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Issue 35 December 01, 2007

 Pg. 2
Ray Gun Revival
Table of Contents
Overlords (Founders / Editors):
Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn 2 Table of Contents
Venerable Staff:
3 Overlords’ Lair
A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor 6 Flinteye’s Sabotage
Shannon McNear - Lord High Advisor, grammar consultant, listening
ear/sanity saver for Overlord Lee
by Sean T. M. Stiennon
Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand 18 Little Bear Lost
L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, by Gwendolyn S. Patton
webmistress 25 Featured Artist: cuson
Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle
29 The Pasadena Rule
by Ben Schumacher
Slushmasters (Submissions Editors):
35 Deuces Wild, Chapter 18,
Scott M. Sandridge Strange Bedfellows, Part Five
John M. Whalen
David Wilhelms by L. S. King
Shari L. Armstrong
Jack Willard
45 The RGR Time Capsule
November 15 - November 30, 2007
Serial Authors:
Sean T. M. Stiennon
John M. Whalen
Ben Schumacher
Lee S. King
Paul Christian Glenn
Johne Cook

Cover Art: “play chess with robot” by cuson

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Special Thanks:
Ray Gun Revival logo design by Hatchbox Creative
Rev: 20071201a
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007 
Pg. 3

Overlords’ Lair

I t is snowing as I write this. This is
Wisconsin in December, and for me, snow
in December is right and proper. It is what I
Now, I know others have already waxed
fondly about the pleasure of the heft and
smell of a real book, and I won’t deny them
‘Reader’ looks ‘less French.’ E-Ink looks like
an amazing technology, if only it wasn’t
saddled with Sony’s restrictions.
have come to expect, and the surest way to their preference. But, setting the obvious
entice me into some semblance of Christmas sensory experience aside, it is reading I Not to be outdone, Amazon has just released
cheer. I get cranky when I hear Christmas enjoy: the process of freely sharing existing its Kindle product, which looks good on
music piped out too soon after Labor Day, ideas in clever ways, and clever ideas in new paper – heh– but has some problems of
but, when the snow actually falls, my inner ways. In a culture predicated so much on its own, not the least of which is a baffling
Scrooge relaxes and I start to get into the hoarding what we have, there is something name.
seasonal vibe despite myself. tremendously egalitarian about the free I guess what I’d like is an open-source
exchange of ideas through writing and hardware platform that doesn’t get in the
I like the cold and snow in part because it’s reading.
perfect reading weather. Nothing is more way of me enjoying books the way I want
comforting to me than sitting on the couch But, somewhere along the way, we’ve to. I like how Baen does e-books: no DRM, a
with a mug of hot chocolate by my side, a discriminated how we share ideas simply wide variety of formats to support various
mini dachshund in my lap, and a hardcover because of the delivery mechanism readers’ software and personal preferences,
book in my hand. necessary to accomplish the reading and (most important to my wallet) a
process, which baffles me a little. I’ve read reasonable price.
And there’s the rub. What is it about reading Louis L’amour’s “The Walking Drum” both
that factors in the method of reading with the on paper and in electronic formats, and Granted, I can read e-books on my
act of reading? The act of mental discovery confess I enjoyed both experiences just as smartphone, but the smaller screen isn’t as
is the same, so what’s unique about one much – the story was the thing. easy to read as a paperback. I’ve heard some
way of reading over another? Isn’t reading say they won’t buy into e-book readers until
reading? When writing about this topic, I I’ve been watching technology lurch along to they have two facing pages like a real book,
think of the underlying motivation. There’s provide better ways to read, which seems to which seems arbitrary to me. I’m not sure I
a difference between reading for edification suggest that the more things stay the same, need my technology to conform to the same
and reading for pleasure. I get that. But is the more they change, to flip a common form factor as paper books in order for me
one way of reading more pleasurable than aphorism on its head. Sony had a good idea to derive pleasure.
others? with its Libre product, and has improved it The more things change, the more they
with the Sony Reader, and not just because

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007 
Pg. 4

stay the same, regardless of the medium. forces kept to the bright side of the it...okay, it’s not even close, but we’re
We know many of you have sporadic planet and left New Tamminis to local also a hundred parsecs from Scotchland,
opportunities to read, and don’t always militias and gang protection squads. It or whatever that whisky place is called.”
have access to a computer when you might wasn’t a bad place to live if you owned
be interested in reading the magazine. One a gun and knew how to use it. Halpin grunted. “It’s called ‘Earth’.” He
of the things we’d like to do this coming raised an eyebrow.
year with RGR is produce an e-book device- “Hey! You with the black eyes!” shouted
one of the vendors. “Never had this grog stuff before. What’s
friendly version of the magazine, single- it like?”
column, for your e-book devices. We’re I glanced toward him, and he waved me
currently looking into the best ways to forward. There wasn’t anything better “Ever had a root-canal through your
implement this. to do. I approached his table, which nose?”
Flinteye’s Sabotage, by Sean T. M. Stiennon, was covered with combat medications “That bad, huh?”
paints an interesting scenario with a classic in syringes, bottles, and vials. Some of
character. For a being who makes his living them glowed in my infrared vision. “No. The root-canal would be
wielding weapons, what is too much of a Little Bear Lost, by Gwendolyn S. Patton, preferable.”
good thing, and what would a moral being uses classic space opera adventure to ask Halpin smiled. “Gimme a double.”
do about it? a weighty question; when is it appropriate
to kill? The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 7 – 8, by Ben
Jalazar Flinteye does what he enjoys best: Schumacher.
attends a weapons show, laughs at some Kern Halpin is a peaceful sort of guy, just your
of the goods, admires the rest. When he average grease-monkey. He was having a This section of the story took my breath
receives an invitation to a private showing nice little binge, a few drinks, maybe a meal away and reminded me of the classic sci-fi
of something special, and learns that more when he got around to it. But now he’s in tales I read growing up. I’ve read a lot of
insidious events are transpiring, sabotage a two-man fighter with a fanatical space different things, but I’ve never come across
may be his only option. warrior, hunting pirates. Worst of all, he’s anything quite like this. I read a little Walter
afraid he might not be coming back... Tevis growing up, but this puts a whole
The display room had once been an ‘nother spin on the title of his seminal work,
air hanger back when the city of New “Whaddya got in the way of Scotch?” “The Man Who Fell To Earth.”
Taminnis had catered to middle-class Halpin asked, peering at the row of
tourists from the prosperous cities on the bottles behind the bar. When Katya is stranded on a planet’s
other side of the planet. Recently, New surface and her husband is orbiting above
Taminnis had gone down in prosperity “If I had anything I’d call Scotch, I wouldn’t her, he explores all the options and tries the
and legality until it was possible for the put anything in its way,” the bartender one incredible idea left to try to save her.
Mazer Corporation to hold its show with replied, without even looking at his
stock. “But Vikscan grog’s something like He jumps.
no fear of a Patrol crackdown. Alliance

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007 
Pg. 5

“Are you okay, Jack?” It was Max. chase her. “Let her go. She wanted to the adventures of Paul Christian Glenn’s
Everyone else was out of the link. fight Mordas. Let her.” JASPER SQUAD!
“Uh, sure. Jesus, you should try this,” “What do we do, Slap?” Jake asked. Winter is made for reading, and whether you
I said, trying to sound lighthearted. print it out and read the magazine as hard
Adrenaline and freefall were playing The line swelled and receded, bodies copy or read it on a screen, this latest issue
havoc with my stomach. grappled, fell to the ground, and more of RGR is now hot off the virtual presses
bodies pressed forward. and ready for your reading pleasure!
“No thanks.”
“Use stunners and target the guards— Johne Cook
“Tell Bill and Dieter I owe them one.” they’re Mordas. I think our Separatist Overlord, RGR
clothes will mark us as not-Mordas. Breezeway, Wisconsin
“I’ll tell them. Jack, you are running a bit We’re behind the guards—we can break
above the curve. Can you speed up your December 1, 2007
their line.”
descent for a while?”
“Stunners? You kidding?”
“Copy that. Going head-down.”
“Look at the way those folks are moving.
Max was telling me that I had jumped If we miss, we hit the good guys, and I
late. The ground speed of Gamma was druther not drop the wrong people.”
fast, so even a minute’s delay in jumping
might land me kilometers downrange of “But that’s not fair! They don’t care who
Virgil. dies.”
Deuces Wild – Strange Bedfellows, Part Slap gave him a hard look. “That’s what
Five, by L. S. King, is the climax of a five- makes us different.”
part mini arc that ties up all the loose ends
in the titanic struggle between Slap and the Our featured artist for this issue, cuson, is
Mordas crime syndicate, with Tristan and a renowned digital artist from Hong Kong,
Tanya caught in the middle. This is a fast, and has a unique way of looking at robots.
satisfying chapter in the ongoing Deuces So there you have it, Issue 35 of Ray Gun
Wild storyline. And if what I’ve heard is Revival Magazine. Issue 36 is just around
true, this isn’t the end for Slap and Tristan, the corner, and you won’t want to miss all
it’s just the beginning. the holiday-themed goodies we have in
Addie ran past, PBR in her hands. He held store, along with an extra treat just in time
out his arm as Sean jumped forward to for Christmas: the next episode of the long-
delayed but much anticipated episode in

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 6

Flinteye’s Sabotage
by Sean T. M. Stiennon

T he Mazer Weapons Show was one of the
rare places in Alliance space where a being
could buy everything from Patrol-standard
I glanced toward him, and he waved me
forward. There wasn’t anything better to do.
I approached his table, which was covered
I narrowed my eyes. I had heard an almost
plasma rifles to highly illegal stass projectors with combat medications in syringes, bottles, identical pitch before. “How much would you
and chain flamers. As I wandered around the and vials. Some of them glowed in my infrared bet that if I try it, my fur will be bright white
display floor, I also noticed that almost every- vision. this time tomorrow?”
thing was hideously overpriced. Fifty SEUs for
The vendor, a bright yellow reptile with The vendor’s smile didn’t waver. “All right,
a smoke bomb that wouldn’t be good enough
broad fans on his arms and back, cracked all right. I won’t force you, but when you’re
to mug fifty SEUs off a child. A thousand for
his knuckles loudly and asked, “What’s the in a tight spot with no cover, you’ll regret not
a plasma rifle with a faulty barrel design that
name?” giving it a try. Two hundred SEUs isn’t much,
would melt after fifty shots. especially for your life, Flinteye.”
Still, the focus of the Mazer Show wasn’t “Jalazar Flinteye.”
I left before he could get any farther. Or
utility—this wasn’t a show for beings like “That gold fur of yours, Flinteye...doesn’t say “Flinteye” again.
me. I passed displays of helmets studded that ever stand out when you don’t want to be
with jewels, spiked daggers that looked more “Nice one, Jalazar,” said a voice from the
seen? I’ll bet you’ve been in a lot of different
dangerous to the owner than to any opponent, crowd next to me.
environments, right?. And sometimes your
and archaic weapons ranging from crossbows job means doing some sneaking, and you can’t
to bolt-action slug rifles. I turned. The being who had spoken was
always tell what kind of cover you’ll have— a human, a few centimeters shorter than me,
The display room had once been an air sometimes there’s snow, or you’re on igneous with an angular face and long black hair with
hanger back when the city of New Taminnis rock flows, or maybe in a jungle. Better to have steel chains knotted through it. He wore a mil-
had catered to middle-class tourists from the some camouflage, right? But see, you know itary-grade slug repeater over his shoulders
prosperous cities on the other side of the better than I do how messy ‘camo’ paints are, and had a stun gun on one hip and a plasma
planet. Recently, New Taminnis had gone and sometimes you can’t know what pattern pistol on the other. Besides that, though, he
down in prosperity and legality until it was you need in advance. You know the solution, looked almost respectable in a clean black suit
possible for the Mazer Corporation to hold Flinteye?” with silver buttons.
its show with no fear of a Patrol crackdown. I gritted my teeth and started to turn
Alliance forces kept to the bright side of the I recognized him. “Igger. How does Mazer
away, but before I could force my way back
planet and left New Taminnis to local militias pay you these days?”
through the crowd, he shoved a canister in
and gang protection squads. It wasn’t a bad front of my face. “Cloakcoat LX719, Flinteye! Igger smiled. “Well enough. Better than
place to live if you owned a gun and knew how One full coating per canister. Spray this all last time I talked to you. He’s got me working
to use it. over your body, and your fur and clothing will security here at the moment. We get more
“Hey! You with the black eyes!” shouted automatically change color to suit background customers if we let them carry weapons, but
one of the vendors. and lighting conditions. Lasts for hours. Two it makes things riskier.”
hundred SEUs a can. How about it? Six for a

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 7

True. I preferred not to go anyplace where I “Axten? I wish I could forget.” I watched him go. A special demonstration?
couldn’t bring something lethal. Now, I carried Probably more beauty products. Even if it was
my two heavy plasma pistols in holsters on Axten had liked Igger less than I did. Igger something interesting, I preferred to stick with
my belt, along with a chromeel dagger and a still had a scar on his cheek from Axten’s plasma and bullets. Still, I didn’t have anything
ten-shot slug pistol tucked into my vest. I had chromeel knuckles. better to do, and it might be something I could
only left behind the grenades. tell Axten about after he had finished the epic
“Well,” I continued, “he found a job from tale of his adventures without me.
“Expecting trouble?” I asked. a being who wanted just a ‘bot—it involved
extreme heat and vacuum, I think. So I dropped Still an hour until the meeting. I went to
He shook his head, making the chains in Axten off and decided to spend a few days here find a drink.
his hair rattle. “Nah. We knock out most of the before his pick-up time.”
real scum at the door, and this is a fairly tame #
crew. Interested in anything?” “You sent your ‘bot on a job alone?” Igger
asked, one eyebrow raised.
I scanned the room. “I saw some good Igger led me through a trap door in a back
ammunition somewhere here,” I said. “Aside “No. I don’t send Axten anywhere. He took room, down two flights of poorly lit stairs,
from that, no.” the job. I stayed behind.” and through the small maze of corridors that
comprised Mazer’s inner sanctum. They had
“No chain flamers for you, eh?” It did rankle with me that someone would five beings watching the door to the confer-
decide to hire my ‘bot and not me, but I couldn’t ence room, all of them armed with plasma rifles
“There’s a reason chain flamers are illegal.” complain as long as I got money. And as long powerful enough to demolish a small town.
as Axten didn’t come back with a plasma hole There was also a platform flamer easily capable
He cracked a smile. “Right. You always were through his power core or a knife through his of clearing the hallway. My chit got me past,
a being to play it straight, Jalazar.” brain. I preferred not to think about those pos- and Igger led me through the guardroom.
Igger certainly wasn’t. I had first met him a We came into an expansive room lit by
few years ago when we had both been involved “See you around, Igger,” I said, then started chandeliers and carpeted in a deep bluish-red.
in a minor gang struggle on the opposite side to move off. The walls were white plaster, with alcoves for
of this planet. We had fought together in at more guards. Two tables of shining red wood
least one fight, killed a few beings. He was a “Wait. I’ve got something that might interest stretched in front of a raised dais. The room
good gun and a loyal companion, but liked his you. Mazer’s going to be giving a little demon- looked a lot more respectable than the group
wine and women and injected stimulants too stration of something good, something you of beings seated around those tables, ranging
much for my tastes. He had also been quick can’t buy at any dealer’s booth here. I think from an old human
you’d be interested. It’s by invitation only— mass of muscle andinwarts a stylish black suit to a
to murder a Patrolman and torture a few rival with a necklace of
gangsters. here’s yours.” skulls as his only clothing.
“Why did you haul yourself to an expo He handed me an orange chit, which I took Igger directed me to a seat at the far end of
you’re not interested in?” Igger asked. and slipped into a pouch on my belt. one table, next to a low-ranking gang boss and
I grimaced. “You remember my ‘bot?” “I’ll lead you down at 1300 Standard,” he his cadaverous looking bodyguard. “Enjoy the
said. show, Jalazar,” he said, then went to his own
seat closer to the front.
Igger slipped away into the crowd, and

