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Issue 26 July 15, 2007

 Pg. 2
Ray Gun Revival
Table of Contents
Overlords (Founders / Editors):
Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn 2 Table of Contents
Venerable Staff: 3 Overlords’ Lair
A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor
Shannon McNear - Lord High Advisor, grammar consultant, listening
5 Fast Hands by Robert Mancebo
ear/sanity saver for Overlord Lee
Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand
10 Spineless by Brandon Barr
L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, 17 Featured Artist: Josh Grafton
webmistress
Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle
22 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
washer Chapter 13, Aloft!
by Johne Cook
Slushmasters (Submissions Editors):
Scott M. Sandridge 31 Memory Wipe
John M. Whalen
David Wilhelms Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert
Shari L. Armstrong
Jack Willard by Sean T. M. Stiennon
Serial Authors:
39 The RGR Time Capsule
Sean T. M. Stiennon
John M. Whalen
May 15 - July 14, 2007
Lee S. King
Paul Christian Glenn
Johne Cook

Cover Art: “Dragon’s Nest Redux” by Josh Grafton

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Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007
 Pg. 3

Overlords’ Lair

Wow! Can you believe it? Ray Gun Revival is in “Why, you hillbilly son-of-a—” I reckon she This episode of The Adventures of the Sky
its second year now! To quote Syndrome from decided that wheedling wouldn’t work. The Pirate starts the second season of the serial
The Incredibles, “I’m still geeking out about little chameleon was trembling in anger and novel. Where season one centered around
that!” whipped a pocket laser outta the big purse swashbuckling adventure, the second
she toted. “We’re done when I say we are!” season takes on a different tone of escalating
We’re settling in, now, I think, and feeling a bit steampunk technology. This issue, we present
more comfortable with what we’re doing. Our Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook:
vaporization aim is improving at any rate, I’m Brandon Barr’s Spineless is up next:
happy to say. Just call me “One Shot Lori.” A timid entomology professor sent to a space
station to deal with an emergency situation. Can Cooper Flynn and his newly-assembled
This issue has some fun offerings. First up, a crew retake their ship?
story that made me grin from beginning to end. The twelve marines and I stood in the
Robert has been published before to great main corridor, in the oxygenated, gravity “Where’s this flappin’ ship,” hissed Bola,
acclaim in Ray Gun Revival magazine, and is a enhanced atmosphere; and above us, turning around to grouse to the little band.
fan favorite. I think you’ll enjoy Fast Hands by coming through a torn vent, were three big “I’ve been waiting six months for this. I’m
Robert Mancebo: slugs. here to pinch a ship, and I don’t see my
Captain Priest has to extricate himself from They were beautiful... payday.”
trouble with only a big gun and fast hands. “Patience, Bola. You’ll get your payday.
I had never seen gastropods so large among You’ve waited six months, just wait one
“You—you could help me.” The girl batted the species of Earth. A glittering, diamond more minute,” murmured the captain as he
her big, blue eyes at me. blue sheen covered their upper mantle, faced her. “To answer your question, in this
stopping in a wavy pattern at the genital case, it’s to your starboard.”
I looked around to see if there was opening. The lower keel was a blazing
someone else standing nearby that she design of purples and reds, reminding me “What’s starboard,” she said, spinning in
might be talking to. “Ma’am, despite my of the beautiful sea slugs found throughout place, looking around for the ship.
natty trappings, I’m truly not a knight in Earth’s oceans. They moved towards us,
shining armor.” I holstered my pistol and slipping out from the vent, their silvery Flynn touched her right shoulder. “Starboard
re-tucked my old khaki shirt into my faded secretion holding them to the ceiling. is to your right.” And then he pointed to the
brown pants. “I haul freight. And that’s for ship. Not out, but up.
money—not for begging girls, nor pleading The slug’s optical tentacles were pointed at
strumpets. If’n you got paying cargo ta the three lead marines. The soldiers stood As one, they leaned out under the tarp and
move you knock on by dock 112 tomorrow frozen, guns raised. Still the eye stalks looked up. Eggplant started a low whistle,
mornin’ and ask for Cap’n Jess Priest.” stared. which was abruptly silenced by Pitt’s gently

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


 Pg. 4

firm hand over his mouth, but it summed or Esheera. Takeda threw himself out into
up the moment. They all followed the the sunlight. Fire lanced through him as his
tether rope up to see the ship silhouetted wounded foot struck the ground, spurting
up there against the moonlit sky, floating blood.
one hundred feet in the air above the quiet As Syndrome might say, “It’s bigger. It’s
port of Bitten Bay. badder. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to
read Ray Gun Revival!”
Finally, Memory Wipe continues in this
issue with Chapter Thirteen, Evils of the L. S. King
Desert by Sean T.M. Stiennon: Overlord, RGR
Takeda and his companions are thrown into
further trouble. They arrive at Nihil’s colony
only to discover all the inhabitants have been
slaughtered.
Takeda heard a gun—not Zartsi’s—
discharge, off to his left side.
He threw his weight backwards, kicking off
the one foot planted on the ground. His
suddenly heightened senses could almost
feel the spray of bullets going past his hair
and biting into the dust of the road. His
shoulders crashed back against the door,
and he caught himself on the doorframe.
The automatic rifle tracked up for a second,
bullets shredding the steel awning. Takeda
tensed himself for a roll out into the
sunlight. He prayed he’d be able to reach
the alleyway before the gunman could
react. Takeda knew he couldn’t run faster
than bullets.
Only when the bullets stopped did Takeda
realize one of them had punched through
his right foot.
He heard gunfire above again, but this time
none of it was directed at the street. The
man must be firing at someone else—Zartsi

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


Fast Hands by Robert Mancebo Pg. 5

Fast Hands
by Robert Mancebo

“I ain’t never been accused of havin’ an over-


abundance of brains,” I explained to the
little tart who’d taken hold of my left arm as
of the clinging girl with my gun muzzle. “Even
a ijit like me knows that no foofaraw port gal
is gonna pick up a tramper unless she’s either
up with all kinda red pen marks!”
“I’m dead,” she said in a hollow voice.
though she was plannin’ on climbing it. “But paid for it or up to no good.” “They’ll kill me!”
there are other gifts that God gives—like fast
“You killed them?” she ignored my Devas- “Well, off the top of my head,” I opined.
hands!”
tator’s big barrel to stammer. “I can’t think of anyone around here what
Most folks figure a man who carries a deserves it more. But then I’m new to port;
handgun butt-forward on his right hip is a lefty, “You want to maybe leave go of my limb?” I’m sure I’ll be introduced to others more
and that girl had taken her strangle-hold on my I pushed her away with the muzzle so she had dastardly in due time.”
left arm when a spaceport streetlight revealed to let go or risk bruising.
“You—you could help me.” She batted her
three men dragging on their guns. “But they were supposed to be the best!” big, blue eyes at me in a sorta come-hither
The gang only realized their mistake when she sniveled. fashion.
I flashed out my pistol with a right-handed “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.” I I looked around to see if there was someone
twist draw and a 20mm gyro-stabilized rocket swapped magazines to make sure my M-20 else standing nearby that she might be talking
dropped the closest man in mid-motion. The was full again. A feller never knows which to. “Ma’am, despite my natty trappings, I’m
second fellow was taking aim when a rocket corpses have armed friends in a port town, truly not a knight in shining armor.” I holstered
put a smoky trail through both him and the and newcomers to a planet are pretty much my pistol and re-tucked my old khaki shirt into
building at the end of the alley. That third fair game for any local sharks. my faded brown pants. “I haul freight. And
fellow just tossed his piece as though it was a that’s for money—not for begging girls, nor
fist full of sizzling bacon and raised his hands “They weren’t supposed to kill you,” she pleading strumpets. If’n you got paying cargo
above his wide eyes. said in a plaintive, explainin’ sort of voice. “But ta move you knock on by dock 112 tomorrow
I need a lift off-planet right now!” mornin’ and ask for Cap’n Jess Priest.
“Scat!” I gave a dismissing wave of my ugly
M-20 Devastator recoilless rocket pistol, and “Everybody needs somethin’. You got the “Any other business we might have dabbled
all that was left of him was flapping coattails cash?” in this evenin’ has been terminated by your
and flailing elbows as he sprinted off into the eagerness ta get me killeded.”
night. “No, but please, you’ve got to take me!”
“Why, you hillbilly son-of-a—” I reckon she
The girl was a hook, of course, a piece of “As the good book says—‘no cash/no decided that wheedling wouldn’t work. The
bait to lure me into that alley. Her job was to passage.’” little chameleon was trembling in anger and
lead me into their trap and hold my shootin’
“What ‘good book’ says that?” whipped a pocket laser outta the big purse
arm—as though she was scared—while they she toted. “We’re done when I say we are!”
blasted holes into my carcass. “The ledger book in my cabin!” I informed She waved the wicked little weapon under my
“You was easy ta figure,” I lifted the chin her. “And it’s ‘good’ so long as it ain’t scribbled nose like she was more than passin’ familiar

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


Fast Hands by Robert Mancebo Pg. 6

with its use. get to Caulkus IV. I’ll get the money. Really I a good liar!”
will. But we have to leave—” She looked over
“Yes, Ma’am. Whatever you say, Ma’am.” my shoulder and her eyes widened as a door “Look!” She pulled a jewel the size of a
Mamma always taught us boys it’s best to humor banged open and men poured into the alley. goose egg out of her purse, and it flashed in
an irate woman waving a lethal weapon. “Right now!” a passing streetlight. “Now get me out of here,
and you’re in for a share.”
“Look, it’s not my fault I don’t have passage While her attention was distracted by the
money! Jimmy botched the heist, not me! Then stampede, I gave her a mite of a shove so she “How big a share?”
he led them to me, and got himself killed right sorta bounce off the wall a little and lost her
after he passed me the—” she realized she’d laser in the gutter somewheres. While she was “What?” She was getting tired and frantic.
said too much and snapped her mouth with a occupied with cussin’ and scrabblin’ for her The mob was closing, but their shooting was
scowl like I’d made her do it. “You get me off- weapon, I took off running. gettin’ worse as they huffed along after us.
planet tonight, or I’ll leave you in this alley for “How big a share? I’m just askin.’”
them to find in the morning—in a puddle of It was a pretty good race. There were men
blood!” shoutin’ and beams and bullets tearin’ through “Ten percent!” she offered.
the night around me. It almost reminded me
Well now I probably could’ve grabbed her of back home on Perdition on Saturday night. “Fifty percent or no ride.”
gun hand and snapped it, taken the weapon Somehow that spittin’ wildcat got up, oriented
away, and sauntered off about my business. herself, and began sprintin’ right along behind “All right. Fifty percent!”
A few things stopped me though. First and me.
foremost was, her mention of some item I knew she was lying then. No thief would’ve
which sounded like it might be worth a passel “What are you followin’ me for?” I demanded given a percentage like that without haggling.
o’ cash. Secondly was, she was a pert little betwixt breaths. I figured that they were after They’d as soon have let the mob pry it from
thing, despite her ugly attitude. She only came her not me, and it took all the good manners their cold, dead clutches as split it fifty-fifty.
up to my shoulder and had long blonde hair Ma beat inta me not to trip her and leave her It was still a good offer though.
that was all duded up like them fashion models for ‘em.
on the tri-D programs. That’s what caught my “So, are those fellers chasin’ after us local
attention about her to begin with. Thirdly, “You have to take me to Caulkus IV!” police?”
Mamma raised me up not to hit no girls. It “Hate ta disappoint you, but when we get
might just have been simple self preservation, to my ship, the first thing I’m doin’ is lockin’ his “Them? No. Jimmy was drinking and opened
what with us boys runnin’ wild an’ all, but she you outside!” big yap to his girlfriend. She’s got mob con-
called it manners and she caned manners into nections. As soon as her mob friends found out
us from the time we was too little ta lollup her “You wouldn’t!” what we stole, they came after us.”
back. Just thinkin’ about bustin’ one on the
little snip give me a memory of stingin’ welts “Well they ain’t after me!” “Cut left!” I ordered and I yanked her by the
on my rump, so I acted the gent and pretended arm when she wasn’t quick enough.
ta listen. “All right, we took the Plutaran Sunstar,
okay?!” she finally shouted. “If you get me out “Don’t slow down!” she called back at me.
“You are taking me!” she said with a wave of here, I’ll cut you in for a share!” “They’ll catch up!”
of that little burner. “Whether or not you
“That big ol’ jewel the planetary governor’s “Naaaw. Watch.” I trotted as the mob
want to. I should be able to pay you after we
so proud of?” I laughed. “Bah! You’re not even followed us around the corner in a huge, dark

