Issue 28

August 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: “Workships” by Alex Ruiz 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 The Walking Stick by Lawrence Buentello 9 No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch 18 Featured Artist: Alex Ruiz 21 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook 31 Memory Wipe, Chapter 14 Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon 42 The RGR Time Capsule August 1 - August 14, 2007

Rev: 20070815c

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Issue 28, August 15, 2007

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Overlords’ Lair
elcome Ray  Gun  Revival,  No Revolution Big Mike Stick by WContrarytospendingyou might haveIssue  28.  Fiction collides Is Toorealitybywhen aLynch alien The Walkingcreation Lawrence Buentellois too to what heard, I with cynical What if the of artificial genius have not been all my time vaporizing planets. Some I merely reduced in size, so their offers a failed writer the chance of a lifetime. local solar systems can reclassify them. We all Matt grabbed the sliding door handle and must have our little pleasures, mustn’t we? pulled it open, leaving just enough room for Returning to America from across the pond was him to slip through. As his left foot stepped sorrowful; I fell in love with a beautiful land onto the deck, the yard suddenly went and had to leave it behind. So it was exciting dark. to find this issue’s stories all ready for me. Nice Backing up against the glass, Matt to know Overlord Phy was busy during my instinctively raised his bat. “What in the absence, wading through the slushpile to look world is that?” To his astonishment, he saw for gems. I enjoyed reading them all. a strange looking object sitting in the middle Overlord’s Note: The Slushmasters slog through  of the yard. It was smooth, cylindrical in the  slushpile;  I  just  pick  off  the  low-hanging  shape, but without any visible markings or fruit  that  remains  from  their  labors.    They  do  windows. the  thankless  gruntwork  and  I  reap  the  glory.  Then something like a door began to move   It’s a system.  ; ) upward. A brilliant white light illuminated a figure standing in the newly created Not to slight any of the other stories, but this offering of The Sky Pirate was especially exciting. opening. Matt gripped the bat just a little tighter. It really takes to the air. Author’s Note: I didn’t pay her to say that.  I  blame jetlag. perfectly achieved? “What about Solomon?” Tomlinson said. “I just spoke to Connelly at the labs yesterday and he told me Solomon was doing fine.” “Yes, I know,” Martin said. “Solomon’s been revising the Oberon files. Drafting improvements on the design.” “So?” Tomlinson had been reluctant to come to Martin’s office; now that Martin was no longer considered the most brilliant mind in the corporation he’d lost the ability to easily capture the attention of senior management. Even though he’d been the project’s chief scientist; even though he’d practically given birth to Solomon— “His improvements are what’s disturbing me.” “Aren’t you pleased that he’s refining your design?” Tomlinson said. His expression betrayed his annoyance. “Is it a matter of propriety? Surely he could only do wonders for the program—” “No,” Martin said. “I’m sure he could do wonders. Absolute wonders. That’s not the problem.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Pg. 4 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14: “Alacrity Under Way” by Johne Cook The Sky Pirate takes off—literally. Flynn and Mr. Pitt locked eyes. Suddenly grim, Flynn said, “If you’d just lost your technologically miraculous, one-of-a-kind air ship, what would be the first thing you’d do?” Mr. Pitt shook his head slowly. “There’s nothing fast enough in the fleet to catch it. I’d probably try to shoot it down before it got away in the first place.” “And how would you do that?” Mr. Pitt said, “I’d start with a catapult and flaming oil, if I had it. Otherwise, any ready cannon would do.” Flynn tapped his index finger against his temple in grim agreement. He called over to the ship’s ensign, recently recruited from the Haddirron Navy. “Mr. Gillings, do you spy any sign of cannon?” Gillings stepped briskly to the railing and gingerly peeked over the edge. “There are two cannons further up the pier. Captain, they’re running toward them right now!” Memory Wipe, Chapter 14: “Broken Men” by Sean T.M. Stiennon Takeda and his companions meet old enemies. “What’s going on out here? Is there water yet?” a voice said from behind him. Takeda knew that voice. Suddenly he felt cold in the oven-like heat of the chamber. His senses snapped into crystal clarity as he turned. Every odor in the room crashed on his nostrils and he saw motes of dust swirling in the reddish light. A man stood in a dark doorway across the room. For a moment, Takeda wondered if he had misheard—this man wore a dark leather vest, white shirt, tight-fitting black pants, all of them stained with grime, dust, and blood. Nothing like his polished police uniform. But that pale, aristocratic face, framed by midnight-black hair, was unmistakable. Brian Vass recognized him a moment after their eyes met. “Croster...” he hissed. L. S. King Overlord, RGR

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Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Walking Stick by Lawrence Buentello

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The Walking Stick
by Lawrence Buentello
Dr. Raymond Martin stood by the terrarium containing the motionless insect, fascinated by the creature’s mimetic design. When he was a child in Texas, he’d hunted through the brush and trees for alligator lizards, garter snakes, and walking sticks—his love of science and nature were the only things in life that ever mattered to him. “It’s about Solomon,” he said after a moment. Impulsively, he tapped the terrarium’s glass wall with an unsteady hand. George Tomlinson straightened in his chair. Tomlinson was Vice-President of Technical Affairs for the corporation, and had been against the Oberon Project from its inception. But now, years later, the profitability of the project was coming to a remarkable fruition, and Tomlinson’s skepticism had been replaced by an exuberant optimism. Though Martin hoped that a vestige of that skepticism still remained. “What about Solomon?” Tomlinson said. He was a small man, with a finely contoured beard and small, sharp eyes. “I just spoke to Connelly at the labs yesterday and he told me Solomon was doing fine.” “Yes, I know,” Martin said. He tapped the glass again until the insect exposed its camouflage by moving its antennae. Until that moment it had appeared to be just another dry twig among the rocks and leaves. He remembered how difficult it was to find them in the woods. But the thought disturbed him, so he turned away from the display and sat in the chair behind his desk. Papers lay strewn before him. Reports. “Solomon’s been revising the Oberon files. Drafting improvements on the design.” “So?” Tomlinson had been reluctant to come to Martin’s office; now that Martin was no longer considered the most brilliant mind in the corporation he’d lost the ability to easily capture the attention of senior management. Even though he’d been the project’s chief scientist; even though he’d practically given birth to Solomon— “His improvements are what’s disturbing me.” “Aren’t you pleased that he’s refining your design?” Tomlinson said. His expression betrayed his annoyance. “Is it a matter of propriety? Surely he could only do wonders for the program—” “No,” Martin said. “I’m sure he could do wonders. Absolute wonders. That’s not the problem.” “Problem?” Tomlinson began stroking his beard nervously. “What kind of problem could there possibly be?” Martin faltered. He’d rehearsed the conversation repeatedly, but now he couldn’t force the words into the air. How would Tomlinson react to his suggestion? He’d decided to use the term project termination, which seemed a little less personal—but, in the end, it was still synonymous with murder. “Do you know the basis for this project?” Martin said at last. “I know the specifics of the grant,” Tomlinson said. He wasn’t a scientist, but he was a very good administrator. “The technical details are beyond my training, but you already know that. As I understand it, the basis of this project is the belief that genetic manipulation can greatly enhance human intelligence. And the greater an individual’s intelligence the greater human achievement becomes. Or am I mistaken?” “No, you’re quite right. We’ve used computer generated paradigms to achieve that end, of course.” Tomlinson sat up straight in his chair. “Ray, what’s this all about? I don’t have time for games.” “I’m sorry for the circuitous conversation, but it’s not easy admitting that you made a mistake.” “Mistake? What mistake?” “The mistake I made in creating Solomon.” Tomlinson seemed not to know whether to smile or frown. Instead he said, “What in the hell are you talking about?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Walking Stick by Lawrence Buentello
“Before you say anything else, I’d like you to listen to what I have to say.”

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Martin leaned over the desk and spread And all in a year, Ray?” his hands imploringly. “Solomon’s brain is not “I know.” like yours or mine. It’s a perfected structure, a Tomlinson’s face relaxed into a neutral refined structure, capable of abstract thought “Solomon learns at an accelerated rate. expression. “Explain,” he said simply. unhindered by the haphazard design of normal mastered physics, chemistry, and biology, He’s he’s evolution. I removed the natural Martin inhaled deeply and leaned back in from his brain, I refined his neural obstructions learned enough engineering to advise the space pathways so his chair. he’s learning as much his cognitive functions were unobstructed by agency, and nowas any doctor who everabout medical science lived. “When I first conceived the Oberon project,” primitive barriers. And that’s where I made the What’s next? Biochemistry? Pharmaceuticals? he said, “I had one goal in mind. And that was mistake.” Think of what he could do for medicine—” to design a human being with enhanced neuro“What mistake?” logical processes that would increase his intel“No,” Martin said, still studying the motionligence exponentially. That was many years ago. less insect. “Now he’s focused on the Oberon Martin, unable to silence his nerves, I had to wait to actually begin the project until rose from his chair and turned away from project itself. I’ve seen some of the computer the moral question of genetic manipulation Tomlinson. He walked back to the shelf holding generated mapping sequences he’s devised, was more socially acceptable. And many more the terrarium. The walking stick had changed though I can’t say I fully understand them. They before I found sufficient financial support. Even positions in the foliage and was now hiding must be ten times as complex as the designs I after the project was initiated I had to endure beneath a large gray leaf. used to create Solomon.” countless court challenges to the legality of the “And that’s a concern for you? I’d think you’d procedures. We didn’t even know if the DNA “I knew I had to redesign the cerebral cortex be ecstatic that he was refining your work. But paradigms we generated would prove success- in order to enhance Solomon’s intelligence. The ful for another ten years. Of course, they were animal experiments provided some impres- you’re acting like it’s a crime.” more than successful.” sive results, but the human brain is the most “No, not a crime. But dangerous.” complex organ on earth. In this kind of genetic “All that is ancient history,” Tomlinson said. game I knew I would have only one chance to “How?” “You must know that everyone appreciates succeed before the program would fail under your efforts.” the stress of popular opinion. So I wanted to Martin turned to face the Vice-President make certain the computer design was perfect, of Technical Affairs, ambivalent certainly, Martin smiled gently. “But I didn’t appreci- and would beyond anyone’s expec- and ate my efforts. I didn’t realize the evolution- tations. The succeed was perfect. And so was was more than a little frightened. What if he design wrong? Could he have misinterpreted ary leap I was making. I didn’t realize how Solomon. But I didn’t realize what my success Solomon’s new schematics? advanced the paradigms were until Solomon would mean. I didn’t understand what might began working on our projects. He’s a genius. happen if the thought processes were signifiHe said, “George, how old is Solomon?” He’s more than a genius.” cantly freed in the human brain.” “Eleven years next month, I believe. Are you “But wasn’t that your intention? To design a “And what does it mean?” Tomlinson said. concerned about him because you think of him new level of human intelligence?” “Solomon has become the best scientist we as a child? Is that what this is about?” have. He’s advanced countless projects that “Yes, but not to this extent.” think would have taken years to advance with our as “No. And, believe me, I don’t of his of him a child. What I’ve observed habits “What extent?” current staff, and in five different disciplines. indicates something else entirely. He doesn’t

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Walking Stick by Lawrence Buentello
associate with other people aside from the staff he works with. And he doesn’t have much to say to me anymore, either, and I’m as close to a parental figure as he knows. No, he’s not a child, not in the way we think of children. I think it’s time we started considering him much more than a child.” “All right, what should we consider him?” “A mistake.” Tomlinson stood abruptly and straightened his coat. “Ray, I think you need a vacation. How could you call your own project a mistake?” He shook his head and laughed uneasily. “You of all people should appreciate what Solomon has done for this corporation. And what he’ll continue to do for us, and for humanity.” “He’s not interested in humanity.” Tomlinson raised his hands in the air in mock surrender. “This is crazy. I’m not sure what’s set you off on this delusion, but I suspect it probably has something to do with Solomon’s improvement of your work. If you think I’m going to remove him from any of the projects he’s working on because you’re jealous of his success, then you’re crazy.” Tomlinson turned toward the door. Martin hurried to the door and grasped Tomlinson’s arm. Tomlinson stared at Martin’s hand as if it were an apparition. better suited to a particular environment tends to dominate that environment over other species. Sometimes multiple organisms can co-exist in a given environment, but when that environment has limited resources the competition is usually decided by the better equipped organism. Now, the reason human beings dominate the earth is irrefutably because of their intelligence. But Solomon is the better suited species, George. And as that young boy grows older I don’t think he’s going to be content to co-exist with a lesser species.” “You are crazy,” Tomlinson said, though Martin could see something else in the man’s eyes, perhaps a grudging realization of the possibility that he was correct. “I created Solomon without realizing how effective the design was,” Martin said. “Half my work was simple good luck. But Solomon doesn’t have to worry about luck. He knows exactly what he’s doing. And while he keeps everyone in the corporation happy with his mechanical designs, I believe he’s really only concerned with the Oberon project. I think he’s come to understand who he is by now, what he is, and I believe he’s making provisions for the future.” “What has he done?” Tomlinson said. “What could possibly make you suspect him?”

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children born with advanced mental capacities. Don’t you see? In five years Solomon could produce a mature population of mentally enhanced human beings. A population of geniuses.” Tomlinson’s eyes betrayed his thought process—Martin could see the realization come over the man’s expression, but then fade into a professional indifference that was undoubtedly born from the profound profitability that indifference could provide. “I don’t know what made you think I’d believe any of this,” Tomlinson said. He reached for the doorknob without taking his eyes from Martin. “But I don’t. For some reason you can’t handle the fact that a boy is taking your project to heights you can’t even began to imagine, and you’re trying to turn the rest of us against him. You’re paranoid, Ray. And don’t believe for a minute that I won’t report this conversation.” Tomlinson opened the door. “You don’t understand,” Martin said. “We’re idiots to Solomon. How could we possibly trust our well-being to someone who thinks of us that way? Humanity has a limited social environment. How would we ever know for certain whether his work would benefit us or destroy us?” “Stay away from the boy,” Tomlinson said before stepping through the doorway. “I don’t want you upsetting him.” Dr. Ray Martin stood alone in his office. He wondered why he’d bothered consulting Tomlinson at all. But he needed one reassuring voice to tell him that his reasoning was correct, his fears justifiable. Now he was certain he

“I studied some of his experimental models, and some of them had nothing to do with neurology. He’s produced a computer simula“What do you think you’re doing?” tion of a new genetic design. I don’t believe he meant for me to see it, but I did. And within it “Please, listen to me for one more minute.” he’s matched physical maturation with mental Martin released Tomlinson’s coat when he was maturation, which means that he intends to certain he had the other man’s attention. “In accelerate the physical maturation of any new most cases of evolutionary biology the species

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Walking Stick by Lawrence Buentello
would be effectively removed from the project. And why not? He couldn’t hope to produce as successful results as Solomon. He was already useless to the project. He should have killed the boy himself—but, really, what good would that have done? They already knew how successful the design had proven to be; surely they would only create another Solomon. Or several more Solomons. The financial incentives were unquestionably lucrative. No, Pandora’s Box had been opened, and Martin had forged the key. He walked back to the terrarium. The walking stick sat aligned on a twig, its antennae twitching briefly. No, he thought, not right away. Solomon would first disguise himself within his environment to prevent the other species from destroying him. He would pretend to be concerned with the welfare of humanity. But once he had sufficient numbers to support his cause, it would soon become a matter of attrition. He wondered, too, what he might do in the few years he had left.