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 8

After ten minutes, the doors on the dais a gun the size of a hovertank. Judging from the The flesh of organic creatures is, chemically
came open, and a group of guards wearing grumbles, everyone else felt the same way. speaking, mostly fluids, and hemohexin attacks
Mazer’s blue-and-green headband came out. along those lines,
Each one had a good slug rifle with vibronic Mazer waved his hands again. “This may
bayonet and a matching dagger—not exactly not look like much, but stick with me for a few
a uniform, but it gave them some cohesion. moments. Watch carefully.”
striking at the weakest tissues in the body
They arranged themselves in a square around Mazer whispered something to one of the first—blood vessels. It then moves on to other
the dais. techs, got a lengthy response back, and adjusted tissues as it multiplies. As you have seen, the
Then Mazer himself came out. Mazer was something on the cylinder. Then, before the virus acts within seconds, leaving nothing...but
human, about sixty years old, with a beard that murmurs of boredom in the room could get this.”
reached his collarbone. He wore clothing that any louder, he turned a small dial. I heard a
faint hissing sound of pressure being released. For a moment, there was silence in the
combined baggy and expensive, and a few gold
Mazer pointed to the primate. “Watch.” room, but then several of the beings started to
chains hung from his neck. clap. Only a handful remained silent. I growled
“Greetings, all,” he said, waving one hand. I crossed my arms and leaned forward softly.
“I’ve invited you here for two reasons: because slightly. The primate was grooming itself
placidly. Mazer held up his hands again. “No applause
you’re my friends and allies, and because I yet. There’s no shortage of deadly viruses in
believe that you all have an interest in devel- Then the animal coughed quietly and the galaxy—and their very deadliness makes
oping new weaponry.” scratched its throat. For a moment, it went them difficult to work with. But hemohexin is
Murmurs of assent. I stayed silent and back to grooming, but another cough came, different. Observe.”
leaned back. Two guards held the doors open, and then another, each growing stronger. He picked up a tool from the cart that looked
but I couldn’t see anything in the darkness Blood spattered the sides of the cube on the
sixth cough. The primate fell to the floor and like a cross between a field med-scanner and a
beyond them.
began to roll, chest heaving pitifully as more wrench. He flipped a switch, aiming it towards
“I want to present something astounding to blood spattered out of its throat. the cube, and waited a second or two before
you, something that might be a great aid to the turning the thing off.
Mazer Corporation, and to any who choose to It didn’t stop there. I clenched my teeth as
I watched the primate’s fur change from pale Then he manipulated the small airlock on
be our friends.”
gray to deep red in color. Blood was seeping one side of the cube. A second primate crawled
He clapped his hands, and I heard a up through its pores. Through its eyes, too, and out into the blood-slicked cage. Seconds
creaking from the darkness. Four beings in dribbling down from its nostrils and up from passed, and it crept forward to carefully taste
servant’s dress pushed a steel cart out into the beneath its fingernails. The primate thrashed the blood of the first animal.
middle of the dais. On it sat a gleaming cylinder wildly and shrieked as blood poured from every “You see?” Mazer said. “With the appropri-
of chromeel, covered with dials and read-out opening in its body. By the time the animal ate tool, the virus can be completely neutral-
screens, connected by a tube to a transparent finally stopped moving it was a mangled lump ized. Surely you can imagine the applications.
plastic cube containing a small primate. The of meat sitting in a pool of its own fluids. A hemohexin bomb might be dropped, allowed
cube had an inside door connected to another
“A new virus,” Mazer said, smiling coldly. to do its work, and then a few seconds of this
opaque cube.
“My chemist called it hemohexin—I won’t instrument would remove all trace of it.”
I was disappointed—I had been hoping for bother to even try to explain what that means.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 9

Every gangster in the room was impressed. when a new strain developed, longer lived guards came through. He spotted Mazer and
I was impressed too, but probably not the way and immune to the neutralizer, or when some shouted, “Boss!”
Mazer intended. other biochemist made a few key modifica-
tions? I could imagine whole planets swamped Mazer scowled. “What is it, Lang?”
The crime boss sitting next to me stood. in blood as millions of beings died in agonizing
“Why have you shown us this? If your new pain. “Building’s surrounded!”
weapon is really as impressive as you’ve said, The old human’s expression became appro-
you could gain a great deal of power with The hemohexin gear was stashed, and priately concerned. He shoved his way through
it—no need to tell any other beings.” Mazer’s servants brought out food while he the beings surrounding him. “Who? Why?”
continued to answer questions and a few
Mazer smiled and nodded. “True. But that beings started to negotiate contracts. Igger “Blue Nail gangsters. They want to talk with
wouldn’t make me any money, would it? As it pulled out a chair next to me and sat down. you.”
is, my plan is to offer you...only those in this “Something to drink, Jalazar?”
room...access to hemohexin at reasonable “How many?”
prices. With one caveat: the virus perishes “No,” I growled back.
within forty-eight hours unless it is held in “I don’t know. I think they’ve got blockades
a special containment field. I will maintain He showed yellowed teeth in a smile. “What in all the streets and snipers all around.”
complete control over the design and manu- did you think?”
facture of hemohexin containers—they’ve Mazer was twenty centimeters shorter than
been designed in such a way that they can’t be and“Iput think you should take that rifle of yours his guard, but he managed to intimidate the
a few slugs through Mazer’s skull next larger being. “They’re after the hemohexin?”
replicated without secrets which only I possess. time he turns his back.”
I will also control the neutralizers.” “I...I think so, Boss.”
Igger rubbed his chin, smile falling.
There were other questions. I didn’t listen “Wouldn’t do me any good. Even if I could get “Igger! Get up there. I want any being who
to them. the containment field formula I wouldn’t be can fight offered our usual payment and armed
The Alliance ban on bioweapons was one able to use it. I’m no businessman, just a hired adequately. Those who can’t or won’t fight can
thing the Patrol and I agreed on. I had heard gun.” be kept in the upper-floor rooms. I want the
of pathogens and virus strains being used to display floor and hallways emptied except for
“There won’t be much need for guns if posted guards. Clear?”
massacre entire cities—they killed indiscrimi- Mazer starts using that.”
nately, guilty and innocent. If a man tagged “Yes, Boss!” Igger said, waving to the guards.
for a gang murder had a couple children, and “Hah! That’s it, then—you’re feeling jealous. Then he looked at me. “Coming, Jalazar? I’ll see
someone filled his apartment with yellow- Afraid hemohexin will make you obsolete. that you’re well paid.”
choke, all of them died—and probably a couple You’re exaggerating things, Jalazar. It might
people in the neighboring apartments along be good, but its applications will always be I shook my head. “No pay.”
with them. Bioweapons were uncontrollable limited.”
and brutal. He smiled. “Ah. Going for my future
I answered only with a growl. “Something gratitude, eh? Come on then.”
The fact that hemohexin died within forty- wrong, Jalazar?” Igger asked.
eight hours and could be easily neutralized I didn’t tell him the real reason I had refused
only meant it could be used carelessly. What Before I could answer, the doors leading payment. It was because I didn’t particularly
would happen when something went wrong— to the room burst open, and one of Mazer’s care if some other gang got Mazer’s weapon—

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 10

they probably wouldn’t use it any worse. It were capable of anything like this.” besieging forces.
was also because I didn’t want to be in Mazer’s
employ. When I take a job, I do it. I couldn’t “They have money, don’t they?” #
do this one because I didn’t want to see this “Sure. But they don’t have enough beings
hemohexin kill beings across the galaxy. I picked up a slug rifle with a scope from one
to maintain a blockade like this. Some of them
must be mercenaries.” of Mazer’s guards and took a position on the
I had decided to destroy it. north side of the building, facing towards an
Igger dropped away from the window and industrial park. The room I sat in was an empty
# bowed his head in thought for a moment. sleeping chamber which the corporation used
“What are you planning?” I asked. for whatever visitors it hosted. I sat in a hard
I followed Igger up from the basement plastic chair to one side of the window and
levels. Faint alarms echoed through the “We’ll need to set up our own perimeter— spent a few minutes inspecting my borrowed
hallways, and I heard shouting and pounding beings at every window for when they try an gun and sniffing the old cigar fumes that filled
feet. We took a route that bypassed the main attack, guns on the roof, everything. Then we’ll the room. Those things had been expensive
display floor, but I got a brief glance into the have to get a signal out and pull in enough and probably narcotic.
room, filled with Mazer’s beings, confused reinforcements to chase the Blue Nails off and
customers, and angry vendors being assured hopefully kill most of them.” Mazer negotiated via loudspeaker with
that their merchandise would be guarded. We the Blue Nails. It devolved into the usual
ran through side corridors, poorly carpeted, “Why not just give them some of your exchange of insults and obscenities common
concrete walled, and brightly lit. Other bands bioweapon?” I growled. “Mazer seems willing in arguments between gang lords, and some
of Mazer’s beings ran past us, slapping charges to distribute it to anyone who asks.” plasma and bullets flew between the two sides.
and clips into their weapons. “It’s not just the hemohexin,” Igger snarled. didn’tshot
They my window out, but I kept low and
“It’s control over it and all the money and power again after a returning
bother fire. Things died down
Igger stopped us just beyond a large outside few minutes, and the intercom
window and peered out. I joined him. New it’ll bring. The Blue Nails don’t just want a few announced that the building’s
Taminnis was a city of narrow streets and tall canisters of the virus. They want every sample tions were being jammed. Thosecommunica- Blue Nails
buildings with facades of dark yellow bricks and we’ve got, plus all our formulas.” had some expensive gear—I wondered how
rose granite. The street I looked down at was “Mazer’s an idiot if he doesn’t have all that good the mercenaries they had hired were.
cleared of vehicles for a hundred yards back. Good enough to storm the building? Probably
backed up somewhere.”
Where it opened onto the square that surround- not, unless they wanted to blast it apart and
ed Mazer’s building I saw a barricade of thick Igger shook his head. “Security’s been tight. then sift through the rubble. But they wouldn’t
plastic fencing with plasma cannon platforms, We thought it’d be easier to protect if we kept risk destroying Mazer’s virus.
a couple buggies with mounted weapons, and it all here at home.
several armed beings. They probably also had That was my job.
snipers in windows all around the building and “I’ve got work to do,” Igger continued. “Find
interceptor hovercars on the rooftops. Not a your own ground. Do you have a comm?” I wasn’t going to stand by and watch that
bad job. I could only imagine how much it had hemohexin released on the galaxy—especially
cost—how many bribes had to be paid to make I did, but I gave him a false number for it. not to line Mazer’s pockets. Maybe it wouldn’t
sure no one intervened. He gave me a Mazer Corporation headband cause an epidemic, but plenty of beings would
and ran off with his guards close behind while get killed, and the kind of organizations which
Igger swore. “I didn’t know the Blue Nails I looked out the window again and studied the would use it weren’t the kind I wanted to have

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 11

more power in the underworld. somewhere here, and I tried to remember Svaalij once before, when I was helping a Patrol
where—there wasn’t any real organization to officer to escape from him, and had barely
The vendors’ displays were still up in the the placement of tables. Halberds sat next to gotten away with my life. I owed some of my
showroom. I could sneak down—using my some kind of gravity sling that was being sold fresher scars to him.
bandana to get past any of Mazer’s guards— alongside flame whips. The ceiling hung above
find some kind of bomb, and go down to the me, black and remote. He held his hands out and rubbed his fingers
basement and set it. But Mazer would only together almost eagerly. “Shall we prolong this,
have kept several guards on the hemohexin. I Then my foot hit something, and I looked Flinteye? Draw.”
might need to bring along something to blast down. A corpse wearing Mazer’s headband.
through them, and I wasn’t sure I could get His throat and wrists were neatly sliced open. I grabbed the nearest table and heaved
through that alive, set my bomb, and still get The blood was still fresh. it at him with all my strength. Antique bolt-
out of the base with my life intact. action guns and jeweled swords went flying
“Ah...Jalazar Flinteye, isn’t it? So nice to along with the table, but I didn’t wait to see
But I had seen thousands of beings slaugh- meet you here. I was beginning to worry I’d if it hit. I ducked down and ran, drawing my
tered by the Klooflau plague, had seen their never see you again.” pistols as I did so. The white lizard jumped over
skin peel off their bodies because they had the table and landed in a four-limbed crouch
irritated the local hegemony. I had a chance I recognized the voice—smooth and on another table. I fired, sending bolts of violet
to eliminate hemohexin. If I didn’t do it now, musical. I also felt a chill like liquid hydrogen plasma through the darkness toward him, but
I couldn’t imagine what it might lead to, and I flow through my veins and whirled, slapping by the time they splattered on his table, he
might even find myself bleeding from my eye my hands onto my pistols. had dropped off it and into a quick roll on the
sockets someday. concrete. He came up with his pistol drawn,
Svaalij perched on a table. He stood a little and I ducked behind a table.
I locked the door of my room from the over a meter tall, a reptile with scales so white
inside and closed it behind me. Then, rifle slung they gleamed even in the dim light. He wore Dark liquid sprayed from Svaalij’s gun and
over my shoulders, I made my way down to the a vest and pants made from leather just a splashed on the floor where I had been a
dealer’s room. The headband was enough to shade darker than his skin and carried a pair of moment before. The lizard was using a squirt
prove I wasn’t hostile to the beings stationed wickedly curved daggers in sheaths on either gun. Then I saw that the liquid ate into the
in the corridors. side of his waist. He also carried some kind of concrete.
gun attached by a narrow hose to a container
I reached the corridor outside the expo on his back. His build was slender and his large I kept firing. My bolts splashed on the floor
floor and glanced through a window. The room eyes were brilliant blue. and hit tables, blasting them into hot shards
was dark, but my infrared vision showed me of plastic and fiberglass. A ball of white scales
the rows of tables and gleaming merchandise, “Go ahead,” Svaalij said, grinning broadly. rolled away, and I had half a second to dodge
sitting just as I had last seen them. I didn’t see “Draw your pistols. I’m sure you’d like to shoot another spurt of acid.
any bright heat signatures that would indicate me.”
guards. Either Mazer had decided they weren’t “You’re quick, Flinteye,” he said. “Worthy
“The Blue Nails hired you?” indeed...I shouldn’t play with you, should I?”
necessary, or they were concealed.
I opened the door and stepped through. I my“Of course. Not a great deal of money by Then I realized that I couldn’t see him any
standards, but the job” more. Svaalij had vanished into the darkness
tried to move quietly as I walked out across the
concrete, but my footfalls seemed to echo in and the maze of tables—I couldn’t even see his
His smile got wider. I had encountered
the cold air. I had seen some timed explosives heat signature among those left by my plasma

