Narvo,”
There was a sudden commotion behind the Brand said, sliding the long knife in his hand into
queen. The stunted, grotesque form of the high the sheath sewn into the leg of the diving suit.
priest appeared. He stepped into the air lock with “While I’m gone, make sure nothing happens to
four temple guards in his wake. my friends. Anything happens to them—anything
“What is the meaning of this,” Narvo demanded. at all—I’ll kill you when I get back.”
“Word reached me that you are sending this land- The high priest pointed a finger at Anemone.
walker down into the Black Gorge. You dare allow “So it has come to a showdown at last,” he said,
him to enter the lair of the Sacred Octo-Pod?” glaring at her. “Long have I known of your enmity
“Don’t interfere, Narvo,” Anemone said. “This toward the ancient doctrines. You will rue this
man is Nemuria’s only hope.” day!” He turned toward Brand with a malicious
“It is blasphemy!” the high priest shrieked. smile twisting his lips. “Go, Land-walker. Tarku
“Sacrilege!” awaits.”
“Would you rather see Nemuria perish?” He spun on his heel, and he and his four guards
The high priest looked up at Anemone with left the air lock.
suspicion in his eyes. Brand picked up the plastic bubble helmet.
“Is it true you have promised the land-walkers “He’s going to be trouble,” he said.
their freedom?” he asked. The queen took something from one of the
“Yes,” Anemone answered. guards who had been standing by and held it up.
Narvo’s eyes darted around at the others in It was a circular disc made of crystal about six
the air lock. inches in diameter. “So you will know it when you
“You heard her,” he said. “From her own lips, see it, here is one of the old lenses,” she said.
she defies the ancient laws.” She turned it in her hand, and as Brand gazed
“What I do, I do to save Nemuria,” Anemone at it, the disc revealed innumerable facets, each
said. of which reflected his own image back to him.
Narvo moved closer to Brand. His hate-filled “The crystal lens you are looking for lies in a
eyes glared up at him. chest near the wreckage of the vessel that carried
“You are a fool, Land-walker,” he hissed. “But I it. Go due east from here until you come to the rim
will not try to stop you. You cannot enter Tarku’s of the gorge. The wreckage lies directly below at
lair and live. You will die even before he finds you. the bottom. The place where it sank was carefully
There are life forms in the Black Gorge you’ve never noted in the ancient records. If you can descend
seen before. Orca-fins so big they can swallow to that depth it should be easy to find.”
you in a single gulp. The poisonous sea-scorpions. She handed him a pouch made from what
Tiny, but deadly. The sting of just one of those tiny looked like the skin of an orca-fin. “Put the lens in
creatures brings instant death.” The high priest’s this pouch,” Anemone said.
eyes narrowed. “And mark this. Even if you come One of the airlock technicians clamped the
out of the gorge in one piece, I promise you, you helmet over Brand’s head. As soon as it was
and your friends will never leave this city. I, Narvo, locked, the helmet’s oxygenator started pumping
high priest of Nemuria, am pledged to keep the air. Another technician handed him a long coil

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
The Eight Arms of Death, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen Pg. 33

of rope that appeared to be made from strands
of seaweed. Brand slung the pouch by its strap
over one shoulder, the rope over the other, and
stepped into the steel cocoon of the airlock
chamber.
“Good luck, Brand,” Anemone said, as air jets
popped and the inner door closed, sealing the air
lock chamber tight. Water poured down noisily
through intake valves in the ceiling. The chamber
soon filled to capacity and the outer door opened.
Brand stepped through the doorway into the blue
world of the Inland Sea.

End, Part One

John M. Whalen
John M. Whalen’s stories have appeared in the
Flashing Swords E-zine, pulpanddagger.com,
and Universe Pathways magazine. His Jack
Brand stories are a staple here at Ray Gun
Revival magazine.

Contact the author here.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Featured Artist: Euka Pg. 34
Featured Artist:
Tomislav Tikulin

Name:
Tomislav Tikulin

Where do you live:
In a small country in Europe called Croatia,
in a town called Zagreb.

