Issue 26

July 15, 2007

Table of Contents

Ray Gun Revival
Overlords (Founders / Editors): Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn Venerable Staff: A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor Shannon McNear - Lord High Advisor, grammar consultant, listening ear/sanity saver for Overlord Lee Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, webmistress Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle washer Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): Scott M. Sandridge John M. Whalen David Wilhelms Shari L. Armstrong Jack Willard Serial Authors: Sean T. M. Stiennon John M. Whalen Lee S. King Paul Christian Glenn Johne Cook Cover Art: “Dragon’s Nest Redux” by Josh Grafton Without Whom... Bill Snodgrass, site host, Web-Net Solutions, admin, webmaster, database admin, mentor, confidante, liaison – Double-edged Publishing Special Thanks: Ray Gun Revival logo design by Hatchbox Creative Visit us online at http://raygunrevival.com All content copyright 2007 by Double-edged Publishing, a Memphis, Tennessee-based non-profit publisher.

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Table of Contents Overlords’ Lair Fast Hands by Robert Mancebo Spineless by Brandon Barr Featured Artist: Josh Grafton The Adventures of the Sky Pirate Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook 31 Memory Wipe Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon 39 The RGR Time Capsule May 15 - July 14, 2007

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Overlords’ Lair
Wow! Can you believe it? Ray Gun Revival is in its second year now! To quote Syndrome from The Incredibles, “I’m still geeking out about that!” “Why, you hillbilly son-of-a—” I reckon she decided that wheedling wouldn’t work. The little chameleon was trembling in anger and whipped a pocket laser outta the big purse she toted. “We’re done when I say we are!” This episode of The Adventures of the Sky Pirate starts the second season of the serial novel. Where season one centered around swashbuckling adventure, the second season takes on a different tone of escalating steampunk technology. This issue, we present Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook:

We’re settling in, now, I think, and feeling a bit more comfortable with what we’re doing. Our 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 Can Cooper Flynn and his newly-assembled station to deal with an emergency situation. crew retake their ship? This issue has some fun offerings. First up, a 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 payday.” Captain Priest has to extricate himself from They were beautiful... 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

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Pg. 4 firm hand over his mouth, but it summed up the moment. They all followed the tether rope up to see the ship silhouetted up there against the moonlit sky, floating one hundred feet in the air above the quiet port of Bitten Bay. Finally, Memory Wipe continues in this issue with Chapter Thirteen, Evils of the Desert by Sean T.M. Stiennon: 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 discharge, off to his left side. Zartsi’s— or Esheera. Takeda threw himself out into the sunlight. Fire lanced through him as his wounded foot struck the ground, spurting blood. As Syndrome might say, “It’s bigger. It’s badder. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to read Ray Gun Revival!” L. S. King Overlord, RGR

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

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Fast Hands by Robert Mancebo

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Fast Hands
by Robert Mancebo

“I

ain’t never been accused of havin’ an overabundance of brains,” I explained to the little tart who’d taken hold of my left arm as though she was plannin’ on climbing it. “But there are other gifts that God gives—like fast hands!” Most folks figure a man who carries a handgun butt-forward on his right hip is a lefty, and that girl had taken her strangle-hold on my left arm when a spaceport streetlight revealed three men dragging on their guns.

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 paid for it or up to no good.” “You killed them?” she ignored my Devastator’s big barrel to stammer.

up with all kinda red pen marks!” “I’m dead,” she said in a hollow voice. “They’ll kill me!”

The gang only realized their mistake when I flashed out my pistol with a right-handed twist draw and a 20mm gyro-stabilized rocket dropped the closest man in mid-motion. The second fellow was taking aim when a rocket put a smoky trail through both him and the building at the end of the alley. That third fellow just tossed his piece as though it was a fist full of sizzling bacon and raised his hands above his wide eyes. “Scat!” I gave a dismissing wave of my ugly M-20 Devastator recoilless rocket pistol, and all that was left of him was flapping coattails and flailing elbows as he sprinted off into the night. The girl was a hook, of course, a piece of bait to lure me into that alley. Her job was to lead me into their trap and hold my shootin’ arm—as though she was scared—while they blasted holes into my carcass. “You was easy ta figure,” I lifted the chin

“Well, off the top of my head,” I opined. “I can’t think of anyone around here what deserves it more. But then I’m new to port; “You want to maybe leave go of my limb?” I’m sure I’ll be introduced to others more I pushed her away with the muzzle so she had dastardly in due time.” to let go or risk bruising. “You—you could help me.” She batted her “But they were supposed to be the best!” big, blue eyes at me in a sorta come-hither she sniveled. fashion. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.” I swapped magazines to make sure my M-20 was full again. A feller never knows which corpses have armed friends in a port town, and newcomers to a planet are pretty much fair game for any local sharks. “They weren’t supposed to kill you,” she said in a plaintive, explainin’ sort of voice. “But I need a lift off-planet right now!” “Everybody needs somethin’. You got the cash?” “No, but please, you’ve got to take me!” “As the good book says—‘no cash/no passage.’” “What ‘good book’ says that?” “The ledger book in my cabin!” I informed her. “And it’s ‘good’ so long as it ain’t scribbled I looked around to see if there was someone else standing nearby that she might be talking to. “Ma’am, despite my natty trappings, I’m truly not a knight in shining armor.” I holstered my pistol and re-tucked my old khaki shirt into my faded brown pants. “I haul freight. And that’s for money—not for begging girls, nor pleading strumpets. If’n you got paying cargo ta move you knock on by dock 112 tomorrow mornin’ and ask for Cap’n Jess Priest. “Any other business we might have dabbled in this evenin’ has been terminated by your eagerness ta get me killeded.” “Why, you hillbilly son-of-a—” I reckon she decided that wheedling wouldn’t work. The little chameleon was trembling in anger and whipped a pocket laser outta the big purse she toted. “We’re done when I say we are!” She waved the wicked little weapon under my nose like she was more than passin’ familiar

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with its use.

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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. a passing streetlight. “Now get me out of here, “Right now!” 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 “What?” She was getting tired and frantic. after he passed me the—” she realized she’d laser in the gutter somewheres. While she was The mob was closing, but their shooting was said too much and snapped her mouth with a occupied with cussin’ and scrabblin’ for her gettin’ worse as they huffed along after us. scowl like I’d made her do it. “You get me off- weapon, I took off running. 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. I knew she was lying then. No thief would’ve foremost was, her mention of some item given a percentage like that without haggling. which sounded like it might be worth a passel “What are you followin’ me for?” I demanded 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 “You have to take me to Caulkus IV!” attention about her to begin with. Thirdly, police?” Mamma raised me up not to hit no girls. It “Hate ta but when might just have been simple self preservation, to my ship, disappoint you,I’m doin’ is we get No. Jimmy was drinking and opened the first thing lockin’ his “Them? to his girlfriend. She’s got mob conwhat with us boys runnin’ wild an’ all, but she you outside!” big yap 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 what we stole, they came after us.” “You wouldn’t!” back. Just thinkin’ about bustin’ one on the “Cut left!” I ordered and I yanked her by the little snip give me a memory of stingin’ welts “Well they ain’t after me!” arm when she wasn’t quick enough. on my rump, so I acted the gent and pretended “All right, we took the Plutaran  Sunstar, ta listen. “Don’t slow down!” she called back at me. okay?!” she finally shouted. “If you get me out “They’ll catch up!” “You are taking me!” she said with a wave of here, I’ll cut you in for a share!” of that little burner. “Whether or not you “Naaaw. Watch.” I trotted as the mob “That big ol’ jewel the planetary governor’s want to. I should be able to pay you after we followed us around the corner in a huge, dark so proud of?” I laughed. “Bah! You’re not even

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mass. “But they’ll—” she began. I stopped and whirled, drawing and firing in a single motion. That old 20mm belched a triple volley and those high-velocity rounds left three tumbling furrows entirely through the mob. It was like bowling. Men were kicking and tripping over the trails of bodies, then over each other. I think it took ‘em a couple of seconds ta realize what had happened. But before those bodies hit the ground, I was already running again. “What did you—?” “No one will really want ta catch up with us now, Ma’am. Not without the whole mob ta back ‘em up. All I have ta do is stop an’ look at ‘em and they’ll scatter like flies when ya bang a garbage can.” “Don’t get too cocky,” she warned. “They’ve got some real killers in that pack!” “I figure I can handle whatever comes up,” I assured her. “You just keep a tight hold on that stone, and leave the fightin’ ta me.” She mumbled something, and when I asked her what she said, she replied, “I said, ‘I just might.’” Sounded more like, ‘damned troglodyte,’ to me, but it wasn’t good manners to call a lady a liar. Well, we run up lamp-lit streets and down, and she was a good trotter, that gal. I imagine she’d been chased a few times before. I ran us toward the city park where we could filter into the trees fer cover, but when we got close, three groundcars pulled up in a rippin’ slide to block the way. A bunch of fellers piled out with heavy artillery in-hand. “They’ve got rifles!” that fool girl yelled as though I couldn’t see fer myself.

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cuous volley from the mob charging from that direction drove her back toward that blank wall behind us. I yanked a bright red magazine from my left boot and shoved it into my M-20.

Seemed as though they were expectin’ us to stop when we seen ‘em. But you know how “Red?!” My annoying companion yelled. disappointing expectations can be. Me, I just “That’s not—” let fly on the run and dropped four of ‘em by I flipped my thumb selector to automatic shootin’ through them vehicles. A hot round and squeezed the trigger. As my arm swept the punched through the hydrogen fuel cell of one 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 beer somewhere or another ‘cause they took of champagne bottles. I dove for the street, sweeping that irritating gal into my arms as I off runnin’ ta get some. passed. I would’a liked to commandeer one of their Several things happened at once. She cars, but them things have tricky codes to start squealed like a piglet with its tail in the gate, ‘em and such-like. So I just kept us runnin’ in I hit the blasted pavement hard enough to the general direction of the docks. rip a nasty road-rash across my left arm, and I was trottin’ along, guidin’ us from the dim alley erupted in billowing blossoms of memory, and I wasn’t doin’ too bad consid- liquid fire. erin’ I was workin’ off a glance at a city map I Pandemonium was the word for it. Hell perused when we’d touched down, when we opened up right there before us. When the run smack-dab into a dead-end alleyway. 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 eter, and sent a signal and a prayer. like of which I never imagined could come out of a pretty, painted mouth. There was one of those dim old yellow illuminators leanin’ off a bent pole in the corner, Me, I winced at the gravel embedded in and it showed the three tall, smooth walls that my arm more than her lurid profanity. I shoved reared up to completely block our escape. another magazine into my M-20 and let the slide slam home with authority. “Whatever kind of a ijit puts a blind alley between plasteel skytowers?” I demanded of The firestorm had subsided, and I could see the sheer walls around us. scattered figures heedlessly walking through the ugly, charred garden of their former “We’ve got to—” that girl started ta run comrades. back down the way we’d come, but a promis-

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“Sissy!” a voice called out from the gathering remains of the mob. “I want the stone!” “Go to hell!” she snarled back while clutching her purse. from amber to red. “Somebody demanded. shoot this hillbilly!” he

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She was a thinkin’ one, I’ll give her that. Except she was only thinking of herself. “What about my percentage?” I demanded. “That was for delivering me to Caulkus IV.” “So delivering you from your enemies has no value?” “Oh, all right!” she snapped. She reached down somewhere I’m embarrassed to mention, and pulled out a tidy wad of C-notes. “Here’s for the ammo and fuel you burned. There’s three thousand there. That should compensate you adequately.” “Well it ain’t the same as 50 percent of a fortune,” I told her as I pocketed the money. “But I suppose it’ll have ta do.” I ignored the fact that that little tart had the money for passage all the time she was wheedling me to take her gratis. “I knew it!” She proved that gratitude was greater than greed by throwing herself against me and wrapped her arms around my neck. “I knew you were a hero!” She kissed me then. Kissed me in a way that made me wish she was shipping out with us, greedy, bad tempered, an’ all. I mean, after all, no one’s perfect. But she left. She left with me standin’ there like a bull dazed by a mallet. I was so stupefied that the aerolift Renaldo dropped almost killed me when it hit. I stepped onto the lift and was whisked up into the belly of the Skydancer. “You been doin’ freebies again, Cap’n?” Renaldo demanded in his grating voice.

