You are on page 1of 40

Issue 33 November 01, 2007

 Pg. 2
Ray Gun Revival
Table of Contents
Overlords (Founders / Editors):
Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn 2 Table of Contents
Venerable Staff:
3 Overlords’ Lair
A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor 5 Little White Truths, An Aston West Tale
Shannon McNear - Lord High Advisor, grammar consultant, listening
ear/sanity saver for Overlord Lee
5 by T. M. Hunter
Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand 10 The Wastelander
L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, by Robert Mancebo
Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle
20 Featured Artist: Martin Bland
washer 24 The Pasadena Rule
by Ben Schumacher
Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): 33 Deuces Wild,
Scott M. Sandridge
John M. Whalen Chapter 17, Strange Bedfellows, Part Four
David Wilhelms
Shari L. Armstrong
by L. S. King
Jack Willard 40 The RGR Time Capsule
Serial Authors: October 15 - October 31, 2007
Sean T. M. Stiennon
John M. Whalen
Ben Schumacher
Lee S. King
Paul Christian Glenn
Johne Cook

Cover Art: “bearing witness...” by Martin Bland

Without Whom... Bill Snodgrass, site host, Visit us online at
Web-Net Solutions, admin, webmaster, database admin, mentor, confi-
dante, liaison – Double-edged Publishing All content copyright 2007 by Double-edged Publishing, 
a Memphis, Tennessee-based non-profit publisher.
Special Thanks:
Ray Gun Revival logo design by Hatchbox Creative
Rev: 20071101c
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
 Pg. 3

Overlords’ Lair

F ear. of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the implacable
replication of The Thing, the utterly inhuman and
As I write this, it is that time of year again, the time of unstoppable dread of Ridley Scott’s Alien.
with pain and sorrow, regret and disappointment,
endless strings of lonely nights. Our marriage had
become one of convenience and habit, but neither
year I think about various things. The physical cues are of us had the willpower to call it off.
all there, from the fleeing warmth and the deepening I like how they phrased it in “Men In Black”: “A person is
cold to the shortening of the light and the lengthening smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and I gazed into the pool of liquid as it waited patiently,
of the dark. you know it. Everything they’ve ever ‘known’ has been smooth as an iced-over pond. Then, I tossed the
proven to be wrong. A thousand years ago everybody glass back and most of the sour drink slid down my
It all starts so innocently, but there is an inexorable knew as a fact, that the earth was the center of the throat.
slide. I think of hayrides and the autumn harvest. I universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that
think of the sharing of community on Halloween and the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew “You must be a space pilot.”
the playfully macabre. that humans were alone on it. Imagine what you’ll know
tomorrow.“ “Must be,” I muttered.
But lurking behind the scenes, I feel something else,
genuine evil, and it is every day on the front page of the There it is—what we take for granted today could be I placed the near-empty glass on the table and
news, and it isn’t. I fear both. completely changed at any moment, our lives upset, looked up as a tall, slender female eased out of the
the illusion of our shallow confidences shattered. smoke.
Like many things, fear is a complex thing. Some things
are really obvious—the unexplained noise in the What is fear for you? Lack of control? Pain? Loss of a Her pale blue skin glowed in the dim light and her
darkness, sudden motion out of the corner of your eye, loved one? Looming dread? The threat of things outside hips swayed as she made her way to my table. A
unexpected pain. However, some fears require more your ability to prevent or change? Death? Life? skimpy white skirt barely covered her long legs and
thought, which seems like a cruel joke. The more you matching fabric patches were not enough to leave
know, the more things there are to fear—notification of In this issue, fear comes in different forms. any portion of her ample breasts to my imagination.
a sexual predator living in your area, a wave of unsolved Her long hair was bleached blonde and hung all the
home invasions, identity theft, soaring inflation, global In our first story, fear comes in the form of addiction. way down her back.
warming or cooling, as-yet-unknown superbugs.
Little White Truths: an Aston West Tale Her occupation was as obvious as mine.
The classic monsters of Hollywood’s Golden Age always by T.M.Hunter
fascinated more than frightened me. They were so Our second story is about the fear of an interstellar
rich in characterization, from Dr. Frankenstein and the Addictions can be hard to break, especially when they’re pioneer in the face of a brutal alien invasion.
pathos of his misunderstood monster to the enigmatic so much fun. The Wastelander
Count, to the tragedy of the wolfman. They were There was no way to deny my addiction. I made by Robert Mancebo
creatures who threatened other people in other places. no effort to work myself out of it, either. Instead,
There was a wealth of story there, tragic love given and we kept each other company like an old married A murderous alien raid shows a young pioneer that
lost, even a measure of adventure. couple. sometimes human beings can be too civilized.
But sci-fi has given us a whole new realm of things to In the same vein, we had traveled a road filled “What’s happening?” Jason’s pudgy face was pale in
fear, and they are more globally threatening. I think the emergency back-up illuminators.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007 
Pg. 4

Emma ignored her brother’s question as she smoothing and folding the heated suit and squaring Slap grinned at his brother-in-law as he took the
donned a ballistic helmet and activated its away the breathing equipment. comm from his ear. “Word is, Betts hasn’t stopped
targeting system. She prudently pulled on her old screaming since she found out, and MacCay walked
black jacket instead of the blazing orange parka My eyes kept straying to my hotsuit, hanging in out on her. They’re making bets on whether she
that hung by the exit. the next compartment over. A hotsuit could keep kicks him out before he gets rid of her. They’re
a human being alive and safe on the surface of in chaos, not knowing which way to jump.” Sean
“We’re being attacked. Now be quiet and let Venus for hours on end. Katya’s had managed to laughed with him, then Slap added, “And, get this—
me—there.” She managed to arm her blaster with get her back to the lander after being damaged in there’s been some sort of bank problems. Some
shaking hands and hefted the awkward weapon in the landslide. But it could not take her back out to say a collapse, some say embezzlement, some say
a manner that showed some familiarity. free the fans and bring her home safely. an electronic bank robbery. But it’s frozen the rich,
and they’re scrambling to recover.” And why does
“The comm screens are all still down,” he argued. That was the worst of it. The lander itself, as far that situation have such a familiar ring to it? Slap
“How do you know we’re being attacked?” as we could tell, was serviceable. Katya was hurt would bet Tristan was behind it...
but could probably fly it. We would pass over the
“All the power’s off! What do you think that siren landing site for a rendezvous in a few hours, and “Wow. So, what now?”
echoing through the corridors is?” the Delta ship would be along a half-day later. We
had a lot of things going for us. But the debris With a sigh, Slap shook his head. “I’m not sure. If
“Don’t leave,” he begged when she moved toward blocking the aerofans made it all pointless. I knew what MacCay was really up to, it would be
the door. easy.”
It would be so easy to fix, if only someone were
“Jason, there’s no time for this! I’m going out to around to move some rocks out of the way. Damn it, “You got to know him pretty well, didn’t you? Were
protect the compound; you get down and help a trained chimp could do it, if it were on the scene you friends?”
take care of the children.” and had a hotsuit. I had a hotsuit, but I wasn’t on
the scene, and there wasn’t any way to get there. Only Shallah’s family knew MacCay’s name was
“But there are others who can—” he began, but she really Tristan, although everyone knew he was
cut him off savagely. There was only one landing craft, Virgil, and it lay Slap’s companion from his jaunt in space. “We...
“This isn’t one of your stupid video games! You’re stranded on the surface. No other piloted spacecraft helped each other out of a few scrapes, and yeah,
old enough to know the difference. The Vigron ever built could stand the heat and pressure of the I considered him a friend. But I can’t say where his
wiped out Benton Station and I’m not letting that lower atmosphere of Venus. loyalties are.” I wish I could! Tristan, what’s going
happen here! I have a job to do and so do you, now on?
That left exactly nothing. I couldn’t very well fly
let’s go!” down there, or jump, could I? Whatever you fear, you don’t face it alone. Sometimes,
Ben Schumacher’s continued novella wrestles with the sharing your fear is enough to conquer. And sometimes,
Finally, in L. S. King’s Deuces Wild serial, long-time it can be fun to revel in your fear, just a little.
fear of death—not for yourself, but for a dear loved friends Slap and Tristan face the betrayal of one’s closest
one. friends. What could cause that? What friendship could Just pray it doesn’t get away from you, for that way lies
The Pasadena Rule survive that? real horror.
by Ben Schumacher Deuces Wild, “Strange Bedfellows, Part Four” Johne Cook
The Pasadena Rule says when you’re screwed, you do by L. S. King Overlord, RGR
your job, and then you sign off. Unless, of course, you Breezeway, Wisconsin
Tristan’s new alliance with Slap’s old enemy sets the October 31, 2007
ignore the Rule. former friends at odds.
I wandered into the ready room to take care of “So, what’s going on?” Sean asked.
my high altitude gear. I sat in front of the locker,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Little White Truths: An Aston West Tale by T. M. Hunter Pg. 5
Little White Truths
An Aston West Tale
by T. M. Hunter

I never thought I would one day become an
made no effort to work myself out of it, either.
Instead, we kept each other company like an
old married couple.
She sat with a smile. “So, been to Loehs
Looking back, it was inevitable, with my before?”
long trips alone in a cramped spaceship. It In the same vein, we had traveled a road
leads to boredom, which doesn’t have a lot filled with pain and sorrow, regret and disap- “Can’t say I have.”
of cures. There was no clear moment in time pointment, endless strings of lonely nights. “Then you’ll be happy to know you qualify
I could point to when the solution turned to Our marriage had become one of convenience for my two-for-one special. Pay for one tonight,
full-blown addiction. Instead, it was more and habit, but neither of us had the willpower and get your next visit free.”
gradual and sinister, until the realization to call it off.
became obvious. I smirked and shook my head. “Sorry, not
I gazed into the pool of liquid as it waited interested.”
“Would you like another, sir?” patiently, smooth as an iced-over pond. Then,
I tossed the glass back and most of the sour “Ah, not interested in attractive women.”
I looked up at the light brown man in a drink slid down my throat.
stiff, white shirt as he stood next to my table. I stifled a laugh. “Not in paying for them,
I glanced down at the pale green remnants of “You must be a space pilot.” no.”
some drink I’d forgotten the name of.
“Must be,” I muttered. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”
Without a word, I gave a slight nod and he
walked off into the thick, smoky cloud. I placed the near-empty glass on the table I knocked back the remainder of my drink
and looked up as a tall, slender female eased and set the empty glass on the table.
How many glasses had I downed? I out of the smoke.
couldn’t even remember. They arrived full and “I can’t imagine any girl could stay in
left empty, and at some point the distinction Her pale, blue skin glowed in the dim light business long out here.” I liked to stay clear of
faded. and her hips swayed as she made her way to high traffic locations, and this city fit the bill.
my table. A skimpy, white skirt barely covered
“Here you are, sir.” her long legs, and matching fabric patches Loehs was barely even a mark on the navi-
were not enough to leave any portion of her gation charts. Shipping lanes were so empty
Glasses were exchanged as I tossed a pair ample breasts to my imagination. Her long out here; it had been tough even finding a
of credits onto the table. hair was bleached blonde and hung all the space dock with refueling facilities. Drinking
way down her back. establishments, on the other hand, were in
“Thanks,” I mumbled. vast supply.
Her occupation was as obvious as mine.
“You’re welcome, sir.” He pocketed the “Which is why I do it for the enjoyment and
money and left. “Mind if I take a seat?” not for my livelihood.” She winked at me.
There was no way to deny my addiction. I I motioned toward the seat across the The waiter returned with two glasses,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Little White Truths: An Aston West Tale by T. M. Hunter Pg. 6

placed one full of clear liquid in front of my acquaintance.” homework.”
guest and took another green drink off his tray.
He cocked his head to one side. “Sir?” She lifted her glass and drank it dry. “I “Delurux B might not be as profitable as
prefer special cargo, something that makes it outlawed weapons, but still valuable.” I always
I nodded and he set it down. worth my while in resale.” thought it odd more value was placed on
devices that kill than life itself.
Once he left with my empty glass, I turned “You’d probably prefer no evidence of the
back to the woman opposite me. “So, what’s transaction, either.” “And where did you get it?”
your name?”
“Of course.” “You don’t want to know.” I frowned.
“Angelika.” She lifted the drink to her lips
and sipped. It was hard to picture this attractive vixen Scavenging was a touchy business, which
as a black market dealer, but I’d had enough bordered on thievery depending on the system
“Well, Angelika, what do you do for a living, experience to know anything was possible. I was in. I never stole from anyone, the way I
if not this?” I was also glad to find a potential outlet for saw it. If someone abandoned their cargo
cargo I planned to unload. I hadn’t expected before I came across it, it became fair game.
“That depends.” She clicked the fingernails an opportunity to present itself when I landed
of her free hand on the tabletop. here. “How much are you asking?”
“On?” “I might have something of interest to you.” This was where I always hated the scaveng-
ing business. At least with scheduled cargo, pay
“What’s your name?” “I’m listening.” was set before I even took the job. There wasn’t
this annoying negotiation to go through.
“Aston.” “I stumbled across a cargo container of
Delurux B.” “Ten thousand.”
“Well, Aston, what is it you do for a living?”
Angelika shook her head. “Not much call She laughed. “For one container?”
“I asked you first.” for pharmaceuticals.”
I shrugged as the waiter returned with two
“That you did.” “Are you serious? A drug that can prevent more refills. He sat Angelika’s in front of her
Silence fell over us until I realized she radiation poisoning and you don’t think there’s and then tried the same on me, but I waved
wasn’t going to spill more information before a market for it?” him off. I didn’t plan to stick around much
I did. I took a drink. longer. He walked off.
“Not really, no.”
“Haul cargo.” “Major medical facilities are the only ones
“You ever heard of Rosin?” authorized to even purchase it from the drug
“For yourself or for others?” companies.”
“They have the galaxy’s largest unharvested
I smirked. “That depends.” platinum fields.” She scowled, but as a black market dealer,
she knew she’d lose out if she didn’t snag this
She chuckled. “And if I wanted to buy some I moved my glass. “Because the planet emits shipment.
cargo?” so much radiation, extraction is too costly.”
“Then I’d say I’m pleased to make your She smirked. “I see you’ve done some