Personal Quote:
Get up earlier and work more!

Media you work in:
Digital.

What trends are you seeing in the media
you work in?
I notice that lots of artists just take some
3D model, render it, and that’s it. Lots of
digital illustrations are just too artificial,
without a human-organic touch. When I
work, I try to mix old and new—combine
techniques of old school illustrators with
new digital tools. If you use too much CGI,
you will definitely have sterile computer
images. This trend is also present in the
movie industry.

What would you like to tell Ray Gun Revival readers?
Read good books and watch good movies. :)

How would you describe your work?
Hah...that’s hard. I don’t know; I just like science fiction. As a kid, I read comics
and books, and watched movies, mainly those with space exploration and space
adventure themes. Yes, I’m still a kid who loves space adventure, and I hope that’s
clear when someone views my work. :)

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Featured Artist: Tomislav Tikulin Pg. 35

Where can someone buy your art or contact you professionally?
Here is the link to my website: www.tomtikulin-art.com
And here is my email: tomislav.tikulin@gmail.com

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Featured Artist: Tomislav Tikulin Pg. 36

Serial: Deuces Wild
In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six
by L. S. King

Recap: By eavesdropping using a Confed trooper stop their plan to drop yrallite gas, but he could
helmet, Tristan had just discovered that the Con- warn the people to evacuate. And he would fight,
federation was planning to drop a terrible weapon, somehow. But he needed to get to the top of the
yrallite gas, into the underground portions of the chain of command. He glanced around at the men
Eridani capital city to eradicate the native popu- in the cavern. “With the emperor dead, who’s in
lation. charge? His cousin Abbra?”
Slap was in the company of the priests, and The one who had spoken to him before
being hailed as a god. stepped forward. “No. He is dead. All the royal
family is dead. The high priest rules now.”

T ristan had never felt so helpless. Even if
he could reach Giselle in time, he couldn’t
leave, not without knowing for certain Slap was
Tristan was certain he would find his reply
amusing at some later time, but he was too
concerned with speed and action to pause and
dead. He knew the odds; the tall cowboy was appreciate the irony. With a perfectly straight
likely buried under the tons of rubble that used face he said, “All right. Take me to your leader.”
to be the emperor’s palace. #
He scrubbed his face with his hands. Slap dead.
He had failed his life debt. What tortures had the Tristan and his guide pushed through the
kid endured before the end? Had he waited for press into the cave where the head priest was
Tristan, wondering why he didn’t come? No more supposed to be. One voice stood out amidst the
of the galoot following him around the ship, asking cacophony. Not just because it wasn’t speaking
questions, finding ways to tease and irritate... in Eridani, but because it had lousy grammar, the
His gut knotted, and he found himself shaking. odd accent of the Three Systems Separatists, and
He rose and paced in lieu of finding something was slightly a nasal, youthful tenor.
to hit or throw. But he wouldn’t leave or give up Incredible amazement and relief flooded
on Slap until he had seen his body—Tristan owed through Tristan’s body like a dousing of refreshing
him that much. Perhaps he’d take the body back cold water, and his priorities settled into a new
to Zenos and bury him with his wife and son. alignment. He took a deep breath and prepared
Who knew how long until the locals began to make his entrance.
excavating to find the dead. He wouldn’t wait; #
he didn’t care about the cost to hire workers for
the job, he would stay until he had moved every Slap stared at the crowd staring at him, then
stone, every piece of marble. He must see that looked at Kebba. “What?”
body, must be certain. “They want to know how you will help us fight
But first, the Confeds had to go. He couldn’t these invaders.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six, by L. S. King Pg. 37