“Sure, sure,” I waved my raised hands. “But “This is not a negotiation, you double- before you do, I just want ta cover my ears, crossing bitch!” here.”

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?” the way her story and demeanor had changed, “Nope, I just don’t like sonic booms.” I I had a sneaking suspicion that we’d run into looked skyward. her partner, Jimmy, who might not be nearly as dead as she’d reported. Now I must admit to bein’ a might smug 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 and—unless the whole bunch gathered into a upon numerous occasions. single line—my last lone magazine of ammo They naturally followed my eyes, looking up wasn’t goin’ ta be much use. into the empty night sky curiously. They didn’t “Give it to me now,” the man warned. “Or quite grasp the situation until the shockwave from my ship, dropping at supersonic speed, we’ll pick it up off your riddled corpse!” just about ripped their eardrums open. They “Go to hell!” She was a feisty one all right, scattered as though a bomb had exploded, and but I’m afraid she didn’t have the sense that Renaldo chased ‘em down the alley with blazing God gave geese. spotlights and about a thousand rounds from one of the ship’s machineguns. “Uh, folks—” I interrupted while slidin’ my Devastator into its holster and holding up Funny the effect an armed skyfreighter 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. might pointless. We’d all get along a whole lot And it was over. That girl an’ me stood better if you fellers would learn ta respect the amongst the charred stink and the bullet-pitproperty rights of other folks.” ted street with the Skydancer rumbling above “What?” the man demanded. “Where did our heads. this backwoods bumpkin come from?” “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 actually payin’ attention to the proximity alert fence the Plutaran Sunstar on-planet and save flashin’ on my wrist chronometer as it changed the price of a trip.”

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Fast Hands by Robert Mancebo
“Nope.” I replied proudly. “Paid assistance. can happen—when a feller has fast hands.” I got three thousand—” When I reached to I tossed the big jewel up so that it flashed withdraw the money, I came out with a few like a ball o’ fire in the cabin’s lights then put it wisps of pocket lint. into Renaldo’s hand. “Why that no-good, little minx!” I railed. “Better lock that up and get us movin’ old “She picked my pocket when she kissed me!” 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.” “Let the buyer beware,” he cackled in lordly mirth. “Let the buyer—? I wasn’t buyin’ nothin’, ya ijit!” “I know, but I used up all the good philosophies 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’

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Robert Mancebo
Robert is a former soldier, locksmith, and  technician.    He  has  had  dark  and  historical fantasy published both on-line and in various magazines.

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Spineless
by Brandon Barr

I

never thought I’d say this but, if the government hadn’t trampled my rights and hurled me into a Def-Con-Four space disaster, I would still be a timid, middle-aged entomology professor living in his mother’s basement. The life-changing incident happened two years ago, in the summer of 2086. I was working at Quinbrook University on my grant project, when there was a knock on the lab door. Four large men in black suits stood in the hallway. Each gave a quick, cheerless smile and a nod. “Are you Professor Calvin Lemmick?” “I am,” I said, drawing out the two syllables in my most irritating, nasal tenor. One of the men stepped forward. “Professor, we’re here on direct order from the President of the United States.” The man held out an identification badge. “We need you to come with us.” “You must have made some kind of mistake. I’m only an entomology professor. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of something important.” I started to shut the door when one of the big jerks stuck out his boot and jammed my effort. “Are you Calvin Lee Lemmick, the self proclaimed Mr. Slug, according to the Journal of Nature?” “Well, ah, yes, that’s me, but I—I can’t just

leave.” One of the government goons stepped beside me and slapped his palm between my shoulders. “Sure you can” he said, and pushed me forward into the waiting arms of his blacksuited buddies. A helicopter and Humvee ride later, I found myself at some middle-of-nowhere military compound in the Nevada desert. And still I hadn’t gotten a single word of explanation beyond the phrases, “shut up” and “keep quiet.” They marched me into a dome-like structure and jostled me onto an elevator, taking me Godalone-knows how many levels underground, and steered me into a big conference room full of uniformed men and women. I was led to a seat at a large circular table, and as soon as I sat down, a bald man with no less than twenty ornate medals hanging from his blue suit stood up out of his chair. “This briefing is for you, Professor Lemmick,” he said. “I’m sure you’re wondering why you’ve been brought here.” I looked up at him, intending to give him the most dirty, piercing stare I could muster. Instead I nodded submissively. “Slugs, about a foot long, have taken up residence inside the space station. We need

an expert, Professor. And you are the premier specialist in the nation on, ah, slugs. We’re hoping you’ll accompany our crackerjack team of space marines aboard the ship, that is, if you agree to go. We can’t force you.” “Gastropods! In space?” “That’s right, Professor.” I swallowed my enthusiasm, spotting a chance to recapture my dignity. “So,” I said, slouching rebelliously in my chair, “if I don’t go, you’ll have no expert to—” “Actually,” interrupted the decorated man, “a Dr. Warren Thompson is on his way to the base. So if you decline, then he’ll get to go up instead.” Thompson! That hack! His research on nudibranchs was a colossal failure—no matter what the Journal of Entomology thought. “Well! Of course I’ll go!” The decorated man gave a knowing grin. I was escorted from the room and rushed through a series of medical exams. I sincerely believe that the cockroaches in my laboratory receive finer treatment than I was given. An hour later, I was soaring through space with the twelve marines. The G-forces slamming against my insides were tremendous. I felt I was finally able to

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Spineless by Brandon Barr
empathize with all those poor insects glued to the grille plate of my Buick. When the space station came into view, the marines helped me into a lightweight suit, connected a catheter, and locked a helmet on my head. “Let’s get a move on, Professor,” one of them barked at me. The bay door swung open and the twelve marines stood waiting for me with heavy shock guns in their hands. I was going in! My stomach dropped into my bowels, and the catheter got its first test run. # It was astonishing. The bald-headed man with the ten pounds of decoration had told us the slugs were a foot long. He was wrong. Either the initial assessment by the space station crew was badly underestimated, or the gastropods had grown another foot since the last transmission. The twelve marines and I stood in the main corridor, in the oxygenated, gravity enhanced atmosphere; and above us, coming through a torn vent, were three big slugs. They were beautiful... I had never seen gastropods so large among the species of Earth. A glittering, diamond-blue sheen covered their upper mantle, stopping in a wavy pattern at the genital opening. The lower keel was a blazing design of purples and reds, reminding me of the beautiful sea slugs found throughout Earth’s oceans. They moved towards us, slipping out from the vent, their silvery secretion holding them to the ceiling. The slug’s optical tentacles were pointed at the three lead marines. The soldiers stood frozen, guns raised. Still the eye stalks stared. “What do we do now,” called one of the forward marines. Marissa, the task force leader, glanced my way. “Lemmick, these slugs look friendly to you?” “I think they’re intelligent,” I called out. “Yeah? Why?” “Look at their eyes. Normally gastropods can only detect movement, and we haven’t moved. Their eyestalks are on us. They’re watching us. Marissa tapped her finger against the trigger ring. “Damn! I guess that means we can’t kill ‘em.” Her face suddenly contorted. “Baker, get back!” It all happened so fast. One moment the gastropods were slipping along the ceiling, the next they were airborne, springing forward like wolf spiders. Three marines were on the ground, each had a slug wriggling up their ventilator tube. “Should I shoot ‘em off?” “Use your brains, Bingmen. No way!” The three downed soldiers were frantically trying to pull the slugs out from the tubing, but their hands slid off the gelatinous membrane without affect.

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“That will only make it worse,” I offered, “You’ll only cause them to secrete more!” “Shut up, Lemmick,” Marissa yelled at me. “How ‘bout we flash burn the buggers off?” Marissa nodded, “That sounds good, Vince! Use your burner.” “No! Wait!” I yelled. “If they’re intelligent, maybe this is how they shake hands.” “Jiminy Chris’mas, Lemmick!” One of the marines raised a hot, blue torch attachment from his suit and put it down towards the last protruding quarter of a slug. “Move your hands, meathead.” Before the fire touched the slug, the gastropod disappeared into the tube. “Blast! They’re in the frigging tubing!” The torch bearer jumped to the next downed marine. As he did, the slug slithered inside. He jumped to the last marine, but it was too late. “Where’d they go?” “I dunno, they coulda wriggled into their waste disposal bins.” Suddenly the buttocks padding on the three marines bulged and each of their faces took on a pained, quizzical expression. Then the bulge disappeared and the three marines went limp. Marissa stood up, “Ok, boys and girls, we’re getting out of here. Grab ‘em, and let’s go. You

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Spineless by Brandon Barr
too, Lemmick!” The incapacitated marines were hefted up. We all started towards the exit hatch and stopped. It was covered by slugs. # Three two-footers moved around the door in a quick circle. One gelatinous, mammoth slug—must have been four or five feet long— stared at us through its two bulbous eyestalks as it hung from the ceiling tiles. The hatch was wet with slime trail residue. Globs of it slipped down the door. What were they doing? This was not the typical unintelligent behavior I’d witnessed countless times in my studies. These things moved with purpose, circling in tandem. Cutting into my thoughts came a sudden, intense thrumming. It pounded at my head. I grabbed my helmet, my gloved hands clawing at the plastic. There were noises, gurgling and wet. I felt my knees hit the floor. Marissa screamed, “Waste ‘em marines!” The thrumming in my ears stopped and the nine standing marines unleashed their shock guns. The EM pulses popped the slugs open like pinched grapes. The mammoth slug ripped its way into the ceiling tile before it was hit. “Get that big mother,” cried Marissa. She raised her gun up and began blasting away at the ceiling tiles, and the others followed her lead. Bits of white plastic and clouds of chalk rained down from the ceiling. A moment later my ears were shrieking with the sudden silence. Three bubbling invertebrate forms quivered in front of the exit hatch. I rushed over and removed my gloves, touching the slick surface of one of the slugs. A tingle of excitement ran up my arm. I began studying some of the spilled innards. “Get up, Lemmick,” snapped Marissa. “This isn’t the time for that.” “The hatch won’t budge.” “What?” “The slime,” the marine pounded on the metal, “It’s dried solid.” I jumped up at this and went to the door. Shocking, I thought, what a perfect defense mechanism...or was it more than that...a mode of attack? Incredible. The two marines gave up tugging on the latch and turned to Marissa. “Get on the com, Bingmen. Tell’m what’s happened.” A marine kicked one of the pulpy carcasses. “Did you see that big mother slug? Shoot. Six feet long. It had to be. You ever hear of a slug getting that big, Professor?” I studied his face a moment. “That’s a stupid question.” “Okay!” shouted Marissa. “Since we’re stuck here for a while, might as well follow the mission plan. Find the crew and re-take the space station.” I saw her white teeth flash

Pg. 12
through the shield mask, “All right, marines, keep your eyes on the ceiling and off my big butt. Let’s move!” # We found the crew rather easily. They were in their emergency lockers, under cryofreeze. “The popsicle shop,” as the marines called it. It was located in the main hall of the space station, and looked like it doubled for a storage bay. There were junked parts of satellites, Russian, Chinese, Australian, American, you name it, and it was in there. A basketball hoop hung on the wall in a tidied section of the room. “So, we gonna wake ‘em up?” “I almost hate to do it,” said Marissa, “The slugs can’t get ‘em in there.” “Perhaps it would be wise to thaw only one of them,” I imputed. There was a moment of silence, in which I received more than a few dirty looks. “You’re right, Lemmick,” said Marissa finally. “And we can always put them back after they’ve answered some questions.” Marissa chose to thaw Commander Sue Zeta. The capsule she lay in hissed as it released the plasma seal. The woman inside was still in her uniform, indicating she had been in a hurry. Her eyes opened slowly. She focused on us, saw the marine uniforms. “You look like angels from heaven,” she said. They helped her out of the freezer. She