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


Fast Hands by Robert Mancebo Pg. 7

mass. block the way. A bunch of fellers piled out with cuous volley from the mob charging from that
heavy artillery in-hand. direction drove her back toward that blank
“But they’ll—” she began. wall behind us.
“They’ve got rifles!” that fool girl yelled as
I stopped and whirled, drawing and firing in though I couldn’t see fer myself. I yanked a bright red magazine from my left
a single motion. That old 20mm belched a triple boot and shoved it into my M-20.
volley and those high-velocity rounds left three Seemed as though they were expectin’ us
tumbling furrows entirely through the mob. It to stop when we seen ‘em. But you know how “Red?!” My annoying companion yelled.
was like bowling. Men were kicking and tripping disappointing expectations can be. Me, I just “That’s not—”
over the trails of bodies, then over each other. let fly on the run and dropped four of ‘em by
I think it took ‘em a couple of seconds ta realize shootin’ through them vehicles. A hot round I flipped my thumb selector to automatic
what had happened. But before those bodies punched through the hydrogen fuel cell of one and squeezed the trigger. As my arm swept the
hit the ground, I was already running again. car, and the flame-geyser was a awe inspiring onrushing mob, the Devastator made a rapid
sight. Those fellers suddenly remembered free pop-popping like someone opening braces
“What did you—?” beer somewhere or another ‘cause they took of champagne bottles. I dove for the street,
off runnin’ ta get some. sweeping that irritating gal into my arms as I
“No one will really want ta catch up with us passed.
now, Ma’am. Not without the whole mob ta I would’a liked to commandeer one of their
back ‘em up. All I have ta do is stop an’ look at cars, but them things have tricky codes to start Several things happened at once. She
‘em and they’ll scatter like flies when ya bang a ‘em and such-like. So I just kept us runnin’ in squealed like a piglet with its tail in the gate,
garbage can.” the general direction of the docks. I hit the blasted pavement hard enough to
rip a nasty road-rash across my left arm, and
“Don’t get too cocky,” she warned. “They’ve I was trottin’ along, guidin’ us from the dim alley erupted in billowing blossoms of
got some real killers in that pack!” memory, and I wasn’t doin’ too bad consid- liquid fire.
erin’ I was workin’ off a glance at a city map I
“I figure I can handle whatever comes up,” I Pandemonium was the word for it. Hell
perused when we’d touched down, when we
assured her. “You just keep a tight hold on that opened up right there before us. When the
run smack-dab into a dead-end alleyway.
stone, and leave the fightin’ ta me.” flames died down to a smolder, I let that girl
I hit the recall button on my wrist chronom- go and she loosed a brazen string of cussin’ the
She mumbled something, and when I asked eter, and sent a signal and a prayer. like of which I never imagined could come out
her what she said, she replied, “I said, ‘I just of a pretty, painted mouth.
might.’” There was one of those dim old yellow illu-
minators leanin’ off a bent pole in the corner, Me, I winced at the gravel embedded in
Sounded more like, ‘damned troglodyte,’ to and it showed the three tall, smooth walls that my arm more than her lurid profanity. I shoved
me, but it wasn’t good manners to call a lady reared up to completely block our escape. another magazine into my M-20 and let the
a liar. slide slam home with authority.
“Whatever kind of a ijit puts a blind alley
Well, we run up lamp-lit streets and down, between plasteel skytowers?” I demanded of The firestorm had subsided, and I could see
and she was a good trotter, that gal. I imagine the sheer walls around us. scattered figures heedlessly walking through
she’d been chased a few times before. I ran the ugly, charred garden of their former
us toward the city park where we could filter “We’ve got to—” that girl started ta run comrades.
into the trees fer cover, but when we got close, back down the way we’d come, but a promis-
three groundcars pulled up in a rippin’ slide to

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


Fast Hands by Robert Mancebo Pg. 8

“Sissy!” a voice called out from the gathering from amber to red. She was a thinkin’ one, I’ll give her that.
remains of the mob. “I want the stone!” Except she was only thinking of herself.
“Somebody shoot this hillbilly!” he
“Go to hell!” she snarled back while clutching demanded. “What about my percentage?” I demanded.
her purse.
“Sure, sure,” I waved my raised hands. “But “That was for delivering me to Caulkus IV.”
“This is not a negotiation, you double- before you do, I just want ta cover my ears,
crossing bitch!” here.” “So delivering you from your enemies has
no value?”
The remainder of the mob churned into “Why,” Jimmy asked as a chuckle went
the light with a tall gent out front. Well, from around the crowd. “Afraid of gunfire?” “Oh, all right!” she snapped. She reached
the way her story and demeanor had changed, down somewhere I’m embarrassed to mention,
I had a sneaking suspicion that we’d run into “Nope, I just don’t like sonic booms.” I and pulled out a tidy wad of C-notes. “Here’s for
her partner, Jimmy, who might not be nearly as looked skyward. the ammo and fuel you burned. There’s three
dead as she’d reported. thousand there. That should compensate you
Now I must admit to bein’ a might smug adequately.”
I didn’t have time ta clear up such triviali- about my judgment of timing, but I have
ties, as there was still a substantial group of ‘em trusted Renaldo, Skydancer’s pilot, with my life “Well it ain’t the same as 50 percent of a
and—unless the whole bunch gathered into a upon numerous occasions. fortune,” I told her as I pocketed the money.
single line—my last lone magazine of ammo “But I suppose it’ll have ta do.” I ignored the
They naturally followed my eyes, looking up fact that that little tart had the money for
wasn’t goin’ ta be much use. into the empty night sky curiously. They didn’t passage all the time she was wheedling me to
“Give it to me now,” the man warned. “Or quite grasp the situation until the shockwave take her gratis.
we’ll pick it up off your riddled corpse!” from my ship, dropping at supersonic speed,
just about ripped their eardrums open. They “I knew it!” She proved that gratitude was
“Go to hell!” She was a feisty one all right, scattered as though a bomb had exploded, and greater than greed by throwing herself against
but I’m afraid she didn’t have the sense that Renaldo chased ‘em down the alley with blazing me and wrapped her arms around my neck. “I
God gave geese. spotlights and about a thousand rounds from knew you were a hero!” She kissed me then.
one of the ship’s machineguns. Kissed me in a way that made me wish she was
“Uh, folks—” I interrupted while slidin’ my shipping out with us, greedy, bad tempered,
Devastator into its holster and holding up Funny the effect an armed skyfreighter an’ all. I mean, after all, no one’s perfect.
my empty hands between ‘em. “Now I don’t has on folks’ nerves. I doubt they quit runnin’
mean to be buttin’ in, but this here palaver is a before they were a mile away. But she left. She left with me standin’ there
might pointless. We’d all get along a whole lot like a bull dazed by a mallet. I was so stupefied
better if you fellers would learn ta respect the And it was over. That girl an’ me stood that the aerolift Renaldo dropped almost killed
property rights of other folks.” amongst the charred stink and the bullet-pit- me when it hit.
ted street with the Skydancer rumbling above
“What?” the man demanded. “Where did our heads. I stepped onto the lift and was whisked up
this backwoods bumpkin come from?” into the belly of the Skydancer.
“I don’t have to leave now,” that Sissy girl
‘Finders-keepers you know.” Me, I was told me. “Without them chasing me, I can “You been doin’ freebies again, Cap’n?”
actually payin’ attention to the proximity alert fence the Plutaran Sunstar on-planet and save Renaldo demanded in his grating voice.
flashin’ on my wrist chronometer as it changed the price of a trip.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


Fast Hands by Robert Mancebo Pg. 9

“Nope.” I replied proudly. “Paid assistance. can happen—when a feller has fast hands.”
I got three thousand—” When I reached to
withdraw the money, I came out with a few I tossed the big jewel up so that it flashed
wisps of pocket lint. like a ball o’ fire in the cabin’s lights then put it
into Renaldo’s hand.
“Why that no-good, little minx!” I railed.
“She picked my pocket when she kissed me!” “Better lock that up and get us movin’ old
man. We can avoid a whole passel o’ trouble
“You lie down with dogs and you get fleas, if we’re clear of this system before that little
boy,” the grizzled pilot pontificated. vixen talks someone into chasin’ after us.”
“After all I done for her, saved her life an’ all,
and she didn’t even pay fer fuel an’ ammo!”
“Ask and you shall receive,” he laughed at
my shame.
“I was just startin’ ta like her too. The depths
of feminine perfidy know no bounds! I believe
my feelin’s is scarred permanently.” Robert Mancebo
“Let the buyer beware,” he cackled in lordly
mirth. Robert is a former soldier, locksmith,
and technician. He has had dark and
“Let the buyer—? I wasn’t buyin’ nothin’, ya
ijit!” historical fantasy published both on-line
and in various magazines.
“I know, but I used up all the good philoso-
phies already,” he admitted.
“Well take us out of this system, ya cackling
hyena.”
“Where to, Cap’n?”
“Somewhere we can fence this,” I said
flashing him the Plutaran Sunstar.
“Where did you get—”
“Momma raised us boys up ta be polite, not
foolish. When napalm rounds commence ta
burstin’ and folks get throwed to the ground,
they tend ta get distracted. Almost anythin’

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


Spineless by Brandon Barr Pg. 10

Spineless
by Brandon Barr

I never thought I’d say this but, if the govern-


ment hadn’t trampled my rights and hurled
me into a Def-Con-Four space disaster, I would
leave.” One of the government goons stepped
beside me and slapped his palm between my
shoulders.
an expert, Professor. And you are the premier
specialist in the nation on, ah, slugs. We’re
hoping you’ll accompany our crackerjack team
still be a timid, middle-aged entomology of space marines aboard the ship, that is, if you
professor living in his mother’s basement. “Sure you can” he said, and pushed me agree to go. We can’t force you.”
forward into the waiting arms of his black-
The life-changing incident happened two suited buddies. “Gastropods! In space?”
years ago, in the summer of 2086. I was working
at Quinbrook University on my grant project, A helicopter and Humvee ride later, I found “That’s right, Professor.”
when there was a knock on the lab door. myself at some middle-of-nowhere military
compound in the Nevada desert. And still I I swallowed my enthusiasm, spotting a
Four large men in black suits stood in the hadn’t gotten a single word of explanation chance to recapture my dignity. “So,” I said,
hallway. Each gave a quick, cheerless smile and beyond the phrases, “shut up” and “keep slouching rebelliously in my chair, “if I don’t go,
a nod. “Are you Professor Calvin Lemmick?” quiet.” you’ll have no expert to—”

“I am,” I said, drawing out the two syllables They marched me into a dome-like structure “Actually,” interrupted the decorated man,
in my most irritating, nasal tenor. and jostled me onto an elevator, taking me God- “a Dr. Warren Thompson is on his way to the
alone-knows how many levels underground, base. So if you decline, then he’ll get to go up
One of the men stepped forward. and steered me into a big conference room full instead.”
“Professor, we’re here on direct order from the of uniformed men and women.
President of the United States.” The man held Thompson! That hack! His research on
out an identification badge. “We need you to I was led to a seat at a large circular table, nudibranchs was a colossal failure—no matter
come with us.” and as soon as I sat down, a bald man with no what the Journal of Entomology thought.
less than twenty ornate medals hanging from “Well! Of course I’ll go!”
“You must have made some kind of his blue suit stood up out of his chair.
mistake. I’m only an entomology professor. The decorated man gave a knowing grin.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of “This briefing is for you, Professor Lemmick,” I was escorted from the room and rushed
something important.” I started to shut the he said. “I’m sure you’re wondering why you’ve through a series of medical exams. I sincerely
door when one of the big jerks stuck out his been brought here.” believe that the cockroaches in my laboratory
boot and jammed my effort.
I looked up at him, intending to give him receive finer treatment than I was given. An
“Are you Calvin Lee Lemmick, the self pro- the most dirty, piercing stare I could muster. hour later, I was soaring through space with
claimed Mr. Slug, according to the Journal of Instead I nodded submissively. the twelve marines.
Nature?”
“Slugs, about a foot long, have taken up The G-forces slamming against my insides
“Well, ah, yes, that’s me, but I—I can’t just residence inside the space station. We need were tremendous. I felt I was finally able to

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


Spineless by Brandon Barr Pg. 11

empathize with all those poor insects glued to silvery secretion holding them to the ceiling. “That will only make it worse,” I offered,
the grille plate of my Buick. “You’ll only cause them to secrete more!”
The slug’s optical tentacles were pointed
When the space station came into view, at the three lead marines. The soldiers stood “Shut up, Lemmick,” Marissa yelled at me.
the marines helped me into a lightweight suit, frozen, guns raised. Still the eye stalks stared.
connected a catheter, and locked a helmet on “How ‘bout we flash burn the buggers
my head. “What do we do now,” called one of the off?”
forward marines.
“Let’s get a move on, Professor,” one of Marissa nodded, “That sounds good, Vince!
them barked at me. Marissa, the task force leader, glanced my Use your burner.”
way. “Lemmick, these slugs look friendly to
The bay door swung open and the twelve you?” “No! Wait!” I yelled. “If they’re intelligent,
marines stood waiting for me with heavy shock maybe this is how they shake hands.”
guns in their hands. I was going in! My stomach “I think they’re intelligent,” I called out.
“Jiminy Chris’mas, Lemmick!”
dropped into my bowels, and the catheter got “Yeah? Why?”
its first test run. One of the marines raised a hot, blue torch
“Look at their eyes. Normally gastropods attachment from his suit and put it down
# can only detect movement, and we haven’t towards the last protruding quarter of a slug.
moved. Their eyestalks are on us. They’re
It was astonishing. The bald-headed man watching us. “Move your hands, meathead.”
with the ten pounds of decoration had told
Marissa tapped her finger against the Before the fire touched the slug, the
us the slugs were a foot long. He was wrong.
trigger ring. “Damn! I guess that means we gastropod disappeared into the tube.
Either the initial assessment by the space
station crew was badly underestimated, or the can’t kill ‘em.” Her face suddenly contorted. “Blast! They’re in the frigging tubing!”
gastropods had grown another foot since the “Baker, get back!”
last transmission. The torch bearer jumped to the next
It all happened so fast. One moment the downed marine. As he did, the slug slithered
The twelve marines and I stood in the main inside. He jumped to the last marine, but it was
gastropods were slipping along the ceiling, the
corridor, in the oxygenated, gravity enhanced too late.
next they were airborne, springing forward
atmosphere; and above us, coming through a like wolf spiders. Three marines were on the
torn vent, were three big slugs. “Where’d they go?”
ground, each had a slug wriggling up their ven-
They were beautiful... tilator tube. “I dunno, they coulda wriggled into their
waste disposal bins.”
I had never seen gastropods so large among “Should I shoot ‘em off?”
the species of Earth. A glittering, diamond-blue Suddenly the buttocks padding on the three
“Use your brains, Bingmen. No way!”
sheen covered their upper mantle, stopping marines bulged and each of their faces took on
in a wavy pattern at the genital opening. The The three downed soldiers were frantically a pained, quizzical expression. Then the bulge
lower keel was a blazing design of purples and trying to pull the slugs out from the tubing, but disappeared and the three marines went limp.
reds, reminding me of the beautiful sea slugs their hands slid off the gelatinous membrane
found throughout Earth’s oceans. They moved Marissa stood up, “Ok, boys and girls, we’re
without affect.
towards us, slipping out from the vent, their getting out of here. Grab ‘em, and let’s go. You