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Lawrence Buentello
Lawrence Buentello lives in San Antonio,  Texas.  When  not  writing  or  reading,  he  works  in  the  Reference  department  of  an academic library in San Antonio. He  is the co-author (along with his brother,  John  Buentello)  of  the  short  story  collection Binary Tales, and the science fiction novel Reproduction Rights.

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Issue 28, August 15, 2007

No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch

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No Revolution Is Too Big
by Mike Lynch

M

att Rogers picked up his backpack and hurried out the door. He thought this would be a class for some easy credits, but he could not have been more wrong. His two failing papers were a frustrating reminder of that fact. “Hey, Matt. Wait up.” He turned around and saw his classmate, Dan, running after him. “I was thinking about goin’ for a Coke,” Dan suggested. “How ‘bout you?” A faint sigh passed through his lips. “I guess so. Anything sounds better than doing a re-write on my paper.” They went over to the Student Union and set their packs on an empty table. After he paid for a soda, Matt sat down in his chair, dejected. He still couldn’t get what the teacher had said out of his head. “What’s the matter?” Dan asked after arriving with a tray full of food. “You’ve hardly said a word.” “I’m still thinking about what happened in class today.” Dan reached over and slapped him on the arm. “Hey, don’t let it get you down. A couple of bad grades won’t make that much of a difference. Besides, the midterm is coming up

next week. A solid score will bump up your average.” “It’s not the grade so much, but what Bohn said.” Matt retrieved his paper from his backpack and read the professor’s comments. “It seems like you have something to say here, but it never really comes out. The reader is not convinced that they are a part of the story. If you wish to involve them, you have to make the characters come alive and act in a way that is natural, not forced. Your paper doesn’t come close to meeting these standards.” Dan just nodded as he bit into his sandwich. “I always thought of myself as a budding writer,” Matt added, “but this has really set me back.” Dan glanced down at his watch. His eyes widened. “I gotta get going! My next class starts in five minutes.” He grabbed his backpack and darted out the door. “It was good talking to you too,” Matt said, sarcasm dripping off each word. After a few moments, he looked down at his paper sitting on the table. It stared back at him, red marks and all. He sighed again. It was going to be a long night for them both. #

Matt stared at the screen trying to find just the right word. The cursor sat there, blinking at him, as though mocking his latest round of writer’s block. The longer he stared, the more his mind emptied. After re-reading the same paragraph for the umpteenth time, Matt slumped down in his chair, frustrated. Only  one  page  written  in  two  hours, he thought. Maybe a short break might do me some good. He got up and went into the kitchen. Combing through the cabinets and refrigerator, nothing looked appealing. “Just a bunch of healthy junk,” he complained. Dejected, Matt went back to the family room and skimmed through the TV Guide. There wasn’t anything worth watching, but he turned on the television anyway. It was a good excuse to stop working on his paper. As the shows came on one after the other, the dull glow emitted by the screen began to lull him to sleep. Just as he was about to drift off for good, a brilliant white flash filled the family room for an instant, followed by a muffled explosion. Matt bolted up, awake. Every one of his senses heightened as his heart raced in his chest. He looked around, but everything seemed normal. Just to be on the safe side, he went to the sliding door to check the back yard. Pulling the drapes back with a jerk, Matt

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch
could only see the half-finished barbeque pit near the overgrown lawn. It  must  have  been  lightning, he reasoned. Errant bolts were known to light up the night sky from time to time when there were a few clouds about. As he closed the drapes again, a feeling of heaviness descended on both shoulders. His paper was waiting for him—unfinished. And no amount of procrastinating was going to drive that fact from his mind. After a muted groan he sat himself back down in front of the computer. Just as he placed his fingers on the keyboard, his backyard began to glow. At first, the ambient light was barely perceptible. But after a few seconds, the illumination grew in intensity, until it was blinding white. Matt froze, unable to move or speak. Near the window, he saw a baseball bat leaning up against the wall. Summoning up all his strength, he managed to lift his arm and take hold of it. After drawing in a deep breath, Matt rose to his feet and took a cautious step towards the door. “Here goes nothing,” he whispered, and then yanked the curtains back like before. Matt made a quick scan of the yard. The intensity of the light, however, was such that he could not make out anything recognizable. Despite the alarm bells ringing in his head, he felt compelled to find out what was going on. He grabbed the sliding door handle and pulled it open, leaving just enough room for him to slip through. As his left foot stepped onto the deck, the yard suddenly went dark. Backing up against the glass, Matt instinctively raised his bat. “What in the world is that?” To his astonishment, he saw a strange looking object sitting in the middle of the yard. It was smooth, cylindrical in shape, but without any visible markings or windows. Then something like a door began to move upward. A brilliant white light illuminated a figure standing in the newly created opening. Matt gripped the bat just a little tighter. The figure, being, whoever it was, stepped onto the lawn. The person looked human enough. He was dressed in silvery tight-fitting clothes, and appeared to be in his early forties. “You will not need that,” the visitor said in perfect English. In an instant, the bat in Matt’s hands disappeared. “What?” he asked, confused. “How did you do that?” “I’m disappointed in you,” the uninvited guest said in a dispassionate tone. “I thought you would have been somewhat friendlier. I guess I should have expected that from a human.” Matt looked the person over. “Who are you? And what is that thing doing in my yard? And where’s my bat?” A look of bemusement blossomed on the man’s face. “Oh, that’s right. Your species is terribly inquisitive, especially when fear is the dominant emotion.” He pulled out a small white card and handed it to him. In big black letters it read: Stelfson: Rescue Broker  “No Revolution is Too Big”

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He looked up at the man standing before him. “Is this some kind of joke?” “No,” Stelfson replied. “I’m actually here to offer you a business proposition.” Matt’s eyes drew together into narrow slits. “Business proposition. What are you talking about?” “A backyard is not the place to discuss such matters. May we go inside?” Matt looked him over a second time. Stelfson seemed harmless enough. And if he had miscalculated, the telephone was a whole lot closer in the house than in the yard. “Uh, yeah...I guess so.” He spun around and pulled the door all the way open. When they walked into the family room, Matt motioned for his guest to sit down. Stelfson just kept his spot, unmoving. “Time is running short,” he said in the same monotone as before, “and we need to depart as soon as possible. But before we do, I’m sure you have a few questions for me.” “Who are you?” Matt asked without hesitation. “Like the card says, my name is Stelfson. I come from the Southern Quadrant of what you call the Milky Way.” He stopped and gave the family room a cursory glance. “It is quite a bit different than this place. I was hired to help defend a race against the Coalition of Planetary Alliances who are waging a war against—”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch
“Wait,” Matt interrupted. “You mean you’re an alien from another world?” “Of course I am,” Stelfson replied in a tone that suggested he was offended by the question. “How long have you known about us?” He shook his head. “I don’t know exactly... maybe several thousand years.” “If you already knew about Earth, then why haven’t you made contact before?” Selfson sighed. It seemed like what little patience he had was wearing thin. “We discussed that proposition a few hundred of your years ago,” he replied, “but it was rejected. You’re a typical class G-4 species.” Matt’s eyebrows drew together. “Class G-4?” “Oh...panic, mass hysteria, and predications of doom. You know...the usual. Your society is far too primitive to handle this sort of thing in a thoughtful manner.” “If you’re so advanced, then why do you need the help of us primitive humans?” Stelfson went over to one of the bookshelves lining the wall and picked up a dish filled with potpourri. He took a sniff and wrinkled his nose. “Put yourself in my place. When the other brokers find out about this, I’ll become the laughing stock of the business.” Matt became indignant and let out a snort. “But I’m afraid I have no choice,” Stelfson continued. He pulled out another card. “Let’s see...height, six feet. Weight, one hundred and seventy-five pounds. Two arms, two legs, one head, and a spoken language. You do not possess telepathy, but you do fit the description.” “Description?” Matt asked, his annoyance finally beginning to spill over. “What are you talking about?” “I’ve been hired to do a job, and I need your help to do it.” “But why can’t you do this job of yours. You look human enough.” The corners of Stelfson’s lips turned upward, forming something of a smile. “My appearance is not what you think. It is merely what you think you see.” Two flashing lights on his sleeve near the cuff caught his attention. “It looks as though time has run out. We need to depart without delay.” “But you still haven’t said where we’re going.” He stopped himself. “Wait, I can’t go anywhere. I still have a paper to write.” “Remember, I am offering you a business proposition,” Stelfson repeated. He looked back down at his flashing sleeve. “It is not used as a currency where I come from, but we know it’s something you humans greatly value.” The uncertainty Matt was feeling must have registered on his face. “I’m talking about paying you. How does twenty-five pounds of gold sound?” There was a flash of light, and then a block of what looked like pure gold appeared on the coffee table.

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“G-gold,” Matt stammered. He bent down and touched it. It felt real enough. A second flash of light caused the block to disappear. Until now, Matt had no intention of going anywhere with Stelfson. He figured the guy was probably an escapee from a mental ward. But how could a crazy person make gold appear and disappear at the drop of a hat? No. What he could do proved that he was from another world, one willing to pay him handsomely for his services. “How long will we be gone?” “The two of us will return before you know it.” He checked his sleeve a third time. It was blinking even faster than before. “But I must have your answer now.” The image of that golden block intercepted every contrary thought passing through his head. It was just too tempting to resist. “All right, I’m in.” “Very good.” Stelfson spun around and hurried out the back door. Matt saw the side panel open up on the right side of the ship as it had done before. He swallowed hard before stepping aboard. The interior was brightly lit. There were two chairs towards the front, and a small rectangular-shaped window. Below the window was a control panel of sorts. There were just three buttons, all colored red, and a sphere suspended above them. Stelfson went over to the control panel pressed the central button. The door to the rear began to slide down, until it merged with

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch
the rest of the ship. Matt took a step forward. “How does this thing work?” “It is so simple, even you humans could operate it,” Stelfson replied after taking the chair on the right. “The two outer buttons turn the central star drive on and off, and the ball is the directional guidance control.” “Seems easy enough. Can I try?” “I don’t think so. You’re here to aid me, not drive. Just hold on and keep quiet.” With a simple press of a button, the star drive came to life. The interior light dimmed for a moment, followed by a pulsating hum. When Stelfson pushed the ball up, the trees outside the window fell out of sight. In their place, a darkened sky with thousands of stars appeared. Strangely, Matt didn’t feel any sense of movement. It was as though the ship was still planted firmly on the ground. “How long until we reach wherever it is we’re going?” “In short order,” Stelfson replied. “Once I open the inter-dimensional gateway, we’ll be on our way.” “What’s an inter-dimensional gateway?” “You don’t have to concern yourself about that. It’s not worth going into things you couldn’t possibly understand.” Even though the dig was aimed right at him, Matt decided it was probably better to let it pass. Stelfson reached down and pressed a blue button Matt had not noticed before. A small circular-shaped disk materialized out of nowhere. He positioned the ocular device at eye level and peered through it as though he was searching for something. Several moments later, he seemed to find what he was looking for. “There you are.” He made a slight course adjustment. “We’ll reach the gateway in less than a minute.” “What’s going to happen now?” Matt asked, nervous. Stelfson ignored the question. “You had better hold on. The trip through the gateway can be a little bumpy.” Matt found himself clutching his seat tight. Taking hold of the ball, Stelfson nudged it forward. The hum around them increased in intensity, as did the strength of the light filling the interior of the ship. Suddenly, everything went dark. Matt gripped the edge of his seat even tighter than before. He then noticed the ship begin to shake. As the moments passed, the vibrations grew worse. Stelfson just sat in his chair, stone-faced. His right hand moved the directional ball with a delicate touch, as though he was moving the ship past unseen objects. Matt never felt more helpless in his life. Though he didn’t think it possible, the shaking became even more pronounced. It appeared to Matt that even Stelfson looked nervous. He laughed in his mind. If his host ever got nervous about anything, he would never admit it to him.