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Little White Truths: An Aston West Tale by T. M. Hunter Pg. 7

“Ten is as low as I’ll go.” I’d already figured stairs and turned to Angelika. warnings about storage and shipping.
out a happy medium where everyone could
make adequate profit. “If you don’t mind, we can inspect the “Impressive.” Her teeth chattered as she
shipment inside my hold.” climbed down and folded her arms across her
She weighed it over. “I have to see the mer- chest.
chandise first.” “I’d rather inspect it out here.”
“Need to examine it some more?”
Angelika uncrossed and crossed her legs for “Sorry, nothing personal but I don’t hold
my benefit, which was a useless move on her much trust for black market dealers.” She shook her head, so I re-latched the
part. I didn’t mix business and pleasure. container and jumped down to the floor. We
“A wise choice, but I hold the same trust for went back out into my much warmer living
“My ship’s in dock.” I stood from the table space pirates.” quarters.
and started for the exit. She left her glass on “Fair enough.” I continued inside without “So, are you interested in a purchase?”
the table and followed me out. another word. Hesitantly, she followed.
The smoke cloud parted as we walked She nodded. “Ready whenever you are.”
My living quarters were a disaster area,
through. Moments later, we stepped out into with clothes, belongings and empty bottles of “Let’s step outside.”
the muggy darkness and made our way down a Vladirian liquor spread all over. I kicked a path
small sidewalk in complete silence. We exited down the entry hatch stairs, back
clear to the aft wall, where an open hatch led
to the cargo hold. out to the dark, dingy space dock. The pungent
A short distance down the path, we crossed air burned inside my nostrils. Pinpoints of light
a long footbridge over a near-dormant stream. We walked down the dimly lit corridor to shone in the distance as buildings towered
I tried to hold my breath to avoid the rancid the second bay on our right. I entered the code against the skyline.
stench, but it polluted my lungs enough to to open the internal hatch into a keypad. It
cause a coughing fit. Angelika waved both arms above her head
creaked its objection and slid aside.
and a pair of headlights flashed on nearby.
My ship was one of only three vessels in I stepped in and rubbed my hands together An internal combustion engine roared to life
the space dock as we stepped off the other end while my breath formed a misty cloud. “To let before a tracked vehicle rolled into view with
of the bridge. It was the smallest of the three, you know, this stuff has to be refrigerated.” its trailer. It made a quick u-turn, then came
where the largest ship looked abandoned and to a stop next to my ship. The windows were
the other had arrived after me. I walked toward “Understood.” tinted so I couldn’t see the driver inside the
my transport off by itself in the dim light.
I didn’t figure she’d last long inside the bay, compact cab.
I lifted the left sleeve of my dark, heavy dressed as she was, so I hurried the process Angelika glared at me. “We’re ready for the
jacket and spoke into the embedded transmit- along. Two sets of levers rotated at the corners transfer whenever you are.”
ter. “Jeanie, I have a guest who wants to inspect of the rectangular container, which allowed
some merchandise.” me to pull down the upper side hatch. The “Nothing personal, but I prefer payment
container almost filled the bay, so we climbed first.”
A female voice, my ship’s computer, up on the wall’s support structure and looked
responded. “Acknowledged.” “You might prefer it, but I demand the
inside at thousands of cylindrical medical
cartridges. Each one had a sticker slapped on goods first.”
The entry hatch opened and folded down
to the ground. I stepped up on the embedded it, which listed the drug name and normal

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Little White Truths: An Aston West Tale by T. M. Hunter Pg. 8

I mulled over my options in silence. I could its place with a blast rifle pointed at me. in my captain’s chair. “Get us out of here.”
be a stickler for pre-payment and lose the
entire deal. Personally, it surprised me she She smiled. “I’m afraid our transaction is While we lifted off, I reached down into the
hadn’t been more forceful in her negotiation. complete.” side pocket of my chair and pulled out a half-
empty bottle of Vladirian liquor.
I lifted my sleeve. “Jeanie, unload bay two.” I cursed. “Law enforcement?”
I took a drink of the sweet yellow liquid as
“Acknowledged.” She nodded. “They know better than to get Jeanie started in again. “Aston, why did you ask
involved.” me to unload bay two when you showed your
I turned to my guest. “So, do a lot of this guest bay four?”
type of business out here?” “You won’t get away with this.”
“Just a hunch that paid off.” I smiled and
External bay doors on the other side of “You might as well cut your losses and leave, took another drink.
my ship opened and the sound echoed in the before you do something you regret. I’d hate to
emptiness. She looked over at me. “More than shoot you.” “Won’t they be upset when they find out
the other.” you left them with an empty cargo container?”
I stood there a moment and tried to come
“Not a lot of law enforcement in this neck of up with a way to remedy the situation, but “Probably.”
the woods then?” knew I had no options. It wasn’t completely
unexpected. Black market dealers were I chuckled as my aft engines shot us toward
Her face no longer sported the pleasant criminals, and a great number of them couldn’t the upper atmosphere. I was sure I could find
seductive smile she had when I was first be trusted. A good gut feeling came in handy in a mining company willing to make a deal.
approached. “We have some agreements in cases like these. Everyone wanted to be the first to crack open
place with the authorities.” those platinum mines.
“What goes around comes around,
“They take a percentage?” Angelika.” “And are you worried they may try to find
“A little more complicated than that.” “Perhaps.”
“Possible, but unlikely. I don’t plan to come
I looked over at the cargo container held She motioned to my entry hatch with her back to Loehs again.”
firm in my mechanical claw’s grasp. It eased blast rifle. I huffed and climbed the stairs.
down until six large latches on the trailer Criminals were evil, but most were lazy. It
snapped and locked the shipment down. “Jeanie, close the hatch.” would take work to track me down, and that
As it lifted, I turned and watched Angelika would be more effort than Angelika wanted to
Angelika walked around the container and spend.
double-checked the latches were secure. She sprint off into the darkness after the trailer.
opened the far side cab door and made some “Why did you attempt to sell her the cargo
The hatch slammed. “Set a course for the in the
comments in a language I didn’t recognize. first place?”
Rosin system.”
I became antsy. “I’m ready for payment.” “I’m not sure.” I took another drink.
Jeanie responded moments later. “Course
The transport sped off and I yelled my laid in.” I never thought I would one day become an
objection. A moment later, Angelika stood in addict. Boredom set in long ago and there were
I walked up to the bridge and slumped down

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Little White Truths: An Aston West Tale by T. M. Hunter Pg. 9

few ways to cure it. There was a certain thrill to
dealing with the black market. It was addicting,
and the marriage would probably last until one
of us was dead and gone.
I only hoped I was old and grey by then.

T. M. Hunter
T.M. Hunter is a new and upcoming
author with a heavy emphasis on space
opera, mostly based in the Aston West
universe. His first Aston West novella,
Heroes Die Young, is slated for publica-
tion by Champagne Press in 2008.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 10

The Wastelander
by Robert Mancebo

“W hat’s happening?” Jason’s pudgy face
was pale in the emergency back-up
“But there are others who can—” he began,
but she cut him off savagely.
brown eyes she’d ever seen.
“No! Lionel, not you!” she gasped.
“This isn’t one of your stupid video games!
Emma ignored her brother’s question as You’re old enough to know the difference. The “I told you he was a traitor!” Jason shouted
she donned a ballistic helmet and activated its Vigron wiped out Benton Station and I’m not from the floor. “He’s an animal!”
targeting system. She prudently pulled on her letting that happen here! I have a job to do and The slim wastelander shifted his archaic
old black jacket instead of the blazing orange so do you, now let’s go!” shotgun to the crook of his arm and tugged the
parka that hung by the exit.
She hit the button and the access way slid small tablecloth off an end table. He tossed it
“What’s happening?” he demanded again, open. The familiar corridor should’ve been lit, at Jason saying, “Your nose is bleeding, kid.”
his voice tinged with panic. but it was like a gaping black pit. She stepped The big dog who’d followed them into the
out and was reaching to switch on her helmet
“We’re being attacked, just like he warned!” room looked toward the doorway and gave
illuminators when something struck her hand
she snapped. “Now be quiet and let me—there.” another low growl.
down violently.
She managed to arm her blaster with shaking “I hear him,” Lionel said in a hushed tone.
hands and hefted the awkward weapon in a She began a protest but her weapon was Outside the frantic pounding of feet echoed
manner that showed some familiarity. knocked from her grasp by a heavy blow, and and a familiar voice gave a strident call, “Emma?
she was thrown back against the concrete wall.
“The comm screens are all still down,” Emma? Get your blaster! That wastelander’s
Breathless, only her helmet saved her from
he argued. “How do you know we’re being blown the main power feed. The Sentinels
being rendered unconscious. As she tried to
attacked?” are all destroyed. The Vigron are inside the
gather her dazed wits, the helmet was yanked compound!”
off and pitched to roll echoing down the
“All the power’s off! What do you think that corridor. “Ben, lookout, he’s here—” Jason screamed
siren echoing through the corridors is?” she
demanded. “Now I want you to go to the main defiantly. Ben Artha came around the corner,
An animal growl preceded a crushing grip
rec room and help take care of the children weapon ready, but the slim wastelander was
on her arm that forced her back through the
and non-combatants.” too quick for him. He slammed the blaster’s
access way and into the family chambers. barrel up with the butt of his shotgun so it
“Don’t leave,” he begged when she moved “Get away from my sister!” She heard discharged a bolt of plasma into the ceiling;
toward the door. Jason’s outraged yell followed by the sound then he dropped his gun to execute a cunning
of a blow, and her teenaged brother lay dazed disarm that left Ben looking stupidly down the
“Jason, there’s no time for this! I’m going barrel of his own weapon.
upon the carpet.
out to protect the compound; you get down
and help take care of the children.” She shook her hair out of her face and The wastelander deactivated the blaster
found herself looking into the coldest pair of and tossed it out into the hall. He placed his

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 11

fists upon his hips so that the long fringe of his back. “We’re only going out to see what sort of “I’ve got an engineering certificate. I could get
smoky buckskin jacket dangled flamboyantly. trash the wind blew in.” a good job on any civilized planet. I shouldn’t
have to settle for some egocentric want-to-be
“Seems like,” he looked up at Ben Artha’s “Don’t be rude! Mom and Dad—” she playboy like Ben.”
glowering face, “we all need to have a little began.
talk.” “Yeah,” he dared to reply. “But we’re not
“—won’t know a thing if you don’t tell on a civilized planet. We’re on Uton, two years
# them!” he cut her off. “I’m not a baby, you from any civilized planet. That’s why Mom
know! I can dress my own—damn—self!” and Dad had to travel by ground car for three
It had all begun with the arrival of the hundred miles to get to a hospital to take care
“Fine. Freeze your ears off,” she replied. “I
strange man a few scant hours before. of a simple appendicitis.”
could care less.” She knew better than to argue
with him when he was in a defiant mood. Even “Well, maybe I’ll go into business for myself
“Jason,” Emma had shouted down the her mother and father had trouble dealing with then,” Emma told him as she turned back to
echoing concrete hall. “Beth says there’s a him when he got like that. the exit door. She added, under her breath,
wastelander at the gate!”
“Anything to avoid becoming, ‘Emma Artha.’”
They went down the wide common corridor
“I’m playing Echoes of Abandon!” he called that linked their home with a hundred others The wind was howling when they went
back. She could hear the rumble of synthetic and climbed the steps of the nearest exit. outside. The wind howled a good deal of the
blaster fire with a background of dynamic
music from his bedroom. “Throw it on the time on Uton. The sky was a leaden gray and
“When are they ever going to finish install-
comm screen, and I’ll watch it from here.” occasional bolts of lightning arced across it.
ing the power lift,” Jason huffed as he climbed. Uton was a planet of extremes. The colonists
“These stairs are murder.”
“We’ve been on this rock for six months lived and worked in complexes dredged down
now, dork. You still don’t know all the links “A dozen steps wouldn’t bother you if you below the planetary surface. The newest wave
are scrambled whenever there’s a storm?” she ever got off your lard-butt and went outside,” of colonists did anyway. Decades ago, the first
shouted back. “If you want to see him, you’ll Emma snapped. “You’re fourteen years old wave had been frozen out in the long winters
have to crawl out of your hole!” now. You could do something besides play or broiled away in the scorching summers.
video games all day and night.” There were only a handful of them left now,
“Stupid electrical storms,” she heard him living out in the wilds on their own. Wasteland-
grumble as he paused the game and came “That’s what I need,” he huffed, “advice ers, the newcomers called them. Sometimes
down the hall. He looked like nothing so much from a spinster sister. Why don’t you marry they showed up to offer advice or help. Mostly
as an owl woken in the bright sun of midday, Ben Artha and go live with him.” they kept to themselves. They were a strange,
mussy hair surrounding a round face, big eyes lonely breed, traveling with their big dogs and
blinking at the illuminators. “Because he’s a pig!” She wheeled on him the archaic weapons they made by hand.
at the suggestion. “He doesn’t want to marry
He kicked into a pair of insulated boots and me; he just wants someone to feed him and There were people in the colony who
pulled on a light jacket that hung by the exit clean up after him.” listened to their stories and advice, but most
way. found them to be an oddity. They lived without
Jason cringed from her anger as though he modern technology and wore clothing of
“Thermal parka,” she reminded him. thought she might hit him, which, of course, tanned animal skins so no amount of bathing
was against the law. She backed him against would remove the musky smell that followed
“I don’t need a stupid parka,” he snapped the wall with a threatening finger and said,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 12