“Help? I keep telling you I ain’t no god. Sure have to evacuate. And we can’t do much to help
as shootin’ I’ll do what I can, cuz I don’t like the with that.”
Confeds method of ‘expansion’—” “We can too—somehow.” Slap spun to Kebba.
“It does tend to be fatal to those in the “How can we help evacuate?”
expanding area.” Kebba spread his hands. “Their fate is in the
Slap jumped at the familiar, quiet, bass voice. lap of the gods. We will not stand in the way.”
Tristan? Yes! He gaped as his friend strode forward Slap stared at the priest, his mind numbed by
from among the newcomers and shoved a rifle the casual, callous expression on Kebba’s face.
into Slap’s hands. Finally he managed to whisper, “You can’t mean
“Tristan!” Slap stood, a wide grin spreading. it.”
“So you’re a god now, are you?” Tristan snorted. “In other words, they will
“I keep telling them—” sacrifice the people of this city—use their deaths
“You need a shave.” to show the evil of the enemy. And, at the same
“So do you,” Slap shot back, eyeing the unchar- time, it will destroy the base of any opposition
acteristic stubble on his friend’s face. And the that might exist, since most of those who might
bruises and cuts, some still oozing blood. And the have the education and position to oppose them
limp. “Bad day?” are all here in the capital. Controlling the ignorant
“Not my best.” populace will be even more facile then.”
Kebba, eyes wide, looked from one to another, Kebba’s eyes glinted as he gazed at Tristan.
but before he could say a word, Tristan stepped up, “You are too wise.”
face to face with the priest, and said, “You have a Bile rose in Slap’s throat. “You rotten lizard!”
problem. The Confeds are planning on dropping He gestured around the cave at the gathered
yrallite gas into every cavern they can find in the men. “What do they think of this? They all know
capital to exterminate your people. I’ve given you now.”
warning—get your people out while you can.” His “Only some of the priests have learned your
dark eyes bored into Slap’s. “Now, let’s get out of barbarian tongue.” Kebba smirked. “No one else
here.” knows what we are saying.”
“What?” Slap’s mouth fell open. “You gonna Slap turned to the other priests. Their faces
leave, just like that?” showed unconcern. He whirled back to Tristan.
“I came here to find you. I found you. Time to “We have to do something!”
go.” “Their own priests don’t want to stop it. Let
“But these people need help!” the Confeds and Eridani wipe each other out.”
“That’s not my concern.” Slap grabbed a handful of cloth and hauled
“Well, I ain’t going. This isn’t just about two Tristan close, his teeth clenched. “I ain’t walkin’
armies fighting or something. You said they were away from women and kids being killed.”
dropping some gas—” Tristan glared at him, his eyes black embers.
“Yrallite gas. It’s worse than vile.” His lips thinned, and he struck Slap’s upper arms.
“And it’ll kill women and kids. Babies, Tristan! The unexpected jolt loosened Slap’s grip, and
Brago’s Bands, I ain’t gonna just leave when Tristan stepped back. Slap met his friend’s snarl
innocent little ones will be murdered.” with one of his own while rubbing his arms.
“Staying won’t save them. Nothing will. They Tristan sighed. He gazed around the cave and