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 12

pistols. I ducked down and kept on the move, front of me. Then I picked up a cluster of small out why when a silver net shot out of it and
listening for any sound that might tell me flash bombs, each set to three seconds, and slammed into Svaalij mid-leap. He went down
where Svaalij was. threw them all around me. They went off, and in a snarling, twisting knot of white scales
I saw red through my closed eyelids. I tasted and flashing metal. I threw the net launcher
A halberd slammed into a tabletop a little smoke pouring out of the bomb and ran out away, reached into my vest, and pulled out my
to my right, nearly knocking it over. I spun of cover, taking more a few more flash bombs ten-shot slug pistol. The net had bolted itself to
just in time to see Svaalij aiming his acid gun. in one hand. I still had a ten-shot slug pistol in the concrete floor upon impact. I wondered if it
We fired at the same time. I threw myself my vest pocket, but I needed something more had been made just for taking out insane little
backwards, onto my rear, to avoid the splash powerful—if I did hit Svaalij, I wanted to make assassins. The white lizard slashed at the net
of steaming fluid. sure I had something that would kill him with with his daggers. I aimed my pistol and fired.
“Terrible balance...that blade was meant for one shot. Three bullets slammed into Svaalij’s chest. He
jolted, let out a shriek that I really hoped none
your heart,” Svaalij hissed from the darkness. I saw a rack of stass projectors and grabbed of Mazer’s beings heard, and lay still.
one. Good enough. Stass projectors relied
Another stream of acid came at me, this on magnetic
time from the side. I didn’t have time to dodge, immobile and,shock waves to render a target I let my breath out in a sigh. Had I really
on high enough settings, kill just killed Svaalij? From what I knew of him,
but it wasn’t aimed at me. The acid splashed him. It was immensely painful. I almost thought the bullets would go right
over the barrels of my outstretched pistols, through him, and he’d just look at me, grin,
melting them both shut almost instantly. Svaalij I raked the room with a mid-strength beam, cut his way out of the net, and slash my throat
was toying with me. hoping to at least slow Svaalij down until I open in a second. I stepped forward, keeping
could pinpoint him. The stass vibrations rattled my pistol trained on him.
“I recall the last time I tried my daggers weaponry on their racks, but I didn’t see any
on you, Flinteye. Your ‘bot saved you then. white scales. I almost hoped he’d just kill me I noticed that the slugs had crumpled
Where’s your ‘bot now?” and get it over with. against his vest a second too late. I wasn’t the
I unslung the slug rifle from around my only one who had found flash bombs. Svaalij
A sound came from behind me—a little flicked his wrist and threw one up at me so
shoulders and fired in the direction of his voice. scratch—and I whirled around just in time to that it went off just centimeters away from my
I saw a heat signature, five meters away, but as see Svaalij flying
soon as my first bullets flew, it vanished from daggers stretched through the air with both eyes. I roared, brought one arm up to cover my
out to stab me. I raised eyes, fired the pistol, and heard the slugs hit
sight. I kept working the trigger hoping to hit the rifle and caught both blades on it with a concrete. If I couldn’t see, neither could Svaalij.
the white lizard by blind luck. I only stopped clang, but Svaalij—just a little more than half I groped, grabbed something that felt like a
when the chamber clicked empty and I realized my height—swung on it like a playground
I hadn’t picked up any extra clips. I threw the bar and drove one clawed foot into my groin, chain, and threw it at him.
rifle away and scrambled behind an overturned hard. I threw the rifle away, and him with it, I brought my arm down from my eyes to
table. and fought the urge to huddle on the floor and see him holding an activated flame whip in
I glanced at what the table’s owner had moan away the pain. Instead, I reached over to one hand and his dagger in the other. The whip
been selling. I realized that I was sitting in the nearest table and grabbed the first thing was a novelty weapon used for gladiators, cer-
the middle of an assortment of smoke bombs, my hand touched. Some kind of gun. I found emonial guards, and torturers. It had links of
flash grenades, and flares, most of them fairly the safety, clicked it off, and pulled the trigger. solid chromeel, wickedly spiked, each of which
cheap. I reached for a high-output smoke bomb, contained four propane jets. The trailing end
The barrel was trumpet shaped, and I found of the whip scorched the concrete, and it was
primed it for ten seconds, and set it down in

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Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 13

a blur of intense heat in infrared. material, but I could feel them burning from tables. It didn’t do much good. Svaalij sprayed
Svaalij’s whip. Or maybe it was my fur that was another burst, and only a quick roll kept it from
He attacked, swinging the whip up at my burning. I dropped and rolled across the floor, roasting me. The heat hurt my skin. I knocked
belly, and I felt its heat sear my fur. “Flinteye,” striking head, elbows, shoulders on the hard into another table and groaned as something
he said, as I backpedaled, “there’s a question I concrete. I smashed into a table leg, and the fell down and hit my head.
should ask you: Where do your employers keep table fell down on top of me, pouring ornamen-
their bioweapon? I was sent to find it.” tal daggers onto the floor just above my head. I checked what it was—something powerful
enough to kill Svaalij? No. Something in a
The only thing I liked less than Mazer using and,fire
The was out. I scrambled up into a crouch
hurting from bruises and the scorch on spray can. I realized after a moment that it was
this bioweapon was Svaalij getting his claws my leg, I ran. Svaalij the same stuff someone had tried to sell me
screamed behind me.
on it. “I wouldn’t tell you if I knew,” I growled, earlier—Cloakcoat. The vendor had promised
drawing my dagger. I ran for the nearest exit. I was lucky Svaalij complete chameleon effects. It was worth a
hadn’t killed me already, and I couldn’t afford try.
He cracked the whip against the floor, to give him
blackening concrete. “I see. Then I can kill you able to lose any more chances. Hopefully, I’d be
him in the corridors—but I wouldn’t I cracked the seal and sprayed paint across
without any regrets,” he said, smiling warmly. my arms. It stuck to my fur easily. I applied it
be able to get at the hemohexin. I didn’t have
to my feet, chest, neck, and even face, being
I grabbed a chainsword off a rack and any way to get a bomb. careful not to get any in my eyes and mouth.
activated it with a flick of my thumb. The Suddenly a booth to my right vanished in Another booth went up in a ball of flame, and
blade—a belt lined with tiny chromeel an orb of flame, and I dodged right, pulling a a series of larger explosions—including violet
blades—roared to life. Svaalij dove forward burnt muscle and sending a fresh pulse of agony plasma bursts—blasted the concrete and set
into a roll and swung his flaming whip at my through my leg. My head hit the concrete hard, shards of shrapnel flying. I threw myself flat
groin. I swung my chainsword down, and metal and I snarled, feeling black clouds crowd into and felt some of them dig into my back. That
squealed as the blade’s teeth ground against my head. I groped at the
the whip’s links. Svaalij tugged, trying to pull it pulling myself along, andfloor with my hands, lizard was insane. The retardant system was
dimly wondered if keeping the fires from spreading, but if he
from my grip, but I twisted it away and drew my there was any way I could survive this. That hit the wrong table, the whole building might
dagger, and swung for him. He threw himself damn lizard had grabbed a chain flamer. A row come down. I finished spraying myself with
into a leap that carried him two meters above of tables in front of me went up in pillars of fire, Cloakcoat, wincing as it filled the fresh wounds
the floor, dodging back. I advanced, swinging stinging my eyes in both infrared and visible on my back, and glanced down at my arm. It
the chainsword. It was a crude weapon, but light. Chain flamers used the same technology was the same color as the concrete. I should
even a glancing blow would mangle Svaalij. as ordinary flamers, except they fed off a belt have bought a case of this stuff when I had the
He attacked again, moving in a white blur, of compressed fuel cartridges and had a much chance.
and this time I wasn’t fast enough to block. The longer range. One weapon with a few strips of I ran, away from the area Svaalij was demol-
whip moved in a blur of propane flame and ammunition was enough to burn down a medi- ishing with his flamer and towards the trapdoor
smashed into my thigh. I screamed as intense um-sized town—which was what made them into the basement level. Svaalij kept blasting
pain flooded my body. Svaalij slashed at my illegal. The Patrol didn’t particularly appreciate the area where he thought he had me pinned
throat. I kicked out and clipped his belly, and it when gang conflicts demolished entire sky- down, turning a quarter of the room into an
Svaalij was so light the blow sent him spinning scrapers. inferno. Fire alarms were going off. Mazer’s
away. The room’s fire control system came on, boys would be down soon.
My pants were made of a fire retardant spraying retardant fluid onto the burning

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Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 14

I found a time bomb on a table against the grenade into the launcher, held it up against climbed the dais.
wall, about the size of Svaalij’s torso, which my shoulder, and glanced out into the corridor.
had enough power to blow a substantial cavity The chromeel-plated door was closed and The wooden doors here were also shut,
out of Mazer’s building. Probably overkill, but apparently locked from the inside. I cocked the and a quick twist of the knob was enough
I didn’t have time to shop. There was an RPG launcher and called, “Hey! Mates!” to test that they were also locked from the
launcher with a belt of grenades on a neigh- inside. Someone was in there, waiting to kill
boring table, so I took that too, along with a I held my hand out in the corridor, waving whatever came through the door. I stepped
small slug pistol. the Corporation headband. “Don’t shoot! I’ve to one side and fired a shot straight through
got something for you!” the wood. In response, bolts of plasma tore
I saw Svaalij squatting on a table several through the wood, shredding the patch around
meters away feeding another belt of fuel car- A small peephole opened in the door and a my shot into burning splinters. I got down on
tridges into his flamer. His face was frozen in a harsh voice said, “What is it? Those Blue Nails my belly, crawled out a little, and fired three
grotesque grin that displayed an impressive set gone yet?” shots through the door at the plasma’s origin. I
of gleaming fangs. I couldn’t guarantee hitting I swung myself around the corner, lowered heard a scream. When I kicked the door open,
him even with a grenade, and I wouldn’t get a no one shot at me, and I saw a corpse on the
the launcher to point at the peephole, hit the floor—one
second shot. I couldn’t risk it. The galaxy would of Mazer’s techs. He seemed to
trigger, then ducked back. The grenade went be alone, probably
be a safer place without Svaalij in it, but the just keeping an eye on the
right through the opening, and I heard nothing hemohexin while the
hemohexin was more important. but a loud bang and one choked scream. When actual guarding. I took beings outside did the
his rifle, slapped a new
With the bomb under one arm, the RPG I waved my arm again, there was no reaction. charge into it, and slung it over my shoulders.
launcher in my right hand, and the pistol I stepped out into the corridor, armed a Then I walked through the room, which was
through my waistband, I descended into plasma grenade, and launched it at the wall blank, and opened the pair of double doors
Mazer’s basement, my leg and back blazing to one side of the door. Violet energy flashed, beyond, keeping my pistol ready to fire.
with pain. tearing a deep gouge in the concrete. Another Only silence greeted me—complete silence,
shot opened a hole wide enough for me to although
# I could see pinpoints of light flickering
go through and blew the door halfway off its in the darkness. My infrared sight told me that
hinges. I left the launcher on the floor, retrieved the room contained
I walked through darkness with nothing to long metal tables covered
my bomb, and went ahead with it under my with hemohexin cylinders.
guide me except infrared, trying to remember There were also a
left arm and my pistol in my right hand.
the route Igger had taken down to the confer- couple carts, a few racks of instruments and
ence room. In the silence, I realized that I could The guard room was a mess and my feet containers, and a small cage of primates who
hear the hiss of plasma guns firing and even splashed in blood as I walked through it. I tried all seemed to be asleep. Across the room from
distant screams. That explained why Mazer’s not to look at any of the corpses, mangled by a me I saw a computer terminal. This was it—
crew hadn’t come running during my brawl cloud of shrapnel bursting in the tiny room, and Mazer’s secret stash of hemohexin and storage
with Svaalij—they were busy fighting the Blue kicked open the door to the conference room containers. Destroying this would, at least, set
Nails. itself. The door knocked over one of Mazer’s him back—especially if he had important files
beings, sending him sprawling on the carpet. stored on that computer. I wondered if I could
At last, I reached the long hallway leading I shot him and his companion who stood just log in and delete them myself, but I was no
up to the conference room, left my bomb inside the room, then waited a few seconds to hacker.
around the corner, and put on my Mazer see if there were any more. None. I crossed the
Corporation headband. I clapped a shrapnel I set my bomb down in the middle of the
room, leaving bloody tracks on the carpet, and

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Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 15

room. It had one setting, one timer, and one even if he did manage to kill me. times, I came to locked doors and had to shoot
shutoff panel, along with a detachable screen them open. I didn’t meet any guards. Five
I could take with me to keep track of the I caught the wrist of his knife hand and minutes. Four.
countdown. I set the timer for ten minutes, kicked up into his belly, driving my claws in.
plugged in a random number for the shut-off The only noise he made was a soft gasp as he Finally, I found a staircase to the ground floor.
code, and activated it. Numbers ticked down pressed his knife down towards my throat. His I opened the door at the top and staggered into
on the display. pain gave him strength. The knife came lower. the room beyond. At the same moment, Igger
His other hand shot out, reaching for my eyes, and a squad of fully armed guards stepped in
I locked the door before pulling it closed and I let go of my plasma rifle to grab it. through a door facing me.
behind me and crossed back through the con-
ference room, slipping the pistol back through Seconds ticked past as we struggled. The Igger had his rifle in his hands. I noticed
my waistband and carrying the plasma rifle pain pulsating through my legs seemed to that his hair was singed as if he had gone over
in my hands. I stepped over the corpse in intensify with every moment. His knife came it with a blowtorch, although the chains in it
the doorway and into the guardroom. Blood closer millimeter by millimeter—I was already were undamaged. He snapped his rifle up.
squelched beneath my feet. This time I couldn’t exhausted from my fight with Svaalij, and this “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
help but look at the mangled corpses, and I being was strong. I kicked him again, but he
only shuddered and pressed harder. “It’s me. Flinteye.”
shuddered. I knew I was right in destroying the
hemohexin, but I wished I hadn’t needed to kill He blinked and stared for a couple moments.
“I won’t go to the Pit alone,” he said, blood
these guards. At least their deaths had been At last, he recognized me through the coat of
dribbling through his lips.
quick. paint and blood staining my fur and clothes.
One of them wasn’t quite dead. I saw him ThenI arched my back and lifted my head up. “What happened to you, Jalazar?”
move a split-second before he levered himself forehead into his itjaw.
I wrenched forward, smashing my
“A Blue Nail assassin got in,” I said. I try not
up from the wall and drove a knife into my and his hold loosened forSomething cracked,
a moment. In that to lie, but sometimes an incomplete truth is
thigh. It tore through the fabric of my pants moment I wrenched his wrist back, breaking just as good.
and cut through flesh to glance off my pelvis. his hold on the knife, and twisted it out of his “I see,” said Igger, his expression darkening.
I roared and fell away from him to crash hand. He was dead a moment after I drove the “But tell me a few things, Jalazar: Why aren’t
down into the muck of blood that covered the blade into his ruined chest. you at your post, how did you meet up with
floor. The knife tore loose from my flesh and threw the corpse off and picked up this assassin, and why do you have camouflage
hot barbs of pain raced through my muscles. I my Iplasma rifle. Then, soaked in blood and paint underneath that blood? And why are you
swung my plasma rifle around, but the being Cloakcoat, I left the guardroom. Seven minutes carrying that rifle? That’s not the gun we gave
came towards me, slapping the barrel aside left on the bomb. you.”
and raising his knife.
I shrugged. “I had to scavenge. How’s it
He was horrifically wounded. Shards of # going with the Blue Nails?”
metal from my grenade had torn most of the
flesh off his ribs and shoulders, and his entire I took a different route up from the confer- “We beat them off,” he said, “for the
body was soaked in blood. From what was left ence room, running whenever I could, but the moment. But we’re going to get the hemohexin
of his face, this being had once been a nice- wounds on my legs leaked a steady stream of to an off-planet safe house. I was just going
looking human. Now he’d die within minutes blood and throbbed with every step. A couple down to get it. Do you know what I’ll find down

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Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 16

there, Jalazar?” You can’t afford the time to kill me.” heart in a second or two.
I shrugged. “How should I?” “Of course I can,” he said. “If I start now.” Then, with about thirty seconds left to go,
I heard a roar from somewhere far behind me,
Igger’s beings raised their rifles. “You were I hit the trigger on my rifle a moment before and an instant later heat and light thundered
just down there, Jalazar. Tell me what you were he finished speaking, and four bolts drilled into around me. Something hit my head, and I fell to
doing.” the floor just as he launched himself into the the pavement, slamming hard into the asphalt.
air. But he expected me to either stay station- As I blacked out, I thought: thirty seconds left.
Igger’s expression was hard now. He had his ary or retreat. Instead, I ran forward, towards Damn cheap bomb.
rifle trained on my chest, and I wasn’t stupid the door behind him. Svaalij’s daggers tore
enough to think I could stop him from killing open my vest as I passed beneath him, my feet
me if he decided to. “Stealing from us, Jalazar?” #
slipping on Igger’s ashes, but then I reached the
he growled. corridor and pulled the door shut behind me. I
fused the lock with a plasma bolt. It wouldn’t thatI felt woke to pain in every muscle and a head
Then I saw a smudge of something white in keep Svaalij back long, but it might give me a it had been pumped full of fresh
the dark corridor behind him. “No,” I answered, Hot asphalt pressed against my front.
little head start.
keeping my eyes on him. I felt something sticking into my back and
Then I ran, feet hammering on concrete, winced as I reached up an arm to tear it out.
Igger opened his mouth to answer, but the legs throbbing. I looked for windows, any place I held it in front of my eyes and struggled to
words never came out. I heard the click of a I could get out. Just as I went around a corner, focus. Svaalij’s dagger.
weapon being armed. I dropped. I heard the door swing open behind me, and I allowed myself a short rest, then forced
A ball of searing flame devoured Igger and Svaalij screamed. That sound gave me all the myself up into a sitting position. Burns, scrapes,
his beings, reducing them to ash in an instant, encouragement I needed to ignore the pain and bruises
of my wounds and run at full speed. A glance my back andcovered me and the wounds on
and I felt a wave of heat wash over my body. I
down at my timer showed a minute left. Svaalij towards Mazer’s building.blood. I turned back
legs leaked
fell on the burn wound in my leg and clenched
my teeth in agony. screamed again, just meters behind. He was
closing fast. The blast had collapsed a good deal of the
The ball of flame vanished, and Svaalij first floor. The lounge I had emerged from
stepped through the doorway, grinning and I ran into some kind of lounge, filled with had been replaced with a mound of concrete
holding a chain flamer that easily dwarfed him. cheap furniture and rugs. The windows all had and plaster
steel shutters drawn over them, except for one, had slumpedrubble, and the whole building
“It’s a shame that was my last cartridge,” he down a few meters. Unless that
said. which had been shot out before the shutters hemohexin was more resilient than I thought, I
went up. Beyond was open asphalt. I ran for had taken out all of it.
I swung my plasma rifle up to point at him, it, going over a small table in a leap. Forty-five
but with his reactions, I didn’t bother to shoot. seconds. I slipped Svaalij’s dagger into my vest and
“Can I tell you something, Svaalij?” I asked. forced myself to my feet, wincing with every
Something flared in my back, and I roared movement. Just as I was leaving the square
His daggers appeared in his hands as the with pain. One of Svaalij’s daggers, thrown. I around Mazer’s
didn’t let it stop me. My feet hammered on but I got out ofbuilding, someone fired at me,
flamer dropped to the floor. He smiled again. their sight before they could
“Go ahead.” rough asphalt as I emerged into the light of the line up a better shot.
late afternoon. No way I could escape Svaalij
“There’s a bomb that’ll go off in seconds. now. He’d put the other dagger through my