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Spineless by Brandon Barr Pg. 12

too, Lemmick!” rained down from the ceiling. A moment later through the shield mask, “All right, marines,
my ears were shrieking with the sudden silence. keep your eyes on the ceiling and off my big
The incapacitated marines were hefted Three bubbling invertebrate forms quivered in butt. Let’s move!”
up. We all started towards the exit hatch and front of the exit hatch.
stopped. #
I rushed over and removed my gloves,
It was covered by slugs. touching the slick surface of one of the slugs. We found the crew rather easily. They
A tingle of excitement ran up my arm. I began were in their emergency lockers, under cryo-
# studying some of the spilled innards. freeze. “The popsicle shop,” as the marines
called it. It was located in the main hall of the
Three two-footers moved around the door “Get up, Lemmick,” snapped Marissa. “This space station, and looked like it doubled for a
in a quick circle. One gelatinous, mammoth isn’t the time for that.” storage bay. There were junked parts of satel-
slug—must have been four or five feet long— lites, Russian, Chinese, Australian, American,
“The hatch won’t budge.” you name it, and it was in there. A basketball
stared at us through its two bulbous eyestalks
as it hung from the ceiling tiles. The hatch was hoop hung on the wall in a tidied section of the
“What?”
wet with slime trail residue. Globs of it slipped room.
down the door. “The slime,” the marine pounded on the “So, we gonna wake ‘em up?”
metal, “It’s dried solid.”
What were they doing? This was not the “I almost hate to do it,” said Marissa, “The
typical unintelligent behavior I’d witnessed I jumped up at this and went to the door. slugs can’t get ‘em in there.”
countless times in my studies. These things Shocking, I thought, what a perfect defense
moved with purpose, circling in tandem. mechanism...or was it more than that...a mode “Perhaps it would be wise to thaw only one
of attack? Incredible. of them,” I imputed.
Cutting into my thoughts came a sudden,
intense thrumming. It pounded at my head. I The two marines gave up tugging on the There was a moment of silence, in which I
grabbed my helmet, my gloved hands clawing latch and turned to Marissa. received more than a few dirty looks.
at the plastic. There were noises, gurgling and
wet. I felt my knees hit the floor. “Get on the com, Bingmen. Tell’m what’s “You’re right, Lemmick,” said Marissa
happened.” finally. “And we can always put them back after
Marissa screamed, “Waste ‘em marines!” they’ve answered some questions.”
The thrumming in my ears stopped and the A marine kicked one of the pulpy carcasses.
nine standing marines unleashed their shock “Did you see that big mother slug? Shoot. Six Marissa chose to thaw Commander Sue
guns. The EM pulses popped the slugs open feet long. It had to be. You ever hear of a slug Zeta. The capsule she lay in hissed as it released
like pinched grapes. getting that big, Professor?” the plasma seal. The woman inside was still
in her uniform, indicating she had been in a
The mammoth slug ripped its way into the I studied his face a moment. “That’s a hurry.
ceiling tile before it was hit. stupid question.”
Her eyes opened slowly. She focused on us,
“Get that big mother,” cried Marissa. She “Okay!” shouted Marissa. “Since we’re saw the marine uniforms. “You look like angels
raised her gun up and began blasting away at stuck here for a while, might as well follow from heaven,” she said.
the ceiling tiles, and the others followed her the mission plan. Find the crew and re-take
lead. Bits of white plastic and clouds of chalk the space station.” I saw her white teeth flash They helped her out of the freezer. She

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Spineless by Brandon Barr Pg. 13

swayed a bit like she’d just come off a boat. ceiling. I crawled into a nook between two sat- I found a blow torch hanging against the
ellites. wall by the satellite pieces. I made a few adjust-
Zeta explained how they’d first discovered ments to the gas release valve and strapped the
the slugs during a routine maintenance check “Lemm...ick...be...my...food . . .” accompanying gas canister to my back. I gave
of the outer hull. A cluster of eggs was wedged it a test and the room flared white. Another
in an exhaust vent. That made perfect sense My vision faded into swirling darkness. rarely tasted emotion pulsed through my
to me. The moisture and heat was a perfect body, bulging the veins on my arms. Courage?
incubator. After that, the space crew brought # Audacity? Manliness?
the eggs in, put them in a glass case, and
radioed command. The next morning when When I came to and crawled out from my Jaw forward, upper lip curled, I headed for
they all woke up, the glass case was empty, hiding place, there was shock gun damage the door, the torch nozzle resting loose and
with tiny holes bored in it. evident all over the room. Timidly, I made a easy on my shoulder.
short search of the interior, and the only things
The sound of splashing broke me from her of interest were the empty emergency lockers. #
story, and I spun around. My ears began to Why had the other two crew members been
hum. The others were still talking in the back- thawed? A terrifying thought struck me. Could I strolled along the corridor. The lights were
ground, but it was soft, fading. Other noises they have left without me? Maybe they hadn’t dimmed, casting off a yellowish tint and buzzing
were growing louder, clearer. Milky scraping, a seen where I’d crawled and chalked me up as with electricity. Red flashers set every three
moist popping, oatmeal slopping onto a plate, slug bait. meters pulsed like strobe lights. Something had
someone sucking the last traces of a milk happened while I’d been unconscious. The ship
shake. What were those sounds? Where were Panic came crashing down on me. Alone! was now running on emergency generators.
they coming from? Abandoned! I pictured all my research at the I cautiously opened each door I passed and
university—my specimens—all my journals. I
“Lemmick, what are you doing?” It was peered in. So far nothing but storage closets
saw my mother in her rocker. Saw myself sitting
Marissa, her voice faint, as if traveling over a and empty living quarters. The last door,
beside her—saw my collection of Marvel Comic
great distance. before the corridor angled off to the right, was
magazines catch fire and begin to burn. The fire the kitchen. I went in and found what I was
spread, and in my vision I saw my laboratory
I turned around. I was off in a far corner looking for, hundreds of little packets labeled
erupt into flames. And then...then something
of the room, beside the junked satellites. “I’m “salt.” I stashed them inside a zippered pocket.
miraculous happened. Like a Baptist big tent
hearing things,” I called back. Marissa and a few I had never salted a slug in all my life. But then
conversion.
of the other marines started towards me. The again, these weren’t your garden variety inver-
trance broke. The wet mushy popping sounds “No,” I whispered. I sensed the power tebrates. No, no, it appeared these gastropodic
came together in grotesque harmony. behind it. fiends had traded in their plant-loving palates
for a more carnivorous appetite, and I wasn’t
It sucked and gurgled. I clenched my teeth. “No,” I said louder. about to be desert.
My neck hairs prickled. My hands rolled up into fists. My leg muscles I left the kitchen and turned down the
tensed. The vision flickered before my eyes, corridor on my right. Ahead I saw a T-junction.
“I...want...you...Lemm...ick,” echoed the then died, but the purifying had been done. I There was something bulky lying on the floor. I
slurping voice. I fell backwards. The marines knew what I had to do now, and I needed...a pointed the nozzle gingerly. A marine lay dead,
began shouting, the EM pulses roared. Glancing weapon. his back burst open like his spine was one long
up I could see the slugs dropping from the bomb. The results of a point blank EM pulse.

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Spineless by Brandon Barr Pg. 14

Down the right and left sides of the T-junction clearly the two other space station crewmem- I raised the jimmy-rigged blow torch, and
were more bodies. The flashing red strobe light bers who’d been in the emergency lockers. stepped out from the wall.
throbbed against the gore. Each body had fried, There were no weapons by them.
crispy skin encircling an EMP blast crater. “Put ‘em down, girls,” I said, real mean-like.
“You are...the one...I seek...for my... “This stuff’ll melt your pretty faces real fast.”
The evidence was clear. Marine had turned harvest,” came the wet, slopping voice in my They both stared at me. Marissa’s mouth fell
on marine. But why? mind. I clenched my teeth, eyes wide. open. They dropped their weapons. “Good.
Now do what daddy says. Kick ‘em towards me.
I recalled the three marines who’d first A hot, white blaze streamed from my torch That’s it.”
been attacked by the slugs. The gastropods nozzle. I twisted and turned in every direction,
had actually disappeared inside their suits. ceiling, floor, walls, all were swathed in a I scowled at them, squinting with my left
Could they have been...infested? Perhaps some highly concentrated flame. I let go the trigger. eye. Marissa gawked at me like I was the eighth
chemical expelled by the slug from within the Blackened streaks zigzagged the corridor. The wonder of the world.
men’s bodies could work like a hallucinogen. hyperfoam in the ceiling burned lightly above.
Could they have—no—yes, turned into inad- Safe? No. Effective? Yes. I moved on down the “You better talk fast,” I said, thumbing the
vertent weapons of their hosts? It was the hall, the voice gone. blow torch.
only conclusion I could take from the carnage Marissa frowned, “Yeah, I’ll lay it down.
around me. # It’s real simple, Zeta’s been turned into a slug
I turned my thoughts to the voice I’d heard. zombie. She’s one of them.”
Yelling came from up ahead. I hurried
The gastropods had spoken to me telepathi- forward, pleased to know there were still I turned to Zeta, pointing the nozzle at her.
cally. Taunting, almost. A good tactic if one others alive. I turned a corner and heard
wanted to rattle their prey before an attack. “No! She’s lying,” cried Zeta. “It’s her! She
shouting. It was coming from behind a door
But even more, these creatures had harnessed got a slug in the brain. She killed the others!”
labeled, “Control.”
telepathy. An unnerving conclusion begged the
question—how intelligent were they? I pressed against it, and turned the handle I unzipped my pocket and brought out the
slowly, quietly. Dead ahead were several rows salt packet, shaking it so the granules danced
A whir of distant EMP bursts brought me to noisily. “Maybe we need to administer a little
of computer terminals planted in front of a big
my feet. I moved steadily towards the sound, test then.”
plate window littered with stars. I crossed the
determined to aid the marines, and prove threshold, still unable to see the shouters. An
once and for all, muscle without brains is like a Zeta’s lower lip began to tremble.
open door led to a side room.
one-winged horsefly; a mean, angry bug with a
helluva big bite, but no sense of direction. “No! Please No!” cried Zeta, crumbling onto
“Drop it, slug whore! You’re one of them!” the ground like I had some medieval torture
“Time to rock this party,” I growled “Filthy liar, it’s you they’ve gotten to!” came device.
Marissa’s voice.
# I nodded, feeling a bit guilty. I put the packet
I stepped softly over to the adjoining room, away. “Alright, talk. Why have they come here?
stopping just outside. Or, is it now: why have you come here?”
I came upon another half dozen bodies,
EMP damage covering each corpse. I saw two She looked up at me, her eyes wet, human,
“Drop—the gun—now.” I’d heard that voice
bodies in blue casual jumpers. They were but now that I knew the truth, I saw something
before, it was Commander Sue Zeta’s.

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Spineless by Brandon Barr Pg. 15

alien within them. thousands of years, exploring new worlds “Shut-up,” said Zeta. “He’s come to his
together. The slug’s body is equipped to travel senses.” Zeta sauntered up beside me and
“It came here peacefully...to harvest us.” through space! Imagine the sights we could took my hand, removing the suit glove. “The
see!” harvester is here. Do not be afraid.” Her fingers
“‘Harvest’ goes fine with wheat and barley, were wet, and gave like a soft pliable sponge. A
baby, but not humans. And what do you mean I stood there, weighing things in my mind. thick film slid down my hand.
‘it’?” The missing detail buried in the back of my
brain surfaced. Sea slugs! There was a certain I’d had enough.
“They are all one unit, one being.” species of sea slugs that harvested coral,
ingested it, and kept the coral alive within “Miss, that is one interesting grip you got
Fine, I could accept that. “And harvest?”
itself for months. These extraterrestrial slugs there,” I said, and lifted the nozzle.
“It needs us for food. I know that sounds claimed that same ability, and now they were “Nooo!” screamed Zeta, grabbing my arm.
bad, but it isn’t.” apparently offering us some kind of, new life?
I back-handed her, and it was like hitting
“It ain’t good,” I said. “Zeta, are you, right now, part of the a wet fish. Zeta stumbled backwards into the
gastropod?” I asked.
“You’re here to eat us?” cried Marissa, wall.
backing away and stopping beside me. Her face was so human still, young, A slug sprang for me, but I caught it mid-air
feminine.
“It’s not like you think,” said Zeta. “They with a burst from the blow torch. Something
want to eat us, but not kill us. It’s more like a “It has begun. I can feel it changing me. My was grabbing at my thigh and I looked down,
marriage than a funeral.” eyes are different. They see deeper, clearer.” expecting trouble. It was only Marissa clasped
onto my leg. Her helmet had come loose and
A juicy fact in the back of my mind was “What happens next?” I asked. she stared up at me, her lips flushed red and
screaming to get out. Something I’d picked up her hair flittering in the breeze from the open
in my studies. “In the end, we will amalgamate.” vent.
Zeta continued, “They’ve come to join with I lowered the nozzle. “Are your slug friends “Hold tight,” I shouted to her.
us, two species becoming one.” near?” I asked with a touch of reverence.
The other small slug made for the vent
“I ain’t giving up my virginity to no space Zeta turned her head to a corner of the opening
slugs!” I yelled angrily, then wished I’d kept my room.
mouth shut. “Harvest this,” I shouted, and a stream of
A ceiling vent began to bulge, then it fire fried it’s carcass to the ceiling.
“No! Nothing like that. It’s more of a friend- broke in two with a loud crack, and fell to the
ship. The host’s body takes nourishment from floor. Out from the opening crawled the big, The mother slug hung motionless, the
us, but in return, feeds itself to us.” mother slug. Two smaller gastropods riding on eyestalks glaring at me.
her mantle detached themselves and moved
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said slowly forward. Zeta was up now, teeth barred. “You
Marissa. idiot!”
“What are you doing? Are you crazy!” said
“But that’s not the best part. We can travel Marissa, staring wild-eyed at me. “Look here, Missy, I ain’t about to go and
across galaxies, living off each other for many be a glorified steak dinner. Now, have a seat.”

