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Issue 34

November 15, 2007

Table of Contents

Ray Gun Revival
Overlords (Founders / Editors): Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn Venerable Staff: A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor Shannon McNear - Lord High Advisor, grammar consultant, listening ear/sanity saver for Overlord Lee Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, webmistress Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle washer Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): Scott M. Sandridge John M. Whalen David Wilhelms Shari L. Armstrong Jack Willard Serial Authors: Sean T. M. Stiennon John M. Whalen Ben Schumacher Lee S. King Paul Christian Glenn Johne Cook Cover Art: “Pillars of Loki” by Alexei Kozachenko Without Whom... Bill Snodgrass, site host, Web-Net Solutions, admin, webmaster, database admin, mentor, confidante, liaison – Double-edged Publishing Special Thanks: Ray Gun Revival logo design by Hatchbox Creative Visit us online at http://raygunrevival.com

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Table of Contents Overlords’ Lair The Wrong Place at the Right Time by Mike Lynch The Final Harvest by Drew Arrants Featured Artist: Alexei Kozachenko The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, Part 2 A Jack Brand story by John M. Whalen The Adventures of the Sky Pirate Chapter 17, A Cleric for Alacrity by Johne Cook The RGR Time Capsule November 1 - November 14, 2007
All content copyright 2007 by Double-edged Publishing, a Memphis, Tennessee-based non-profit publisher. Rev: 20071115c

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

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Overlords’ Lair
Welcome to November. This is that weird time of year between Halloween and Christmas, when Indian Summer is winding down and winter hasn’t yet gripped the land. But it’s coming. There’s no better time than right now to settle in and read some great space opera and sci-fi, and we’ve got what you need right here (hot chocolate not included). Johne Cook Overlord, RGR Breezeway, Wisconsin the world. The officer barely gave him any notice. He  just offered a cursory, “How’s it goin’?” and  continued on his way without breaking his  stride. It was only when the officer went into a room near the end of the hallway that Lee let his feelings be known. “Are you crazy?” he  asked  rhetorically.  “You  could  have  gotten  us busted. You’re lucky that guy didn’t take  a good look at you.” Max’s expression fell blank. “If you act like  you own the place, then no one’s going to  bother you.” after the first two harvests—didn’t suspect  that next time they’d be waiting out in space  to  intercept  us.  We  can’t  afford  another  debacle like that.” In the half century since that military disaster,  no  further  harvesting  attempts  had  been  made—until now. The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, Part Two, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen A mysterious carnival seer reads Jack Brand’s medalion and sees more than she bargained for, including the fate of Jack’s long-missing sister. “That’s very touching,” a voice behind them  said. Everyone turned. It was Boone. Farley  stood  next  to  him.  Both  had  weapons  in  their hands. Brand started to move for his  pistol. “Don’t even try,” Boone said. 

The Wrong Place At the Right Time, by Mike Lynch The Final Harvest, by Drew Arrants Malcom Lee just wanted to get out of the cold and have a warm drink. When he is arrested on Vega Prime for a crime he didn’t commit, things take a turn for the worse.

A grandmother from a starving world comes to Earth to harvest food for her grandchildren. Her grandchildren, like all members of her species, “Farley!” Ziggy said. “What are you—” are obligatory carnivores. “Shut up,” Farley said. First  Officer  Drahos  looked  up  from  the  They  hadn’t  taken  more  than  a  handful  of  command  console.  “No,  ma’am,”  he  Ziggy took a step backward and reached for steps  when  another  astro-officer  suddenly  answered. “So far we haven’t detected any  the pistol Brand had given him. appeared.  He  came  around  a  blind  corner,  electronic tracking signals at all from either humming  a  song  to  himself.  His  attention  “No!” Brand said, as Ziggy fumbled for the  Earth or Mars. Could it be they really aren’t  was  fixed  on  a  clipboard  in  his  hands.  Lee  gun and stepped in front of Calystra. expecting  us  to  come  back  after all this considered  turning  around  and  heading  time?” back  the  way  they  came,  but  it  might  Boone’s  Plasma  Gun  belched  purple  and  arouse  the  officer’s  suspicions.  Before  he  Ziggy dropped on his back. “Don’t underestimate the humans, Drahos,”  could figure out what they should do, Max  Admiral  Oksandr  said.  “We  got  too  cocky  marched forward without a seeming care in 

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

Pg. 4 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17: “A Cleric for Alacrity” by Johne Cook Despite his own misgivings, Cooper Flynn bites his tongue and finds a cleric to match the spiritual desires of his crew. As usual, he overachieves. “Another  ship  passed  us  while  we  were  fighting,”  said  Yhen.  “I  thought  I  saw  something but couldn’t be sure, so I came  up here to get a better view of it.” “Good  thinking.  Whose  colors?”  asked  the  captain. “That’s the weird part, Captain. It looked to  me like she was one of ours.” “Let  me  have  the  spyglass.  Where  is  she  now?” “She’s  there,  tacking  away  from  us,  using  the sun to try to hide herself.” “Well,  well.  Somebody  doesn’t  want  to  be  seen.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Right Time, by Mike Lynch

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The Wrong Place at the Right Time
by Mike Lynch

L

ee knew he was in trouble—again. He dashed back down the alley from which he had just come, foamy puddles of thick, black liquid splashing up into the air after each fleeting step. Other footsteps echoed in the distance. Lee knew a squad of astro-officers was closing in on him.

front doors.

Grabbing his opponent by the arm, Lee flung him into two approaching officers. It caused enough of a commotion for him to make a mad dash for the entrance. As he flew into the street, he tripped over something and found himself face down in the gutter. Lee A half-opened door under a flickering red turned back and saw Lieutenant Ngoc standing light caught his eye, and he threw himself over him, a look of contentment spread across inside. To his dismay, he was back inside Club  his face. It was only then that he realized the Midnight. The alien who had picked the fight astro-officer had felled him with his nightstick, with him stood in the narrow hallway, waiting something he held prominently in his right expectantly. “Well, well,” he crowed. “Look hand. who’s back.” “I think it rather fitting to say hello to you in A pair of muffled voices from outside asked the gutter, eh, Lee?” he said without bothering if they knew where the suspect had gone. A to conceal the contempt in his voice. third, higher voice answered back, but Lee “I wasn’t doing nothin’!” Lee shouted. “Just couldn’t make out the words. He assumed the mindin’ my own business. Then, for no reason, worst and figured his only way of escape was out the front, except that it was blocked by the this guy jumps me—said I stole his money.” tall Argellian standing before him. “Blast,” he Lieutenant Ngoc’s face held a cool, hollow cursed aloud. smile. “Blast?” the hulking monstrosity asked in a “You have to believe me. I only took off low, throaty tone. “I’m gonna blast you.” when someone blew the whistle.” Lee lunged towards his adversary. His left cold. “That’s fist swung wild into the air, but somehow hit sob His expression turnedwill love it.” a good story, Lee. The judge bone. Stunned by the unexpected blow, the alien tumbled backwards. Throwing a left as Three anti-grav ships flew in overhead. he fell, the Argellian missed by a wide margin. A subtle, rhythmic pulsing sound resonated Dissonant sounds of police whistles filled every above as each pilot guided his ship onto the corner of the bar as they burst through the ground. Lee visibly surrendered. If Ngoc had

any intention of letting him go, he would have done so already. A high-pitched, motorized noise preceded the back door swinging open. When it had come all the way down, Ngoc gave Lee a quick shove inside. He landed on the cold metallic plate, hard. Moments later, the back door slammed shut with an unmistakable bang. Lifting up his head just enough to see the darkened interior, Lee focused on three other prisoners sitting across from him—all human. He tried to make out their appearance, but none of them looked familiar. Lee picked himself up and steadied himself against a bulkhead. One of the three prisoners, a bearded man with a hunched back said, “Findin’ life on Vega Prime ain’t all it’s talked up to be. Bet you wish you’d never left Earth now, don’t ya?” The middle-aged prisoner sitting next to him, heavy with a noticeable paunch, turned towards Lee and laughed wildly. The third man did not respond. He just kept his place, staring at the side of the ship, as though he was in some kind of trance. Lee didn’t respond and didn’t sit. He just stared at them and held onto the bulkhead above. This is going to be a long night, he thought, and then let his attention drift off into the darkness.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Right Time, by Mike Lynch
When the pilot activated the anti-grav drive, the same hum as before returned. The ship vibrated for a moment, and then took off in a flash. Time almost seemed to stand still as their wagon banked left, and then right. Since there weren’t any windows, Lee couldn’t say which direction they were headed, though he had a pretty good idea. Before any of them knew it, they were back down on the ground again. When the back door swung open, fiery red light flooded the interior. Lee held up his hand and tried to block out the piercing rays of both suns, Belux I and II, bearing down on him. “Come on, you dogs,” Ngoc shouted. “This isn’t Club Zed. The judge is waiting for you.” He banged his nightstick against the hull a couple of times to roust the prisoners out. After the night sergeant had taken Lee’s mug shot and made a digital scan of his fingerprints, he was brought to the orange room. Why it was called the orange room, Lee would never know. It was more of a puke-green than anything else. “Cell number seven—very spacious,” he chided the sergeant. “I was so cramped in cell number four the last time I was here.” When the sergeant pressed the button just to the left of the door, it slid open with a whoosh. The officer shoved Lee into the cell in stony silence, and the door slid closed behind him just as quickly as it had opened. Four sets of double-bunks lined the walls. A sink and toilet stood across from him. Above, a single flickering incandescent light illuminated the interior. Lee’s attention settled on a man lying on the bunk. His plaid shirt and baggy pants carried an air of familiarity about them. “I’ve seen you somewhere before,” he said after studying him for a moment. Motionless at first, the man popped his head up. “The name’s Max,” he replied. “I came in the wagon with you.” Curious, Lee asked, “What are you in for?” “Got me grabbin’ money out of the till. I thought I would give it a shot. Can’t hurt to try, you know.” Max lifted his chin. “What about you? What’s your story?” “The name’s Lee,” he replied, then shook his head, “but I didn’t do anything. I was a victim of circumstance.” Max rolled over onto his back, grinning. “You’re jok’n right? That’s real funny.” Lee became indignant and took an aggressive step towards him. “What do ya mean funny?” “Who isn’t a victim of circumstance? Everyone locked up in this sink hole is here because of circumstances.” The man sat up and pushed himself off his bunk. “But as engaging as this conversation is, I believe we can better spend our time trying to figure a way of bustin’ out. I was hoping someone might be brought in before I met with the judge.” Lee looked around the cell. “Get out of here? How we gonna do that? I mean, I’m all for putting as much distance between me and this place as possible, but if we get caught this won’t be no weekend stay, if ya know what I mean.”

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A sinister grin blossomed on Max’s face. “Why not take a chance? Life ain’t gonna get any better on this blast-hole of a colony. Besides, I’ve got an almost bullet-proof plan.” The words, why  not? rattled around in Lee’s head for several moments. What was he objecting to? He hadn’t worked in months. And his apartment was nothing more than a flearidden rattrap. If they did get caught, the police couldn’t make his life any more miserable than it already was. “All right—I’m in. What’s this bullet-proof plan of yours?” Max went over to the door and craned his neck over so he could get a better look down the hall. “I’m a little out of practice,” he admitted, “but I think the best way of getting their attention is smashing up the place. Makin’ lots of noise really gets ‘em mad.” Lee cocked his head over. “Noise? You want to bring the whole station down on top of us?” “Relax,” he grinned. “Only the sergeant and his assistant are on duty after midnight. Trust me. They’ll be the only ones who come.” Lee shot a glance at the cell door. “So what do you suggest?” “That’s the easy part.” Max lifted up one of the bunks and tipped it over. The sudden crash reverberated off the smooth, metallic walls. He then hurried over to the bars and started yelling at the top of his lungs. “Hey…ho,” he yelled. “He’s got me.” Lee jumped into the fray and shouted back.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Right Time, by Mike Lynch
To anyone within earshot, it sounded like both of them were on the verge of a major brawl. The faint echoes of hurried footsteps approached from around the corner. When the sergeant arrived, he pulled out his immobilizer and pointed it at Max. “Stop that right now!” he shouted. His assistant appeared just a few seconds later. “Not before I put a dent in this guy’s face,” Max replied, trying to bait him. He raised his right hand and balled it into a fist. “If you don’t stop busting up the place, I’m gonna put you both to sleep for sure.” “Just give me a chance to clock this piece of garbage first,” Lee said in exaggerated tones. The sergeant let out a quick, angry breath. He positioned his immobilizer in between two of the bars and took aim. Max recognized his opportunity. He spun around and threw part of the broken bed frame at the narrow opening. The sergeant’s weapon flew out of his hand, smashing into a thousand pieces after striking the wall. Lee ran up to the cell bars and grabbed the assistant’s arm before he could reach for his weapon. Cold-cocking him on the jaw, Lee dropped him limp onto the floor like a sack of wheat. Just as the sergeant turned to run, Lee dropped down on one knee and pulled the immobilizer out of the officer’s holster. A tight beam of photonic energy hit its target square in the back. He stood in place, frozen for a brief second, and then slumped down onto the floor, unconscious. ”Gotcha!” Max brayed in triumph. Lee came up next to him. “Now what?” A knowing look appeared on his face. Rather than respond, Max reached through the bars and pulled out what looked like a shiny grey card from the officer’s pocket. He pressed up against the slatted opening and reached around the corner. The door slid open with the same kind of swooshing sound as before. “See. What did I say?” “We haven’t made it yet. There’s still the small matter of getting out of the station without being spotted.” The accusation seemed to catch Max off guard. He looked back and forth a couple of times before an idea registered on his face. “Get theses two guys into the cell before someone sees them.” Lee was beginning to wonder if his partner of convenience really did have a plan. Rather than argue, he grabbed the sergeant and dragged him inside. Max got a firm grip on the assistant’s arm and laid him down next to his new cellmate. When the door slid closed again, Max gave the hallway a good, long look. “The only way out of here is past the front desk.” Lee stood upright. “Front desk?” he protested. “You never said anything about going past the front desk.” “Unfortunately, the back and side doors are kept magnetically sealed at night. Nothing less than an ion cannon fired at point blank range would ever budge them. The only way outta here is through the front.”