them. must feel at the display of firepower. “Not during an electrical storm,” Emma
reminded them. “They could’ve kept a raiding
Emma and Jason leaned into the wind and “Anyone got some water?” the wastelander ship in the shadow of the moon until the
pushed on toward the wide gate in the wall that asked. He was breathing heavily. “I’ve just run sensor array at Prime Station was blinded by
surrounded the many access ways to the living from Benton Station.” the storm.”
complex. From the surface, the underground
city looked like nothing more than a massive “Benton Station,” one of the surround- “But Benton Station had sentinels, just
walled forest with small covered doorways ing colonist’s snorted. “Why that’s ten miles! like we do,” another colonist exclaimed. “No
nestled between the trees. Nobody could—” Vigrons could’ve taken out sentinels!”
A group of citizens was already gathered The fiery glare of the wastelander silenced “No one left,” the wastelander told them.
about the open gate, dressed in insulated his disbelief. Wastelanders were known to be “No sentinels, no colonists.”
parkas, anonymous with their faces lost in the prickly about people accusing them of lying.
big hoods. The visitor was obvious. He was “How would you know?” Emma recognized
Emma bumped Jason’s arm and bobbed the acidic voice of Ben Artha from the bulky
a lean man, a man not raised upon heavily her head back toward the entrance. parka to her left.
processed foods packed full of salt, sugar, fat,
and synthetic flavor enhancers. He wore a “But the stairs—” he whined. “The colonists armed themselves,” the man
wide-brimmed hat to ward off the rain and sun, explained. “They tried to break free and make it
and below his dust goggles, his cheeks were “Get him some water!” she hissed. a running fight. They didn’t make it. The Vigron
darkened by a close-cropped beard that made
Jason made a grouchy noise but went back were still cutting down the last survivors when
his age indeterminate. He could’ve been a year
to get water for the man. I got there.”
or so older than her own twenty, or he could’ve
been as much as thirty; Emma couldn’t tell. His “And you did nothing?” Ben demanded.
“Why would a man run all the way from
dark buckskins with their dangling fringe and Benton Station?” one of the other colonists
smudged knees and elbows looked horribly “I took a good, hard look, then Bennie and I
out of place surrounded by the bright orange hightailed it over here.” He patted the panting
parkas of the residents. He had a coat of some “Seemed like the thing to do,” the man said. dog. “You’re the closest settlement. I figured
thick furry hide bound up on a pack upon his “Wasn’t anyone there I could help. Thought I you folks needed warning more than the dead
back and a huge, shaggy dog pressed close to might try to warn you folks before the same needed burying.”
his leg. thing happened here.” There was a general grumbling but Don Win,
Emma also noted the two armored “What same thing?” Someone asked. the colony mayor stepped forward and clapped
sentinels standing nearby. They were the most a hand upon the man’s shoulder, saying, “Thank
up-to-date defensive hardware in the galaxy. “Wiped out,” the man reported coolly. you for your warning. We’ll be prepared if they
Each was capable of handling nearly any sort “Vigron raiding party hit last night and killed come this way.” He turned to the crowd and
of military problem from wild animals to a full- everyone. Man, woman, and child.” said, “We’ll keep all four sentinels manned at
scale invasion. all times, issue out personal weapons from the
“We’re at peace with the Vigron,” someone armory, and stand watch twenty-four seven.
It was a lot of hardware for the colonists argued. They won’t catch this station napping!”
to display over the entrance of a single man.
Emma scowled at the awe the wastelander “Our sensors would’ve picked up any Jason trotted up, huffing and sweating,
incoming ships,” another colonist added.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 13

with a pitcher full of water. He offered it to the evacuate to Brighton West or one of the other the complex.”
wastelander hesitantly. There were numerous larger cities, somewhere with more defensive
dark and disturbing stories about the people capabilities.” Emma flushed. Of course he’d sleep
of the first colony, people who lived in the somewhere else! Surely no one thought she’d
untamed wilderness of Uton. To a fourteen- “You obviously don’t know the overwhelm- been offering—
year-old, their barren life would seem romantic. ing firepower of a modern Sentinel,” Ben Artha
said with a sneer. “We’ll sleep outside, if it’s all the same to
To Emma it seemed squalid and pointless. Yet you folks,” the wastelander told them. “Bennie
there was an eerie strength about the man. No “Obviously the Vigron do,” the wasteland- and me don’t like to spend too much time
one in the colony would’ve faced ten miles of er replied. “There were four Sentinels left as underground. Makes us jumpy not to hear the
trackless wilderness without a groundcar or smoking hulks at Benton Station.” sound of the wind.”
skimmer, much less have physically run the
distance. “That’s impossible,” Ben scoffed. “Well there it is then,” Mayor Win waved
a hand in finality. “I’ll have scheduled watches
In history class she had read of men who “Most people believe what they want to,” displayed on the central screen of the rec room.
could brave such hardships, Iron Age and the man replied with a shrug. Personal weapons will be issued out, one per
pioneer era sorts from the ancient times when family, at the armory. Make sure a represen-
humanity lived through animal brawn rather “Well we’re certainly not going to evacuate tative of each household stops by within the
than brains. It was surreal to actually see such the station over a simple Vigron incursion,” hour to pick one up.”
an anachronistic character standing there Mayor Win told him, and the others agreed.
before her. She had to admit he intrigued her. “But Stranger, we owe you a debt of gratitude The people scattered to their homes,
He was almost as alien to her generation of for the warning, Can we offer you food and leaving Emma and Jason alone with the waste-
colonists as the merciless, blue-skinned Vigron shelter?” lander and his dog. The wind was beginning
themselves. to strengthen, and she waved at the man to
“We could do with a meal,” the man follow rather than try and yell over the noise.
The man took the pitcher with a nod and a admitted.
‘thank-you, Son,’ and drank about half in a few She walked down the steps in embarrassed
gulps. Then he did a strange thing. He knelt “He can eat with us,” Emma heard herself silence. She wasn’t used to entertaining, and
and grounded the butt stock of his weapon. saying, though she didn’t quite know why. In all she could think about was the mess Jason
Leaning the long barrels against his shoulder, a carefully controlled world, he was a unique had left in no less than three rooms. At least
he doffed his hat and poured the rest of the puzzle. So little actually happened within the the kitchen was clean. He never did anything in
water into it to let his panting dog drink. colony; any news or stories he could pass on there except stuff his face and drop his dishes.
about happenings beyond the protective walls
It surprised her that such a rough-seem- would be welcome.
ing man would pay any attention to a dumb #
beast. “Ah, good,” Mayor Win said loudly to be
heard over the wind and an errant clap of Emma was a good cook; everyone said she
“Something you folks might want to think distant thunder. “Emma Jackson knows her was. Yet, while the man wolfed down the plain,
about,” the man interrupted the grumbling way around kitchen automatons. I trust she warmed vegetables and the simple boiled
discussion about their defensive procedures. will feed you well. potatoes, he took only a single bite of three
“Those people had the same defenses as spicier dishes and wouldn’t touch the four
you do. Was I you, I’d break into groups and “As for sleeping arrangements,” he added. layer, chocolate-chunk cake she’d programmed
“I have quarters available in the west wing of

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 14

for dessert. fur affectionately. “He warns me of trouble; “You’re going to be attacked, Miss,” he
that’s his job. After that, I’m on my own.” replied simply. “The next day or so, you’re
He’d made use of the bathtub while she’d going to have that Vigron raiding party here
been working on supper, and had come out “Don’t you want your cake?” Jason asked on a visit. Now my old shotgun is loaded for
scrubbed and with his long hair combed. glancing in wonder at the man’s plate. game hunting, not war. I need to change my
Cleaned-up and without hat and goggles, she loads to something that will pierce Vigron body
could see he was in his mid-twenties. They’d “Never was much on such things,” the man armor.”
run his cloth shirt and underclothing through replied. “Don’t see the reason to cultivate such
the wash unit but he wouldn’t let them touch habits.” “There’s nothing you can make that will
his buckskin outer clothing. He explained that have even a shadow of the force of our plasma
“It’s good,” Jason encouraged. “It’s got
the machines would ruin it. blasters, much less the destructive capability of
chocolate-chunks and fudge frosting!” our Sentinels,” she told him. “But if you explain
She found that it smelled—interesting. It what you want,” she added when he looked like
“Tastes good. Bad for you,” the man
was heavily scented with the smoke of outdoor he was going to argue. “I can program the fab-
replied. “Ain’t a thing a body was meant to eat.
fires and the aroma of crushed leaves, but it rication of your items in the machine shop.”
You stuff enough trash into you, the body falls
was not really unpleasant. apart. Don’t have no med-techs nor hospitals “Thank you, Miss,” he replied simply.
He’d washed his huge dog as well; Emma out in the bush. Can’t afford for a man’s body
shuddered to think what the bathroom would to quit working proper. Meat and vegetables,
that’s what a human runs on.” #
look like.
She was surprised when she chanced a “That’s like an animal,” Jason complained. They left Bennie sleeping in a corner and
glance. The bathroom was clean and neat, Jason to clean up; he hadn’t put up his usual
“Exactly, son.” The man nodded. “We’re argument in front of the wastelander. She
towels in the bin and water mopped off the just an animal with a higher brain mounted suspected he had no plans to do dishes at
floor. atop. Long as we remember that, we do pretty all, but at least he hadn’t argued in front of
The damp hound seemed embarrassed well.” company.
and stayed close to its master’s legs. Ill at ease “Perhaps there’s something else you’d like, Emma took the man to the machine shop
indoors, it stopped just short of tripping him. something more familiar?” Emma asked. and programmed specifications on the CAD
“Can I get scraps for your dog? Mister—?” terminal of the computerized fabrication
“Tempered chromium steel,” he answered
Emma made it a point not to notice the food machine.
without hesitation.
the man had left.
“How do you make this sort of thing on
“Steel?” her brow crinkled.
“Lionel, Miss. Just Lionel. Thank you. Please your own?” she asked as she worked.
don’t, I’m afraid ‘people-food’ would make “Do you have a machine shop and some
Bennie sick. He lives pretty well on rabbits and “Discarded bits from drilling rigs or tool
scrap tool steel?” he continued. “And an auto-
scrabbles he catches out in the bush.” parts,” he said with a shrug. “The spring is
forge or a gas torch for tempering parts?” carnival time. Folks will gather in the Four
“Is he a killer-dog?” Jason asked in awe. “There’s a shop, of course,” she replied. Corners to palaver and trade for such scrap.
“But I don’t understand.”
“Naw, Bennie’s a lover not a fighter,” the “A simple hearth fire draws out the temper.
man said with a laugh as he tousled the dog’s Then a man hammers the stock into billets on

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 15

a flat rock. The softened billets are shaped under his belt. table, “but it’ll do at close range.”
in a hand lathe, then tempered in a charcoal
forge.” “I could make you a replacement,” she He packed the hardened steel darts into
offered as she programmed the machine. “A the shells with pieces torn from the shop rags.
The fabrication machine whined and several new knife, I mean. That one’s all— stained.”
dozen copies of the simple item cascaded into “I’d rather have a Mark VI blaster!” Jason
the bin. “I’m obliged, Miss, but you couldn’t.” When said. “Shi-wa!” He pretended to shoot imaginary
she started to correct him he continued, “My enemies. “Shi-wa! They carry a charge for two
Emma thought about the hours it must take uncle made that knife for me when I was eight hundred rounds and auto-target five Vigron
the wastelanders to form a similar part and she years old. She’s been through many a rough simultaneously.”
shook her head. and brutal life-lesson by my side. Cut tinder to
make a thousand warming fires, cleaned game, “Sounds lethal,” the wastelander
“That’ll do,” he told her. helped me build shelters, and done darker commented.
deeds I don’t talk about. No, Miss, you can’t
“We’ll temper them over here.” She led “The best! And someday I’ll get to man a
replace that knife.”
him to an auto-forge and scattered the fistful Sentinel; Ben said he’d teach me.”
of darts onto the conveyor. “We just program The machine spit the tempered rounds
in the type of metal and the Rockwell hardness “Them big, armored machines?” the man
out amid a hissing cloud of vaporized coolant.
desired—?” said with an indulgent smile. “Looks like fun.”
Emma watched the man pick up and test
the parts carefully, as though they might still “Sure, they’re invincible!”
The man shrugged his shoulders but then be hot or something ridiculous like that. He
he reached back and drew a sheath knife from checked each and every piece. She wondered “Well I have seen evidence to the contrary,”
his belt and tapped it on the corner of the if he thought the machine might have made a the man said tolerantly. “But they surely are
machine to make the steel blade ring. “This mistake. Very odd, she thought. impressive.”
hard, or harder.” He handed her the knife.
“They’re all exactly the same,” she assured “Aww, someone wasn’t ready or something.
She fingered the hand-honed blade of the him. “I am a certified engineer.” It was strange At Benton I mean,” Jason told the man. “If
razor-edged knife. It was a well-forged tool, yet that he actually had affection for his inanimate they’d been prepared, the Vigrons wouldn’t
with the slight imperfections of a handmade knife. Some sort of pointless, wastelander have destroyed them. Why each Sentinel has a
item. It made her scalp prickle to think of what bond to the object, she assumed. scrambling system to make it invisible to Vigron
rough-and-ready tales of desperate survival targeting systems and they can register Vigron
that knife had witnessed. The oiled handle was He pulled two shop rags from a dispenser power systems at five thousand yards!”
stained darker toward the blade, doubtless and wrapped the loose steel darts in them for
with the blood of the wild game he’d hunted transport. “Are you prepared?” Lionel turned to Emma
down and hand-processed for food. and asked.
“Rockwell—” she tapped the blade and #
“I’ve been fully trained,” she replied. “I’m
gave a rough estimate of its hardness, “Oh, very good. On simulators, I mean. I’ve never
let’s say sixty.” “This isn’t as good as a rifle,” the man been in real combat before—if that’s what
told Jason who watched over his shoulder as you’re asking. I mean, I can defend my home if
She handed the knife back to him and he he pried open the ends of shotgun shells and it comes to that. We all can. We wouldn’t have
slid it into the high, wrap-around sheath tucked dumped the lead shot into a cup on the kitchen come all this way—I—I’m rambling, aren’t I.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 16