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Without any warning, there was a muffled explosion from the rear. The vibrations dropped off at incremental levels, until it all but ceased. “I just love going through the inter-dimensional gateway,” Stelfson commented aloud. “You never know what to expect.” “Nothing like a smooth, quiet ride, eh, Stelfson,” Matt replied with a tinge of sarcasm in his voice. It was only then that he let go of his chair. “I think the best part was when we were temporarily caught between the gravity wells of two neutron stars. If I had kept the ship in the field just a moment longer, we would have been crushed into interstellar dust. Is this a great job or what?” Matt jumped to his feet. “Crushed?! Are you saying we were almost killed?” Stelfson pondered the question for a moment. “Yes, I guess I am. What of it?” “You didn’t tell me anything about neutron stars or getting crushed.” He began to pace back and forth. “You make it sound like we are on some kind of Sunday afternoon drive.” “How do you think I feel? I’m forced to go to your miserable little planet and find a human to help me deal with a planetary uprising. The least little thing happens and you act like it’s the end of the world.” Stelfson paused and looked him over. “Definitely a class G-4.” Matt knew he was getting nowhere. Rather than trying to reason with him, he just folded his arms together and sat back down in his

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch
chair, fuming. When he was calm enough to think rationally again, Matt said, “You still haven’t told me what this mission is about.” “You humans are an inquisitive lot. I must remember to figure out why one day.” He pushed the third button on the panel. Stelfson then swiveled his chair around and faced Matt directly. “Since I am not required to change our trajectory for a while, I have locked the guidance control setting.” Matt tried to figure out Stelfson’s angle. There were no derogatory remarks, no hints of contempt. It was almost as if he was being nice. “As I mentioned before, the planet I represent has rebelled against the Coalition. The Helots are well aware of the services I provide, and so they hired me to resolve this matter for them. They know I am someone who gets results, quickly and efficiently.” Matt’s curiosity turned into annoyance. “Then why do you need me?” Stelfson shook his head. “I don’t really need you. It’s rather what you are. My species is what you call a shape-shifter, though we like to think of ourselves as hybrids—a strong energy signature, but with a material base. This enables me to assume any form I choose. The only problem is that the Coalition has quite a file on me.” “So you’re a criminal,” Matt declared. The corners of Stelfson’s lips pushed upward, forming a smile. “Let’s just say I will do well to keep out of their way. They have my energy pattern on record. The instant I step off the ship, their scanners would pick me up for sure.” He leaned towards Matt. “This is where you come in. The Coalition has a central records complex deep inside Asteroid Prime. All you need do is get in and alter the planet Helot file. The result of this will make the planet quite unattractive to the Coalition, I get paid...and you go home.” Matt sat back in his chair and crossed his arms a second time. “Is that all? Well, why didn’t you say so? While I’m there, is there anything else I can do for you? Maybe fix a parking ticket or two.” He let out a snort. “This is a suicide mission. You can’t seriously expect me to waltz in, change a security file, and then walk out again without anyone noticing.” A look of contempt crossed Stelfson’s face. “To think I am actually using a human to complete a job I was hired to do,” he said to himself. “If the other brokers find out about this, I’ll never hear the end of it.” A muted chime sounded three times. Stelfson spun around in his chair and unlocked the guidance control system. The floating sphere, which had disappeared when he set the ship on automatic, reappeared again. “Don’t worry,” he said while getting a fix on a distant object. “I’ll lead you every step of the way.” Stelfson grabbed hold of the ball and set the craft on an intercept course towards a rocky, potato-shaped asteroid. As they approached, Matt saw other ships in the vicinity. Some were moving away from the asteroid, while others were coming in for a landing on one of several dozen numbered pads. He was beginning to get a knot in his stomach. “Are you sure this is the only way?”

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“Trust me,” Stelfson replied, an undeniable measure of confidence in his voice. “You should be in and out before anyone knows you were there.” We, Matt thought cynically. Seems like I’m  the one taking all the chances.  Stelfson turned forward again and pressed a blinking red light on the control panel. “This is the Helot ship, Amek. Requesting permission to land.” No response. Matt felt beads of sweat form on his forehead. He was certain the Coalition was onto them. “Permission granted,” a disembodied voice finally responded. “Proceed on your present course. Landing pad three has been cleared for your arrival.” “Number three,” Stelfson replied. He maneuvered the ship over a vast number of landing pads, until the one they had been assigned came into view. Gripping the maneuvering ball just a little tighter, he pulled it down at a slow but steady rate, stopping when they came into contact with the landing pad. After Stelfson shut down the main drive, he got out of his chair and opened a panel near the rear of the cabin. There, a small, silver sphere was suspended in the air. He grabbed the microsized orb and brought it over to Matt. “Fit this behind your left ear. It is kind of an audio/visual transmitting device. It will enable us to keep in contact with each other.” Stelfson

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch
looked Matt over. “Jeans, tennis shoes, and a button-down shirt will not do. You need to make yourself appear more like a Helot.” He extended his right hand. In an instant, Matt’s clothes changed into a silver-colored body suit, similar to Stelfson’s. “That’s much better,” he commented after taking a step back. Matt rose to his feet and looked himself over. He wasn’t sure if it was a little too formfitting. Moving over to the middle of the ship, Stelfson depressed a small plate on the floor. A square-shaped panel rose up and then slid horizontally, creating a small opening. “This is where you get off,” he said. “A ladder below will take you into an access way. If you follow my instructions to the letter, we should be in and out before we’re detected.” Matt took a deep breath. Even though he was starting to have second thoughts about the whole thing, there wasn’t much he could do about it now. For all he knew, Stelfson had flown him to the other side of the galaxy. “Here goes nothing,” he said before stepping into the opening. “Just remember you are a Helot. Try and keep your human mannerisms to a minimum.” “How am I supposed to do that? I don’t even know what a Helot is.” Before Stelfson could reply, Matt jumped down into the corridor. Several shadowy figures moved past. Some of them did indeed look human, while others were quite different, reminiscent of the cantina scene in Star Wars. “Can you hear me?” Stelfson asked in his earpiece. “Loud and clear,” Matt whispered. “Good. Turn right and go down the corridor about thirty paces. There, you will reach the horizontal movers.” Matt peered down the hallway. “Horizontal movers? What are those?” “No need to explain,” Stelfson replied. That same tone of contempt had crept back into his voice. “You will know what they are when you reach them.” Cool stiff breezes blew on Matt from different directions as he made his way down the corridor. At five-foot intervals, a light fixture suspended above brought a certain level of illumination into what was otherwise a darkened tunnel. Without any warning, the floor underneath his feet began moving. “What in the world?” Caught off guard by the action, it was all he could do to keep himself from toppling over. “I told you,” Stelfson said in Matt’s ear. “You would know what the horizontal movers are when you reached them.” He paused for a moment. “Now, you are going to pass a number of doors on your right. When you arrive at the desired one, I will tell you to get off.” Matt didn’t reply. He figured it was best if he didn’t say too much, act too human as Stelfson had chided him. Instead, he just bided his time, thankful for a quiet respite in the middle of an unsettling situation. “You are getting close. When the next door

Pg. 14
on your right goes by, step off the mover.” A light fixture above revealed not a doorway, but a corridor coming up on him fast. That must be it, he thought quickly, and then hopped onto the stationary walkway. He was about to make his way down the narrow passageway, when a shadowy creature stepped into the light. Whatever it was must have been seven feet in height, and weighed several hundred pounds. He raised one of his arms on his side and prevented Matt from going past. “What is your business in this area?” the creature asked in a low, guttural voice. Matt had to think fast. “Uh...” His mind went blank. “Tell him you are here to make an early installment of the money owed by the Helots,” Stelfson whispered in his ear. “Yeah, that’s it,” Matt said. The guard bent closer, throwing a dark shadow over him. “Uh, I mean they...umm, I’m here to make an early installment of money owed by the uh...the uh...Helots.” The guard grunted, and then moved aside. The opening he created was just big enough for Matt to slip through. As he hurried down the hallway, he shot a quick glance over his shoulder. “Man, that was close,” Matt exhaled. “I thought I was dead for sure.” “Go straight for the door in front of you. That is the records room.” When he had gotten within a few feet of the door, it slid open on its own. Inside, the scene could not have been more different than

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch
the corridor. Bathed in luminous white light, he saw an immense room filled with hundreds of people moving about in different directions. There were multiple floors, each one filled with thousands of what appeared to be computer terminal outlets. “Look for a unit that is not being used by anyone.” Matt made a slow turn so as not to draw attention to himself. Over by the wall, he saw dozens of people, some human, others not, placing some kind of polished metal disk into narrow slots near the central display. “Those are computer outlets, aren’t they?” “Yes,” Stelfson replied. “Now get over to one. You don’t have much time.” Matt stopped in mid-stride. “What do you mean I don’t have much time?” “The moment you stepped into the corridor,” he replied in an emotionless tone, “receptor grids started analyzing your DNA signature. In short order, they will figure out you’re an outsider.” “You mean they’ll know who I am?” “Not exactly, but close enough for our purposes.” Matt did not try to argue. Every breath, every uttered word kept him from finishing his job and getting out of there. “That’s just great.” He marched over to an unoccupied terminal. His proximity to the electronic device seemed to activate it. “There’s a disk in your pocket. Take it out and slip it into the receptor.” Matt patted his bodysuit with both hands. In the upper chest area, he felt a flattened, circular shape. “Put it into the narrow slot below the screen. It will activate the Coalition’s planetary database.” Matt did as he was told. The screen, blue at first, went dark, and then a listing appeared. Organized and categorized alphabetically, he scanned through the titles. “This is a breakdown of the different chemical compounds found on the planet Helot. You’re going to insert one that is harmless to the inhabitants, but lethal to members of the Coalition. This will no doubt change their minds about occupying the planet.” Matt had to admit, it was a clever idea. “Turn the blinking red knob to the right. This will enter the new information. Once this happens, a blue button will start flashing. Press on it twice. When the disk pops out, get back to the ship.” “Piece of cake,” Matt said. And just like that, the blue button next to the red one started to blink off and on at regular intervals. This crazy plan just might work, he thought. Suddenly, alarms began ringing all around him. It was a high-low din that rattled Matt down to the bones. “What’s going on?” he asked after looking around. “They know you’re here. Finish inputting the data. It will take them a few minutes to triangulate your precise location.” Matt didn’t have to be asked twice. He

Pg. 15
pressed down on the blue button both times. When the disk popped out, he slipped it into his pocket, and then beat a hasty retreat towards the exit. When his eyes adjusted to the darkened corridor, Matt saw the same creature was still there, blocking his way. “What do I do?” he asked. “My instruments tell me additional guards are moving in your direction. Your only chance is to grab his weapon.” “This is going to get me killed.” “Nevertheless, you don’t have any other choice.” The alarms continued blaring in Matt’s ears. There was no time to lose. He drew in a deep breath and then tiptoed his way towards the guard. What looked like a weapon was nestled into a holster at his side. The problem was that one of his hands rested against it, ready to be pulled out in a moment’s notice. An idea popped into his head. Matt reached up as far as he could go and tapped the guard on the shoulder. Startled, the creature spun around. Matt dropped down low and grabbed his weapon. When the guard realized what had happened, it was too late. He was staring down the business end of his own sidearm. “How do I use this thing?” he asked. “The same way you use your weapons on Earth—just pull the trigger.” Matt’s finger found the curved piece of metal and grasped it tight. There was a sudden

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch
flash of light, and then the guard lying on the ground, unconscious. He wanted to bask in his moment of triumph, but there was no time. In the distance, he heard voices shouting at one another, asking if they had spotted the intruder yet. Matt peered around the corner. Set in the middle of the horizontal mover, he saw three more guards coming up on him fast. “There he is,” one of them shouted. Matt buried his chin into his chest and tore off in the opposite direction. High intensity packets of light flew by, detonating all around him. “Hurry up and get out of there,” Stelfson chided. “I’ve got the ship ready to go.” “I’m trying,” Matt replied between each breath, “but they’re hot on my heels.” Up ahead, he saw a shaft of light coming from the ceiling above. Just a few more feet, and he would be out of there. Suddenly, several other guards appeared at the opposite end of the corridor. When they pulled out their guns, Matt dropped down to the ground and fired a couple of shots. “Stelfson! Get down here and help me. I’ve got aliens coming at me from everywhere.” “What do you propose I do? I have no weapons with which to fight.” A couple of shots flew past Matt’s head, missing him by inches. “You’d better think of something fast. I can’t last out here much longer.” Then a horrible thought popped into his head. Now that the job was done, there was nothing stopping Stelfson from leaving him behind. Matt fired two more shots. The guards easily dodged the blasts and fired in return. If he didn’t figure out something soon, he was going to remain on Asteroid Prime for a very long time. In the blink of an eye a dozen people appeared, forming a circle around Matt. Each of them spun around and fired at the guards. They in turn ducked for cover, the sounds of their frantic voices asking for reinforcements filling the corridor. Matt recognized his opportunity and scurried up the stairs. When he closed the panel in the floor, Stelfson grabbed the maneuvering ball and pushed it straight up. The asteroid beneath them quickly fell away out of sight. “I thought that rather exciting,” Stelfson said in his usual calm. “How in the world did you do that back there?” Matt asked between each winded breath. “Do what?” A look of recognition crossed his face. “Oh, all those copies? Like I said when we first met, that which cannot be seen can also be seen. I just made it appear to you and those guards down there that you had a little help—that’s all.” Matt just shook his head and smiled. “Well, thanks anyway.” Stelfson kept his attention forward. “I must

Pg. 16
say, though, for a human, you did all right.” Matt accepted the compliment with a nod. It was enough for him to know that humanity’s place in the galaxy was at least seen in a little better light. # The sounds of the television blaring into the living room roused Matt from a deep sleep. As his eyes focused on the screen, he sat up and realized where he was. “My house?” he asked himself. Only seconds before, he had been on Stelfson’s ship, heading back to Earth. Confused, Matt went over to the sliding door and looked outside. Everything appeared normal enough. He checked the time. 11:57 “I’ve only been asleep for half an hour?” He checked the patio again. Nothing. Could it have been a dream? A deep yawn came out of him. It was late and he was tired. Rather than try and figure it out, he thought it best to get a few hours of sleep and solve the mystery in the morning. Matt trudged up the stairs and rolled onto his bed, not even bothering to get out of his clothes. Within minutes, he was asleep. As the sun crested the distant hills, early morning light reached into Matt’s room and gave him a gentle nudge. He opened his eyes, unsure which day it was. Then it hit him. This was Wednesday. He hadn’t finished his paper yet. Matt closed his eyes again, disappointed. That paper was worth thirty percent of his total

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

No Revolution Is Too Big by Mike Lynch
grade, and he was no closer to finishing it than last night. Rather than wallow in a pool of self-incrimination, Matt got up. He figured he might have enough time to salvage something of his paper. As he hurried over to his desk, something caught his eye. Matt stopped and took a closer look at the object sitting in the middle of the floor. It was cube-shaped, shiny, and with a golden hue. “Wait a minute,” Matt gasped. He took a step closer towards it. “Gold. It’s the gold Stelfson promised me. It wasn’t a dream. Last night really happened.” He then noticed something else. Some papers were sitting next to the block. I don’t remember leaving those there, Matt thought, perplexed. He picked them up and looked at the cover page. “No Revolution is Too Big.” The title sounded familiar. Remembering the card Stelfson had given him, he reached into his pocket and pulled it out. The moniker was the same. For some reason, he felt compelled to look at the other side. There, a hand-written note appeared. “Something I neglected to mention is that I can also read people’s thoughts—humans being the easiest. I hope my story is up to the standards you humans demand in writing classes—Stelfson.” Matt shook his head and smiled. “Well, I’ll be. Perhaps we humans aren’t so bad after all.” He flipped the cover page over and began to read. “The Helots were in trouble and there was only one person to turn to...”