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Lee looked back over his shoulder. “I don’t know. The moment we step into the foyer, they’ll be all over us. There has to be a better way—the roof, underground access pipes, something.” “Trust me. The front way is it.” His eyes began to sparkle in the muted light. “And our two friends in there are going to help us.” A look of protestation crossed Lee’s face. “Those guys will be out for hours. Besides. Even if they were awake, you don’t think they would just escort us outside, immobilizer or no immobilizer.” “They won’t, but their uniforms will.” Lee’s eyes narrowed. “You mean put on their clothes?” Max smiled brightly. “Exactly. As long as we keep their police hats on low, covering our faces as much as possible, we’ll be home free before you know it.” Lee looked down at the two officers, looked back up at Max, and then back down at the two unconscious men. His confidence in the plan went up about a hundred fold. “That just might be simple enough to work.” After a quick change, Lee and Max approximated the walk of an astro-officer to the best of their ability. With both shoulders thrown back and standing erect, they made their way down the hallway, trying to stay as quiet as possible. Their uniforms weren’t an exact fit, but close enough; at least that was what Lee hoped. Max peered around the corner when they

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Right Time, by Mike Lynch
reached an intersecting corridor. “It’s as empty as a church on Monday,” he whispered. They hadn’t taken more than a handful of steps when another astro-officer suddenly appeared. He came around a blind corner, humming a song to himself. His attention was fixed on a clipboard in his hands. Lee considered turning around and heading back the way they came, but it might arouse the officer’s suspicions. Before he could figure out what they should do, Max marched forward without a seeming care in the world. The officer barely gave him any notice. He just offered a cursory, “How’s it goin’?” and continued on his way without breaking his stride. Only when the officer went into a room near the end of the hallway did Lee let his feelings be known. “Are you crazy?” he asked rhetorically. “You could have gotten us busted. You’re lucky that guy didn’t take a good look at you.” Max’s expression went blank. “If you act like you own the place, no one’s going to bother you.” Lee let out a deep sigh. “Maybe you’re right, but you shouldn’t take those kinds of chances.” “Look. This is getting us nowhere. We can argue about this later when we’re a hundred miles from this place.” Lee answered with a simple nod. The hallway curved to the left a good forty meters, and then made a sharp right. When they reached the end, Max pressed his face against the wall and peered around the corner. He saw several astro-officers talking to each other mingling about in the lobby. “There are more policemen around than I would have expected at this time of night,” he observed before adding. “That’s strange.” His palms grew sweaty. “What? Anything wrong?” Max pulled back into the relative safety of the corridor. “Some of them are wearing riot gear,” he whispered. Lee let out a short snort. “You mean like nightsticks and helmets?” He took a second peek into the lobby. “Yeah. A few of them even have shields, but they don’t seem to be in a hot hurry to get out of here. Maybe it’s some kind of drill.” He paused a second time. “I think we can slip through without too much problem.” Lee responded with a hesitant nod. They re-adjusted their hats and straightened their uniforms. The two-day old stubble on Lee’s face might be a problem, but there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do about it now. He drew in a deep breath and stepped into the foyer with all the confidence he could muster. The automatic doors were only fifteen meters away—a distance both men could cover in twenty seconds if they were walking down the street. But right here, right now, it felt more like a mile. Just as they were about to reach their goal, a voice called out to them. “You two. Come here.”

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“Blast!” Lee screamed in his mind. The jig was up. Both of them stopped in mid-stride, as though some unseen force blocked their way. Lee felt his heart thumping in his chest as his breaths drew short. He briefly considered making a run for it, but he wouldn’t get ten feet before an officer tagged them with his immobilizer. Lee had no choice but to turn around and offer his surrender. Max, on the other hand, held his place. “And just where do you think you two are going?” The man approached from behind. He paused, and then added, “You know every spare officer was ordered to report to the station.” Officer. Station. They hadn’t been found out. He thought they were one of them. “Uh . . . we were on our way to night patrol.” “Nigh patrol?” “Yeah, that’s right. We’ve been ordered to the civic center area.” “Why were you going out the front door? That’s the long way.” Lee shot a glance in Max’s direction. He just shrugged. “I guess we forgot about that. We’ll remember next time.” “You forgot?” The officer scrutinized them both and then took a sniff. “Have you two been drinking?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Right Time, by Mike Lynch
“No.” “Yes.” “No…yes,” the officer said. “Which is it?” “Maybe a little,” Max replied. “Before we got on duty.” The officer pulled out his nightstick and held it in both hands. “I should bust the two of you,” he said, his tone sharp, “but I need every man I can get.” Lee and Max looked at each other, uncertain what he meant. The officer eyed them both before responding. “We’ve just gotten a call from downtown. Seems that there is some kind of riot going on there. As far as we can tell, the whole thing started between two rival asteroid freighter crews…something about claim jumping.” A heavy sigh pushed through Max’s lips. “That’s just great,” he complained. “Digger crews are the worst. Nothing but a bunch of thugs and cutthroats.” The officer stepped up close, until their noses were almost touching. “What was that you said?” Max had made a mistake, and he realized it. He needed to correct himself, and fast. “I apologize, Sir. I should not have got out of line like that.” “I need you guys ready to go in five minutes. If we don’t contain this thing fast, the whole city could explode.” He turned back and faced the other officers. “I want you up on the hover pads just a soon as you’re ready. Your wagon will be number five.” “Yes, Sir,” Lee replied, and then followed the other astro-officers down the corridor. When they reached a set of stairs at the end of the hallway, Lee stopped and pretended to look for something in his pockets. Max came alongside, a look of confusion draped over his face. “What are you doing?” “I should ask you the same thing?” Lee snapped back. “First, you admit you were drinking. And then you go off about those freighter crews.” “Look, I’m sorry. When he told me about the riot, it was the first thing that popped into my head.” A strange expression crossed his face, one that denoted a look of regret. “I’ll try and guard my mouth a little better.” Lee just shook his head. When he turned to go up the ladder, an officer bumped into Max from behind. “Watch where you’re going,” he barked. “You a newbie or something?” Lee rolled his eyes back. It would be a miracle if they made it through the night. Fortunately for them both, the hover pads were well marked. Large white letters painted on the tarmac gave everyone the impression that Lee and Max knew where they were going. When they walked up the angled incline to their wagon, the other officers were already inside, waiting. They were divided into two groups, each side facing the other on long, metal benches.

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A couple of officers scooted over and formed an opening of sorts. Just as Max was going to take his place, another astro-officer came running on board and tried to sit down in the newly created space. Max rose up just a little higher. “These are our seats,” he bellowed. “But this is my assigned station.” “The lieutenant over there said this is our place,” Max lied. “If you want to argue about it, you take this up with him.” The officer looked at the lieutenant, and then at the bench. Lee could see the war waging within him. He wanted the spot for himself, but if it meant arguing with a senior officer, the price was just a little too high. He stormed off without another word said. Lee leaned over. “I think you might be pushing things a bit,” he whispered. “Remember? We need to keep a low profile.” “From my dealings with these astro-zeroes, they only respect strength. If they see us backing down and acting polite, they’ll figure something’s up.” Lee cast a surreptitious glance in their direction. “Maybe you’re right. But try not to get too much into the role.” Before Max could respond, the lieutenant came out of the front cabin. “I just got off the radio. It seems the fight is bigger than we first thought. A full-scale war has erupted in the downtown sector. A number of men have been hospitalized, and fires are breaking out all over

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Right Time, by Mike Lynch
the city.” He tossed Lee and Max one helmet each. “Here, you’ll need these. Also, make sure your weapons are at their highest settings. We can’t take a chance if some of those pirates are able to shake off anything under a hundred terrawatt stun.” Just as he finished, a high-pitched motorized noise sounded inside the wagon. The back door swung up until the latching mechanism slipped into two magnetic clamps. When the mechanical sounds ceased, the lieutenant returned to the front cabin. “That’s just great,” Lee exhaled. Max bent closer. “What’s wrong now?” “With all those officers crawling all over the city, it’s going to be a whole lot tougher making a break for it. We’ll stick out like a sore thumb if they see us heading off in the opposite direction. One discharge from their immobilizers, and it’s goodnight for us both.” “Are you kidding? I can’t think of anything more fun right now than knocking a few heads together.” Max took out his weapon and stared at the dark, shiny finish. “This makes all the difference. This makes us legal. As civilians, if we’re the ones shooting up the place, they’d toss us in a cell. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?” Lee didn’t answer. He just sat back against the side and exhaled. Two hours ago, he just wanted to get inside where it was warm and have a drink. Despite his best intentions, he had gotten into a fight, found himself face down in the gutter, been arrested, thrown in jail, broken out of jail, and now drafted into the police. There’s  just  no  way  around  the  truth, Lee thought, disappointed in himself. He was at the wrong place at the right time. The hover ship came to an abrupt landing. “Okay, this is it,” the lieutenant said. “Stick with your partner, and remember your training. If you need additional help, call for back-up.” The same high-pitched motorized sound preceded the back door dropping open. “Let’s move it everyone! Move! Move! Move!” Every officer scrambled to his feet and hustled outside. There, they were met by scenes of thick, billowy smoke wafting up into the nighttime sky. Smashed glass and burning hover cars were everywhere. The place looked more like a war zone than the downtown district. When some of the looters a dozen or so meters away saw the officers pour out of the hover ship, they turned and tore off in the opposite direction. The bundled objects clutched in their arms fell onto the ground in lifeless heaps. “Come on!” Lee shouted at Max. “This is our chance. If we don’t go after them now, they’ll get away.” Max furled his brow, as if to suggest he didn’t understand what his partner was saying. Then a look of recognition crossed his face. “Uh…yeah. We’ll track down those guys and arrest them.” His words sounded forced, almost rehearsed. Lee buried his chin into his chest and hurried after the fleeing looters. Max kept pace, staying a step or two behind. Just as they reached the intersection, Lee stopped dead in his tracks. He looked both ways after taking in several deep

Pg. 10
breaths. It was only then that he realized they weren’t alone. Two other officers were not far behind. In his fervor to make a break for it, he hadn’t noticed them guarding their rear. He cast a furtive glance in Max’s direction. If they had any chance of getting away, they needed to shake their back-ups. The sound of a window breaking just up the street shattered the brief silence. Lee looked up, just in time to see several men brawling. Like it or not, he was an astro-officer now, and stopping the fight was his responsibility. “That one’s ours,” he said to Max, and then ran towards them. “Break it up!” one of the officers shouted when all four of them reached the melee. Two men, beaten and bloodied, continued striking each other without the slightest regard for the officers huddled around them. The other two combatants threw up their hands the moment they were ordered to do so. Max’s countenance darkened when he realized the pair still fighting weren’t going to stop. He pulled out his nightstick and shoved it in between the men locked in a death grip, grunting and tussling with each other. “That’s enough!” he shouted. One of the back-up officers grabbed the man closest him by the shoulders and pulled him back with a quick jerk, slapping a pair of metallic handcuffs on his wrists in the blink of an eye. Lee seized the other one and threw him down onto the ground. “I give,” he pleaded. When both men were subdued, the back-up

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Right Time, by Mike Lynch
officer pulled out his radio. “We’re secure here on Nostromo Lane. Bring in the wagon for a pick up.” “Roger that,” a crackly voice responded on the speaker. “We’ll rendezvous your position in two minutes.” The radio fell silent. The other backup officer came into the middle of the group. “I’ve just received word there’s some looting taking place two blocks over.” He pointed towards the center of town. “As soon as these guys are out of here, we’ve been ordered to move in that direction.” Lee stepped ahead of the others. “All right,” he said, approximating the tone of a drill sergeant, “we’ll take this one. You can follow us after the pick up.” A knowing smile blossomed on Max’s face. As they started jogging down the street, he came up alongside Lee. “This is better than I anticipated. I’m enjoying roughing-up people on this side of the law.” He held up his nightstick. “I think I picked the wrong career to go into.” As both men jogged past looted and burning buildings, they heard sporadic sounds of metal banging against metal and men shouting at each other in the distance. The closer they got, the louder the dissonant noises became. Lee and Max turned the corner and saw a dozen men fighting each other in the street. Some had bats and clubs, while others had immobilizers. Lee looked past them. The avenue was long and straight, and devoid of astro-officers. This was their chance. Just as he was about to make a break for it, Max let out a wild, almost animal-like scream, and ran at the brawling mass without any regard for his personal safety. “Max!” Lee yelled. “Have you lost your mind?” He watched him knock over a couple of rioters like a wrecking ball plowing through a condemned building. “Crazy fool,” Lee said to himself, and then ran into the same group with equal abandon. He used his stick to push back one brawler after another. One of the men jumped to his feet and pulled out a weapon. Just as he took aim, Max smacked him square on the jaw, and the man crumpled onto the ground, unconscious. “Thanks,” Lee said. “I owe ya.” Just as the words passed through Lee’s lips, another brawler grabbed him from behind and held on tight. Lee managed to spin around and was about to crack him with his stick. Instead of cowering back, the man’s eyes lit up. “Malcom?” he said, a tone of recognition in his voice. “Malcom Lee?” At that moment, Lee recognized the man standing before him. He was Spike Nelson. They had flown together some years back for Orion Space Cruises. He needed to think fast. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m…” He glanced down at his badge. “The name’s Stewart.” Nelson didn’t surrender. “No. I’d recognize you anywhere.” One of the backup officers came running up to them. “Is there a problem here?” he asked between winded breaths.

Pg. 11
“I know this man,” Nelson repeated. “This is Malcom Lee. The last I heard you were a navigator for an asteroid prospecting business. You an astro-cop now?” Lee pulled down his riot helmet just a bit more, but he felt just as exposed. If he didn’t figure a way out of this now, this whole charade could blow up in his face. “Look!” he shouted. “I’m not this Lee guy. Name’s Stewart. Got that?” He held up his sidearm and brought it close to the man’s head. “If you don’t move over there and wait with the others, I’ll put you to sleep for sure.” Nelson visibly shrunk as he threw up both hands. “Okay, okay. You’re not who I thought you were. My mistake.” “Come on,” Max pointed. “We’ve got some cleaning up to do down there.” “I’ll stay with this lot,” the first back-up officer offered. “Go on without me. I’ll catch up with you when the next wagon picks up this haul.” “All right,” Max replied. He tightened his chinstrap as far as it could go. An unmistakable gleam twinkled in both eyes, one that denoted he couldn’t wait to go out there again. Lee nodded in reply. Together, all three officers hustled down the street. It didn’t take them long to find another freighter crew barricaded in a liquor store. Firing off random shots into the air and shouting out every vulgar remark in the book, the crew seemed to have drunk themselves into a state of oblivion. By the time Lee and his companions reached them, two other

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Right Time, by Mike Lynch
squads rendezvoused at their position from the opposite direction. They cleared the crew from the store in a matter of minutes, some barely able to stand, let alone put up a fight. In the meantime, the city slowly fell back into order. Just as both suns crested the horizon, most of the fires had been put out, and all the rioters hauled off to jail. Lee and Max shuffled over to a parked wagon at the end of the street, exhausted. They had long abandoned the idea of making a break for it. There were just too many astroofficers around. While Lee couldn’t speak for Max, as the night wore on, he felt a growing awareness that what they were doing was in actuality a good thing. They were saving lives and property. Admittedly, despite their best efforts, parts of Crater City were nothing more than smoldering ruins, but it could have been much, much worse. Both men sat down on the ground and leaned up against the hull, their legs heavy. “I just wanted to say that was some of the best police work I have ever seen,” an unknown voice complimented. Lee’s attention drifted upwards, until it settled on one of the back-up officers. He drank in the words through a drowsy haze. “Thank you,” he replied, too tired to say anything else. A second officer walked up to the first. They spoke with each other for a moment, when he inexplicably stopped in mid-sentence. “Well, well, well,” he said, obviously pleased with himself. “Look what we have here?” That condescending tone could only belong to one person. “Lieutenant Ngoc,” Lee replied. He looked up and caught sight of his immobilizer pointed right at him. “It’s good to see you too, Lieutenant.” “What you have here are two escapees.” The other officer furrowed his brow. “These two? They’ve been with me all night. I don’t think we could have done as good a job squelching the riot without them. I’ll admit their methods were a bit unorthodox, but—” “But nothing,” Ngoc interrupted. “They broke out of their cell last night. We didn’t have the manpower to look for them, but I knew they would turn up, sooner or later.” He paused for a moment, a look of satisfaction spread across his face. “Looks like they delivered themselves.” “Is that true?” the officer asked. Lee’s hand drifted down towards his sidearm. Ngoc jerked forward. “Nice and slow, so we don’t have any…accidents.” Lee felt his stinging glare burn into him through those cold, dark eyes. “It was fun while it lasted,” he said, and then handed his weapon over to Ngoc. Max likewise pulled out his sidearm, handle first, and stared at it, as though he couldn’t quite part with his new toy. Without any fanfare, he threw it onto the ground at Ngoc’s feet. “I wish I could let the two of you go,” the officer said, “but I swore an oath to keep the law.”