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Spineless by Brandon Barr Pg. 16

She obeyed. “Zeta, Star Dancer, you’ve got yourselves a


deal.”
I turned to the big slug. “What’s your name,
Gorgeous?”
Its gurgling voice echoed in my head, “Call
me...Star Dancer.”
“All right, Star Dancer, you can come in nice
and peaceful-like, or we can do this the hard
way, and I cook you from keel to tenticular
feelers, it’s your choice.”
Its coloring grew dark. I smiled.
“Lemmick,” it gurgled aloud, its mouth
oozing spittle, “I thought you...of all this
species...would understand.”
Brandon Barr
“I have to admit it’s an off day. I don’t Born in 1981, Brandon Barr currently
normally do the whole commando thing.” resides in Southern California with his
I looked down at Marissa, and winked. She
swooned. I turned back to Star Dancer. wife, Amanda. He graduated from
California Baptist University with a
“Now, I’ll make you a deal. I take you home degree in Enlish. His fiction has appeared
to Earth, and I promise no harm will come to
you. You can stay in my laboratory.” in Gateway Science Fiction, Nova
Science Fiction, Revelation Magazine,
The slug’s mantle brightened. “I will agree... and Haruah.
but only if you promise two things...to keep an
open mind...about joining my harvest...and to
allow Commander Zeta...to amalgamate with Brandon’s first novel, a space opera
me, in your laboratory.” titled When the Sky Fell, co-written with
I glanced skeptically over at Zeta, and she Mike Lynch, is due out in February, 2008,
nodded with enthusiasm. from Silver Leaf Books.
“Star Dancer, I have to admit, that’s one
heck of a retirement plan you’re selling. Maybe Check out his website and blog:
I’ll take you up on it one day.” I gave the blow www.brandonbarr.com
torch a quick twirl on my finger and in one
motion, secured it the side of my spacesuit. christiansciencefiction.blogspot.com

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Featured Artist: Josh Grafton Pg. 17

Featured Artist
Josh Grafton
Name:
Josh Grafton
Age:
27-ish
Hobbies:
None really—I live to work. : P
Favorite Book / Author:
Anything by David Eddings or Arthur C. Clarke.
Favorite Artist:
Toss up between Chris Foss and H.R Giger.
When did you start creating art?
As soon as I could hold a pen. Paper came a
little later; there was a brief period of wall-
drawing...
What media do you work in?
Digital—that fantastic material that you never have to clean up afterwards.
Where has your work has been featured?
Until now, game mods mostly—Vegastrike, a brilliant open source space trader/sim, the venerable Myth II (Aliens mod, v
spunky). I recently contracted to a major developer though so I’m all NDA’d up on that one.
Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your works?
deviantART.

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Featured Artist: Josh Grafton Pg. 18

How did you become an artist?


Acids reacted at the embryonic stages of my physical development.
What were your early influences?
Games workshop and Star Wars. Anything with plenty of guns and
spaceships. I used to paint miniature figures and game with ‘em, but
all that got blown away by the age of digital.
What are your current influences?
I’m in the fortunate position where my peers are my primary
inspirations. My current side project is the creation of a grand sci-
fi universe incorporating multiple games, plenty of art and a ton
of fiction. The team at Angels Fall First is a collection of the most
talented concepters, modellers and designers, and I love what we
produce together. I’ve also been inspired a lot by some of the more
modern anime, specifically The Animatrix and Steamboy—the more
westernised stuff, I guess. The combination of detail and energy is
wonderful.
What inspired the art for the cover?
The central ship, the Morningstar. Most of our art comes from a very
specific place in our grand archive of fiction at AFFU. At the time, we
were talking about the reformation of the Antarean Empire and the
emperor’s desperate need to match the heavier League ships pound
for pound, but still maintain his forces edge—its speed and agility.
Coincidentally, I like fins on spaceships (controversial) and I’d
previously designed a very finny little cruiser called the Dawnstar,
and post-rationalised that the fins were for “Grav-Assist Steering”—
lending the bulky vessel additional maneuvering capabilities.

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Featured Artist: Josh Grafton Pg. 19

We pillaged the shapes from that design and had our lead
concepter, Felix “Daemoria” Zygmunt work out a “big
brother” battlecruiser using even more fins to counter the
sheer scale of the thing. The Morningstar was born in all
her sticky-out glory. We knew that the AISN were building
these things in the planetary ring yards, so I just had to set
me up one of those for a render. Once the ship was finished
modelling, I just built the yard around her and filled it with
junk from our collection of models :)
How would you describe your work?
Epic.
Where do you get your inspiration / what inspires you?
See above.

Have you had any notable failures, and how has failure affected your work?
Laziness—you can see it everywhere. There are plenty of nasty texture glitches and intersections and stuff all over the place,
but if I spent a month on these things I’d get bored as hell and never want to do another one. Most of the big renders I do are
just vehicles to pimp the game models anyhow, so the scenery is often botched in to look “all right.”
What have been your greatest successes? How has success impacted you / your work?
Getting a pro gig with a great company, Liquid Development. I’m now working on a next gen AAA title due out in 2008. Liquid is
an art-outsourcing house, contracting to game developers to fill out game worlds. They were good enough to give me a break
based on my amateur portfolio, and I’m currently doing lots of character textures. Working from home is cool—I get to sit in
my lil studio in London and hang out with my cat whilst cranking out art for Liquid over in Oregon.
What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art?
Cinema 4d and Photoshop. I don’t need much else except for a few sorely needed features currently only provided by industry

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Featured Artist: Josh Grafton Pg. 20

dominators like Max and Maya—notably projection rendering for baking normals. Basically means I have to reboot in Windows
for just one part of my otherwise OSX-only art pipeline.
What tool / equipment do you wish you had?
Bought it, mate. :) Apple MacPro QuadCore Xeon with an ATI x1900, fully bootcamped with OSX and Win XP playing nicely
together. God bless capital expenditure.
What do you hope to accomplish with your art?
Money and glory, man, money and glory.

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Featured Artist: Josh Grafton Pg. 21

Credits for the cover image:


Morningstar-class battlecruiser (center of shot) - built by Trevor “FailureCrusade” Jackson, designed by Felix “Daemoria” Zygmunt
Chons-class frigate (left in docks) and Quetesh drone interceptors (swarming) built by Kris “Deathwish” Wood, designed by Orbluvion (real name
unknown)
All textures,additional modelling and lighting/rendering by Josh “Strangelet” Grafton
Apps used: Cinema 4d v10, Bodypaint v10, Photoshop CS, 3DS Max 9

This image is from the Angels Fall First project, a collective of art, games and fiction set in a vast lucasian universe-at-war: www.affuniverse.com

The reformed Antarean empire’s rag-tag fleet of obsolete and defected ships are slowly being replaced by more modern, lethal vessels wrought
from the fresh victories of the emperor’s initial campaign. Pictured here is the titanic planetary ring yard at Lasford, one of the primary objectives
of the recent ferocious Antarean push, and a sore loss for the United League of Planets. Deeply entwined in the labyrinthine structure lies the
AISN’s newest and most formidable craft, the Morningstar-class battlecruiser. More agile than a battleship but with the firepower to match a
dreadnaught, the Morningstar is to be the Emperor’s paramount ship class and personal command in the forthcoming Second Offensive, replacing
his previous personal command, the still-worthy but aging Dawnstar-class cruiser.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook Pg. 22
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
Chapter 13, Aloft!
by Johne Cook
Recap of Season One: cable enemies with his unorthodox style and was the best and the worst moment of his
bold decision-making. His every move was young life, and it scarred him for the rest of
In season one of The Adventures of the Sky followed by a mysterious watcher of unknown his days. As a parting gesture, Flynn spoke to
Pirate, we were introduced to Cooper Flynn, capabilities and motivations. He met fiery the commodore, and Darden was reassigned
an orphan of 15, who lived on the backwater Clarissa MkDougal, a young woman for whom to a permanent post on the all-male island of
island of Patience Bay, a place known only for he didn’t have time to determine his feelings. Patience Bay, to the abbey where he himself
two things: its abbey, and its complete lack He appeared to meet his match when the spy had felt a prisoner. It was a masterful stroke
of adventure. The death of his only friend at he followed turned the tables and convinced that satisfied his mission for the Friar, but
the hands of the mysterious Qantiin assassins his best friend, Pitt, that Flynn was a double- which didn’t save his own career.
spurred him to accept the gift of a small sailing agent with plans to kill someone dear to Pitt.
craft from Tuy Meklanek, a friend of Cooper’s In a moment of well-intentioned rage, Pitt was While Mr. Pitt celebrated his marriage to Deena
father. He also gave him a strange parchment provoked to drop Cooper Flynn off a tall cliff Prentiss and his fourth year at the academy,
that contained not one, but two things, either into boulder-strewn waters far below. Cooper Flynn used his Queen’s Writ and his
of which would be worth a king’s ransom: force of personality to work with the brilliant
the formula for levitation over water, and the In the year that followed, his friend, Pitt, young inventor, Chain, to develop the anti-
Queen’s Writ, a document of immense value. grappled with his conscience and the revela- gravity technology that would change their
tion of new facts, coming to believe that he world. Flynn also engineered the retrofitting
Cooper Flynn escaped the assassins and ran had been tricked. While wrestling with events of a sailing ship using their new technology
away from a Sylvan warship and into the that were over his head, Pitt found love with without spending a dime of his own money,
arms of the Friar of Briar Island, an infamous Deena Prentiss, a woman training to be a provoking the interest of a Haddiron auditor.
privateer. The Friar was more than he appeared physician, who also happened to be the com- Flynn started to assemble his crew, and then,
to be, and Flynn learned that he was the patron modore’s daughter, a secret she didn’t share on the eve of taking possession of his new ship,
and protector of the dispossessed people from with anyone. When the pirate L’ngrae brought forces outside his control forced him to move
all over the region. Flynn came to terms with a small armada to attack the academy when up his schedule, and he appealed to his friend,
the Friar and became a trusted confidante and her warships were away on exercises, Pitt went Pitt, to come and serve with him. The decision
an up-and-coming commander, respected and to sea to stop the pirates, only to see his old came at a steep price. In order to be true to his
loved by all. friend, Cooper Flynn, appear out of the fog word of lifelong fealty, Pitt would have to walk
aboard a small sloop, no worse for the wear. away from both graduation from the academy
Flynn followed a suspected spy to the Haddiron Flynn led the pirate man o’ war into shallow and his marriage to Deena in order to serve
Naval Academy and undertook what can only waters and watched her run aground, turning with his friend.
be described as a notorious career. He met the the tide of the battle and defeating the pirate
immense young cadet, Pitt, from the Reach, and Arriving back at the dock where his new crew
and his superior forces almost single-handedly.
helped him gain entrance to the Academy, and assembled, Flynn and Pitt discovered that
However, at the awards ceremony where
used that assistance to scam his own entrance the ship they had been waiting for had been
he was honored by the commodore, Flynn’s
to that fabled institution. He proceeded to removed by the auditor, Welston Dananstrogh.
skeletons were revealed by Walenda Darden,
make an immediate, indelible mark at the In the moment of their despair, the newly
the spy he’d been sent to follow, and Flynn
Academy, making powerful friends and impla- formed crew vowed to retrieve her.
was expelled from the academy. That moment

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The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook Pg. 23

“I t was a moonlit night, and magic was in the


air,” whispered Eggplant nervously as he
crouched behind the barrels with the others.
of their little venture, Cooper Flynn couldn’t
care less about titles as long as he got what
he’d come here for, the ship retrofitted to his
right—magic is in the air.” And then he pointed
to the ship. Not out, but up.

specifications by the Navy itself without direct As one, they leaned out under the tarp
“Ssh,” said Bola, trying to look around knowledge of the project, the ship stolen out and looked up. Eggplant started a low whistle,
under the canvas awning that stretched over from under him by Welston Dananstrogh, Her which was abruptly silenced by Pitt’s gently
them on the dock. Majesty’s Auditor. They knew the Navy couldn’t firm hand over his mouth, but it summed up
have taken the ship very far, and here she was, the moment. They all followed the tether rope
“He speaks in the third person when he to see the ship silhouetted up there against the
waiting for reinforcements.
is nervous,” explained Eggplant of himself, moonlit sky, floating one hundred feet in the
helpfully. It was now or never, and Flynn didn’t like air above the quiet port of Bitten Bay.
to lose.
“He’s going to get his tongue pinned to the
dock if he keeps making noise, isn’t that right, #
“You have the sword?” asked Chain.
Coop,” murmured Bola, drawing a wicked big
knife to demonstrate her point. Flynn patted his sheath. “Right here. You “It is a magical night,” said Officer of the
sure this thing works?” Watch James Thackery on board the HMS
“It’s not ‘Coop,’ it’s ‘Captain Flynn,’” said Majeste. “And while it is true this sensation of
First Seaman Karver Humble, who was already Chain shrugged. “It’s from Menorra. It magic is often taken metaphorically, this was
taken with his new title. costs more than my entire shop, or would, if I’d one night it might be forgiven for taking the
actually bought it. It better work.” thought literally,” he said, walking about the
“This will be a short trip to a dark cell if you deck with his hands clasped behind him. “Just
don’t put that shiny blade away,” whispered “Where’s this flappin’ ship,” hissed Bola, think, I am conducting these observations
Chain calmly, who had no use for titles, himself. turning around to grouse to the little band. It from the deck of the pride of Her Majesty’s
He knelt in from of what appeared to be a was clear that the dock where they expected fleet, which just happens to be floating one
leather backpack, working entirely by feel in to find the tethered shape of the HMS Majeste hundred feet above the very surface of the
the shadows on the docks. was vacant, and yet the distant sound of fiddle ocean instead of bobbling gently in it.”
music teased the small band. “I’ve been waiting
Mr. Pitt said nothing, as usual. A Reacher by six months for this. I’m here to pinch a ship, He stopped and took in a deep breath of
birth, he was a full head taller than Bola, who and I don’t see my payday.” clear air. “The view from this altitude is spec-
was herself something of an Amazon. Mr. Pitt, tacular, and the lilting sounds of a particularly
broad of chest and wide of shoulders, was the “Patience, Bola. You’ll get your payday. rambunctious fiddle from below decks serve
most legitimate person of the crew, walking You’ve waited six months, just wait one more only to lift one’s mood, what, Gillings?”
away from the Haddirron Naval Academy’s minute,” murmured the captain as he faced
graduation ceremony to join Flynn. He was her. “To answer your question, in this case, it’s “It is a very fine evening,” agreed Ensign
content to remain passive and relaxed while he to your starboard.” Mui Gillings.
crouched next to the object of the discussion.
“What’s starboard,” she said, spinning in Thackery looked over at the ensign. “Is that
Cooper Flynn was a trim, powerful young place, looking around for the ship. all?” Thackery looked back out at the world,
man. His black hair pulled back and tied, but he was clearly listening for what Gillings
completely out of fashion with the wigs of Flynn touched her right shoulder. “Starboard would say next.
Her Majesty’s Navy. As newly elected captain is to your right. And it looks like Eggplant was

