Issue 40

February 15, 2008

Table of Contents

Ray Gun Revival
Overlords (Founders / Editors): Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn Venerable Staff: A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor Shannon McNear - Lord High Advisor, grammar consultant, listening ear/sanity saver for Overlord Lee Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, webmistress Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle washer Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): Scott M. Sandridge John M. Whalen David Wilhelms Shari L. Armstrong Jack Willard Serial Authors: Sean T. M. Stiennon John M. Whalen Lee S. King Paul Christian Glenn Johne Cook Cover Art: “Me I.D.” by Carl Without Whom... Bill Snodgrass, site host, Web-Net Solutions, admin, webmaster, database admin, mentor, confidante, liaison – Double-edged Publishing Special Thanks: Ray Gun Revival logo design by Hatchbox Creative Visit us online at http://raygunrevival.com All content copyright 2008 by Double-edged Publishing, a Memphis, Tennessee-based non-profit publisher.

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Table of Contents Overlords’ Lair Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler An Iron Clad Contract by John M. Whalen Featured Artist: Carl The Adventures of the Sky Pirate Chapter 20, Liberty Before the Storm by Johne Cook Memory Wipe Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon The RGR Time Capsule February 1 - February 14, 2008

Rev: 20080215c

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Overlords’ Lair
As a special treat, we asked the characters from the various serial stories what true love was to them. Jack Brand - by John M. Whalen I asked Brand what he thinks true love is. We were standing under the eave of the cabin he built for himself out there in the Tulon Desert. I think he thought I was a little touched, asking him a thing like that. I didn’t know if he wasn’t going to sock me on the jaw. Instead he shuffled his feet and stepped out into the sunlight. “Why you askin’?” he said. “It’s an assignment. My editor wanted me to ask you. You know, we’re chronciling your adventures back on Earth.” “Hell of a question.” “I know you had something going with Christy Jones a while ago. You think about her much?” He looked at me kind of sharp, and then glanced out over the desert toward the blue mountain. “Only every day.” “And your sister? The one you’re searching for?” “Her too.” “Think you’ll ever resolve all that?” He shoved his hands down into back pockets of his jeans and rocked back and forth on his boots. “Who knows?” he said. “Is that what love is? Something that keeps you wanting one more tomorrow?” Deuces Wild - by L. S. King “True love?” Tristan lowered his book, his eyes narrowed. Slap wasn’t sure if he was hiding amusement or scorn under his lids. “Yeah. Addie asked me. I thought it was funny at the time, but started thinking about it.” “And what do you think?” Slap scratched his cheek and slumped in the chair. “I think true love means you care for someone more than yourself. That taking care of them is what you devote yourself to.” He hesitated, then grinned. “And that they care for you enough to put up with your ways. I wasn’t always the easiest, but Shallah put up with me tracking in mud and such.” Tristan tucked his nose back in the book without comment. “What about you?” Tristan’s dark eyes bored into Slap. “What about me?” “What do you think true love is?” “I don’t believe in it.” His voice was sharp, almost staccato. “Aw c’mon, Tristan. What about that woman, Tanya?” “Passion, admiration, respect. She would have make a great partner. But love—no. That’s all romantic nonsense.” Slap opened his mouth to contradict his friend, but Tristan raised the book pointedly, tacitly stating the conversation was over. With a sigh, Slap rose, shaking his head. He hoped someday Tristan would change his opinion. The Adventures of the Sky Pirate - by Johne Cook “True love?” Bola dragged back in from liberty ashore walking a little funny. “Now