Pg. 12
Ngoc grinned. “That’s right. Your cell is waiting for you back at the station.” The hover ship fired up its anti-grav drive. After an initial hum, the back door started to move upwards, but not before the back-up officer jumped onboard. He worked his way towards the front cabin, moving past Lee and Max sitting on one of the benches. As he came up behind Lt. Ngoc, the officer tripped on something and fell forward, knocking him onto the ground. The officer tried to catch himself, but in doing so, pushed Lee and Max out the back just before the door closed. With the final blast of its engines, the wagon flew high into the air, and out of sight. Both men picked themselves up and wiped the dust off their shirts and pants. They stood there for a good long while, staring at the crisp, autumn sky, until Max finally spoke up. “Do you think he did that on purpose?” Lee shook his head. “I’m not sure. Maybe.” “Either way, I bet Ngoc is steaming mad right now.” Lee took in his surroundings. “Well I’ll be…” he said, his tone hopeful. “We seem to have ended up right where we started.” Max looked around, puzzled “I know a place around here where we can get a drink.” A knowing smile parted his lips. “I sure could use one.” “You should like it well enough. Nice atmosphere. Very friendly.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Right Time, by Mike Lynch
“Who cares about that. As long as it’s fully stocked, that’s good enough for me.” Lee extended his arm and started down the street. Through the smoke and haze hovering over the city, a faint image began to show itself. A blinking red sign just above a darkened doorway beckoned them forward like a silent magician casting a strange spell. Both men passed through the front doors of Club Midnight and disappeared inside.

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Mike Lynch
Mike  currently  resides  in  San  Jose,  California with his wife, Kathleen, and two children.    Mike’s  first  book,  Dublin was released in July 2007.  He has published a  short story, “No Revolution is Too Big,” in Ray Gun Revival magazine in the August 15,  2007,  RGR  28  issue.    In  May  2008,  Mike’s  first novel, When the Sky Fell, is scheduled  to be released by Silver Leaf Books.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Final Harvest, by Drew Arrants

Pg. 14

The Final Harvest
by Drew Arrants

“A

re our forward probes picking up any scanning activity?” Admiral Oksandr asked. She stood on the flight deck, watching Mars on the main video screen. Earth was plainly visible in the background, a small sphere that beckoned with both exotic delicacies and lethal danger. First Officer Drahos looked up from the command console. “No, ma’am,” he answered. “So far we haven’t detected any electronic tracking signals at all from either Earth or Mars. Could it be they really aren’t expecting us to come back after all this time?” “Don’t underestimate the humans, Drahos,” Admiral Oksandr said. “We got too cocky after the first two harvests—didn’t suspect that next time they’d be waiting out in space to intercept us. We can’t afford another debacle like that.” In the half century since that military disaster, no further harvesting attempts had been made—until now. Admiral Oksandr knew that the United Planetary Council was taking a huge gamble by ordering another harvest, but the spreading famine on her home planet required desperate measures. She wiped a tentacle across her upper beak in a gesture of relief, as the ten-ship armada slipped past Mars without incident. Admiral Oksandr was afraid that the humans were again planning some kind of trap, and she wondered why they were letting her forces get so close

to Earth. There was now nothing between her starships and Earth except 50 million miles of open space, so she ordered the general alert level to be lowered to “Two.” “Well, we can relax for a while, Drahos—so I’m going down to the dining hall and have some lunch.” The Officer’s Mess Hall was nearly empty, since most of the armada’s crew had been required to remain at their duty posts during the high general alert. Admiral Oksandr saw the science officer, Lieutenant Edemsk, and the intelligence officer, Lieutenant Rattko, sitting together as always at a small corner table, and she suspected that they were curling their lower tentacles together behind the tablecloth as they ate. The young lieutenants had recently asked her if she would be willing to perform an onboard wedding ceremony, at a convenient time after the armada had completed its mission and was homeward bound. The journey back to their home galaxy would take over six months, a wait that the love-struck couple considered unbearable. Admiral Oksandr knew that they were eagerly awaiting her decision, but were afraid to approach her directly about it. She sat down alone at the designated Admiral’s Table and opened the menu, although she already knew what the main course would

be—the same unpleasant meat that Lieutenant Edemsk and Lieutenant Rattko were eating, and that her daughter was preparing for her beloved grandchildren back on their home planet, and that every member of her species was now forced to eat. Her people were obligatory carnivores who could not survive without a daily intake of animal protein. “Ovekian rodent,” she muttered with disgust. “Ah, well, let’s see what the chefs have done to disguise its taste today.” Once the meat-producing animals on her home planet had been so plentiful that extraterrestrial meat sources like human flesh had been considered a delicacy, an expensive luxury for the rich. Poor conservation practices had resulted in the slow, steady decline of the traditional meat animals, and then the sudden appearance of a virulent, highly contagious virus had killed them off. Now the only edible creature left on their world in sizeable numbers was the lowly Ovekian rodent, and even with strict rationing that resulted in widespread malnutrition, the rodent population was diminishing, as demand for its flesh outraced its ability to breed. Admiral Oksandr’s world was slowly starving to death, and its only hope for survival was an abundant harvest of humans that would put decent, plentiful food on its tables at last. There was even hope that enough humans could be

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Final Harvest, by Drew Arrants
kept alive on breeding farms to create a new indigenous livestock, so that future harvests would eventually become unnecessary. After the meal, Admiral Oksandr walked back up to the flight deck, where First Officer Drahos seemed entertained by the scene on the video display. “Look at this, ma’am,” he said. “Earth has moved directly between its star and our ships, forming a solar eclipse.” She glanced over First Officer Drahos’ shoulder at the screen. From their position in space, Earth looked slightly smaller than the sun, and now the planet appeared as a dark sphere surrounded by a ring of light. Suddenly the small black image of Earth disappeared, as an intense brightness covered its surface and continued to expand until it appeared larger than the sun. “What in the world is that? Drahos—get Commander Habart on the—” First Officer Drahos raised one of his tentacles and placed a second over his earphone, signaling that he was receiving a radio communication. “Ma’am, we’re getting an urgent message from the electronics surveillance ship—Commander Habart’s already calling us.” An apprehensive voice came through the flight deck speakers. “Habart here, ma’am. Our sensors have just detected what appears to be an incredibly powerful energy surge emanating from Earth—and it’s coming directly toward us.” “I just saw it on our main screen,” Admiral Oksandr said. “But the humans couldn’t possibly have any weapon capable of firing concentrated energy over that distance—could they? Can you tell me what the surge’s specific components are?” “Well, if it’s some type of pulse weapon, its wave structure is pretty disorganized. It seems to be a random mixture of energy waves covering the entire electromagnetic spectrum—I’ve never seen an energy weapon like— “Wait a minute. ma’am—this energy field is much too intense to be originating from any planet. This has got to be a solar flare—a huge one—and it’s going to slam into us in less than twenty minutes.” “Blessed Croix,” Admiral Oksandr said, using language that was very unusual for her. “We don’t even have time to—okay, Commander Habart, start shutting everything on your ship down. I’ll be issuing general orders momentarily.” Admiral Oksandr directed all the ships in the armada to take immediate action to limit damage from the approaching solar flare, including shutting down all nonessential electronic equipment. There was no time to turn the massive starships to one side to reduce direct exposure of the front-mounted external scanners and sensors, so the commanders were told to switch off their propulsion engines and hold in place until the energy surge had passed. Seventeen minutes later, the flare reached the armada in full intensity, and for almost an hour the starships were bombarded by the powerful electromagnetic storm.

Pg. 15
Finally it passed, and the various sections slowly began to resume normal operations. Admiral Oksandr directed her commanders to assess the amount of damage in their squadrons, and to be prepared to brief her on their findings in an emergency senior staff meeting in three hours. During that staff meeting, she sat with a grim expression on her face while one commander after another stood up and presented bad news. The long-range radar in her command starship, a mighty intergalaxy-class destroyer, was no longer functional. Until that radar was repaired, it would be impossible to detect any approaching human warships before they were dangerously close. Commander Habart’s electronics surveillance ship had sustained the most damage. Four of its large sensor units—the infrared scanner, the radiation monitor, the chromographic analyzer for atmospheric gases, and the long-range MRI scanner—would require many hours of repair before they could even safely be turned on for testing. In addition, most of the small external radio antennas on the other ships had been burned out. They could be easily replaced, but the other repairs would not be so simple, and priorities had to be set. “We don’t dare approach Earth without long-range radar,” Admiral Oksandr told the assembled officers. “We’ll have to hold here just beyond Mars until that’s operational again. The long-range MRI scanner will also be essential for a successful harvest if the humans go into hiding. So I want the Engineering Squadron to

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Final Harvest, by Drew Arrants
get those two units repaired first, and the less essential sensors will just have to wait.” The Engineering Squadron Commander raised his tentacle to speak. “Er, ma’am, we don’t have enough transistors and circuit boards to repair all of the damaged equipment. So some of it is going to have to wait until we get back to home port—after the mission is over.” Admiral Oksandr frowned. “Well, we aren’t planning on doing any harvesting at night, so the infrared scanner won’t be needed, anyway—and we already know Earth’s atmospheric composition and background radiation level from measurements taken during the previous missions. So we can proceed with the harvest once the long-range radar and MRI are functional. How long do you estimate that will take, Commander Ludmille?” “Six to eight shifts, ma’am—even with double work crews going at it around the clock, that’s as fast as we can do it.” The unmanned forward probes which had been launched toward Earth well before the armada had reached Mars were no longer sending signals back, and were presumed to have been destroyed. Admiral Oksandr ordered replacement probes to be sent out, destined for orbit around both Earth and its moon. They would be in place by the time the armada reached near space around Earth. The last person to brief was the science officer. “Since Earth was directly in the path of the solar flare—and is considerably closer to its star than we are—we at least have the consolation that the humans’ own electronic defense systems have been damaged,” Lieutenant Edemsk said. “There’s no doubt that a number of their satellites were burned out, and some of their regional power grids are probably also temporarily down. The humans’ ability to spy on us is definitely crippled to an unknown degree.” She concluded her presentation and sat back down beside Lieutenant Rattko. “Well, thank Deity for some good news,” Admiral Oksandr said. “Now if no one else has anything to say, this meeting is adjourned. The next staff meeting will be at my call. Carry on!” With the meeting over, Admiral Oksandr and First Officer Drahos walked back to the flight deck together, while the other officers rode shuttlecraft back to their ships. “You know, it just occurred to me,” Admiral Oksandr said. “That solar flare must be why the humans didn’t try another ambush from behind Mars—I’m sure their scientists monitor their star’s periodic flare activity, so they knew it was coming and couldn’t risk the damage to their fleet. That’s the only explanation that makes sense from a tactical military standpoint.” “Why, yes, that could’ve forced the humans to change their tactics,” First Officer Drahos said, prudently agreeing with his commanding officer. Then he changed the subject somewhat hesitantly. “Uh, ma’am, maybe this isn’t a good time to bring this up—but just before the meeting started, Lieutenant Rattko and Lieutenant Edemsk asked me again if you’d reached a decision on their—” “You’re right—this isn’t a good time,”

Pg. 16
Admiral Oksandr said, cutting off the discussion. “Tell them that I’ll give them my decision after the harvest has been successfully completed, when we’ve started on the voyage back home.” She had already decided to deny their request, on the grounds that military regulations forbade married couples from serving together on the same starship, and she didn’t want to give them discouraging news that might impair their work performance before the mission was accomplished. The equivalent of four Earth days passed, and the Engineering Squadron finally reported that the command ship’s long-range radar had been repaired. Work was still being done on the long-range MRI scanner, but that was expected to be completed by the time the armada reached Earth. So Admiral Oksandr ordered the starships to move onward and they were again underway. Two shifts later, the armada was a mere 300,000 miles from Earth, and all ships were placed on full alert status. “Ma’am, the probes in moon orbit aren’t finding any artificially modulated electromagnetic signals on its surface, and there are no spacecraft behind its far side,” First Officer Drahos stated. “The only frequencies that the Earth orbiters are picking up are the standard wavelengths normally reserved for commercial broadcasting and telecommunications—but no scanning activity aimed in our direction.” “Hmm,” Admiral Oksandr said. “Unless the humans are planning to launch a counterattack at the very last minute, they may actually be waiting to fight us down on Earth—I wonder if

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Final Harvest, by Drew Arrants
they could’ve developed some new, advanced ground combat weaponry that they didn’t have before.” She tapped a tentacle repeatedly against the command console as she vented her frustration. “Fifty-three years is a long time—our intelligence information on the humans is so ridiculously outdated.” By the start of the next shift, the armada had reached its holding position for the harvest, with its ships grouped together in a high stationary orbit over Earth. Only four of the armada’s ships—its assault harvester craft—were capable of landing on solid terrain. These would go down to Earth to capture the humans and then ferry them back to the massive orbiting cargo ships, where the hapless humans would be kept in suspended animation during the long trip back to home galaxy. The targeted harvesting area was Mexico City, where unmanned probes sent to Earth a decade earlier had confirmed a dense population of millions of humans, easy prey for skilled harvesters. The first harvester ship flew down into Earth’s atmosphere just before dawn, landing on the outskirts of the city. Its initial task was to evaluate harvesting conditions and potential security threats. If no significant human resistance was encountered, the other harvester ships would soon join it. Overhead in orbit, the destroyer starship stood ready to rain down savage firepower from the skies if major force were needed. Admiral Oksandr paced around the flight deck nervously, waiting for word from the commander of the advance team. Two hours after the harvester ship’s initial landing, his report came in. “Major Varinen here, ma’am. We’ve encountered no resistance—in fact, no human activity at all. The city appears to be entirely deserted. The airport and nearby military bases are also empty. There’s evidence of a hasty evacuation—rubble scattered on the streets, and a few vehicles that look like they were abandoned at the roadside. I’ve moved the ship to a large open park near the city center, and we’ll hold here awaiting further instructions.” “I knew the humans were expecting us,” Admiral Oksandr said. “They must have detected our initial forward probes, to have had time to evacuate the entire metropolitan area.” She turned to First Officer Drahos. “Direct Commander Habart to maneuver the electronics surveillance ship into a low orbit over that landmass and obtain a broad-area MRI image of the entire region. There are millions of humans down there—and if they’re foolish enough to have hidden together in large shelters, they’ll be very easy to trap and harvest.” Admiral Oksandr knew that it would take almost a full shift to get high-definition scans of a land area of that size, and she decided to take advantage of a historic opportunity that her predecessors had not had—free time down on Earth, without constant combat with the humans. “Drahos, I’m going to send a second harvester ship down to join Major Varinen’s

Pg. 17
team and set up a base camp there in the park—and I’m going to go down with that ship to take a firsthand look at Earth for myself. Notify Lieutenant Edemsk and Lieutenant Rattko that they’ll be coming with me—we have a unique chance to gather information about human culture and scientific capabilities that should be very useful in the planning of future missions. “We’ll keep the other two harvester ships up here in orbit for now. Then after Commander Habart tells us where the humans are hiding, they can fly directly to those coordinates, and the two ships down in the park will join them.” An hour later the second harvester ship touched down in the park, and everyone on board began putting on their bulky environmental safety suits. The oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere was toxic to their species, so these suits were an uncomfortable but necessary requirement for survival. Finally, the ship’s air lock could be opened, and Admiral Oksandr stepped onto Earth for the first time in her life. The science officer and intelligence officer were right behind her, and they all stared at the bizarre, alien terrain. “I can’t believe how barren it all looks, ma’am,” Lieutenant Edemsk remarked. “All the dead trees, nothing seems to be growing—” “Well, you’re the science officer,” Admiral Oksandr said. “What do you think might have caused this desolation? Isn’t this the winter season here?” “”Yes, ma’am,” Lieutenant Edemsk answered, “but this location is too close to the