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six, by L. S. King Pg. 38

spoke to the people in halting Eridani. below the surface connected to others farther
Kebba shouted, “No! Tell them nothing!” He away with a lattice-like network of tunnels. No
then switched to his own language, babbling wonder the Confeds were stymied enough to
almost in a panic, but Tristan brought his weapon resort to such extremes to secure the capital. Well,
up with a black expression that wilted the priest. not that it gave them the right to use something
Several other priests stepped forward as if to as nasty as yrallite gas. Shoot, what gave them
intervene, but Slap raised his rifle, pointed it at the right to try to conquer other worlds? Ah well,
them, and shook his head. he wasn’t going to waste time trying to figure out
Tristan continued to talk, and the people began the Confeds.
to stir. A few asked questions, and he answered. Or the Eridani for that matter.
As he made himself understood, their faces He gazed over at Tristan. “So is there a way to
began to show horror or fear. Tristan became stop the Confeds on their own ground?”
more insistent, and before long, the men started “What do you mean?”
to disperse, talking decisively among themselves, “I know you. Couldn’t you find a way to sneak
with confused backward glances at the priests. aboard their mother ship and do something
Tristan approached Kebba. “You can lead sneaky?”
the efforts to evacuate and put yourself in good Tristan sighed. “They don’t have a mother ship.
graces as a leader who cares about his people, or There are three carriers in orbit, and no, I don’t
let them see the truth. We’re done.” have the time or resources to do any ‘sneaking.’”
Kebba’s gaze darted between the two and Slap slumped a little, then nodded at the
finally settled on Slap. “You cannot go. You need helmet. “Any updates?”
to stay. To—” “No. The Confeds are having some comm
Slap stabbed the priest’s chest with his finger. trouble. Trying to trace it has diverted them
“I might be a dumb cowboy, but I’m no fool. I and pushed back the timetable for the gas to be
could see what you wanted me to be. I ain’t no shuttled down. We need to help keep the troops
figurehead to prop up your...your rule, or govern- here occupied to give the evacuees more time.”
ment, or whatever you call it. I’ll help get people “Gladly.” Slap had already downed some strag-
outta here, but then I’m gone with my friend.” glers. They were heading toward the spaceport
Slap nodded at Tristan and followed him out, where much of the activity was. “Let’s get
leaving Kebba stuttering to himself. moving!”
Tristan winced as he stood, which worried
#
Slap. His buddy must really be hurting; he didn’t
Slap hunkered behind a demolished wall, like to show pain.
gripping his rifle, while Tristan listened on the As they worked through the rubble, Slap saw
comm helmet. He was dog tired already, and by a pile of rope under some debris and stopped.
the sun, it was only mid-afternoon. His buddy Perhaps it was the cowboy in him, but he couldn’t
looked like the walking dead, but never stopped. resist. He began pulling the rope out and coiling
He listened for the Confed plans and informed it.
the Eridani of any updates. “What are you doing?” Tristan asked.
The locals had been surprisingly efficient in “This is good, sturdy rope. Never know when
moving their people out of the city. The caverns you’ll need a good rope.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six, by L. S. King Pg. 39

“All right, Sam.” around at the desolate city, wondering where
“Huh?” that compound was. “I have to find someone to
“Never mind.” Tristan shook his head and tell me where he is!”
walked on. “Where who is?”
Slap slipped the coil over his head and through “Príncipe.”
one arm like a bandolier and ran to catch up. A “As you like to say, ‘chew it fine.’ Who is
rumble stopped him—Tristan too. It happened Príncipe?”
again. “A horse.”
“What is that?” Tristan blinked. “We have more important
“I’m not sure.” Tristan pointed to the remains things to worry about than a horse.”
of a nearby building. “Let’s wait and see.” “I ain’t gonna try to explain. You wouldn’t get
Slap followed Tristan inside and gazed over it. But I have to find Príncipe.”
the stone while Tristan crouched and listened on Tristan ran a hand through his hair and shook
the helmet. The earthquake-like rumble boomed his head. “Go, then. Try to rendezvous at the
and boomed again, getting closer. spaceport when you can. If all else fails, ask for
“MRCVs,” Tristan hissed after a minute. the way to the forbidden holy cavern west of the
“They’re on their way to the spaceport to recon- city. That’s where Giselle is hidden. But don’t tell
noiter. So that’s where we’re going too.” anyone she’s there.”
“What are they?” “Gotcha!” Slap ran off, looking desperately for
“Mechanized Robotic Combat Vehicles. anyone who could tell him where the emperor’s
MRCVs.” horse was.
Slap frowned, still not sure what Tristan was #
talking about. His friend pointed outside. A huge
monster ‘robot’ was walking down the street— All he’d gone through to find Slap, and the
what was left of the street anyway. cowboy runs off to find a horse. A horse. Tristan
“Brago’s Bands! How do we stop that?” rubbed his eyes. Slap or no Slap, he had to get to
“A rocket launcher would come in handy. the spaceport.
Unfortunately, the troopers I’ve seen so far were Several more MRCVs passed. Tristan ducked
light-armor. If I remember correctly, only the into a building or behind rubble each time. A
heavy-armor troops carry rocket launchers.” hover bike buzzed by, shooting; Tristan rolled to
“So what do we do about the robots?” avoid fire and shot back, hitting the bike on his
“‘Robotic vehicles.’ Avoid them.” third try and spinning it into wall. He rose with a
“I’ll agree with that.” groan, using the butt of the rifle against the earth
After the ‘robotic vehicle’ walked past, Slap to lever himself up. His leg throbbed mercilessly.
stood. “How far to the spaceport?” Limping along, fighting, hiding, Tristan finally
“About a klick, I’d guess.” neared the spaceport. The journey had seemed
“Too bad we don’t have rides.” Slap straight- like hours, but by the westerly sun hadn’t taken
ened with a gasp. Ride! “Aw, shoot. Príncipe!” very long at all. He supposed it was because
“What?” he was so exhausted. The helmet didn’t help,
“I gotta find Príncipe! I don’t know if he’s still weighing him down and making him sweat. But
alive, but if he is...” Slap darted outside and looked he needed the updates.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six, by L. S. King Pg. 40