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Mike Lynch
Mike  currently  resides  in  San  Jose,  California  with  his  wife,  Kathleen,  and  two  children.    He  graduated  from  San  Jose State University in 1986 with a B.A.  in  History,  and  from  San  Jose  Christian  College with a B.A. in Bible and Theology  in 1994.  In 2004 Mike wrote BibleQuest, a  study  guide  that  helps  people  better  understand  the  Bible.    Mike  has  also  written a book chronicling the history of  Dublin, CA.  Published by Arcadia Press,  it  was  released  in  July  2007.    And  in  February 2008, Mike’s first novel, When the Sky Fell, is scheduled to be released  by  Silver  Leaf  Books.    In  a  conscious  effort to help hone his skills as a writer,  Mike has also attended several Christian  writers’ conferences since 2005.

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Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Featured Artist: Alex Ruiz

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Featured Artist
Alex Ruiz
Name: Alex Ruiz Age: 31 Hobbies: Shredding on the Wacom tablet, and shredding on guitar! Favorite Artist: Andrew Jones, Sparth, Stephan Martiniere When did you start creating art? In the walls of my mothers womb. What media do you work in? Usually sketch on paper, then scan it in, and the rest is Photoshop. Where your work has been featured? Imagine FX magazine, CG Society Choice Gallery Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your works? alexruizart.com (which has links to prints/other galleries) What were your early influences? Disney animation was the first thing that truly lit the fire of creativity in me. I remember seeing Aladdin and realizing, ‘I have to be an animator!’ What are your current influences? Now, I’m happy just doing illustration, so I’m more influenced to create one piece of art to convey a theme instead of hundreds as in animation. What inspired the art for the cover? Workships was inspired by the basic idea of work factories, and how they produce and pollute at the same time. I just took that concept and applied it to the future, where factories have become airborne.
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Featured Artist: Alex Ruiz

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How would you describe your work? Sci-fi/fantasy with a touch of abstraction. Where do you get your inspiration / what inspires you? To me, nature is the most inspiring thing around. Once you think you’ve designed something yourself, boom... you see it in nature to some degree or another.

Have you had any notable failures, and how has failure affected your work? At the time, not getting into the art college of my dreams was a huge failure! But in retrospect, it probably was the best thing that could’ve happened. It led me down another road, which turned out to be quite the fortunate shortcut, but also forced me to teach myself art. What have been your greatest successes? How has success impacted you / your work? I’ve been an artist for The Simpsons for over twelve years now, working as an animator and illustrator on the show, movie, and product line. I’m very proud to be a part of that show, and grateful, for it has paid my rent for such an enormous amount of time!
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Featured Artist: Alex Ruiz

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What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art? Paper+Mac+Photoshop= happiness :) What tool / equipment do you wish you had? I really want one of those electric blanket mobiles...that, or hamburger earmuffs! What do you hope to accomplish with your art? If people are inspired by my work, then my work is done!

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way
by Johne Cook
The story so far: Captain Cooper Flynn has put together a small  rag-tag  crew  and  has  managed  to  retake  his  “And how would you do that?” experimental anti-gravity sailing ship during a  Mr. Pitt said, “I’d start with a catapult and daring  overnight  raid.  They  were  very  careful  flaming oil, if I had it. Otherwise, any ready not to kill anyone. cannon would do.” The  dispossessed  officers  and  sailors  on  the  Flynn tapped his index finger against his pier below aren’t so limited. temple in grim agreement. He called over to the ship’s ensign, recently recruited from the Haddirron Navy. “Mr. Gillings, do you spy any r. Humble said, “That was a neat bit of sign of cannon?” work. Now that the ship is free of the pier ropes, how long do you think it will take us to Gillings stepped briskly to the railing and make way?” gingerly peeked over the edge. “There are two cannons further up the pier. Captain, they’re Captain Flynn wiped his brow from his running toward them right now!” exertions in the light of the new dawn. “There’s so much to go over with a new crew. We need Flynn said, “Oh, cliff. We don’t have all day to discuss all the things that need to be covered to get under way—we may not have more than before we even get to the sails. It might take all a few minutes!” morning.” # There was a flurry of small arms fire from the pier below, the balls thudding off the hull The captain went below Chain. of the ship like rain on a window, furious but He clattered down the stairs to meet withhis way and worked impotent. The echo of the reports was muted aft down to Chain’s workshop in the bowels of by the time the sound reached them. the ship. “Chain, are we in any danger here?” Flynn and Mr. Pitt locked eyes. Suddenly Chain from his workbench, the grim, Flynn said, “If you’d just lost your tech- lamplight looked up off his round spectacles. reflecting nologically miraculous, one-of-a-kind air ship, “Danger of what?” what would be the first thing you’d do?” They both felt more than heard the distant Mr. Pitt shook his head slowly. “There’s concussive poom poom of the pier cannons. nothing fast enough in the fleet to catch it. I’d probably try to shoot it down before it got away in the first place.”

Pg. 21

Flynn said, “Cannons. The dispossessed sailors have had the same thought we had. If they can’t keep this ship, they intend to knock her out of the sky.” Chain thought it out. “Oh. Well, it doesn’t affect anything crucial if they just punch holes in the side of the ship. However, the voltaic elements take up the entire layer between the lowest deck and the hull. We have a doublelayered hull, but if they puncture it, it could be a long drop and a short trip.” Flynn paled at the thought, sketched a salute, and worked his way back toward the stairs. Mr. Pitt was looking over the railing with Mr. Humble when Flynn burst back up on deck. Flynn looked at Mr. Pitt and said, “Get Bola and come with me.” He checked his sword and started strapping on a skypack. “We have to do something about those cannons.” The three of them gathered at the rail after they had donned their skypacks. Mr. Humble checked all their straps and nodded to Flynn. The captain said, “Listen up—we only have time to do this once. We’re going to drop overboard as close as we can to the pier and engage the skypacks halfway down to the pier. Be prepared for the strain—the packs will fight against inertia, against gravity itself. When you’re close enough, cut the power and drop to the water or the pier. You can engage the sailors, but don’t kill anyone. That’s vital. We have to get to those cannons and disable

M

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook
them.” Mr. Pitt asked, “How are we going to do that?” Flynn said, “I have no idea at the moment. We’ll have to innovate on the ground.” Bola said, “Innovate?” Flynn looked at her. “We’ll need to think of something on the spur of the moment. Are we all ready?” Flynn climbed up on the opposite side of the quarterdeck and grabbed a rope. “Follow me!” he said, and swung out over the rail, releasing his hold as he reached the highest arc of the swing. “Waaaaahhhhooooooo!” He disappeared from sight. Mr. Pitt caught the rope and motioned to Bola. She climbed the quarterdeck and gripped the rope tightly. “You ready?” “Not really,” she said. “Afraid of heights?” Bola glared at Mr. Pitt. “I’m not afraid of anything—I just don’t like falling.” Mr. Pitt grunted. “Just prepare for the battle in your mind,” he said. “Think only of that.” She closed her eyes and brought up her knees. She swung over the deck and away from the ship. “Now!” Pitt yelled, and she released the rope. To her credit, she didn’t make a sound as she disappeared from view, her shoulder-length hair streaming out behind her like a short cape. Pitt grabbed the rope and the yardarm creaked just a little. He made his swing and released the rope, falling rapidly toward the battle waiting below. # Flynn was on the pier and had already engaged three swordsmen when Bola and Mr. Pitt came up behind him. More sailors were streaming out of the warehouse every moment, pushing Flynn back by the sheer press of bodies as the pier filled with sailors eager to redeem their humiliating ouster from the ship. Bola shouted, “Are you sure I can’t kill anyone?” “Kind of busy here,” said Flynn, straining. Bola sized up the situation. “Mr. Pitt, how many men do you think there are between us and those skiffy cannons? Thirty, you think?” She looked around and saw a backless wood bench with some blocks and tackle on it. “Hang on, what do we have here? Mr. Pitt, could you give me a hand with this?” She picked the bench up and flipped it so the top faced forward. She grabbed the left side and nodded her head toward the men crowding the pier, as cool as a cleric. A flicker of understanding went over Mr. Pitt’s face and he grabbed the right side of the bench. “Flynn, hit the deck NOW!” she roared. Flynn glanced at what was coming behind him and dropped to one knee, bowing his head as he did. The bench cleared his head by mere inches and he heard a number of heavy thuds followed by surprised splashes. Flynn raised his head, stood, and saw what they were up to, mowing through the wall of sailors like a ball through tenpins. He quickly sheathed his sword, and rushed forward to help.

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Bola’s bench was a battering ram clearing the pier of tightly-packed sailors. Flynn nimbly sprinted forward and put his shoulder into it. They pushed so hard and so fast that the surge of sailors falling back on their heels and then over the edge started a domino effect. All they heard were sounds of thudding bodies against the wood ram, curt exclamations, and heavy splashes on both sides of the narrow pier as they cleared it. In mere moments, they reached the cannons and dropped the bench over the side into the water. The cannon on the right pointed into the air at the ship had a fuse eight inches in length. A lit fuse. Flynn quickly drew his sword, sliced through the fuse, and threatened the sailor behind it with his sword. Faced with the sword, that one put up his hands and voluntarily dove into the water with all his mates. The other cannon, however, was going to be trouble. The first lieutenant stood behind it with drawn sword, and sighted in on the hull of the ship above. The officer locked eyes with Flynn. Without breaking his gaze, he started to move his left hand with the glowing punk stick toward the fuse. Bola danced around, looking for an opening, but seeing nothing. Mr. Pitt took a step back and watched Flynn intently, his hands at the ready like a wrestler. Flynn watched the officer’s eyes as he lit the fuse, the acrid smoke of the burning fuse rising up between them like the incense of war.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook
Neither man said anything. As the fuse burned, Flynn stepped back, sheathed his sword, and held his hands up away from his body as if to say ‘I’m not armed.’ The officer smiled in victory and brought his sword to his face in mocking salute. As he was temporarily obstructed, Flynn leapt forward and started pushing the barrel of the small cannon to the side toward the water, the iron wheels scraping on the wooden pier. Mr. Pitt leapt to his side and put his back into it, increasing the squealing noticeably, swinging the cannon around to the right. The officer’s face fell and he stamped forward with his sword, only to find himself engaged by Bola’s sword at the backside of the cannon. “Watch it,” yelled Flynn, and stepped back from the cannon. Mr. Pitt released the barrel and grabbed Bola’s collar, yanking her suddenly backward. The cannon fired, and the cannon ball disappeared into the sky, narrowly missing the stern of the ship hovering overhead. The bucking cannon slammed backward into the officer with savage results, knocking the sword out of his hand and throwing him backward into the water on the other side of the pier as if swatted by a giant hand. The cannon itself rested crazily on the edge of the pier, one wheel over the edge. Mr. Pitt watched the whole thing. Bola stood there with her sword out and her hair in her eyes. “What happened?” she said. Flynn stepped to the edge of the pier and pointed at a sailor treading water. “That officer is unconscious. If he drowns, it is on your head.” When he was satisfied that the sailors in the water were caring for the downed officer, Flynn turned to his crew. “Slice the cannon’s restraining ropes and push those guns off the pier.” Bola was getting very good at slicing through the heavy ropes, and Flynn and Pitt pushed the cannons into the water. When the second cannon went over, they heard the cheer from above. Saluting his crew with a flamboyant gesture, Flynn turned to Bola and Mr. Pitt. “Follow me,” he said. He sprinted down to the end of the pier and leapt into the air, activating his skypack. He rose over the water and grabbed an outstretched hook. They got Mr. Pitt in the same way, but Bola came up closer to the ship than they had, and ended up climbing up the wide rope ladder on the port side. When she stuck her hand up over the side and started reaching for a purchase, a hand as large as a small dinner plate grasped hers and effortlessly pulled her up and onto the deck. Flynn dropped his skypack on the deck and clapped Bola and Mr. Pitt on the back to thunderous cheers from the crew. # “That was close,” said Mr. Pitt. “Too close,” said Flynn. “Bola, you saved our stern with that battering ram idea. I can’t thank you enough for your quick thinking.”

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“I was good, wasn’t I?” she said. “That was fun.” “I believe she means it,” said Flynn quietly to Mr. Pitt, earning an understated smile from the big Reacher. “Mr. Humble, sound ‘all hands on deck’ if you please. Captain Flynn called everybody together on the deck amidships. “First, thank you everyone for your part in this historic venture. As I mentioned when we were putting this crew together, we have tacit permission from Her Majesty to appropriate this ship in her service in the form of the Queen’s Writ. Legally, we should be able to move around with impunity.” Eggplant anticipated Bola’s question. “That means, ‘without being bothered by her Majesty’s ships,’” he whispered. Bola blinked but stared at the captain as if she hadn’t heard him, acting as if she understood precisely what he was saying, fooling no one. “Our mission is simple,” said Flynn. “The Sylvans are expanding their borders and making bolder forays against Haddirron shipping lanes. Formerly the most technologically backward country of the big three nations, the Sylvans are developing new steam-powered technology to do virtually everything. I don’t know whom they have there developing all this new technology, but they’re quickly catching up to Haddirron and are making quiet overtures to the Menorrans. Menorra is committed to their lives of ease, and are not eager to admit there is anything wrong with their way of life.” Bola leaned her head almost imperceptibly toward Eggplant. Humble saw this and nudged Eggplant. “Uh, the Menorrans are Utopians.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook
They believe that everyone in their culture should live lives devoid of labor and struggle. They don’t actually, uh, ‘work.’ They don’t believe in it.” She turned to him and snapped, “I know what it means not to work.” “They also don’t fight,” said Eggplant. “They don’t believe in that, either.” Bola’s mouth literally dropped open in shock. The captain grinned and continued. “The Menorrans have successfully rebuffed the Sylvans so far, but the Steamers are getting more and more aggressive, and it won’t be long before they turn to open hostilities against them to get their hands on Menorran technology. That would be a disaster.” “The Menorrans have to do something to defend themselves,” Bola blurted. Flynn nodded. “They’ll likely depend on their own automated technology for defense or pay somebody else to do it for them.” He looked around at the small crew and smiled. “And that’s where we come in.” # The captain took a drink of water from a nearby pail. “Okay, so that’s the ‘what’ and ‘why.’ If you’re at all like me, what you’d really like to know next is the ‘how’; how is this wooden sailing vessel weighing many tons hovering light as a feather one hundred feet above the tranquil waters of Bitten Bay? “I’ll be honest—I only have a vague understanding of the science behind it. I received a formula as a gift passed down from my father to the Abbot on Patience Bay, who was my guardian and kept those things safe and entrusted them to me when I fled there from the Qantiin at age fifteen. Boiled down, our friends out in the ocean discovered something amazing, a colony of, that is, a collection...” Flynn stopped and gathered his thoughts. “Okay,” he admitted, “here it is in blousesleeve language—there’s this goo that, when impregnated into the hull of a ship and excited by the smallest dose of electricity from a large voltaic layer, pushes the vessel into the air. The presence of water is vital somehow—the effect doesn’t hold true over land for reasons that are beyond me. Now, before you ask, I don’t know for sure if it pushes against gravity or pulls toward... something, but what I do know is that a good battery can launch a ship like this and elevate it between 100 and 250 feet for as long as the trickle of energy remains. Rising is a simple matter—activate the electricity and you rise up out of the water. Increase the charge, and you elevate. Decrease the charge, and you descend.” Humble asked “Is that how the backpacks work?” “Same principle, yes. The buttons on your chest activate the battery. Right now there is only ‘on’ and ‘off’ but Chain, here, thinks he can develop a metering system that will allow a skypack wearer, an ‘aviator,’ to be able to control how high he can fly.” “What is the current practical range for skypacks?” The captain’s eyes sparkled. “Since the