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that was a great liberty! I was truly loved!” Cooper Flynn looked at Bola and shook his head. “True lust, maybe, but that’s not love.” Bola was nonplussed, although she never would have used that word. “Well, it works for me, very well for me!” Flynn smiled at her, his black eyes crackling with amusement. Bola flushed and started flipping her dagger, as she did when she was flustered. “Why don’t you tell me what true love is to you, then, hotshot.” Flynn’s face took on a noble look. “Very well. True love is the affection of a good crew, the dependability of a good ship, the sacrifice of good leaders, the thankfulness of a grateful populace. True love is setting aside what you want for what’s best for others. Isn’t that right, Mr. Pitt?” Mr. Pitt leaned back against the wheelhouse with his arms crossed. He watched estranged wife Deena Prentiss walk past without giving him so much as a glance. “True love...hurts,” he said. JASPER SQUAD - by Paul Christian Glenn In a rare moment of serenity, Jasper Squad lounged around the conference table in the middle of the deck. Jackets had been thrown off, chairs tipped back, and feet kicked up on the table as an old bottle of Feschian Fair was passed around. Ray Gun Revival magazine “To love,” said Captain Spill, raising his tiny cup to the table. “Eternal and true.” “Captain,” grinned Rey, “I didn’t know you were such a romantic.” “All things in moderation, of course,” replied Spill. “No such thing as ‘love, eternal and true,’” muttered Jackaby, repeating the old cliche. “People accidentally cross paths and start to imagine they need each other. That’s all.” “You’re awful young to be so cynical,” said the Captain. “And you’re a little too old to believe in fairy tales,” replied Jackaby. The Captain glowered. “I”ve been married 31 years, kid,” he said darkly. “I know a thing or two about love.” “Wish I did,” sighed Rey. “I’ve never been in love. Not really.” “I’ve been in love plenty of times,” interjected Stamp. He was lying upside down in his holding cell, feet climbing up the wall, head hanging lazily off the side of the bunk. “It’s as easy as fallin’ in a puddle. And if you’re lucky, you end up just as dirty.” “We’re trying to have a civilized conversation over here,” said the Captain, over his shoulder. “Keep your puddles to yourself.” Stamp’s feet dropped sideways to the bunk, and he twisted himself around into a halfway recognizable sitting position. “I’m just sayin’, there ain’t no reason to make it all mysterious and dreamy-like. Fallin’ in love is the luckiest thing that can happen to a man, and it’s easy. Too easy, sometimes.” “Look at that,” muttered Spill, “The hoodlum with a heart of gold.” Reaching for the bottle of Fair, he noticed Rey gazing over at Stamp with a curiosity that was entirely disconcerting. “Who have you been in love with?” she asked Stamp. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall. “The last one was called Esnielle. Prettiest girl I’d seen in a long time. Short, black hair, smoldering eyes, thin lips that opened up into a smile that outshone the stars. She liked red leather, and let me tell you, she could wear it.” Spill rolled his eyes and took a plug straight from the bottle, but Rey smiled and leaned forward. “Where was she from?” she asked. “Janits, originally,” said Stamp, opening his eyes. “But I met her in Cole City. We were pullin’ a job there, a little grift she’d worked up on her own. We used to lie in bed—a nice little room in a respectable motel—and talk about going back to her homeworld. Settlin’ down, makin’ a family, all that stuff.” Stamp sighed long and deep,

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and closed his eyes once more, lost in the memory. “Don’t let him fool you,” said Melendez. She stood abruptly, and pulled her jacket back on on. “Love comes once, Cadet. If you lose it… that’s it.” With that, she stalked off to the cockpit. Captain Spill watched her go, then put the bottle of Fair back on the table. “She’s not supposed to be flying the ship,” he said quietly. He dropped the feet of his chair back to the floor, stood up, and followed Melendez into the cockpit. Jackaby leaned forward, grabbed the bottle, and excused himself, and wandered back to his bunk, muttering. Rey walked to the invisible perimeter of Stamp’s holding cell and sat on the floor, watching the prisoner, who was still lost in thought. “What happened with Esnielle?” she asked. Stamp opened his eyes and looked down at her. “I killed her,” he said. “Shot her in the back of the head when she thought I was unarmed.” Rey’s eyes widened and her lips curled back in horror. Stamp shrugged. “It’s ok—she tried to kill me first,” he said. He closed his eyes and smiled. “Ah, she truly was something special, though…”

Here’s hoping you find your true love, from Ray Gun Revival magazine. Johne Cook Overlord, RGR Breezeway, Wisconsin

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Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler

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Dean, the Space Rogue
by Andy Heizeler

“A

re you an android?” demanded the woman holding a laser pistol to Dean’s face. Somewhere behind him, the floor manager fainted. “Do you want me to be?” he asked, entranced. For a space pirate, the lady displayed both grace and style. With skin like soft charcoal, a voice like a marine and an aim a sniper would envy, she had taken control of the situation in mere seconds. Everyone in the casino who was not robbing it, save Dean, cowered face down on the floor, hands where they could be seen. The auto-guns and cameras smoked impotently, having been neutralized in a hail of laser blasts. Near the vault, a man with arms the size of legs was busy throwing piles of universal credit sticks into a rolling metal cage. “You’re a pit boss, right?” Dean wasn’t given time to answer before being dragged over the blackjack table to begin what might be a very short career as a human shield. The lady pirate had an incredibly strong arm around him with the pistol pressed menacingly against his temple. This was just in time for the security teams who blasted through the locked side doors with their pulsers. So far, no one had died. Dean had faith it would stay that way despite the murder brewing in the eyes of the guards. “Stop where you are! Hold your fire or I’ll

melt his brains out,” promised the lady pirate. “You smell fantastic, by the way,” whispered Dean. He wasn’t lying; she gave off a combination of rose oil and leather, which made sense considering her outfit. “Stop sniffing me.” Even her voice was sexy, thought Dean. You just don’t find women like this anymore, he reflected forlornly. The guards were debating the value of saving a life versus their job prospects if they lost the casino’s money. In the next couple of seconds it could all end in a flurry of laser and pulser blasts, thought Dean. He would have been fairly confident that wasn’t going to happen, were it not for Hugh, the youngest of the guards. He hadn’t talked much to that one, whereas the others had an attachment to Dean and his generous bookkeeping skills. Dean spoke as if the situation were routine. “Relax gentlemen, the casino is excellently insured against theft. If you shoot, someone could get hurt.” “Isn’t that the point?” asked Hugh. “Only if you want to be axed for bringing a lawsuit down on the casino. Do you want to get fired?” Dean had no idea what kind of insurance the casino carried, but it sounded good.