He knelt behind the remains of a watch tower of their domain. The carrier hobbled away from
and regarded the activity through the fence. The the planet for repairs. The third carrier sent out a
Confeds were regrouping, all right. recall signal. That message was not blocked.
Static roared through the helmet—and Amid the chaos, one thing was clear; the
stopped. Confused voices shouted and hollered invasion was all but over except for the troops
on various channels, overlapping, conflicting. stranded on the surface. They were rushing to
Finally, he made sense of the chatter. One of the get to the last shuttles before the one remaining
three carriers in orbit had blown up. No one knew carrier broke orbit. Tristan—and the Eridani—
why. wouldn’t mind that, but the soldiers still seemed
Before Tristan could even speculate to himself determined to kill and destroy in their effort to
what could have caused it, the chatter turned reach the spaceport.
into...nonsense. At least to the Confeds. The Eridani were no warriors, but they quickly
Various Confed voices could be heard amid learned tactics with little instruction. Tristan
the steady ‘nonsense’ chattering across the worked rogue, darting from area to area, picking
channels: off strays, updating the natives on what little he
could find out from the helmet, and trying to
What the hell is that? keep track of the movement of the stragglers
Someone is broadcasting across all channels— converging on the spaceport. The sun sat on the
shut it off. Whoever is responsible, shut it off! We horizon now; they’d soon be at a disadvantage,
need clear lines! fighting in the dark against troops equipped with
No one knows where it’s coming from night vision capability.
Trace it, trace it! And creeping into Tristan’s thoughts was the
We’re trying, Sir, but— constant question, where is Slap?
What the hell is a Snark anyway? Earlier, Tristan managed to down a heavy-
I’d like to know what a Boojum is! armor trooper and confiscate his rocket-launcher.
Several MRCVs now lumbered through the area,
Tristan sat down and leaned back against the heading for a transport ship, firing their weapons.
base of the tower, laughing long and low. That launcher was about to come in handy.
Propping the launcher onto rubble, Tristan
#
calculated the best place to aim to take out the
Confed communications had almost totally vehicles. The ‘knee’ joint would seem ideal, but
broken down. A few channels worked sporadi- on second thought, the ‘hip’ looked to be less
cally, but not for long, and automated systems armored. But it would take a more precise hit to
had begun to break down or react unpredictably. do damage. He aimed and fired. Torso hit—only
Someone had infiltrated the Confeds renowned, surface damage. He had sighted too high. The
secured system and trashed it. Tristan had his body swiveled in his direction. He fired again.
own ideas who was behind that one. Direct hit on the hip. The vehicle crashed to
From broken bits of transmissions, Tristan the ground. Another MRCV swerved to face his
surmised the second carrier had been disabled position. Uh oh. Tristan forced himself to concen-
by Eridani ships, which had apparently evaded trate as the arm lifted to fire at him. He launched
or survived Confederation battles in other areas a rocket. It impacted the leg, just below the hip.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six, by L. S. King Pg. 41