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The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook Pg. 24

Gillings tried to put what he was feeling looked at Ensign Gillings for the first time that would not prove fatal. Of course,” he noted,
into words. “I still cannot get over how this has watch. “It is, you will agree, a masterful stroke.” quite correctly, “I daresay an under-officer
all come together. Yesterday, I was a freshman He looked back out over the water again, a such as yourself would fare better with less,
at the academy, and today I am here onboard a vapid expression on his face. hm, uniform to weigh him down. Still, if such a
technological miracle. Did you see that?” one were a quick thinker—as officers are wont
“As you say, Ven,” said the good Ensign, but to be—they would lose no time in shedding
“See what?” said Thackery, twisting around his own expression was skeptical. their heavy overcoat and shoes. With any luck,
in confusion. they wouldn’t have to shed their trousers as
Officer Thackery sauntered off to port, and well—that would be difficult to live down,
“It looked like a large, black…I guess it was Ensign Gillings had the good sense to follow. what?”
nothing.” Thackery laid his hand on the railing. “Observe
the solid craftsmanship of the rail—good, Ensign Gillings waited until the good watch
Thackery nodded as if it couldn’t have been sturdy wood, well treated, firm without being officer started laughing before joining in. It was
anything if he hadn’t seen it himself. “I’m sure ostentatious.” They walked aft. “The lifeboats awkward, never quite knowing which absurdly
the technology has been developed for some are rigged for normal use in the seas in their hilarious thing would actually be acknowl-
time, but Her Majesty was holding it back for current orientation or, when inverted, serve edged as such, wracked, all the while, with
just the right time in the fight against the upstart as short-term flotation mechanisms. When the leaden feeling that there was more to this
Sylvans. In any event, whether the actual charged, they can float in mid-air indepentant entire situation than met the eye. It felt hastily
process was developed by good Haddirron of the ship, but as the charge recedes, they contrived by someone well above his pay grade
scientists or gleaned from lost Menorran tech- descend slowly, graciously lowering the craft for reasons still too murky to understand.
nology, it is clear they wanted a crack crew to the ocean’s surface below. Genius.”
on her, and here we are! If developed by the
Mennorans, and they knew how their technol- Having overheard his superior being #
ogy was being exploited, perhaps this will be shown those very features not an hour earlier,
the event to finally rouse themselves from their Gillings wasn’t impressed with his ‘knowledge.’ “He wondered what they would do if
self-inflicted languor. One can logically imagine He looked over the edge and subsequently anyone opposed them,” mused Eggplant.
them nodding their stoic heads and clapping wondered if a human being could survive a “What are you, a scribe?” hissed Bola.
their hands with glee. A sailing ship, roused one-hundred-foot plunge into the surf below.
from the depths and set aloft—the albacore He saw a conversational opening there. “Ven, if “Don’t be silly,” said Captain Flynn. “He’s
become albatross!” there was an accident, would an officer survive the pilot.” Then he looked back at Bola and
a deliberate drop into the seas?” grinned. “It’s a good question,” he said, now
“Albatross…” said Gillings, thinking. “I would serious. “We have the skypacks to get there,
have thought something of this magnitude Officer Thackery stopped short mid-step as and we each have the goodies given them by
would have launched from Haddirron City.” he climbed to the stern. “Because of a storm, Chain.” Chain bobbed his head once, his small,
say, or a gigantic bird?”
Thackery waved that thought away with a round glasses catching the reflection of the
flourish. “Oh, I’m sure Bitten Bay was chosen Ensign Gillings blinked, but recovered moon. “We’re here for our ship, not bloodshed.
for the real launch of the anti-grav vessel for quickly enough. “As you say, Ven, yes.” They’ll be vexed if we reclaim this ship. And
a variety of reasons, not the least of which is they won’t stop until we’re all dead if we kill
simple security. Otherwise, this is the last place “Well,” pondered Thackery, “I’m not quite even one naval officer, no matter how junior.”
in the Empire where anyone would expect the sure what a man’s rank would have to do with
it, but suspect that, while uncomfortable, it “Won’t they pursue us?” asked Humble.
ship to be assembled and launched.” Thackery

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Flynn turned and looked him in the eye. means ‘liveliness,’ ‘zeal,’ ‘agility.’” and was pondering what the possible motiva-
“They absolutely will, Mr. Humble. However, tions might be for duplicity from his command-
once she is under our control, she is the fastest With a great smile on his face, Flynn rose ing officers. He looked over at Watch Officer
thing in the sky and is capable of being helmed and tested his harness. “My friends,” he said, Thackery standing with his hands behind his
by a relatively small crew. She is perfect for our looking around at those assembled, “it is time. back, his chin up, and a dreamy gleam in his
purposes. Let them try. Besides,” he said, “who Let’s fly.” With that, he nimbly ran forward and eye. Gillings imagined he was still, in all likeli-
else has one of these?” He produced an aged slapped his chest, rising off the ground as he hood, considering the ‘magic of the night.’
parchment bearing the distinctive arms of Her did. He gracefully hooked a tether line and
Majesty herself. rose smoothly at an angle, following the rope Gillings was thus occupied when an
up into the darkness toward the unsuspecting engaging looking fellow in a captain’s hat and
“What’s that,” grunted Bola. ship. jacket floated up over the edge of the rail and
dropped nimbly to the deck.
“The captain produced a Writ from the “See, it works fine,” observed Chain quietly.
Queen Herself, giving one Cooper Flynn sway “Now.” “Good evening,” the fellow said brightly,
to fight the Sylvan armada in any way he saw “I am Captain Cooper Flynn, here to assume
fit,” grinned Eggplant, who proved himself in Bola hit her switch and rose off her feet, command of my vessel.” He executed a half-bow
that moment to be weird but not dense. rising right into the tarp covering the dock. that Gillings took to be ironic, but which froze
“Hey,” she hissed. “Mine’s broken!” Chain Thackery just long enough to prevent him from
“Oh yeah? What’s a writ?” blustered Bola, fastened her with an inscrutable look, but raising an alarm.
who proved herself dense but not weird. Humble rose to the occasion. “I’ve got you,” he
whispered. He grabbed her calf and towed her Gillings decided that anybody with the
The captain neatly refolded the ornate foot-first to the rope, where he activated his wherewithal to mount an attack on a floating
paper and stowed it away inside his short own skypack and the two of them went on up, ship was no one to be trifled with, but Thack-
jacket. “Why, it’s nothing less than tacit per- Humble right-side-up and Bola upside-down. ery—to his credit—let his hand stray to his
mission to assume control of this vessel,” he sword.
grinned, “which is exactly what I intend to do. Chain looked at Eggplant. “You ready?”
Does everyone have their gloves?” Everyone A sword appeared in the captain’s right
nodded assent with the exception of Eggplant, “He was terrified beyond belief,” replied hand as if by magic.
who didn’t bother, being informed ahead of the pilot gamely, “but up to the task.”
time that he was taking a different path. “Ok, Thackery’s bravery—or foolishness—
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes,’” said Chain. “Mr. required the point of the captain’s sword at
this is our night,” he said “Let’s take what’s Pitt?” Together, they carefully walked forward, his throat before Thackery reconsidered his
ours, with alacrity.” each taking firm hold of Eggplant under one defensive inclinations.
“What’s alcrety,” whispered Humble. armpit with one arm and holding onto the
tether with the other. Chain and Mr. Pitt rose All of this provided enough time for the
“That’s the name of the ship, you dullard,” in unison as if they’d assaulted floating ships remainder of the boarding party to land on
said Bola, loftily. from flying backpacks every day of their adult deck and assume control of the bow, although
lives. one came onboard holding aloft the heel of
That nearly set the captain into a fit of a large, fiery woman. She was trailing a truly
laughing. “Eggplant?” # impressive blue streak of invective when the
captain quickly diverted his sword tip, lightly
Eggplant got a distant look on his face. “It
Ensign Gillings had returned to the bow striking a button on her chest, at which time

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The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook Pg. 26

she felt lightly to her feet on the deck with Gillings had no clue as to the importance Flynn turned and addressed the crew with
reflexes like a cat. Gaining her feet, she quickly of the writ, but was beginning to have his him. “Remember,” he said in a warm, low voice
produced a frankly frightening dagger with all own doubts about a great many other things, to those assembled on the deck, “no killing. I
the flash of one well-trained to its use. She including the efficacy of his black powder pistol want this ship in one piece, and I want these
looked at Thackery and cocked her head as if hastily issued when he was pulled out of class sailors alive when they disembark.”
sizing him up for a meal. and set aboard the ship in the twilight of the
day. It smacked of last minute desperation, and “Cap’n, about that? How do we de-louse
Thackery sniffed and squared his shoulders. he was not as confident as he had been earlier her,” asked Humble.
He opened his mouth to speak. in the evening. Not to be outdone, Bola hastened to add,
Thinking quickly, Ensign Gillings quietly And so it was that as Captain Flynn “...and what do we do with the sailors?”
cleared this throat. There was no telling what approached, Ensign Miu Gillings stepped
the watch officer would do, and Gillings didn’t Everyone looked back at her. The captain
forward. “Captain, allow me to present you
intend to give him the opportunity to do grinned. “Follow my lead,” he said, and gestured
this firearm so you may have arms befitting
anything brash. with his sword for Thackery and Gillings to lead
your office while onboard this special ship.” the way. “The bulk of the crew is not expected
“Perhaps the captain has appropriate Captain Flynn stopped, sized Gillings up to board until tomorrow, sorry, later today, but
papers,” Gillings suggested quietly, thinking quickly, and accepted the firearm with a sly there is a skeleton crew here tonight. Bola,
there was no way this was the case judging by grin. Flynn bobbed his head in respect and you’re in charge of collecting weapons. Chain,
the wide variety of colors and styles worn by followed Thackery. you and Mr. Humble are with me. Mr. Pitt, you
the impromptu boarding party. Gillings was take Eggplant and make a tour of the upper
not prepared for the captain’s quick glance. For his part, Gillings promised himself he deck. When you find the pilot’s wheel in the
He not only had good ears, he had admirably would make himself scarce before such time as main deckhouse, you can leave him there and
quick ones, as well. that weapon was ever discharged for the good then situate yourself at the top of the stairs.
of everyone involved, but mostly for himself. If I’m going to do something that will persuade
“Yes,” intoned Thackery imperiously, “I the Navy didn’t have his best interests at heart, the current crew to come up the stairs. When
presume you have papers to warrant this… he would. they do, please show them to the starboard.
unexpected visit.” All set? Let’s go.”
Both men were shocked at the captain’s #
They spread out as directed, Mr. Pitt and
answer. “Of course,” said Flynn, and produced Eggplant walking around the port side to the
his Queen’s Writ. Flynn thought that the officer in charge aft and everyone else making their way to the
of the deck was clearly barely capable to be steps as directed. Once there, Captain Flynn
Thackery stepped forward and examined it. in charge of his bowels, much less a ship like stopped Thackery and Gillings. “Here’s what
He was speechless. Then he composed himself this, although the young ensign would bear we’re going to do—the object here is to have
and said the shrewdest thing he would say all watching. Flynn accepted the pistol he offered, a simple discussion with the ranking officer
day. “You will, of course, want to present this but presented it to Bola as soon as he could. onboard. There may be a little excitement as
to our first officer.” She seemed surprised but pleased at the gift. we explain the nature of our command on
Flynn beckoned her to tilt her head, and he
Captain Flynn smiled and mock-bowed. “Of this vessel tonight, but I’ve left strict orders
whispered to her, “Should you need to use this
course.” that nobody is to be intentionally injured.”
pistol, remember where it came from.” And then he grinned. One could be excused

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for mistaking that as a feral expression. “Mr. swing, stepped to the side, and tripped the However, if you insist on speaking as warriors,
Thackery, please go below and present this first lieutenant, who stumbled and fell to the I remain at your service.”
report to your first lieutenant: ‘Captain Cooper deck. He rolled over and nearly hit his head on
Flynn is here to accept control of this vessel, the forward capstan situated squarely in the The two men stared at each other, Flynn
and has, in his possession, a Queen’s Writ.’ Can middle of the topside foredeck. wearing a lazy smile, the first lieutenant
you do that?” engulfed in a cold rage.
Gillings saw the first crewman clear the
Deck Officer Thackery nodded stiffly and stairs as he reached the deck. He no sooner Bola had been cut off from the action at the
descended the steps. Ensign Gillings made to stepped on-deck when his arm was seized front of the ship and was practically dancing
follow him, but was stopped by a gentle touch from behind with a viselike grip, and he was with barely restrained desire to join the fray.
on his arm. “It might be better for your career propelled to the edge of the deck and launched Observing the stalemate, she stepped forward
if you stayed up here. Here comes Mr. Pitt. You over the starboard rail before he could even and aimed the pistol at the commander’s
can stand behind him and monitor the, uh, set his feet. Gillings rushed over to the railing. shoulder at point blank range. She pulled the
‘transfer of power.’” He saw that the crewman just had time to get trigger.
his arms out in front of him, and then he was The gun fired with a concussive boom but
# driven deep into the water facing the dock. had with no other observable effect. The first
These guys were the genuine article. lieutenant spun around at the sudden roar,
Ensign Gillings saluted and did as he was and Bola met his sword slash with a hastily-
bidden, curious as to the gentle concern in the produced dagger. She stopped one slice, then
captain’s demeanor. He found himself trusting #
another, before grunting with impatience.
this man’s word even as he distrusted the moti- She flipped the pistol in air, stepped forward,
vations of his superiors. He then found himself Mr. Pitt turned back to the stairwell before smoothly grabbed the barrel of the gun mid-air,
marveling that saluting this captain seemed the first crewman even hit the water. He and smote the first lieutenant strongly on the
so natural compared to the effort required to worked quickly: grab, propel, throw, repeat. side of the head with the butt of the useless
salute Officer Thackery. From below, it must have looked like it was musket pistol. The first lieutenant went down
raining sailors. to one knee on the deck, dazed, and then
And so it was that Ensign Gillings was con-
The first lieutenant rolled to his feet by the found himself propelled toward the port side
sidering these mysteries when the first lieuten-
capstan and came up snarling. He saw the great of the ship.
ant and eight sailors came boiling up out of the
hold of the ship. shadowy figure of Mr. Pitt catapult a crewman Captain Flynn barked, “Bola, no!” but the
over the rail and charged, only to be met again first lieutenant was launched overboard to
First up out of the stairwell, the lieutenant by Captain Flynn. port.
had his coat unbuttoned and was without his
wig. From the look on his face, it was clear that Flynn met his sword with a solid stroke— Bola turned and assumed a stance, her
he cared nothing at all for the legal intricacies tremendous sparks crackled as their blades head thrown back and her fists poised on her
of the writ. “Secure this deck,” he bellowed, met, blinding the officer. The first officer hips. “Ha!” she exulted.
and ran straight at Captain Flynn, Chain, and withdrew his sword in shock.
Humble with sword raised. Captain Flynn sprinted forward with sur-
Captain Flynn drew himself up and gave a prising acceleration and launched himself
“Uh uh,” said the young captain conversa- jaunty mock salute. “I am at your service, Ven, overboard into the night, hard after the
tionally. Flynn ducked under the first vicious if you will comport yourself as a gentlemen. stunned and falling officer.