She could feel that she was blushing. The man the settlement,” he said with a shrug. “I guess to leave the safety of the compound? Why
made her painfully self-conscious. I just don’t have a lot of trust in folks I don’t would we evacuate a solid, defensive position?
know.” Maybe there’s a wastelander ambush waiting
“Nothing to be ashamed of,” he assured her. out there. Maybe he’s in with the Vigron!”
“There’s a first time for everything. The world “Reasonable attitude,” the wastelander
would be a whole simpler place if everyone was commended before Emma could voice an “Ben, that’s enough!”
just trained for combat on a simulator, instead objection. “People are naturally suspicious of
of having war forced upon them by an armed folks they don’t understand.” “Have him answer that if he can!”
enemy. But that isn’t how life is.”
“Think so?” Ben became even more aggra- Jason looked doubtfully at the wasteland-
A chime announced someone at the door vated by the wastelander’s calm manner. er. The man looked at Emma with sad eyes
and Jason rushed to get it. It was the first time “What I can’t understand is why anyone would but didn’t answer Ben’s challenge. Instead he
Emma had seen him move so fast in weeks. float through life with no trade and no more picked up the small, beaded satchel he carried
home than a tumbleweed,” he continued to ammunition in, and slung it over his shoulder
“Ben! It’s Ben!” they could hear him call in glare at the smaller man. as he walked toward the exit.
excitement. “Hey, Ben, what’s up?”
Lionel replied quietly, “Consider the lilies “I’m—I’m sorry.” Emma tried to apologize.
“I just stopped to check in with you folks, of the field. They neither toil nor do they spin,
squirt,” Ben’s voice bellowed from the front “Thank you for the meal, Miss,” he called
yet I tell you that never was Solomon, in all his
access way. without ever looking back over his shoulder.
glory, attired as one of these.” He left with his dog following after him.
The captain of the station militia, Ben Artha “Don’t quote the Bible at me, Wastelander,”
was a huge bear of a man. He was good looking “That was rude,” Emma accused.
Ben made the title sound like a filthy word.
in a rakish sort of way and lifted weights to “He’s a liar,” Ben replied. “A bum and a liar.
enhance his build to the romantic expectations “Seemed like someone should,” Lionel He probably made all that up just to get a free
of the local femininity. Not that firing a blaster replied without offense. meal—if not for something worse.”
or manning one of the devastating Sentinels
took any sort of muscle, but the girls liked the Emma stepped in between the men and “Yeah, I knew he wasn’t right in the head
air of power it gave him. Even Emma, who had faced Ben. “Why did you come into my home when he wouldn’t eat dessert,” Jason chimed
no delusions about Ben’s capricious character to pick a fight?” in.
or intentions, had to admit that he certainly “Because I don’t believe him!” Ben snapped.
looked the part of an intrepid pioneer. “Wouldn’t eat dessert?” Ben demanded
“Why would he have run all this way just to with a smug smile. “What a putz.”
Next to him, Lionel looked slim and frail, warn us? We don’t know him. For all we know,
almost waifish. nothing happened at Benton Station. We’ll find “Yeah, a putz!” Jason said with a laugh.
out as soon as the storm clears. He’s no more “Hey, we’ve got some left. You want some?”
“Everything’s all right, I see.” Ben looked than a wild animal! If Benton was attacked,
directly at the wastelander when he said it. who’s to say that he wasn’t a part of it?” “It’s my favorite part of a meal!” Ben replied
with enthusiasm.
“Everything’s fine here,” Emma told him. “That’s a horrible thing to say!” Emma
“Why wouldn’t it be?” snapped. “I think it’s time for you to leave,” Emma
told him.
“A stranger’s taken in by the prettiest girl in “Why else would he be trying to get us

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 17

“Why, ‘cause Lionel was a putz?” Jason trained,” he replied. and fury behind it, but Lionel was under the
snorted. blow, rammed the man’s leading leg, and lifted.
How could she explain to a fourteen-year- As Ben stumbled over the crouching man, his
“Because a man came all this way to save old that Ben Artha had been coming-on to her momentum pitched him over his back. Lionel
our lives and you treated him like some sort of for the better part of a year? That this was a had only to lift with his legs to toss his attacker
a criminal!” she ignored her brother to snap at typical pattern for him, to say anything to try in a cruel arc. Ben hit the floor six feet away in
Ben. to make any possible rival look small. a bone-crushing fall and lay there panting in a
daze of shooting pain.
“You’re too trusting,” he said as he leaned “Oh, go to bed,” she finally ordered.
a big shoulder against the wall. “Unless you want to stay up and do the dishes It all happened so fast! Emma had no
you left?” training in hand-to-hand combat, but she got
“If you wanted to call him a liar, you her arms wrapped about the wastelander’s
should’ve done so when he wasn’t a guest in She felt a sinking in her stomach. There slim shoulders and hung on. When he moved,
my home,” she told him. “Now get out!” had been something powerful and elemental she knew she was in trouble. He was all iron
about the wastelander. Something she found
“Out?” he clearly didn’t believe her. muscle and whalebone. With a shrug he broke
deficient in the men of the station. He was the hold and turned, locking her arms behind
a part of the violent world that surrounded
“Out or I’m calling the Station Council and her as though she were a child and forcing her
have you charged with trespassing!” back against the wall.
Jason went to bed. She was almost ready
“All right, I’m going.” He laughed slightingly, For several heartbeats they stood chest-to-
to go to bed herself when there had been an
but he was clearly irritated. chest, with him physically crushing her against
earth-shaking rumble and the lights went out. the wall with his body. It was an odd, over-
“See you later,” Jason called after him. whelming feeling to Emma, the coercion of raw
# physical force. Coming from a non-touching
“Another time, squirt,” the big man replied society, it gave her an odd thrill. Raw, physical
and left with a sarcastic semi-bow to Emma. “Talk, with you?” Ben Artha dropped into combat was an alien experience. Her heart was
a combative crouch as he faced Lionel in the pumping, her senses were heightened, her
“That wastelander was lying, you’ll see,” dim room. “I’ll wring your skinny neck!” He blood was coursing; yet somehow she was not
Jason warned her. dove at the smaller man, but the wastelander afraid. Something inside her knew, in the face
“Why would he lie,” she demanded. “For side-stepped, grabbing the clutching hands of all logic, the man was not there to hurt her.
a meal? The station would feed anyone who and pulling. She had to stuff down her emotions and face
showed up at our gate. Besides, he couldn’t the reality of the attack before she could try
His own moving mass used against him,
even eat most of what I served.” and resist his hold.
Ben staggered across the room to bounce
“Then he’s some sort of traitor, working off a synthe-stone wall. Josh was rushing at For a dazed moment, she was reminded
for the Vigron,” Jason warned her. “Ben knows the wastelander’s back, but Lionel spun and again of ancient people who lived through
about things like that.” gave him a resounding slap across the face animal strength and cunning. There was
that made the young man back up with huge, nothing of modern, gentle civilization in the
“How would Ben know about things like tearing eyes. man.
that?” she demanded.
Ben was back in a moment and looped a big “They track you by your power signature,”
“He’s the captain of the militia. He’s fist at the smaller man. He had all his weight

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 18

he told her, his face only inches from her own, She was surprised to realize she was disap- It seemed like hours that they waited in
with no more excitement than if he were dis- pointed. the darkness, hearts thundering, wide eyes
cussing issues over supper. “They’ve turned searching the fire-lit garden. The lightning still
your own technology against you.” “Let’s go!” Lionel moved swiftly for the flashed sporadically overhead. They never saw
door, scooping up his shotgun as he went. anything of what was happening. They only
He looked toward Ben and Jason and “Bennie, stay close,” he ordered his dog. heard the periodic roar of Lionel’s archaic
continued, “Every weapon, every communi- weapon and the slow, dying screams of Vigron
cator, every modern gizmo you people use, The colonists didn’t know what to do except murderers. Evidently the steel darts Emma had
allows them to target your position.” follow him into the darkness of the corridor. made for the wastelander didn’t kill cleanly,
“Sssst,” he hissed in the dark. “Take hold of but they did kill.
“What?” Emma quit trying to wrestle with
him and looked into his softening eyes. each other’s belts or shirts.” The grisly, fear-haunted night eventually
“And how do you know where you’re gave way to a smoky dawn, gray with thun-
“They zeroed your Sentinels with coor-
going?” Ben demanded. derheads and rippling flashes of lightning. Ben
dinated rocket fire. Too high a volume for urged Emma and Jason to leave their hideout
their plasma fields to defend against. All your “Shhhh,” was his only answer. in the bushes. “There’s been no movement for
defenses are gone. Your power signatures an hour. They’re all dead,” he told them. “He’s
make it easy for them to find your defenders.” They climbed the stairs and exited the killed them all.”
He turned to Ben Artha who was trying to access way into a burning hell. There were
get dazedly to his feet and ordered, “Cast off bodies scattered among the trees and gardens “Then where is he?” Emma asked.
anything that uses power: communicator, and the frenzied shouts of Vigron raiders
locator, weapons, anything. And ditch that echoed in the night. Lionel led them to a clump “Dead too maybe.” Ben shrugged as he
helmet; it’s got a targeting system attached!” of brush and waved at them to lie down. looked around.
Ben tossed the helmet away, his eyes “The Vigron weakness is the same as “Or injured,” Emma said. “Help me find
blinking. yours,” he whispered to them. “They’ve been him.”
civilized too long. They rely completely upon
“You blew our main power feed—” Ben They began a methodical search of the
technology. Every once in a while, it’s good to
accused. compound. Everywhere they went were the
teach them that there are still men out in the bodies of people they had known or the eerie,
“It’s more help to them than us,” Lionel universe. stinking corpses of Vigron raiders. Every human
snapped. “Besides, I had to warn all you folks who had taken up arms to defend the station
“You all stay put and keep down. School is
somehow.” was dead at the walls or in the gardens.
about to commence.” He patted his dog and
He released Emma to point at Jason. crept off into the gloom. Ben picked up a Vigron optical scope and
“Games? Phone? Toys? Dump anything that swept the area. He cursed under his breath
A few moments later, there was a flash,
uses power?” Jason sniffed at his bloody nose and said, “He was right. All our powered
and they heard the ugly roar of his firearm rip
and dropped his phone from his pocket. The equipment lights us up like Christmas trees.
through the night. The wild Vigron war cries
wastelander reached his arm around Emma’s We might as well be walking around wearing
faded and pitiful screams echoed. The invaders
waist. For a shocking moment she thought he flashing strobes and sirens!”
knew that something was hunting them in the
was going to kiss her, but he pulled away holding night.
her phone and tossed it onto the ground. Emma choked back tears as she passed by

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Wastelander by Robert Mancebo Pg. 19

the bodies of friends and neighbors. But Lionel
was nowhere to be found.
“Stay?” Ben demanded. “You can’t! Not
after this—”
Robert Mancebo
They had been searching for several sad “Those who stay will spread out; learn to I‘m a former soldier, locksmith, and
minutes when their attention was attracted live with the land instead of surviving through technician. I’ve had dark and historical
by an odd, gurgling sound. When they moved planet-twisting technology.” He poked Jason’s fantasy published both on-line and in
toward it, Lionel stepped out from behind a round stomach, saying, “This is a full-contact
tree. The wastelander was covered in purple world. Things are rough, and they’re good that various magazines.
Vigron blood and carried his hand-forged knife, way. No one who lives out here is afraid of a
still dripping, in his hand. little blood, pain, or discomfort. Anyone who
stays will toughen up, learn to live well without
“What did you move for?” he demanded. luxuries and electronic entertainment. They’ll
learn what plants and animals to eat, and what
“I thought they were all dead,” Ben geological areas to avoid.
“They’ll learn to help folks who can’t pay
“They are now.” He shook the blood from them back.” He looked into Ben’s eyes when he
his knife and wiped it off on one buckskin-clad said, “Just because it’s the right thing to do.”
leg. “You folks need to learn how to hide out
in a scrap. When to keep your heads down and “No games? No videos? No real food?”
when to fight. So far you’ve put on a pretty Jason blinked in horror. “No way! I’ll move back
poor showing.” into the city.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say,” Emma told “I expect most people will,” Emma said.
him. “But I won’t. I’ll stay and learn.” She looked at
Lionel when she added, “If there’s someone
“The truth often is,” the wastelander who’ll be around to teach me.”
replied with a shrug as he sheathed his knife.
“But it wouldn’t be any help to lie to you.” “Oh,” Lionel’s face twisted boyishly in a
crooked grin, “I can pretty well guarantee it.”
“What will we do now?” Ben seemed dazed
at the carnage and loss.
“Storm will be breaking soon,” Lionel
predicted. “You’ll call for help as soon as the
weather allows. Alert your folks in the larger
cities. Your non-combatants should still be safe
down below. Someone will be sent to collect
up your survivors. You’ll all be safe enough in a
place with stronger defenses.”
“What about those of us who want to
stay?” Emma asked.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Featured Artist: Mike McCain Pg. 20

Featured Artist
Martin Bland
Name: Martin Bland
Age: 34
Hobbies: My son, painting, chianti
Favorite Book / Author: Philip K. Dick, Asimov come to mind. I’m not as
big a reader as I should be really. I prefer to express rather than take in.
Favorite Artist: I have many. I tend to have favourite images rather than
artists, though, as it’s not really about the person, it is more about the
image and the way it affects you.
When did you start creating art? I’ve always created; from a very early
age I was drawing complex pictures of battle scenes, etc, and won a
national competition at 8. I drew prolifically until I was around 18; when
social life took over completely for 10 years, before making my way back
into the fold.
What media do you work in? Primarily digital, though I like to dip my
toes into the traditional world now and again—I love oils.
Where your work has been featured? Expose 5, ImagineFX (10page
spread), Advanced Photoshop (5page spread), a host of online galleries
and awards, various coffee table artbooks and magazines, went on tour
with BT/Thomas Dolby, and also commercially in books, magazines, CD
covers, etc.
Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your
Prints are available through:,
How did you become an artist? Through the fantastic support of my
wife; I was in the printing industry for ten years, reached the top of the
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Featured Artist: Mike McCain Pg. 21

tree and was very unsatisfied. She gave me the confidence and support to find something that I loved to do. It wasn’t long
before I fell into concept art/digital painting—old habits die hard—and I can safely say I’ve found what I’ll do until I die.
What were your early influences? My brother was a large influence. He was/is a fantastic pencil artist, and pushed me down
the right paths. I’ve tried not to be influenced by other artists, I like living in a little bubble when it comes to inspiration. I want
my ideas to be as purely ‘mine’ as I can. It’s relatively impossible to be truly original but it’s what I strive for.
What are your current influences? My son, and wife—I paint for them. I want to leave behind a small legacy for my son to
make money from when I’m no longer around, and I want to repay the favour to my wife, and let her find something that
satisfies her and support her that same way she
supported me.
What inspired the art for the cover? It was
one of those happy accidents. It started life as
a barrage of brushstrokes, started out as a city
sketch, and gradually turned more and more sci-
fi as it went; the saucers were just the icing on
the cake at the end—I couldn’t resist.
How would you describe your work?
Gothtekscigloom, I’m not entirely sure. I like to
paint things people can connect with; beauty in
darkness, a positive inside a negative, convey a
Where do you get your inspiration / what
inspires you? I’m not certain of that myself—I
dream a lot. I pick up inspiration from real
life, a sunset, or the way light bounces off
surfaces. I store up little elements that affect
me in some way, similarly with modern media.
Whether it be art, TV, books, I’ll pick up a mood
or colourscheme, something small, and try to
replicate that feeling I had when it hit me. I try