The vehicle stepped toward him, and he got ready “Staying in the city isn’t an option. There are
to fire again, hoping he shot before it did. But the still Confeds about, and who knows if they still
huge robotic vehicle took another step—onto won’t try dropping the gas as retaliation before
its ‘injured’ leg, and a creaking of stressed metal they pull out altogether.”
filled the air. Tristan watched in fascination as the Slap hesitated, looking thoughtful. Finally, he
goliath slowly toppled to the ground. shrugged and held out his hand. Tristan took it
He had no chance to appreciate his luck—the and let Slap haul him up to sit behind him.
whine of hover bikes grew behind him. He spun. “Hold on tight. Now, which way to ol’ Bertha?”
Three of them. He grabbed a plasma grenade and “Go north, away from the spaceport—too
lobbed it. One bike took the hit, but the other two dangerous. Then head west. With the Confeds
swerved, flanking him. He dove to the ground, retreating, we can probably leave the planet
firing left, rolling, and firing right. He missed. without becoming a target. If the ship can fly. She
The bikes circled to make another run. But was in bad shape when I left to find you. I hope
Tristan had more time to aim. Hot sand sprayed in Carter’s gotten her functional.”
his face as he fired. He rolled again, coughing and “Carter?”
blinking, and fired toward the sounds of a bike. “The engineer who had been working on the
He held still in the ensuing, relative quiet, ship. He came with me.”
listening for a bike as the dust settled. He raised “He came here with you? To Eridani?”
his head, and found himself staring up at the “Yes.”
bike’s rider, a laser pistol leveled at him. “Is he stupid or insane?”
A wild cowboy whoop echoed just then, and Tristan didn’t hesitate a beat. “Insane.”
the biker whirled. A large copper-colored horse #
thundered up, Slap on its back, a rope circling
above the cowboy’s head. He threw the rope, Horses, Tristan decided, were not the best
snagged the gun, and snatched it from the biker. method of transportation he’d ever used. The
Tristan fired, and the soldier crumpled. hide was slippery, the ride uneven, and Slap’s
Slap caught the gun in mid-air from the noose back not the most comfortable to lean against.
that held it as he drew the horse to a stop near And the creature jumped several times at some
Tristan, grinning. “Want a ride?” nocturnal desert inhabitant. Twice Slap used the
Tristan eyed the huge beast as it pawed the laser pistol, muttering about lizards and vipers.
ground and tossed its head. “You’re not kidding, Tristan’s leg was hurting worse than ever, if
are you?” that was possible, yet he had a hard time staying
“Just tell me where you want to go.” awake as they searched for the cavern, a difficult
Tristan glanced around the spaceport. The job without any point of reference, as the area
Eridani had the upper hand. “Let’s go to Giselle.” had many caverns in it.
“In the desert?” Slap gazed at the setting sun. “Is this it?” Slap asked as they approached
“At night?” another one.
“I can see in the dark with this helmet.” “No, the shape is all wrong. And there’s no
Slap shook his head. “I know the desert. It’s rocky hill, just the smooth plain surrounding it.
treacherous at night. We need to find a place to Besides, it’s inhabited. I can see heat signatures
rest till morning.” rising from the crevice, probably smoke.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six, by L. S. King Pg. 42