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Flinteye's Sabotage by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 17

It was dark by the time I hauled myself into Sean T. M. Stiennon
a small hospital and paid for a patch-up job.
The medic didn’t ask any questions—he was Sean T. M. Stiennon is a student in Madison,
probably used to this sort of thing—and he Wisconsin. Previously, his writing has been
pulled shards of metal out of my back, smeared published in Deep Magic, Amazing Jour-
salve over my burns, and bandaged my wounds. neys Magazine, and The Sword Review, and
Then he sold me a bottle of painkillers and sent he recently won second place in the 2004
me on my way. Short Story Contest. His
I took a hovercab to the dock where the short story collection Six with Flinteye is out
Flint Shard was parked and lifted off that night. from Silver Lake Publishing, and his heroic
There was a good chance Svaalij had died in fantasy has been published in the anthology
the explosion, but with that lizard, it wasn’t Sages and Swords and is upcoming in Lords
worth taking chances. I wasn’t even sure that
his ghost wouldn’t be able to put a dagger in of Swords II from the same company, Pitch-
my throat. Black Books. For more information, visit his
author page at
I rose above the planet and into the seanstiennon .
blackness of space, looking at the stars of the
galactic core. Igger was certainly gone—Svaalij
hadn’t left much doubt of that. He had always
liked me better than I liked him, but I was sorry
to see him roasted. But the hemohexin was
gone, or at least badly set back. That made
everything worthwhile.
I pulled one of my pistols out of its holster
and studied the barrel, destroyed by Svaalij’s
acid. The gun could be repaired, and I knew a
good weaponsmith in the nearby Red Wheel
system who would give me a fair price on the
job. That would keep me busy until Axten’s
pick-up time.
Once I had reached interstellar speed, I
went back and stored Svaalij’s dagger in my
cabin as a souvenir. I noticed then that the
Cloakcoat was making my fur fall out.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Little Bear Lost by Gwendolyn S. Patton Pg. 18

Little Bear Lost
by Gwendolyn S. Patton

I t was strange, how all cross-docks had the
same restaurant. It was classy, all carved
wood, dark and flame-grained, with plush
2300 hours tonight. That was five hours to get
some serious drinking done.
The bartender snorted and fished behind his
back for the bottle. It was a dark, bubbly glass
thing, more resembling a small, rough obsidian
velvets and brocades. The food was perfect, The bartender was a Cerberan — short, cask than a bottle. He unscrewed the top and
and lavish, the recipes drawn from a hundred stocky, with ball-joint shoulders and muscles poured a measure of dark, smoky liquid into a
worlds. It had to be some kind of franchise, that looked like he was smuggling lifesuit shot-glass. “We have a good medical monitor,”
especially the bar. He’d been in this bar on helmets under his skin. Halpin peered at him he said amiably, pushing the drink toward
twenty worlds and a dozen space stations and with a frown. He could swear the same guy Halpin. “But we run no tab with this stuff. And
they were all the same—good, but the same. had waited on him in the last four bars...he we’re not responsible if it kills you.”
The rail at the bottom of the blue wood Halpin, waiting for the smile, didn’t see it.
bar was honest brass, not a plastic imitation, “What’ll it be?” asked the bartender. “Hells, you’re serious.” He tapped the credit-
and the liquor was in honest glass bottles. The reader with the stone in his ring. A chime
“Whaddya got in the way of Scotch?” Halpin
electronic gambling machine in the corner was sounded the completion of the transaction,
asked, peering at the row of bottles behind the
matched to the décor—probably honest, too— and he scooped up the drink. He downed half
though you wouldn’t think so if you played it. the shot with a brave slurp.
“If I had anything I’d call Scotch, I wouldn’t
Kern Halpin wanted a drink, and he wanted His tongue tried to squirm in all directions
put anything in its way,” the bartender replied,
one badly. He was an able-bodied spacer at once, and curl into several different fanciful
without even looking at his stock. “But Vikscan
pulling deep-space duty on a Chatazzi freighter, shapes...a deciliter of pure antimatter blasted
grog’s something like it...okay, it’s not even
and those tabbies didn’t drink anything a down his throat and annihilated the contents
close, but we’re also a hundred parsecs from
human would consider potable. Fermented of his stomach in a burst of pure radiation. His
Scotchland, or whatever that whisky place is
blood served at body temperature was a drink teeth screwed so tightly into his jaw they felt
only a Chatazzi could love. Come to think of it, as if they were trying to turn back into buds,
blood seemed to be a primary ingredient in all Halpin grunted. “It’s called ‘Earth.’” He and tears streamed from suddenly bloodshot
Chatazzi drinks—all Chatazzi food, too. raised an eyebrow. “Never had this grog stuff eyes. “S...smooth,” he grated, fully expecting
before. What’s it like?” to exhale soot.
But not here. He had his release in his
pouch, and the securchip in his ring held his “Ever had a root-canal through your The Cerberan pounded the bar with a
pay and his profit-share. He had a berth lined nose?” huge paw. “I knew it—just cut loose from
up on a New Avalonian ship-tender on the that Chatazzi freighter, right?” Halpin nodded.
Commonwealth circuit, and he was looking “That bad, huh?” “Only person I can imagine, other than one of
forward to a few years on human ships for a those crazy Vikings, who could call that stuff
change. But the ship wasn’t in yet—routing “No. The root-canal would be preferable.” ‘smooth.’ Top it off for you?”
board said their flight plan showed an ETA of Halpin smiled. “Gimme a double.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Little Bear Lost by Gwendolyn S. Patton Pg. 19

Halpin held it out, let it be filled again, and back to the bar. Watchstander and the Portmaster.
tossed it back. “Leave the bottle,” he squeaked,
feeling as if steam were rising from his collar. “Quick! Gimme a no-alk pill,” he babbled. “Spacer Halpin reporting for emergency
The Cerberan grunted and left the little glass The Cerberan was already holding it out for duty!” he bellowed, breaking the tension
cask where he could reach it. him, and Halpin gulped it gratefully. It fizzed between the two men.
when it hit the grog in his belly, where the
Four hours later, Halpin was both much, combination of vitamins, metabolic drugs, and The Watchstander looked at him for a bare
much better and much, much worse. It was tailored nanos started streaming through his instant, then grabbed him by the arm with his
better that he finally smelled something system. He could already feel the poisonous free hand. “Here! Here’s my crew! Release it!”
other than raw meat and damp fur, but grog leaving his brain as he dashed for the The Portmaster reared back in shock. “Him?
worse inasmuch as he couldn’t smell much of concourse. He wished he had spent some of He’s just a grease-monkey?”
anything, all sensation on his left side seemed his four hours actually eating something...then
to stop somewhere aft of his hip, and it felt wished he hadn’t thought about food. Halpin didn’t have time to bristle. The
like he was trying to think with a liter of shock- Watchstander was bristled already, and left
foam instead of brain: happy, floaty, pink Slip Seven was a crash-slip, with an extra- no gap for Halpin to interpose a word. “I don’t
shock-foam. It was, however, to his credit that large pressure curtain and a set of ship-sized care if he’s a ship’s doxy! Your bloody rules
when the disaster siren sounded, he managed emergency handling waldoes. The Guild ship call for a minimum crew of two. We are two.
to lurch to the emergency panel a few meters was just beyond the pressure curtain, hovering. Release it!”
away and grab a life-pak. Spacers’ reflexes, he Halpin shoved his orders into the reader on
mused drunkenly, snapping the pak around his the wall, and the airlock cycled open to admit The Portmaster stared, the tension
upper arm. him. He squeezed in with four med-techs, who beginning to grow again. The Watchstander’s
dashed in with total disregard for the capacity eyes narrowed with rage, his hand clenching
Orders started flowing onto the emergency of the little cubicle. Six seconds later, they on the quarn. Finally, with sweat running from
panel’s display screen. Adrenaline fought shoved him out as the door slammed open. his brow, the Portmaster gave a nod and turned
valiantly with Vikscan grog, and a temporary away. The Watchstander grunted and dragged
truce was reached. At least Halpin could read A Guild Watchstander was gesticulating Halpin along, heading for the far end of the
the words streaming in front of his eyes without with the Portmaster, waving a golden object. slip.
trying to hold them in place with his hands. No, not gold...brass. He had his quarn in Halpin decided to risk speaking. “Uh,
Crash crews, hospital staff, engineers...a his hand. Halpin didn’t know much about Ava- Guildsman? Where are we going?”
Guild ship was towing in a damaged freighter tarians, being from Travesty originally, but he
on a contract-of-mercy. Klono’s Carborun- did know one thing about these Watchstand- The Watchstander didn’t even turn around.
dum Claws! It was his ship! He fished the ers—their ceremonial weapon only left their “We’re going out. Hunter-craft.”
orders from his pouch and compared the ship shoulder when combat was imminent. It was
ID—yeah, that was it, ACS Romany Lass, out of only an inch-wide loop of simple chain mail, Halpin’s blood ran cold. “H-h-hunter?
New Avalon. but that weapon, which most people confused Watchstander, I’m not qualified...”
with a shoulder ornament or insignia of rank,
His name chased across the panel, along could rip the flesh from a man’s bones in the The Watchstander turned this time, his
with several others. He was to report to Slip hands of an expert...and all Watchstanders eyes blazing with rage. “If you don’t get into
Seven immediately, to render emergency assis- were experts with the quarn. Halpin dove that ship, I’ll kill you,” he said, voice low and
tance in the Lass’ engine room. He staggered into the fray, interposing himself between the dangerous.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Little Bear Lost by Gwendolyn S. Patton Pg. 20

Halpin looked at the quarn in those deadly his drive-field without warning or attempt at “Nothing to rescue. They ransacked the ships,
hands. “Hey, I didn’t say I wouldn’t go...” delicacy. A few seconds later, the stars whipped then destroyed them. Romany Lass was the
but the Watchstander was already waving into a curdled froth as the Driver jam-crammed last ship in the train. They had just started on
his quarn in front of the gaping maw of the into FTL. The Watchstander seemed to wilt her when the Driver ahead arrived and drove
pressure curtain. A moment later, a small sliver slightly, relaxing into his crash-couch. them back.”
detached from the Guild Driver’s ship hovering
off-station, and wafted closer with a pressor- “Watchstander? Are you well?” Halpin “Then why are we going back?”
beam. In seconds, it was shoving through the ventured, finishing his incorporation with
his own couch. The sudden departure had “To kill the pirates.”
soft force field of the curtain into the g-cradle
of the slip. The slip’s waldoes being burdened wrenched his shoulder a little, and he winced “But why? Couldn’t we, you know, arrest
with the battered hulk of the Romany Lass, the as he slid that arm into the couch’s waldo. them?”
pressor was all that held the little kill-ship in The man nodded tiredly. “As well as I might
place while the two men climbed in. There was a long, long pause. “Spacer,
be, Spacer,” he rumbled. “I apologize for my if you knew pirates like we know them, you
A hunter-ship’s lifesystem was small. Nine- cavalier treatment of you on the dock, but wouldn’t be so quick to let them live. Just trust
ty-five percent of a hunter’s mass was engines moments are jewels of great value right now.” me, and think of what we’re doing more as,
and weaponry, a slim dart of space-borne death. well, pesticide than anything else. I just hope
“But what’s going on?”
The lifesystem was barely enough for two men we’re in time.”
to wiggle into, and it became tighter as the The Watchstander swiveled his couch a
stickyfields molded around them, sheathing little on its long axis so he could face Halpin. “In time for what?”
them from feet to neck with velvet-covered “Pirates,” he said. “Romany Lass and three
steel. Their hands and arms were locked into The Watchstander looked bleak. “Romany
other ships were in a train outbound from
exoskeletal waldoes, their heads clamped into Lass launched lifeboats.”
Tovin when they were hit by pirates of House
gimbals that provided support and shock- Vendai. Some of those scum are still prowling Halpin didn’t understand, but somehow
absorption for practically any movement. The around this sector. Must breed like bacteria, those words left him feeling very cold.
controls were simple, straightforward, and we’ve killed so many of them.”
frightening—the weapons board was twice the
size of the navigation/helm panel. Halpin felt a little ill. Like most League #
citizens, he had made a choice when he was
Halpin had never seen such an array of a young man—military or civilian duty. He The transit was very short, only a few hours.
death-dealing hardware. There were weapons chose to work on merchants and freighters The Driver was going all-out, his payload small,
listed on the board that most capital ships didn’t instead of warships, because his upbringing and his haste great. Halpin knew that most
bear, and the top limit of the energy weapons against violence was too strong to let him take Drivers, while formidable, were not warriors.
rivaled most dreadnoughts. The Watchstander a military career. He didn’t like hearing about They were space pilots, highly specialized and
had manhandled him into the engineer’s death...but the Watchstander was a soldier, trained. A portion of their training was said to
position, and didn’t even wait until he was fully and a good one. contain strong blocks against using their power
webbed in before he was blasting loose of the to kill, though the word “pirate” was enough to
station. The little ship was whipping around “So I suppose we’re going back to rescue overcome some of those blocks. In this case,
behind the Driver’s ship, which was already the other three ships?” he said. the Driver did not feel he could use his power
itself moving. A moment later, a wrenching in that fashion, so he did the next thing allowed
lurch shook the hunter as the Driver engaged The Watchstander shook his head. by his Code: he found a Watchstander to do it