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Final Harvest, by Drew Arrants
equator for winter alone to produce conditions like these—” she paused as if she didn’t have a good answer. “It, er, could be due to a prolonged drought. I’ll try to determine the reason before we leave Earth.” Lieutenant Rattko spoke up. “Ma’am, how much time do we have to gather data down here? Er—you don’t want us to go along on the actual harvesting operations—do you?” Admiral Oksandr grinned at his naive question. “Of course not—you two would only be in the way. It’s going to take up to a week to harvest a sufficient number of humans. During that time, you and Lieutenant Edemsk will remain down here collecting your data. Major Varinen’s team is setting up an artificial environment module for you to eat and sleep in, and they’ll leave a ground shuttle vehicle here for your use. “Tomorrow I want both of you to drive over to the abandoned air force base and spend the day gathering as much information about the humans’ current military technology as you can. You can brief me on what you’ve found tomorrow evening.” “Ma’am,” Lieutenant Edemsk asked, “do Lieutenant Rattko and I have permission to leave the base camp at this time? I’d like to go ahead and get started on a preliminary exploration of the city area adjacent to the park.” As the two lieutenants walked away, Admiral Oksandr saw a large bronze statue in one corner of the park. Its subject was a military officer riding a charging steed and waving a sword high in the air. She noted the primitive weapon and use of the horse as transportation, but she was more interested in the appearance of the human figure. She already knew that humans were bipeds with only four limbs, but had never seen a clear, detailed image of one before. So she walked over to the statue and looked closely at its face, and was particularly repulsed by all the hair, including the thick sideburns and bushy moustache. “My, what a dreadfully ugly species these humans are,” she thought. “I certainly hope they taste better than they look.” Actually, Admiral Oksandr knew that human flesh would taste infinitely better than Ovekian rodent, and she smiled at the thought that her grandchildren would soon be able to eat well at last. She looked forward to sitting down to a delicious, joyful dinner with her family in the not-too-distant future. Standing in the center of the large metropolis that her forces had taken without firing a shot, she already felt a sense of triumph. She was the first starship commander in many decades to walk the soil of Earth, and the supposedly fierce humans were afraid to even face her. Perhaps she had overrated them after all. Two hours later she and Major Varinen were talking in the newly erected headquarters tent, when she looked up and saw Lieutenant Rattko coming through the entrance. He was clutching several paper documents in his tentacles. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, “but these are old-style print newspapers that Lieutenant Edemsk and I found in vending machines along the streets. “I can’t translate the headlines—the Intell

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Corps doesn’t know nearly enough about the human language for me to do that—but we are familiar with their crude symbols for numbers, so I was able to read the dates on these papers. “They all appear to be seven days old—at least when compared to the Earth dates displayed on several still-functioning building clocks that we saw.” Admiral Oksandr was mildly irritated at being interrupted for trivial information that could have waited for the intelligence officer’s trip report, but she simply said, “Well, yes, lieutenant, that sounds about right. That’s when the humans probably detected our forward probes and started the evacuation—thank you for this information.” It was late afternoon when she received a more important communication from First Officer Drahos, who informed her that the electronics surveillance ship had completed its broad-area MRI scan. “Ma’am, Commander Habart reports that the scan has located several million humans within a 300-mile radius of the base camp. They’re in about 50 huge bunkers scattered over the countryside—and the closest one is in the mountains 73 miles due north of the city.” “At last!” Admiral Oksandr said. “Now we can finally erase the humiliation of our last encounter with the humans.” She glanced down at the timepiece on her environmental safety suit. “Ah, yes, there’s still enough time before nightfall for each ship to harvest one shelter—and then we’ll move on to other shelters in the morning.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Final Harvest, by Drew Arrants
“All right, Drahos, I’ll have Major Varinen get the coordinates for the two closest shelters, and the ships down here will be taking off for immediate deployment. I’ll be going along in Varinen’s ship to oversee the initial harvest. You have the other two harvester ships break out of orbit and head for the next two closest shelters. Okay, let’s start the ball rolling.” Shortly after Major Varinen’s harvester ship took off, he turned to Admiral Oksandr and said, “Ma’am, our navigator says that the immediate terrain around the target shelter is too irregular for a safe landing—so we’re going to have to set the ship down in a high plane almost a mile away. We’ll disembark there, and then move personnel and equipment forward with the shuttle vehicles.” After the ship landed in the designated area, Admiral Oksandr stood to the side while Major Varinen barked orders to his harvesting team, and the weapons and demolition supplies were loaded onto six small shuttle vehicles. They were at a moderately high elevation, and she noticed that the sun was approaching the horizon somewhat earlier than she had anticipated. It would soon be dusk. The group finally moved forward, with the wheeled vehicles bouncing over the rough ground, until Major Varinen halted it about 100 yards from a very large concrete structure built into the mountainside. The structure had a single massive door and no visible windows. “I don’t see any weapon turrets,” Major Varinen said to Admiral Oksandr. “Even if some of the humans inside have small arms, they won’t have a good line of fire through that doorway, so they won’t be putting up any real resistance in any case—and it looks like that door is the only way in and out, so the humans should be very easy to contain.” “Well, you’d better get on with it,” she said. “It’s starting to get dark.” Major Varinen ordered his demolition team to set explosives on the door, while his assault troops prepared to charge inside as soon as the entranceway was clear. While Admiral Oksandr was observing the troopers, the communicator in her environmental safety helmet beeped. “Drahos here, ma’am. I just got a call from Lieutenant Rattko down in the base camp. He asked me to inform you that he made a mistake in his first reading of the dates on—” “Drahos, I don’t have time for this now,” Admiral Oksandr snapped. “Why are you telling me this when we’re in the middle of an active harvesting operation?” “Well, ma’am, I think this may be significant. Rattko states that he got the numbers for the date of the month and of the year mixed up. He says those newspapers aren’t seven days old—they’re seven years old.” That got Admiral Oksandr’s attention, but she quickly said, “Oh, that’s impossible. Rattko’s just not familiar with the way human dates are written—listen, don’t interrupt me again until this operation has been completed.” There was a loud explosion as the doors disintegrated and bits of concrete fell to the ground. Once the dust began settling, the armed troopers rushed in.

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“They aren’t meeting any resistance,” Major Varinen said. “We can go on in, ma’am.” Admiral Oksandr’s heart began to race in anticipation as the shuttle vehicle drove the short distance to the shelter entrance. She was about to see living humans for the first time, and she hoped that her eagerness wasn’t too obvious, because she wanted to project the calm demeanor expected of a commanding officer. As she and Major Varinen walked into the shelter, she was surprised to see that the troopers already inside were standing almost still, and most of them didn’t even have their weapons raised. Then she saw the humans. The shelter was indeed filled with thousands of them—men, women, and children. They were all crowded together, huddled in family groups. And they were all quite dead, and quite well preserved, as if they had died very recently, or something had rendered their bodies impervious to decay. Major Varinen spoke first. “What the hell could have happened here? Could they have all suffocated?” He yelled an order to two of his troopers. “Gaafe—Semyon—find the shelter’s air circulation pumps, and see if they’re working properly.” Admiral Oksandr couldn’t believe what she was seeing. “They don’t look like they suffocated,” she muttered. “They look like they died

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Final Harvest, by Drew Arrants
almost—instantaneously.” Major Varinen rushed back over to her. “Ma’am, until we get some idea of what’s going on here—maybe you should go back outside— until we’re absolutely sure it’s safe in here—” As she turned to leave the shelter, Admiral Oksandr received one last call. She could hear the dread in First Officer Drahos’ voice. “Sorry, ma’am, this can’t wait! Go ahead, Commander Habart—” “Habart here, ma’am—we just got power restored to the radiation monitor, and it’s—well, it’s showing highly abnormal radiation levels for Earth’s surface. Either its calibration circuits still have some damaged transistors that the Engineering Section overlooked, or—” Admiral Oksandr heard his words, but her attention was focused on the view outside the shelter. Night had fallen, but it had not brought darkness. # Seventy-three miles away, back at the base camp, Lieutenant Edemsk and Lieutenant Rattko were taking full advantage of the opportunity to be alone together for the first time on the long mission. They had set aside the newly discovered Earth documents, and were engaged in a more universal and intimate type of research, when Edemsk caught her breath and tapped Rattko’s beak to get his attention. She pointed over his shoulder toward the window of their artificial environment module. Lieutenant Rattko turned around and stared, then got up and walked over to the window. Lieutenant Edemsk joined him a moment later, after modestly wrapping herself with a bed sheet, and together they looked at the eerily beautiful scene. “Blue moonlight—?” Lieutenant Edemsk said in an awed voice. “What a strange planet this is.” But the light wasn’t coming from the moon. Somehow everything—the ground, the shuttle vehicle in front of their module, even the military statue on the other side of the park, and the buildings beyond—was emitting a faint bluish glow, like an iridescent landscape in a dream. Admiral Oksandr had triumphantly reached Earth, and the young lovers had blissfully enjoyed their unauthorized honeymoon. And now death would reap the final harvest.

Pg. 20 outskirts  of  Phoenix,  Arizona,  where  he  occasionally writes short stories. His works  have  been  published  in  several  European  and American print magazines.

Drew Arrants
Drew Arrants is a retired psychiatrist and  military  flight  surgeon.  He  spent  21  years in the U.S. Air Force, becoming fluent  in  two  foreign  languages  while  stationed  in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. He is  currently  living  in  the  sunny  desert  on  the 

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

Featured Artist: Alexei Kozachenko

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Featured Artist

Alexei Kozachenko

Name: Alexei Kozachenko Age: 19 Hobbies: Friends, movies, graphics, Halo Favorite Book / Author: Eric Nylund Favorite Artist: Greg Martin, Dylan Cole When did you start creating art? July 2006 What media do you work in? Digital art, sci-fi. Mostly space art but some 3D work too. Where your work has been featured? DeviantART, various sites, and ImagineFX magazine. Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your works? http://nameless-designer.deviantart.com How did you become an artist? Started out quite simple—forum signatures. I couldn’t make any, and no one made any for me. So I took matters into my own hands, and tried Photoshop. Some time later, I came upon some great sci-fi art, and that inspired me deeply. What were your early influences? Greg Martin’s work What are your current influences? Many space artists on DeviantART What inspired the art for the cover? Originally made for a Terrapsace contest, I tried to add more 3D elements into the
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 34, November 15, 2007

Featured Artist: Alexei Kozachenko

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needed, but it worked out well in the end. What have been your greatest successes? How has success impacted you / your work? My biggest success to date is probably a feature in ImagineFX and in your current issue. It only motivates me to continue. What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art? My mouse, and my rather old but still functioning Wacom Volito2 What tool / equipment do you wish you had? A Wacom Intuos tablet
Ray Gun Revival magazine

scene. The landscape was made with Cinema 4D. How would you describe your work? I’ve been told, and I agree, that I have a “painted” feel to my work. It’s not so much gritty, dark, and plain as it is free and colorful. Where do you get your inspiration / what inspires you? Things in everyday life, music, strong emotions, anything really. Have you had any notable failures, and how has failure affected your work? My biggest setback was when my previous PC decided to die. All my files where lost, and I had to start over. It took awhile for me to remake and recreate a index of source files and base textures that I

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Featured Artist: Alexei Kozachenko

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What do you hope to accomplish with your art? To inspire people to be more creative and original with their art.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, by John M. Whalen

The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul
A Jack Brand story
by John M. Whalen
Part Two
to be a Saber-Tooth Tiger, the likes of which he’d only seen before in text book illustrations. He reached for his Beretta. The cat leaped up on its hind legs, and a mighty paw knocked the gun from his grasp. With the tiger still on its hind legs, man and beast clashed, head to head. Brand pressed his forearm hard against the tiger’s throat, the fingers of his other hand gripping the fur on its head. With a savage grunt, Brand forced the cat back against the wall. He pushed his forearm in harder against the animal’s throat, trying to crush its windpipe. But the beast was too powerful. With a vicious snarl, it uncoiled the muscles in its hind legs and pushed itself away from the wall. Brand flew back and fell to the tunnel floor in a heap. The Saber-Tooth dropped to all fours, crouched low, its tail swishing back and forth, its eyes gleaming in the dark. Brand got up slowly and tried to back away, but then the tiger sprang. A blue streak of lightning zapped through the tunnel darkness. The tiger in mid-air screeched in sudden agony and fell to the ground, a black smoking hole in its side. Brand looked beyond the cat and saw Calystra standing with his Beretta in her hand. He stood up. “Are you all right?” the woman asked. “Yes,” he said, looking at her. “I didn’t know you knew how to use one of those things,” he said, pointing at the gun. “To survive, I’ve learned to do many things

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T

hey fell a considerable distance before Brand’s boots hit the stony bottom. The impact of the landing knocked the wind out of him and sent him sprawling. The rifle flew from his hands. In the dim light that came from above he could see Ziggy’s head strike the stone wall of the pit they had fallen into, and the Kelorian fell unconscious. Calystra had tumbled over on her side, but appeared to still be conscious.

in my journeys,” Calystra said. There was a low moan in the darkness. “Ziggy,” the woman said, and ran to him. Ziggy sat up with his back against the wall for support. He rubbed his fingers through his dark blue hair and shook his head. “What happened?” he asked. “Can you stand up?” Brand asked. “I think so.” The Kelorian got up stiffly. “I don’t think anything’s broken.” Brand took his gun from Calystra and pulled a radium torch out of his back pack and ignited it. Ziggy saw the tiger’s carcass. “Hello! What’s that?” “Somebody’s pet,” Brand said. “Somebody? You mean there’s somebody living in this place?” “It’s a possibility,” Brand said. “It could be a wild animal strayed in from the desert, except for one thing.” He went over to the dead animal and grabbed hold of a leather collar buried in the fur around its neck. “That trap door could have been set long ago and been activated by our weight stepping on the stones in the floor. Or it could have been set off by someone.” “But who?” Ziggy asked. “I have a feeling we’ll find out before too long,” Brand said. He glanced over at Calystra. “Any idea which way to go now?” he asked. The woman looked off into the darkness

Brand sat up slowly, shaking his head. He soon saw that they were not in a pit at all, but rather a long tunnel that seemed to run some distance under the palace. He looked back at Calystra. The woman’s face suddenly contorted with a look of terror and she screamed, pointing at something behind him. Brand turned. A large shape, close to the ground, came lumbering straight for him. It trotted closer and Brand saw gleaming fangs. Yellow eyes flashed and the thing growled as it sprang. Brand managed to get halfway to his feet when the beast struck him full in the chest. Calystra screamed again. Brand caught the animal’s head with two hands, his fingers digging deep into the fur at the top of its neck. The force of the animal’s charge sent them both flying back, crashing against the side of the tunnel. The animal cracked it head on the wall and it was momentarily stunned. Brand jumped free of the animal and could see that the beast appeared

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, by John M. Whalen
in the direction from which the Saber-Tooth had come. “This way,” she said, and started walking. # step he took, the bridge shifted slightly. A piece of stone on the edge of the bridge fell off and dropped into the speeding current.