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Featured Artist: Mike McCain Pg. 22

to stay away from being directly influenced by something. I
don’t use reference images when I paint—I try to keep my
process as pure as I can.
Have you had any notable failures, and how has failure
affected your work? Not really, nothing that stands out. The
only things that have gone a little wrong taught me something
every time. I worked for a major studio on a large-scale
product, only to be given no support or direction, a rush job,
only to be told my work wasn’t what was expected or wanted
after 30hrs work. It taught me not to take on jobs that weren’t
specifically tailored for my style, and to be wary of studio
work (plus insisting on 50% up front). There are a few knocks
along the way for everyone, but I’ve turned every one into a
positive, and gained a lot through them.
What have been your greatest successes? How has success
impacted you / your work? Success is just a by-product,
it’s not something I’m all out to achieve. I’ll create art no
matter what, but it lets you know you’re moving in the right
direction, that you’re doing something right. The attention is
gladly welcomed but not a necessity to me. My most recent
proud achievement is working with the hyper-talented Kurt
Iswarienko, a NY fashion photographer on a six-page advert
for Lexus. The campaign will be receiving a crazy amount of
publicity as it is in the centre of Surface Magazine’s ten year
anniversary edition. It will be running in conjunction with the
Avant Guardian photography competition, which goes on tour
to every major US city, and is apparently a very big deal in the
fine art world.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Featured Artist: Mike McCain Pg. 23

What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art? Almost exclusively—Adobe Photoshop CS2, and my Wacom

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 24

The Pasadena Rule
by Ben Schumacher
5. were around to move some rocks out of the “Okay, you’re crazy.” He rubbed his eyes
way. Damn it, a trained chimp could do it, if it with the heel of one hand.
were on the scene and had a hotsuit. (Were
“No, listen to me. I think I know how we can
there hotsuits for chimps, I wondered, in the
wandered into the ready room to take care save Katya!”
early days of their development?)
of my high altitude gear. I sat in front of the
locker, smoothing and folding the heated suit A chimp could do the job—if the chimp “Oh, Jack.” Dieter shook his head with a
and squaring away the breathing equipment. were on the scene. I had a hotsuit, but I wasn’t pained expression. “Jack, give it a rest. Take
on the scene, and there wasn’t any way to get something and get some sleep. You look like
My eyes kept straying to my hotsuit, hanging crap.”
there. There was only one landing craft, Virgil,
in the next compartment over. The mirror-finish and it lay stranded on the surface. No other
of its outer layer reflected distorted images of “Pay attention, damn it. I have a hotsuit up
piloted spacecraft ever built could stand the
the room, and of me. I didn’t look so good. This here. You and I could get it ready in a couple
heat and pressure of the lower atmosphere of
was my own personal hotsuit, tailored perfectly of hours. If I went down and cleared the fans
to me—the life-support couplings on the inside on Virgil, then Katya would be able to fly it.
of it exactly matching the fittings implanted in That left exactly nothing. I couldn’t very Right?”
my skin, the suit’s brain precisely tuned to my well fly down there, or jump, could I?
individual metabolic responses. The hotsuit “Maybe she could, if you did that. But aren’t
was a marvel of engineering, as expensive as Could I? you forgetting a little something? You aren’t
a small spacecraft. Since backup lander pilots down there. You’re seventy kilometers up.”
were surface-qualified (barely), I had been I stood up suddenly. “I’ll be damned,”
I said aloud. I stared at my hotsuit, trying to “So I jump.”
fitted for one. A hotsuit could keep a human
being alive and safe on the surface of Venus for think it through rationally. My pulse pounded Dieter opened his eyes a fraction wider.
hours on end. Katya’s had managed to get her in my ears, and I forced myself to take some “A parachute jump? That is crazy. You would
back to the lander after being damaged in the long breaths and settle down. Hold on, I said to have to make a chute—the fabric, the lines, all
landslide. But it could not take her back out to myself, leaning against a locker. It would not do that crap. You’d need to be able to deploy it
free the fans and bring her home safely. to have a heart attack right this minute. without fouling everything. And it would have
to hold up in the lower atmosphere. We don’t
That was the worst of it. The lander itself, # have anything that would work. I’m sure we
as far as we could tell, was serviceable. Katya don’t. For God’s sake, Jack, we’re talking five
was hurt but could probably fly it. We would “Dieter! Wake up!” hundred degrees.”
pass over the landing site for a rendezvous in a
few hours, and the Delta ship would be along a He came awake quickly and sat up, confused. I nodded. “A chute is impractical, you’re
half-day later. We had a lot of things going for I had closed the door behind me, and there was right. But I don’t need one.”
us. But the debris blocking the aerofans made barely room in his cubicle to kneel by the bunk.
it all pointless. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?” “You don’t need one? We’re seventy kilo-
It would be so easy to fix, if only someone “I need you to tell me whether I am crazy.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 25

“What is the terminal velocity of a falling parachute jumps. I can manage it.” the impact, and if you’re close enough to walk
human body?” to Virgil, and if you can clear the aerofans, and
“Four or five meters per second, for seventy if the ship can take off, and if it holds togeth-
“I don’t know. Forty, fifty meters per kilometers? How long would it take to fall the er—and if you can manage all of this in time to
second. Depends on your orientation.” whole distance?” make rendezvous with Delta—then you might
have a chance. Give me your best engineer-
“On Earth,” I said. Suddenly Dieter’s eyes I hadn’t thought of that. “Most of the way ing assessment, Jack. On the first try, with no
were open very wide indeed. He’d seen it. “On I’ll be going through thinner air, so I’ll be falling simulations or test runs. What are the chances
Earth,” I repeated, softly. “But what about on faster. Twenty minutes, maybe?” of success? Less than fifty-fifty?”
“More,” Dieter said positively. “Bound to “Maybe,” I admitted.
His mouth hung open and his eyes were be more.”
distant for a quarter of a minute. “Mein Gott,” “So. If you don’t go, we lose one person for
he said at last. “That might work. You crazy “If you don’t know it exactly, you’re in certain. By your own admission, if you do go,
bastard. That just might work.” trouble,” Madeline said. “Our ground speed is we have a better than even chance of losing
three hundred and fifty kilometers per hour. two people. Does that seem like a good bet?”
# Make a five-minute mistake in your drop time,
and you’ll wind up thirty kilometers downrange, “Hell, yes!”
in mountainous terrain. Even if you land okay,
“It’s a question of air density,” I told Madeline your suit will go bad before you can walk to She shook her head. “You’re too close to
in the wardroom. Everyone was there—Max at Virgil.” the problem. Katya is your wife—Jesus, no
the door so that he could keep one eye on the wonder you’re ready to try anything. But we
control pod, but the rest crowded around the “No it won’t,” Bill said. “His forward airspeed have to use our heads.”
table. “If you double the density, you slow the will be nearly zero all the way. Once he gets
terminal velocity by a factor of root two. The air below the jet stream—which won’t take very “Maddie,” I said desperately. “You can’t
density at the surface is more than fifty times long—he will fall almost straight down. We make a calculation like that. This isn’t some
the sea-level density on Earth. So the terminal could probably predict his landing point pretty academic exercise in risk assessment. Yes,
velocity will be seven or eight times slower.” closely.” we are talking about Katya. She is your friend
too, for God’s sake! If I try this, then there is a
“The lower gravity helps, too, a few Max put in, “And we can track him by radar, chance, a reasonable chance, that we can fix
percent,” Dieter said. so that he knows which direction to walk after Virgil and come back home safe. There is no
touchdown.” chance at all if I don’t.” She pressed her lips
“That’s right,” I said. “And there is another
few percent from buoyancy, in air that dense. together and said nothing. I kept on. “Suppose
“I should be able to control my fall,” I said.
With a bit of luck, I might be falling only four or we don’t try this. Then Katya dies. But I will
“Vertical speed for sure, and maybe some
five meters per second when I hit.” know—all of us will know—that there was
lateral control. I might be able to land right on something that we might have tried, something
top of Virgil.”
Madeline blinked. “About like jumping off that might have saved her, and we didn’t do it.
a house,” she said. “You can break a leg doing Madeline looked straight at me. “Okay, Jack. I don’t know about you, Maddie, but I couldn’t
that. Then what would you do?” If you can get the suit ready in time, and if we live with that.”
can figure your flight path, and if you survive
“You hit almost that fast with a regular Madeline fixed her gaze on the table and
all the way down, and if you aren’t injured by
parachute, and I’ve done a good number of shook her head. I realized, with surprise, that

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 26

there were tears in her eyes. “Damn you, The earphones in the helmet came to life. I thanked him and took the helmet off.
Jack,” she said quietly. No one spoke for a long Max said, “We have a flight profile for you, We had perhaps four hours before we flew
moment, and then she sighed. She said, “This Jack.” over Virgil’s position. I tried to think of things
is not going to be easy.” we were forgetting. “Dieter,” I said suddenly.
“Let me hear it.” “Remind me to take a nasal decongestant
Everyone began to talk at once. “Wait a before I suit up. I’ll need the strongest one we
second!” she shouted. “We can’t do this alone. “This is still rough. Bill is working on a can find.”
I’m calling Frank in an hour. We need to have better aerodynamic model, but I think these
a lot of answers for him by then. Max, Bill, figures will be good to within ten percent or “OK,” he said, squinting at the reflection
you work out the flight plan, or the fall plan, so. You’re in free fall for only a few seconds of his eye in the mirrored surface of the suit.
or whatever the hell it is. Jack and Dieter start after you jump. By J plus thirty seconds, you’re “Why? Have a cold?”
warming up the suit. We need to know if it will essentially at terminal velocity, and you stay
do the job.” that way clear down to the surface. We figure “No, but we don’t have the special stuff that
that you can control that speed by as much as the lander teams use before they go outside.
“It will.” fifty percent, which might help you fine-tune We’ll have to make do with whatever we have
your trajectory. in the medicine cabinet up here.”
“Find out for sure. I’ll look over all the data
we have on Virgil’s situation, to make sure the “It’s a hell of a long trip, Jack. In fact, it “But what is it for?”
thing really is possible if you do get there. Hold is going to take a good hour and a half to go
on. This is still only an option, fellas. If we hit the whole way. You fall quite fast at first. Your “By the time I get close to the ground, the
a snag that we can’t work out, we’ll have to speed tops out at around Mach 0.6, but then air pressure around me is going to be changing
scrap it. Is that clear? Now get moving.” you slow down a lot further down. Most of pretty fast. I don’t want to pop something
your time will be drifting down that last twenty because my sinuses get plugged.” He looked
# klicks.” horrified as he understood. “I’ll probably be
fine. But in any case,” I added in a lower voice,
“That’s good. That means I won’t hit too “don’t tell Madeline that we aren’t using the
Dieter and I spread the hotsuit over half the fast.” right drugs. She’d just worry about it.”
ready room, giving it as thorough a checkout as
we could manage. Dieter used a magnifier to “Close to what you figured. Also, there “Yeah. Right.”
go over every square centimeter of the suit’s might be ways to slow that down at the last
shiny exterior, checking for damage or flaws in second. It might help to flap your arms, for #
the thermal insulation. I had the outer cover instance.”
off the life-support pack and several lines “The hotsuit is ready to go,” I said to
connected to it, replenishing the liquid gas I could not quite tell whether he was Madeline. “I need to start getting into it soon,
reservoirs, and recharging the energy cells. I kidding. “How far downrange will I go?” though, because that will take a while.”
would have preferred to do a full diagnostic
test sequence, but our maintenance shop did “Only a few kilometers. The high winds She nodded and looked at Max. “We make
not have the equipment. I relied instead on the are only up at altitude, where you won’t be it eighty-six minutes to the surface, depending
suit’s own internal sensors. With the helmet spending much time. The lower wind speeds on body attitude. Headfirst, it could be consid-
on my head I could use the computer display in are almost nil—a few centimeters per second. erably less. He will hit the ground at around
the faceplate. Data on the life-support system And if you can steer, you might be able to com- five meters per second. The visibility should be
flowed before my eyes. pensate.” good, so he can prepare for impact.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 27