The older men looked at each other and nodded. They lowered their weapons. Hugh held his up, but his stance was somewhat deflated. “No one does anything stupid, no one gets hurt,” said the lady, edging Dean towards the doors. The ape closed up the steel cage and followed, waving around a gun that looked highly outlawed in most of the Galaxy. The front doors of the Post Martian Federation Regency Casino and Hotel opened to reveal a pirate vessel, parked serenely on the smashed remains of the water fountain. The battered ship had seen better days, presumably sometime before the invention of quick bond armor sealant. If forced to guess, Dean would have said it was an old Izar Class Light Cruiser that had been savagely chopped in half before being resurrected out of a junk yard by someone with a thruster fetish. The cargo ramp was down, revealing two other crewmembers waiting at the top of it. On the left a skinny fellow bearing a refund quality haircut frantically typed into a keypad. Opposite him stood an attractive blonde girl with a pulse grenade launcher that looked too big for her. She was wearing pink coveralls and an expression of pure joy. “Captain, we’ve got company,” shouted the man with the slanting flat top, looking worriedly at the skies now. Coming in steep

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Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler
were three security drones, wildly firing pulsers. The Captain holstered her laser pistol and The girl in pink aimed up and started shooting rested her hands on her perfectly curved hips. back. “You’re right, we could just dump you out Thoomp! Thoomp! Thoomp! The pulse at high orbit for a couple of cold spins and a grenades flew high and true before exploding long burn,” she said with an amused glint in in spectacular brilliance, sending the robot her eye. planes to the Elysium Electronica. The towering hulk, who had ex-mercenary “Woo hoo,” she shouted happily, retreating written all over his scars, chuckled sardonically. inside the cargo bay with a smile and a smoking The pilot was distracted with his telepad and barrel. the girl in pink was busy wrestling the grenade launcher into a battered weapons locker. The lady pirate dragged Dean into the ship at an undignified pace. The ramp slammed Dean shook his head. “If you were that type shut, followed quickly by multiple thumps; of criminal, there would have been a lot of pulser blasts from the guards and more drones, dead guards back there. You don’t want Federal no doubt. murder charges added to armed robbery. I’ve got a better idea. Take me with you,” he said, “Get us out of here, Arc,” ordered the lifting his chin for effect. Captain. The skinny man punched something into the pad, causing harsh vibrations to pass The Captain crossed her arms, and the exthrough the floor plates. mercenary frowned, obviously discontent with the prospect of missing a good spacing. The Captain released her hostage and grabbed onto something solid, along with “Why would we want to do that?” asked everyone else save Dean. The violent inertial the Captain. shift sent him tumbling across the bay and “The X factor,” Dean said with an air of crashing into the bulkhead. After the compenmystery. Now that he had their attention with sators kicked in, and he was certain nothing was damaged other than his pride, Dean stood confusion, he continued, “Judging by your performance back there, this isn’t the first job up on the now level floor. you’ve done by a long shot and by the looks of “Stay quiet and don’t move. We’ll drop you this ship, it won’t be your last.” That earned on the far side of the planet before we boost an angry glance from the lady in pink, which out,” said the violet-eyed pirate. marked her as the engineer. “You could do that,” said Dean, running his fingers through his hair to make it more roguish. “But that would be an unnecessary waste of fuel and time.”

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neo-bastist ceremony, but there’s always that X factor,” he said, raising his finger. “There’s always that chance that you’ll run into someone with military training or a hero complex with dreams of glory. Then they’ll fight.” He made a fist and shook it. “Then you’ll be forced to kill him. If you don’t, he’ll wind up killing one of you or an innocent bystander. Then you’ve got real problems,” said Dean ominously as he lowered his fist and raised his other hand, opening it as if revealing something he had magically plucked from the air. “On the other hand, if you send me in first, you’ve got an instant compliant already there. A professional hostage, if you will. No more X factor,” he finished with a warm, trusting smile. The Captain narrowed her tastefully lined eyes. “What about your job at the Casino?” The suspicion practically dripped from her voice. Dean shrugged. “First off, working for a Casino is morally equivalent to working for pirates and with pirates the upward mobility is more, well, mobile.” “Pirate is a negative label,” interrupted the ex-mercenary. “We prefer the term freelance monetary redistribution professionals.” Dean stared at the big guy with an expression of disoriented fascination. He nearly commented before deciding to ignore the remark.

“Now, if you take a hostage each time, or even just most of the time, you can plan out “Secondly, I have ideas,” he waited for every aspect of the mission except for what someone to ask what kind of ideas. No one did. that hostage is going to do. Granted, most of the time they’ll be as docile as kittens at a “Ideas that require associates with guns and a

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Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler
starship. You can make a great deal of money with a minimum of risk, with my help.”