Pg. 25
a comfortable space in the center of the rocks. Brand broke out some energy bars and handed Calystra and Ziggy his canteen. “We can grab a small bite and have some water,” he said, as they sat down. “We’ll need energy to get up to the top of those steps.” They each took a swig from the canteen and munched quietly for a moment on the power bars. Brand looked up at Calystra. She didn’t seem very strong. She was thin and pale, and there were lines of weariness and tension around her eyes. He wondered if she would make it up the long steep shaft. He’d find out soon enough. But at the moment there was another question on his mind. “Tell me something, Calystra,” he said. “Are all the people on Kelor like you?” “No,” she said, handing the canteen to Ziggy. “I wish that were the case. I wish I had been born the same as all the others on my planet. From the first days of childhood, I was different. I would say things to my parents that frightened them. I told them things that they thought I could not possibly know things that were supposed to be secret. When I was only four, they took me to a doctor. They did tests. They kept me in a hospital and gave me treatments to remove this thing that frightened them. “Soon I understood that this power was something that I should not have. So I shut it down of my own will. And they released me and sent me home. But the power would not die so easily. In my teens it grew strong, so strong I could not control it any longer. And I began to speak again of the things I saw, in hope that someone would understand. But no

Calystra was close behind him, followed by Ziggy. Brand got nearly to the other bank and stopped to grab hold Brand took the lead, beaming the radium The woman stepped gingerlyof Calystra’s arm. him, torch ahead of them. The tunnel progressed he helped her step onto the aroundshore.and other only twenty or thirty yards, when it began a turned and reached out for Ziggy, and as He he steep downward slope. As they carefully made did, a section of the stone under the Kelotheir way, again voices whispered in Brand’s rian’s feet crumbled away, dropping into the ears. Unintelligible gibberings hissed and river. Ziggy stood one leg on snickered in the dank air all around him. He another kicking in withair. His arms the bridge, the waved like halted. He swore he heard the skittering of semaphores as he tried to keep his balance. footsteps in the darkness beyond. He turned Brand caught his wrist. He felt the stone under and aimed the beam of his torch back up the his feet moving, and put one foot on the bank. tunnel. It was empty. With a hard yank he swung the Kelorian onto “Pay no attention to what you hear,” Calystra the shore and jumped himself. said quietly. “They are only shadows.” “Thanks, Brand,” Ziggy said. “I thought I was a goner.” Brand turned and proceeded onward. The tunnel leveled off and Brand heard the rushing They walked to the entrance to the tunnel sound of swift running water. He pointed the here on the opposite side. radium beam and saw that the tunnel widened out ahead. They came to a large grotto. Imme“We must go there,” Calystra said. diately ahead an underground river rolled under a stone bridge. The sound of the rushing Brand went up a few steps inside the tunnel water was loud and the air in the grotto was and saw that it sloped upward at a sharp angle. cooler than it had been in the tunnel. On the High up he saw a pinhole of light in the center other side of the river Brand saw steps leading of the darkness. It was more like a mine shaft into another tunnel. than a tunnel, he thought. He wondered what was at the top. The bridge was very worn looking, with deep cracks. Brand stepped onto it and tested “We better rest here,” he said. “That’s going its strength. It seemed solid enough. The others to be quite a climb.” followed close behind. There was a small circle of rocks several “Step carefully,” he said. Brand stepped out yards away from the tunnel and a few feet over the rushing water. The air was moist. He back from the river bank. “That looks like a could feel his clothes getting damp. With each good place to sit a spell,” he said. They found

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, by John M. Whalen
one did. “My own mother and father drove me away from my own home. They told me that I must be possessed of some evil spirit and that I would only bring danger and sorrow. They told me to go far away.” Calystra said. “He told me that if I pretended what I had was just a trick, something to amuse and entertain, people could accept that. And so I became an entertainer, amazing people every night, leaving them wondering in awe how I do it.”

Pg. 26
“Farley!” Ziggy said. “What are you—” “Shut up,” Farley said. Ziggy took a step backward and reached for the pistol Brand had given him.

“No!” Brand said, as Brand had the knife out of the sheath and gun and stepped in frontZiggy fumbled for the of Calystra. Brand had been listening with rapt attention, took another step closer to the Black Death. but suddenly he saw something move behind The viper’s double-edged tongue flicked the air Boone’s Plasma Calystra. His blood turned cold. A poisonous only an inch above Calystra’s shining blue hair. Ziggy dropped on his Gun belched purple and back. viper known on Tulon as Black Death, slithered over the top of the rock against which Calystra “From planet to planet we two have “Ziggy!” Calystra shrieked. “No! Ziggy.” She had been leaning. Its wedge-shaped head traveled, meeting so many people. But all knelt down next to him, sobbing. “Don’t leave hovered above her. The red diamond-shaped strangers, strangers who can never know us, me.” She cradled Ziggy in her arms and turned spots under its eyes seemed to blaze with some or understand us. From one lonely hotel room to look up at Boone. “You animal! How could inner fire against the backdrop of the shiny to the next, never meeting anyone who really you do such a thing?” black skin that covered its face. Brand saw its mattered, or to whom we mattered. No one long narrow tongue fork the air, as it seemed we could call a friend.” “Hey, lady,” Boone said, laughing. “I thought to be deciding where and how to strike. you were supposed to be psychic. How come The snake’s head darted suddenly. Brand’s you didn’t see that coming.” “Keep talking,” Brand said and got up on his hand shot out. His fingers locked around the feet slowly. base of the snake’s head. His blade flashed Calystra looked at him with disbelief in her and the serpent’s head flew away from its long, eyes. She said nothing and looked down again “And so I left my home planet and wandered writhing body. Brand swung the decapitated at her slain companion. from city to city.” Calystra was aware there was snake in the air and with a grunt threw it into danger but she continued speaking calmly. “I the rushing waters of the river. “There was no call for that,” Brand said. “He was friendless, penniless. And then I met dear didn’t even know how to use that gun. I never Ziggy. There was an immediate understanding “No one we could call friend,” Calystra said should have given it to him.” between us. Not like lovers. But like brother again, her eyes full of warm tears as she gazed “Well, hello, Brand,” Boone said. “Been a and sister. He knew what I needed and he at Brand. “Until now. Now there is one friend, while hasn’t it? Not since Shy Man’s Bluff. It’s has always been generous enough to give it, at long last, someone who cares.” great to see you again.” He kept the barrel of expecting little in return. Why, I’ll never know.” the Ruger Plasma Gun pointed at Brand’s chest # Brand was up and took a careful step to the and laughed. “Suppose you take that Electric right and slightly forward. He reached down “That’s very voice behind them Fryer out of that holster with just the fingertips carefully for the long knife that he carried in said. Everyone touching,” awas Boone. Farley of your left hand and drop it on the ground.” turned. a sheath hanging from his belt. He couldn’t stood next to him. Both It weapons in their Brand did it. “Now kick it over here.” Brand risk using the pistol. The snake was too near hands. Brand started tohad move for his pistol. complied and Boone picked the gun up. “Got no Calystra’s head. “Don’t even try,” Boone said. time for these. Prefer Plasma. More accurate, “It was Ziggy who taught me how to survive,” and faster.”

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Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, by John M. Whalen
“Depends on who’s using it,” Brand said. Boone grinned and tucked the gun under his belt. “You might have something there,” he said. “Harm him,” Calystra said, “And I’ll show you nothing.” finding,” Boone said.

Pg. 27

“Shut up, Boone,” Farley grumbled. “Let’s Boone shot her a sideways glance. “I believe keep going.” you mean it,” he said. “All right. Let’s go. Brand, Brand turned and swung his fist through you’re a lucky man. Stay right in front of me.” “All right,” Farley said. “If you two are done, the darkness at Boone’s face. But the big man let’s get this show on the road. I believe you Calystra looked down at Ziggy one last time was ready for him. He brought the butt of the were heading for those steps, Brand. They and then started for the mouth of the tunnel. Smith & Wesson down hard on top of Brand’s seem to go a long way up. What’s up there?” skull. Brand fell onto his hands and knees. He saw stars. # “I wouldn’t know,” Brand said. “Ask Calystra. I’m just following her.” “That It was a long slow climb. How many steps said. “Getwas a pretty stupid move,” Boone up.” “What about it, Calystra?” Farley said. “Is there were, Brand couldn’t tell. The tunnel inclined upward at a nearly 45 degree angle. the treasure up there?” Brand saw Calystra moving steadily upward, It was narrow enough for only one person not even turning to see what had happened. “Is that what you think we came here at a time to ascend. Calystra was in the lead for?” she asked Farley. “Is that why you killed followed by Brand, Boone, and then Farley. “Get moving,” Boone snapped. Ziggy?” Although there was light higher up, inside the Brand resumed the climb. The blow to his tunnel it was pitch dark. Brand gave Calystra “What else is out here? Now if you’re smart, his radium torch so she could see where she head had made him a little dizzy, and his legs you’ll quit stalling and take us to it. I can be was stepping. Boone had a torch of his own felt weaker. But he said nothing and continued generous. I hear there’s a lot of treasure and kept it in his left hand. He held the S&W to trudge on. After what seemed like an eternity, hidden in these ruins. I’ll share it with you. plasma pistol in his right. The Ruger was slung they reached the last step. Their eyes had to There should be plenty for all of us.” adjust to the bright sunlight, as they climbed over his shoulder. up out of the shaft. Calystra looked at Farley with a bemused About halfway up, Boone slipped the pack smile on her face. “All right, Farley,” she said. off his shoulders and let it fall on the steps. They found themselves standing on a solid “I’ll take you. I’ll share whatever I find with you. marble floor, inside the burnt out shell of an Just as you say.” “That thing’ll get a lot heavier before we ancient building. There was only a partial roof, get to the top,” he said. “I’ll pick it up on the and most of the four walls, which hade been “That’s more like it,” the night club manager way back.” of solid oak, were missing. There was a marble said. “Let’s go. Calystra, you lead the way.” pillar in each of the corners. The pillars and Brand marveled at the way Calystra kept marble floor streaked Calystra kissed Ziggy on the forehead and steadily going up the steps. If she was getting and soot. The all were had been with charcoal building gutted by fire lowered his head to the ground. She got up tired, it didn’t show. He could feel his own leg not very long ago. slowly. muscles starting to ache. The wind whistled through the building, “I might as well save you a long hard climb, Finally, they had to stop to get their and shook the cracked and broken walls. There Brand,” Boone said. “I can give you yours right breath. was a wide open space that must have been now.” “There better be something up here worth the building’s main entrance. Brand could

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Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, by John M. Whalen
see the surrounding mountain peaks rising up even higher than the peak upon which the building stood. And between the peaks and further beyond, the desert stretched out to the horizon. As he stood there, Brand felt strangely that there was some energy here, some force that made him feel lighter than normal. He got the weird sensation that he could almost rise up off the floor and float out into space. He thought something moved at the edge of his peripheral vision. He turned but saw no one. “What is this place?” Boone asked. “They thought they had to sacrifice their own people,” Calystra said, “to appease the god who lived in the mountain. To keep him from destroying them.”

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The room was in disrepair with debris scattered everywhere. The radium beam from Farley’s torch caught a large trunk standing by the wall on the right side of the room. Farley ran to it, grabbed the lid and flung it open. “What god?” Boone said. He threw light from the torch down into the “Most likely a volcano now long extinct,” interior. Brand said. “It probably threatened to erupt “It’s empty!” he said. “There’s nothing periodically and scared the hell out of them.” here.” He flashed the light to the corner of the and another trunk “That’s all very interesting,” Farley inter- dank-smelling roomwent foundand opened it. of similar size. He to it rupted. “But we didn’t come here for a history “Cleaned out!” lesson. Where’s the gold?”

There were Calystra suddenly began to descend the room. They wereseveral other trunks in the all empty. “Looks like it might have been some sort short flight of stairs to the platform below. of religious temple,” Farley said. He started The others followed. They circled around the “What is this?” Farley said, flashing the light toward what he assumed was the building’s ominous-looking altar. Calystra seemed to on Calystra. “Where’s the gold?” cringe from it, her eyes wide with terror. Then main entrance. “Let’s see what’s out here.” she turned and pointed and they saw an open “No one ever said there was any gold here,” He ushered Brand and Calystra ahead with doorway that had been built under the base of she said. the gun in his hand. In a moment, they stood the temple. There was no door, and there was “Then why did you come here?” looking down at another short flight of steps only darkness inside. that led down to a square flat area made of “She came because she thought she could “In there, you will find what you are looking carved stones. It jutted out from the bottom of help me,” Brand said. “She believes my sister the building a good ten yards. Another incred- for,” Calystra said. has been here. She was kidnapped seven years ibly long flight of stone stairs ran down from the “Come on,” Boone said pushing Brand with ago.” platform to the buildings of Dar-Zul far below. A large block of marble stood in the center of the barrel of his gun. “I heard about that,” Farley said. the platform. The marble block and the stones They entered a fairly large-sized room but on the inside of the platform were all dark red could see nothing at first. Boone and Farley “Yeah,” Boone said. “Everybody’s heard of in color, while the stones on the outside were shone their torches about the place and they the man who won’t quit looking for the kid all a natural grey. soon came to see a large bronze statue at the sister he let get taken by some Nomad scum. It’s a sad little story.” He locked his eyes on likeness of something “The people of Dar-Zul must have sacrificed far end. It was abefore, something that they Calystra. “But that’s not the only reason you was their own kind to their god,” Brand said. “This had never seen half-human, half-reptile. It’s lizard-like head came here, is it? We were in the room next was their sacrificial altar.” sat on a human torso. Its bottom half coiled to your dressing room and we heard you tell you were “I’ll be damned,” Boone said. “Bloodthirsty around like a snake. It sat on a throne made of Brand there was something here If it wasn’t looking for, something you needed. red stone. critters, weren’t they?” gold, what was it?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, by John M. Whalen
“You wouldn’t understand.” “Well, try me.” He pointed his Colt at her. “I didn’t come all the way out here to listen to a lot of double talk.” “I told you that in here you would find what you are looking for,” Calystra said. “Yeah,” Boone said. “So how come I don’t see it?” “Look there,” she said and pointed at the bronze statue. “It’s in the statue?” Farley said. He and Boone ran to it. “Now, little lady,” Boone said. “Looks like you led us here for nothing. And I think you knew what was going to happen to Farley. But you won’t do me that way.” Brand lunged for Farley’s gun. He grasped the weapon and pointed it at Boone from a prone position. “Boone, don’t do it,” he said. “Drop the gun.” Boone stood facing the girl and could only see Brand out of the corner of his eye. He could tell Brand had picked up the weapon.

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wall, swinging outward as though it were on hinges. Behind the statue was a darkness from which an ancient looking man emerged. He was followed by several women and children. Then everything went black for Brand. # Brand opened his eyes and he was spinning in a black void. He flew among planets and stars and far off in space he saw Tulon, a planet of orange and blue. He zoomed down to it, and was swallowed by the expanding horizon. There was the desert, Tulon Central to the north, the mountains south. He landed on his feet in Dar-Zul and stood on the marble floor of the ancient temple. The temple was on fire. The walls and roof were burning; the flames leaped in the cool mountain air, turning the supporting pillars black. Inside the temple, Brand saw Jesse Wilkerson with his brothers Jebediah and Ezekiel—three of the scurviest Nomad scum he’d ever laid eyes on, the three who had ambushed him and Terry seven years ago and kidnapped her. They were busy setting fire to the place with torches. The oak walls and the roof burned quickly. They too had come to Dar-Zul to look for treasure and found none. They were venting their rage the only way they knew how. And then he saw her—Terry, his sister, standing near the steps that led down to the sacrificial altar. She was dressed like a Nomad— high boots, blue jeans, and a loose-fitting red shirt. A bandolero over the shirt. Her blonde hair was long and swept back in a pony tail. He wanted to call her, but he knew she could not hear him. He ran to her, but when he tried

“Well, aint this a nice fair-thee-well,” Boone said. “You know, Brand, I’m not so sure there Farley knocked on it. “It sounds hollow,” he aint be, said. “Maybe there’s a secret compartment.” that gold here somewhere. Couldthis it’s behind statue. Be a shame if I put gun down There were many protuberances on the statue and didn’t get to that treasure.” that might serve as buttons that could trigger the opening of a compartment of door built “There’s nothing here for you, Boone,” into the statue. Farley began pushing down Brand said. “Put the weapon down.” on them with his finger. There was a sudden “Pphhhttt!” and a rush of cold air. Farley “Maybe its time to see which is faster. staggered back. His mouth gaped open and Plasma or Electric.” He turned and fired. The his eyes bulged. A small arrow jutted out of shot went over Brand’s head. Brand squeezed his bleeding forehead. Boone stood watching the trigger. A blue pulse of electrons rayed Farley continue staggering backwards until he across the room and caught Boone in the collapsed on the floor. He looked up at Calystra, chest. With a scream he stepped backward his eyes glaring with rage. and staggered back through the open doorway. He fired a shot into the floor of the sacrificial “Why you!” He lifted his pistol. Brand dove platform and fell down. for him. Boone spun and pulled the trigger. Brand felt fire from the plasma ray tear into Brand suddenly felt cold all over and his side and he went down. He fought not to realized he was going into shock. Black spiders let the pain send him into shock. He lay not of unconsciousness started to creep through far from Farley and he saw Farley’s pistol lying his mind. He saw Calystra running toward him. only a few feet away. He looked up and saw Then he heard a deep, scraping sound and a Boone aim his gun at Calystra. The woman heavy vibration shook the floor. He looked at stood unafraid. the statue and it began to move away from the

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, by John M. Whalen
to touch her, his hand went right through her. He realized she was not really there. He was seeing her in a vision of some kind. “I hope not,” a soft deep voice said.