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# two men was more than my skypack could you the word of Cooper Flynn that I will never
handle to sustain positive buoyancy, but it was lie to you or put you in the way of any harm
Flynn plummeted toward the dock, stretch- enough to gradually halt our fall before we hit that I wouldn’t face myself. I have to trust you
ing his right arm forward with all his might. He the dock.” will accept my word that despite appearances
caught up to the falling first lieutenant and on this night, I do have the Queen’s graces in
his chest slammed into the back of the falling “Dock?” Bola. this, our endeavor. If you stay with us for one
man. Flynn reached around the officer’s chest week, I think you’ll come to appreciate how
“Yes,” said Captain Flynn, turning to meet
with his right arm while slapping the big circle vital our mission is, and how your service to
her gaze, suddenly wide with realization. He
on his own chest pack with his left. He got his the Crown will be more effective with me than
clapped her on her right shoulder and winked
left arm around and grasped the officer’s wrist your former duty was. In addition, you will be
as he passed by.
as the skypack kicked in. able to continue your time aboard this mag-
Mr. Pitt caught Flynn’s eye as he approached. nificent vessel.” Flynn patted the railing. “You
It was a very near thing. Flynn saw him look where Ensign Gillings stood don’t have to answer now, and I promise you
rooted in place and nodded his head once in I will answer any questions I can after we are
And so it was that the sailors who climbed underway. If you decide to go, I will not hold
the ladder up onto the dock saw the stunned acknowledgment. Flynn changed his path and
walked up to Gillings. Flynn stood in front of it against you. However, I would consider it a
figure of their first lieutenant drift down in the personal honor if you would agree to stay.”
embrace of Captain Cooper Flynn. Gillings as the dawn began to break over the
Ensign’s shoulder. “What’s your name, sailor?” He strode forward and clapped Gillings
Flynn released the officer into their stunned firmly on the shoulder. “The choice is yours, Mr.
embrace, said “Hello boys, take care of this “Ensign Gillings, Ven.”
Gillings,” he said simply, and strode off toward
for me, won’t you,” hit the ground lightly, and Flynn nodded and looked him in the eye. the rear of the ship, barking out orders. As he
vaulted back up into the night air. “Mr. Gillings, I’m going aft to help cast off. left, his shadow disappeared from in front of
Before I go, I want to tell you something. I’ve Gillings.
# watched you ever since I came aboard. I like
how you handle yourself. You’re quick on your The sun break over the horizon at that
It was bedlam up onboard. Bola stood feet, you have a good heart, and you love the moment, bathing Gillings’ face with cheerful
her ground with arms crossed and the others queen, but not necessarily the grinding regu- light and radiant warmth.
appeared to be grilling Chain about what would lations that perforce extend from those who
happen if one were to, say, dive overboard in Gillings smiled. He unbuttoned his ensign’s
serve in her Navy.”
one of his anti-grav packs. jacket and dropped it on the deck. Then he
Flynn walked over to the railing and took wheeled on his heel and strode past Mr. Pitt
“Theoretically, it should work,” he was in the predawn spectacle of their position over and clattered down the stairs. He reappeared
saying, “but we haven’t tested that. There are the ocean. “I’m going to give you a choice,” he with Officer Thackery in tow, and presented
so many things we just didn’t have time to said. “You’re a sharp young man. You know, as Thackery to the captain at the aft.
try.” I do, that there is much going on here, more “Ven, here we are,” said Gillings.
than either of us has been told. You know
And then the captain dropped nimbly more about this ship right now than many of
back down onto the deck for the second time The captain looked over at him and cocked
my own crew. If you stick around, you will have his head. “Mr. Gillings?”
that night. “Never fear, Chain,” he said. “Your a protected place on my crew.” Flynn turned
gadgets work as advertised. The weight of around and leaned back against the rail. “I give “Lieutenant Thackery was just leaving,”

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he said, and he smiled. Gillings turned to face if you’re smart.” “Ready?”


Thackery. “I’ll take your jacket, Ven,” he said,
addressing the officer of the watch. He was rewarded with one sailor doing just Bola started to answer, and Flynn said
as he suggested while another stopped where “Now!” slicing down on his tether. As promised,
“My jacket?” wondered Thackery as he he was, torn between duty and an apparent he was through in four whacks. Bola’s intensity
worked one arm out of the heavy garment and desire not to take another plunge, however, was fierce, however, and she polished off the
then the other. two others kept right on climbing. bow tether in three great strokes. Her man had
already beaten a retreat but Flynn’s was just
“Yes, Ven,” said Gillings, “out of respect The captain looked at Mr. Pitt. “Well, that’s reconsidering sliding back down when his rope
for your swimming ability.” Gillings saluted about what I expected.” He raised his voice. went slack in his hands and he fell thirty feet
Thackery, grasped Thackery by his collar and “Chain,” he said, “cant her to starboard right into the water.
belt, and pitched the dandy officer over the now if you please. Everyone else may want to
railing. hang onto something.” She moved to the next tether and Captain
Flynn nodded in her direction. She nodded
He clapped his hands together as if removing Chain didn’t waste any time and smoothly back, waiting, and Flynn said “Uh, now!”
something dirty. He saw Bola approach. “That’s cranked her over. From the dock, it looked like
starboard,” Gillings said as he passed Bola. the ship rolled to its right, drawing the tether Bola separated this line in two mighty
Then, whistling, he went aft to help cast off. lines taut and ensuring the angle of the lines strokes and sheathed her sword, grinning with
positioned the climbing sailors out over the triumph.
# water.
Captain Flynn tossed off a half salute to her
“Bola,” he said, “will you do me the honor and watched the bow of the ship drift away
Casting off first appeared like it was going to to help me out here?” Flynn brandished his to starboard, drawing the final aft rope even
be a tricky affair because the ship was securely sword and positioned himself by the middle further out at an angle.
tethered to the dock below, especially when tether line.
it became apparent that the first officer had Flynn strode quickly to the final tether and
recovered his wits and was, even now, sending Bola never missed an opportunity to draw looked over the rail. He met the eyes of the
armed sailors scrambling up the tether lines. her sword, and this was no exception. It was burly sailor with the blade in his teeth, who
clear she had no clue what she was going to do was climbing furiously to the top.
“Captain Flynn, they’re coming back up,” with her sword, but by Cyl, she had it out, and
reported Humble, morosely. “Take care of that first lieutenant of yours,”
her eyes were fairly dancing.
Flynn called to the sailor. “He’s a keeper.” And
“And they’re armed,” purred Bola, squaring “When I count to three... “ started Flynn, then Flynn raised his sword high in the air, and
her shoulders and checking her various who immediately thought better of where he the sunlight glinted brightly off the filigreed
weapons. was going with that. “Belay that. When I say blade. Flynn activated the stud on the hilt, and
The captain strode casually to the rail and ‘Now,’ I want you to start cutting the tether his sword to sparked and danced with energy.
looked over the edge, leaning on the rail with ropes.” Flynn tested the edge of his sword with He brought it down and sliced through the
folded arms. “Well, look at that. So they are. his thumb. “I can cut through mine in four solid tether with one enormous stroke, separat-
You there!” he called. “We showed our autho- strokes—see if you can surpass me.” ing the tether with a bang as loud as a small
rization to take command of this ship with your cannon, leaving the sword buried deeply in the
She nodded her head and found the nearest wood rail.
first officer, and we’ll be leaving now. You’ll tether.
turn around and slither back down to the dock

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The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook Pg. 30

The rapidly-approaching sailor lunged out


desperately for the railing but he missed, his
fingernails scraping the hull. He dropped out
of sight like a stone and they heard a mighty
splash from below. Flynn went to stand next to
Mr. Pitt and Bola. “I hope he had the presence
of mind to take the blade out of his mouth
before he hit the water,” Flynn said.
He turned and opened his arms. “I told you
we would get her back!”
“You are a man of your word, ‘Captain,’”
said Bola, sketching a mocking salute, but she
was smiling.
Flynn saw who he was looking for. “Ah, Mr.
Gillings! I am so pleased you stayed with us!”
Together, the skeleton crew celebrated
their victory on the deck of the flying ship.
Freed from her tethers, the HMS Majeste
drifted slowly out over the ocean into the dawn
of a new day.

End of Chapter 13
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate continue next
month.
Johne Cook
Johne is a technical writer, help author,
creative writer, and editor.

He likes prog rock, space opera, film noir,


and racquetball.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 31
Memory Wipe
Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert
by Sean T. M. Stiennon
The Story so Far: Three years ago, was more exhausted than he had ever been, shoved a scrap of oiled cloth down his rifle
Takeda Croster woke up in the city of tired in body, mind, and soul. The thought of barrel with a rod of steel he had picked up in
Greendome on the colony world of Belar rest and rescue in the colony had kept him the refinery. “What look for?” he hissed.
with no memories, no connections, and no on his feet all across the hot deserts of Nihil.
possessions aside from the clothes he was But now...it seemed every human on Nihil was “The obvious. I want to see if anyone is still
wearing and an Imperial citizenship card dead, without leaving behind anything but alive and, if so, where they’re hiding.”
with his name on it. He worked at the Silver empty houses and smears of blood. Some of “There must be some people still at the
Sun Casino, ignored by most, until one night them showed signs of being...licked. mines,” Takeda muttered.
when he began to manifest superhuman
powers in a fight against two corrupt cops: Zartsi was giving his rifle a thorough Esheera flipped between pages of infor-
enhanced senses, great strength, lightning- cleaning, disassembling the weapon down to mation on the screen. “I hope so, Takeda, but
fast reactions. He seriously injured both individual plates and screws. Dust and sand you’ll notice that there aren’t any Evils here,
cops. Strange dreams and a feeling of great had infiltrated nearly every part of it during either.”
exhaustion followed the encounter. their desperate trek. Esheera, meanwhile, had
set up the governor’s computer after finding The silence stretched on for over a minute
Takeda now travels with the Lithrallian it on its side in one corner of the room. Her before Zartsi said, “I didn’t know hunted in
hunter Zartsi, who saved his life after he fingers tapped the keyboard as she squatted in packs.”
fled into the jungles of Belar, and the Vitai on the floor, eyes fixed on the screen.
Rover Esheera Nii, who granted them “They don’t,” Takeda said. “Not usually.
passage for nothing more than a little “Poor security,” she said, clucking softly. And it would have taken a huge pack to do this.
money and their life stories. “These passwords are amateurish.” These people had weapons—lots of them.”
Now, following a torturous journey across “You’re a hacker too?” Takeda asked. Five minutes later, Esheera grunted. “Here
the burning deserts of Nihil after being She shrugged. “Most of my people know it is. A series of orders issued by the governor to
shot down by the alien assassin Lashiir, their way around a computer, some better the mines. He asked for reinforcements about
Takeda and his companions arrive at the than others. My father Eshmauk always told three days ago, then told the north mine he was
colony of Hope’s End only to discover that me that a Rover should be able to hack any going to try and get all the survivors together
all the inhabitants have been slaughtered computer he or she needs to. Never know into a train and evacuate them there. Just a
and devoured, apparently by the deadly when you’ll need to rip out everything some sec. Yep, the grid shows a train missing from
predators called Walking Evils that stalk human knows.” the north terminal. Unless we find it wrecked
Nihil’s desert... in the desert, someone got out of here.”
She hammered more keys, then said, “I “Does...it say what happened?” Takeda
guess he didn’t have anything really worth
Takeda sat with his back to the unpainted asked.
hiding.”
wall of the governor’s office, using the scarf to
wrap around his head as a makeshift pillow. He Her words came slowly. “Apparently,” she
A squeaking sound filled the room as Zartsi said, “fifty or sixty Evils attacked just after