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Dean swung his finger to point at the Dean felt a rush of elation chased by a mercenary. “You have the appearance of a warm shot of hope. man who has a hard time understanding comic The pilot glanced up now, apparently book plots while considering assault weapons “This is Creon, our heavy artillery.” Captain satisfied that he had set them on an untrace- art forms. In reality you’re a sensitive intellec- Sedona indicated the ape who nearly crushed able course through the gods knew what kind tual that could probably quote Euripides.” his hand in a powerful shake. of nightmarish space anomalies. “Do you have “Arc, primary pilot, ship’s surgeon and any piloting, engineering, or security counter“The bold are helpless without cleverness,” systems expert.” Arc had a lousy handshake, measure skills?” quoted the ex-mercenary obligingly. somewhat distracted and clumsy. Dean shook his head. “Well no, but,” he was Dean turned on the engineer next. “You’ve “Cloey, my chief engineer, relief pilot and cut off by the ape with a neck that contained looked over your shoulder a total of eight times ship’s chaplain,” Cloey’s handshake was surmore muscle than should have been possible. since we took off, chomping at the bit to check on the engines. You’re spiritual about your prisingly firm, her aura brightened consider“Do you have any weapons training, engineering, judging by the smell of incense in ably now that he had been accepted. unarmed combat skills, DNA upgrades, nano- the air recyclers.” She shrugged at his assess“Creon, fill him in on the rules. Cloey, you aguments or chem boost tolerance?” ment as if it were nothing special. can go check on our girl now.” Dean reluctantly shook his head again. The Dean turned to the Captain last. “And you, “Sure thing boss, she could use some Captain held up her hand before the engineer my dear Captain, are wearing the leathers of could start in on him. The wrench monkey an Echelon test pilot. You enjoy adventure and soothing after that rough take off,” said Cloey, pouted, obviously peeved at being left out of adrenalin. When you retire, you’ll spend your hurling ocular daggers at Arc. The pilot gave up the fun. days flying antiquated suborbital planes in wild a wounded expression. “One last thing. What’s your name?” asked “So you have aspirations but no skills. You aerial displays, maybe doing some instructing on the side, right?” Captain Sedona. want us to educate you in space piracy in return for being a hostage shill with some untested The Captain raised an appraising eyebrow “Dean,” he said, hastily adding, “The space ideas?” asked the Captain. while giving just a slight nod of acceptance. rogue.” Despite the charm he loaded into the Dean raised his chin just a hair. “Ah, but I “You could have a future in fortune telling,” she words, they fell flat on the deck. do have skills. I read people. An exceptional jested. “I’ll be on the couch in the mess lounge boon if put to the proper use.” He pointed at Dean waved his hand. “It gets boring fast, if anyone needs me,” said Arc, walking off the pilot first. “You’ve survived a bad crash, trust me. Pretty soon you find yourself predict- towards a stairwell out of the spacious cargo possibly in combat and you dodge spending ing nearly unspeakable horrors, just to see the bay. Cloey winked at him before heading for time in the cockpit to avoid flashbacks, hence reactions. My skills are better used for confi- the engine room and the Captain merely rolled the telepad. You also have a touch of paranoia, dence trickery.” her eyes before strolling off, leaving Dean alone as it’s obvious you cut your own hair,” said with Creon. Dean masterfully. Captain Sedona made a show of weighing the decision before making an oh why not face “Have you ever tried breathing vacuum?” The pilot looked uncomfortable but and sticking out her hand. “Fine, you’re hired. impressed. I’m Captain Valerie Sedona. Welcome aboard Dean shook his head, disturbed by the the Tachyon Valkyrie.” thought but fairly sure where the conversation

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Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler
was going. “If you’re looking to experience it, disobey the Captain. Come on, I’ll fill you in on the rest during the tour.” Dean smiled inwardly while maintaining a sober face. Some days, he amazed even himself. # There are times in the life of a space rogue, thought Dean, when it is advantageous to appear both curious and incompetent. As he pulled hard on the trigger of the stunner pistol, completely missing the target, now was one of those times. “You need to relax, loosen your muscles,” Dean could see that despite his frustration, the big man loved to teach, which was perfect. The stunner recharged to full power again while Dean appeared to concentrate on relaxing. He was in the middle of flexing his shoulders when he looked past Creon into the cargo bay and adopted a stupid grin. “Does she always walk around naked like that?” he whispered. Creon spun faster than a startled cat. Dean fired the stunner, sending all seven feet of Creon crashing to the deck, unconscious. “I can’t believe you fell for that,” remarked Dean, jumping over the body and closing the hatch to the cargo bay. It was the best he could do to conceal his work, considering Creon’s weight.

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himself that he would repay Tim, and he always fulfilled his promises to himself, if no one else. Even if he stayed with these guys and tried to make the money that way, the GSR had them pegged enough to know they were going to hit that Casino, they wouldn’t get far. Besides, he was past the point of no return, a traditionally bad place to attempt U-Turns. He drew the pistol and stayed low as he moved along a bank of recessed thruster bells. Though he had served in three different militaries, he had never actually participated in combat. He did manage to pick up some skills here and there though. He stayed low and to the shadows, his steps light upon the deck plates.