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“Far-Non,” she said. “He gave me a potion. Three days of torture, three nights of torment Brand turned and saw the little ancient man followed. Everything around me seemed to who had emerged from behind the statue. close in. I could feel emanations from every She looked changed. And it saddened him. object. The dark forces “I hope not too, Far-Non,” Brand said, sought my destruction. Isurrounded me. They She stood with a gun in her hand and waited. was sick. I thought I He didn’t understand. She had a gun. Why looking down into the ancient one’s deep would lose my mind. Until the dawn of the last didn’t she shoot them? Why didn’t she try to chestnut eyes. The old man was dressed in a day. And then my mind grew still silent. The get away from them. All she did was stand there loose fitting linen shirt and pants and had a red voices, the visions were gone. Vanished. And with a look of deep resignation on her gaunt scarf tied around his forehead. Long silver hair I knew peace.” fell down from the scarf. face. They’ve changed her, Brand thought. “And you believe you can live here with “Once Dar-Zul was a very rich city, but also these people?” He looked through the trees at He wanted to do something to get through to her but knew it was impossible. And then, a very evil one,” Far-Non said. “It took many the pueblo-like village beyond the gardens. suddenly, she looked up in his direction, centuries, but eventually our people learned startled. She looked all around quickly and that one can conquer the world, but if he is not “For a while,” Calystra said. “I need time.” then back at him. Her clear blue eyes searched master of himself, he is no better than a slave. So we gave up our old ways and found peace. I They stood there for a moment. From not the air in front of her. wish peace for you too, my brother.” too far off, Brand could hear water running in “Jack?” she called out. a brook. “Thank you Far-Non,” Brand said. Slowly, he felt himself lifted up off the floor. “I saw her,” he said. “You are welcome to stay with us, as your He floated up through the burning hole in the “I know,” Calystra said. “In the first long roof toward the clear blue sky and looked down companion has chosen to,” Far-Non said. night, I came to your hut and put my hand one last time at the sister he had lost. “I can’t stay,” Brand said. “There are things on your head. Before my powers were gone I must do.” forever, I wanted to transfer the vision I had # to your mind. It was all I could do to help you “So be it, Brand,” the old man said. “May find her.” It was days later. The wound in his side had you walk in a gentle wind.” His lined and healed. Brand walked through the lush gardens weathered face smiled up at Brand and then “She was changed. She seemed to be with and came to the small cemetery at the back of he walked off. them.” it. He came up on Calystra. She stood looking “So you’ve decided to stay?” Brand said. down at the freshly dug grave with the newly “Would she have had any other choice?” “You’ve found what you’re looking for?” carved headstone. “No. I suppose not. Not if she wanted to “Yes,” Calystra said, a quiet smile on her lips. survive.” “I think Ziggy would have liked it here,” Brand saw that she was changed. She seemed Calystra said. “It’s so peaceful.” younger, and almost looked serene. “I found it. “I’m sorry.” “It’s hard to believe all this is here in this No more visions.” “She knew I was there,” he said. “For a valley hidden behind the mountain,” Brand “How?” moment I thought we could communicate.” said. “I doubt its existence will ever be discovered by the outside world.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Secret Treasure of Dar-Zul, by John M. Whalen
Calystra looked up at him, her eyes full of compassion. “At least I know she survived her kidnapping,” Brand said. “From her look, I’d say she had aged maybe five years. So at least two years ago she was still alive. Maybe she still is.” “I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know.” “Maybe she is and maybe she isn’t,” Brand said. “But one thing’s certain. If she’s alive, I’ll find her. And if the Wilkersons are still alive, I’ll find them too. It’s not over.”

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John M. Whalen
John M. Whalen’s stories have appeared  in the Flashing Swords E-zine, pulpanddagger.com, and Universe Pathways magazine.  His Jack Brand stories are a  staple here at Ray Gun Revival magazine. Contact the author here.
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
Chapter 17, A Cleric for Alacrity
by Johne Cook
The story so far:

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook

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it, Gillings saw the truth as plain as day; the captain was deeply unsettled about bringing a After the Riven survived a plunge into the ocean,  cleric onto the ship, and he wasn’t saying why. it found and torched the Florence, leaving an indelible  emssage  for  captain  Cooper  Flynn.    More to the point, Gillings wondered if the The  captain  struggles  with  aspects  of  life  captain even knew why, himself. onboard  ship,  but  realizes  that  the  best  thing  Leaving the crew to their work, Flynn strode for the crew of Alacrity is also the worst thing off toward the wheelhouse. Gillings fell into for him.  However, he’s willing to do whatever  it takes to support his crew, even if that means  step beside the captain. “That was well done, Captain, even if you aren’t completely pleased finding a holy man, a cleric, for Alacrity. about it.” ieutenant Gillings listened as Captain Flynn Flynn looked over, alarmed. “Is it that addressed the crew of the airship Alacrity. “Every ship needs competent people in at least obvious?” four key positions: a captain for clear-headed Gillings grinned. “It wasn’t at all leadership—thank you for that; a medic or until you just confirmed my suspicion.”obvious doctor for physical healing, and Dr. Prentiss has that well in hand; an accountant to keep an eye Flynn slowed down and stopped like a on the bottom line; and a holy man of some watch winding down, reappraising Gillings onstripe to attend to the perceived numinous the-spot. “Yes,” Flynn said carefully, “you will needs of the crew. After all, a happy crew is a bear watching.” Flynn smiled to take the sting productive crew, right?” off, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Huzzah!” Those eyes… Gillings felt himself staring into the captain’s unblinking black eyes, suddenly “On Alacrity, we are currently two for four, and can pick up a sand-counter almost aware of a vast depth there, a staggering force anywhere, but that is about to change. I’m held in check by some internal strength of will. shivered pleased to announce that we will actively Gillings out of the despite himself, and shook himself moment. pursue finding a shepherd to oversee the needs of our little airborne flock!” “Yes… Captain. I just wanted to tell you I approve. The crew is learning you are different “Huzzah, huzzah!” than the other captains, who take the best for Gillings clapped along with the others, themselves, who give out whippings instead but wasn’t fooled for a moment. Despite the of praise, who lead from behind instead of in captain’s best efforts to put a good face on front, who don’t care a lime about the unique

foibles and belief systems of their possibly superstitious crew.” Flynn started walking again. “I knew we were doing something different when I took this commission,” he said. “I knew when we put this crew together that a ship like ours is different in nearly every way. We have to be prepared to adapt to survive, to thrive. I want the crew to know that I lead because I care, not just because I can. Despite my private… uneasiness…I want the crew to know that I really do care about their preferences where at all possible.” Gillings said, “You have a gift for that, Captain. It’s almost eerie.” Flynn smiled breezily. “Why, Mr. Gillings, that’s what I do!” He sauntered off, whistling. Gillings mustered a weak smile and wiped the sudden sweat off his brow. Gillings reminded himself then and there that while the captain was a good man, he was not necessarily a safe one, and escaped with as much dignity as his shattered confidence could muster. # Mr. Murfree was on watch when the shout went up. “Sails ho!” They gathered at the bow of the ship and took turns looking down at the distant ship scudding back North. The captain accepted the spyglass from

L

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
Murfree. “It’s Sylvan, all right.” “What is she doing this far South?” “Raiding Haddirron and Menorran holdings, islands, and lands. They take what they can and burn the rest. That one’s riding low in the water. It could be a treasure ship heading back North to Sylva.” He handed the spyglass back to Murfree. “Good eye, Mr. Murfree. Let me know if they change course. Mr. Humble, call All Hands on Deck, if you please.” Mr. Humble produced his whistle, grinning fiercely. The sailors lined right up, reflecting a good training from another ship. The angle of the deck was canted down toward the bow. Gillings noted with approval that Eggplant was getting the hang of Alacrity. They were not only descending, they were swooping down toward their prospective prey as they rapidly approached from the rear. Flynn strode out in front of the little force, his black hair pulled back in a knot at his neck, black eyes animated. Mr. Pitt stood silently, expressionlessly behind him, the large shadow he cast a giant reminder of his formidable presence. Bola sat idly off to the side on a stack of crates, one foot on a barrel, sharpening various edged implements as she listened to the captain address the little band. “We have been given a chance to do something constructive with our frustrative energy. Mr. Murfree has spotted a Sylvan raider ship running back north with what appears to be a full load of undoubtedly stolen and raided Haddirron goods. We are going to relieve them of her stolen booty. We are also going to relieve them of her ship. If we receive any opposition from any of her ‘sailors’—and I use that term loosely—you are to disable and imprison them. If they resist too vigorously, I will not prevent you from defending yourselves with whatever lethal force you deem necessary. These are hard, determined men from the same government that developed and released the Riven. “I realize that we have not formally trained in what to do when we mount a boarding party, however, I have seen you work, and I have seen you play. I know you are capable, and more. Despite the odds, at the end of this action, I expect that we will have command of this ship and will have turned her around, staffed, and on her way to the nearest Haddirron port under our command. “Up until now, all I have known from you new men is that you were sailors in good standing on HMS Florence. Do any of you have experience in command? We will need hands to return her to the proper hands and escort the treasure and any surviving prisoners back to port.” Mr. Smyth stepped forward and cleared his throat. “I have experience, Cap’n. I commanded a small sloop for twelve years before I joined Her Majesty’s Navy.” Flynn stopped in place. “Excellent! You’ll command the prize ship after we take her.” The solid Mr. Smyth actually blinked. Gillings thought he looked a little breathless. “Just like that?” Flynn’s energy was infectious. “Why not? You’re the perfect candidate. What do you say?”

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Mr. Smyth was rocked just a little, but composed himself with a confident smile. “I… I say yes!” Flynn slapped his leg and one of the sailors flinched. “Right! Make your way east to Roarke’s Island and deliver the ship to the harbor master with my blessings, and kindly alert him that we will be sending many more his way. We’ll stop there in the next few weeks and pick you back up if you have a taste for this sort of adventure.” “It would be my great honor, Captain,” said Mr. Smyth, saluting. The captain then looked at Lieutenant Gillings and smiled. “Mr. Gillings, Captain Smyth here is going to need a strong right hand. Do you think you’re up to the task?” Gillings had been following the interchange closely, but even he was taken aback at the rapid turn of events. His cheeks flushed furiously and he snapped quickly to attention. “Captain! Yes, Captain!” The barest hint of a smile flashed across Flynn’s face and then he was all business again. He tossed off a salute and shook hands with Smyth and Gillings. Gillings was basking in the glow of the moment when he suddenly stopped cold and the realization of what the captain had done swept over him—he’d taken a situation where they were outgunned and outmanned and turned it into something they were all looking forward to. Gillings spun on one heel and looked after the captain as he walked away talking to Bola. “Frustrative energy?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
“I just made that up.” “Can you do that?” “Sure, if you’re a captain…” Gillings turned and raised his hand for the captain’s attention, but caught Mr. Pitt watching him. Cowed by the sudden attention, Gillings’ mouth snapped shut, and his hand went limp of its own volition. The moment passed, and Gillings’ hand dropped awkwardly to his side. It was possible that the barest hint of a smile reached Mr. Pitt’s eyes, and then he strode off after the captain, leaving Gillings to wonder at what had just happened. The officers convened and concentrated on their first battle boarding action. Mr. Humble gave everyone a musket pistol from the hold and spent some time going over the most rudimentary of tactical plans. After taking their questions and providing the best answers he could, he found the captain and presented his sailors as ready. They would soon find out if that were so. # Mr. Gillings allowed that they’d learned some things already since their first boarding action. As they ran down the Sylvan ship, Eggplant brought Alacrity alongside in finely polished style, canting her gently down so he could see until she was at altitude, then bringing her steady. He also brought her over so that Alacrity was right over her prey. Gillings nodded in grudging approval. He hadn’t been sure what to think about this mongrel crew, but they showed some promise. Plus, they weren’t pompous and oblivious. That counted for much with him. It was pretty clear that their prey hadn’t spotted them approaching before this. It was equally clear that they saw her now. The Sylvans were hardened sailors, but they were clearly taken aback by the sudden appearance of an antigravity ship above and abaft their stern. They yelled and pointed up in the sky at Alacrity. There were some booms as they fired two cannons, but the cannons were meant to fire horizontally at a ship pulled up alongside, not vertically at a ship hovering above them. Some light arms fire thudded against the hull of Alacrity, but Mr. Yhen had that covered. He was lying down in the netting up in the bowsprit with a rifled musket, picking them off at range. Three men went down in short order, and then Alacrity was overhead. This time, when the grappling hooks came out, they simply had to drop straight down to the deck. As it was, two of the four hooks hit sailors down on deck, knocking them out of action. When the hooks hit deck, Mr. Humble gave a shout and Eggplant drew Alacrity slightly off to port, drawing the grappling hooks back against the deck to the rail and bringing the lines nice and taut. Gillings’ hands were sweaty and his face was flushed, but he had the sudden, strange taste for action. His blood was up, and he was ready to fight. The captain yelled, “For Chellsey!” and they echoed his cry with a roar of approval. Then the crew of Alacrity dropped down onto the

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deck. The captain and the original crew swung over on ropes and floated down in skypacks, dropping lightly onto the surface of the deck, while the new crew swung over and dropped onto the roof of the wheelhouse and jumped down from there. Bola swung over with a huge swing and released with the others but missed the skypack switch on her chest and dropped right into the sea. The fight took place on the main deck. Captain Flynn had his sword out and the crew formed up on him. The Sylvans had drifted back against the portside rail as the sky rained Haddirron sailors, but now pressed forward, having superior numbers. Flynn parried three thrusts, then stamped forward and swept aside the blades of three men in one great swipe, going down to a knee. “Now,” he cried, and his sailors quickly drew musket pistols from their sashes and fired point-blank into the line. Five Sylvans went down in that one volley. The captain darted back up to take out two more stunned Sylvans with lightning-fast strikes of his sword. The Sylvans fell back to the starboard side of the ship to regroup. As providence would have it, that was when Bola shot up out of the water in her skypack, trailing spraying water and a vile temper at missing some of the action. She grabbed the underside of the rail as she shot up and that catapulted her over the top of the raiders. She cut out her pack and landed with a spray right in the middle of the group of them. She disappeared from view amid the Sylvan sailors. Gillings noted some of them turning around

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
to see what had happened. Gillings gritted his teeth—it didn’t look good for Bola. It was as if the lot of them exploded, bodies flying every which-way. Still standing, one made to grab her but she pulled a pistol and shot him in the chest, sending him flying back across the deck, knocking fellow sailors off as he fell. One tried to wrap his arms around her from behind. She stomped on his instep and connected with his jaw with her elbow, felling him instantly. Another rushed her but she turned and trained the pistol on him, too, and pulled the trigger. He flinched and skidded to a stop, and Bola expertly flipped the pistol in the air. She grabbed it by the barrel and swung it so hard that when she hit his jaw, his head cracked sideways and he dropped like a sack of spuds. She released the dropped the pistol to the deck and calmly stepped over the stunned bodies at her feet, kicking one in the jaw to put him back on the deck The captain of the vessel, a large man with an unmistakable air of command, roared out of the wheelhouse with two large crewmen flanking him. Captain Flynn darted forward to meet him in a clash of swords and sheer will. Two great sweeps with his sword forced Flynn to dance back, his own sword crackling and sparking in the heat of battle. Another great sweep pushed Flynn back and he tripped over a body, going down on a knee. One of the two crewmen with the captain raised his sword and stepped forward but was struck by a shell from Yhen’s gun and sent tumbling backward, the sword falling out of his lifeless hand. Flynn bellowed and regained his feet, darting forward and bouncing lightly off the deck, soaring up over the captain in a skypackassisted mid-air flip, landing nimbly behind the captain and running him through from behind. He pulled his blade free and pointed it at the last sailor, who drew back and dropped his blade. The felling of their captain took the fight out of the remainder of the crew and they quickly dropped their weapons, earning a disappointed howl from Bola who was still soaking wet and hopping mad. “I hereby claim this ship in the name of Her Majesty, the Queen,” Flynn announced broadly, and that was the end of their first full-blooded fight. # “How did we fare in the fight?” asked the captain. “The ship carried more sailors than expected,” said Mr. Humble. “We were lucky to gain the victory. They have nineteen dead while we have one dead and two wounded.” “Who are they?” “Nomherst is dead by sword, and Bells and Lamur are injured. I doubt Lamur will last until evening. It appears they were sailors and not fighters.” “We need to get better at both,” said Flynn. “Captain!” yelled Humble. “Yes?” “It’s Yhen, on Alacrity. He’s trying to get our attention.”