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weight restriction is so much different, we haven’t been able to determine the upper limit of human-powered flight with the skypacks. In fact, these are the first that we’ve had time to make.” Bola was unimpressed. “If you can only go straight up or down I don’t see what’s so special about the skypacks,” she said. “Very good,” said the captain. “You’ve put your finger squarely on the first major issue drawback of air flotation—horizontal movement. Take this ship, for example. We’re drifting slowly away from the pier. Anybody have any idea how we’re going to move the ship now that we’re free from the moorings?” “Oh, whapp,” said Bola, distressed. “I thought you’d know the answer to that one.” A shocked silence descended on the group. “If you don’t know, who does?” “An excellent question,” said the captain, and then he smiled. “Mr. Gillings. Would you mind addressing this question?” All heads turned his way. He thought for a moment. “The sails,” he said. “You can catch the breezes and sail the skyways just as you would sail the waterways, only faster—perhaps much faster.” They all looked up into the rigging at the dressed yardarms and masts. Flynn turned to the crew. “There you have it,” said the captain, grinning. “Let’s see what she can do!” #

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook
The captain set up some ground rules before they got started. “As long as we have them, everybody who goes up in the rigging should wear a skypack just in case. Eggplant, you take the wheel. Everyone else with me. We’ll start fore,” he said, pointing, “and work our way aft. Questions?” They got right to work. The captain stopped Gillings on his way to the bow and said, “If they have any specific questions, I’d like to have the crew ask you. I’ll be available in my cabin later if you want to compare notes, ask questions, make suggestions. You might have some questions of your own for me.” Flynn turned to go, had a thought, and turned back. “Oh, one final thing. If you’re going to be an authority around here, you may as well have the authority that goes with the responsibility. As of right now, you’re officially a lieutenant. Congratulations, Lieutenant Gillings!” With that, Flynn clapped Gillings on the shoulder and went back to Eggplant in the deckhouse by the wheel. “Okay,” said Flynn, “let’s go over the basics about handling this girl. Since we’re in the air, there’s no rudder, per se, but there are massive flaps that you’ll use to point us in the right direction. You operate them with this wood rod. It’s mounted in a horizontal slot here and it’s pretty basic—slide it left and the flaps will bring her around to port. Slide it right and we’ll go to starboard. Go ahead and try it now.” Eggplant did this, noticing that the rod moved easily enough. “If you need to lock it down, draw it toward you into one of the notches. You’ve already tried the wheel—it changes the horizontal aspect of a massive oiled gimbal, which rotates the axis of the ship. Wait until the sails are up and then we’ll take everyone else below and let you get a feel for what she can do. Oh! One last thing—if you need to set her down for whatever reason, it’s this slide here. It’s based on the same principle as the rudder, only dealing with elevation. All the way down is sea level, that first little notch is 100 feet, and the second is 250 feet.” “But Captain,” said Eggplant, “there are so many more notches there.” “So there are!” said the captain with a wink. Eggplant wasn’t sure what to do with that, so he asked about the two controls left and right of the elevation control. “Good question. The middle control is for global elevation, the entire ship as a unified ascend or descend. The control on the left is for bow-only and the control on the right is aft-only. That gives you some degree of control over the pitch of a climb if you needed to get the nose up or the tail up for whatever reason. I don’t know how useful they’ll be for you, but they’re there if you need them.” The captain looked around him and took a deep breath. “I guess that’s it for now.” He started to leave. “Captain?” “Yes?” “What about navigation aids? Charts and the like?” “You’ll see that we have tables for spreading charts out on either side of the wheelbox—

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unless I miss my guess, we’ll have charts for Menorran waters—and thereby air space—to the left and Sylvan airspace to the right. Behind you on the wall, we have Haddirron charts, as well as charts for the great expanse of ocean that separates the three countries. There will be other miscellaneous charts, as well, but I’ll let you find them on your own. We won’t need them anytime soon, but we may need them down the line.” “So, Captain? Where do you want to go today?” Captain Cooper Flynn strode to the door and stopped. “We need a few days to get used to the new girl, get a feel for what she can do. In the meantime, hold your present course, Eggplant, and steady as she goes.” He sketched out an informal salute and left Eggplant to the wheel. “He fought against reverting to the third person in his terror,” said Eggplant standing alone in the wheelhouse. Then he started to gingerly try out the various controls. If he made any changes, nobody noticed. # Captain Flynn stepped out of the wheelhouse and looked at their progress unfurling the sails. He snickered to himself, his black eyes lively. Somehow, they’d roped Bola into helping. Somehow, Bola’d roped herself into the rigging and was hanging upside down fifteen feet above the deck, dropping sharp implements and invective onto the deck as she dangled there. He greeted the crewmembers as he passed

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook
by. “Mr. Pitt. Mr. Humble. Bola.” He walked to the bow where Gillings was rigging the foresails. “We seem to have a problem with the rigging back by the mainsail. Would you please help them figure it out?” Gillings looked over the captain’s shoulders and his eyes widened. “Yes, Ven! On my way, Ven!” “Oh, and Gillings?” “Ven?” “You can just say ‘On my way,’” said Flynn. “Your respect is more important to me than the formality.” “Yes Ven! I mean ‘Yes’...uh.” Flynn chuckled. “Don’t hurt yourself, Gillings. You’ll get it as you go along. Keep up the good work.” Gillings nimbly jumped down and ran over to help extricate Bola. If he noticed the blue stream coming from her mouth, it didn’t faze him, although he didn’t indulge in any of that himself. Flynn liked that. Chain was on deck to show Eggplant another nifty feature of the ship that took the form of a big, round brass handle. “This handle controls a series of counterweights below deck. Because of the mass of the ship, you shouldn’t have too much trouble with the attitude of the ship. However, if the wind starts coming in too hard, you might feel the sails tipping the ship, and that’s where this comes in. If the winds are taking you firmly to port, pull the handle to starboard. A series of articulated counterweights engage below deck, fore and aft, allowing you to correct for the wind. I’ve got some ideas on how to automate that process, but it would take some tech that we don’t yet have. A lot of that will depend on how desperate the Menorrans are to cooperate with us if we help take some of the heat off their back, but I’ll leave the negotiations to the captain.” Captain Flynn and the riggers happened to be passing by. He heard the last part of that exchange, stopped by the wheelhouse, drew his sword with a flourish, drew the hilt of his sword up to his face, saluted, and jauntily sheathed the sword again before making his way to the aft sails. It was noon before the ship was fully underway. It took longer than anyone expected to get the sails unfurled and tied but it was an exciting moment when the mainsail crackled to life and filled with wind. The little crew sent up a cheer as the ship started moving. They went over to the rail and looked overboard. Humble said, “So that’s it, we’re on our way.” Mr. Pitt said “Yup,” which earned him an appreciative grin from the crew. Chain said, “I’d guess she’s giving us 30 knots, at least, at least three times faster than we’d be in the water. Gillings said, “Stick around—you haven’t seen anything yet.” Bola said, “It’s official—I don’t like rope.” Eggplant said, “Captain, what’s next?” The captain looked around him and then stared ahead with a faraway look in his eyes.

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The crew quieted as they waited for him to speak. “Well, we’re done here. Next up is a little tradition common to sailing ships around the fleet. I like to call it ‘lunch’!” The crew erupted in cheers again and, with the exception of Eggplant, who took the afternoon helm, they all filed down to the galley below deck to see what they had in store to eat. # Everything onboard ship is smaller than you think it should be, and the galley was no different. With that said, the designers of the HMS Majeste knew what they were doing, and the galley as a gathering area felt larger than it actually was. With four wide, strong, portals, two on a side, there was good light streaming into the galley on both sides, and everyone felt right at home. Mr. Pitt showed a side of himself that nobody expected and quickly rigged together a great pot of beans, fresh bread, fruit, and had cracked open some of the sausages so common onboard ship. The crew gathered around a table and they sat down to eat. “I’ve been onboard a number of Haddirron naval ships,” said Mr. Humble, “and I’ve never had a spread like this.” “We’re not just any ship,” said Flynn. “I had the larder stocked for our crew earlier this week in advance of this cruise before the confusion with Her Majesty’s accountant. I know that other naval ships have one menu for the captain and the officers and another, lesser menu, for the crew. That ends here. We

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook
eat together or not at all.” That earned a frankly appreciative stare from Mr. Humble and the other seasoned sailors. “This is a special occasion,” said Flynn, and he drew a hitherto hidden dagger that he used to expertly lop the top off two bottles of wine. “A toast to our new ship.” “About that, Captain,” Humble said, “we know she used to be called the Majeste, but we don’t know what to call her now.” Bola snorted, busily shoveling beans into her mouth, gripping the spoon over-handed and leaving all style for anyone else. “You have something to add, Bola?” asked Flynn. She paused, wiped her face on her sleeve, and said, “You told us her name there on the pier.” They all looked around at each other and then back at her. She set her spoon down. “I may not be as fast with the words as the captain or Eggplant, and somebody had to tell me what the word meant, but that doesn’t make me slow. I heard it just as all of you. Coop can stand for me. He said, very clearly—even if he was whispering a bit—’Okay, this is our night, let’s take what’s ours, with Alacrity. The captain can settle if he said that or not.” Nervous laughter broke out among the men until she drew a knife larger than a paring knife but smaller than a dagger and buried the point of the knife in the table. “Her name is ‘Alacrity,’” she said, and then proceeded to pare her apple as if that was that. The captain leaned back and nodded his head. “Well, there you have it. She’s fast, nimble, and ours. ‘Alacrity,’ it is. Thank you, Bola.” Bola gestured with her blade in such a way as to indicate that it was nothing, and he was welcome. If it also indicated other things to the men that she was slightly unhinged and wasn’t one to mess around with, she didn’t bother to correct the misunderstanding. Ensign Gillings said, “Bola, you appear to know how to handle that knife. Where did you come by it?” She quaffed a large gulp and answered. “Never mind where I came by the knife. I came by knowledge of what to do with it growing up in the streets of Jhaston. They were mean streets and I never seemed to quite have enough to eat.” “Where were your parents?” “I never knew my parents. My first memories are from a local orphanage. They mistreated me terribly, making me wear dresses and trying to learn me things all cooped up with the others in a classroom. I tried to learn but my mind was always outside with the mercenaries. We always seemed to be eating vegetables and water while they dined on meat and wine. It was a rare day that we got meat, much less good meat, but one day, one of our supporters brought in great plates with ribs and sauce. I thought I was in the heavens. I’d went out back to eat in peace but had no sooner sat down when I saw that dog who stayed around eating

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scraps from the kitchen. I waved to him and he came up. I thought he wanted to make friends, but he grabbed the ribs out of my hand and ran off down the alley. Well, I took off after him, tearing my dress on a pipe. I was gaining on him when a hand jerked me to a stop. That’s when I felt the blade at my throat.” She took another bite of beans and washed it down with more wine, gesturing for more when she was done. Humble was closest and topped off her mug. “I smelled stinky breath and felt sweaty hands on my shoulders, but all I knew was that that dog was getting away with my dinner. ‘Where do you think—ooh!’ he said when I stomped on his ankle with my very proper shoes. Then I whirled and clobbered him in his throat apple with my elbow. He dropped this here knife, and it glittered so in the sun, so I picked it up and ran off after the dog. I didn’t get ten steps when the man ran me down again and grabbed the neck of my torn dress. He ripped it, hard, tearing the dress right off my gangly bones.” She downed her wine and gestured for more. Humble looked at the bottle and ended up passing the whole thing over to her. “He probably thought he was something but he was just doing me a favor—I didn’t like that dress anyway. But I didn’t like being handled that way. I sauntered toward him, waving my budding chest and working my hips like I’d seen the strumpets do. He got a hungry look in his eye and that’s when I smiled.” The galley got very quiet. Some looked at Bola, others at the floor.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook
“He was smiling, too,” she said, “until I hauled off and pinned his hand to the wall with his own knife. Then I kicked him in his man area, took his knife, wiped it off on the tore-up dress, and ran off after that mangy dog.” The galley erupted in relived laughter. Mr. Humble asked, “What happened next?” Bola looked at him like he was charming but a little slow. “Well, I got most of my ribs back. The dog dropped them in the grass when I caught up to him. I think he knew I meant to have my dinner one way or the other.” “How’d you do that?” “I asked him, naturally. But I kept the knife and I got pretty good with it, pretty fast. I had to after I stole some trousers and shirts off a clothes line and started roaming the port city on my own, but that’s another story. I really like this knife and I really didn’t like the school—it’s just that simple.” She rose, wiped her chin again, grabbed the knife by the handle, and pulled it out of the tabletop. She leaned over, skewered an apple, and stepped over the bench, making to leave. Mr. Pitt cleared his throat. She stopped and looked at him. “You want something, big fella?” “Your dirty dishes go in there,” he said. “Please.” He looked at her place and then looked over at the sturdy metal trough that served as a sink. She struck a defiant pose. “Look, I may be a woman but...” Pitt rose, suddenly, towering even over her. She took a step back despite herself. He stood there, wordless, for a slight moment, and then she turned and placed his dishes in the sink. He leaned against the wall, watching her, dishtowel in hand. Bola stalked right up to Mr. Pitt and stuck the point under his chin—a gesture made somewhat less menacing by the presence of the apple skewered thereon. “I’d hate to have to ventilate your chin,” she gritted. “I’d hate to have to take away your little toy and spank you over my knee with it,” he grated. They stared at each other for a beat, and then the moment passed. Bola whirled and buried her knife back in the table with the apple still pinned on it. She strode over, picked up her dishes, and stalked over to the sink, placing them down in with less clatter than you might imagine. Then she strode back by the table, gripping her knife, and plucking it up as she passed. “And to think I said you was no good with women,” said Humble to Mr. Pitt with a wry grin as he returned to his seat. “You have no idea…” murmured Mr. Pitt. The captain looked to Mr. Pitt, met his eye, and rewarded him with an almost imperceptible nod, which earned him an almost imperceptible smile.