Peeking around the corner, Dean spied “No, no, no. You’re jerking your shots Cloey as she hummed softly to the main reactor. to the right. Imagine that you’re squeezing The presence of incense, candles, and crystals the charge into the target,” instructed Creon, confirmed With a speed born of wanting to be done ties. Creon a great deal about her eccentricistanding safely behind Dean. had that Cloey was a with this business quickly, he clipped the human variant informed himseven, a polygentype twenty In front of them a battered target dummy stunner to his belt and dashed to the floor der capable of changing her sex as well. Dean hung suspended from bungee cords in a little hatch near the back. As he slid down the ladder had nothing against them; he had even dated room just off the cargo bay. At one time the into the engineering bay, Dean felt a pang of one once. Aside from an embarrassing incident dummy might have served as a clothing model regret. after a long night of drinking, it had gone fairly robot. well. Cloey was a gentle soul, extremely superThese were his type of people, and he was “Right, squeeze,” repeated Dean, listening to betraying them to save his own skin. He hated stitious about machines, and had probably the Cheney-Stokes wheezing of the air recyclers having to do it, especially for the Greater Star never hurt another living thing. and the whine of the stunner recharging. After Republic of all things, but he didn’t have much He fired the stunner, crumpling her before a minimum of suggestions, Creon had gener- choice. They had bagged him with a rap sheet he could talk himself out of it. Now all he had to ously offered to train him in the art of stunner that if printed out could have provided enough do was find the environmental controls and an origami to fill a black hole with spaghettified shooting as if it had been his own idea. breather, lower the swans. Still, it felt wrong working for the right emergencyknock out the rest of oxygen levels enough to Dean fired again, sending a bright blue side of the law. If it hadn’t been for the added head for the cockpit to program the crew and in the bolt of energy into the intercom. It died with reward money, he would have refused the nates for the rendezvous with the GSR coordiSecret a pathetic gurgle of static. Creon shook his covert mission to capture the space pirates. He Service goons. head. needed that money to repay his old partner for losing the ship, though. He had promised

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Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler
He turned around just in time to see the heel of Captain Sedona’s laser pistol coming at him. The world went black with a quick, sharp pain. # Dean was cold. It was a bad cold, a space cold. He opened his eyes to the inevitable. He was in an airlock. The inside hatch had a window, through which he could see the back of Creon standing guard. The outside hatch was all unforgiving metal, not to mention badly in need of fresh paint. A quick search revealed an emergency release lever, but being of military design it only opened the outer hatch. No help there. “Think, Dean. Think,” he said, pacing in a quick circle and rubbing his arms for warmth. “You should have done that before you decided to betray us,” said the static riddled voice of Captain Sedona.

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“I should have never accepted the deal,” skills to benefit humanity. Just think about it; if muttered Dean. If the Greater Star Republic I’m dead, I can’t help anyone,” adding, “amen, wanted these pirates so badly, why hadn’t they Ra.” just gone into Post Martian Federation space His heart pounded in stark fear as the outer themselves to track them down? airlock door began to cycle. He should have He knew the answer of course. Politics. If known better than to appeal to higher powers. he were caught infiltrating PMF territory on a Historically they took a dim view of his profescovert mission, they could deny everything, he sion, not to mention the difficulty in scamming was just an unrelated criminal. Which probably omnipotent beings. explained what they wanted the pirates for, “Hey! I’m not even close to frozen to death external resources, off the books. It’s what yet,” he screamed, wondering if that was a he would do if he were in charge of the SS, which is precisely why he hated dealing with good idea. No point in making the inevitable them at all. Dean stomped his feet for warmth, even more miserable. producing only numb vibrations in his wooden It was better to have robbed in the heavens legs. He looked at his breath in despair. than obeyed the rules below, he thought He thought about the long series of cons, majestically, thinking it was an appropriate last scams, and trickery that made up his life. Other thought. than having landed himself in an airlock about Blowing the air to be spaced, he had no regrets. He guessed bravely before the out of his lungs, Dean stood be he always knew it would end like this, dancing hurled to his deathairlock door, waiting to He across the starry void. from the end of a rope or doing the long closed his eyes. vacuum swim. The outer hatch swung open. Nothing happened. Shivering and breathless, Dean opened his eyes and sucked in a great gulp of air. It was Tim! Standing in a connecting airlock, his old partner was grinning at him. “Tim, what are you doing in the afterlife?” asked Dean, realizing this had to be the result of a freezing brain having one last laugh at itself. “You owe me for a ship,” said Tim mirthfully.