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“Ok, you men escort the prisoners into the hold for now. Where are Bells and Lamur?” “On the port deck, Captain.” “Very well. Mr. Pitt, please arrange with Mr. Humble to have our men returned to Alacrity if possible.” “What should we do with the enemy corpses?” “Find the next highest surviving ranking officer and put the question to them. If they want to provide a decent burial at sea for their dead, see to it.” Flynn turned to his new captain. “Ah, Captain Smyth. It’d be a good idea if you conducted a search of the ship and have the deck cleaned and the ship made ready for sail.” Flynn strode over to his own dead and wounded sailors. Nomherst had taken a strike squarely through his heart, Bells had a musket ball in his thigh, and it appeared that Lamur had a punctured lung. He closed Nomherst’s eyes himself. He moved on to the next man. “How are you, Mr. Bells? Are you in much pain?” “It smarts, Captain, but I’ll be alright after Dr Prentiss patches me up.” “Good man. I’d like you to return with the ship, here, and go with them to Roarke’s Island to heal up. When you’re mended, I’d consider it an honor if you’d look us back up. We’re going to need many good men before this is over.” “Aye, Captain. I’d like that.” “What do you know of Mr. Lamur, here?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
“He’s a theist, Captain, a good man.” Bola wandered over, still damp. “A what?” “A man of faith,” said Flynn. “Do you think a holy man would make him feel better if we could find one?” “I’d say so, yes. You can try asking him yourself.” The captain nodded and moved over to where Lamur was lying on the deck. His breathing was labored and he had red flecks in the foam on his mouth. The captain ripped a piece of cloth out of his sleeve and gently wiped Lamur’s mouth. “Mr. Lamur. If you can hear me, I understand that you are a man of Cyl.” The captain was gratified to see Lamur’s eyes flicker open, focus. He was granted the slightest nod. “As a theist, you’re interested in truth, so I’ll tell you what I know. Your injury looks severe and there is some concern that you may not last the day here with us. That pains me greatly. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your service and your sacrifice. If I can find a holy man, would that help to ease your remaining time with us?” Lamur’s eyes refocused and he gave the captain a stronger nod before wincing and resting his head back on deck. The captain grasped his hand firmly for a moment and then said “I can’t make any promises but will do everything I can to bring this to pass for you, Mr. Lamur. Rest easy.” He rose and spoke to Smyth and Humble. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to go see Mr. Yhen and then there’s something I’ve promised to do. I don’t have much confidence in miracles but I’ve promised to try, and that’s what I’m going to do.” “Aye, Captain,” said Smyth. Flynn grabbed one of the tether ropes and lifted off into the sky rising back up to Alacrity’s rail, climbing over with agility. “Where is Yhen?” “Up in the Crow’s Nest,” said Eggplant, pointing up. “Huh,” he said. “Haven’t had anybody up there yet this trip. That was good thinking going up there. Ok,” he said, and hopped up into the air, floating on up using his skypack. “I’ve got to get me one of those,” said Yhen idly by way of greeting as the captain rose up to where he was sitting in the basket up top. “In due time,” chuckled the captain, climbing in. “They’re not as easy to control as you might think, but you men seem to be a quick study. So what have you got?” “Another ship passed us while we were fighting,” said Yhen. “I thought I saw something but couldn’t be sure, so I came up here to get a better view at it.” “Good thinking. Whose colors?” asked the captain. “That’s the weird part, Captain. It looked to me like she was one of ours.” “Let me have the spyglass. Where is she now?”

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“She’s there, tacking away from us, using the sun to try to hide herself.” “Well, well. Somebody doesn’t want to be seen. You’d think that a good countryman would come help out.” “Maybe she’s not helmed by a good countryman, then. Unless she’s been taking captive and is being returned to Sylvan.” “Hm, good point. Well, if she’s under Sylvan control, we’ll liberate her. If she’s ours, we’ll just do the courteous thing, introduce ourselves, and see what she’s hiding.” # Alacrity sent word to the Chellsey—for so they dubbed their captured prize ship—that they were going to leave for a short spell and would return. With this communication accomplished, they recovered their tether lines and grappling hooks, let out all their sail, and hurried after the fleeing ship. Flynn went back and had a word with Chain, who allowed he could accommodate the captain. Chain quickly got to work on a special pet project. Flynn stopped by the wheelhouse and checked in on his pilot. Eggplant was feeling out the air currents from his vantage in the wheelhouse. “Captain, I’ve been getting used to the controls, and I’ve been thinking. I see we have much more altitude adjustment than we’ve used. We may be able to get more favorable air currents if we ascend a bit more. Can we try it out?” “There’s nothing to lose, I guess,” said

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
Captain Flynn. “Just keep an eye on the altitude gauge. The most important thing to me right now is catching up with that vessel. If you can get more favorable air currents a little higher up, be my guest.” “Aye, Captain.” Thus emboldened and driven, Eggplant raised her nose and let Alacrity stretch her ‘wings’ higher into the clouds. The captain passed the word to the sailors, who all donned skypacks just in case. He stayed by Eggplant and watched the altimeter rise as they fought for better, stronger winds. They passed 300 feet, 400 feet, finally finding that they were having a better, cleaner shot at catching the ship at an agreeable prevailing wind at an unthought-of altitude of 550 feet. The captain clapped Eggplant on the shoulder and bade him “steady as she goes” as they started to close the miles between them and the fleeing ship. Flynn made his way forward to Yhen who was back up in the bowsprit netting keeping on eye out. “How are we doing?” “We’re making good time, Captain,” said Yhen. “They don’t see us yet, although I would be more than a little surprised if they did. Lookouts are used to scanning the horizon, and we’re nowhere near that low.” “There will be many surprised people as Alacrity starts to make her presence felt,” promised Flynn. “This is a whole new way to oppose the forces that are gathering against the islands and the monarchy. These first weeks are the diciest as we continue to build the crew and our abilities. Before the summer is out, we will have a full complement of rotating crews ready to step in and stem the tide of the raids. If we’re successful enough, we can turn make a strong impact in the course of a war that hasn’t quite broken out yet. It would be something if we could avert war altogether, but it will take a great deal of fortitude on our part, giving all of our creativity, our will, our very lives to protect the island nations and the extended nation of Haddirron.” “Captain? Do you think that would cause the Sylvans to call off the Riven?” “We can only hope. By the end of the day, we should also have someone aboard able to pray.” Yhen asked, “Do you really think that will help?” Flynn said, “On that score, it doesn’t really matter what I think.” He clapped Yhen on the shoulder and went below to his cabin. # There was a knock on the cabin door. “It’s open,” he called. It was Mr. Pitt. “How are you doing?” Pitt rumbled. Flynn offered him some water, which he gladly accepted, then they retired to the chairs around his desk. Flynn said, “How does the crew think I’m doing?” “The crew thinks you’re actually eager to recruit a cleric for Alacrity.”

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Flynn said, “Between you and me, the very last thing I want on this ship is some meddling holy man.” Mr. Pitt nodded. “And yet, here we are, sailing higher than ever, faster than ever, chasing a sister ship with suspect motives, and I have to ask myself what we’re hoping to find. More crew? Surely. More supplies? Probably. But a holy man? Especially a good holy man?” Pitt fixed the captain with an understanding gaze. “You don’t figure that it’s worth the effort, and yet you’re giving Providence every chance to make good.” Flynn snorted. “When I left the Abbey, I promised myself that I’d never have anything to do with religion again, with the belief system that promoted a being who allows righteous people to die and wicked people to flourish. And yet here I am, chasing just that despite my own deepest preferences. I can’t let my own feelings about holy men interfere with my knowledge that having the right sort of man onboard could make all the difference in the crew’s morale. Without overstating things, even though I don’t believe in it, having a cleric onboard could be the difference between accomplishing our goals or not.” He got up and started pacing. “It’s like some cosmic joke, like a test administered by a court jester, where I am the one jumping and dancing. This challenge removes all my honor and competence and leaves me stripped bare, defenseless, before the belief systems of others. All I want to do is protect our own and ensure that nobody else has to die just to raise a family in peace, just to till a field or fish a coastline

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
or walk in the sand on a beach without fear. The raiders are killers of the worst sort, and yet religious zealots can be even worse in the name of ‘faith.’ It is a cosmic irony that I need the latter to combat the former!” Flynn plopped down in his chair and kicked his boots up on the desk. “You know, it’s funny. I’m more afraid of Cyl than I am of the Riven. While the latter is implacable and far fiercer than any normal man, at least it is something that I can understand, something with one purpose and one purpose only—to destroy Mankind. I have the feeling—deserved or not—that Cyl would seek to save me from the Riven, and then destroy me anyway for my ‘sins.’ That’s probably just my time at the orphanage talking. I guess I just want to keep the freedom to destroy myself while keeping my people from destruction.” Pitt listened quietly. “I think I know what it is,” said Flynn after a moment. “Once we’re successful, the challenges will be gone, and all I’ll have left is this last fight with the supposed Divine, where I don’t know the rules, and will have no weapons. Better the antagonist that you know, you know?” Flynn smiled wryly, sighed loudly, and shook his head. “Oh, who am I kidding? That made no sense. These discussions never do, it seems. Give me a sword and a choice and I’m content. What will men of action like us do when we have no more need for swords, and our women have taken our freedom with pretty battings of their eyelashes?” Mr. Pitt smiled and said, “Well, on that day, perhaps we’ll make feisty little sons and daughters who will choose their own fights. We will give them the freedom to pick their own battles.” Having nothing more sage to add than that, the captain smiled, nodded, and raised his glass. “Here’s to picking your battles,” said Flynn. # Alacrity came out of the clouds and approached the fleeing ship. Captain Flynn strode to the railing and saw a single dazed crewman watching him. Flynn waved, pointed at their flag demonstrating that they were on the same side, then raised the grappling and pantomimed throwing it over. The sailor wisely stepped back. In fact, he turned tail and disappeared below deck. Flynn didn’t figure to waste any time from there. With a practiced backswing, he dropped the grapple on the deck and drew it taut. Then he waved Eggplant to bring Alacrity over and angled just to port. “Hold it there,” he said, followed by “Be ready with the cargo nets—we won’t be long. Have Mr. Humble come front-and-center, and be ready to take any ‘volunteers’ under order as soon as they are drawn up.” Turning to Mr. Pitt, he asked, “Ready?” Mr. Pitt nodded once. Flynn started running, picking up speed as he approached the railing. He threw himself into the air, his legs together, toes pointed, and arms out to the side, arcing up and over and down toward the ship below. Flynn had just engaged his skypack when an

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armed knot of men appeared up on deck. He must have appeared like an avenging spirit fluttering down toward the ship. The Haddirron sailors stared, mouths agape, as he fell toward the ship. They drew cutlasses and pulled out musket pistols. Flynn slapped the switch on his chest and landed lightly on the deck. He bowed with one smooth flourish. “Ahoy there,” he said brightly, “Captain Cooper Flynn of Her Majesty’s Airship Alacrity requesting permission to come aboard.” He stood back up. “And this is my XO, Mr. Pitt,” he said as Mr. Pitt touched down on deck. Mr. Pitt saluted and stood at attention. “Please convey my greetings to the captain, and ask him to meet me here at his pleasure.” A grizzled, pompous man pushed forward through the assembled sailors. “What’s the meaning of this?” he asked, buttoning up his captain’s jacket. Flynn repeated his introduction. “I’m sorry to disturb your afternoon, but we had a bit of a scuffle earlier, and now we require your assistance. We tried to hail you through the usual means but had the bad luck to be just out of your range and sight, apparently.” “How did you get here? What do you want?” The captain stepped to the side and indicated the airship with a flourish. “This is Alacrity, one of the new airships that will turn the tide of the upcoming hostilities. I have Her Majesty’s full empowerment to prosecute this effort in any way I see fit, and have need of

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
what you possess.” “I have no such orders.” “It doesn’t matter,” said Flynn, presenting the Queen’s Writ. “We represent the new front line in the upcoming struggle, and we have urgent matters to attend to. We boarded and overthrew a Sylvan treasure ship and raiding party a mere two hours ago, and sustained casualties and wounded sailors. Your ship passed by without rendering assistance. Think of this as a second chance to provide service you should have volunteered earlier.” Then Captain Flynn smiled a feral smile. “I trust you will respond more positively to this more direct request.” # They had something like seventy five sailors there on deck arrayed around Captain Flynn and Mr. Pitt, and yet, looking at the looming form of the floating airship, there was a feeling of impasse. The captain pressed his position. “We represent the first and best of her airships. We are, in essence, the flagship of a new airborne Navy.” Captain Argen of the Grenville snorted. “Flagship of the new ‘air fleet’? I remember you from the academy. You are no Navy man, not anymore. And yet you want me to believe that you’re now not only ‘Captain Flynn’ but ‘Admiral Flynn’? I think not!” Flynn met Captain Argen’s gaze. “‘Captain Flynn’ is sufficient for now,” he said, lightly. “We’ll let the queen confer any additional titles, won’t we, Mr. Pitt?” Captain Argen said, “So, ‘Captain,’ what brings you to my deck?” Flynn said, “Captain Argen, ‘your deck’ surely saw that there was a boarding action going on to port. ‘Your deck’ surely saw our colors. ‘Your deck’ flew past without rendering assistance. Now ‘your deck’ will support our action by providing us certain resources that we require in the aftermath of the action.” Captain Argen’s eyes narrowed sharply. He clasped his arms behind him. “And what is it that you ‘require’ at this time from us, ‘Captain’?” Flynn looked around the deck, found what he was looking for, and nodded. “First, we’ll take fifty men, good sailors. We’ll split them twenty five each to help get our prize back to port and for Alacrity. Next, we’ll need two week’s provisions, bandages, and other medical supplies.” “Finally, we need him,” he said, pointing at the man standing at the rail behind all the others.” Captain Argen nodded, brought his arm up, and motioned forward. Twenty armed men trotted up the port deck and surrounded Flynn and Pitt, the first ten stopping and kneeling with weapons drawn, and the back ten standing with their own weapons trained on the two interlopers. Captain Argen looked Flynn in the eye. “Now you’ve gone too far, Cooper Flynn.” He walked up to Flynn. “I don’t think you’re a captain in service of Her Majesty. I don’t think you’re somebody that I should entrust my men or my resources to. And I don’t believe I’ll give