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Humble cleared his throat. “So, Captain, where’d you find Bola? Has she been with you long?” “I’ve known her for some months now. Her reputation precedes her. We’re going to need capable damage-dealers where we’re going. It’s a harsh truth, but an accurate one if the intelligence I’ve been receiving is worth the parchment it’s scribed on. All signs point to coming hostilities with the Sylvans and we need to be prepared for battle if and when it is necessary. We will be enlisting the help of a number of sailors, both to serve on Alacrity and to ferry captured ships back to Haddirron ports of call.” The captain dribbled a splash of wine in his glass. “Besides, she has immense gifts in two much-needed areas of expertise.” “Oh? And what’s that?” The captain raised his glass as a mock toast. “Publicity, and recruitment,” he said, and he tossed off his wine amid a roar of laughter. # Flynn put the crew through two days of making sail and heaving-to so as to have enough skill to adequately control the ship. Bola was not impressed, at first. “I don’t see why I need to be scurrying about loosening and tying ropes, and raising and lowering sails,” she groused. Gillings happened to be helping alongside and noted, “I would have thought you would have been one of the first to want to do this because of the muscle that it helps develop.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook
You already have nice cannons there. This work only serves to make you stronger, more defined.” “Cannons?” she asked, dangerously. He nearly panicked. “Yeah,” he said, flexing a bicep. “Raising and lowering sail is a fantastic workout for your arms. Just think how jagged you’ll be after a couple of weeks helping with sail.” With that, flashed a superficial smile and scurried onto the next sail, leaving her deep in thought and surreptitiously flexing her arm muscles. Mr. Pitt was watching from high in the sails and looked down at Flynn on-deck. Pitt nodded once and the captain waved, clearly pleased. Captain Flynn started to post watchers for sailing ships below on the third day out of port. “We’ll take turns scanning for ships. I want to know when we see anything; fishing boats, pleasure cruisers, other privateers, or men-o’war. Mr. Humble, you’ll take the first watch.” “Aye, Ven.” Humble started climbing up the mainmast toward the Crow’s Nest far above while Mr. Pitt walked forward toward the bow. “Mr. Humble,” said Flynn. “Ven?” “This way,” he said, walking toward the bow. Puzzled, Humble reversed his course and dropped lightly to the deck, following Flynn. Chain, Bola, and Gillings exchanged a glance and followed along after at a distance. Eggplant stuck his head out the door of the wheelhouse. The captain walked up and joined Mr. Pitt at the bowsprit which extended out in front of the ship and waited for Mr. Humble—and his sly entourage—to join them. When Humble arrived, Captain Flynn gestured toward the proud beam as Mr. Pitt picked up a rope coiled there on the deck. “While we will, indeed, have watchmen up in the nest, we have another alternative for these next weeks and months right here in the bow. If you’ll notice, Alacrity has sturdy nets strung on both sides of the bowsprit. We’ll station a watch here to scan the horizon in front of us. While here, I highly recommend wearing a skypack, but Mr. Pitt will demonstrate a back-up contingency for safety. Mr. Pitt.” Mr. Pitt displayed a hook on the end of the coiled rope and proceeded to hook it to Humble’s skypack. “Wear one of these,” he said, and then stepped back and crossed his arms over his massive chest. “If you see anything, sing out and pass the word.” With that, Flynn looped a lanyard around Humble’s neck, a cord worn around the neck to which was attached a whistle and a spyglass. He clapped Humble firmly on the shoulder, said “we’ll relieve you in four hours,” and strode off. Bola bent forward and murmured, “You’ll find us something to attack if you know what’s good for you,” spun, and strode off. “Great,” said Humble to the others. “I finally get paid to lie down on the job. Why doesn’t this make me any happier?” The group shared a chuckle over that and started to leave him to his watch when he said “Uh...”

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Mr. Pitt slapped the captain on his back, and they smiled like schoolboys. Humble said “Hey…” Bola slapped the captain on the back and almost knocked him off his feet. She and Mr. Pitt were helping to stabilize him when Humble blew, hard, on his whistle. Everybody stopped and looked back. “Ship ahoy!” roared Mr. Humble, pointing down below. They scrambled to the rail and Humble handed up the spyglass. Captain Flynn looked through it and whistled. “Well, I’ll be dipped,” he said. He handed the glass to Mr. Pitt, who had even less to say than normal. “How far do you think she is?” “Three points to starboard and maybe three miles ahead.” A crowd started to gather up at the bow. “What is it,” asked Chain. “It’s a med ship,” said Captain Flynn, trying very hard to disguise obvious mirth. “I don’t get it,” said Bola. “Ven, I don’t either,” said Gillings, which earned him a favorable glance from Bola. Mr. Pitt looked as expressionless as usual, but now somehow managed to add ‘miserable’ to ‘impassive.’ “It’s the HMS Florence,” he said. “It’s my wife.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 14, Alacrity Under Way by Johne Cook End of Chapter 14 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate continue next month.

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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 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon

Pg. 31

Chapter 14, Broken Men
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  “How many survive?” Zartsi asked. he  began  to  manifest  superhuman  powers  in  a  fight  against  two  corrupt  cops:  enhanced  Takeda could see Esheera flinch out the senses, great strength, lightning-fast reactions.  corner of his eye. The question could have He seriously injured both cops. Strange dreams  and a feeling of great exhaustion followed the  been more tactful. encounter. “A few hundred,” Krane said, without Takeda  now  travels  with  the  Lithrallian  turning around. His arms swung at his sides hunter  Zartsi,  who  saved  his  life  after  he  fled  like iron pendulums. into  the  jungles  of  Belar,  and  the  Vitai  Rover  “And then there’s us,” said another of the Esheera  Nii,  who  granted  them  passage  for  men. “Miners who were stationed here when nothing more than a little money and their life  the Evils hit.” stories. Their footsteps rang hollowly against Now,  stranded  on  the  desert  planet  Nihil,  the slightly uneven floor, echoing from the they  have  found  the  colony  of  Hope’s  End  confining walls. They could only walk two destroyed by the beasts known as Walking Evils.  abreast—Esheera at Takeda’s side, Zartsi just Takeda  seeks  refuge  with  the  survivors,  holed  ahead, with miners before and behind. Every up in the iron mines to the north of Hope’s End,  step pained Takeda’s wounded foot. and continues to seek Cramer Orano, his only  hope for discovering what happened to him in  “Where are we going?” Takeda asked all the years he cannot remember... softly. aw Krane led them down a tunnel which looked as if it had been sliced out of the reddish-brown rock with a laser cannon. The walls almost gleamed in the dim light of gray bulbs spaced twenty feet apart, and shadows clung tightly in the corners. The heat remained, amplified by the cramped space into a suffocating miasma. Takeda’s throat burned with thirst, although he had drunk a good deal of water before leaving Hope’s End. Already a layer of sweat clung to him like a second skin. The passage turned and ended abruptly in an oblong cavern lit by a single light with a faint blue tint. Closed metal doors with white numbers stamped on them lined the walls. Krane pulled open the third on the right, revealing an upward shaft with steps of unpainted steel. Krane started up without another word, and one of the other miners gestured Zartsi up. Takeda noticed that the man had one hand on his pistol. As they climbed, with steel steps clanging beneath them, Takeda called up to Krane, “Where are the mines?” “You people are full of questions,” Krane said. Silence fell over them and remained as Krane led the way through more passages, all of them filled with identical metal doors. Sweat soaked Takeda’s already filthy clothing. At last, Krane came to a door set into its own alcove at the end of a clean, brightly lit hallway. He knocked, and a muffled voice answered. Krane opened the door and led them in. Cream-colored plastic paneled the office’s walls. A tall man with curly hair that extended down his cheeks and across his chin sat behind a desk made of dark plastic and steel. He wore a gray uniform with brass buttons and shoulder plates that had been recently polished. Blotches of red surrounded his eyes. Krane stepped aside, ushering Takeda, Zartsi, and Esheera forward. “This is Governor

L

Several seconds passed, and Takeda had opened his mouth to repeat the question when Krane said, “To see the boss. Check in. Take care of business. Whatever you want to call it.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon
Vance Lombardi, of Hope’s End.” Lombardi stood slowly, wearily. He looked the three over, frowning, then said, “It’s been years since I’ve seen a Vitai. Law, who are these people?” The bald man shrugged his shoulders. “They showed up in a track car from Hope’s End. We figured it’d be a damn cruel thing if we left them to the Evils, so we popped the doors open just long enough to get them in.” Lombardi nodded cautiously, as if his head weighed twice as much as it should. “I see. Good, then. There’s been too many lost already. Too many...” He wiped a hand across his eyes. “I’m sorry. I haven’t slept in...a long time. Sit down, please. I’m sorry I can’t offer you something to drink.” He sat down again, clearing papers off the desk. Esheera folded herself into one of the chairs, and Takeda limped forward to take the other one. Zartsi took up a position against the wall, balancing the dust worm’s spine against the wall and cradling his rifle in both arms. “You men can go,” Lombardi said, waving to the miners. “Law, stick around.” The men filed out. Krane leaned against a clear patch of wall on the opposite side of the room from Zartsi. His meaty hand clamped the grip of his pistol. Takeda settled into his chair, which was plastic with hard foam cushions. “All right,” Lombardi said, knotting his forehead with one hand. “Go ahead. Tell me your story.” Takeda glanced at Esheera. She nodded wearily, rattling the beads in her hair. “Go ahead, Tak. I don’t have the energy.” Takeda sucked a deep breath of hot air into his lungs. The windowless office felt like an oven. He sketched out their journey for Lombardi, omitting Lashiir and claiming that they were victims of engine failure. Esheera and Zartsi remained silent. When he finished, Lombardi looked up at Zartsi. “You killed a dust worm?” Zartsi shook his head. “Rover and I killed together. Trophy is hers.” The governor offered her a thin smile. “Nice work. You probably just set a record for smallest party to bring one down.” Esheera smiled in return. “You flatter us.” “No,” Lombardi said, “That is one thing I never do. For example, I’m not afraid to tell you that your story has gaps. First, I’d like to know why in the hot cauldrons of Hell you came to this rock in the first place. In case you didn’t notice...well, we don’t exactly run a tourist trade.” Esheera chuckled. “Don’t ask me. I’m just the pilot these boys hired.” Zartsi jerked his head at Takeda. “You explain.” He didn’t want to tell the whole story, from that night in the Silver Sun on, and for some time Takeda struggled to compose a story that didn’t sound ridiculous. He started speaking before he had completely made up his mind. The words came out in a rush. “I knew a woman back on Freedan whose husband ran away

Pg. 32
here. She sent me to look for him—Cramer Orano, his name was. Zartsi knows her too, so he came along.” “Ah. And what were you going to do when you found Orano?” “Drag him back to her and make him pay child support.” For an instant, Takeda was disturbed by how easily the lie rolled off his tongue. Then Kramer said, from behind him, “I only know one Cramer Orano, and if he had a wife, he’d put a gun to his head and pull the trigger before he’d get a cup of coffee without her say-so. Must be a different guy, huh?” Takeda inhaled quickly. So Orano had been here...the one man who might know what Takeda was, where he came from. Takeda could only pray he was still alive, somewhere in these mines, conscious and willing to talk. Lombardi nodded. The exhaustion in his smile pained Takeda. “Law said it all. To be blunt, I don’t buy it. And I honestly don’t appreciate being lied to.” Takeda heard Zartsi’s hiss, saw the Lithrallian tense out the corner of his eye. Esheera planted her feet on the floor, as if readying for action. Takeda felt his senses begin to intensify. He didn’t know what he’d do if Lombardi tried to arrest them. Probably whatever Zartsi did. “Wait, now,” Lombardi said, shaking his head. “Let’s look at my options. I can throw you out in the desert and let the Evils have you, I can give you want you want—food, water, and whatever safety we have—or I can lock you up somewhere. First one first. I’m not the kind

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon
of man who would kill you like that for a few whoppers. I’ve already seen...damn, I don’t want to see any more beings go into those devils’ stomachs. So I won’t do that unless I have to.” He spread his hands on the scuffed surface of his desk. “Locking you up is tempting...but I don’t think I’m going to do that either. Let me explain our situation to you: by my estimate there are a minimum of sixty and a maximum of one hundred Evils besieging us. You saw the ones in the sand. There’s others in the rocks. And every night they move, trying to find some way in, beating at all our doors. Those things are strong. I should know. I saw one of them rip my wife in half.” Tears shone in his eyes. He wiped them away. “We’re down to a few hundred fighting men, and we’ve got women and children too. Rescue is coming, but it might not be for fortyeight hours yet. Might not seem like a long time. But not all our passages are secure. The Evils are in the mines. We’ve got them sealed in, but we’re cut off from over a hundred of our people. I’ll put it this way: When the ships do show up, and contact us to let us know, our job isn’t over. We’ll need to get those people up out of the lower shafts through areas that, for all we know, are packed wall-to-wall with Evils. And we need to hold the bastards off while the transports load. “Where do you figure in that? All three of you have weapons, and you already brought down a dust worm. My offer to you is that we give you food, water, and space on the company transports. In return you fight at the front lines. You refuse, and I’ll have no choice but to order all three of you shot.” “I thought you didn’t want any more people dying,” Esheera said. Takeda thought he heard amusement in her voice. “Eaten. They wouldn’t have made me governor here if I couldn’t execute a few men if I had to.” “I see,” she said. She crossed her arms, rustling her wing-flaps, and exhaled loudly through her nostrils. “What do you think, Tak? Zartsi?” “Not much choice,” the Lithrallian hissed. “Put gun away, human. I will do it.” Takeda glanced at Krane just in time to see him holster his pistol. It looked like a .45 caliber weapon. Takeda turned his eyes back to Lombardi, and the governor looked back. “I have one question: is Cramer Orano alive?” “Yes. I think so. But to my knowledge he’s down below.” A cold ball of fear condensed in Takeda’s gut. He had a vision of dark mine shafts crawling with specters of gleaming chitin and venomswollen stingers. Orano was somewhere far below him, trapped in the mines. If he died Takeda might never know why he wasn’t like other men. “I’ll do it too,” he said. Esheera’s beads angled. “Far be it from me to die while those two keep fighting. Count me and my hotchoker in.” Lombardi smiled sadly. “I’m sorry. I suppose that wasn’t really much of a choice. I’m glad