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Spineless by Brandon Barr
swayed a bit like she’d just come off a boat. Zeta explained how they’d first discovered the slugs during a routine maintenance check of the outer hull. A cluster of eggs was wedged in an exhaust vent. That made perfect sense to me. The moisture and heat was a perfect incubator. After that, the space crew brought the eggs in, put them in a glass case, and radioed command. The next morning when they all woke up, the glass case was empty, with tiny holes bored in it. The sound of splashing broke me from her story, and I spun around. My ears began to hum. The others were still talking in the background, but it was soft, fading. Other noises were growing louder, clearer. Milky scraping, a moist popping, oatmeal slopping onto a plate, someone sucking the last traces of a milk shake. What were those sounds? Where were they coming from? “Lemmick, what are you doing?” It was Marissa, her voice faint, as if traveling over a great distance. I turned around. I was off in a far corner of the room, beside the junked satellites. “I’m hearing things,” I called back. Marissa and a few of the other marines started towards me. The trance broke. The wet mushy popping sounds came together in grotesque harmony. It sucked and gurgled. My neck hairs prickled. “I...want...you...Lemm...ick,” echoed the slurping voice. I fell backwards. The marines began shouting, the EM pulses roared. Glancing up I could see the slugs dropping from the ceiling. I crawled into a nook between two satellites. “Lemm...ick...be...my...food . . .” My vision faded into swirling darkness. # When I came to and crawled out from my hiding place, there was shock gun damage evident all over the room. Timidly, I made a short search of the interior, and the only things of interest were the empty emergency lockers. Why had the other two crew members been thawed? A terrifying thought struck me. Could they have left without me? Maybe they hadn’t seen where I’d crawled and chalked me up as slug bait. Panic came crashing down on me. Alone! Abandoned! I pictured all my research at the university—my specimens—all my journals. I saw my mother in her rocker. Saw myself sitting beside her—saw my collection of Marvel Comic magazines catch fire and begin to burn. The fire spread, and in my vision I saw my laboratory erupt into flames. And then...then something miraculous happened. Like a Baptist big tent conversion. “No,” I whispered. I sensed the power behind it. I clenched my teeth. “No,” I said louder. My hands rolled up into fists. My leg muscles tensed. The vision flickered before my eyes, then died, but the purifying had been done. I knew what I had to do now, and I needed...a weapon.

Pg. 13
I found a blow torch hanging against the wall by the satellite pieces. I made a few adjustments to the gas release valve and strapped the accompanying gas canister to my back. I gave it a test and the room flared white. Another rarely tasted emotion pulsed through my body, bulging the veins on my arms. Courage? Audacity? Manliness? Jaw forward, upper lip curled, I headed for the door, the torch nozzle resting loose and easy on my shoulder. # I strolled along the corridor. The lights were dimmed, casting off a yellowish tint and buzzing with electricity. Red flashers set every three meters pulsed like strobe lights. Something had happened while I’d been unconscious. The ship was now running on emergency generators. I cautiously opened each door I passed and peered in. So far nothing but storage closets and empty living quarters. The last door, before the corridor angled off to the right, was the kitchen. I went in and found what I was looking for, hundreds of little packets labeled “salt.” I stashed them inside a zippered pocket. I had never salted a slug in all my life. But then again, these weren’t your garden variety invertebrates. No, no, it appeared these gastropodic fiends had traded in their plant-loving palates for a more carnivorous appetite, and I wasn’t about to be desert. I left the kitchen and turned down the corridor on my right. Ahead I saw a T-junction. There was something bulky lying on the floor. I pointed the nozzle gingerly. A marine lay dead, his back burst open like his spine was one long bomb. The results of a point blank EM pulse.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Spineless by Brandon Barr
Down the right and left sides of the T-junction were more bodies. The flashing red strobe light throbbed against the gore. Each body had fried, crispy skin encircling an EMP blast crater. The evidence was clear. Marine had turned on marine. But why? I recalled the three marines who’d first been attacked by the slugs. The gastropods had actually disappeared inside their suits. Could they have been...infested? Perhaps some chemical expelled by the slug from within the men’s bodies could work like a hallucinogen. Could they have—no—yes, turned into inadvertent weapons of their hosts? It was the only conclusion I could take from the carnage around me. I turned my thoughts to the voice I’d heard. The gastropods had spoken to me telepathically. Taunting, almost. A good tactic if one wanted to rattle their prey before an attack. But even more, these creatures had harnessed telepathy. An unnerving conclusion begged the question—how intelligent were they? A whir of distant EMP bursts brought me to my feet. I moved steadily towards the sound, determined to aid the marines, and prove once and for all, muscle without brains is like a one-winged horsefly; a mean, angry bug with a helluva big bite, but no sense of direction. “Time to rock this party,” I growled # I came upon another half dozen bodies, EMP damage covering each corpse. I saw two bodies in blue casual jumpers. They were clearly the two other space station crewmembers who’d been in the emergency lockers. There were no weapons by them. “You are...the one...I seek...for my... harvest,” came the wet, slopping voice in my mind. I clenched my teeth, eyes wide. A hot, white blaze streamed from my torch nozzle. I twisted and turned in every direction, ceiling, floor, walls, all were swathed in a highly concentrated flame. I let go the trigger. Blackened streaks zigzagged the corridor. The hyperfoam in the ceiling burned lightly above. Safe? No. Effective? Yes. I moved on down the hall, the voice gone. # Yelling came from up ahead. I hurried forward, pleased to know there were still others alive. I turned a corner and heard shouting. It was coming from behind a door labeled, “Control.” I pressed against it, and turned the handle slowly, quietly. Dead ahead were several rows of computer terminals planted in front of a big plate window littered with stars. I crossed the threshold, still unable to see the shouters. An open door led to a side room. “Drop it, slug whore! You’re one of them!” “Filthy liar, it’s you they’ve gotten to!” came Marissa’s voice. I stepped softly over to the adjoining room, stopping just outside. “Drop—the gun—now.” I’d heard that voice before, it was Commander Sue Zeta’s.

Pg. 14
I raised the jimmy-rigged blow torch, and stepped out from the wall. “Put ‘em down, girls,” I said, real mean-like. “This stuff’ll melt your pretty faces real fast.” They both stared at me. Marissa’s mouth fell open. They dropped their weapons. “Good. Now do what daddy says. Kick ‘em towards me. That’s it.” I scowled at them, squinting with my left eye. Marissa gawked at me like I was the eighth wonder of the world. “You better talk fast,” I said, thumbing the blow torch. Marissa frowned, “Yeah, I’ll lay it down. It’s real simple, Zeta’s been turned into a slug zombie. She’s one of them.” I turned to Zeta, pointing the nozzle at her. “No! She’s lying,” cried Zeta. “It’s her! She got a slug in the brain. She killed the others!” I unzipped my pocket and brought out the salt packet, shaking it so the granules danced noisily. “Maybe we need to administer a little test then.” Zeta’s lower lip began to tremble. “No! Please No!” cried Zeta, crumbling onto the ground like I had some medieval torture device. I nodded, feeling a bit guilty. I put the packet away. “Alright, talk. Why have they come here? Or, is it now: why have you come here?” She looked up at me, her eyes wet, human, but now that I knew the truth, I saw something

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Spineless by Brandon Barr
alien within them. “It came here peacefully...to harvest us.” “‘Harvest’ goes fine with wheat and barley, baby, but not humans. And what do you mean ‘it’?” “They are all one unit, one being.” Fine, I could accept that. “And harvest?” “It needs us for food. I know that sounds bad, but it isn’t.” “It ain’t good,” I said. “You’re here to eat us?” cried Marissa, backing away and stopping beside me. “It’s not like you think,” said Zeta. “They want to eat us, but not kill us. It’s more like a marriage than a funeral.” A juicy fact in the back of my mind was screaming to get out. Something I’d picked up in my studies. Zeta continued, “They’ve come to join with us, two species becoming one.” “I ain’t giving up my virginity to no space slugs!” I yelled angrily, then wished I’d kept my mouth shut. “No! Nothing like that. It’s more of a friendship. The host’s body takes nourishment from us, but in return, feeds itself to us.” “You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Marissa. “But that’s not the best part. We can travel across galaxies, living off each other for many thousands of years, exploring new worlds together. The slug’s body is equipped to travel through space! Imagine the sights we could see!” I stood there, weighing things in my mind. The missing detail buried in the back of my brain surfaced. Sea slugs! There was a certain species of sea slugs that harvested coral, ingested it, and kept the coral alive within itself for months. These extraterrestrial slugs claimed that same ability, and now they were apparently offering us some kind of, new life? “Zeta, are you, right now, part of the gastropod?” I asked. Her face was so human still, young, feminine. “It has begun. I can feel it changing me. My eyes are different. They see deeper, clearer.” “What happens next?” I asked. “In the end, we will amalgamate.” I lowered the nozzle. “Are your slug friends near?” I asked with a touch of reverence. Zeta turned her head to a corner of the room. A ceiling vent began to bulge, then it broke in two with a loud crack, and fell to the floor. Out from the opening crawled the big, mother slug. Two smaller gastropods riding on her mantle detached themselves and moved slowly forward. “What are you doing? Are you crazy!” said Marissa, staring wild-eyed at me.

Pg. 15
“Shut-up,” said Zeta. “He’s come to his senses.” Zeta sauntered up beside me and took my hand, removing the suit glove. “The harvester is here. Do not be afraid.” Her fingers were wet, and gave like a soft pliable sponge. A thick film slid down my hand. I’d had enough. “Miss, that is one interesting grip you got there,” I said, and lifted the nozzle. “Nooo!” screamed Zeta, grabbing my arm. I back-handed her, and it was like hitting a wet fish. Zeta stumbled backwards into the wall. A slug sprang for me, but I caught it mid-air with a burst from the blow torch. Something was grabbing at my thigh and I looked down, expecting trouble. It was only Marissa clasped onto my leg. Her helmet had come loose and she stared up at me, her lips flushed red and her hair flittering in the breeze from the open vent. “Hold tight,” I shouted to her. The other small slug made for the vent opening “Harvest this,” I shouted, and a stream of fire fried it’s carcass to the ceiling. The mother slug hung motionless, the eyestalks glaring at me. Zeta was up now, teeth barred. “You idiot!” “Look here, Missy, I ain’t about to go and be a glorified steak dinner. Now, have a seat.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Spineless by Brandon Barr
She obeyed. 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.” “I have to admit it’s an off day. I don’t normally do the whole commando thing.” I looked down at Marissa, and winked. She swooned. I turned back to Star Dancer. “Now, I’ll make you a deal. I take you home to Earth, and I promise no harm will come to you. You can stay in my laboratory.” The slug’s mantle brightened. “I will agree... but only if you promise two things...to keep an open mind...about joining my harvest...and to allow Commander Zeta...to amalgamate with me, in your laboratory.” I glanced skeptically over at Zeta, and she nodded with enthusiasm. “Star Dancer, I have to admit, that’s one heck of a retirement plan you’re selling. Maybe I’ll take you up on it one day.” I gave the blow torch a quick twirl on my finger and in one motion, secured it the side of my spacesuit. “Zeta, Star Dancer, you’ve got yourselves a deal.”