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Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 32

sunset. Bullets don’t punch far into them and “True enough,” Esheera said. “But they had a warm smile.
they can keep running with a hundred slugs walls and enough bullets to choke a wormhole.
in them. And once they got past the walls...it You think you could kill one Evil?” He smiled back, but couldn’t muster any
doesn’t sound like the guns did much good.” warmth. “You too.”
Zartsi had to consider the question for
“Evils have armor,” Takeda said. “They don’t a moment. “In honesty,” he hissed, “I do not Takeda dropped into a deep sleep the
burrow, so when a storm comes through, they know. But I hope I get chance to try.” moment his head fell against the pillow.
need it to survive. And they don’t...I don’t think
they’re easy to kill. Not many critical organs.” “Be careful what you wish for. There’s fifty #
of them stomping around out there.”
“Doesn’t surprise me,” Esheera said. “I’d be There was a clock on the table next to
pretty surprised if there was anything on this Zartsi’s smile chilled Takeda, and he saw a Takeda’s bed. He spent about thirty seconds
piece of dry crap that was easy to kill.” flash of something hot and angry in the bright groping for it before his fingers touched hard
blue of the Lithrallian’s eyes. “I am not so afraid plastic, then pulled it in towards him and lifted
She clicked more keys. “Yep, I thought so. of death’s peace,” Zartsi said. his head to look at the display. The clock looked
These colonists weren’t interested in keeping
He and Esheera exchanged a glance that as if it was configured for a day slightly under
records while Evils were attacking the gates—
Takeda couldn’t interpret. The Rover broke it twenty-three hours long. It was two o’clock in
can’t say I blame ‘em—and there’s not much
quickly and returned her eyes to the monitor. the afternoon—he had slept for...almost ten
in here except official documents, cargo lists,
She examined a few more screens worth of hours. It had still been dark when he had fallen
production reports, and private messages from
information, then sat back, shaking her hair so asleep. Now, fierce Nihil sunlight stabbed in
months ago.”
that flecks of glistening sand fell to the floor. “I through the room’s tiny window, tinted a faint
She looked up over the screen. “Tak, you need sleep,” she said. “And some food. I think red.
seem to know something about those things, both of you would be best off if you joined Takeda stared up at the blank concrete
so I’ll ask you this: is there any evidence that me.” ceiling and tried to decide whether to close
Evils hunt in packs?”
Takeda shook his head. “I just want to his eyes and go back to sleep. He felt tired
“Not...not before this. Not that I know of. find an intact bed without any blood on the enough for at least another ten hours. But it
But there hasn’t been much research done on sheets.” felt oddly wrong to lie here, sleeping away an
any of Nihil’s species. There’s probably dozens entire day, in a place where such a massacre
of major life forms which no one’s ever seen.” “You do that,” she said. “I think there’s one had occurred less than three days ago. He
on the first floor you could use. Don’t leave the still wondered if there might be an Evil or two
“Right,” Esheera said. “So they didn’t have building if you can avoid it—the colony would lurking somewhere, waiting until the colonists
any idea what was coming until fifty of the be a big place to have to look for you in.” were digested before seeking further prey. And
things showed up one night.” he had been plagued with nightmares. They
Zartsi had begun reassembling his rifle, would return if he slept again.
“I think so,” Takeda said, shaking his head. turning the screws with a small tool he kept in
a sealed pocket of his armor. Takeda watched He sat up slowly, stiff in his filthy clothes.
He heard a faint hiss from Zartsi which he him for a moment longer, then stood up and Aches plagued him, lingering pains from the
interpreted as a chuckle. “Hunters who under- shambled out of the room. crash and the journey. This had probably been
estimate beast are not alive for hunting long,” some administrator’s room—its only contents
he said. “Good sleep, Tak,” Esheera said, giving him were a small desk with a cheap aluminum chair

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Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 33

in front of it, the bed, the bedside table, a plastic yourself. I’m not going to stop feeding you just could see that the colony had not been a
dresser, and a shelf of books containing both because I lost the Seer.” cheerful place, with its plastic furniture and
digital and bound volumes. They looked like unadorned concrete buildings, but now it was
technical manuals and ledgers with a handful Takeda sat and poured himself coffee and. a city of ghosts and empty rooms, painted only
of poetry collections thrown in. He recognized “Isn’t this a lot?” with bloodstains and empty bullet casings.
a couple names: Coleridge and Milton, along Somehow the lack of bodies or remains of any
Esheera chewed her way through a
with newer writers and what looked like a set of kind made it worse. At least then he would
mouthful of steak and pushed plates towards
Drava works in translation. Takeda wondered if have something solid to focus his horror on
Takeda. “I figured I may as well make a good
the man who had lived here had escaped, or if rather than a nebulous fear of beasts he had
meal—never know when I’m going to get the
every piece of him—from bones to clothing— never seen.
next one. I found this in a freeze locker the
was now digesting in an Evil’s stomach. Evils didn’t crack open. Too tight for any smells “There aren’t any ships, are there?”
Only when Takeda threw off the covers and to get out, I think.”
planted his boots on the floor did he realize “As far as I can tell, there’s one hangar in
Takeda grabbed an empty plate and filled Hope’s End, and it’s just down the hall and up
how hungry he was. He couldn’t remember the it with steak, bread, and everything else on two flights from here. If there were any ships
last time he had chewed up one of Esheera’s the table. The coffee was bad, but it had been there, someone’s already taken them and
dry ration bars. so long since he had tasted the stuff that he kissed this sandy rock goodbye.”
The kitchen was easy to find, just down didn’t care. The rest of the food tasted much,
the hall from the room he had slept in. Takeda much better than any packaged ration, and it “So we’re stranded,” Takeda said, taking
stepped in to find Esheera sitting at one of the was still warm—which was all that mattered. a half-hearted gulp of lemonade. It had been
tables, eating heartily from several plates of sweet at first, but this second glass was
“Where’s Zartsi?” he said, through a cloying.
food, along with a pitcher of something that mouthful of bread.
looked like lemonade and another of coffee. She shrugged and smiled very faintly. “It’s
The smells of beef, warm bread, some kind of “He decided—on his own, I note—to go nothing new, is it? We’ve just traded up for a
noodles with sauce and cheese, and dried fruit check out the northern platform, see if there more comfortable version.”
filled Takeda’s nostrils. was any way for us to follow the tracks. Or any
other stray vehicles.” She pulled two chocolate bars out of
“Sleep well, Tak?” she asked, waving a fork. her pocket and tossed one to Takeda. She
It looked as if she had washed her hair—most “He ate?” unwrapped hers and bit into it, but all he could
of the sand had vanished and her beads do was stare at the label. “More comfortable,
glistened. “Sparingly. I’ll save something.” maybe...but less certain. Before we thought
“Yeah,” he said. “Nightmares, though. Takeda put down his fork and frowned. we just had to get to Hope’s End and then we’d
Always nightmares.” “It seems...wrong, to be eating like this. In a be safe.”
colony where everyone’s dead.”
“About...what happened here?” He slowly pulled the plastic wrapper off the
Esheera shrugged. “There’s nothing I can chocolate. “I was an idiot to think I could ever
“I don’t know. I can barely remember do for them, and this is something I can do for be safe. Lashiir’s still out there somewhere.
them.” both of us. Eat up.” Vass too, I think. And who knows how many
other people want me dead.”
She waved to the food in front of her. “Help Takeda did, but a bit more slowly. He

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Esheera demolished her bar in two more Esheera shook her head. “Sorry, Tak. That’s freighters, but no hangers besides one here,
bites. She chewed slowly on the second one, territory I can’t cross into.” and no ships.”
swallowed, and said, “It’s probably occurred
to you that your deal with me is over. I’ve “Good,” Zartsi growled. “Is meat cold?” “So what is here? Did you scrounge up
delivered you to Hope’s End, relatively intact.” more Evil parts?”
Takeda swiveled to see the Lithrallian
Takeda dropped his eyes and sighed. “Yeah. leaning against the kitchen doorway, rifle Zartsi smiled. “Those would be no value
You’re right. Thank you, Esheera.” slung over his shoulders and daggers in their unless I killed. But no. Tracks at north gate
scabbards. The expression on his reptilian face are intact. Train is gone, but I saw smaller cars
“Just Esh is fine,” she said. “And you’re was, as always, difficult to read, but his blue which run on same tracks.”
welcome. But wipe that expression off your eyes gleamed fiercely.
face, okay, Tak? We’ll be sticking together at Takeda nodded. “And those tracks will take
least until we find a way off this planet.” “Cool,” Esheera said, picking up the plate us to the colonists?”
and holding it out, “but I don’t think that’ll
Takeda was surprised by how relieved stop you.” “And, I’d guess, to enough Evils to tear
he felt. The thought of never seeing Esheera through an Imperial Legion,” Esheera said,
again—of having her vanish from his life, like Zartsi took it and stuffed a whole steak sipping lemonade. “Not to mention three
the people he had left behind on Belar— into his mouth. Juices dribbled from between sandy wanderers.”
brought a wave of sadness over him. his teeth and down his lower jaw. When he
swallowed at last, he said, “I told you weeks Zartsi nodded. “If any colonists live, yes.”
He smiled. “That’s great.” ago, Takeda. I helped because you needed. Esheera shoved her glass away. “All right,
What more is to know?”
“And you mind if I tell you something else, then. If both of you boys are stuffed, we’ve got
Tak? I don’t think I’m breaking Zartsi’s trust, Takeda shook his head slightly and nibbled something to decide, the sooner the better.
and you probably know this already. Anyway, another chunk off the candy bar he still Do we stay here, with all the comforts of an
I’m pretty sure that Lithrallian would follow you clutched. “Nothing, I guess,” he said. abandoned home, or do we try to join the
into the Hot Nothing, wrestle the Swallower colonists where they’re hiding?”
for you, and give you one of its horns as a Zartsi hooked a stool with one boot and
sat down on it. He ate ravenously, until he had Takeda tapped his fingers against the
souvenir.”
emptied the plate, and then drank lukewarm tabletop, thinking. He wished he didn’t have to.
Takeda could feel his smile become coffee straight from its pot. Takeda hadn’t ever It would have been good just to spend a week
grimmer. “I think you’re right. And I’m still seen him drink the stuff before, but he had or two, sleeping and eating Esheera’s cooking,
confused about that. I...he saved my life, and heard that most Lithrallians liked it as much as seeing what books he could dig up, and not
then he seems to have decided to stick with humans did, if not more so. worrying about anything at all. But he knew
me and keep doing it.” how absurd that was as soon as the thought
“Find anything out there besides dust and came to him. There could be no rest for him,
He tapped his fingers on the table. They had streets as quiet as a Drava wedding?” Esheera not as far as he could see.
probably only eaten half of the food Esheera asked.
had prepared, but he felt stuffed—slightly “Esh,” he said. “Remind me. Did they send
too stuffed. “You could probably tell me more Zartsi nodded. “Two things, one thing not. a distress signal off-planet?”
about that,” he said. First, there are no ships—landing area and
loading docks for refined ore loading onto She thought for a moment. “Yes. As soon as
the Evils began their attack, the administrator

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Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 35

sent word to the Nihil Company’s headquar- who is.” upon him that Nihil had never been meant for
ters on Coalstone—that’s where the freighters human habitation. They were far north from
come from. They ship the metal to where it “Lashiir?” Takeda asked, feeling a sudden the equator, and he suspected that Nihil was in
actually gets used. With the comm equipment chill even in the warm kitchen. its cooler season. Further south human habita-
here...I’m thinking the first signal should have tion would be impossible. Here it was barely
The Lithrallian shook his head. “No. If
arrived during the night, the most recent possible with large quantities of money and
Lashiir he would have found us. I think is one
by a couple hours ago. At the very least, the constant off-world support.
of Lashiir’s men, left behind to watch for us,
Coalies are throwing their butts in gear. Can’t now bored and patrolling streets.” Esheera carried her revolver in one hand and
guarantee they’ve actually hit black yet.”
moved at a quick lope that Takeda had trouble
Esheera stood. Plates rattled. “That’s good
“So would the rescue ships go to the matching, his legs burning with every step.
enough for Esh. I’d rather take my chances with
mine?” He didn’t need one night of rest. He needed a
the Evils than your Clordite.” week, two weeks. But he kept a gun in his own
“Unless there’s something here they want hand and kept up as well as he could.
Zartsi agreed—somewhat reluctantly,
to salvage, I’d assume yes. The last message Takeda thought—and they spent fifteen
out included the evacuation plan.” Zartsi was out of sight, moving through
minutes filling three backpacks with supplies the alleyways and across the flat rooftops.
“So...if we want to get off this planet, ever, and ammunition. They found a small weapons His hope was that Lashiir’s man would spot
I think we’d better be where ships are going to locker which hadn’t been completely Takeda and Esheera, then make himself visible
show up.” ransacked. Esheera took an eight-shot revolver, in some way, either attempting to kill them or
and Takeda left with an extra pistol, similar in to contact Lashiir. Then Zartsi would take him
“Well put, Tak,” she said, “and I’m inclined manufacture to the one he was carrying, and by surprise and kill him.
to agree. Company ships wouldn’t be eager to ten full magazines. Zartsi took nothing—only
sweep out this way just to pick up three smelly his rifle, for which he still had a substantial Still, Takeda had a round chambered in his
travelers who don’t have any business in this sack of cartridges, and his daggers. gun. He felt too exhausted to do more than
oven anyway.” enhance scent, hearing, and sight slightly. He
Esheera left the remains of their meal on could smell Zartsi well enough to determine his
She turned to Zartsi. “What do you think?” the table. “If anyone ever comes back here, general distance and area, although hundreds
they’re going to be too busy to gripe about me
Zartsi caressed the hilt of one dagger, softly. of other odors—including ones from his own
not washing up,” she said, downing a last gulp
“There is other thing,” he said. “Is another body and Esheera’s—distracted him.
of lukewarm coffee.
being in colony.” Hope’s End wasn’t overly large—probably
Esheera licked her lips. “You mean an # not much more than a mile in diameter. The
Evil?” wall grew closer as they walked, and he thought
Walking through the dusty streets of he could see the gate, open to the desert, and
“No. Human, I think. Found fresh piss on Hope’s End was like traveling over a griddle, the tracks passing through it. Takeda flicked
way to station, then saw him from distance. and Takeda felt as if he was indeed being his eyes from side to side. If they could get out
Tried to catch up but lost him. He carried cooked. A night and morning spent indoors, in without being noticed, all the better.
rifle.” the shade with a bed, had spoiled him, and he
had almost forgotten the sheer blasting heat of Suddenly, Zartsi roared, and Takeda heard
Takeda opened his mouth, but Zartsi waved the red sun. More than ever it was impressed a gun—not Zartsi’s—discharge, off to his left
him down. “And wore black. No doubt to me side. He spun, snapping his pistol up to a firing