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Little Bear Lost by Gwendolyn S. Patton Pg. 21

for him. bulkheads. Only shattered conduits remained, resolved into a pattern. Giving a small, invol-
like shrimp-shells with the meat sucked out. untary cry, he fed the signal into the comm
The Guild of Watchstanders was the military He glanced automatically at the sensor display, system.
arm of the Guild of Drivers. It was composed noting for the first time that the ship’s shields
mostly of the sons and daughters of Driver and screens were full out, and the weapon pods The steady bee...bee...bee... of a lifesuit
families who had not inherited the genetic active. The sleek hull now fairly bristled with beacon sounded in the comm speaker.
talent for the Driver’s power. Such families potent death, and space was being probed for “Guildsman!” he rattled, struggling to get a fix
were almost fanatically patriotic, which well any sign of pirate activity…or for survivors. on the beacon’s position. “Emergency beacon,
suited the mentality of the Watchstander’s grid one-four-two by two-zero by one-six-
Guild. These soldiers were trained to do one The Watchstander growled low in his five.”
thing, and one thing only: kill pirates. They did throat. “Damn. Nothing. We’ll have to do a
it coldly, cleanly, and very, very well. Whether search-pattern.” He started playing arpeggios “Got it, Engineer,” rumbled the Watch-
with the weapons of a full warship or a butter- on the helm-board, flipping the ship end-for- stander. “Stand by for close maneuvering.”
knife, it didn’t matter—a Watchstander would end and into a skewed course that flung them “Aye, Sir. Going to attitude jets...mark!”
give his life to take out a pirate. clear of the debris field. They stabilized, as he The ship’s velocity was cut back to nearly zero,
tied the navcomp into the helm and called for
To Halpin, this paragon of Avatarian patrio- Halpin jockeying her into position using the
a “Lorentz-type” search program. The pattern
tism was more of a bloodthirsty maniac than little ion-thrusters that dotted her hull. He
of their flight began to resemble the wings of
the Chatazzi he had spent the last eight months moved the little ship as close as he could to the
a butterfly slowly flitting about space as the
with. ruptured mass of metal, trying to spot a path
computer ran a chaos-attractor formula. Their that would take them as near to that beacon
search program would move them through the
The transition from FTP to space-normal as possible. He found one—straight up the
chaotic cloud of debris in the most effective
was just as abrupt as the jarring accelera- broken tube of a macrodyne drive chamber.
manner possible.
tion, the little sliver bucking wildly for a few The Watchstander didn’t even blink as he slid
moments before being dropped unceremoni- The engine section of one of the shattered the tiny ship into the opening, neatly missing
ously in the midst of...a scrap yard. ships hove into view, the massive cyprium the sharp edge of the shattered hull.
mountings for the great macrodyne engines
Halpin had seen similar messes before... Bright cones of light stabbed out, spearing
too tough to pulverize and too big to steal. It
behind a sloppy repair scow. There were plates into the pitch-black of the engine core. The
loomed like a huge, skeletal building, seemingly
and girders everywhere, floating free to the back-breech of the engine had been split,
wrenched from some planetary foundation and
limit of his sight. There were unrecognizable showing a gap into the engine room proper.
hurled skyward. The ship swung to intercept
shapes of all colors and sizes, and what looked The beacon came from that direction.
the hulk.
like sparkling gems were ice crystals, probably
from a ship’s plumbing. Nowhere could he see The light glinted back at him for a moment,
The Watchstander was instantly alert,
anything large enough to sustain life, much a blinding star. “Hold! Back up!” barked the
grunting in surprise. “Ship must’ve spotted
less navigate. Watchstander. Halpin checked the movement
something in the wreckage,” he muttered. of the light, reversed it slowly. The gleam of a
Halpin glanced at his sensors. Was that a tiny
The pirates hadn’t just ransacked these reflective surface bounced light back at them.
flicker on the energy detector? He tapped keys
ships. They had shredded them! There was “It’s a lifesuit faceplate. I can just make it out.
and increased probe density, the beam licking
literally nothing of value floating where Halpin Handling beam?”
out at the huge mass of metal and penetrat-
could see it. They had even taken the miles ing deeply. The reading became clearer, then “Uh...I’m not sure I can get it down that
of optical cable that had mazed the walls and

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Little Bear Lost by Gwendolyn S. Patton Pg. 22

fine. I’d hate to rescue the guy just to slice off wall. “Are you ready, Engineer?” asked the
his suit on something sharp.” Watchstander.
“What was that?” Halpin shrieked.
“Try. Try hard.” The Watchstander’s voice Halpin swallowed bile. “Uh...aye, Sir.
was as sharp as the fractured metal outside “Antimatter mine,” said the Watchstander, Standing by.”
the viewport. who was already checking the ship for damage.
“Damn! We buckled a few deflector grids on “Here we go.”
Sigh. “Aye, Sir.” Halpin swiveled a small trac- the starboard side. Have to watch it when we
tor-beam unit around and speared the wedged go into combat.” The macrodynes behind them roared for
suit neatly. Carefully increasing the power, he vengeance.
tugged the suit free from the mangled nest Not if, but when. “Think we’ll find them?”
Halpin asked, already knowing the answer. The first warning the pirate ship had was
in which it rested. No, two small, when its outer shields went blazingly white
but one much, much smaller. A woman and a The Watchstander nodded. “They will be as the first furious beams from the hunter-
child? No, the larger was child-sized, but the find out what set off their trap.” His ship sought to penetrate them. Those shields
other one was tiny, even for an infant... lips compressed into a thin line. “And we’ll be went down almost immediately, but they were
A warble came from the sensor panel, waiting.” designed to fail, to pass data to the tactical
almost startling the controls out of Halpin’s computer for tuning and bracing the remaining
grip. He darted his eyes to the screen. “Energy # defenses. By the time the beam had covered the scale!” he gasped. the intervening distance between the first and
The wait wasn’t long. Only a few minutes second layers of shielding, the second had been
The ship was already turning. “Quick! Flip later, the sensors showed the presence of stiffened enough that they only radiated dully.
that suit out into space!” Halpin didn’t even an FTL field only a few thousand kilometers The pirate lashed out with beams of its own,
think—he just stabbed controls as fast as his away. They might have detected it sooner, but those beams missed their mark, which was
fingers could move. The larger of the lifesuits but the Watchstander had cut power back to looping and gyrating as much as possible and
whipped past the viewport, a contorted face the barest minimum, leaving only lifesystem maintaining target lock.
with wide, staring eyes behind the faceplate... heat, air-scrubber motors, and power to the A moment later, the pirate ship was rocked
computers and passive scanners. The passive
...and a large, black package on its by a shock wave, as the first torpedo slammed
systems gave them enough warning to power
back—with a small, winking red light. The into their defensive fields and detonated. The
up the rest of their systems before the pirates
suit flew out into open space, past the edge energy-screens greedily sucked up the force
of the engine block. A moment passed, then of the blast, and the ship’s heat-sinks blazed
the engine core was lit to star-bright light that They were ready very quickly. The crash- yellow as they tried to dissipate the enormous
tore at their optic nerves until the viewscreen couch stickyfields tightened, and the light charge. Steam jets, superheated to plasma,
could darken and block it out. A moment later, in the cabin went to murky red. The displays blasted outward from equidistant points
as the flashing spots began to fade, the mass on the weapon pods lit up, showing a data- around the hull, in an effort to vent heat.
of metal around them bucked and heaved, one compressed mosaic of the surrounding space
side turned a bright, lemony yellow-hot, and In the hunter-ship, Halpin was very busy.
in carefully-designed colors that would not
the shields flashed as the blazing metal around He had to balance and re-balance the ship’s
destroy their vision. The tactical display showed
them made contact. The ship shuddered, and engines, as the Watchstander made them
the positions of the ships, the pirate ship
there was a muffled clang as the shields com- exceed rated maximums. The mounts for the
moving slowly closer to theirs in the center.
pressed enough for the hunter to strike the far weapons were getting hot from being forced

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Little Bear Lost by Gwendolyn S. Patton Pg. 23

to maintain lock throughout the ship’s frantic The Watchstander wouldn’t let that happen. stander was unable to continue the fight. He
maneuvering. And power was at a premium— He flipped the hunter into a skew-turn, slewing saw through smoke-haze that the man had
they had to rely on stickyfields and bracing, it around the pirate as though attached by a been washed with hot gas from the ruptured
along with the bare minimum of inertial tether. In fact, Halpin saw that the ships were coolant system, and lay, nearly cooked, and
control, to protect them from their wild accel- connected—the Watchstander had latched on almost dead, in his crash-couch. The medical
erations. He was dreadfully afraid he would with a tractor beam, and was using it to sling emergency lights on the back gleamed with
lose the remains of his injudicious binge. himself around the pirate’s hull! The damaged treatment orders, which the ship’s autodoc
section once again spun into view, and the hastened to fill.
A beam glanced off the hunter’s shields, Watchstander slammed hot death into the
washing for a moment across the damaged breach, the crippled pirate shuddering with It was all up to him.
flank. Alarms screamed as a portion of the shock.
beam’s energy penetrated the weakened Gulping back his heart, Halpin stabbed his
shields, and struck the hull. Damage control There was a lurching crash, and the view fingers on the controls, transferring all control
messages began chasing across the display through the port slewed violently. “They cut to his station. He wheeled the little ship, barely
screen, and Halpin was hard-pressed to silence the tractor!” the Watchstander cried. “Hang avoiding the stab of another fatal beam from
them, hastily re-routing circuits. “Hold that tight!” the pirate. He gyred and twisted desperately,
flank away from them!” he screamed. “I don’t trying to mimic the Watchstander’s chaotic
think we can take another hit there!” The damaged screen was once again facing evasive maneuvering. He scanned the skies,
the pirate ship. As if it could sense victory, it hoping to find the Driver’s ship, to call for
The Watchstander was firing again. The cut loose with a volley of narrow, but relatively help.
ship’s lights dimmed slightly, the guns drawing weak beams. The damage to her engine-room
that much power for a few moments. “Acknowl- must have been severe enough to limit their The Watchstander was talking, a terrible,
edged. I will do my best. Try to brace the outer power, Halpin mused for a moment. rasping sound. “Why don’t you fire? Fire your
screen to level six.” weapons! He’s helpless! His shields are down!”
With a sputter of sparks, the starboard There was a choking rattle. “Fire, damn you!”
Halpin hastened to comply. shield generator shorted out, the acrid stink
of burnt insulation mixing suddenly with the Halpin couldn’t. He reached for the
The hunter scored a clean hit on the hull smell of burning meat. The ship completed controls, but fear and revulsion lanced into
of the pirate ship, the scintillating beam its turn, the stronger shields once again inter- him. He wasn’t a killer! He couldn’t take those
plowing through the outer skin and deep into posed between it and the pirate. lives, even though they tried to take his...
the bowels of the larger vessel. Gobbets of
molten metal were blown out into space as air The ship’s course didn’t change. It started A small object flew past his port side
escaped explosively. The ship shuddered, then to turn again. viewport. He caught a quick glimpse of it
tried to maneuver, bright beams licking out just before a pirate beam vaporized it. Shock
at the hunter, coruscating across the screens. “Watchstander?” Halpin spluttered. hammered into him as what he saw registered
Torpedo-blasts rocked the little hunter with “Watchstander! Are you all right?” on his adrenaline-soaked brain. He knew. He
near misses. A torpedo blew inside the radius acted.
There was a long, terrifying silence. Then
of the pirate’s defensive fields, much of the a voice grated from the depths of agony. Face suddenly feral, he slammed his fist on
blast-sphere touching the stern. Metal puffed “Engineer. Get them.” all of the weapon keys at once. Seven bright
away in gouts, and the ship lumbered around, beams and a pair of torpedoes blazed into the
trying to turn the stricken spot from view. Halpin realized suddenly that the Watch- crippled pirate ship, tearing into it, burning it

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Little Bear Lost by Gwendolyn S. Patton Pg. 24

as if fueled by Halpin’s sudden hatred, as if
guided by the Watchstander’s grim resolve.
The torpedoes buried themselves deep in the
Gwendolyn S. Patton
pirate’s belly, detonating there with twin flares
of novalight. Gwendolyn has been writing science fiction
since the 6th grade, and has aspirations to
The pirate ship disintegrated a moment be a professional author. She has worked
later, bright debris scattering from a hot,
blazing core. SF conventions from gopher to chair, and
helped create the shared-universe writers’
Halpin fell back in his crash-couch, club the Galactic League in the Chicago
sobbing. area. Her works to date include the novella
There was silence for a long, long time. “Black Peter”, the story entitled “What’s
Then the Watchstander grated out a tortured in a Name?” on, many issues
question. of AlterNations, the Galactic League
“What changed your mind? You weren’t magazine, and the collaborative Galactic
going to fire. But you did. What was it?” League novel “Honor’s Endgame”.
It was many minutes before Halpin could
speak. The little shape...the smaller lifesuit
he had seen inside the shattered freighter’s
engine room—a toy-sized lifesuit, the helmet
splintered into jagged fragments around a
fuzzy neck, shoe-button eyes on shaggy fur, the
sad gaze of a teddy bear boring into his eyes,
pleading, imploring...
Sobbing with pain, he told the Watchstand-
er what he had seen.
There was another long, long pause, during
which only sobs could be heard.
The Watchstander spoke again at long last.
“Now you understand,” he said in a rasping
Halpin was still sobbing when the Driver
returned to take them home.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Featured Artist: cuson Pg. 25

Featured Artist
Name: cuson
Age: 36
Hobbies: Digital drawing, pencil sketching, movies,
comics, internet
Favorite Artist: Jon Foster, Ashley Wood, Tatsuyuki
When did you start creating art? About age twenty-
What media do you work in? Marker, pencil,
Photoshop, Painter
Where should someone go if they wanted to view
/ buy some of your works? Most of my works can
be viewed on the internet (such as deviantART, And I’ve published an illustration
book (with eight other partners) called “drawin9 life,”
which can be obtained through book stores in Hong
How did you become an artist? I hosted a
newsgroup, personal website, and blog; so I did a lot
of digital artwork to share with other friends who had
similar ideas during that period. My drawing skill and
illustration style developed at the same time.
What were your early influences? Friends inspired

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Featured Artist: cuson Pg. 26

me a lot.
What are your current influences? Masterworks from all over the
world through the internet.
What inspired the art for the cover? Works of Tatsuyuki Tanaka
How would you
describe your work?
Not realism and not
cartoon style at all...
Where do you get your
inspiration / what
inspires you? Mostly
from reading other
illustration books;
watching movies is
helpful also.
Have you had any
notable failures, and
how has failure affected your work? When I see some amazing illustrations
done by very young artists, I have a feeling of inferiority.
What have been your greatest successes? How has success impacted you /
your work? My greatest successes are still ahead of me!
What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art? Pencil,
Wacom, Photoshop
What tool / equipment do you wish you had? A more powerful Mac...and a
dream working studio.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Featured Artist: cuson Pg. 27

What do you hope to accomplish with your art? Getting more people in the world to know me. I feel glad if my works
can impress someone.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Featured Artist: cuson Pg. 28

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 29

The Pasadena Rule
by Ben Schumacher
7. I was already deep within the clouds. I was clutching the nylon bag Dieter had put over my
surrounded by a featureless yellow-grey mist, helmet. With an effort, I forced my fingers open
“A re you okay, Jack?” It was Max. Everyone
else was out of the link.
growing gloomier by the second. My suit was
noticeably less ballooned, since the air pressure
had more than doubled since I’d jumped. The
and watched the bag flutter away past my feet
and vanish into the fog.
“Uh, sure. Jesus, you should try this,” I said, “How long do I have to do this toes-up?” I
exterior temperature had risen several degrees.
trying to sound lighthearted. Adrenaline and asked.
My heart rate and blood pressure indicators
freefall were playing havoc with my stomach. were outlined in flashing yellow, but I didn’t “A little longer,” said Max. “You’re doing
“No thanks.” bother to check the numbers. Everything was beautifully.”
normal. Yeah. Sort of.
“Tell Bill and Dieter I owe them one.” “Okay.”
“Max, how about Katya?”
“I’ll tell them. Jack, you are running a One minute is a pretty long freefall. My
bit above the curve. Can you speed up your “Ballistic. Madeline’s talking her down on helmet was fogging up as I fell through the
descent for a while?” another channel.” clouds. It wasn’t water, of course. It occurred
“While you talk me down. That’s to me that the outer layer of the suit was
“Copy that. Going head-down.”
teamwork.” probably not designed for contact with liquid
Max was telling me that I had jumped droplets of concentrated sulfuric acid. On the
late. The ground speed of Gamma was fast, so “You’re starting to catch up to the curve, other hand, it was designed to withstand the
even a minute’s delay in jumping might land Jack. Passing sixty-five now. You doing okay?” conditions far below, which were even more
me kilometers downrange of Virgil. We would corrosive. Still...
try to compensate by going faster through the “You’re coming up on sixty kilometers,”
upper-level winds, to bring me back to Max’s Those first five kilometers had passed Max said. “Your drop rate is down to eighty
pre-computed flight path. I windmilled my damn quickly. It was not a very comfortable meters per second. I’d say you were hitting
arms and did my best to orient myself vertical- position, plummeting head-first through the some real air.”
ly, diving head-first down through the clouds. I clouds. Logic told me the surface was over an
could feel the rushing air tug at the puffy suit. hour away; but my skydiving instincts were “Affirmative,” I answered. My suit was no
telling me that the hard, rocky ground would longer ballooning. The display said that the life-
“Head-down. Tracking me?” I asked. come sweeping up at me any moment now. support system was now adjusting the mixture,
“You’re a nice big radar target.” Somewhere in the back of my mind a small adding argon to match the outside pressure. I
voice was insisting that it was high time to checked the outside sensors. “Temperature is
“How am I doing?” pull the chute release—now, right now, this now above freezing.”
second—no chute, of course, but that didn’t
“I’ll let you know,” Max said. help. “I have you near the curve. You can slow
down some.”
Now, maybe twenty seconds into the dive, I glanced at my hand and saw that I was still