“Well, regardless, we need to find a place to the colorful blanket and swung his legs over the
rest Príncipe. And find water.” side of the of the bed. His old clothes were gone,
“Natives aren’t likely to be friendly to ‘barbar- and he wore only the loose pants of the typical
ians.’” peasant. His wounds were wrapped, and his leg
“At least they don’t shoot first like the only throbbed dully.
Confeds.” Since no one else was in the chamber, Tristan
They drew closer, and Tristan could see carved, figured the food and water must be for him. He
stone steps leading down along the wall of the sat and ate.
cavern. “We are taking a chance.” “You do pretty good without a napkin or fork,”
“Yeah, but Príncipe needs water and rest.” came Slap’s voice.
“Can he make it down those steps?” Tristan twisted to see Slap leaning in the
“If I lead him.” doorway, grinning.
Tristan slid off, and Slap swung a leg over the “So how did you get us this treatment? Still a
neck and hopped down. They headed toward god?”
the edge. The horse’s ears flicked back, and he Slap pushed up from the frame and walked
resisted Slap. The cowboy made a clicking sound over. “I don’t think so. It’s hard to tell, because
with his tongue, and tugged lightly on the rope they don’t speak our language. But they were
he used to guide the beast. He talked softly to impressed, since I have Príncipe. He’d been the
the horse, and with an unease that even Tristan emperor’s horse, you know. I guess there’s some
could sense, Príncipe began descending behind local custom or superstition or something like
Slap. that. Anyway, since I have him, they’re treating
As Tristan followed, he was glad he didn’t us like royalty. When you’re up to it, I’d like you
fear heights. He did, however, have some vertigo, to palaver with them, and see if they can tell us
from lack of food and rest, and his injuries. He where the forbidden cavern is.”
removed the helmet, took deep breaths, and “Gladly.”
blinked to try to keep his mind and sight clear. #
About halfway down, in the light of fires and
many torches, Tristan could see people gathering The natives not only showed them where the
below. He kept his hands still at his sides, forbidden cavern was, but went with them for a
although he itched to grip the rifle hanging over distance, although they wouldn’t venture even
his shoulder. The people began to bow as they into the shadow of the overhanging tor. They also
neared the bottom. Tristan couldn’t make out left them with bundles of hay and several large
anything the natives said. His head reeled, and sacks of something that Slap had asked for with
the world went dark. signs and gestures. Tristan was afraid he knew
what it was, but didn’t inquire; he was sure he’d
#
find out soon enough.
Tristan awoke to the sun streaming in at an Tristan thanked the people, and they bowed
angle, hitting the opposite wall. He lay on a pallet and hurriedly left. He went into the opening in
set in a niche in the stone. A plate covered with the rocky face that led to the cavern below. Giselle
a cloth and a jug with a cup next to it waited on waited where she’d been left. She didn’t look
a stone ledge across from him. He tossed back flight-worthy. He hoped that was only surface

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Six, by L. S. King Pg. 43

appearance. Many thanks to James King for his invalu-
He called Carter as he neared the ramp. Carter able help in creating the ships and weapons
appeared and grinned. “I hoped you’d lived Slap and Tristan have been up against, not
through all this mess. Did you find Slap?” only in this story arc, but throughout all of the
“Yes. He’s coming. Is she able to fly?” Deuces Wild stories.
“Not for long. But enough to get us off this rock Special thanks to physicist Jonathan Crofts
and to a space station where we can get parts for for his patience as he attempts to keep me
repairs.” from breaking too many physics rule outright.
Tristan nodded, swallowing his worry about Deuces Wild is dedicated to the memory of
how to pay for those parts and repairs. His money my best friend, my inspiration for an enduring
was almost gone. He still had his cargo to sell, friendship...
but he wasn’t sure how far that would go, given http://loriendil.com/Starsky/
Giselle’s extensive damage.
He narrowed his eyes. “Snarks and Boojums,
hein?” L. S. King
Carter grinned.
A science fiction fan since childhood, L.S. King
“So, who are you to the Confeds to have a
backdoor into their secured comm system?”
has been writing stories since her youth. Now,
“No one, now.” with all but one of her children grown, she is
Tristan gave him a withering glare and Carter writing full-time. She has developed a sword-
licked his lips. “Uh, Lieutenant Commander and-planet series tentatively called The An-
Donegal of the Confederation Armed Forces. Or I cients. The first book is finished, and she has
was before I ‘died.’ They....don’t know I escaped.” completed rough drafts of several more novels
Tristan nodded. Now it made sense. And he as well.
now knew the real hold Carter’s boss had had
over him. She serves on the editorial staff of The Sword
Carter’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped Review, is also their Columns Editor, and
open as he looked at the cave entrance. Tristan writes a column for that magazine entitled
turned. Slap was leading Príncipe toward them. “Writer’s Cramps” as well. She is also one
“I’m bringing him along,” the cowboy said. of the Overlords, a founding editor, here at
“And what will you do with a horse aboard a
Ray Gun Revival.
ship?”
“I’m taking him to Zenos.” Slap petted the She began martial arts training over thirty
horse’s neck, his expression reflective and sad. years ago, and owned a karate school for a de-
“I...I want to go home.”
cade. When on the planet, she lives in Delaware
with her husband, Steve, and their youngest
Stay tuned as Deuces Wild continues next
child. She enjoys gardening, soap making, and
month. To catch up on previous episodes reading. She also likes Looney Tunes, the color
of the adventures of Slap and Tristan, visit: purple, and is a Zorro aficionado, which might
http://loriendil.com/DW.php explain her love for swords and cloaks.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007
Jolly RGR Pg. 44
The RGR Time Capsule