Pg. 16

Brandon Barr
Born in 1981, Brandon Barr currently resides  in  Southern  California  with  his  wife,  Amanda.    He  graduated  from  California  Baptist  University  with  a  degree in Enlish.  His fiction has appeared  in Gateway Science Fiction, Nova Science Fiction, Revelation Magazine, and Haruah.   Brandon’s  first  novel,  a  space  opera  titled When the Sky Fell, co-written with Mike Lynch, is due out in February, 2008, from Silver Leaf Books.  Check out his website and blog: www.brandonbarr.com christiansciencefiction.blogspot.com

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

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 walldrawing... 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.
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007

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 scifi 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.
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Featured Artist: Josh Grafton

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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
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 26, July 15, 2007

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.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

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
Recap of Season One:

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

Pg. 22

cable enemies with his unorthodox style and bold  decision-making.  His  every  move  was  In season one of The Adventures of the Sky followed by a mysterious watcher of unknown Pirate, we were introduced to Cooper Flynn, capabilities  and  motivations.  He  met  fiery  an  orphan  of  15,  who  lived  on  the  backwater  Clarissa MkDougal, a young woman for whom island of Patience Bay, a place known only for he didn’t have time to determine his feelings.  two things: its abbey, and its complete lack He appeared to meet his match when the spy  of  adventure.  The  death  of  his  only  friend  at  he  followed  turned  the  tables  and  convinced  the hands of the mysterious Qantiin assassins his best friend, Pitt, that Flynn was a doublespurred 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 father. He also gave him a strange parchment  provoked  to  drop  Cooper  Flynn  off  a  tall  cliff  that contained not one, but two things, either into boulder-strewn waters far below. of which would be worth a king’s ransom: the formula for levitation over water, and the  In the year that followed, his friend, Pitt, Queen’s Writ, a document of immense value. grappled  with  his  conscience  and  the  revelation  of  new  facts,  coming  to  believe  that  he  Cooper Flynn escaped the assassins and ran had been tricked. While wrestling with events  away  from  a  Sylvan  warship  and  into  the  that  were  over  his  head,  Pitt  found  love  with  arms of the Friar of Briar Island, an infamous Deena Prentiss, a woman training to be a privateer. The Friar was more than he appeared  physician, who also happened to be the comto be, and Flynn learned that he was the patron modore’s daughter, a secret she didn’t share and protector of the dispossessed people from with anyone. When the pirate L’ngrae brought  all  over  the  region.  Flynn  came  to  terms  with  a small armada to attack the academy when the Friar and became a trusted confidante and her warships were away on exercises, Pitt went an up-and-coming commander, respected and to sea to stop the pirates, only to see his old loved by all. friend, Cooper Flynn, appear out of the fog Flynn followed a suspected spy to the Haddiron  aboard  a  small  sloop,  no  worse  for  the  wear.  o’ Naval Academy and undertook what can only  Flynn led the pirate manrun war into shallow waters and watched her aground, turning 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 and his superior forces almost single-handedly.  helped him gain entrance to the Academy, and However,  at  the  awards  ceremony  where  used that assistance to scam his own entrance he was honored by the commodore, Flynn’s to  that  fabled  institution.  He  proceeded  to  skeletons  were  revealed  by  Walenda  Darden,  make an immediate, indelible mark at the the spy he’d been sent to follow, and Flynn Academy, making powerful friends and impla- was expelled from the academy. That moment 

was the best and the worst moment of his young life, and it scarred him for the rest of his days. As a parting gesture, Flynn spoke to  the commodore, and Darden was reassigned to a permanent post on the all-male island of Patience Bay, to the abbey where he himself had  felt  a  prisoner.  It  was  a  masterful  stroke  that satisfied his mission for the Friar, but which didn’t save his own career. While Mr. Pitt celebrated his marriage to Deena  Prentiss and his fourth year at the academy, Cooper Flynn used his Queen’s Writ and his force of personality to work with the brilliant young  inventor,  Chain,  to  develop  the  antigravity  technology  that  would  change  their  world.  Flynn  also  engineered  the  retrofitting  of a sailing ship using their new technology without spending a dime of his own money, provoking  the  interest  of  a  Haddiron  auditor.  Flynn started to assemble his crew, and then, on the eve of taking possession of his new ship,  forces  outside  his  control  forced  him  to  move  up his schedule, and he appealed to his friend, Pitt, to come and serve with him. The decision  came at a steep price. In order to be true to his  word of lifelong fealty, Pitt would have to walk  away from both graduation from the academy and  his  marriage  to  Deena  in  order  to  serve  with his friend. Arriving back at the dock where his new crew  assembled,  Flynn  and  Pitt  discovered  that  the ship they had been waiting for had been removed by the auditor, Welston Dananstrogh.  In the moment of their despair, the newly formed crew vowed to retrieve her.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

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

Pg. 23
right—magic is in the air.” And then he pointed to the ship. Not out, but up. As one, they leaned out under the tarp and looked up. Eggplant started a low whistle, which was abruptly silenced by Pitt’s gently firm hand over his mouth, but it summed up the moment. They all followed the tether rope to see the ship silhouetted up there against the moonlit sky, floating one hundred feet in the air above the quiet port of Bitten Bay. # “It is a magical night,” said Officer of the Watch James Thackery on board the HMS Majeste. “And while it is true this sensation of magic is often taken metaphorically, this was one night it might be forgiven for taking the thought literally,” he said, walking about the deck with his hands clasped behind him. “Just think, I am conducting these observations from the deck of the pride of Her Majesty’s fleet, which just happens to be floating one hundred feet above the very surface of the ocean instead of bobbling gently in it.” He stopped and took in a deep breath of clear air. “The view from this altitude is spectacular, and the lilting sounds of a particularly rambunctious fiddle from below decks serve only to lift one’s mood, what, Gillings?” “It is a very fine evening,” agreed Ensign Mui Gillings. Thackery looked over at the ensign. “Is that all?” Thackery looked back out at the world, but he was clearly listening for what Gillings would say next.

“I

t was a moonlit night, and magic was in the air,” whispered Eggplant nervously as he crouched behind the barrels with the others. “Ssh,” said Bola, trying to look around under the canvas awning that stretched over them on the dock. “He speaks in the third person when he is nervous,” explained Eggplant of himself, helpfully. “He’s going to get his tongue pinned to the dock if he keeps making noise, isn’t that right, Coop,” murmured Bola, drawing a wicked big knife to demonstrate her point. “It’s not ‘Coop,’ it’s ‘Captain Flynn,’” said First Seaman Karver Humble, who was already taken with his new title. “This will be a short trip to a dark cell if you don’t put that shiny blade away,” whispered Chain calmly, who had no use for titles, himself. He knelt in from of what appeared to be a leather backpack, working entirely by feel in the shadows on the docks. Mr. Pitt said nothing, as usual. A Reacher by birth, he was a full head taller than Bola, who was herself something of an Amazon. Mr. Pitt, broad of chest and wide of shoulders, was the most legitimate person of the crew, walking away from the Haddirron Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony to join Flynn. He was content to remain passive and relaxed while he crouched next to the object of the discussion. Cooper Flynn was a trim, powerful young man. His black hair pulled back and tied, completely out of fashion with the wigs of Her Majesty’s Navy. As newly elected captain

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 specifications by the Navy itself without direct knowledge of the project, the ship stolen out from under him by Welston Dananstrogh, Her Majesty’s Auditor. They knew the Navy couldn’t have taken the ship very far, and here she was, waiting for reinforcements. It was now or never, and Flynn didn’t like to lose. “You have the sword?” asked Chain. Flynn patted his sheath. “Right here. You sure this thing works?” Chain shrugged. “It’s from Menorra. It costs more than my entire shop, or would, if I’d actually bought it. It better work.” “Where’s this flappin’ ship,” hissed Bola, turning around to grouse to the little band. It was clear that the dock where they expected to find the tethered shape of the HMS Majeste was vacant, and yet the distant sound of fiddle music teased the small band. “I’ve been waiting six months for this. I’m here to pinch a ship, and I don’t see my payday.” “Patience, Bola. You’ll get your payday. You’ve waited six months, just wait one more minute,” murmured the captain as he faced her. “To answer your question, in this case, it’s to your starboard.” “What’s starboard,” she said, spinning in place, looking around for the ship. Flynn touched her right shoulder. “Starboard is to your right. And it looks like Eggplant was

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook
Gillings tried to put what he was feeling into words. “I still cannot get over how this has all come together. Yesterday, I was a freshman at the academy, and today I am here onboard a technological miracle. Did you see that?” “See what?” said Thackery, twisting around in confusion. “It looked like a large, black…I guess it was nothing.” Thackery nodded as if it couldn’t have been anything if he hadn’t seen it himself. “I’m sure the technology has been developed for some time, but Her Majesty was holding it back for just the right time in the fight against the upstart Sylvans. In any event, whether the actual process was developed by good Haddirron scientists or gleaned from lost Menorran technology, it is clear they wanted a crack crew on her, and here we are! If developed by the Mennorans, and they knew how their technology was being exploited, perhaps this will be the event to finally rouse themselves from their self-inflicted languor. One can logically imagine them nodding their stoic heads and clapping their hands with glee. A sailing ship, roused from the depths and set aloft—the albacore become albatross!” “Albatross…” said Gillings, thinking. “I would have thought something of this magnitude would have launched from Haddirron City.” Thackery waved that thought away with a flourish. “Oh, I’m sure Bitten Bay was chosen for the real launch of the anti-grav vessel for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is simple security. Otherwise, this is the last place in the Empire where anyone would expect the ship to be assembled and launched.” Thackery looked at Ensign Gillings for the first time that watch. “It is, you will agree, a masterful stroke.” He looked back out over the water again, a vapid expression on his face. “As you say, Ven,” said the good Ensign, but his own expression was skeptical. Officer Thackery sauntered off to port, and Ensign Gillings had the good sense to follow. Thackery laid his hand on the railing. “Observe the solid craftsmanship of the rail—good, sturdy wood, well treated, firm without being ostentatious.” They walked aft. “The lifeboats are rigged for normal use in the seas in their current orientation or, when inverted, serve as short-term flotation mechanisms. When charged, they can float in mid-air indepentant of the ship, but as the charge recedes, they descend slowly, graciously lowering the craft to the ocean’s surface below. Genius.” Having overheard his superior being shown those very features not an hour earlier, Gillings wasn’t impressed with his ‘knowledge.’ He looked over the edge and subsequently wondered if a human being could survive a one-hundred-foot plunge into the surf below. He saw a conversational opening there. “Ven, if there was an accident, would an officer survive a deliberate drop into the seas?” Officer Thackery stopped short mid-step as he climbed to the stern. “Because of a storm, say, or a gigantic bird?” Ensign Gillings blinked, but recovered quickly enough. “As you say, Ven, yes.” “Well,” pondered Thackery, “I’m not quite sure what a man’s rank would have to do with it, but suspect that, while uncomfortable, it

Pg. 24
would not prove fatal. Of course,” he noted, quite correctly, “I daresay an under-officer such as yourself would fare better with less, hm, uniform to weigh him down. Still, if such a one were a quick thinker—as officers are wont to be—they would lose no time in shedding their heavy overcoat and shoes. With any luck, they wouldn’t have to shed their trousers as well—that would be difficult to live down, what?” Ensign Gillings waited until the good watch officer started laughing before joining in. It was awkward, never quite knowing which absurdly hilarious thing would actually be acknowledged as such, wracked, all the while, with the leaden feeling that there was more to this entire situation than met the eye. It felt hastily contrived by someone well above his pay grade for reasons still too murky to understand. # “He wondered what they would do if anyone opposed them,” mused Eggplant. “What are you, a scribe?” hissed Bola. “Don’t be silly,” said Captain Flynn. “He’s the pilot.” Then he looked back at Bola and grinned. “It’s a good question,” he said, now serious. “We have the skypacks to get there, and we each have the goodies given them by Chain.” Chain bobbed his head once, his small, round glasses catching the reflection of the moon. “We’re here for our ship, not bloodshed. They’ll be vexed if we reclaim this ship. And they won’t stop until we’re all dead if we kill even one naval officer, no matter how junior.” “Won’t they pursue us?” asked Humble.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook
Flynn turned and looked him in the eye. “They absolutely will, Mr. Humble. However, once she is under our control, she is the fastest thing in the sky and is capable of being helmed by a relatively small crew. She is perfect for our purposes. Let them try. Besides,” he said, “who else has one of these?” He produced an aged parchment bearing the distinctive arms of Her Majesty herself. “What’s that,” grunted Bola. “The captain produced a Writ from the Queen Herself, giving one Cooper Flynn sway to fight the Sylvan armada in any way he saw fit,” grinned Eggplant, who proved himself in that moment to be weird but not dense. “Oh yeah? What’s a writ?” blustered Bola, who proved herself dense but not weird. The captain neatly refolded the ornate paper and stowed it away inside his short jacket. “Why, it’s nothing less than tacit permission to assume control of this vessel,” he grinned, “which is exactly what I intend to do. Does everyone have their gloves?” Everyone nodded assent with the exception of Eggplant, who didn’t bother, being informed ahead of time that he was taking a different path. “Ok, this is our night,” he said “Let’s take what’s ours, with alacrity.” “What’s alcrety,” whispered Humble. “That’s the name of the ship, you dullard,” said Bola, loftily. That nearly set the captain into a fit of laughing. “Eggplant?” Eggplant got a distant look on his face. “It means ‘liveliness,’ ‘zeal,’ ‘agility.’” With a great smile on his face, Flynn rose and tested his harness. “My friends,” he said, looking around at those assembled, “it is time. Let’s fly.” With that, he nimbly ran forward and slapped his chest, rising off the ground as he did. He gracefully hooked a tether line and rose smoothly at an angle, following the rope up into the darkness toward the unsuspecting ship. “See, it works fine,” observed Chain quietly. “Now.” Bola hit her switch and rose off her feet, rising right into the tarp covering the dock. “Hey,” she hissed. “Mine’s broken!” Chain fastened her with an inscrutable look, but Humble rose to the occasion. “I’ve got you,” he whispered. He grabbed her calf and towed her foot-first to the rope, where he activated his own skypack and the two of them went on up, Humble right-side-up and Bola upside-down. Chain looked at Eggplant. “You ready?” “He was terrified beyond belief,” replied the pilot gamely, “but up to the task.” “I’ll take that as a ‘yes,’” said Chain. “Mr. Pitt?” Together, they carefully walked forward, each taking firm hold of Eggplant under one armpit with one arm and holding onto the tether with the other. Chain and Mr. Pitt rose in unison as if they’d assaulted floating ships from flying backpacks every day of their adult lives. # Ensign Gillings had returned to the bow