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 30

“Thank you.” I let myself pivot around and I could get. emerged into the endless emptiness beneath.
went into a normal skydiver’s position, face
down, arms out, knees bent. It felt good to “Captain Bell sends his complements, and “Hoo,” I said a little breathlessly. “I am defi-
stop hanging upside-down. My stomach began says to tell you the beer is on him when you nitely below the clouds. Repeat, I am falling in
to complain less urgently. The rush of the air come back.” clear air.”
told me I was still dropping, but otherwise I “Copy that. I could use one now.” “Right on time,” said Max. “How’s the
seemed to hang suspended in a dim void. view?”
“Can you speed up slightly?”
# “Can’t see a damn thing, just darkness
I pulled my arms in slightly. “How’s that?” below me.”
It took me less than two minutes to fall “Let me see the Doppler... Fine. That’ll do “Copy that. Keep looking.”
the first ten kilometers. The next ten took me nicely.”
almost four minutes. The diffuse light around
me drained away as I penetrated deeper and I switched on my suit’s navigational #
deeper into the clouds. The yellowish color display, and a grid superimposed itself on my
of the cloud-tops faded to a gloomy gray. The grey surroundings. The luminous coordinates After leaving the clouds I fell ever more
wind rushing past me was discernibly slower, were somehow reassuring. I turned myself slowly through the empty air, dropping
but the denser air pushed up on me with a around until I was facing eastward. Invisible, between a lighter obscurity above and a darker
force as great as before. My life-support system somewhere above and in front of me, Gamma one beneath. I surveyed the suit’s displays. The
was adjusting my breathing mixture, pumping was drawing away as it rode the jet stream air pressure was increasing at five millibars per
in argon and fluorocarbons to keep my chest above the clouds. second—one standard atmosphere every three
inflated without raising the partial pressure of minutes—and my suit was adjusting beautiful-
oxygen. Outside my suit, my sensors told me it “Coming up on one thousand millibars,” ly. The rush of the wind past me had become
was already hot—the zone of human comfort Max said. a familiar thing, a constant background to my
had passed by in seconds. other sensations. The flow was quieter now
In less than six minutes I had fallen twenty but more forceful, and it felt almost like a tre-
Max kept up a stream of conversation to kilometers, from blinding sunshine into grey mendous hand restraining my fall. It occurred
keep my mind occupied. There was little for obscurity, and my eyes had not really had time to me that I had be the first person in history
me to do. A few experiments proved that I to adjust. But now I could make out a darker to skydive through air this dense. On Earth, I
could control my rate of fall enough to keep me gloom below, a mottled shadow that grew would have hit the surface long ago.
“on the curve.” We postponed tests of lateral swiftly as I plunged deeper. The mists beside
maneuvering until I had descended further, to me seemed to thin out. I yawned.
levels where the horizontal winds were nearly
zero. I read Max some data from my life-sup- “I may be near the base of the cloud deck,” That was slightly alarming. Yawning might be
port monitors. I reported. Almost before the words were out an early sign of carbon dioxide build-up, which
of my mouth, a vast gulf opened up under me, might signal a suit malfunction. But the carbon
“Thanks, Jack,” he said. “There are some and I dropped into it. I caught a glimpse of great dioxide levels in my suit and in my bloodstream
folks up on Aphrodite who want to keep a close filaments of mist trailing down from the clouds looked nominal, and were unchanged in the
eye on things.” like the tentacles of a ghostly jellyfish. The last few minutes. I frowned and instructed the
scene flashed upward in a couple of seconds. suit computer to do a rapid diagnostic of the
“I appreciate that.” I could use all the help I dove through a last island of fog and then sensors. Everything was working normally.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 31

Of course, I hadn’t slept in thirty-six hours, outside my suit was as high as a medium-hot wished I could see Katya. “How is she?”
and I was coming down off a huge adrenaline oven, and both were rising swiftly as I fell. No, I
high. The dim blankness of my surroundings said to myself. This is not the time to doze off. “Madeline has settled her down a bit.”
and the whooshing of the air amounted to That was good, anyway. “Put her on,” I
sensory deprivation. No wonder I was sleepy. said.
“How are you doing, Jack?” 8.
“Hello, Jack,” Katya said, her tone neutral.
“A bit groggy, but otherwise okay.” If you fall and fall and never hit the ground, Her voice was a little hoarse. I wondered
pretty soon you don’t feel like you’re falling at whether she had spent the last thirty minutes
“Want to take a nap?” all. I flew, dreamlike, through a dim emptiness, yelling at Maddie Whitten.
buoyed upward on a fountain of thick rising air.
I blinked. “You’re kidding.” I could zoom this way and that by shifting my With my wife, the direct approach is always
body and diverting its flow. Only the steadily best. “Hi, Katya. Are you still angry with me?”
“It’s an option in the flight plan, believe it decreasing altitude figures on my suit display
or not. Dr. Martinez worked it out. He says you “I’m furious,” she said. It was not a joke.
reminded me I was still descending.
could take as much as a thirty-minute nap, if “But what good does anger do? Now we have
you need to. We’ll wake you up.” Dr. Martinez As my eyes became accustomed to the to try and make your plan work, whatever I
was the chief medical officer on the Aphrodite gloom, I began to see the dark shapes of think of it. You give me no choice.”
and one of the designers of the hotsuit. I had the surface below. It was difficult to get my
not realized it, but of course he had been I breathed a sigh of relief. Katya had a
bearings. Refraction effects made the surface
helping to work on the problem, checking up rational mind, but she was also stubborn. It was
seem to curve upward, as if I were hanging
on my condition, designing solutions, planning never a complete certainty in a given situation
above an enormous bowl-shaped depression.
contingencies. I had almost imagined myself which quality would win out. “I’m sorry,” I said.
From above, the topography was hard to figure
pitting my own wits and strength against the “There wasn’t time to persuade you.”
out. Overhead, the sun might be low in the
universe…nonsense. Real life didn’t work that western sky, but down below everything was “I understand.” And I knew she did, too,
way. lit by a uniform glow from the clouds. There even though she still objected. “But this is past
were no shadows; the shapes of light and dark now. What needs to be done?”
I could not help but smile. With my I could see were probably patches of different
crewmates behind me, the long odds I faced colored minerals, fresh lava flows versus old I glanced at my instrument displays. “I’m
looked a lot shorter. ones, and so on. I was not expert enough in twenty-five kilometers above you, falling at
Still, the middle of a skydive did not seem the geology of the Maat Mons region to make twelve meters per second. I’m slowing down
like the perfect occasion for a sleep period. any sense of them. as the air gets thick. Max, what is my estimated
“Thanks anyway,” I said. “And thank Dr. landing time?”
“Jack,” Max said, “you have a call.”
Martinez, and everybody who worked on this. I “17.35,” Max said.
just don’t think I could make myself go to sleep “Who from?”
right now.” “An hour from now, I want to land as close
“Your wife.” to Virgil as I can. Max can guide me by radar,
“You’re the pilot,” he said. but a landing beacon would be helpful. Are
“Oh.” I looked down below me, but of
The air pressure was approaching three your docking lights working?”
course I was far too high to sight the lander. I
times Earth’s at sea level, the temperature

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 32

“Let me check. It seems so.” # tions of the refracting air only made it queerer.
I was sinking ever more slowly toward the
“Can you turn them on? Maybe I can see The hotsuit was designed to adjust the bottom of an alien sea.
you.” human body to changes in pressure at rates
“I’m switching them on now.” up to one atmosphere per minute. Even in a #
suit, the lander airlock cycle lasted a couple of
I watched carefully, but there was no bright hours. On the other hand, I did not have that Fourteen kilometers. “Let’s try the docking
spark visible in the gloomy landscape below. “I much control on my rate of fall. I reached the lights again, Katya,” Max suggested. He sounded
don’t see you yet,” I said. “Try blinking them.” thousand-millibar-per-minute mark at around a little worried. Gamma, carried by the jet
twenty kilometers altitude, and thereafter was stream, was now hundreds of kilometers away,
“Flashing the lights.” pushing the suit systems further and further and Max’s radar fixes were becoming less and
beyond their specs. Dr. Martinez had okayed less useful for navigation. I had tried to guide
There was still nothing to see. But it was a the flight plan, though, so I decided not to myself by landmarks on the surface, without
long way down, and maybe I wasn’t looking in worry about it. Outside, it was three hundred much success—my view of the landscape was
exactly the right place. “No luck,” I reported, degrees Celsius with a pressure like the deep just too confusing. Not only did I have to land
“but it’s okay. We’ll try again when I’m closer. ocean. I was already feeling the strange effects within walking distance of Virgil, but I also had
Am I still on track, Max?” of too-rapid pressure change. I felt a little dizzy, to know which way to walk when I got there. I
“You’re on the curve.” and my vision was slightly blurred. There were needed a target beacon.
dull aches in my joints and in my head. My
“I’m switching off the docking lights,” Katya breathing seemed wrong, as if I were breathing Katya acknowledged. “I’ll begin now,
said. “Jack, how fast will you hit the ground?” out less than I breathed in—and given the rate blinking every two seconds.”
at which the air density increased, that must
“About like a regular parachute jump, I have been exactly what was happening. “Keep it up for a bit, Katya,” I said. I peered
think,” I said. “I should be able to manage it straight down and tried to spot the beacon.
without a problem.” By now the oxygen in my breathing mix Where was it? The docking lights were bright
was only one percent, and falling—just a trace and should be visible at this distance in the clear
“Then what?” component in the ninety-nine percent argon air beneath the clouds. Yet all I could see was
and fluorocarbon gas. In theory I could do the warped mountainside, rough and mottled,
“I’ll need to clear the fans. I should have without any breathing oxygen at all, for the with no telltale beacon to steer toward.
several hours to do the job. You need to have hotsuit’s gas exchanger would add oxygen
Virgil warmed up and ready to launch for a directly to my blood if the level dropped below “Any luck?”
rendezvous with Delta.” normal…in theory. I did not intend to abandon I found it increasingly difficult to concen-
“I will go over the systems again.” Katya use of my lungs anytime soon. trate. My headache had grown worse, and now
paused, and added, “I have not really had a I could see more detail in the terrain below. there was a sharp stab every time I moved my
take-off in mind until now.” The surface on the slopes of Maat Mons was head suddenly. My left leg was aching. The
fractured and pitted, marked with swaths of dizziness was bad enough that I was worried
I wondered whether she was smiling. “Okay. about nausea. On the timeline I was just over
Start your checklist,” I told her. smoother gray lava flows. I glimpsed streaks of
brown and orange and even blue. There were halfway down, and things should get worse as
great downhill slides of loose material. It was I descended. Though I hadn’t mentioned my
“You just get down in one piece.”
a strange, dreamlike landscape, and the distor- symptoms to the folks upstairs, I was beginning

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 33

to wonder whether I could last all the way to “Be there soon.” to answer coherently, though once or twice he
the surface. But that was a stupid thought. I had me repeat something when my speech
couldn’t exactly turn back, could I? # was slurred. The pressure was rising at two
atmospheres per minute. Several of my helmet
“Jack, are you still with us?” indicators had turned yellow, but I couldn’t tell
The last ten kilometers took thirty minutes.
The landscape expanded with an agonizing which ones. What the hell, I thought. Can’t fix
I forced my eyes back into focus and said,
slowness. I stopped keeping track of how many it now. As long as nothing goes red I’m okay,
“Still scanning.”
hundreds of degrees and how many thousands right?
“I’m still blinking,” Katya said. of millibars. I was suspended in time and space, I could see Virgil itself now, a little silver
as the altitude display slowly unwound toward
I was looking for a slope with a flat area bug on the reddish mountainside, shining dully
big enough to set down the lander, right next under the overcast sky. Too bad it wasn’t sunny.
to a landslide. A recent landslide, I thought, I hurt. I had toggled a dose of a pain med I was growing impatient with my slow descent,
might be distinguishable by color. So if I looked from the suit, but it wasn’t working worth a and wondered whether I should try to speed
for a landslide that was lighter or darker, and damn. The pain in my head and in my limbs things up by swimming downwards. No, that
checked along its edge... seemed to be interfering with my vision, too, was no good; my muscles were too shaky for
for I found it increasingly difficult to get a clear effort, and my joints hurt like a son of a bitch.
“I see you,” I said. “There you are—on, off, view of the terrain below me. When Katya gave If I went swimming now, I’d get a cramp and
on, off, on off. You’re about kilometer and a me another blink at around eight kilometers, I drown. I felt like I was drowning in this sluggish
half to the, um, north of me. I can see the track saw that I had edged closer, but not far enough. air anyway. I shook my head to clear it, and a
of the slide. I’m going to angle over closer as I I concentrated on flying, on angling my body so white-hot spike drove through it just above the
approach.” that my trajectory bent over in her direction. back of my neck.
Control was a problem, and I yawed around
“Copy that, Jack,” Max said. I might have blacked out for a moment. All at
quite a bit. Every time I had to move or adjust once I was falling head-down, which took me a
“Do you need the beacon?” Katya asked. my position, another hot nail got hammered in minute to realize and another minute of flailing
“I’m about to wear out the switch.” somewhere. It went on and on and on. around to fix. Max was speaking in my ear, but it
There was a three-way conference going was impossible to understand him. “Speak up,
“No, that’s fine for now,” I said. “Show it to
on between Katya, Max, and Carlos Ruzhany, Max,” I tried to say. Katya said something, too,
me again in a few kilometers, and then again
the skipper of the Delta airship. They were but she didn’t make any more sense than Max
when I get really close.”
discussing the recovery operation, assuming had. They seemed to be shouting, so I ignored
“Yes, okay.” The little flashing star winked that I survived and could clear the fans. I could them. I must have been in the last kilometer. I
out. I squinted, but could not see Virgil itself not really follow the conversation. Damn, I was could see my motion, saw Virgil (lights flashing)
at the spot. hurting. I knew there were things I needed to get closer and closer, slowly drifting to one
be thinking about, but was too slow-witted to side of me. With the tilt of the slope, it was
“Nice to see you, Katya,” I said. “It helps figure out what they were. My brain is gelling hard to work out exactly which direction was
somehow.” in the pressure, I thought. For some reason, down, but whatever it was, that was the way I
the phrase rolled round and round in my head. was heading. I knew I should pick a safe place
“Yes, it does,” she admitted. “I wish you to land. I squinted and tried to forget the chisel
My brain is gelling. My brain is gelling.
had a light also, so that I could see you.” in my brain, just behind my eyes. A safe place
When Max checked up on me, I was still able to set down would be flat and smooth and free

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
The Pasadena Rule, Chapters 5 and 6 by Ben Schumacher Pg. 34

of loose rock. A big “X” to mark my touchdown
point would also be nice. But it all looked the
Ben Schumacher
same from here. There was one more thing I
ought to remember, something that might be I am a physicist who teaches at Kenyon
related to all the shouting that Max was doing, College in Gambier, Ohio. My major
and I racked my gelled brains to recall it. It was research field is quantum information
some maneuver we had discussed, a way to
slow down a little right at the end and still land theory, though I have also dabbled in
on my feet. There were drag coefficients and black hole physics and thermodynamics.
air speeds swirling in my mind. I could not for I’ve been a science fiction writer longer
the life of me work it out. I kept my eyes on the than I’ve been a physicist, however,
approaching rocks. They were coming slowly.
There was plenty of time. Well, actually, they having sold my first—and so far only—
were coming up faster than I had thought. In story to Analog magazine at age 16.
fact, they were really pretty quick. Five meters
per second!
Whoa! I suddenly realized I was still in a
horizontal position, face downward, which
seemed like a bad way to meet the ground.
I windmilled my arms around to get my feet
under me, over-corrected, then flailed them
the other way. I hit hard, and all the pains in
my body shot down to my left ankle. There was
an instant of agonizing clarity, and then I lost

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 35
Deuces Wild
Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five
by L. S. King