Sci-Fi news from the past two
weeks in the Ray Gun Revival forums

RGR Date May 22, 2007 RGR Date May 26, 2007
Weta Raygun pre-orders start Friday, May 25 The real Jack Sparrow - Black Bartholomew Roberts
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1123
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1113
I’ve been reading quite a bit about pirates lately, including
We are opening pre-ordering for The Pirate Hunter: The True Story
the Goliathon 83 Raygun on Friday of Captain Kidd, by Richard Zacks,
25 May! And because we love you, and The Republic of Pirates: Being
we’ve opened up our first ever lay- the True and Surprising Story of
away scheme, meaning you can the Caribbean Pirates and the
pay instalments! Simply log on to Man Who Brought Them Down,
our secure website to register your by Colin Woodard. These books
details and set up your payment portray a more realistic view of na-
scheme. val sailors, national squabbles and
Here’s the updated release sched- peacekeeping, privateers, pirates,
ule for the line: and pirate hunters.

The Goliathon 83 Infinity Beam Of all the colorful characters in
Projector is available in June, and these books, none was more suc-
pre-ordering for members of the cessful (and lethal) than Black Bart,
public opens on Friday 25 May. Bartholomew Roberts:

The F.M.OM. Industries Wave Dis- “His name was Bartholomew Rob-
rupter Gun is available in July, and erts. The most successful raider
the pre-ordering for members of in the history of piracy, he took
the public opens on Friday 22 June. prisoner an astounding 470 vessels,
and so renowned was his ferocity
The ManMelter 3600zx Sub-Atom- that many of those ships were sur-
ic Disintegrator Pistol is available rendered to him without a fight.
in August, and the pre-ordering for
members of the public opens on Black Bart was the nickname he
Friday 20 July. was given - and not only because
of his black locks and dark eyes.
When this swashbuckling Welsh buccaneer had to fight for
RGR Date May 24, 2007
his prizes, he was merciless.”
A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1116 RGR Date May 29, 2007
Bradbury’s “Farewell Summer”, sequel to “Dandelion
Star Wars turns 30 on Friday, May 25th, 2007. Wine,” a sequel 50 years in the making
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1128
Here’s a cool factoid I didn’t know: “Bradbury manages to make Farewell Summer every bit
as delightful and magical as Dandelion Wine was, but he
6. The famous - and often imitated - opening crawl for Star does at a much shorter length, using language that, by
Wars was co-written by Brian De Palma, the director of Bradbury standards, is as unadorned as Hemingway’s. It’s
Scarface. It begins “It is a period of civil war. Rebel space- as though a lifetime of word-drunkenness has given him
ships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first a connoisseur’s palate and the ability to substitute one
victory against the evil Galactic Empire.” perfectly chosen word for a whole paragraph of beautiful
alternatives.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 23, June 01, 2007