“Tape your ankles and wrists,” Madeline “We think that the plan is feasible, Frank. Something inside me collapsed. Bill and
said. “That could save you a sprain.” We’ve done the analysis. Ask your own engi- Dieter shook their heads. But Max was watching
neering people on the Aphrodite to check our Maddie closely. I looked too, and I saw that she
“Good idea,” I said. Dieter made a note. data.” still had a card to play.
“What about Virgil?”
“This is pretty damn far beyond the param- “Frank,” she said quietly, after a pause. “I
“The main problem there is the possibil- eters of the mission.” don’t quite know how to put this. But when all
ity of damage that we don’t know about, that is said and done—I don’t see what you can do
won’t show up until the fans are cleared and we “So is the situation,” Madeline shot back. to stop us.”
start them up. The bearings might be cracked.
Something might be bent. But that ship is as “And just what chance do you think this has I could have kissed her!
rugged as hell, all systems over-designed by of working?”
about two hundred percent. It might work. It “What I want to know,” she went on, “is
“We estimate a seventy-five percent chance where you stand. We have some decisions
might.” She shook her head. of success,” Madeline said evenly. I looked at to make down here, too, and I want to know
“So?” her with surprise. This was the first I’d heard of whether or not you’re going to back us up.”
odds that good.
“So we call the captain. But I doubt if he’ll Across the table, I saw Dieter’s mouth
like it.” “That is a load of crap,” Captain Bell said. hanging open. “God damn,” muttered Bill. We
“Maddie, we are all very upset about what’s waited for Captain Bell’s reply.
# happened to Katya, and I’m sure that Jack is
worse off than any of the rest of us. But that’s “You’re not serious.”
no reason for him to throw his life away on
Captain Bell had been awakened in the “You know me. Do I sound serious?”
some damn-fool stunt.”
middle of a sleep cycle. “Okay, I’m here,
Maddie,” he said. “What is so urgent that it “If this emergency is not a good enough “Maddie,” Captain Bell said conversation-
can’t wait a couple of hours?” reason to try something crazy, I don’t know ally, after about a ten-second silence, “I’m
what would be.” getting a bit rusty on the mission rules. Do you
“We have an idea about the situation,” she remember the definition of mutiny?”
said. “It requires rather prompt action.” “Damn it, I can’t approve something like
this. I’d have to consult with Command.” “Haven’t given it much thought,” she
“Go on.” replied. “Didn’t think it would ever come up.”
“It’s a ten-minute round-trip for communi-
So she went on, describing the entire “Yeah,” he said. We waited while he
cation with Earth. The back-and-forth will take
plan in cold, technical detail. It took her three digested this. “This will not look good,” he said,
hours. We do not have all day here, Frank. We’ll
minutes to say it all, and Captain Bell did not almost to himself. “Not with Katya’s husband
be over Katya’s position shortly after 16.00,
say a word for the whole three minutes. The making the jump. That makes it seem like an
and it’s almost 12.30 now. You’re the man on
rest of us, listening in, held our breaths. act of desperation. Why does the jumper have
the spot. You have to make a decision.”
to be Jack Ross?”
“Commander Whitten,” he said when she’d “Then you know what my decision is. I will
finished. “What in hell have you been drinking? “Because Jack Ross is the only one with
not endanger another member of the crew.
That is the most insane idea I’ve ever heard. Of a suit,” said Madeline. “It’s him or nobody.
That’s final. I’m sorry.”
course I can’t approve it!” Otherwise I’d do it myself.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 28

“I suppose that’s right,” he said, sighing. out.” She cut the link and pulled off her way. She never shaded the truth, never lied to
“But there is one thing that you haven’t headset, rocking back in her seat and running save my feelings or anyone else’s. The truth
mentioned.” her fingers through her hair. about things was her passion. “You’ll see,” I
said confidently.
“What’s that?” “Thanks, Maddie,” I said.
“Maybe,” Madeline said. “Now go put on
“Has anyone talked to Katya lately?” She looked sharply at me. “Jack, do you that damn suit.”
realize how this will probably end up?”
“Not as far as I know,” Madeline replied.
“Not since Jack spoke with her a few hours “I have to take that chance.”
ago. She’s getting some sleep.” 6.
“Then shut up. If you thank me again, I am
“Sleep, yes.” I could tell from his tone of
voice that the captain had his doubts. “In any
case, I cannot approve taking action to rescue
going to break your nose.”

Y ou don’t put on your hotsuit; you mate with
it. This is a more descriptive term than you
might think. An ordinary spacesuit is an intimate
Katya until we hear from her again.” affair, but a hotsuit invades your personal
The Aphrodite signaled Virgil, but there was space in ways that you’ve never imagined. The
Madeline was nodding. “Yes, that makes mating process can take half a day.
no answer. The telemetry link was good, and
sense.” it told us that the landing ship was still intact. The worst part is not the thermal protec-
“I want your promise, Maddie. No go till we Katya was simply not answering the phone. tion, but the hyperbaric life-support system.
make contact with Katya.” To cope with the ninety-atmosphere pressure
“She’s getting some rest,” I said. “She
turned down the comm link alarm. And she on the ground, and to allow pressurization and
“You have my word, Frank. Nobody jumps
may be doped up with something to help her depressurization in hours instead of days or
till she’s on the air. I swear.”
sleep.” weeks, the suit systems link up directly with
“In that case,” the captain said, “I will ten- your body’s systems. Gases must be exchanged
tatively go along with your plan. Send us your “She may have taken more than that,” with your bodily fluids, and the dodges dreamed
data so that we can check it, and start getting Madeline said. up to accomplish this are various and uncom-
ready. We will try to raise Katya on the comm fortable. The bloodstream is directly linked to
I shook my head. “No way. You heard her. the suit’s system at a dozen points over the
link.” She promised to talk to me later.” body. The arrangements for the GI tract, the
“Call Carlos on Delta,” she added. “He inner ear, the spinal fluid, and so forth I will
“I know what she said. Jack, Katya is a good
needs to be brought up to speed.” not describe.
scout. She would do what she thought was
“You just pay attention to your part of this,” right.” And what Madeline believed, clearly, Taking a hotsuit off—de-mating with it—is
Captain Bell replied. “And so help me, Maddie, was that Katya had most likely signed off per- even worse. Katya once suggested that the
if you let that son of a bitch take a dive before manently, promise or no promise. It was the correct technical phrase should be surgical
we hear from Virgil, I will take you all back to Pasadena Rule again. Part of the reason you removal.
Earth in irons. Do you copy?” sign off is to keep other people from making
fools of themselves. Dieter and I worked quickly, skipping
“Understood,” Madeline answered. “I will whatever we thought we could on the checklist.
keep him here if I have to sit on him. Gamma Not Katya, I wanted to say. That wasn’t her Mating with a suit could take two people half

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 29

a day, but we were trying to do it in about had worked on the dirigible side of things from checklist, he and Bill began to don their heated
two hours. The inner layer of the hotsuit was the first, and had little acquaintance with the pressure suits. It was hard to concentrate on
the life-support interface, which enveloped hotsuits. the job at hand. Each of us was checking the
my entire body except for hands and head. clock about twice per minute.
After this came a sturdy protective layer, with “Ever skinned a live animal?” I asked.
the silvery thermal insulation garment on the Madeline walked in at 15.45. “Any word?”
Max shook his head, then held up a printout I asked her.
outside over everything. Since there would with some graphs. “The Aphrodite team agrees
be no pressure difference between inside and with our arithmetic. You’ll jump at 16.10.” “Nothing.”
outside, the suit lacked the constant-volume Both of us involuntarily glanced at the clock.
joints you found on vacuum-rated spacesuits. Dieter and Bill exchanged a look. I said,
An hour and a half to go. “Here is the flight
path. That’s the best model RMS tube around “She’s still down there, Maddie.”
This brought up an interesting question,
which didn’t occur to us until I was partway the optimal trajectory. But don’t worry—just “Possibly. But I meant what I told Frank. If
into the inner layer of the suit. The pressure watch your suit’s coordinate display, and we’ll we don’t hear from Katya by jump-time, you
at seventy kilometers altitude was around talk you down.” don’t make the jump. Do you read me, fellas?”
twenty-five millibars—one-fortieth of normal She glared at the other two, who nodded.
“All right.” I hesitated. “Any word from the
atmospheric pressure. Even at the lowest surface?”
setting, breathing pure oxygen, the inside suit “We need to go out and get ready,” I said.
pressure would be four times this value. But Max shook his head. He hung around to
the hotsuit was not designed for any overpres- She studied me. “Okay,” she said. “I want a
watch us attach the next fitting. A little blood
sure at all. Would the fabric rupture when I safety line on you until the moment I give you
squirted out as the connection was made, so
stepped outside? clearance to take it off. Got it?”
Dieter paused to mop it up.
Max did a quick search of the hotsuit “I hear you.”
“That looks like it hurts,” Max said.
technical database and found that it had “Not good enough. I want your promise.”
indeed been tested down to zero pressure “We use a local anesthetic,” I said. “It will Maddie fixed me with a basilisk stare. “No
without damage. The only problem would be itch like hell later on.” I watched on the monitor ambiguity here, Jack. If we have to call this off
a decrease in mobility, because the suit tended as Dieter twisted the valve to make sure it and I tell you to come back inside, then you
to balloon out. I figured that I could cope with was on securely. He drew out any residual air sure as hell had better do it. Understand?”
that until the pressures matched at lower bubbles with a syringe through a side fitting.
altitude. This one finished, he moved to the next. Max, “And if Katya wakes up and calls us an hour
looking a little queasy, left the ready room a from now?”
I was mated with the inner suit up to my minute later.
waist, and Dieter was attaching the next set of “Jack.”
life-support connections on my lower back. I #
stood with my arms on top of my head, trying “Okay, okay,” I said. “We’ll do it your way.”
to follow his progress on a video monitor that In a polished metal panel across the room
After we finished connecting the life-
we’d rigged up. Max walked in from the control I could see myself: a mirror man, bouncing
support system, the second layer went on
pod, stopped still, and stared at what Dieter back distorted reflections of everything from
quickly, and then the mirror-like outer suit.
was doing. my silvered skin, only my head visible through
Dieter locked my helmet down and sealed me the transparent helmet. My face was haggard
“How do you take it off?” he asked. Max up. While I ran through the next steps in the and grim-looking. I remembered what Maddie

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 30

had said to Captain Bell just a couple of hours Dieter grabbed my arm to steady me. “Are “I may need to go quick,” I said.
before. I don’t see what you can do to stop you feeling all right?”
me. “Stay on this side. Understood,
“Yes,” I answered, experimentally cracking everybody?”
Maddie read my mind. “Frank had to go an eyelid and squinting out. Even then the
along with this because he’s up in orbit. He sunlight was too much. “Forgot my goggles.” “Affirmative,” Dieter and Bill answered at
can’t do anything about it. But I’m right here, once. I could feel their hands lightly but firmly
and I’m sending Dieter and Bill out with you to “Oh, hell.” gripping my upper arms.
make damn well sure we’ll do it my way.” “It’s okay,” I said. “I won’t want them on The chronometer display in my helmet
the underside of the clouds, and I can’t take flicked over from 15.59 to 16.00. I toggled the
# them off inside the helmet.” suit communicator to monitor the orbit-to-
ground channel.
As expected, the suit ballooned as we Maddie cut into the circuit. “Are you
cycled the airlock, but the outer skin seemed protected from UV in that thing?” Arkady Rudin was the capcom once again.
to hold up fine. To be on the safe side Bill ran “—is Aphrodite calling Virgil. Please come in.
the cycle manually at about a quarter the usual “The suit reflects everything this side of Katya, if you can hear me, please respond at
speed. It took a real effort to keep my arms X-rays,” I said. “Still, this is damn bright. Dieter, once. This is Arkasha. We need a report on your
at my sides, and I was damned awkward as I can you put something over my head?” status right away.” And so on, repeated over
struggled through the outer hatch. The internal and over. I listened for a couple of minutes.
“Sure. Hang on.” A moment later, Dieter
pressure of the suit tried to straighten every- came up with a nylon cover from an air-sam- “Seven minutes to drop,” Max announced.
thing out. It was probably comical to watch, pling module. “This ought to be about right,”
but nobody was laughing. I had to jump within he said, slipping it over my helmet. “Not much time,” Bill said under his
fifteen minutes or not at all, and no one had breath.
heard from Katya. The cool darkness felt good. I opened my
eyes. The sunspots in my eyes slowly faded till “Maddie,” I began. “What if—”
As soon as I stepped out on the experiment I could read the helmet display. “Everything
deck, I realized that I’d forgotten something: “Jack, you know the rules.”
okay,” I said. I held my arms out. (They wanted
sun goggles. The full sun hammered me in the to stick out anyway.) “You’ll have to lead me,
face. I squeezed my eyes shut. In a few more “Katya doesn’t know the rules. How could
hours Gamma, following the upper atmo- she?”
sphere on its circulation around the planet, Dieter and Bill guided me close to the edge
would cross over into night. The experiment I could almost hear her shake her head. “Not
of the experiment deck and attached a safety
deck was located on the aft end of the gondola another word, Jack, or I’ll order you to abort
line around my waist. They backed me up until
and was no longer in shade. The evening sun now. You can’t jump unless we know there is
my backside was against the rail.
hung in the western sky. someone down there for you to rescue.”
Max’s voice came in my ears. “Should we
(Or perhaps I should call it the morning I bit my lip. Arkasha’s voice kept on,
have Jack climb to the outside of rail? That
sun. Since Venus rotated from east to west, patient, pleading. The blackness under my
would make it easier to jump.”
down on the surface it was just a few days past hood seemed to press in on me from all
dawn.) “No,” Madeline said instantly. “He stays on around. That awful, sick feeling, the one that
this side of the rail until I give the go-ahead.” had grown so familiar lately, rushed back. This

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 31

wasn’t going to happen. The last, desperate Madeline broke in. “This is Maddie. He’s mine.”
hope had been a cheat. Suddenly it occurred giving it to you straight, Katya. That’s the plan.
to me that, standing here at the edge of the It’s the only option we have.” “One minute to go,” said Max.
abyss with a hood over my head and two men
“How can you let him do this?” “Jack,” said Katya, her voice suddenly angry.
gripping my arms, I must look like a man about “This has got to be the most selfish thing you’ve
to be hanged. “Katya,” I answered for her, “she’s right. It’s ever done.”
“Four minutes,” Max said evenly. the only option.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
And then, a miracle! “It’s no option at all. What kind of chance
do you think you have?” “Suicide is selfish. If you die trying this,
“Virgil here,” said a weary voice. “What Jack, I will be the one who has to face the con-
could possibly be so urgent, Arkasha?” I wanted to say, “Pretty good,” but the sequences. Not you. Do you think that losing
words stuck in my throat. She wouldn’t stand you now will make it easier when it’s time
“What is your situation, Katya?” for a false optimism. “It’s a long shot,” I said for me to pull the plug? If you’re still alive up
finally. “But we might pull it off.” there, Jack, then at least I leave behind me
“Unchanged,” she said. something of myself. Now you’re taking that
“My God,” she said, and her voice was more away from me. Damn you, you self-centered
“Max, cut us in,” I said. He had worked out desperate than I had ever heard it. “You can’t fat-head, you bastard, say goodbye and let me
a direct link to Virgil, which was almost directly do this. You mustn’t do this.” die in peace!”
below us.
“Two minutes,” said Max. I couldn’t answer for a moment. “Selfish-
“You got it.” ness cuts both ways,” I said. “If I don’t jump,
“Katya, we’ve gone over everything as best
I saw the indicator blink green. “Katya! This then I have to face the consequences of that,
as we can, and it looks worth a try. Do you think
is Jack. Just sit tight. We’re going to attempt a and for a hell of a lot longer. So sit still and get
I want to sit up here and wait for you to die?”
rescue.” rescued.”
“So instead you’re going to make sure that
“What? Are you mad, Jack? What the hell is “You are an insensitive pig. I forbid it. I will
I die a widow. This is so intelligent.”
going on up there?” not cooperate. Do you hear that? I will not help
“God damn it, wife, I’m trying to rescue you kill yourself.”
“We’re overhead in Gamma. I have my you.”
hotsuit on. In about three minutes, I’m going “Drop window opening,” Max said. “We’re
to jump over the side. I’ll fall, but by the time She fought to control her voice. “I know. I moving fast, so it’s a short one. Jack, you have
I reach the ground the air will have slowed me do understand. It isn’t easy to give up, Jack.” to go now.”
down enough to make a safe landing. I will clear She sighed. “But you cannot throw your own “Jack, you asshole!” Katya sounded almost
out the fans on Virgil, Katya, and then you can life away.” hysterical. “Do you understand me? I refuse to
fly us both back up to rendezvous with Delta.”
“It’s my life.” go along with this!”
“No, no, no,” she said. “Is someone else on
“While I’m still here, it’s half mine, “Well, Jack?” Maddie said, her voice coming
the circuit? Has my husband completely lost
remember?” to me over a private link.
his mind?”
“And while you’re there, yours is half There was silence, and after a second I