O nce he saw Slap had things in hand, Tristan
headed back toward the city. His comm
chirped; it was Leddy.
rising and allowed himself a bitter moment of
realization that he’d been foolish to think he
could have someone to take away the loneli-
“This isn’t revenge, it’s putting an end to
the Mor—” Tristan stopped in realization and
veered the rover so quickly they strained
ness, the sense of futile survival. He shook against the straps. “Revenge or not, going to
“Glad you’re alive. Word is Betts had you himself, set his face, and landed in the street the mansion is the move she’d expect.” And I
killed.” near the theatre. don’t allow myself to be manipulated.
“What?” Leddy ran forward, almost cringing. But what now? He had to draw Betts out.
Expecting to be blamed as news-bearer? She wouldn’t let him outdo her, so if he wanted
“This place is a war zone. The Guilds and her in the open, he had to be in the open.
Merchants heard of the Separatists winning “Any idea where Betts could be?” Tristan “Where’s the action thickest?”
that fight against the Mordas, and it sparked asked.
them. Betts’s men are fighting back. Orders?” “Most of it is in the market area where the
“Far from the action, if she’s alive. One of Guild and Merchant buildings are.”
“Don’t fight the Guilds and Merchants the rumors is that you killed her.”
except in self-defense. Have our men try to join “Then that’s our target.”
them against Betts’ people. Where are you?” Tristan set his jaw. “Not yet. Get in and let’s
search.” #
“East side, by the Trophy Theatre. The
fighting isn’t bad here.” # Slap paced. He couldn’t get rid of the
“Good. I’ll meet you there.” notion that he had to go help Tristan. He didn’t
“You think she’s hiding out at Lyssel’s old know why, just a feeling. He looked at the girl,
“Uh, Boss?” Leddy’s voice sounded mansion?” Leddy asked as they circled the leaning against a wall, arms folded. “You’ve
strained. “One of the buildings Betts blew up rover, looking for a likely place to land nearby. been listening to all this. You understand now
was the Courtesan Guild. She also took out why we need MacCay alive?”
Tanya Daniels’ home. I...thought you should “I’d bet on it. It’s on the outskirts and
know. I’m sorry.” protected. She’s safe while her minions fight.” She nodded, her curls flopping.
For a moment, Tristan felt frozen, his mind “Getting in will be a challenge.” Leddy “I’m going to the city to see if I can help
blank. chuckled. “But I get the feeling you enjoy chal- him. You seem to enjoy a fight. Wanna go help
lenges.” him bring the Mordas down?”
Tristan’s lips stretched in a grim smile. “What do you think?”
With an effort, Tristan swallowed. “Thanks.
I’ll be there shortly.” As they approached the property, Leddy Slap scowled. “I think if you aim at MacCay,
spoke again. “I would never want to be the one I’ll rip your arm off, beat you with it, and stomp
As he neared the city, he saw the smoke you’re going after in revenge.” on what’s left. You got that?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 36

Jake laughed. “Little girl, you better know “Better land fast before we get too close, “Stunners? You kidding?”
he means it. He’s like a bear when he fights.” or someone could take us out,” Slap said.
“Look at the way those folks are moving. If
“My name is Addie,” she spat. “And I said I A ping on the underside of the rover we miss, we hit the good guys, and I druther
wouldn’t try to kill MacCay.” She brushed a curl emphasized his recommendation, and Jake not drop the wrong people.”
off her forehead. “For now, anyway.” lost altitude at an alarming rate.
“But that’s not fair! They don’t care who
Slap glanced at the other men in the room. “Don’t crash us, you idiot,” Addie yelled. dies.”
“This isn’t about the Separatists now, just me
helping a friend. You don’t have to go. Likely, The rover eased its descent but wobbled Slap gave him a hard look. “That’s what
the Mordas won’t be bothering you again.” alarmingly. makes us different.”

“We’re with you, Slap.” Jake hefted his PBR. “Easy, Jake,” Slap said, his stomach flipping. Jake almost got killed not a minute later.
“We’ve got your back.” His friend was no Tristan as a pilot. Slap got a Slap dove into him and rolled him behind a
flash of appreciation of the skill the dark man vehicle. “See what I mean? You can’t stand up
The others nodded. had. He made everything he did seem so easy. in the street and shoot! Find cover.”
“Then let’s go.” Now if he could just find him... Shaking, his clothes and skin ripped from
grinding into the pavement, Jake nodded. The
# With a teeth-rattling jolt, the rover hit the others looked grim. Perhaps they truly realized
ground in an alley. Slap jumped out and ran how real this was—life and death, not a game.
toward the noise of battle on the main street.
With Addie making five, they had to Security Guild guards had made a line and were Slap fired, ducked, moved from location
squeeze into the rover. The men opted to give trying to push the mob back, but were losing to location, closer and closer to the line. The
Addie one of the seats, but none of them could ground. Screams, furious yells, and the sounds others watched and followed suit. He targeted
fit into the small empty floor space, so Addie of weapons’ fire filled the air. guards in one section and saw the line break,
huddled on the floor by his feet; it was either but more guards swept in to try to fill the gap.
that, or sit in one of the men’s laps. Her eyes Addie ran past, PBR in her hands. He held
blazed, and Slap tried to keep from grinning. out his arm as Sean jumped forward to chase Amid all the chaos, he kept looking for
her. “Let her go. She wanted to fight Mordas, Tristan. Was he here?
“So any idea where all this fighting is going let her.”
on?” Slap asked as Jake took them toward the Then he saw him—a dark figure with a PBR
city. “What do we do, Slap?” Jake asked. running behind the line like a madman, not only
firing his PBR, but using the butt on guards’
“Nope, but I expect we’ll find it easy The line swelled and receded, bodies heads, and spinning and taking them out with
enough. Probably in the city center.” grappled, fell to the ground, and more bodies his fancy fighting. A trail of men followed him,
pressed forward. dealing even more damage in his wake.
Jake was right. As they neared the Zanti
City, smoke rising homed them in on where “Use stunners and target the guards— Slap chuckled out loud and ran toward his
the action was. They flew lower, and he could they’re Mordas. I think our Separatist clothes friend. He had almost closed the distance when
see ant-sized bodies massing in the streets, will mark us as not-Mordas. We’re behind the Tristan went down like a sack of potatoes. Slap
with bright flashes flying in all directions. How guards—we can break their line.” skidded to a halt in shock, then ran faster, yelling
would they find Tristan? like the banshees in Shallah’s family’s stories.

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Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 37

He couldn’t see what took Tristan out, but the friend. Tristan’s face was pale, and his scalp their god, but I do know they mean it. And you
dark form wasn’t moving. His men were rallying was bloody. He felt for a pulse at his neck and see what they can do. Just by being near our
around his body. With shock and horror, Slap sighed. Alive. stuff, it quits working. You can call it magic,
saw Addie with them—had she taken Tristan or what you will, but you see it’s real. I’d take
down? He’d kill her! He swore he’d—no, she One of the Zendians—Kohn—came over to their warning seriously.”
was standing with his men, defending him as him. *You must tell them what we say, Young
the guards tried to get to Tristan’s body. One.* Slap sighed at Kohn. *I guess this is really
over then.*
A mob of guards ran across the street Slap stood, wiping his wet face. *Make it
heading straight for Tristan, a gaudily dressed quick. I have to get help for my friend.* The alien bent over and touched Tristan’s
woman in their midst. Betts. She brandished a head. *Take the Avenger away, Young One.*
*The Avenger has done his job. The Evil
PBG, her smug, hard smile making Slap want is defeated. Your people must not allow it to The Zendian spread his arms as if to offer a
to toss her. grow again.* benediction, then they all moved off.
Slap aimed the PBR at Betts, but it wouldn’t Slap repeated Kohn’s words. The crowd “Who is the Avenger?”
work. He roared and swung the rifle at one looked confused.
guard then another, and finally, just began “What do they mean?”
grabbing and tossing bodies, trying to get to *We will retreat from this place, but if need
the brassy woman. be, we will return and abide here. This will Questions grew into a swell of voices that
cause destruction of your way of life. As you can Slap couldn’t even distinguish—and didn’t
He had gotten close when a small figure want to. He knelt again by Tristan and gently
see, your weapons and your vehicles—none of
darted past him. Before anyone could stop picked up the limp form.
your equipment works since our arrival. You
her, the girl ducked under a guard and stabbed can choose a better way, or you can live as the
Betts with an old-fashioned steel knife. The “You heard what the Zendians said,” he
Young One’s people do, in simplicity.*
older woman’s face froze in pain and shock, called, looking around. “No more Mordas,
and she crumpled to the ground. Again, Slap interpreted. what they call ‘Evil.’ Now get outta my way. I
need a doctor.”
Addie didn’t move, staring down at the “What right do they have to tell us what we
body. Betts’ men grabbed her, and Slap lifted can do?” yelled someone. #
one by the throat. The guard released Addie,
and Slap threw him like a rag doll, then grabbed Kohn turned and swept toward the man Tristan became aware of a pounding head
the other. Jake and Sean pulled Addie between who had spoken, his long legs moving smoothly. and eyes that hurt from the light even while
them. Slap continued fighting. The man backed up. closed. His nose itched—he wasn’t breathing
Slowly, he became aware that no gunfire *This is our planet. The Creator made it for filtered air. This place was hot, and the air dry.
could be heard. Voices had silenced, and he us, and us for it. We have allowed you to live He heard a soft voice humming. With an
stopped, looking around. Everyone was staring here, but it is our domain. We rule it.* Kohn effort, he opened his eyes to see a rough,
about with open mouths; Slap saw the reason: turned to Slap. *You make them understand, wooden ceiling. What the—? Where was he?
the Zendians had arrived. Young One.* The room was spartan and primitive. A bureau,
He didn’t care about them, only Tristan. Slap told them what Kohn had said, then a small stand with a large basin and pitcher on
He pushed past people and knelt by his added, “I don’t know what I believe about top, and the bed he was in—granted the bed

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 38

felt luxuriously soft. Sunlight streamed in the The woman brought over a bowl of soup your name?”
window, and plain white curtains fluttered in and then shuffled over a second time with a
the soft breeze. No wonder his nose itched. plate of sliced, brown bread. Her blue eyes A burst of honesty tore from his soul. “I
bored into his in a way that made him feel she don’t have one.” What made me admit that?
He slowly sat up, willing away the dizziness saw to his soul, yet accepted what was there. He put a hand to his head aching head.
and increased thudding inside his skull, and “Your first meal should be light. We have food
touched the bandage on his head. He pushed She nodded. “Tristan is good. You have
cooking in outside ovens and folks will be
back the covers with the intent to rise and much sorrow in your life.”
bringing their own offerings for the gathering
sighed. Where were his clothes? tonight. The whole valley will likely be here.” A flash of anger shot through him. “Why
“Well, hello,” a feminine voice said. “How didn’t you say, ‘but everyone has a name’?”
He ate, wondering if the food really was
are you feeling?” that good, or if he was merely that hungry. Her maddening, knowing smile fueled his
He’d never had bread that had such texture fury.
Tristan squinted at the doorway. An older and flavor. And the soup—an extraordinary
woman stood there, smiling. culinary experience. Was it the fresh, home- “I took you at your word. You wish to tell
“I’d feel better if I knew where I was—and grown vegetables perhaps? The spices weren’t me how you can not have a name?”
where my clothes were.” anything unusual. He couldn’t actually taste
much other than salt and pepper. Tristan pushed back the chair and stood. He
She laughed. “Slap said you were to the wanted to storm out, but the room swayed.
point. Your clothes are in the bureau here.” The woman bustled about the kitchen,
humming to herself. Something about her “Back to bed for you. By tonight, you’ll be
She opened a drawer and took out folded
seemed familiar. A memory flooded him—an more yourself.”
old woman who had shown him kindness when Hands pushed him toward the bedroom.
Tristan noted her gnarled hands as she set he was very young. He found he couldn’t resist.
the clothes on the bed.
“What’s your name?” he found himself
“As for where you are, on my homestead. asking. #
Slap brought you here to recover. You were
injured in the fighting. I’m sure you’ll want to “Folks mostly call me Gran. It’ll do.” The sun no longer cast bright streams of
be up whether you should or not. Stubborn you light across the room; he must have slept a
Slap, Gran—did these people use real
are, likely. If you can make it to the kitchen, I’ve long time. It wasn’t quite dusk, but close. The
names at all?
got some soup ready.” faint strains of music could be heard outside.
She turned and met his eyes. “And what’s
He watched her hobble out. Who was this He rose and went to the kitchen. Gran was
your name?”
old lady? there, and Slap. And a few others. A sort of
Tristan saw the knowing twinkle and nearly old-fashioned fire lamp provided light in the
He gritted his teeth in an effort to keep from growing dark.
smiled. He hadn’t felt so drawn to a person
falling over as he got dressed. He managed to since...forever. “Most folks here know me as
find his way out the door without weaving Slap grinned. “You look like you lost a fight
much. A chair was pulled out at the table, and with a couple of sand lizards.”
he sank into it. “Yes, and Slap calls you Tristan. But what’s “Thanks.” Tristan dropped into a chair,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 39

unable to dredge up the effort to find a not to let the Mordas start up again.” the scene, casting long, purple shadows,
comeback. making it all seem surreal.
“They said—what? I did my job?”
“We won.” Slap pushed a cup toward him. He sat on a bench at a wooden table,
The pleasant aroma of coffee rose, although he “Yeah. They call you the Avenger. Well, watching the festivities and putting up with
would have preferred a tisane or even just tea. close enough anyway. It’s hard to translate. having people introduced to him, wanting to
“The Mordas are broken. Betts is dead—Addie Avenging Angel, the Avenging One—doesn’t shake his hand. He heard several versions of
killed her.” matter. You did the job.” the end of the riot scene when the Zendians
arrived. He was perplexed as to their ability to
“Addie?” Tristan stared at Slap in disbelief. “Have you disable all weapons.
lost your mind?”
“You remember the stowaway we left on As one farmer and his family moved off, a
the Separatist planet last year?” Slap threw back his head and laughed. woman slowly approached, hugging her arms.
“Yeah. Didn’t you know their god chose you to Her sullen look and curly hair made Addie
How could Tristan forget? She’d been a be the Avenging Angel to stop the Evil?” unmistakable. “I, uh, wanted to say sorry for
wildcat, all claws and a big mouth. He nodded,
His deadliest glare didn’t faze Slap. He trying to kill you, and to thank you for stopping
sipping the hot coffee.
finally dropped his gaze and sipped the coffee. the Mordas.”
“Well, she wasn’t Mordas—good thing you Who cared what some aliens thought? The “You got home safely—you must be a
didn’t space her after all. She’s from a merchant fight was over, Slap’s people were safe. If only... resourceful young woman.”
family and had been trying to sabotage the if only Tanya had lived...
ship when we stole her.” Slap snickered. “She’s “It was hard work, and not fun,” she spat,
fairly riled at you for stranding her. My boys “Everyone would like to meet you, and her eyes blazing.
caught her with a rocket launcher after that thank you. We’ve got a celebration going on
rendezvous with Betts that went sour.” outside.” “Sounds like life in general.”
Tristan set the coffee cup down and leaned Tristan had no desire to go join some hick Gran came over and set a plate of food in
back in the chair. She was the person who’d party, but what was he to do, being their guest, front of him and a large mug. “There you are.
been trying to kill him? He rubbed his hand and—he supposed—guest of honor? Leave him alone, Addie. He’s still recovering.”
over his mouth, chuckling silently. “So Addie He rose and let them lead him outdoors. The girl moved off, glaring back over her
killed Betts. Am I next on her list?”
shoulder. Lots of anger in that one; Tristan
“They, uh...I’m sorry, I gave away the name
“I don’t think so. She’s still not happy with wondered at the cause of it.
Tristan. I tried hard not to.”
you overall, but the fact you worked so hard
to bring the Mordas down earned you some The cider was sweet, and the food, again,
“Doesn’t matter.”
points with her. The fact the Zendians seemed excellent, although simple fare.
to regard you highly made an impression on Bonfires and torches lit the grounds, even With a grunt, Slap flopped down on the
her too.” though it wasn’t dark yet. To one side, local bench next to him, with a grin. “Good stuff,
musicians played rustic music. Table after table
“Zendians?” huh?”
filled with food lined one side by a fence. In
the middle of the grassy yard, groups of people Tristan managed to quirk his lips into a
“Yeah, they showed up just as you got hurt. danced in sets. The setting sun blazed across quick smile. But all he really wanted was to
They said you did your job and warned everyone