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Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 36

position. At the same time, he backed up, the air. It was a second more before pain came, Esheera snorted loudly. “Wish I had got the
going for cover on the opposite side of the and even then it was oddly dulled. bastard sooner. Second toe and a lot of the
street—he didn’t want to be exposed if guns flesh around it is gone. Bone savaged too.”
were out. Esheera had her revolver gripped in He heard gunfire above again, but this
both hands and retreated with him. time none of it was directed at the street. “Apologies, Takeda,” Zartsi hissed, softly,
The man must be firing at someone else— from somewhere to his left. “I thought was
Takeda reached the shelter of a doorway, Zartsi or Esheera. Takeda threw himself out only one. Should have been more careful.”
with a sheet of steel hanging above to keep the into the sunlight. Fire lanced through him as
sun off. He thought Esheera was somewhere to his wounded foot struck the ground, spurting “I got him,” Esheera said. “Injured, though—
his left, perhaps in the alleyway. The scent of blood. He went down into a roll that carried his shooting was off. Almost makes me feel bad
hot dust filled his nostrils, blocking out almost him into the middle of the street. Takeda came about it.”
everything else. He could hear only silence. up with his gun aimed at the rooftop. “Both dead?” Takeda grated between
Then Zartsi’s voice shouted, “Dead! Come But he could only watch as a figure cloaked clenched teeth.
out!” in black came rolling off the rooftop and into “Yes,” Zartsi hissed.
the air, entangled with a dull red figure in a
Takeda lowered his pistol and put one foot worn sweater. Esheera came down on top when “Then let’s get moving.”
out into the sunlight. He had lifted the other they hit the street. A gloved fist punched for
foot, shifted his weight forward for the step, her nose, but she turned it away with a blow “Aye, aye, Tak,” Esheera said, “but I’m going
when he faintly heard the click of a bullet from her forearm and smashed the heel of her to slap something on this before you bleed to
sliding into its chamber. His head was out in other hand into the assassin’s chin. His head death. Zartsi, beat your butt and see if any of
the fierce sunlight the instant he realized what snapped back, leaving his throat stretched out these houses has anything he could use as a
it was. A gun above him. Not Zartsi or Esheera. and exposed. crutch.”
Terror gave him fresh energy.
Takeda could only watch as Esheera expertly She ran off to retrieve her pack from the
He threw his weight backwards, kicking slashed veins on both sides of the man’s jaw alleyway where she had dropped it while
off the one foot planted on the ground. His with a small knife she had been concealing in Zartsi hissed something in Lithrallian under
suddenly heightened senses could almost feel the palm of her other hand. his breath. Takeda just clenched his teeth and
the spray of bullets going past his hair and bled.
biting into the dust of the road. His shoulders “You all right, Tak?” she asked as she
crashed back against the door, and he caught stood, covered in a fresh layer of dust. Then #
himself on the doorframe. The automatic rifle she looked down at his foot, spouting blood,
tracked up for a second, bullets shredding the and said, “Sorry I asked. Can you get the shoe Fifteen minutes later Takeda sat in a hard
steel awning. Takeda tensed himself for a roll off?” seat molded out of dull yellow plastic with
out into the sunlight. He prayed that he’d be
He had pulled it halfway off when the pain his foot resting on an identical seat opposite.
able to reach the alleyway before the gunman
hit him. He screamed and jerked the shoe all Esheera had bandaged it with a first-aid kit
could react. Takeda knew he couldn’t run faster
the way off, then slumped back to the street. It she had pulled out of the colony’s supplies,
than bullets.
felt hot against his back. and strapped a piece of solid foam across his
Only when the bullets stopped did Takeda remaining toes to make walking slightly less
realize one of them had punched through his Esheera gingerly touched it. Takeda painful. Zartsi had found a simple broom, which
right foot. He saw blood, smelled hints of it in clenched his teeth, biting back another howl. Takeda had used as a walking stick with his

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Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 37

other arm around the Lithrallian’s shoulders. “Esheera,” Takeda said. “Are you sure this is Zartsi stood and slid into the cockpit. For a
a good idea?” moment, Takeda’s eyes met the expressionless
He felt the railcar hum as its hovercoils gaze of one of the Evils. Its eyes lacked even
powered up. Takeda could also hear Zartsi and “No,” she hissed back, sounding more the predatory ferocity of a tiger or wolf—they
Esheera up in the driver’s cab, arguing over terrified than he had ever heard her. That were blank. If Takeda hadn’t known better, he
some aspect of the vehicle’s controls. The alone chilled Takeda. “But they look like they’re would have thought the creature was blind.
operating protocol seemed to be foreign to sleeping.”
both of them. “Nihil colonists,” Esheera said—broadcast-
Two more passed in front of the window. ing, Takeda thought. “Nihil colonists, open the
The vehicle finally began to slide forward. Takeda thought he saw one turn, pivoting at gates, or we’re Evil bait.”
Buildings rolled away outside the window as the hip, as they rushed past. He caught a flash
they moved out the gate. Well-maintained of eyes—yawning plates the color of the sand— Takeda watched as one of the beasts
hover technology made the ride surprisingly before the car moved on. His hand crept down spread its four arms. Every one was tipped
smooth. They went through the colony’s wall, to one of the pistols holstered at his sides. His with a crimson stinger the size of a ripe melon.
and then Takeda saw, once again, dunes of pale senses began to heighten—he felt tiny jolts in He could see muscle straining against the black
brown sand rolling off to the horizon. The car the vehicle’s motion, smelled Esheera’s sweat chitin plates covering their arms.
was air-conditioned, but the very sight of them on the controls, heard each hovercoil’s indi-
filled Takeda with despair. He could only pray vidual hum. “Open the doors,” Esheera hissed. “We’re
that he’d be able to defend himself with the going to die out here. Open the doors!”
end of his foot shot off. Takeda thought about standing to see
better, but the pain in his foot dissuaded him. An Evil barely fifty feet away took a single
Zartsi came back, disgust written on his The mountains came closer every minute. But step that covered at least ten of those feet. The
face, and sat down on one of the remaining he saw another Evil, watched it take a single vehicle had slowed now, as Esheera braked to
seats. “Let Rover do it,” he growled. step forward. He fought down panic. The sun avoid crashing into the shield doors closing off
still had hours to go. The beasts couldn’t stir the mine’s rail entrance. Takeda glanced out
The vehicle continued its journey across the yet. Evils were nocturnal. the front windshield. A few hundred feet to go.
empty sands. Takeda counted two junctions, Other Evils were shambling to meet them.
and occasionally he saw colored markers. As He stood, putting most of his weight on
they continued, he saw a range of tall, jagged his uninjured foot. The pain hardly bothered “I wonder,” Zartsi said, “if I will be able to
mountains stretching from north to south as him—he had been through a lifetime of it since kill single one.”
far as he could see. leaving Belar. He pressed his face against the “Black stars bite your asses, colonists, come
tiny window. The Evils they had passed were
Five minutes after that, he saw his first Evil. in!” Esheera’s voice came back.
walking after them with a loping gait. Their
It stood sixty feet away from the track, a tower legs were double-jointed and their torsos and The intricacy of the Evils’ armor astounded
of black and blood-red armor framed against arms remained rigid as they strode. Takeda Takeda. Each one of the hundreds of plates
the dark blue of Nihil’s sky. Takeda got only a shuddered. These beasts had annihilated an was fitted perfectly with the others, sliding and
flash of it before it vanished beyond the small entire colony. Dozens of them remained, like shifting as the beast moved. Its footsteps were
window’s edge: Arms hanging at its sides, head idols carved from black rock. smooth and graceful. The hot deserts of Nihil
curled down against its torso, with a fragile fan had produced a perfect killer.
extended to shield it from the sun. The thing “The gates are closed,” Esheera hissed.
must have been nine feet tall. “Damn.” Fifty. Sixty. Seventy. Takeda couldn’t guess

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 38

how many. In another few seconds all of them was stopped just behind it. The cars displayed Sean T. M. Stiennon
would descend on the small railcar, tearing it signs of a vicious attack: The steel was raked
apart and pulling out the meat within. and torn, and Takeda saw some places where
the Evils had ripped through entirely, leaving Sean is an author of fantasy and science fic-
“You don’t have long,” a voice growled over gaping rents. tion novels and short stories, with many pub-
the radio. lications under his belt. His first short story
Zartsi and Esheera stepped out behind him. collection, Six with Flinteye, was recently
Takeda glanced out the windshield to see “How’s the foot?” Esheera asked.
the strome doors begin to roll back into the released from Silver Lake Publishing, and he
surrounding rock, exposing a dim opening. The Takeda winced. “I can walk.” won 2nd place in both the 2004 SFReader.
railcar rocketed forward as Esheera growled com Short Story Contest and the Storn Cook
something in her own language. Takeda stifled He heard a door rolling open, and for an Razor-Edged Fiction Contest with his stories
a cry as his weight was suddenly thrown onto instant he was terrified that the outside doors “Asp” and “The Sultan’s Well,” respective-
his injured foot, but he caught himself on the were opening, admitting the horde of Evils.... ly. “The Sultan’s Well” has been published
wall and managed to stay upright. He slumped But no. A smaller door opened across the in the anthology Sages and Swords. Sean’s
down onto his seat. cavern. Five men stepped through, all of them short story “Flinteye’s Duel” was published
wearing filthy mining uniforms. Their faces in Ray Gun Revival, Issue 01.
The steel chassis rang as something struck remained impassive as they walked across the
it hard enough to leave a dent. Two more chamber towards the newcomers. Every one Sean’s work tends to contain lots of action and
impacts followed in quick succession. Then carried weapons. adventure, but he often includes elements of
darkness showed outside the window, and tragedy and loss alongside roaring bat-
Takeda’s stomach lurched forward as Esheera One walked in front, a man with a closely- tles. A lot of his work centers around con-
braked hard. The hovercoils stilled, and the shaved scalp and fists like wrecking balls. A red tinuing characters, the most prominent
vehicle sank down onto the track. The vehicle’s prison tattoo slashed across his right cheek, of whom is Jalazar Flinteye (Six with Flin-
door opened. Takeda could hear the mine and his eyes were hard gray. “Well, well,” he teye). He also writes tales of Shabak of
doors grinding shut. said, “A Lithrallian, a Vitai, and a human. Pretty Talon Point (“Death Marks,” in issue #9 of
diverse crew.” Amazing Journeys Magazine), Blademas-
There was another sound, too, so low it ter (“Asp,” 2nd place winner in the 2004
registered mostly as a reverberation in his He thrust a grimy hand out to Takeda. SFReader.com Contest), and others who
bones. The snarls of the Evils outside. He “Name’s Law Krane.” have yet to see publication.
stepped out the door, hobbling on his injured Takeda took it and let Law crush his hand.
foot, and saw a last crack of daylight through Sean loves to read fantasy and science fic-
“Takeda Croster.”
the closing doors. For a moment Takeda saw tion alongside some history, mysteries, and
a single Evil perfectly framed in the red-tinted Law repeated the ritual with each of the historical novels. His favorites in-
sunlight, its legs moving like piston. The beast others. Then he stepped back, spreading his clude Declare by Tim Powers,
moved as fast as a jungle cat. Then the great arms wide, and grinned expansively. “Takeda, the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn
doors boomed shut. Zartsi, and Esheera,” he shouted, “welcome to trilogy by Tad Williams, Stephen Lawhead’s
Hell!” Song of Albion trilogy, and King Solomon’s
They stood in a long, low cavern hacked Mines by H. Rider Haggard. He has reviewed
out of dusty brown stone and illuminated by books for Deep Magic: The E-zine of High
dim gray lights. The floor was rough. Takeda Fantasy and Science Fiction, and currently
saw a loading dock against the back wall, with reviews books at SFReader.com.
a boxy hovertrain pulled up to it. Another train Next month...Chapter 14: Memory Rush

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007


 Pg. 39
The RGR Time Capsule
May 15 - July 14, 2007
Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
RGR Date: June 01, 2007 unit and the field resonates with a receiver coil, in- ings, at a Halloween party, I found myself staring at
Battlestar Galactica prepares for final season ducing a current to flow through it. his teeth with great unease. (He had commissioned a
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1135 dentist to make him a set of highly realistic vampire
The energy-transfer system was more than powerful vangs.) When he encountered a young, enthusiastic
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The upcoming enough to run a laptop over room-sized distances. Dracula fan who said that meeting him made this was
fourth season of Sci Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galac- the most important day of her life, Fred replied, “For-
tica” will be its final one after all. RGR Date: June 15, 2007 tunately you are young, and have many days ahead
What is “The New Space Opera” of you.”
After months of speculation, the show’s producers
are set to make the announcement at a press confer- http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1178
ence Friday. From Publishers Weekly
Ending “Battlestar” with the upcoming 22-episode The new space opera shares with the old the in-
fourth season was a creative decision made by the terstellar sweep of events and exotic locales, but
hit show’s executive producers Ronald Moore and Dozois and Strahan’s all-original anthology shows
David Eick. how the genre’s purveyors have updated it, with
“This show was always meant to have a begin- rigorous science, well-drawn characters and ex-
ning, a middle and, finally, an end,” Eick and cellent writing. Many of the 18 stories play with
Moore said in a statement Thursday. “Over the the scope that characterizes classic space opera.
course of the last year, the story and the char-
acters have been moving strongly toward that <snip>
end, and we’ve decided to listen to those internal
voices and conclude the show on our own terms. The new space opera teaches us that despite the
And while we know our fans will be saddened to bizarre turns humanity may take to conquer these
know the end is coming, they should brace them- outré settings, a recognizable core of humanity
selves for a wild ride getting there—we’re going remains.
out with a bang.” RGR Date: July 04, 2007
RGR Date: June 08, 2007 RIP Fred Saberhagen
Wireless electricity http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1227
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1154 Fred Saberhagen, author of the classic Berserker
The American inventor Nikola Tesla first drew up novels, has died at of cancer the age of 77.
plans for wireless electricity transfer a century ago, RGR Date: July 05, 2007
using huge coils to generate electromagnetic fields Walter Jon WIlliams remembers Fred Saberhagen During his final illness, Fred woke one morning after
but only managed a low level of power transfer. http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1231 having dreamed of chorizo eggs from a local restau-
The new approach involves two coils joined by an In person, Fred was soft-spoken and reticent, but had rant. His family got him the eggs, which he enjoyed.
invisible resonating magnetic field. a sly, understated sense of humor that I wish was more The next morning, when asked what he’d like to eat,
apparent in his fiction. During one of our first meet- he replied, “I have had no prophetic dreams about
One coil attached to a power source acts as a sender breakfast this morning.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007

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