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 32

realized that they were all waiting for me. “We
can argue about this later, Katya,” I said, as
Ben Schumacher
firmly as I could. “I have something to do right
now.” I am a physicist who teaches at Kenyon
College in Gambier, Ohio. My major
I ignored the burst of profanity, English and
Russian mixed. Clumsily, I tried to turn around research field is quantum information
to climb over the rail, but to my surprise I theory, though I have also dabbled in
heard Maddie say, “Dieter, Bill—get him.” All black hole physics and thermodynamics.
of a sudden my two companions grabbed me I’ve been a science fiction writer longer
by the arms and legs. I struggled against them
until I realized what they were doing. I heard than I’ve been a physicist, however,
the snap of the safety line release. “Godspeed, having sold my first—and so far only—
Jack,” Bill said, and Dieter added, “Good luck.” story to Analog magazine at age 16.
Then my friends picked me up bodily and
heaved me overboard.
I was so startled that it was a moment
before I could yank the nylon hood from my
helmet. I rolled over and, just for a moment in
the bright glare, caught a last glimpse of the
double row of gigantic hydrogen lifting cells,
the web of rigging cables, the gondola, the
blunt arrowhead of the docked orbit shuttle—
and at the edge of the rear deck, two small
figures peering down at me, swiftly drawing
away now, until they were lost to sight. A
yellow-white mist rushed up past me, and the
bright daylight began to diminish. All I could
think was, My God, I really did it.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 17, Strange Bedfellows, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 33
Deuces Wild
Chapter 17, Strange Bedfellows, Part Four
by L. S. King

“Y ou’re sure this place is safe?”
“I’m relying on that inside tip,” Slap
“Let’s go.”


“So, what’s going on?” Sean asked.
muttered back. In truth, he wasn’t sure. It
wouldn’t be beyond Tristan to falsify informa- Slap grinned at his brother-in-law as he
Tristan flexed his calf muscle to ease the
tion to draw someone into a trap. Which was took the comm from his ear. “Word is, Betts
ache and took a deep breath before hitting the
why Slap was going to do this one himself; he hasn’t stopped screaming since she found out,
key to enter Betts’ office, the feeling of being
wouldn’t put another life on the line—this was and MacCay walked out on her. They’re making
stalked descending on him.
between him and Tristan now. bets on whether she kicks him out before he
He found himself comparing that feeling gets rid of her. They’re in chaos, not knowing
He ran forward in a crouch, trying to stay which way to jump.” Sean laughed with him,
with what he felt with Tanya. Big mistake—
in shadows to avoid being seen even in the then Slap added, “And, get this—there’s been
he needed to concentrate on the moment,
moonlight. some sort of bank problems. Some say a
and adding Tanya to his thoughts only further
Hitting the main Security Guild office in the muddled his brain, already overloaded from collapse, some say embezzlement, some say
city was bold and totally broke their pattern. the night’s work. He’d been waiting at the most an electronic bank robbery. But it’s frozen the
One of his men had gone inside with the likely attack site when he’d been informed rich, and they’re scrambling to recover.” And
intent of filing a complaint in order to plant of the hit on the Security Guild building. This why does that situation have such a familiar
a smoke bomb. It should go off—he glanced summons dragged him away from a group of ring to it? Slap would bet Tristan was behind
at his chrono—about now. That should clear men sifting through the debris. Dawn was still it...
the building of night personnel. Slap had few an hour away.
“Wow. So, what now?”
misgivings about any security men who might “What happened out there? How did those
be killed; the Security Guild had long ago been With a sigh, Slap shook his head. “I’m not
stupid hicks get away with another attack?”
eaten up by the Mordas. But he wasn’t going sure. If I knew what MacCay was really up to, it
to just slaughter them wholesale if he could Tristan rubbed his eyes. “They’re obviously would be easy.”
help it. much smarter than we’ve given them credit
for.” “You got to know him pretty well, didn’t
In a few minutes, folks began pouring out you? Were you friends?”
of the building. Good job, Jake! He raised the She began raving, and her voice hit a pitch
rocket launcher, and as soon as the flow of that made something in him snap. He held up Only Shallah’s family knew MacCay’s name
people trickled to nothing, he fired. a hand. “I need to re-think my plans. Defensive was really Tristan, although everyone knew he
isn’t going to work.” He turned and hit the pad. was Slap’s companion from his jaunt in space.
And again. The building really was on fire “We...helped each other out of a few scrapes,
The door slid open.
now. He ran off before the men could pinpoint and yeah, I considered him a friend. But I can’t
his location—he hoped. “I’m not finished—” she shrieked. say where his loyalties are.” I wish I could!
Tristan, what’s going on?
Once back with his companions, he grinned. He kept walking.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 17, Strange Bedfellows, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 34

“Must be hard to wonder if you can still help a little. No, he’d better get coffee. He to find a full meal waiting.
trust a friend...” placed the cup in the dispenser and dialed
his preference, sending mental daggers at the He set down the fork and wiped his mouth.
Before Slap could answer, Sean’s younger machine to hurry it along. “Somehow, cooking wasn’t one of the things I
brother Aillil ran in, breathless, and handed imagined you doing.”
Slap a data crystal. “This just arrived for you.” “Oh my,” her voice said from behind him.
“You weren’t kidding. You look like the morning Lacquered fingernails tapped the edge
Slap plugged it into the reader and his after. And without a night before. What a of a cup. She smiled across the table. “Don’t
mouth dropped open. He finished and looked shame.” assume that domesticity is one of the skills I
up with a smile. “Oh, yeah. Yeah—now I know offer in partnership. You looked ready to fall
what to do.” “I’m not in the mood.” The dispenser light over, so I did you a favor.”
came on, and he picked up the cup, taking a
# sip before turning around. She was gorgeous, “Thank you. Equality is best in a partner-
as usual, and looking ready to feast. He sipped ship. I would do the same for you.”
A soft, insistent sound soaked through the again. “What do you need?” “Smooth words.”
fog. And repeated. And again. Tristan forced One eyebrow quirked up. “Hm, loaded
his eyes open, realizing someone was at his “I only say what I mean.”
question. But I’ll take pity. I was informed a little
door. A glance at the chrono told him he’d while ago that Betts is going paranoid about Her eyes held his for a long moment. “I
gotten about an hour’s sleep. He tossed back you. She’s making plans and has no intention believe you. You’re very direct.”
the covers with a sigh. of letting you in on them.” She leaned against
He tugged on pants, then shuffled unevenly the counter and crossed her arms. “And you appreciate that.”
to the door, riffling his fingers through his hair. “I think you’re in big trouble.” “In my business, all a woman hears is sweet
He squinted at the security vid and groaned talk.”
aloud. Tanya. Not now—he didn’t have the “That’s my concern.”
strength to spar or match wits. “Then let’s be frank. What do you want?”
“Not if we’re planning a partnership.” She
He thumbed the comm. “Yes?” eyed him, frowning. “Are we?” Her laugh rang out, a soft, golden tone.
“You do leave yourself open, don’t you?”
“It’s Tanya. May I come in?” Tristan took another swig before saying, “I
think we should discuss what our goals are. We “We can assume that’s a personal want for
“I’ve been up all night. Come back in a few can’t be at cross-purposes.” both of us. Let’s keep it to business for now.”
hours.” By all means.
A slow smile spread and she said, “I tell you
“It’s important. I have to see you now.” what—you sit, and I’ll fix breakfast. Then we “You know my past. I clawed to the top so
“I’m really not up to it.” can talk.” no one could have control over me. But there’s
a higher step to reach for. I want it.”
“Please. I have information you need to #
know.” “Control of the Mordas.”
Tristan was impressed with her culinary “What else?”
I’m going to regret this. He keyed her in, prowess. He’d returned, dressed and shaved,
then slipped into the kitchen. Hot tea would

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 17, Strange Bedfellows, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 35

“So I am a means to an end?” degraded into cheap vulgarity. “What? Why? What’s the matter?” she
“You were. At first.” She hesitated, settling To her credit, Tanya didn’t seem affected.
back in the chair. “But you fascinate me. You... She picked up her cup, but before she could “Not the right time,” he muttered, trying to
you don’t look at me as if I were a woman.” take a drink, Betts swatted it from her hand. control his voice—and reactions.
Coffee splashed on Tanya, and the cup crashed
Tristan snorted. “Oh, believe me, I do.” to the floor. “Why?”
She laughed again. “Good to know, since “That’s the only way you know how to deal “This...this isn’t about fleeting pleasure.” It
you hide it so well. But you know what I mean. with everything, isn’t it?” Tanya’s voice was took every bit of will power, but he took her by
Intellectually.” cool, but her eyes glittered. “Blundering in like the shoulders and set her back. “This is about a
the cow you are.” partnership. It should start slow, earning trust.
“I would be a fool to underestimate you.” No short cuts.”
Betts’ face flushed with rage. She raised a
The door chime sounded. Tristan rose, “Partnership? She just cut you out. Your ‘in’
fist, but Tristan grabbed her arm. “You will show
excusing himself, and checked the security vid. to the Mordas is gone.”
no violence to another guest in my home.”
Oh, great. He called into the kitchen, “We have
company.” She whirled, spat in his face, and contested “It makes no difference to my plans.”
his parentage. “You’ve led me on all this time!
“Betts?” She froze, her blue eyes riveted to his.
You’re out—d’you hear? Out!” “How? What is it you’re scheming?”
“Astute.” “So are you.” Tristan twisted her wrist and “Let’s just say, Betts doesn’t hold the cards
“Expected.” led her to the foyer against her will. When the she thinks she does. And mine are better than
door slid open, he shoved her outside. The she could imagine.”
A smile escaped Tristan—he did like this door shut, cutting off her wild raving.
woman. “You ready for this?” “Mm.” Her hands traveled up his arms.
He let out a quick breath, wiped his face, “Sounds...intriguing. Won’t you share any of it
“I’ve been ready since the first time I heard and returned to the kitchen. Tanya was standing with your future partner?”
of you,” came her voice. “It’s going to be fun at the counter, blotting coffee from her blouse
seeing what you’re made of when caught and skirt. She appeared calm until he got close; “As I’ve been trying to tell you, I don’t trust
between two fighting cats.” her hands were shaking ever so slightly. easily. You shouldn’t either. We have to earn it.
That takes time.”
“Who’s direct?” “Are you all right?”
“For a business partnership, yes, I can
More laughter. “The coffee wasn’t hot enough to burn.” see your point. But...” Her hands kneaded his
He keyed Betts in and waited in the foyer. “I know.” He stepped closer, but realized his shoulders and neck. “ our personal lives?”
mistake when she lifted her head and gazed into
The leader of the Mordas stormed in, He brushed strands of blonde hair from
his eyes. Then she was in his arms, his mouth
glared at him, looked around, and swept past. her face, striving with everything in him to
on hers, and all thoughts fled his mind—
Searching for her competition, no doubt. She hold back. “To me, they’re intertwined. I don’t
stopped in the archway to the kitchen. “You! No! He broke the kiss with a gasp. “No,” he expect you to understand.”
You brassy, street-walking—” Betts’ diatribe repeated aloud.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 17, Strange Bedfellows, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 36