Pg. 33
to have you. But note, if you sneak off, you’ll never get aboard those transports alive. If the Evils don’t get you we will. Understood?” Takeda nodded. “Understood.” “All right, then. Law? Take them to Level Three, give them water along with the men there. Just be sure someone’s watching them and that you know where to find them when we need to roll out.” “Yes, sir,” Krane answered. “All right, you three. Welcome to the club. Move out.” Just as Krane closed the door behind them, Takeda thought he heard faint sobbing drifting from the office behind them. # “How do you find your way around here?” Esheera asked as Krane led them through a labyrinth of dark passageways. Their footsteps echoed hollowly—the mines seemed almost abandoned—and they passed through several areas where Krane’s lantern was the only source of light. He grunted. “I’ve been on Nihil fifteen years. I was around when a lot of this got hacked out. The iron veins wander all over the place, and we follow ‘em, but eventually you pick things up. Either that or you get lost in some hole and shrivel up.” He pulled open a door that creaked. Weak, red-tinged light from inside showed Takeda a cavernous room crowded with men crouching on the rough stone floor, sitting on plastic benches, or leaning against the walls. Some of them held gray playing cards, stared down

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon
at dusty chess boards, or clutched obsolete readers and music players. Their clothes were a motley assortment of mining and security uniforms, ragged shirts, stained and torn pants, and boots coated in filth. Openings in the back of the room showed more crowded back there, including women. At least thirty in all. Everywhere Takeda looked he saw hollow eyes and guns. Rifles leaned against the walls, and several men had pistols on their belts. One man had what looked like a harness for a military-grade shrapnel gun. He wondered how many of them had watched while their families were devoured. “Hey, Law,” one of them said. “More new arrivals?” “Yeah. Just came in off the desert.” “Huh. Pretty exotic crew,” he said. “Lithrallian and Vitai together.” Law nodded. “Yeah. Regular museum piece. I need five volunteers to help me carry up food and water.” “Hey,” said another man, his voice faintly slurred. “Those other guys had a Lithrallian. Think they know each other?” “There’s billions of Lithrallians. Not likely. Now, volunteers?” Hands went up slowly, reluctantly. While Krane picked his group, Esheera led Takeda and Zartsi to a relatively open patch of floor towards the back of the room. Takeda avoided the eyes of the men and women staring at him. The sorrow and shocked horror in those gazes was too much for him. “Forty-eight hours. Then what?” Zartsi hissed. “We’ll probably end up at company headquarters on Coalsmoke. Pleasant name for a planet, isn’t it?” Esheera answered, sighing as she rested her head against the wall. “I wonder if it’s quite this hot there.” Krane left with his group of men. Activity in the room seemed to have ceased in anticipation of the water he’d bring. The silence felt oppressive in the hot air. Takeda had his back to the colonists, facing Zartsi and Esheera as they slumped against the wall. “What’s going on out here? Is there water yet?” a voice said from behind him. Takeda knew that voice. Suddenly he felt cold in the oven-like heat of the chamber. His senses snapped into crystal clarity as he turned. Every odor in the room crashed on his nostrils and he saw motes of dust swirling in the reddish light. A man stood in a dark doorway across the room. For a moment, Takeda wondered if he had misheard—this man wore a dark leather vest, white shirt, tight-fitting black pants, all of them stained with grime, dust, and blood. Nothing like his polished police uniform. But that pale, aristocratic face, framed by midnightblack hair, was unmistakable. Brian Vass recognized him a moment after their eyes met. “Croster...” he hissed. Takeda had his pistol out, cocked, and aimed in an instant. He heard the sound of a bullet snapping into the chamber of Zartsi’s rifle. Vass froze with his pulser halfway out of its holster. Rage blazed in his dark eyes. “Guns down!” a man shouted. Takeda ignored him.

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“Tak, what’s going on?” Esheera asked. Takeda heard her slip her hotchoker out of its harness. “This is Captain Vass,” he growled. “The man I told you about, from Greendome.” Other beings crowded into the doorway behind Vass, including a wiry Lithrallian with red and purple whorls tattooed on his arms and flowing up his throat, ending at his jaw line. He had a rifle in his hands. “He the man we’re looking for?” he hissed. Vass nodded just as three Nihil miners stood up with their own guns out. “Everybody settle down,” one of them barked. “Put the guns away and we’ll talk about this.” Takeda locked eyes with Vass. His finger tensed on the trigger. He could shoot Vass any second. Zartsi could be trusted to nail the tattooed Lithrallian while Takeda started on Vass’ other men. He wanted to do it so much his entire body ached. This was the man who had driven him out of the only home he had ever known. Or ever remembered. There was no fear in Vass’ features. Only cold anger and defiance. A single bullet would freeze that expression on his face forever. “First man to fire, dies,” the miner said flatly. Others had drawn their weapons, spreading their fire between Vass’ crew and Takeda’s companions. “Put the guns away, both of you, or we might just shoot you all.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon
“I think we should listen, boys,” Esheera said. “Vass, I don’t know how many of you there are back there, but I don’t think you can win a firefight against these colonists.” Takeda heard her put her hotchoker away and disconnect the fuel tank. Zartsi kept his rifle on Vass. Takeda’s hand shook. Vass’ lips moved up in a cold smile. “Shoot me if you will, Croster. Jiza, stand down.” The tattooed Lithrallian slowly lowered his rifle, fangs showing in a snarl. Half of them were gleaming steel replacements. Another man with a shaved head and an eye patch holstered his pulser. Vass cocked his head. “Well, Croster? Your move.” Takeda clenched his pistol so hard the grip felt as if it might break. His finger tightened on the trigger. He couldn’t miss—the bullet would smash straight into Vass’ forehead. Blood and brains painted across the rock. Sheri’s face appeared in his mind. The only woman who had ever really paid attention to him—only human woman, at least. He remembered her smile, her pale green eyes, her shoulder-length golden hair with its everpresent blue highlights. She was gentle, kind. What would she think of the violence, the red anger, that filled his mind? He lowered his gun. Zartsi did the same almost immediately. He stuck the weapon back into its holster. “Good,” the miner said. “Now are you going to whip them out again as soon as we take our eyes off you? ‘Cuz if you are, we might as well kill you anyway. We don’t need fights.” The door swung open with another loud creak. Law Krane stood in the doorway, massive water jugs clutched in his fists. He glanced at the miners standing with drawn weapons. “Something happen here?” he asked. “Yeah, Law. Vass steps in here and all of a sudden our two straggler crews pull iron on each other.” Krane set the jugs down to one side of the door. Then he stepped aside to let his helpers unload their burdens: more water and boxes of food. “Pile it up there,” he said. “We’ll sort this out first.” The colonists grumbled at having to wait for their water, but Law ignored them. He made his way through the crowd to stand between Vass and Takeda. He gently scratched the crimson tattoo emblazoned on his left cheek. “Well? Vass? What’s up?” “This man is a wanted fugitive,” Vass said, hands clasped behind his back in an imperious pose familiar to Takeda. “I’m seeking him on behalf of the United Police Forces of the Empire. He’s guilty of several murders and a starship hijacking. The other two are his accomplices.” Krane grunted. “Imperial Police my fat ass. That gunship you showed up in isn’t police. Neither are your clothes. Or your weapons. Or pretty much anything. You aren’t cops any more than I’m a granny.” Vass’ mouth tightened into a hard line. Jiza hissed from the shadows behind him. “All right,” Vass said, slowly. “Tell me, then, Mr. Krane: if we aren’t police, what are we?” “Assassins is my bet. Maybe Croster is a

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criminal—I can buy that. It’s obvious he ran to Nihil to get away from something. I think you’re the assassins someone set on him.” Vass’ lips curved upwards in a cold smile. “You’re perceptive. Now are you going to shoot us?” Krane shook his head. “Not unless you give me a good reason to. We need fighting men right now. And Lombardi doesn’t want me axing anyone I don’t need to. But you’re going somewhere else, and if you try to kill Croster or his pals while you’re with us, you’re mine. Deal?” “You people don’t offer much choice, do you?” “No.” Vass’ gaze slid back to Takeda. “It seems you’ll live a while longer, Croster. But I’ll see you again.” Takeda locked eyes with him for a second, then looked to Krane. “Why not move us instead?” “I’ve decided Vass and his boys need...a heavier guard. Come on, people. Ten volunteers to see ‘em down.” Vass stepped out of his room while the Nihil colonists opened a path for him. A faint sneer remained on his face as he walked out. Jiza came afterwards, glaring murderously at Zartsi, followed by ten other beings—including two Drava—all of them armed. Takeda tensed as he watched them march out. Then the door clanged shut behind him, and he allowed himself to relax. Sight, touch,

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon
hearing, smell: all of his senses returned to dull normality. Takeda’s exhaustion—and the pain from his wounded foot—reasserted itself. Only the distribution of food and water kept him from collapsing. # Takeda woke to the same red-tainted light, filling the crowded room like a bloody mist. Sweat had dried on his skin, and for a few seconds he struggled to open his eyes. His entire body felt gummy, like someone had squirted glue into all his joints. His foot burned as if someone had sewn a coal up in the flesh. He groaned. “All right, Tak?” Esheera asked. He sat up immediately, feeling a twinge of embarrassment. “Yes. Sorry.” “No apologies. I’m glad you could sleep.” She blinked her small, dark eyes slowly. Her head was resting lightly on her chest. “You haven’t?” Takeda asked. “No,” she said, smiling. “Not very much, anyway. It’s...just hard to hear children crying. I overhead a woman back there who doesn’t have any milk, and they couldn’t make the child drink water. So it cried until it fell asleep.” “That’s...terrible,” Takeda said. He knew he sounded like an idiot as soon as the words left his mouth. “More so. The mother was crying, too—her husband died in Hope’s End.” Esheera gently stroked her dusty braids with one hand. Her fingers picked out the beads, particularly the single gray one which hung on every knot of hair. The look in her eyes was distant, wistful, and for a moment Takeda felt as if he was intruding on something deeply private. “I’ve really screwed it badly, haven’t I, Tak?” she said, softly. “What do you mean?” Her wing-flaps rustled as she crossed her arms, clenching her knitted sweater with both hands. “I lost my husband. I lost my ship. And now it looks like I’m going to lose my life.” Takeda shook his head. “We’ve been through a lot. I don’t think we’re going to die now.” She smiled, eyes looking downwards. Takeda heard faint, half-stifled sobs drifting from somewhere in one of the back rooms. “Lombardi said we’ll be in front, not hiding in back. Wouldn’t pick any other place, really. But if we fight Evils, Tak, I’m not sure if a single man will survive. They took out Hope’s End like it was made of sand. “And what if we do survive and get off Nihil? I’ve got nothing. You’ve got nothing. Zartsi has nothing. Maybe we could all get jobs in some factory on Coalsmoke. Save up our quarterSilvers for a ship, eh?” “I don’t know. All I want is to talk to Cramer Orano...I won’t know what to do with myself until I know why my body is like this. Vass is still trying to kill me. Lashiir is out there somewhere.”

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She chuckled softly. “Ah, yes. I doubt our foreman would appreciate the assassins chasing us.” Her eyes turned slowly to Zartsi, still slumped against the wall, his arms wrapped around his rifle and the dust worm spike. A smile crinkled her weary features. Takeda wondered what she saw when she looked at him—only she knew anything about his past life beyond the hints he had scattered. Takeda knew that he had once been a nobleman and nothing more. “Couldn’t you go back to your clan?” he asked. “The Nii would welcome me, certainly. But it wouldn’t be easy to contact them. I doubt there’s a strong Rover presence on Coalsmoke.” Every pair of bloodshot eyes in the chamber went up as the door creaked open. Law Krane stepped in. The large man looked weary himself—his skin was paler than Takeda remembered. A few men mumbled greetings to him which he acknowledged with grunts. He strode through the mass colonists and sank down next to Takeda. “Morning,” he said. “We got another message from our rescue ships. Thirty-six hours. They’ll arrive at night.” His voice rolled through the room like the echo of an artillery piece. Someone moaned, and Takeda heard a voice whispering a prayer in what sounded like Reborn Chinese. Takeda immediately grasped the significance of the news. Walking Evils hunted in the darkness.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon
Krane seemed not to notice any reaction. “How are my desert vagabonds?” he said, smiling just enough to push back the folds of fat on his cheeks. “No worse than anyone else,” Esheera answered. Takeda sighed. He could almost feel Krane’s boulder-like head swiveling towards him. “You want to know why I don’t shoot Vass, since I know he’s an assassin. I saw your face.” A statement, not a question, and Takeda had no energy to contradict it. “Yeah,” he said. “They’re all thugs.” “See this tattoo?” Krane pointed at the slash of red ink stamped on his cheek. “I got that on Smith’s Island, Gray Sea, planet Ulster. Ring any bells?” “A high-security prison. They fly hard cases in from as far away as Imperia,” Esheera said. “Got it. I spent ten years there, solitary confinement. They gave me a reader that wouldn’t work three days out of four and two bowls of gruel a day. Six times a year they’d haul me down to a dark cell far underground and whip me and pour salt water on the wounds. Broken men don’t escape. “I got out eventually. Still sane, mostly. They told me I was free, but that no one on any civilized planet would give me a job. They gave me this mark, along with a chip in my skull. Told me it was the colonies or a handful of government businesses. I came here.” His smile showed filthy teeth. “The Nihil Iron Company doesn’t care who comes. I knifed a collections agent and they still took me. They’ve taken worse, too. Not the worst, but men who couldn’t find homes anywhere else. They got a second chance here. A chance at something, anyway, until the Evils came. “That’s the kind of world Nihil is. With a whole militia of Evils beating down our gates I’ll take assassins and murderers and Rovers. If Xiang Butcher showed up I’d give him a rifle.” His meaty shoulders rolled in a lazy shrug. “That’s how it works, sometimes.” Somewhere in the darkness a baby began to wail. Esheera turned towards it, her lips curved downwards and her nostrils flared. A soft voice tried to hush it, but the shrieks only became more violent. Takeda heard other tears. A woman without milk, nothing to feed her child. Her husband gone. “Where did all these Evils come from?” he asked Krane. “Good question. Wish I knew the answer. Here’s what I think, though. Nihil’s an empty place—that’s what the planet’s damn name means. Every animal and plant has to scratch for whatever it can get, and not much is wasted. So what happens when a few thousand humans come dropping in for mining operations?” Esheera clenched her hands into fists. “I think I begin to see.” “You should. The Evils eventually picked up what we were—a real shitload of food and moisture. I don’t know how intelligent the things are, but they have a big range. It would surprise me if there’s more than a few thousand on the whole planet. I think, once they realized