Pg. 25
and was pondering what the possible motivations might be for duplicity from his commanding officers. He looked over at Watch Officer Thackery standing with his hands behind his back, his chin up, and a dreamy gleam in his eye. Gillings imagined he was still, in all likelihood, considering the ‘magic of the night.’ Gillings was thus occupied when an engaging looking fellow in a captain’s hat and jacket floated up over the edge of the rail and dropped nimbly to the deck. “Good evening,” the fellow said brightly, “I am Captain Cooper Flynn, here to assume command of my vessel.” He executed a half-bow that Gillings took to be ironic, but which froze Thackery just long enough to prevent him from raising an alarm. Gillings decided that anybody with the wherewithal to mount an attack on a floating ship was no one to be trifled with, but Thackery—to his credit—let his hand stray to his sword. A sword appeared in the captain’s right hand as if by magic. Thackery’s bravery—or foolishness— required the point of the captain’s sword at his throat before Thackery reconsidered his defensive inclinations. All of this provided enough time for the remainder of the boarding party to land on deck and assume control of the bow, although one came onboard holding aloft the heel of a large, fiery woman. She was trailing a truly impressive blue streak of invective when the captain quickly diverted his sword tip, lightly striking a button on her chest, at which time

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook
she felt lightly to her feet on the deck with reflexes like a cat. Gaining her feet, she quickly produced a frankly frightening dagger with all the flash of one well-trained to its use. She looked at Thackery and cocked her head as if sizing him up for a meal. Thackery sniffed and squared his shoulders. He opened his mouth to speak. Thinking quickly, Ensign Gillings quietly cleared this throat. There was no telling what the watch officer would do, and Gillings didn’t intend to give him the opportunity to do anything brash. “Perhaps the captain has appropriate papers,” Gillings suggested quietly, thinking there was no way this was the case judging by the wide variety of colors and styles worn by the impromptu boarding party. Gillings was not prepared for the captain’s quick glance. He not only had good ears, he had admirably quick ones, as well. “Yes,” intoned Thackery imperiously, “I presume you have papers to warrant this… unexpected visit.” Both men were shocked at the captain’s answer. “Of course,” said Flynn, and produced his Queen’s Writ. Thackery stepped forward and examined it. He was speechless. Then he composed himself and said the shrewdest thing he would say all day. “You will, of course, want to present this to our first officer.” Captain Flynn smiled and mock-bowed. “Of course.” Gillings had no clue as to the importance of the writ, but was beginning to have his own doubts about a great many other things, including the efficacy of his black powder pistol hastily issued when he was pulled out of class and set aboard the ship in the twilight of the day. It smacked of last minute desperation, and he was not as confident as he had been earlier in the evening. And so it was that as Captain Flynn approached, Ensign Miu Gillings stepped forward. “Captain, allow me to present you this firearm so you may have arms befitting your office while onboard this special ship.” Captain Flynn stopped, sized Gillings up quickly, and accepted the firearm with a sly grin. Flynn bobbed his head in respect and followed Thackery. For his part, Gillings promised himself he would make himself scarce before such time as that weapon was ever discharged for the good of everyone involved, but mostly for himself. If the Navy didn’t have his best interests at heart, he would. # Flynn thought that the officer in charge of the deck was clearly barely capable to be in charge of his bowels, much less a ship like this, although the young ensign would bear watching. Flynn accepted the pistol he offered, but presented it to Bola as soon as he could. She seemed surprised but pleased at the gift. Flynn beckoned her to tilt her head, and he whispered to her, “Should you need to use this pistol, remember where it came from.”

Pg. 26
Flynn turned and addressed the crew with him. “Remember,” he said in a warm, low voice to those assembled on the deck, “no killing. I want this ship in one piece, and I want these sailors alive when they disembark.” “Cap’n, about that? How do we de-louse her,” asked Humble. Not to be outdone, Bola hastened to add, “...and what do we do with the sailors?” Everyone looked back at her. The captain grinned. “Follow my lead,” he said, and gestured with his sword for Thackery and Gillings to lead the way. “The bulk of the crew is not expected to board until tomorrow, sorry, later today, but there is a skeleton crew here tonight. Bola, you’re in charge of collecting weapons. Chain, you and Mr. Humble are with me. Mr. Pitt, you take Eggplant and make a tour of the upper deck. When you find the pilot’s wheel in the main deckhouse, you can leave him there and then situate yourself at the top of the stairs. I’m going to do something that will persuade the current crew to come up the stairs. When they do, please show them to the starboard. All set? Let’s go.” They spread out as directed, Mr. Pitt and Eggplant walking around the port side to the aft and everyone else making their way to the steps as directed. Once there, Captain Flynn stopped Thackery and Gillings. “Here’s what we’re going to do—the object here is to have a simple discussion with the ranking officer onboard. There may be a little excitement as we explain the nature of our command on this vessel tonight, but I’ve left strict orders that nobody is to be intentionally injured.” And then he grinned. One could be excused

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook
for mistaking that as a feral expression. “Mr. Thackery, please go below and present this report to your first lieutenant: ‘Captain Cooper Flynn is here to accept control of this vessel, and has, in his possession, a Queen’s Writ.’ Can you do that?” Deck Officer Thackery nodded stiffly and descended the steps. Ensign Gillings made to follow him, but was stopped by a gentle touch on his arm. “It might be better for your career if you stayed up here. Here comes Mr. Pitt. You can stand behind him and monitor the, uh, ‘transfer of power.’” # Ensign Gillings saluted and did as he was bidden, curious as to the gentle concern in the captain’s demeanor. He found himself trusting this man’s word even as he distrusted the motivations of his superiors. He then found himself marveling that saluting this captain seemed so natural compared to the effort required to salute Officer Thackery. And so it was that Ensign Gillings was considering these mysteries when the first lieutenant and eight sailors came boiling up out of the hold of the ship. First up out of the stairwell, the lieutenant had his coat unbuttoned and was without his wig. From the look on his face, it was clear that he cared nothing at all for the legal intricacies of the writ. “Secure this deck,” he bellowed, and ran straight at Captain Flynn, Chain, and Humble with sword raised. “Uh uh,” said the young captain conversationally. Flynn ducked under the first vicious swing, stepped to the side, and tripped the first lieutenant, who stumbled and fell to the deck. He rolled over and nearly hit his head on the forward capstan situated squarely in the middle of the topside foredeck. Gillings saw the first crewman clear the stairs as he reached the deck. He no sooner stepped on-deck when his arm was seized from behind with a viselike grip, and he was propelled to the edge of the deck and launched over the starboard rail before he could even set his feet. Gillings rushed over to the railing. He saw that the crewman just had time to get his arms out in front of him, and then he was driven deep into the water facing the dock. These guys were the genuine article. # Mr. Pitt turned back to the stairwell before the first crewman even hit the water. He worked quickly: grab, propel, throw, repeat. From below, it must have looked like it was raining sailors. The first lieutenant rolled to his feet by the capstan and came up snarling. He saw the great shadowy figure of Mr. Pitt catapult a crewman over the rail and charged, only to be met again by Captain Flynn. Flynn met his sword with a solid stroke— tremendous sparks crackled as their blades met, blinding the officer. The first officer withdrew his sword in shock. Captain Flynn drew himself up and gave a jaunty mock salute. “I am at your service, Ven, if you will comport yourself as a gentlemen.

Pg. 27
However, if you insist on speaking as warriors, I remain at your service.” The two men stared at each other, Flynn wearing a lazy smile, the first lieutenant engulfed in a cold rage. Bola had been cut off from the action at the front of the ship and was practically dancing with barely restrained desire to join the fray. Observing the stalemate, she stepped forward and aimed the pistol at the commander’s shoulder at point blank range. She pulled the trigger. The gun fired with a concussive boom but had with no other observable effect. The first lieutenant spun around at the sudden roar, and Bola met his sword slash with a hastilyproduced dagger. She stopped one slice, then another, before grunting with impatience. She flipped the pistol in air, stepped forward, smoothly grabbed the barrel of the gun mid-air, and smote the first lieutenant strongly on the side of the head with the butt of the useless musket pistol. The first lieutenant went down to one knee on the deck, dazed, and then found himself propelled toward the port side of the ship. Captain Flynn barked, “Bola, no!” but the first lieutenant was launched overboard to port. Bola turned and assumed a stance, her head thrown back and her fists poised on her hips. “Ha!” she exulted. Captain Flynn sprinted forward with surprising acceleration and launched himself overboard into the night, hard after the stunned and falling officer.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook
# Flynn plummeted toward the dock, stretching his right arm forward with all his might. He caught up to the falling first lieutenant and his chest slammed into the back of the falling man. Flynn reached around the officer’s chest with his right arm while slapping the big circle on his own chest pack with his left. He got his left arm around and grasped the officer’s wrist as the skypack kicked in. It was a very near thing. And so it was that the sailors who climbed the ladder up onto the dock saw the stunned figure of their first lieutenant drift down in the embrace of Captain Cooper Flynn. Flynn released the officer into their stunned embrace, said “Hello boys, take care of this for me, won’t you,” hit the ground lightly, and vaulted back up into the night air. # It was bedlam up onboard. Bola stood her ground with arms crossed and the others appeared to be grilling Chain about what would happen if one were to, say, dive overboard in one of his anti-grav packs. “Theoretically, it should work,” he was saying, “but we haven’t tested that. There are so many things we just didn’t have time to try.” And then the captain dropped nimbly back down onto the deck for the second time that night. “Never fear, Chain,” he said. “Your gadgets work as advertised. The weight of two men was more than my skypack could handle to sustain positive buoyancy, but it was enough to gradually halt our fall before we hit the dock.” “Dock?” Bola. “Yes,” said Captain Flynn, turning to meet her gaze, suddenly wide with realization. He clapped her on her right shoulder and winked as he passed by. Mr. Pitt caught Flynn’s eye as he approached. Flynn saw him look where Ensign Gillings stood rooted in place and nodded his head once in acknowledgment. Flynn changed his path and walked up to Gillings. Flynn stood in front of Gillings as the dawn began to break over the Ensign’s shoulder. “What’s your name, sailor?” “Ensign Gillings, Ven.” Flynn nodded and looked him in the eye. “Mr. Gillings, I’m going aft to help cast off. Before I go, I want to tell you something. I’ve watched you ever since I came aboard. I like how you handle yourself. You’re quick on your feet, you have a good heart, and you love the queen, but not necessarily the grinding regulations that perforce extend from those who serve in her Navy.” Flynn walked over to the railing and took in the predawn spectacle of their position over the ocean. “I’m going to give you a choice,” he said. “You’re a sharp young man. You know, as I do, that there is much going on here, more than either of us has been told. You know more about this ship right now than many of my own crew. If you stick around, you will have a protected place on my crew.” Flynn turned around and leaned back against the rail. “I give