Even back in the days when there was “I was just testing your capabilities!” he tried, only one god to worry about, Dean had never realizing too late how feeble that sounded. prayed. He had always assumed it was better to keep a low profile, considering his disdain “Don’t bother with trying to talk your way out of this. I’ve made my decision. I’m going to for honest work. space you just before you freeze to death,” she He decided it couldn’t hurt now. The floor said with all the warmth of the void beyond was freezing, so he figured that standing was that outer lock. just as good as kneeling. They always said it was the thought that counts, didn’t they? “Okay, it was a mistake. A terrible mistake. I’m sorry!” “Er, God or gods or universe?” he started, unsure of how to proceed. This really wasn’t “I’m turning off the intercom now, Dean. his style. “I could use know Make peace with whatever gods will have you,” I haven’t exactly been some help here. I if you on the A list, but she said, followed by an audible click. just get me out of this, I promise to use my

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Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler
So that’s how she got the drop on him so quickly, she knew what he was up to all along! Tim had managed to save not only Steve’s ex“No, it won’t. It’ll help,” said Tim, handing girlfriend and her pirate crew from being taken over a dissolvable printout. Dean took it with by the SS, but Dean as well. Unfortunately they some trepidation and read. were now indebted to Tim and this nameless agent, both of whom were their GSR SS Intel Report: Security Level - Alpha  ties secret from the secret keeping itself.activiservice They Blue. Disposable Asset “Dean Smith” Deceased.  had all been played. Pirate Vessel T9-031 Destroyed, All Hands Lost.  CC Supreme Senator Jarron.  Dean shook his head. “Why didn’t she tell me she knew the score the instant I got on Dean looked up with bewilderment. “All I rated was ‘Disposable Asset’?” He handed the board?” document back to Tim, who pulled the tab and Behind him the inner hatch of the Valkyrie let it bubble away. opened to reveal Captain Sedona and her crew, whom were Tim smiled, clapping Dean on the shoulder. many of Dean glared. still mopping up their laughter. “Welcome to the world of the nonexistent, Dean. Remember how I said I had a pretty good “Oh, don’t look at me, ‘space rogue’—that job lined up when we split?” was Tim’s idea,” she said, barely containing a “I didn’t think that had anything to do with fit of giggles. Dean turned back to Tim who had his hands up in surrender. the Republic SS.” “Sorry. I knew you anyone “Well it doesn’t, directly. I’m a diplomat. and I couldn’t resist the wouldn’t hurtsaid Tim. opportunity,” Best con I’ve ever run. Anyway I’ve got a friend “Trust me, on the outside of the hatch it was in the Secret Service who was keeping an eye much funnier.” on you as a special favor to me. When he told me you were nabbed, we came up with a plan “Oh, I’m sure it was,” said Dean, his face to save you. I wound up calling a buddy of mine. flushed as his hands made fists. Tim was a You remember Steve?” notorious lover of practical jokes. It was surprising that such a man had lived as long as he “Shoot-first Steve? On Planet Mall?” had. “The same. His ex-girlfriend owns that ship behind you,” said Tim cheerily. Dean’s head was whirling. Tim continued. “How do you think the SS knew where the pirates were going to be next?” “Well, in the final analysis you still owe me for the ship and I’m afraid my friend in the SS may need some favors from time to time,” said Tim. “Why does he need favors?” asked Dean with dread. “Being dead might be a slight barrier to that.”

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“To counteract the damage done by those within the government who have similar disposable assets that he wasn’t able to liberate,” said Tim with a crazy look in his eye. “This is why I hate governments. It sounds like we’re in over our heads, Tim.” “Not at all Dean, I have faith in you,” said Tim smoothly. Whenever he talked like this, a scheme was sure to follow. Dean braced himself. “You’re going to join the crew of the Tachyon Valkyrie, for real this time. You’ll make Captain Sedona and her crew very wealthy, with a modest repayment schedule to me, of course. In the process, due to the aims of our SS friend, you might even wind up saving the Galaxy,” announced Tim sweepingly. “And how am I going to do that?” asked Dean skeptically. Tim shook his head, backing into his Envoy Shuttle. “That’s for you to figure out once you get your mission, old buddy. I‘ll be in touch,” he finished and slammed the airlock door shut. Dean found his anger melting into astonishment as he turned to face the crew of the Valkyrie. They had proven their ability to lie convincingly, which was a good start. Where there was deception, there was opportunity. “This should be interesting,” said Dean, starting to feel better already. “I’ll meet you in the mess lounge to discuss plans in an hour,” said Captain Sedona cheerfully, sauntering off.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler
Cloey surprised him by kissing him on the cheek. “Welcome to the crew, Dean,” she said with a wink and headed for the engine room.

Pg. 12

Andy Heizeler
David  Bridgette  started  writing  at  the  age 

“Stun me again, and I’ll twist off your limbs,” of ten in 1985 on a Tandy TRS-80 Computer.  promised Creon. Dean nodded in absolute By  1995  he  had  enough  rejection  slips  to  agreement. Creon gave him one last warning account for the shrinking rainforests. Off and  glare before going to his quarters. Arc raised an eyebrow. “How do we know this wasn’t your plan all along?” he asked. Dean smiled. “You don’t. But that’s exactly the kind of thing they would want you to think,” he said, putting his arm around Arc’s shoulders.

stumbling upon downed 1940’s anti-aircraft  artillery  training  radio-plane  drones  in  the  swamps of Fort Stewart)enjoying the beauty  of  our  National  Park  System,  debating  the  nature  of the universe, and  reading  science  fiction.  

on he continued writing in spurts, submitting  randomly but mostly pursuing the art of daily  living (as opposed to the art of daily starving.)