Pg. 39
you our cleric. The only thing I’ll be giving you is a trip in the hold of my ship clapped in irons. Mr. Percival!” Flynn leaned over toward Mr. Pitt. “They don’t seem inclined to be cooperative,” he murmured wryly, sotto voce. “No, Captain,” said Mr. Pitt. “At least we’ll get a chance to try out the secret weapon.” Captain Argen looked like he wanted to roll his eyes. “‘Secret weapon.’ Is that so.” “Hm?” said Flynn, holding out his wrists as if to be manacled. “Oh, nothing. Please proceed with your monologue and then take us away.” By this time, Captain Argen looked ready to spit glass. “Monologue?” “Yeah. You see, we’ve done a number of these by now, and the over-confident captain usually has a long, smug speech that he trots out right about now when we appear to be outnumbered. By all means, please proceed so we can get this part of it over with.” Captain Argen stood there, thinking furiously, with a full complement of guns waiting for his next word. He noticed the two of them inching slowly back toward the rail. “You there! Where are you men going?” “What usually happens now is the object lesson.” “Object lesson?” He clearly hated having to repeat what they were saying, but he was just as clearly trying to find out what they were talking about. “Yes,” said Captain Flynn. “This is where we

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
demonstrate some of the differences between what you’re used to and what we’re used to.” “‘What I’m used to,’” said Captain Argen, who was practically spitting nails by this time. “Yeah. You’re used to being a big ship on the sea, having all these guns and all those men. But you’re used to fighting in two dimensions, and neither of them are helpful in the kind of fight you’re looking at now. “ With that, Captain Flynn raised one hand and made a gesture and there was a boom above them just before there was a large splash in the water off to starboard of the Grenville. “What was that?” said Mr. Percival, rattled, but Captain Argen knew exactly what it was. He looked up and saw two cannons mounted on heavy wood fixtures and pointed right down at his deck. Flynn replied, “That, Mr. Percival, is a demonstration of how they are prepared to fight in three dimensions. You see, basic arithmetic uses an X- and a Y-axis, however, these gentlemen are demonstrating a proficiency with an additional aspect, the Z-axis, the vertical element.” Captain Argen looked at Captain Flynn. “I can see two cannon—how many do you have around there looking down?” Captain Flynn gave a little half-bow and answered, “Enough, Captain.” Captain Argen looked thoughtful. “Enough?” he repeated. “Yes, Captain. Enough to punch enough holes in your ship, disabling your ship for a time, and killing some portion of your crew. I would be loathe to order a strike down on the Grenville. As much as you have a command, and I have a command, we both serve the monarchy and Her Majesty with the best of our abilities and resources. But you are fighting the same old enemy in the same old way, and we are fighting a whole new menace. That takes a new way, and that’s where we come in. There are forces at work that you are not yet privy to. I don’t blame you for being skeptical. I don’t like you, Captain Argen, but you are a sharp thinker and a capable leader. However, you are not yet seeing the bigger picture, and I am not in the position to reveal to you everything that has been revealed to me—that is not my job. My job is to stop the Sylvan raiders from plundering the outer islands, to smash the growing Steamdriver armada, and to draw attention away from Menorra.” Captain Flynn stepped forward until he was face-to-face with Captain Argen. “And now, Captain, I’d like to arrange for my sailors, my provisions, and my cleric. Oh, and make them men of good composition, able to handle a sword and musket, not just sailors, but good fighting men. We don’t want for any innocent sailors to get nicked up when they just signed on to sail the big seas.” Captain Argen considered this with a mean temper and a short fuse, his eyes as flinty and slitted as anyone Captain Flynn had ever faced. Captain Argen said, “I can give you fifteen sailors, medical supplies, and some rice and beans. You cannot have my cleric. He performs an invaluable service here, of which I cannot, in turn, reveal it’s entire nature to you. I’m sure you understand.” Flynn thought it over, nodded, and casually

Pg. 40
raised his left hand. A cannon fired from above and sent up a large plume of water over the bow. Captain Argen was startled, and then his eyes narrowed. Flynn smiled. “Perhaps you’d like to reconsider.” Captain Argen looked ready to spit nails. “I can give you forty men, and all your provisions, but I really cannot let you have our cleric. I can let you speak to him for as long as you like, but he must remain on the Grenville. It’s that or nothing, and you can explain to Her Majesty why you felt compelled to fire on a fellow Haddirron ship in Her service.” Flynn thought it over and then nodded. “I’ll accept that. Perhaps I could just talk with your cleric for a moment, then, and he could answer some of the questions that have been asked of me by my crew. That might do until I can find one of my own for Alacrity.” Captain Argen grudgingly agreed. The gunners put down their weapons and they all stepped back to the railing at parade rest. “Mr. Percival,” Argen said, and the XO got to work selecting sailors and getting together the supplies. Mr. Pitt waved and Alacrity descended down closer to the deck. The cargo net came down over the edge and they threw over a rope ladder for the new sailors. They started to load up the medical supplies and some provisions while the sailors who were going to make the switch to Alacrity gathered their belongings and loaded their duffel bags. In the meantime, Captain Argen waved the cleric forward. “You

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
have ten minutes,” said Captain Argen, then he whirled and stalked off. The cleric moved more like a cat than a holy man. He had tanned skin, close-shaved hair, and piercing green eyes. He was as tall as Flynn and his muscles were as sharply defined as Bola’s. Flynn wasted no time. “Cleric, I’m Captain Cooper Flynn, of Her Majesty’s Airship Alacrity, and this is my First Officer, Mr. Pitt. We are very pleased to make your acquaintance,” Flynn said broadly, sticking out his hand for a friendly shake. The cleric sized them up and then spoke in a melodic voice that indicated that he was not a native of Haddirron. “Come, Captain, let us not get off on the wrong foot. You are not any more pleased to make my acquaintance than I am yours. You’d do just about anything else rather than be anywhere near a man of the cloth. You put on a good show for the people, but you’re not fooling me. I am Cleric Mathen Vaneras. I am not just a scribe, a student of the manuscripts. I am an actual man of faith and take an active interest in the worship of Cyl and the custodianship of Cyl’s people. I am a flawed man with a colorful history, but Cyl is perfect, and Cyl’s timing is perfect. My ministry is not with your ship. Fear not—you will find the right shepherd for your ship when the time is right— blessed be the name of Cyl.” Flynn’s eyes clouded over and started to spark. He maintained his smile, but it was now steely. “Well, this is an honor; a man of the cloth who doesn’t hide behind empty pleasantries. I can respect a man of action, as, in fact, I am, myself. I should make something very clear—I, myself, would rather sail the entire ocean without benefit of spiritual ‘assistance,’ but my crew depends on the crutch of spiritual routine to live, and I depend on my crew. So, strictly speaking, I am not myself in any great spiritual need, but my crew is. It is for my crew that I am here.” Cleric Vaneras bowed his head slightly. “Captain. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that your being here has less to do with sailors and provisions and more with...other things. I have had enough of intrigue in my life. No, my place is here with these men, and then with the islands that I will shepherd. That is the way it must be. Cyl has set my feet on this ground, just as he has given you wings. I will walk my way, you must fly in yours.” Captain Flynn said, “I, also, am something of a shepherd to the islands, and to best perform my stewardship requires a more complete staffing complement than I have had to-date. I would do anything to support them, and that means sometimes engaging in the sort of intrigue of which you claim to have nothing to do. However, I am somewhat gifted—to use the terminology of the faithful—in this area, and use my ‘gifts’ to their fullest so that men may live free and families not feel the terror and ruin of being sacked, nor fear the terror of being overrun. We will beat back the interloper, and mend the wounds of the damaged. A man of your role can surely understand that.” “I understand that you’re stalling, Captain. Good day.” “With all due respect,” said the captain, who noticed that the cargo had been hoisted and the sailors had boarded, “your perspective

Pg. 41
in this remains too firmly focused on the cares of this plane. You need to change your view. Your future is looking up!” And with that, Flynn grasped the cleric by one arm while Mr. Pitt grasped the other. They quickly struck their chests as one, rising smoothly up and off the deck, lifting the struggling cleric between them. # “Keep struggling and you’ll wish you had wings,” growled Mr. Pitt. It was sound advice and appeared to be taken to heart, for Cleric Vaneras stopped struggling. His sudden steely quiet, however, was not taken as acceptance. “Come now, Cleric,” said Flynn cheerfully. “It is the rare shepherd who gets to experience his own ascension while still in the prime of his ministry.” They rose up close enough to the rail to be lassoed and brought over the deck of Alacrity. The captain noticed that the rope ladder was still down and had it drawn up before they released Cleric Vaneras, who dropped lightly to the deck. Flynn said, “Cyl be praised, you have now joined us for life here above the world.” “Cyl didn’t kidnap me, you did!” Cleric Vaneras thundered. “Cyl didn’t stop me and just maybe Cyl meant for this to happen. I think you need to expand your thinking and embrace plans that you didn’t intend when you arose this morning. Believe me, I didn’t plan on going out looking for a damned cleric on my ship. The ways of Cyl

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 17, A Cleric For Alacrity, by Johne Cook
are multi-faceted and mysterious.” The smile fell from Flynn’s face. “Blessed be the name of Cyl,” he said, flatly. The captain turned to the rail and waved his hand jauntily at the Grenville. “Next time, I strongly advise rendering assistance when it is needed,” he shouted, then turned and hailed the crew. “Mr. Humble, please inform Eggplant that I want to return to the boarded ship as soon as possible. I want to be back and settled before night-fall.” Flynn turned and looked at the cleric. “Welcome aboard Alacrity.” “Why am I here?” thundered the cleric. Flynn delivered the news like a death notice. “This flock needs a shepherd, and you’re it.” “A shepherd...for your flock?” Cleric Vaneras was frankly disbelieving. “Who makes up this flock—flying fish?!” “That’s funny,” said Flynn, completely devoid of humor. “Mr. Pitt, show the cleric to his quarters.” “Captain!” thundered the cleric. “I don’t have my books, my scriptures, my papers, my clothes or personal effects.” Flynn looked over his shoulder at the cleric. “We can send for them. With any luck, you should have them within a year.” “I don’t believe in luck!” “Then we two have something in common—there are widespread things that many embrace that I don’t believe in, either.” The crew on deck made a great show of being busy, but they weren’t fooling anyone. The cleric was clearly thinking furiously. He cocked his head once. He nodded. Finally, he said, “As much as I don’t care for your methods nor your lack of regard for my wishes, it is not right to get in the way of my duty to a needy flock, and I will not let my pride interfere. But we need to get this straight—if I’m the shepherd, what are you?” The air was pregnant with tension. The gauntlet had been thrown down at the feet of the captain, and everyone within earshot knew it. One of the new sailors, Old Chackie, leaned over to the man next to him. “Cleric’s scrappy. ‘S good.” The sailor grunted softly, listening for the answer. The rebellious sheets rattled and snapped, loud in the arrested moment. Flynn looked at the cleric from under furrowed eyebrows, his arms crossed casually over his chest. However, when he spoke, his tone was a study in playful acquiescence. “For the purpose of this metaphor, I am a member of the flock, although I’m not sure I belong in this discussion at all. Maybe that makes me a black sheep. Where supposed supernatural issues are concerned, you have the lead. Happy?” The cleric nodded thoughtfully. It was his turn to take on a guarded expression. “Thank you for your support,” he said, finally. “That’s the spirit!” Flynn said, brightly. He stepped forward and clapped the cleric on his shoulder. Old Chackie scowled and stepped to the cleric’s side. “He making fun, Parson?”

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Cleric Vaneras watched Flynn saunter off. “I don’t know what the captain is thinking at this moment,” he said. “But I will.” “Shepherd?” The cleric looked at the crusty sailor with deep, unblinking eyes, his force of presence almost palpable. “It is what I do.”

End of Chapter 17 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate continue next month.

Johne Cook
Johne is a technical writer, help author,  creative writer, and editor. He likes prog rock, space opera, film noir,  and racquetball.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

The RGR Time Capsule
RGR Date: November 01, 2007
Joss and Tim Minear with new sci-fi series: Dollhouse
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1533

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Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
RGR Date: November 03, 2007
P2P downloaders buy more music?
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1539

November 1 - November 14, 2007

could be made to work. I particularly liked this line: “e) That no single  member of the committee work unilaterally;”
The real culprit in the money-losing film industry
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1557

Whedon’s new Fox series, called Dollhouse, stars Miss Eliza Dushku, best known as Faith to you  Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. And this show  isn’t just a pilot. It’s already been given a sevenepisode commitment by Fox. Woo! Here’s how Fox describes the series: Echo (Eliza Dushku) [is] a young woman who  is literally everybody’s fantasy. She is one  of a group of men and women who can be  imprinted with personality packages, including memories, skills, language—even muscle  memory—for different assignments. The  assignments can be romantic, adventurous,  outlandish, uplifting, sexual and/or very illegal.  When not imprinted with a personality package, Echo and the others are basically mindwiped, living like children in a futuristic dorm/ lab dubbed the Dollhouse, with no memory of  their assignments—or of much else. The show  revolves around the childlike Echo’s burgeoning self-awareness, and her desire to know who she was before, a desire that begins to seep into her various imprinted personalities  and puts her in danger both in the field and in  the closely monitored confines of the Dollhouse.

An anonymous reader writes “Michael Geist  posts to his site about a study commissioned  by the Canadian government intended to look into the buying habits of music fans.  What the study found is that ‘there is a  positive correlation between peer-to-peer  downloading and CD purchasing.’ The report  is entitled The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study For Industry Canada, and it was ‘conducted collaboratively by two  professors from the University of London, Industry Canada, and Decima Research, who  surveyed over 2,000 Canadians on their music downloading and purchasing habits. The  authors believe this is the first ever empirical  study to employ representative microeconomic data.’” RGR Date: November 08, 2007
SFWA Copyright Exploratory Committee recommendations
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1545

RGR Date: November 12, 2007

As it turns out, the pot of money that the  producers and writers are fighting over may  have already been pocketed by the entertainment industry’s biggest talent. That is the conclusion of a surprisingly bleak  new assessment of financial dynamics in  the movie industry titled “Do Movies Make  Money?” The researchers’ answer: not any  more. The report, by the research company Global Media Intelligence in association with its  partner Merrill Lynch, concludes that much  of the income - past and future - that studios  and writers have been fighting about has  already gone to the biggest stars, directors and producers in the form of ballooning participation deals. A participation is a share in  the gross revenue, not the profit, of a movie. Through the twists and turns of contemporary deal-making, major studios in theory  give away as much as 25 percent of a film’s  receipts under such arrangements.

The SFWA Copyright Exploratory Committee made its recommendations back on  November 1st. This is the group appointed to  figure out a direction after the Scribd fiasco  back in August.
http://sfwa.org/contracts/copyright-2007report.htm

It describes a pretty involved process to try  and make all parties happy, and depends a  lot on various check-points along the way. It 

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 34, November 15, 2007

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