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you the word of Cooper Flynn that I will never lie to you or put you in the way of any harm that I wouldn’t face myself. I have to trust you will accept my word that despite appearances on this night, I do have the Queen’s graces in this, our endeavor. If you stay with us for one week, I think you’ll come to appreciate how vital our mission is, and how your service to the Crown will be more effective with me than your former duty was. In addition, you will be able to continue your time aboard this magnificent vessel.” Flynn patted the railing. “You don’t have to answer now, and I promise you I will answer any questions I can after we are underway. If you decide to go, I will not hold it against you. However, I would consider it a personal honor if you would agree to stay.” He strode forward and clapped Gillings firmly on the shoulder. “The choice is yours, Mr. Gillings,” he said simply, and strode off toward the rear of the ship, barking out orders. As he left, his shadow disappeared from in front of Gillings. The sun break over the horizon at that moment, bathing Gillings’ face with cheerful light and radiant warmth. Gillings smiled. He unbuttoned his ensign’s jacket and dropped it on the deck. Then he wheeled on his heel and strode past Mr. Pitt and clattered down the stairs. He reappeared with Officer Thackery in tow, and presented Thackery to the captain at the aft. “Ven, here we are,” said Gillings. The captain looked over at him and cocked his head. “Mr. Gillings?” “Lieutenant Thackery was just leaving,”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 13, Aloft! by Johne Cook
he said, and he smiled. Gillings turned to face Thackery. “I’ll take your jacket, Ven,” he said, addressing the officer of the watch. “My jacket?” wondered Thackery as he worked one arm out of the heavy garment and then the other. “Yes, Ven,” said Gillings, “out of respect for your swimming ability.” Gillings saluted Thackery, grasped Thackery by his collar and belt, and pitched the dandy officer over the railing. He clapped his hands together as if removing something dirty. He saw Bola approach. “That’s starboard,” Gillings said as he passed Bola. Then, whistling, he went aft to help cast off. # Casting off first appeared like it was going to be a tricky affair because the ship was securely tethered to the dock below, especially when it became apparent that the first officer had recovered his wits and was, even now, sending armed sailors scrambling up the tether lines. “Captain Flynn, they’re coming back up,” reported Humble, morosely. “And they’re armed,” purred Bola, squaring her shoulders and checking her various weapons. The captain strode casually to the rail and looked over the edge, leaning on the rail with folded arms. “Well, look at that. So they are. You there!” he called. “We showed our authorization to take command of this ship with your first officer, and we’ll be leaving now. You’ll turn around and slither back down to the dock if you’re smart.” He was rewarded with one sailor doing just as he suggested while another stopped where he was, torn between duty and an apparent desire not to take another plunge, however, two others kept right on climbing. The captain looked at Mr. Pitt. “Well, that’s about what I expected.” He raised his voice. “Chain,” he said, “cant her to starboard right now if you please. Everyone else may want to hang onto something.” Chain didn’t waste any time and smoothly cranked her over. From the dock, it looked like the ship rolled to its right, drawing the tether lines taut and ensuring the angle of the lines positioned the climbing sailors out over the water. “Bola,” he said, “will you do me the honor to help me out here?” Flynn brandished his sword and positioned himself by the middle tether line. Bola never missed an opportunity to draw her sword, and this was no exception. It was clear she had no clue what she was going to do with her sword, but by Cyl, she had it out, and her eyes were fairly dancing. “When I count to three... “ started Flynn, who immediately thought better of where he was going with that. “Belay that. When I say ‘Now,’ I want you to start cutting the tether ropes.” Flynn tested the edge of his sword with his thumb. “I can cut through mine in four solid strokes—see if you can surpass me.” She nodded her head and found the nearest tether. “Ready?”

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Bola started to answer, and Flynn said “Now!” slicing down on his tether. As promised, he was through in four whacks. Bola’s intensity was fierce, however, and she polished off the bow tether in three great strokes. Her man had already beaten a retreat but Flynn’s was just reconsidering sliding back down when his rope went slack in his hands and he fell thirty feet into the water. She moved to the next tether and Captain Flynn nodded in her direction. She nodded back, waiting, and Flynn said “Uh, now!” Bola separated this line in two mighty strokes and sheathed her sword, grinning with triumph. Captain Flynn tossed off a half salute to her and watched the bow of the ship drift away to starboard, drawing the final aft rope even further out at an angle. Flynn strode quickly to the final tether and looked over the rail. He met the eyes of the burly sailor with the blade in his teeth, who was climbing furiously to the top. “Take care of that first lieutenant of yours,” Flynn called to the sailor. “He’s a keeper.” And then Flynn raised his sword high in the air, and the sunlight glinted brightly off the filigreed blade. Flynn activated the stud on the hilt, and his sword to sparked and danced with energy. He brought it down and sliced through the tether with one enormous stroke, separating the tether with a bang as loud as a small cannon, leaving the sword buried deeply in the wood rail.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

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

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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
The Story so Far: Three years ago, Takeda Croster woke up in the city of Greendome on the colony world of Belar  with no memories, no connections, and no possessions aside from the clothes he was wearing and an Imperial citizenship card  with his name on it. He worked at the Silver  Sun Casino, ignored by most, until one night  when he began to manifest superhuman powers in a fight against two corrupt cops: enhanced senses, great strength, lightningfast reactions. He seriously injured both  cops. Strange dreams and a feeling of great  exhaustion followed the encounter. Takeda now travels with the Lithrallian  hunter Zartsi, who saved his life after he  fled into the jungles of Belar, and the Vitai Rover Esheera Nii, who granted them  passage for nothing more than a little money and their life stories. Now, following a torturous journey across the burning deserts of Nihil after being shot down by the alien assassin Lashiir, Takeda and his companions arrive at the  colony of Hope’s End only to discover that  all the inhabitants have been slaughtered  and devoured, apparently by the deadly  predators called Walking Evils that stalk  Nihil’s desert...
Takeda sat with his back to the unpainted wall of the governor’s office, using the scarf to wrap around his head as a makeshift pillow. He

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

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was more exhausted than he had ever been, tired in body, mind, and soul. The thought of rest and rescue in the colony had kept him on his feet all across the hot deserts of Nihil. But now...it seemed every human on Nihil was dead, without leaving behind anything but empty houses and smears of blood. Some of them showed signs of being...licked. Zartsi was giving his rifle a thorough cleaning, disassembling the weapon down to individual plates and screws. Dust and sand had infiltrated nearly every part of it during their desperate trek. Esheera, meanwhile, had set up the governor’s computer after finding it on its side in one corner of the room. Her fingers tapped the keyboard as she squatted in on the floor, eyes fixed on the screen. “Poor security,” she said, clucking softly. “These passwords are amateurish.” “You’re a hacker too?” Takeda asked. She shrugged. “Most of my people know their way around a computer, some better than others. My father Eshmauk always told me that a Rover should be able to hack any computer he or she needs to. Never know when you’ll need to rip out everything some human knows.” She hammered more keys, then said, “I guess he didn’t have anything really worth hiding.” A squeaking sound filled the room as Zartsi

shoved a scrap of oiled cloth down his rifle barrel with a rod of steel he had picked up in the refinery. “What look for?” he hissed. “The obvious. I want to see if anyone is still alive and, if so, where they’re hiding.” “There must be some people still at the mines,” Takeda muttered. Esheera flipped between pages of information on the screen. “I hope so, Takeda, but you’ll notice that there aren’t any Evils here, either.” The silence stretched on for over a minute before Zartsi said, “I didn’t know hunted in packs.” “They don’t,” Takeda said. “Not usually. And it would have taken a huge pack to do this. These people had weapons—lots of them.” Five minutes later, Esheera grunted. “Here it is. A series of orders issued by the governor to the mines. He asked for reinforcements about three days ago, then told the north mine he was going to try and get all the survivors together into a train and evacuate them there. Just a sec. Yep, the grid shows a train missing from the north terminal. Unless we find it wrecked in the desert, someone got out of here.” “Does...it say what happened?” Takeda asked. Her words came slowly. “Apparently,” she said, “fifty or sixty Evils attacked just after

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon
sunset. Bullets don’t punch far into them and they can keep running with a hundred slugs in them. And once they got past the walls...it doesn’t sound like the guns did much good.” “Evils have armor,” Takeda said. “They don’t burrow, so when a storm comes through, they need it to survive. And they don’t...I don’t think they’re easy to kill. Not many critical organs.” “Doesn’t surprise me,” Esheera said. “I’d be pretty surprised if there was anything on this piece of dry crap that was easy to kill.” She clicked more keys. “Yep, I thought so. These colonists weren’t interested in keeping records while Evils were attacking the gates— can’t say I blame ‘em—and there’s not much in here except official documents, cargo lists, production reports, and private messages from months ago.” She looked up over the screen. “Tak, you seem to know something about those things, so I’ll ask you this: is there any evidence that Evils hunt in packs?” “Not...not before this. Not that I know of. But there hasn’t been much research done on any of Nihil’s species. There’s probably dozens of major life forms which no one’s ever seen.” “Right,” Esheera said. “So they didn’t have any idea what was coming until fifty of the things showed up one night.” “I think so,” Takeda said, shaking his head. He heard a faint hiss from Zartsi which he interpreted as a chuckle. “Hunters who underestimate beast are not alive for hunting long,” he said. “True enough,” Esheera said. “But they had walls and enough bullets to choke a wormhole. You think you could kill one Evil?” Zartsi had to consider the question for a moment. “In honesty,” he hissed, “I do not know. But I hope I get chance to try.” “Be careful what you wish for. There’s fifty of them stomping around out there.” Zartsi’s smile chilled Takeda, and he saw a flash of something hot and angry in the bright blue of the Lithrallian’s eyes. “I am not so afraid of death’s peace,” Zartsi said. He and Esheera exchanged a glance that Takeda couldn’t interpret. The Rover broke it quickly and returned her eyes to the monitor. She examined a few more screens worth of information, then sat back, shaking her hair so that flecks of glistening sand fell to the floor. “I need sleep,” she said. “And some food. I think both of you would be best off if you joined me.” Takeda shook his head. “I just want to find an intact bed without any blood on the sheets.” “You do that,” she said. “I think there’s one on the first floor you could use. Don’t leave the building if you can avoid it—the colony would be a big place to have to look for you in.” Zartsi had begun reassembling his rifle, turning the screws with a small tool he kept in a sealed pocket of his armor. Takeda watched him for a moment longer, then stood up and shambled out of the room. “Good sleep, Tak,” Esheera said, giving him a warm smile.