He joined the Army in 2001 after the terroist  attacks  of  9/11  and  has  deployed  to  Iraq  a  total  of  three  times.  During  his  third  “I think we have some champagne in mess deployment, at the age of 32, he decided after a near miss by a mortar round (which is  lounge,” said Arc. just as safe as a far miss, only more personal)  Dean was pleased. All in all he was better that  it  was  time  to  achieve  his  dream  of  off than he had been in years, despite the looming prospect of having to save the Galaxy. being  published.    Thus  was  born  the  pen  name Andy Heizeler and a series of stories “Tim did say the Captain was Steve’s ex- about  Dean the Space Rogue.    The  first  girlfriend right?” Dean  the  Space  Rogue  story  “Fatal Wager” has recently been accepted for publication in  the upcoming anthology “Star Stepping” by Wild Child Press, with forthcoming stories soon  to  be  submitted  to  Ray Gun Revival. David  has  also  contributed  two  unrelated  Micro-Fiction  tales  to  AlienSkin magazine. “Resensitization”  in  the  Feb/Mar  08  issue  and  “The Pane Maker” which will be  appearing  in  the  Apr/May  08  issue.    David’s  hobbies  include  amateur  drone  hunting  with  his  lovely  wife  Kit,  (mostly 

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

An Iron Clad Contract, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen

An Iron Clad Contract
A Jack Brand Story
by John M. Whalen

Pg. 13

’m not inclined to think much about philosophy. My life has been too busy to have time to sit around contemplating such things. But a thing that happened a few months ago with Jericho Reynolds, gave me pause to ponder. Jericho was an old friend from my days on the Tulon Security Force. He was about fifteen years older than I was—a cantankerous and flyoff-the-handle sort of hombre—but he had been a good soldier. We’d worked together on a mission to get rid of Darlons who had landed on an oil field and tried to take it over. The Trans-Exxon people didn’t take kindly to oil poachers, and since they bankrolled the Security Force, we had to go clean them up. There had been a lot of fighting and Jericho did his share. When he came pounding on my door in the middle of the night several months ago I was caught by surprise. I had a small cabin out in the Tulon desert where I spent my early retirement from the Force and it had been at least two years since I’d seen him. “Brand, you gotta help me,” he said breathlessly after I put on a pair of jeans and shirt and let him in. He looked ragged and I could smell Synth-whiskey on his breath. I lit a lantern and set him down in a chair. “You got anything to drink?” he asked. I poured us a couple of shots of Wild Turkey. The bottle had been a Christmas present from back Earth. The real thing was hard to come by on Tulon.

I

“Oh, that’s good,” Jericho said, after he’d tossed the drink down. He seemed a lot older than the sixty years I knew him to be. “You in some kind of trouble, Jericho?” I asked, taking a slow sip of the bourbon. “I don’t imagine you’d come out here at two in the morning looking like an unmade bed if you weren’t. What’s it all about?” “Someone’s tryin’ to kill me,” he said. “By midnight tomorrow night I’ll be dead. There’s nothin’ I can do about it neither. He’s too much for me. He won’t listen to reason neither.” “Who won’t listen?” “Kilkenny. John Kilkenny. You know him?” “I heard of him.” “He’s a professional killer,” Jericho said, his grey eyes watery and pathetic looking. “He’ll kill me by tomorrow midnight.” “Why? What did you do to him?” Jericho reached for the bottle and poured another. “I hired him,” he said, holding the glass in a shaky hand. “I hired him to kill me.” He raised the drink to his lips and tossed it down. “You what?” I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly. “I paid him five thousand Tulo-Creds to bump me off. That was four weeks ago. It’s a

contract. For five grand he guaranteed to kill me by midnight June 25. That’s tomorrow.” “Wait a minute,” I said. “Back up. You hired Kilkenny to murder you? Why did you do that?” Jericho’s shoulders slumped and he let out a big sigh. “Because I thought I was going to die. You see, I’d been feeling sick a lot lately. So I went to the doctor. They did some tests. They found cancer. Prostate. The doc said I had six months to live. That’s a bad way to go, my friend. Very bad. They said they could give me stuff for the pain, but it would be a slow, agonizing way to go out. I couldn’t stand the thought of what was going to happen. I began drinking. I just wanted to stay drunk all the time. And one night in a bar I saw John sitting at one of the tables. I remembered his reputation, and I got the idea of how I could beat my fate. I went over to him and asked if he was still in the killing for hire business. He said he was. We went to his room a couple blocks away and talked. I told him what I wanted and we agreed on the price. I got the money the next day and told him I didn’t want to see it coming. But I wanted him to do it in the next thirty days. The thirty days ends tomorrow.” “Sorry to hear about the cancer, Jericho,” I said. I felt bad for him. “But that’s just it,” he said. “I ain’t got cancer. Turns out the doctors made a mistake. Got my X-rays and tests mixed up with somebody else. They called me up last week to tell me. I could