“Perhaps I do. But we have to start something big. I don’t know what yet, but she’s Tristan shrugged on his vest and picked
somewhere, don’t we? Can’t you consider this moving fast, giving orders left and right.” up his PBG. “It’s going to get hot. You go
an...earnest on my part.” home—and watch your back.”
“Keep me informed.”
Her lips met his before he could reply. She ran to him, hands on his chest, blue
“Will do.” eyes wide. “Be careful.”
# Tristan left the comm in his ear; he was He kissed her long and hard before racing
going to need it with him. He turned to Tanya, out the door.
Slap’s fingers drummed on the table. “This who was smoothing her blouse.
day is getting stranger and stranger...” First the
spy’s information, then the data crystal, now “Trouble?” #
“Betts is up to something. I daresay she Slap rubbed his hands on the sides of his
“What is it, Son?” Ewan asked. started it before she got here. She probably jeans as he scanned the lot from behind a pile
intended on creating a scene, and your of rusted machinery. The burned-out factory
“I just got a note from Betts. She says she presence gave her the perfect excuse. She’s dominated the center of the property, and the
wants to parlay.” Slap chewed his lip. “I don’t been suspicious of my sincerity.” He stopped blown-up outbuilding littered the far side, but
trust her.” And why no mention of MacCay? at her amused expression. “For some reason.” several outbuildings remained. This was where
Tristan should be in the middle of this. Maybe Tristan had killed Lyssel; it wasn’t a coincidence
he’s pulling her strings... “What are we going to do then?” that Betts chose it for their meeting.
“What are you going to do?” “You are going back home, and see if you His men had fanned out around the
can find out anything through your unique perimeter, looking for hidden Mordas. He only
“I’m going to meet her.” grapevine. I’m going to try other methods of hoped he’d brought enough. And was Tristan
discovering her plans.” here? How did he fit into this?
“Just like that?”
“I’d like to be with you.” A rover approached from the south. Slap
Slap shook his head. “Nope. We have to
prepare for some kinda trap.” squinted upward, a hand covering his eyes
“Wherever I go, things tend to get lethal. against the sun. The vehicle landed, and four
I’d rather have you at a safe distance.”
# Security Guild goons climbed out. He could see
She opened her mouth, but the comm movement inside the opaque dome, but no
chirped in his ear again. He held up a finger one else exited.
“Don’t answer it,” Tanya murmured as the
comm chirped. telling her to wait. “Yes?” “McCarty, come into the open, alone, then
“She’s sent a truce message to McCarty,” I’ll come out,” a woman’s voice said through a
“I have to.” He unwound her arms from his
Leddy hissed, “saying she wants to talk. But it’s speaker.
neck and strode to the security board where
he’d left the ear piece. “Yes?” an ambush.” “As long as you have guards,” Slap called,
“Where and when?” “I’ll keep my men with me.”
“I don’t know what happened inside your
house,” Leddy’s voice whispered, “but she flew No answer came from the rover, but the
Leddy told him then closed the connec-
out, taking her guards with her. She’s planning sound of whining engines grew—reminding

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 17, Strange Bedfellows, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 37

him of the landing troop shuttles on Eridani. The one to the south exploded while still in of the guards from the Guilder ship didn’t
Their men and weapons couldn’t compete the air. Had to be a rocket launcher. Had to be. move.
with armored aircraft—they didn’t have the But who? Tristan?
training—shoot, Slap didn’t have the training “This war is over,” Tristan’s voice said. “You
to know where to hit to take one down. Slap rose and ran toward the rover, firing. go tell your leader—any move against the
The guards abandoned their positions. The Separatists will have similar results. We repeat,
“A trap,” he called into his ear comm as third craft was hit—a fireball that splattered this is over: put down your weapons.”
he turned and ran. Jake Chandler and Sean along the ground. Slap reached the rover—
flanked him, PBRs up and ready to fire. “It’s a empty. He whirled, looking around in frantic Slap grinned as the rest of the guards
trap. Get out!” dismay. The retreating guards had turned, their complied, and began collecting their guns.
guns trained on him.
Sure enough, three Guard assault vehicles #
were converging on the area. The ground “Drop your weapons,” one guard called, his
spatted with weapons’ fire, and Slap wove as voice amplified through the rover’s speaker. “What’s going on?” Sean asked as the men
he raced toward their waiting rover. Or McCarty dies.” He repeated his command, gathered.
No—it could be too easily targeted! He was “I don’t know, except that MacCay let them
stuck; this was it. He had to stand and fight, Slowly, the sounds of fighting ceased. In think we were behind their aircraft getting
even though it was useless. Good enough; he’d the ensuing silence, Slap’s heart hammered, blown up and them surrendering. He’s trying
soon be with Shallah and Evan! He spun and shame filling him. He’d failed—failed in every- to get the Mordas to leave us alone. I wish he
whipped out his PBR and fired at the aircraft thing. As a rancher, a husband, a father, a would have stayed and talked.” Slap squinted
hovering not far away. fighter. He didn’t mind dying; it was living that into the distance in the direction the guards
was so hard. But to go knowing the Separatists had gone on foot; it wasn’t far to Zanti City
The vehicle exploded. Slap ducked, not only had lost their homes, their lands, their lives— from here. “I guess he thought we shouldn’t
to protect his eyes, but from the falling debris. that grieved him. be seen together.”
But—what blew up the craft? Not his PBR.
“Stand down,” a familiar voice broadcasted “So what do we do now?” Jake asked.
“Slap, get down,” Jake called. A body tackled from the rover. “McCarty dies, you all die.”
him, taking him to the ground. He rolled away Slap scowled in thought. “I’d say give ‘em
from whichever of his buddies had knocked The guard who had spoken spun, looking room. See if they stop or not. MacCay has to
him out of harm’s way and tried to figure out around. “Who’s there?” be putting pressure on them from the inside.
what was going on. If they come after us again, we pick up where
“We took out your assault vehicles—you’re we left off.”
The sounds of various weapons filled the air next. Put down your weapons.”
as the two remaining craft strafed the ground A holler to his left made Slap turn, his PBR
while jockeying to land. The western-most one “Who—” the guard began, but held his rifle swinging up. But it was a group of Separatists,
landed, and the hatch opened. out at arm’s length in a gesture of truce. and one of them had a young woman with a
“I don’t know,” hissed a guard, “but how’d mop of curly hair by the arm. She twisted and
Slap needed leverage, something to even
they get the rover’s frequency?” fought like a wildcat, but couldn’t get loose.
the ground. If he could get to the rover, get to Ewan held up a rocket launcher. “Look what we
Betts, he’d have a hostage. Another vented an earthy word and tossed discovered. She was the one who destroyed
his rifle down. Some followed suit, but several their aircraft—with this.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 17, Strange Bedfellows, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 38

She seemed familiar, and Slap frowned, Now he did grin. “Welcome. So”—he She crossed her arms, her mouth set.
trying to place her. nodded at the launcher his father-in-law had
taken from her—“you’re pretty handy with Slap sighed. “Come on with me. Let’s talk.”
“She’d been using a camo-net, but when that thing.”
she turned it off to move, we found her.” “You can’t make me go anywhere.”
“I’ve learned. I’ll get MacCay with it yet.”
Her defiant face changed to one of recogni- Her defiant chin and eyes made Slap
tion. “You! You let him leave me there! You—” Slap barely kept his mouth from dropping chuckle. “How do you figure that? I’m bigger’n
open. “If you were aiming at him, I’d say your you, and I somehow doubt you know enough
Oh! The stowaway. “Hey, you’re alive, aim is slightly off.” fancy fighting to take me down. I carried you
aren’t you? Glad you found your way home. over my shoulder knocked out—I’ll do it while
And why’d you fire on your own vehicles?” Her hot glare burned all the way from her you’re awake, if that’s the way you want this
soul. “I hate them more than him. So I had to to go.”
“My vehicles? You think I’m Mordas?” make a choice. Besides, I couldn’t find where
he was hiding. He must have had a camo-net Her lower lip stuck out, reminding him
“Aren’t you? I suppose you’re not an all over again of last year. “Tears won’t work
engineer like you claimed either.” either—grow up. Now, come on.”
“Y’know,” Slap said, taking the rocket
He cut off her scathing reply with a raised Two Separatists took her arms and helped
launcher from Ewan, “there’s better ways of
hand. “Now, that ain’t very ladylike.” He put his her keep pace as they went to their rovers. Slap
dealing with things than trying to blow people
fists on his hips. “So, you’re not Mordas. What wished he had a gag—that gal had a mouth. He
are you then? Assuming you’ll tell us the truth pulled a little ahead to think.
this time.” She laughed aloud. “This coming from
you?” She reached for the weapon, but Slap “Where are we heading to, Son?” Ewan
“I’m from a Merchant family. We’ve been asked, coming up to walk next to Slap. “Back
held it out of reach—easy considering how
driven into the ground by the Mordas. I was to the valley?”
short she was.
trying to sabotage that cargo ship last year
when you two stole her. It took me all this “Give it back!” Slap shook his head. “No. As much as I’d
time to get back home from that planet you like to, I’d be in a communications blackout
deserted me on.” “Aw, no. I don’t think so. You’ll have to find there.” Besides if I go back, I’ll see Aylish and
another way to blow up MacCay. But you might be reminded of Shallah that much more. “I only
Slap wanted to grin but having experience want to put it off for a while till he’s through need one team with me for now though, I think.
with a mother and a wife, didn’t think it was messing with the Mordas. I’m not sure what The rest of you can go back home. There’s so
safe. He bit his lip. “Well, glad you made it. he’s up to, but I’d bet it ain’t good for them.” much work to do, and it’s nearing harvest.”
Sorry we couldn’t do better, but we were in a
bit of a hurry ourselves.” “He’s working with them.” “The boys and I will stay.”
“Yeah, well...” She shook off the hand of “Naw, he ain’t. No matter what it seems “You’re needed at home, Ewan. So are the
the man who had been holding her. “At least like.” Slap scratched his chin. “Look, I did you boys. I can send word if things heat up again.”
you kept him from spacing me.” She whipped a favor last year, so will you do me one? Leave
a curly lock off her forehead with a grimace. him alone for now. All right? Give him time to His father-in-law’s face clouded with worry.
“Thanks. I guess.” do whatever he’s doing. If you want to kill him “Are you sure, Son?”
afterwards, then, by all means, try.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 17, Strange Bedfellows, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 39

“Yeah. I gotta feeling Tristan’s got things
under control in the city now.”
Slap scratched his chin. Tristan was all right;
he had to be.
L. S. King
A science fiction fan since childhood, L.S.
“It’s chaos,” the voice on the comm said. King has been writing stories since her
“The city has turned into a war zone. There’s youth. Now, with all but one of her chil-
twenty rumors flying as to who’s fighting who
and why it started. But the fighting began about dren grown, she is writing full-time. She
the time news came through that the Separat- has developed a sword-and-planet series
To catch up on previous episodes of
ists defeated an attack by the Mordas—good tentatively called The Ancients. The first
the adventures of Slap and Tristan, visit:
job, by the way. Things have been tight lately,
and that news seemed to spark something.” book is finished, and she has completed
Deuces Wild is dedicated to the memory of rough drafts of several more novels as
Slap glanced around the room at his
men—and the girl, who had quit snarling, my best friend; my inspiration for an enduring well.
finally—as their spy continued.
She serves on the editorial staff of
“The top gossip is that Betts killed MacCay,
and his faction is fighting back; MacCay killed The Sword Review, is also their
Betts, and her men are fighting back; that the Columns Editor, and writes a column
rich pulled their money from the Mordas, and for that magazine entitled “Writer’s
the Mordas are fighting them; that the Guilds
and Merchants are fighting the Mordas—it just Cramps” as well. She is also one of the
goes on and on. I’ll let you know anything more Overlords, a founding editor, here at
I find out.” Ray Gun Revival.
“Are you all right?” Slap asked.
“Yeah, I got out in all the confusion, but She began martial arts training over thirty
I’m still trying sort out what happened, so I’m years ago, and owned a karate school for
not too far away. The city is a mess though— a decade. When on the planet, she lives
buildings blown up, people shooting at each
other in the street. I’ve never seen anything in Delaware with her husband, Steve, and
like it. No one has heard from Betts or MacCay, their youngest child. She enjoys garden-
probably why the rumors of them killing each ing, soap making, and reading. She also
other are going around. Look, I have to go.”
The connection ended. likes Looney Tunes, the color purple, and
is a Zorro aficionado, which might explain
her love for swords and cloaks.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007
 Pg. 40
The RGR Time Capsule
October 15 - October 31, 2007
Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
RGR Date: October 22, 2007 RGR Date: October 04, 2007 But it is possible that Ms. Rowling may be
Circulation for mainstream SF print mags plummet RGR ‘Kaylee’ interview noted at Whedonesque mistaken about her own character. She may have invented Hogwarts and all the
Overlord fireflyfellow noted this: wizards within it, she may have created the
...however, web zines, like ours, are the Next Big most influential fantasy books since J. R. R.
Thang. Tolkien, and she may have woven her spell
Warren Ellis runs the numbers on the dismal An interview with Firefly’s Ron Glass. Lovely over thousands of pages and seven novels,
state of science fiction magazines—Asimov’s circ audio chat with oodles of insight into his but there seems to be no compelling reason
is down 13 percent; Interzone is running 2,000- career. And in keeping with the theme of within the books for her after-the-fact asser-
3,000 copies per issue; Analog (which should non traditional media Firefly cast interviews, tion. Of course it would not be inconsistent
really change its name back to Astounding) is there’s a great interview with Jewel Staite for Dumbledore to be gay, but the books’ ac-
selling through at 32 percent. This is pretty de- in the latest issue of Ray Gun Revival (pdf counts certainly don’t make it necessary. The
pressing news. reader req.) question is distracting, which is why it never
RGR Date: October 23, 2007 really emerges in the books themselves.
I think the biggest impediment to the magazines’ John Carter: The Cartoon? Ms. Rowling may think of Dumbledore as
sales is that there’s no easy way for people who gay, but there is no reason why anyone else
love the stories in them to bring them to the should.
attention of other, potential customers. By the, a Web site devoted to Edgar
time you’ve read the current issue and found a Rice Burroughs and his books, reported that Rothstein seems to be falling into the trap
story you want everyone else to read, the issue Disney/Pixar is gearing up preproduction on of assuming that everything that goes into
isn’t on the stands anymore and the best you can its upcoming computer-animated version of a character shows up on the page. This is
do is to try to get your pals to shell out to pay for Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars, the first of a entirely wrong. What shows up on the page
an ebook edition. trilogy of movies. is the public life of the character, so to speak:
The things about a character that a writer
Contrast this with the online mags, whose stories A Pixar creative team reportedly spent time chooses to let you know about them. The
stay online for months—sometimes forever. If last week exploring the Burroughs archives in private life of a character exists off the page,
you love a story in Strange Horizons, you can the Los Angeles suburb of Tarzana (which is and takes place between the writer and the
paste a quote from it into your Livejournal, use named after Burroughs’ most famous hero). character. You don’t see that unless the au-
the first line as your sig, email the URL to your RGR Date: October 29, 2007 thor discusses it later, in interviews or com-
brother, print the first page and tape it up in the Scalzi: What authors know about their characters mentary or whatever. Authors have privilege
toilet at work. concerning our characters; we know more
about them than the readers.
Is it any wonder that the online mags dominate In a New York Times piece on Dumbledore’s
the awards? homosexuality, critic Edward Rothstein sug-
gests that J.K. Rowling, Dumbledore’s creator,
might not know what she’s talking about:

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 33, November 01, 2007

Related Interests