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He smiled back, but couldn’t muster any warmth. “You too.” Takeda dropped into a deep sleep the moment his head fell against the pillow. # There was a clock on the table next to Takeda’s bed. He spent about thirty seconds groping for it before his fingers touched hard plastic, then pulled it in towards him and lifted his head to look at the display. The clock looked as if it was configured for a day slightly under twenty-three hours long. It was two o’clock in the afternoon—he had slept for...almost ten hours. It had still been dark when he had fallen asleep. Now, fierce Nihil sunlight stabbed in through the room’s tiny window, tinted a faint red. Takeda stared up at the blank concrete ceiling and tried to decide whether to close his eyes and go back to sleep. He felt tired enough for at least another ten hours. But it felt oddly wrong to lie here, sleeping away an entire day, in a place where such a massacre had occurred less than three days ago. He still wondered if there might be an Evil or two lurking somewhere, waiting until the colonists were digested before seeking further prey. And he had been plagued with nightmares. They would return if he slept again. He sat up slowly, stiff in his filthy clothes. Aches plagued him, lingering pains from the crash and the journey. This had probably been some administrator’s room—its only contents were a small desk with a cheap aluminum chair

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon
in front of it, the bed, the bedside table, a plastic dresser, and a shelf of books containing both digital and bound volumes. They looked like technical manuals and ledgers with a handful of poetry collections thrown in. He recognized a couple names: Coleridge and Milton, along with newer writers and what looked like a set of Drava works in translation. Takeda wondered if the man who had lived here had escaped, or if every piece of him—from bones to clothing— was now digesting in an Evil’s stomach. Only when Takeda threw off the covers and planted his boots on the floor did he realize how hungry he was. He couldn’t remember the last time he had chewed up one of Esheera’s dry ration bars. The kitchen was easy to find, just down the hall from the room he had slept in. Takeda stepped in to find Esheera sitting at one of the tables, eating heartily from several plates of food, along with a pitcher of something that looked like lemonade and another of coffee. The smells of beef, warm bread, some kind of noodles with sauce and cheese, and dried fruit filled Takeda’s nostrils. “Sleep well, Tak?” she asked, waving a fork. It looked as if she had washed her hair—most of the sand had vanished and her beads glistened. “Yeah,” he said. “Nightmares, though. Always nightmares.” “About...what happened here?” “I don’t know. I can barely remember them.” She waved to the food in front of her. “Help yourself. I’m not going to stop feeding you just because I lost the Seer.” Takeda sat and poured himself coffee and. “Isn’t this a lot?” Esheera chewed her way through a mouthful of steak and pushed plates towards Takeda. “I figured I may as well make a good meal—never know when I’m going to get the next one. I found this in a freeze locker the Evils didn’t crack open. Too tight for any smells to get out, I think.” Takeda grabbed an empty plate and filled it with steak, bread, and everything else on the table. The coffee was bad, but it had been so long since he had tasted the stuff that he didn’t care. The rest of the food tasted much, much better than any packaged ration, and it was still warm—which was all that mattered. “Where’s Zartsi?” he said, through a mouthful of bread. “He decided—on his own, I note—to go check out the northern platform, see if there was any way for us to follow the tracks. Or any other stray vehicles.” “He ate?” “Sparingly. I’ll save something.” Takeda put down his fork and frowned. “It seems...wrong, to be eating like this. In a colony where everyone’s dead.” Esheera shrugged. “There’s nothing I can do for them, and this is something I can do for both of us. Eat up.” Takeda did, but a bit more slowly. He

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could see that the colony had not been a cheerful place, with its plastic furniture and unadorned concrete buildings, but now it was a city of ghosts and empty rooms, painted only with bloodstains and empty bullet casings. Somehow the lack of bodies or remains of any kind made it worse. At least then he would have something solid to focus his horror on rather than a nebulous fear of beasts he had never seen. “There aren’t any ships, are there?” “As far as I can tell, there’s one hangar in Hope’s End, and it’s just down the hall and up two flights from here. If there were any ships there, someone’s already taken them and kissed this sandy rock goodbye.” “So we’re stranded,” Takeda said, taking a half-hearted gulp of lemonade. It had been sweet at first, but this second glass was cloying. She shrugged and smiled very faintly. “It’s nothing new, is it? We’ve just traded up for a more comfortable version.” She pulled two chocolate bars out of her pocket and tossed one to Takeda. She unwrapped hers and bit into it, but all he could do was stare at the label. “More comfortable, maybe...but less certain. Before we thought we just had to get to Hope’s End and then we’d be safe.” He slowly pulled the plastic wrapper off the chocolate. “I was an idiot to think I could ever be safe. Lashiir’s still out there somewhere. Vass too, I think. And who knows how many other people want me dead.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon
Esheera demolished her bar in two more bites. She chewed slowly on the second one, swallowed, and said, “It’s probably occurred to you that your deal with me is over. I’ve delivered you to Hope’s End, relatively intact.” Takeda dropped his eyes and sighed. “Yeah. You’re right. Thank you, Esheera.” “Just Esh is fine,” she said. “And you’re welcome. But wipe that expression off your face, okay, Tak? We’ll be sticking together at least until we find a way off this planet.” Takeda was surprised by how he felt. The thought of never seeing again—of having her vanish from his the people he had left behind on brought a wave of sadness over him. He smiled. “That’s great.” “And you mind if I tell you something else, Tak? I don’t think I’m breaking Zartsi’s trust, and you probably know this already. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that Lithrallian would follow you into the Hot Nothing, wrestle the Swallower for you, and give you one of its horns as a souvenir.” Takeda could feel his smile become grimmer. “I think you’re right. And I’m still confused about that. I...he saved my life, and then he seems to have decided to stick with me and keep doing it.” He tapped his fingers on the table. They had probably only eaten half of the food Esheera had prepared, but he felt stuffed—slightly too stuffed. “You could probably tell me more about that,” he said. relieved Esheera life, like Belar— Esheera shook her head. “Sorry, Tak. That’s territory I can’t cross into.” “Good,” Zartsi growled. “Is meat cold?” Takeda swiveled to see the Lithrallian leaning against the kitchen doorway, rifle slung over his shoulders and daggers in their scabbards. The expression on his reptilian face was, as always, difficult to read, but his blue eyes gleamed fiercely. “Cool,” Esheera said, picking up the plate and holding it out, “but I don’t think that’ll stop you.” Zartsi took it and stuffed a whole steak into his mouth. Juices dribbled from between his teeth and down his lower jaw. When he swallowed at last, he said, “I told you weeks ago, Takeda. I helped because you needed. What more is to know?” Takeda shook his head slightly and nibbled another chunk off the candy bar he still clutched. “Nothing, I guess,” he said. Zartsi hooked a stool with one boot and sat down on it. He ate ravenously, until he had emptied the plate, and then drank lukewarm coffee straight from its pot. Takeda hadn’t ever seen him drink the stuff before, but he had heard that most Lithrallians liked it as much as humans did, if not more so. “Find anything out there besides dust and streets as quiet as a Drava wedding?” Esheera asked. Zartsi nodded. “Two things, one thing not. First, there are no ships—landing area and loading docks for refined ore loading onto

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freighters, but no hangers besides one here, and no ships.” “So what is here? Did you scrounge up more Evil parts?” Zartsi smiled. “Those would be no value unless I killed. But no. Tracks at north gate are intact. Train is gone, but I saw smaller cars which run on same tracks.” Takeda nodded. “And those tracks will take us to the colonists?” “And, I’d guess, to enough Evils to tear through an Imperial Legion,” Esheera said, sipping lemonade. “Not to mention three sandy wanderers.” Zartsi nodded. “If any colonists live, yes.” Esheera shoved her glass away. “All right, then. If both of you boys are stuffed, we’ve got something to decide, the sooner the better. Do we stay here, with all the comforts of an abandoned home, or do we try to join the colonists where they’re hiding?” Takeda tapped his fingers against the tabletop, thinking. He wished he didn’t have to. It would have been good just to spend a week or two, sleeping and eating Esheera’s cooking, seeing what books he could dig up, and not worrying about anything at all. But he knew how absurd that was as soon as the thought came to him. There could be no rest for him, not as far as he could see. “Esh,” he said. “Remind me. Did they send a distress signal off-planet?” She thought for a moment. “Yes. As soon as the Evils began their attack, the administrator

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon
sent word to the Nihil Company’s headquarters on Coalstone—that’s where the freighters come from. They ship the metal to where it actually gets used. With the comm equipment here...I’m thinking the first signal should have arrived during the night, the most recent by a couple hours ago. At the very least, the Coalies are throwing their butts in gear. Can’t guarantee they’ve actually hit black yet.” “So would the rescue ships go to the mine?” “Unless there’s something here they want to salvage, I’d assume yes. The last message out included the evacuation plan.” “So...if we want to get off this planet, ever, I think we’d better be where ships are going to show up.” “Well put, Tak,” she said, “and I’m inclined to agree. Company ships wouldn’t be eager to sweep out this way just to pick up three smelly travelers who don’t have any business in this oven anyway.” She turned to Zartsi. “What do you think?” Zartsi caressed the hilt of one dagger, softly. “There is other thing,” he said. “Is another being in colony.” Esheera licked her lips. “You mean an Evil?” “No. Human, I think. Found fresh piss on way to station, then saw him from distance. Tried to catch up but lost him. He carried rifle.” Takeda opened his mouth, but Zartsi waved him down. “And wore black. No doubt to me who is.” “Lashiir?” Takeda asked, feeling a sudden chill even in the warm kitchen. The Lithrallian shook his head. “No. If Lashiir he would have found us. I think is one of Lashiir’s men, left behind to watch for us, now bored and patrolling streets.” Esheera stood. Plates rattled. “That’s good enough for Esh. I’d rather take my chances with the Evils than your Clordite.” Zartsi agreed—somewhat reluctantly, Takeda thought—and they spent fifteen minutes filling three backpacks with supplies and ammunition. They found a small weapons locker which hadn’t been completely ransacked. Esheera took an eight-shot revolver, and Takeda left with an extra pistol, similar in manufacture to the one he was carrying, and ten full magazines. Zartsi took nothing—only his rifle, for which he still had a substantial sack of cartridges, and his daggers. Esheera left the remains of their meal on the table. “If anyone ever comes back here, they’re going to be too busy to gripe about me not washing up,” she said, downing a last gulp of lukewarm coffee. # Walking through the dusty streets of Hope’s End was like traveling over a griddle, and Takeda felt as if he was indeed being cooked. A night and morning spent indoors, in the shade with a bed, had spoiled him, and he had almost forgotten the sheer blasting heat of the red sun. More than ever it was impressed

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upon him that Nihil had never been meant for human habitation. They were far north from the equator, and he suspected that Nihil was in its cooler season. Further south human habitation would be impossible. Here it was barely possible with large quantities of money and constant off-world support. Esheera carried her revolver in one hand and moved at a quick lope that Takeda had trouble matching, his legs burning with every step. He didn’t need one night of rest. He needed a week, two weeks. But he kept a gun in his own hand and kept up as well as he could. Zartsi was out of sight, moving through the alleyways and across the flat rooftops. His hope was that Lashiir’s man would spot Takeda and Esheera, then make himself visible in some way, either attempting to kill them or to contact Lashiir. Then Zartsi would take him by surprise and kill him. Still, Takeda had a round chambered in his gun. He felt too exhausted to do more than enhance scent, hearing, and sight slightly. He could smell Zartsi well enough to determine his general distance and area, although hundreds of other odors—including ones from his own body and Esheera’s—distracted him. Hope’s End wasn’t overly large—probably not much more than a mile in diameter. The wall grew closer as they walked, and he thought he could see the gate, open to the desert, and the tracks passing through it. Takeda flicked his eyes from side to side. If they could get out without being noticed, all the better. Suddenly, Zartsi roared, and Takeda heard a gun—not Zartsi’s—discharge, off to his left side. He spun, snapping his pistol up to a firing

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon
position. At the same time, he backed up, going for cover on the opposite side of the street—he didn’t want to be exposed if guns were out. Esheera had her revolver gripped in both hands and retreated with him. Takeda reached the shelter of a doorway, with a sheet of steel hanging above to keep the sun off. He thought Esheera was somewhere to his left, perhaps in the alleyway. The scent of hot dust filled his nostrils, blocking out almost everything else. He could hear only silence. Then Zartsi’s voice shouted, “Dead! Come out!” Takeda lowered his pistol and put one foot out into the sunlight. He had lifted the other foot, shifted his weight forward for the step, when he faintly heard the click of a bullet sliding into its chamber. His head was out in the fierce sunlight the instant he realized what it was. A gun above him. Not Zartsi or Esheera. Terror gave him fresh energy. 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 that 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 saw blood, smelled hints of it in the air. It was a second more before pain came, and even then it was oddly dulled. 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 or Esheera. Takeda threw himself out into the sunlight. Fire lanced through him as his wounded foot struck the ground, spurting blood. He went down into a roll that carried him into the middle of the street. Takeda came up with his gun aimed at the rooftop. But he could only watch as a figure cloaked in black came rolling off the rooftop and into the air, entangled with a dull red figure in a worn sweater. Esheera came down on top when they hit the street. A gloved fist punched for her nose, but she turned it away with a blow from her forearm and smashed the heel of her other hand into the assassin’s chin. His head snapped back, leaving his throat stretched out and exposed. Takeda could only watch as Esheera expertly slashed veins on both sides of the man’s jaw with a small knife she had been concealing in the palm of her other hand. “You all right, Tak?” she asked as she stood, covered in a fresh layer of dust. Then she looked down at his foot, spouting blood, and said, “Sorry I asked. Can you get the shoe off?” He had pulled it halfway off when the pain hit him. He screamed and jerked the shoe all the way off, then slumped back to the street. It felt hot against his back. Esheera gingerly touched it. Takeda clenched his teeth, biting back another howl.