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what we were, they spread the word around, and eventually they gathered from thousands of miles around. Gathered until there were enough of them to crack us open.” He stood suddenly. “Water time. Sit tight and be ready when we need to move.” He left without another word. Thirty hours passed. Esheera sang softly under her breath. When Zartsi wasn’t sleeping, he stared at nothing, hands clamped protectively on rifle and dust worm spike. Takeda drank every drop of the water they gave him and forced down every crumb of food. He slept whenever he could, curled up on the dark, warm stone. Moans, muffled conversations between hoarse voices, sobs, and snores drifted through the dim light. Gun metal gleamed—the colonists sat poised for action, a ragged army awaiting the call to battle against the living nightmares which had destroyed their home. # Takeda dreamed he sat in a room that was utterly, completely black, as if the vacuum between stars had been locked into solid form. Pale blue light emanating from a single triangular panel in the vaulted ceiling let him guess the room’s boundaries. He sat in a tall chair. Soft cushions gave way beneath his weight. There was other furniture, but it seemed hazy, as if it was a poorly concealed illusion. The room felt lonely and cold. Takeda shivered and realized he was naked—every square inch of his body was open to the chill. His flesh looked paler than he had ever seen it,

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon
as if sunlight had never touched it. He had no hair, either. His scalp had been shaved clean. Then she was there. The woman reclined on a throne of shadows, close enough that Takeda could have touched her simply by stretching out his hand. He wanted to, but she was too beautiful. Her hair was blacker even than the walls. Her eyes burned like blue stars. Every curve of her face was perfect—so perfect Takeda wanted to cry. But still her expression was lofty—lonely and cold, to match the room, the prison. When she spoke at last, her voice was music. “Man,” she said, “may I give you a name?” Takeda’s lips moved without his will. “You may do anything you wish, my lady.” Her smile sent shivers along his skin. “You betray your ignorance. I shouldn’t even be speaking to you. To anyone except him.” Her head bowed, and for a moment the lights in her eyes flickered out. “Would you even care if you had a name?” she asked. “I...I don’t know,” he said, hearing his own hesitation. “I’ve never had one.” The woman’s hair rustled in an unseen wind. Her eyes came up again, brighter than ever. “Go. Leave.” Suddenly, Takeda remembered: Greendome, Sheri, Vass, Zartsi, Clane, Lashiir, Esheera. He remembered his three years. He remembered his name. “Wait!” he screamed, as her face began to fade. “What am I?” She said nothing. She had vanished, and now the walls began to bleed streaks of red light. Takeda’s chair rolled back with a sickening lurch and the cushions hardened into steel. Restraints pinned his arms and legs, cold against his flesh. He was bleeding. Knives of light stabbed into his eyes. Two yellow orbs hovered above him. Eyes, featureless except for wide black pupils. A cruel mouth filled with pointed teeth opened, scarred lips bent, and three words slid into his ears: “You are mine.” Takeda screamed and woke. # Esheera’s face hovered in the dim light above him, nostrils flared, small dark eyes concerned. He felt her hand grasping his shoulder. “Just a dream, Tak,” she whispered. “Drink this.” He took the plastic cup and gulped warm water. It was gone too fast. He coughed, handed the cup back to Esheera, and rubbed his eyes. “How long have I been sleeping?” “Long enough. We’re moving out.” Takeda groaned. A deep pain seemed to have infiltrated all his muscles, more than just the ache of sleeping on rock. The dream clung to his mind, particularly the woman’s face...a woman that beautiful couldn’t exist. Just a dream. Takeda prayed Cramer Orano still lived, somewhere in the mines below—he couldn’t rest until he knew why he had these dreams, why his body was full of organs and bones and chemicals no ordinary man possessed. Why he couldn’t remember anything before Greendome.

Pg. 38
He felt his pistols. Both in place, both loaded. He had plenty of full magazines, enough ammunition to kill a small army. He stood. His foot throbbed with pain—he suspected some dust had gotten beneath the wrapping—but he could walk. That was enough. “All right,” Krane called out. In addition to his pistol he now carried a massive assault rifle with a vented barrel, slung across his shoulders on a leather bandolier. “Here’s the plan. Women and children will report to Level Four, Alpha section, to await evacuation. All ablebodied men follow me down to Level Zero, Loading Room, to rendezvous for a trip down into the mines. We’ve got a hundred people down there, and we’re going to pull them out. Bring your guns.” He stepped out into the passageway. The colonists and miners shuffled out after him. Some paused to kiss their wives and hold their children one last time before picking up rifles, pistols, flame guns, knives, even tools like force hammers and power saws. Their bloodshot eyes held a fierce glow as they marched out. Takeda followed with Zartsi and Esheera just behind. The Lithrallian cleaned out the chamber of his rifle even as they walked. No voices interrupted the steady sound of stamping boots. The colonists walked in silence, weapons clanking, breath heaving raggedly. They went through tunnels stripped of all their iron, down steps that rattled beneath their feet, through areas where lights had burned out, leaving only darkness. At last they emerged into a large, low cavern illuminated with strips of pale red. A handful of men waited for them, leaning on rifles in one corner. Machinery lay untended in the shadows, and the floor was split by four

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon
gaping shafts with lift equipment rigged over them. Every one of the lifts was raised. Takeda estimated that their group consisted of over fifty men, altogether. “Lift shafts are closed,” Krane said. “To keep the Evils out. So we’re taking the long way. Best armed men in front, in back, around the sides—that’s anyone with a heavy rifle or a pulser. Keep your eyes open. Remember that Evils smell like burnt wood. Aim about a foot above the legs—don’t bother with the head. And don’t take your eyes off one. Ever.” Krane examined the men carefully, eyes hovering briefly over each face. “Carter, Shao, Patel, Mufura. You each take about ten men. Doesn’t matter if it’s uneven. I’ll take what’s left—Croster, Esheera, Zartsi with me for certain. Just so long as you know which men you have. We’ll stick together, but keep track of those.” The men divided into their groups. Takeda and his companions went to stand with Krane and eight others. Krane watched them separate, listened to them whisper to each other, then said, “Shao, in the rear, watch our backs. I’ll be in front. Patel and Carter on the flanks. Mufura in the middle. If anyone near you drops, and he’s got a better weapon, take it. Any questions?” Silence. Krane was about to go on when Takeda asked, “How did they get down there? Why not bring them earlier?” Krane’s eyes turned, and for a moment Takeda was sorry he had spoken. But there was no anger in the bald man’s voice. “There were extra supplies down there. They went down to use and retrieve them, but got cut off by Evils. We didn’t want to pull them out earlier because our supplies upstairs wouldn’t have sustained all together. Anything else?” Nothing. “All right. God help us, for He knows we’ll need it.” There was a massive portal shaped from a metal that could only be strome. Krane pulled out a digital key, turned it in a lock the size of an elephant skull, and stood back as the door swung open. The opening yawned, full of hollow darkness. “Lights out,” he said. “Oh, yeah, someone with spares, give them to our guests.” Someone pressed a small hand lamp into Takeda’s palm. The sweat of terror dribbled down Takeda’s back. Suddenly, he felt a cold certainty that he wouldn’t live to speak with Orano, wouldn’t live to know what had happened in all those lost years. They marched forward, down into the darkness. # Brian Vass sat with his legs crossed and his hands curled into fists on top of them. Anger burned inside him, anger which threatened to burst out in raw violence. Finally, he had seen Croster, had him in easy range of a shot. But he couldn’t kill him. Couldn’t take his vengeance on the only man to ever successfully defy him. When the Black  Dog had entered Nihil’s atmosphere, she had been close to complete

Pg. 39
engine failure—damage from the Clordite’s weapons had been more extreme than it appeared. Atmospheric entry had only worsened it. They had approached Hope’s End from the north, but when Vass’ comm signals had been answered by someone at the mine, he had decided to land there instead. The miners would be less likely to ask difficult questions. He had been right. But Krane and the mine’s other officers had put him to work until they could refer his case to the governor at Hope’s End. Vass and all his men had spent almost seventy-two hours hauling iron up out of the mines. Calluses covered his once fine hands. Then they had evacuated Hope’s End. Wretched colonists flooded into the mines, and Nihil Colony went into a state of emergency. The other small mines curled in on themselves and awaited evacuation themselves—small parties of Evils harried them as well, taking whatever sections of the mines they couldn’t close off. It was as if the desert itself had risen against human habitation. Vass hissed through clenched teeth. Shot down. Pressed into labor. And now forced to fight for a ragged band of colonists too stupid to realize what a Hell they had picked for a home. The door swung open. Vass’ hand instantly dropped to his pulser, and across the room he saw Jiza tense, hooking a single claw around the trigger of his rifle. A man stood in the doorway—Larson, Vass vaguely recalled. His blonde hair was shaped into a ridge of bristles running along the center of his scalp. “We’re moving out,” he growled. “You boys coming?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon
“Moving out where?” “Extracting the folks below. Our job is to go down and create a little...distraction, for the Evils. Hopefully keep them off Law Krane’s back.” Vass stroked his cheek, disgracefully stained with dark fuzz. An idea was beginning to take shape in his head. “Where’s Krane going out from?” “Level Zero Loading Area. We’ll be in the shafts, opposite side of the mines.” “I see,” Vass said. He tried to remember the layout of the mine, hastily learned during his three days of servitude. Yes...he knew the place, and he thought he knew how to get to it. “So, coming, or should we just roll a couple grenades in here and slam the door?” Larson asked. “We’re coming,” Vass said. “Get up, boys.” As they marched downwards, however, Vass slowly worked himself towards the rear of Larson’s band. Jiza noticed what he was doing and did the same. They walked through dark tunnels, and the men were terrified—Vass could smell their sweat and piss. They didn’t notice when Vass led his men down a side-passageway at an intersection. He got away clean, and heard Jiza laughing in the darkness. “Nice, boss,” the Lithrallian hissed. Vass smiled as he led them towards the loading area. Croster would be his yet. # Thomas crouched in a dark storage room which now contained only broken tools and obsolete machinery. His stained miner’s uniform was uncomfortable after years of wearing the soft fabrics Lashiir provided, and it felt strange—wrong—to have his head uncovered. But when his lord had ordered him to hide among the miners, to watch them and wait for any sign of Lashiir’s prey, he could not refuse, could not question, could not show any sign of displeasure. At least it concealed his weapons well enough. He placed the communicator against his ear and activated it. It went to only one source. Soon, the flat, metallic sound of Lashiir’s voice said, “Speak.” “Thomas, my lord. I’ve found your prey.” The sound of air fluting out of Lashiir’s beak still terrified him, even after many years. “Finally,” the Clordite hissed. “Where?” “I...my lord, I only found him a few minutes ago. He is moving. A party of men goes below, to rescue some others trapped there. Croster goes with them. And the Rover, and the Lithrallian.” Lashiir’s silence extended for three seconds. Fear gripped Thomas’ heart like his lord’s black talons. Lashiir’s anger and frustration had been growing since his prey had first escaped him at the hotel. It had grown when they had successfully left Freedan. It had flared up when he failed to destroy them in orbit, or find them in the desert. It had become something deep and sickeningly murderous when Tsuke and John had failed to check-in. Dead, both of them. Only Thomas and Heziah remained. “Where?” the Clordite asked.

Pg. 40

Thomas told his lord all that he knew: Croster’s destination, their planned route, everything he knew of the mine’s layout. He had already downloaded a digitized map, and sent it to Lashiir over the comm. He spoke while it was translated into the Despair’s protocols. “Meet me in Shaft Alpha, Sublevel One,” Lashiir said. “I will summon Heziah. You have... fifteen minutes. If I don’t find you there I will not look.” “Yes, lord.” Thomas did not dare to question how his master could move so fast—leave Despair, enter the mines, and find his way to the spot he had named in fifteen minutes. He had seen his dark master do things far more impressive in the years of his apprenticeship. The connection cut off. Thomas slipped the communicator back into his pocket, patted his clothes to check that all his weapons were still concealed where he had left them, and left the room, going to meet Lashiir. The hunt was on again.

Next month...Chapter 15: Memory Rush

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

Memory Wipe, Chapter 14, Broken Men by Sean T. M. Stiennon

Pg. 41

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.

Sean T. M. Stiennon

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

The RGR Time Capsule
RGR Date: August 01, 2007
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1304

Pg. 42

Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls: the lost film

August 1 - August 14, 2007
ponential and what we are experiencing now  is the real vertigo of that - we have no idea  at all now where we are going.

“One of the wacky ideas floated by Hammer Films in 1971 but never developed  beyond a sweet poster was ‘Zeppelin vs.  Pterodactyls.’ People have said it’s tragic  this movie was never made. Now tragically it has been made, a mashup of public  domain cliffhanger serials and old movies. What if Republic Pictures had gotten  this idea in 1936? See it here. Watch for  glimpses of John Wayne, two ‘Wilhelm’  screams, and one actor who wasn’t even  born until 1939. RGR Date: August 06, 2007
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic. php?t=1314

Will global warming catch up with us? Is that  irreparable? Will technological civilisation  collapse? There seems to be some possibility  of that over the next 30 or 40 years or will  we do some Verner Vinge singularity trick  and suddenly become capable of everything and everything will be cool and the  geek rapture will arrive? That’s a possibility too. RGR Date: August 13, 2007
Vernor Vinge ‘Rainbows End’ interview
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic. php?t=1329

Wm. Gibson - the future wears him out

ActuSF: Rainbows End is very surprising  for French readers, who know you mostly  through your space opera. Were you a bit  tired of it ? Vernor Vinge: Rainbows End was a nice  change of pace for me. However, I still  enjoy space opera. I also have some ideas  for stories that are neither space opera  nor near-future SF. In other news, he’s working on a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep. It takes place on Tines  World, about ten years after the end of AFUD.  That is exciting news.

So why not write about the future? The trouble is there are enough crazy factors and wild cards on the table now that  I can’t convince myself of where a future  might be in 10 to 15 years. I think we’ve  been in a very long, century-long period  of increasingly exponential technologically-driven change. We hit a point somewhere in the mid-18th  century where we started doing what we  think of technology today and it started  changing things for us, changing society.  Since World War II it’s going literally ex-

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 28, August 15, 2007

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