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 40

finish eating and return to bed. The firelight “Never mind.” Slap’s brow was furrowed as if in deep thought
swam in front of him. or deep pain—or perhaps with him it amounted
The music stopped, and the voices faded to the same thing.
“You know, you had me worried at first, into silence. Tristan turned to see why. Shapes
wondering what you were up to.” approached in the dusk, slowing forming into “I don’t get their answer. I’m sorry. I don’t
bipeds, too tall to be human. Their long faces know their language that well, and they’re
“You thought I might be truly joining the had a wise look, despite the hair covering them. talking in terms I just don’t understand.”
Mordas?” Zendians—they had to be. The aliens came
straight to him, and one began speaking. Gran walked up. “Haven’t you figured it
“Yeah. Sorry.” out? Any of you? It’s their bioelectromagnetic
Slap translated. field. It’s incredibly powerful.”
Tristan didn’t answer. Nice to know he
wasn’t the only one to not trust implicitly. “They say they welcome the Avenger, and Twisting to see her face, Tristan asked, “And
hope you heal quickly.” how do you know this?”
“I realized, though, when I got the cred chit
for that huge account set up for the Separat- “Tell them I’m no Avenger.” “Never know what knowledge might lurk in
ists, and the notice I’d been made legal owner the mind of old folks. Now, you need to rest.
of ol’ Bertha.” Slap spoke haltingly in their tongue and Aliens or no.”
gave their answer: “They say the chosen often
“Giselle.” don’t feel worthy, or realize they are called. Tristan didn’t fight her.
But it makes them no less a vessel.”
“Ho, no, no,” Slap chortled. “She’s mine He listened to the music and laughter
now. I can call her what I want.” Tristan rubbed his eyes. “I won’t argue their drifting through the open window, mourning
beliefs with them.” Tanya. With a moan, he rolled over, punched
Tristan gave a small snort. the pillow, and finally fell asleep.
“Good, cuz it doesn’t do any good. They
“So why’d you give her to me?” talk of their god as if they really see and hear #
“If you remember, the Mordas blew up him.”
my last ship. I thought she’d be safer with a Slap worried about his friend. The others
“Thank them for their concern for my
different owner. And I thought you might be probably couldn’t see it, but something was
able to use her to schedule independent supply really bothering him, and not the head wound.
runs for your people.” Slap did. And knowing Tristan, he wouldn’t talk about it
if Slap asked either.
“Yeah. Good idea. And the money—it’s The Zendians bowed to him and began
what was stolen from those banks, wasn’t it? I to move off, but Tristan called out, “Wait a He leaned against the fence, arms folded,
don’t know if I feel right about that.” minute!” watching the square dancing, wondering why
he didn’t feel a part of this.
“It was stolen from those who obtained The aliens stopped.
their wealth illegally, or, well, at least immorally. Aylish walked up with a shy, tentative smile,
Call me Robin Hood.” “Ask them how they incapacitate our holding a ribbon in her hand. Slap stiffened
devices.” and uncrossed his arms. He had hoped Aylish
“Who?” wouldn’t do this, but from the way she always
The ensuing conversation was long, and

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 41

looked at him, he’d feared he’d have to face Ewan got close.
such a moment—and break her heart.
“I know, Son. It’s not your fault.” Sheila and Evan McCarty
“Don’t, Aylish,” he whispered. “I can’t.”
“It’s just that...looks or not, she’s not Beloved Mother and Son
“But Slap, I am much like Shallah. I love Shallah. She’s really nothing like her. Shallah...”
you, and you can learn to love me.” How could he explain it? “Shallah had fire.
“You look so much like Shallah that it breaks “Sorry I failed you,” he murmured. “Sorry
my heart, girl. But I still love her, and still feel Ewan chuckled. “Aye. I understand, Son. I couldn’t beat them.” His throat tightened,
married to her. I can’t handfast you.” And she will, in time.” almost choking him, and he dropped to his
knees, the names on the stone blurring. “I
“I can wait. I will wait forever.” Ewan wasn’t angry with him? Slap felt some can’t come back. I know you’d want me to. To
of the tension drain from his back and neck. A build again. Live here. To show they can’t win,
The look of raw love in her eyes hurt. “Don’t snort drew his attention to the corral. Príncipe can’t force me away.”
wait one day. Find someone who can love you trotted around the circumference. With a smile,
for you, not because you look like your sister. Slap went over and opened the gate. The horse Tears streamed down his face. “Sorry I
You’re worthy of being loved on your own saw him and ran over, ears perked. can’t be strong. Not now. Maybe someday I
account.” can, though. I’ll...I’ll work on it.”
“Wanna ride, boy?”
Tears filled her blue eyes, and Slap wanted He touched the cold stone and rested his
to cry with her. This place still held too much The stallion tossed his head. With a grin, head on his hand, wishing he could hear an
sorrow on too many levels. No wonder he Slap grabbed his mane and swung up. “I just answer. After awhile, he rose, wiped his face,
didn’t feel he belonged here anymore. need to be by myself for a bit.” and took a deep breath.
She stood, motionless, as if turned into a Ewan nodded. “Go, Son.” Her garden, long gone wild, still showed
statue. Finally, she spun and ran off, skirts held signs of once having been well-tended, and
up and hair trailing like a white-gold ribbon. With a “Heeyah!” Slap took off. For a long the wheelbarrow, now rusted, lay tipped over
Slap took off his hat and ruffled his hair, choking time he and Príncipe just rode, enjoying the at one end, near where she’d had the tomato
back a sob. He headed for the little cabin and freedom, the air, the sense of being alone. plants. The clothesline had survived the fire,
the solace of the dark quiet inside. but one pole leaned in, looking defeated, the
But— line sagging almost to the ground.
# He found himself at the edge of his property. Some of the fencing remained in the west
He turned the stallion aside but looked back pasture, but a large section was gone, where
Slap landed the rover in the center of to the hill overlooking the burned out house. Lyssel’s men had busted it down and chased
the yard, and wiped his sweaty hands on his Knowing it was a mistake, he slowly walked out his stock. Ewan had done what he could to
jeans. Príncipe up to the top. find and keep the cattle and horses.
Ewan came from the barn, and he wasn’t He dismounted and took a shuddering Enough. He couldn’t stand it anymore. He
smiling. Slap’s stomach sank. breath, seeing the graves of his wife and child swung back up on Príncipe and galloped away.
for the first time, their names engraved on a
“I...I didn’t want to hurt her,” he said as simple stone: He mused over all that had happened since

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 42

he left Zenos, and despite the Zendians’ help, # the first time. I’m hoping they’ll want to turn
knew it would take a long time to heal from what’s left of the Mordas from a mob into a
what had happened on Eridani. Tristan had just wiped the last of the straw- legitimate government.”
berry jam off his plate with the final piece of
Tristan had come for him then. How could pancake when Gran said, “You have a visitor.” “You too? That’s all everyone in the city is
he have doubted whose side he was on in talking about.” Tanya set her cup down. “We’ve
fighting the Mordas? If there was one thing he Tanya stood in the doorway, smiling. With never needed a government on Zenos.”
knew for certain, Tristan was truly his friend. that infuriating knowing look, Gran walked
He wanted to be with him, regardless of what outside. “Exactly why the Mordas so easily took
Tristan might be up to. over.” Tristan sipped his coffee, wishing it
He rose, his mouth gaping. “You’re alive?” were twice as strong. “Not that there’s much
And he had an in—he now owned Bertha. difference between the two, but a govern-
He started back to Ewan’s and found his father- She rushed into his arms, and after a long, ment gives the people some limited say.” Well,
in-law working in the yard. glorious, breathless moment of time, he broke sometimes.
the kiss. “Don’t take this wrong, but how is it
The older man walked over, nodding at the you’re alive? Betts blew up the Guild and your “And how do you think my guild would fit in
stallion. “He’s a beauty a’right. Ready to take home.” with a government?”
him home?”
“You said to watch my back, and I thought, “As well as it fits in now. It’s a lawful guild,
Slap hesitated, winding his fingers in Prínc- where would it be safer than if I stayed at your recognized by the Guilds and Merchants.”
ipe’s mane, unable to look at his father-in-law. place? Glad I did from what I could find out,
“I’m...not rebuilding the homestead. I’m not which wasn’t much. The channels were almost She paused, looking pensive, then asked,
staying. I can’t, Ewan. I just can’t.” all locked out. I couldn’t hack into any of “’re planning on becoming the...leader
them.” She was more amused than accusing, of this government? The king or president or
“I was afraid you were going to say that.” her eyes sparkling. “I’m glad you’re all right. I whatever you want to be called?”
“I’ll be leaving with Tristan, but I’m not was worried.” “Hell, no!” What a revolting notion! “I want
going to be away forever. I have a ship now, Tristan didn’t answer, just held her, felt her no part of it.”
and thought, maybe I can do some cargo runs closeness, smelled her perfume. If this were
for our people. Visit sometimes.” But not too Tanya sat back, her eyes snapping. “If you
his place, not Gran’s... With regret, he let go weren’t offering me a partnership in running
soon. Not till Aylish has lost that look in her and said, “We need to talk.”
eyes... the Mordas or whatever ends up controlling
Tristan poured them both a cup of coffee the planet, what were you offering, then?”
“That sounds good. I just wish I could do from the old-fashioned percolator warming on
something more for you.” A sigh escaped Tristan. “The Zendians
the back of the wood stove, then joined her at won’t allow anything like the Mordas to start
“You can.” Slap took a deep breath. “Will the table. up again. But...I have many interests off planet.
you keep Príncipe for me?” Tanya’s eyes narrowed. “So what are your With a partner, I would be willing to expand
plans here now?” them.” He leaned forward. “You thought of
A hand settled on his shoulder. “Aye, Son. merely controlling the Mordas. But there’s
That I can do.” “When the dust settles, these people will much more the galaxy has to offer. That I have
have a chance to choose what they want for to offer.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 43

In the ensuing silence, Tanya’s expression Despite his sense of loss, Tristan felt a smile off, nose stuck in the book.
wavered between anger and deep thought. tug at his mouth.
Weighing options, Tristan guessed, and Tristan grinned.
wondering how much trust she should put #
in him. That he could understand. She was
starting to comprehend what he had meant by Tristan walked up the ramp.
earning trust.
“What are those?” Slap nodded his head to
“Off planet...” she murmured. the two items Tristan carried.
To catch up on previous episodes of
Tristan held still, barely breathing, hoping “Books. I’m finally replenishing my library.” the adventures of Slap and Tristan, visit:
she’d decide to give him a chance. If she did, he
could prove himself to her. If not, his dreams “Don’t look quite like any books I’ve ever
were as dead as when he’d thought she was. seen.” Deuces Wild is dedicated to the memory of
my best friend; my inspiration for an enduring
“I’m...going to have to think this over.” She “These aren’t the old-fashioned pulp paper friendship...
tapped her fingernails on the table. “I’ve never books you’re used to.” Tristan handed one to
considered leaving the planet, not sure I could. the cowboy. “Here. Enjoy.”
And with all that’s going on, I think I need to be
here to protect my guild’s interests.” Slap opened the book, riffled through it,
and frowned. “What is this stuff? Not paper.
The death knell keened, burying his dreams; And there’s nothing on the pages.”
she was a dirt-sider, not a spacer. He let his
breath out slowly, quietly. Some men might “It’s e-paper. Choose a title from the inside
plead, cajole, but her decision had to be hers, cover.”
so he said nothing. “Huh? How?”
She waited a moment then rose, kissed him Tristan reached over and ticked a title with
with a lingering sweetness, and left. his finger. “You should enjoy this book.”
Tristan wondered if Gran kept hard liquor Slap turned the page and whistled through
anywhere. his teeth. “This looks like real words on a real
A shadow filled the doorway. Slap’s face page.”
was one of sad contemplation. “You ready to “It is real words on a real page. And when
leave?” you’re done with that book, you can choose
Tristan shook his head. “I’d have to find a another. Or bookmark that, and go on to a
ship.” different novel. Each of these volumes contains
several hundred works. But try this one. I think
“I happen to own one, and some leads on you’ll find it a pleasant read.”
cargo, but I need a captain.”
“Shane, huh? I’ll let you know.” Slap walked

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
Deuces Wild, Chapter 18, Strange Bedfellows, Part Five by L. S. King Pg. 44

L. S. King
A science fiction fan since childhood, L.S.
King has been writing stories since her
youth. Now, with all but one of her chil-
dren grown, she is writing full-time. She
has developed a sword-and-planet series
tentatively called The Ancients. The first
book is finished, and she has completed
rough drafts of several more novels as

She serves on the editorial staff of
The Sword Review, is also their
Columns Editor, and writes a column
for that magazine entitled “Writer’s
Cramps” as well. She is also one of the
Overlords, a founding editor, here at
Ray Gun Revival.

She began martial arts training over thirty
years ago, and owned a karate school for
a decade. When on the planet, she lives
in Delaware with her husband, Steve, and
their youngest child. She enjoys garden-
ing, soap making, and reading. She also
likes Looney Tunes, the color purple, and
is a Zorro aficionado, which might explain
her love for swords and cloaks.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007
 Pg. 45
The RGR Time Capsule
November 15 - November 30, 2007
Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
RGR Date: November 27, 2007 and put the best face on it, Charlie Stross is kicker is that for that royal sum, you are ex-
Space Western limerick contest makes cover of livid, and I think understandably so. I can’t pected to give up all rights to your work.
BoingBoing! wait to see what Cory Doctorow will post overnight from London. Quick definition: When you write something and you give up all the rights to it, you’re
western-limeri.html This recommendation was simple: that at doing “work for hire.” Some writers have a
all costs, Andrew Burt must be kept the hell philosophical problem doing work for hire,
Nathan sez, “ just announced away from the copyright committee. In view but I don’t — provided that the upfront fee
the winners of a Space Western Limerick contest. of his earlier activities, his appointment to it for the work is good, among other factors.
The contest was judged by Jane Espenson (Firefly, would automatically destroy any credibility
the new body would have — not to men- To sum up: Submitting your work to Dragon
Battlestar Gallactica), Keith R.A. DeCandido
tion sending out a clear signal that SFWA is = dumb. Giving up all rights to your work for
(novelizations for Serenity, Star Trek, etc.), and
a dysfunctional organization, institutionally pennies a word = dumb. Supporting a maga-
Gary Trainer (song-writer for the Jet Black Berries
incapable of learning from bad experiences. zine happy to bend you over a desk, violate
‘Sundown in Venus’ album, and The Atomic
your rights and then slap down a couple of
Guess what’s happened? grimy bills for your time = dumb. Not remem-
bering writing is a business = dumb.
There once was a cowboy whose horse, Yup. I am not privy to his thinking, but our
Had the power to leap with great force, dear president and executive have voted
Into space she would jump, to reinstate the old piracy committee, with RGR Date: November 29, 2007
Then the cowboy would slump, Andrew Burt to chair it, under the new name “I. Malcom,” by Nathan Fillion
As he died in the vacuum, of course. of the SFWA copyright committee.
-- Larry Hodges
Lament of the Alien Dance Hall Girl
RGR Date: November 29, 2007 When I played Mal, I wasn’t playing me, I
Scalzi, Dragon mag subs, and ‘work for hire’
A barmaid from Nerus Omega was playing me if I had been through what
once mourned in her sea-swamped bodega, Mal had been through. I don’t think of myself
“If we fishfolk had feet The topic is ‘work for hire,’ and the object les- as a hard man, or closed-off, but I know this:
my life might be complete -- son is a good one. Mal and I have a very similar sense of justice.
I’d cancan from Rigel to Vega” I think comic books gave that to me, along
-- Marcie Lynn Tentchoff with an over-developed sense of vengeance. I
Note to aspiring fantasy writers out there: felt Malcolm was crusty, yes, but on the right
RGR Date: November 30, 2007 avoid Dragon magazine, which has appar- track. More important than believing Mal
SFWA: Back Into the Abyss
ently re-opened to fiction submissions. The was right, was knowing that Mal believes he is right.
pay is on the low side of adequate for the
While John Scalzi is trying to be philosophical genre (three to six cents a word), but the

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 35, December 01, 2007

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