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Esheera snorted loudly. “Wish I had got the bastard sooner. Second toe and a lot of the flesh around it is gone. Bone savaged too.” “Apologies, Takeda,” Zartsi hissed, softly, from somewhere to his left. “I thought was only one. Should have been more careful.” “I got him,” Esheera said. “Injured, though— his shooting was off. Almost makes me feel bad about it.” “Both dead?” Takeda grated between clenched teeth. “Yes,” Zartsi hissed. “Then let’s get moving.” “Aye, aye, Tak,” Esheera said, “but I’m going to slap something on this before you bleed to death. Zartsi, beat your butt and see if any of these houses has anything he could use as a crutch.” She ran off to retrieve her pack from the alleyway where she had dropped it while Zartsi hissed something in Lithrallian under his breath. Takeda just clenched his teeth and bled. # Fifteen minutes later Takeda sat in a hard seat molded out of dull yellow plastic with his foot resting on an identical seat opposite. Esheera had bandaged it with a first-aid kit she had pulled out of the colony’s supplies, and strapped a piece of solid foam across his remaining toes to make walking slightly less painful. Zartsi had found a simple broom, which Takeda had used as a walking stick with his

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon
other arm around the Lithrallian’s shoulders. He felt the railcar hum as its hovercoils powered up. Takeda could also hear Zartsi and Esheera up in the driver’s cab, arguing over some aspect of the vehicle’s controls. The operating protocol seemed to be foreign to both of them. The vehicle finally began to slide forward. Buildings rolled away outside the window as they moved out the gate. Well-maintained hover technology made the ride surprisingly smooth. They went through the colony’s wall, and then Takeda saw, once again, dunes of pale brown sand rolling off to the horizon. The car was air-conditioned, but the very sight of them filled Takeda with despair. He could only pray that he’d be able to defend himself with the end of his foot shot off. Zartsi came back, disgust written on his face, and sat down on one of the remaining seats. “Let Rover do it,” he growled. The vehicle continued its journey across the empty sands. Takeda counted two junctions, and occasionally he saw colored markers. As they continued, he saw a range of tall, jagged mountains stretching from north to south as far as he could see. Five minutes after that, he saw his first Evil. It stood sixty feet away from the track, a tower of black and blood-red armor framed against the dark blue of Nihil’s sky. Takeda got only a flash of it before it vanished beyond the small window’s edge: Arms hanging at its sides, head curled down against its torso, with a fragile fan extended to shield it from the sun. The thing must have been nine feet tall. “Esheera,” Takeda said. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” “No,” she hissed back, sounding more terrified than he had ever heard her. That alone chilled Takeda. “But they look like they’re sleeping.” Two more passed in front of the window. Takeda thought he saw one turn, pivoting at the hip, as they rushed past. He caught a flash of eyes—yawning plates the color of the sand— before the car moved on. His hand crept down to one of the pistols holstered at his sides. His senses began to heighten—he felt tiny jolts in the vehicle’s motion, smelled Esheera’s sweat on the controls, heard each hovercoil’s individual hum. Takeda thought about standing to see better, but the pain in his foot dissuaded him. The mountains came closer every minute. But he saw another Evil, watched it take a single step forward. He fought down panic. The sun still had hours to go. The beasts couldn’t stir yet. Evils were nocturnal. He stood, putting most of his weight on his uninjured foot. The pain hardly bothered him—he had been through a lifetime of it since leaving Belar. He pressed his face against the tiny window. The Evils they had passed were walking after them with a loping gait. Their legs were double-jointed and their torsos and arms remained rigid as they strode. Takeda shuddered. These beasts had annihilated an entire colony. Dozens of them remained, like idols carved from black rock. “The gates are closed,” Esheera hissed. “Damn.”

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Zartsi stood and slid into the cockpit. For a moment, Takeda’s eyes met the expressionless gaze of one of the Evils. Its eyes lacked even the predatory ferocity of a tiger or wolf—they were blank. If Takeda hadn’t known better, he would have thought the creature was blind. “Nihil colonists,” Esheera said—broadcasting, Takeda thought. “Nihil colonists, open the gates, or we’re Evil bait.” Takeda watched as one of the beasts spread its four arms. Every one was tipped with a crimson stinger the size of a ripe melon. He could see muscle straining against the black chitin plates covering their arms. “Open the doors,” Esheera hissed. “We’re going to die out here. Open the doors!” An Evil barely fifty feet away took a single step that covered at least ten of those feet. The vehicle had slowed now, as Esheera braked to avoid crashing into the shield doors closing off the mine’s rail entrance. Takeda glanced out the front windshield. A few hundred feet to go. Other Evils were shambling to meet them. “I wonder,” Zartsi said, “if I will be able to kill single one.” “Black stars bite your asses, colonists, come in!” Esheera’s voice came back. The intricacy of the Evils’ armor astounded Takeda. Each one of the hundreds of plates was fitted perfectly with the others, sliding and shifting as the beast moved. Its footsteps were smooth and graceful. The hot deserts of Nihil had produced a perfect killer. Fifty. Sixty. Seventy. Takeda couldn’t guess

Ray Gun Revival magazine

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Memory Wipe, Chapter 13, Evils of the Desert by Sean T. M. Stiennon
how many. In another few seconds all of them would descend on the small railcar, tearing it apart and pulling out the meat within. “You don’t have long,” a voice growled over the radio. Takeda glanced out the windshield to see the strome doors begin to roll back into the surrounding rock, exposing a dim opening. The railcar rocketed forward as Esheera growled something in her own language. Takeda stifled a cry as his weight was suddenly thrown onto his injured foot, but he caught himself on the wall and managed to stay upright. He slumped down onto his seat. The steel chassis rang as something struck it hard enough to leave a dent. Two more impacts followed in quick succession. Then darkness showed outside the window, and Takeda’s stomach lurched forward as Esheera braked hard. The hovercoils stilled, and the vehicle sank down onto the track. The vehicle’s door opened. Takeda could hear the mine doors grinding shut. There was another sound, too, so low it registered mostly as a reverberation in his bones. The snarls of the Evils outside. He stepped out the door, hobbling on his injured foot, and saw a last crack of daylight through the closing doors. For a moment Takeda saw a single Evil perfectly framed in the red-tinted sunlight, its legs moving like piston. The beast moved as fast as a jungle cat. Then the great doors boomed shut. They stood in a long, low cavern hacked out of dusty brown stone and illuminated by dim gray lights. The floor was rough. Takeda saw a loading dock against the back wall, with a boxy hovertrain pulled up to it. Another train was stopped just behind it. The cars displayed signs of a vicious attack: The steel was raked and torn, and Takeda saw some places where the Evils had ripped through entirely, leaving gaping rents. Zartsi and Esheera stepped out behind him. “How’s the foot?” Esheera asked. Takeda winced. “I can walk.” He heard a door rolling open, and for an instant he was terrified that the outside doors were opening, admitting the horde of Evils.... But no. A smaller door opened across the cavern. Five men stepped through, all of them wearing filthy mining uniforms. Their faces remained impassive as they walked across the chamber towards the newcomers. Every one carried weapons. One walked in front, a man with a closelyshaved scalp and fists like wrecking balls. A red prison tattoo slashed across his right cheek, and his eyes were hard gray. “Well, well,” he said, “A Lithrallian, a Vitai, and a human. Pretty diverse crew.” He thrust a grimy hand out to Takeda. “Name’s Law Krane.” Takeda took it and let Law crush his hand. “Takeda Croster.” Law repeated the ritual with each of the others. Then he stepped back, spreading his arms wide, and grinned expansively. “Takeda, Zartsi, and Esheera,” he shouted, “welcome to Hell!”

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Sean T. M. Stiennon
Sean is an author of fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories, with many publications  under  his  belt.  His  first  short  story  collection,  Six with Flinteye, was recently released from Silver Lake Publishing, and he  won  2nd  place  in  both  the  2004  SFReader. com Short Story Contest and the Storn Cook  Razor-Edged Fiction Contest with his stories  “Asp” and “The Sultan’s Well,”  respectively.  “The Sultan’s Well” has been published in the anthology Sages and Swords.  Sean’s  short story “Flinteye’s Duel” was published in Ray Gun Revival, Issue 01. Sean’s work tends to contain lots of action and  adventure, but he often includes elements of  tragedy and loss alongside roaring battles.  A  lot  of  his  work  centers  around  continuing  characters,  the  most  prominent  of  whom  is  Jalazar  Flinteye  (Six with Flinteye).  He  also  writes  tales  of  Shabak  of  Talon  Point  (“Death Marks,” in issue #9 of Amazing Journeys Magazine), Blademaster  (“Asp,” 2nd place winner in the 2004 SFReader.com Contest), and others who have yet to see publication. Sean  loves  to  read  fantasy  and  science  fiction  alongside  some  history,  mysteries,  and  historical  novels.  His  favorites  include Declare by Tim Powers, the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy  by  Tad  Williams,  Stephen  Lawhead’s  Song of Albion trilogy, and King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. He has reviewed  books for Deep Magic: The E-zine of High Fantasy and Science Fiction, and currently reviews books at SFReader.com. Issue 26, July 15, 2007

Next month...Chapter 14: Memory Rush

Ray Gun Revival magazine

The RGR Time Capsule
RGR Date: June 01, 2007

Pg. 39

Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
Battlestar Galactica prepares for final season
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1135

May 15 - July 14, 2007

unit and the field resonates with a receiver coil, inducing a current to flow through it. The energy-transfer system was more than powerful enough to run a laptop over room-sized distances. What is “The New Space Opera”

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The upcoming  fourth season of Sci Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galactica” will be its final one after all.

RGR Date: June 15, 2007

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  fourth season was a creative decision made by the  hit show’s executive producers Ronald Moore and  David Eick. “This show was always meant to have a beginning, a middle and, finally, an end,” Eick and  Moore said in a statement Thursday. “Over the  course of the last year, the story and the characters have been moving strongly toward that  end, and we’ve decided to listen to those internal  voices and conclude the show on our own terms.  And while we know our fans will be saddened to know the end is coming, they should brace themselves for a wild ride getting there—we’re going  out with a bang.” Wireless electricity

ings, at a Halloween party, I found myself staring at  his teeth with great unease. (He had commissioned a  dentist to make him a set of highly realistic vampire  vangs.)  When  he  encountered  a  young,  enthusiastic  Dracula fan who said that meeting him made this was  the most important day of her life, Fred replied, “Fortunately you are young, and have many days ahead  of you.”

The new space opera shares with the old the interstellar sweep of events and exotic locales, but  Dozois and Strahan’s all-original anthology shows  how the genre’s purveyors have updated it, with  rigorous science, well-drawn characters and excellent writing. Many of the 18 stories play with  the scope that characterizes classic space opera. <snip> The new space opera teaches us that despite the bizarre turns humanity may take to conquer these  outré  settings,  a  recognizable  core  of  humanity  remains. RGR Date: July 04, 2007
RIP Fred Saberhagen
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1227

RGR Date: June 08, 2007
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1154

The American inventor Nikola Tesla first drew up  plans for wireless electricity transfer a century ago, using huge coils to generate electromagnetic fields  but only managed a low level of power transfer.

Fred Saberhagen, author of the classic Berserker  novels, has died at of cancer the age of 77. Walter Jon WIlliams remembers Fred Saberhagen

During his final illness, Fred woke one morning after  having dreamed of chorizo eggs from a local restauThe 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  breakfast this morning.” One coil attached to a power source acts as a sender 
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1231

RGR Date: July 05, 2007

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 26, July 15, 2007

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