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

An Iron Clad Contract, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen
have gone over there and plugged that damn doctor. I felt great though, because I was going to live. And then I remembered Kilkenny. I was glad he hadn’t done the job yet and I went over to see him at his place. I told him the deal was off. He could keep the money and forget about the whole thing. But that bastard said it’s too late. When he takes on a contract, he sees it through to the end. Says it would be bad for his reputation, if he failed to do the job.” heavy demand for it during the Terror War had fallen off. Despite the fact that Digital Atomic Fuel had been developed back on Earth, there were still some uses for oil that hadn’t been replaced by the new technology. Leedsville was still a viable operation, even though the Big Shutdown had closed pretty much everything else on Tulon. It took me an hour to get there by Hover-Jeep. the floor with stars in his eyes.

Pg. 14

I picked his pistol up from the floor, went over to the door. There was nobody in the hall. No witnesses. I slammed the door shut then walked over to Kilkenny and grabbed him up off the floor. I threw him in a chair and slapped his face a couple of times to wake him up. There was a bottle of whiskey and some glasses on a small table. I poured us a couple of drinks and The place had a number of hotels and clubs, handed him one. He took it. His fingers were He poured another drink. apartment buildings and businesses that kept thick and steady. No nerves. He took a slow sip the neon burning even at three a.m. And I from the glass and looked at me with eyes that “He’s going to kill me unless you stop didn’t draw much attention striding through reminded me of a tiger I’d seen in a cage at the him, Brand. I never shoulda tried to outsmart the lobby of the Hotel Raymond and taking the zoo once. fate. Shoulda let things alone. I’ll pay you ten elevator up to the eighth floor where Kilkenny thousand Creds to see I live past midnight lived. And with the long duster I wore over my “I don’t recall sending for room service,” he tomorrow night. It’s all the money I got left clothes, nobody could see the Beretta Electro- said. from my security force pension. Can you help Pistol Velcroed to my leg. Not that anyone me?” would have cared in a town like Leedsville. I can“Maybe I made a mistake,” I said. “Mistakes happen. I’d hate to see you make one.” It was the damnedest thing I’d ever heard. pounded on Kilkenny’s door. “I try not to.” How anybody could get into a fix like that I Nothing. I pounded it again. A muffled couldn’t fathom. Jericho had always been a voice said something and I pounded louder. “Glad to hyper kind of guy and was known to go off Footsteps staggered on the other side. “Who you’re goinghear it, because that must mean to forget all about that contract half-cocked sometimes. But he’d been a good the hell is it?” Kilkenny said. Jericho Reynolds put on himself. I’m glad friend once and I didn’t want to send him away because if you were to try and fulfill that without trying to do something to help. I told “Room service.” contract it would be the biggest mistake you him I’d see what I could do. I got Kilkenny’s The door opened a crack. I took a step back ever made.” address from him. By then he’d had too many drinks, and looked like he was going to pass out. raised my right leg and kicked it in. The door “How’s that?” I told him to lie down on the couch and put a swung and hit Kilkenny on the forehead and blanket on him. He was stretched out snoring sent him reeling backward in his pajamas as “He’s a friend of mine,” I said. “He told me I stepped into the room and went after him. the whole story. Said you planned to go ahead before I let myself out the front door. A Smith & Wesson laser pistol came up in his with the killing even though he asked you not hand. I grabbed his wrist and twisted it hard. He to. He asked but now I’m telling you. Leave him # yelled and the pistol dropped to the carpeted alone.” swung his left fist, but I blocked it and John Kilkenny lived in Leedsville, a floor. He hard left at his chin. He blinked and threw a Kilkenny’s “I know small town built out on the desert near the backed up some more. I threw another left at you,” he said.tiger eyes got narrower. you are. “I mean I know who Dankworth oil fields. The Dankworth fields were still pumping crude, even though the his gut and a right at his jaw. He went down on Brand, isn’t it? Jack Brand. Famous lawman of

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

An Iron Clad Contract, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen
Tulon. I saw your picture on the e-news couple times. Worked for Trans-Exxon for awhile didn’t you? Guarding their payroll shipments.” “That right.” “Only lost one shipment in ten years,” he said. “The one the Wilkersons took. They took something else too, didn’t they?” I didn’t say anything. “Yeah. They took your sister and the payroll and left you for dead. Never found the money or her. Pure shame.” He smiled at me. “And I know all about you, Kilkenny,” I said. “You’d slit your own mother’s throat if someone had the price. A killer for hire. I’ve put more scum like you away than I can even remember. Your contract with Reynolds is null and void. Hear that?” I won’t be able to tell you.” I kept the gun on him. “It’s a bluff,” I said. “You’d say anything.” “I know she was up at the Dar-Zul ruins a couple years ago with the Wilkersons,” Kilkenny said. “That’s old news.” “That’s true. They ain’t there anymore. They went someplace else.” I cocked the pre-fire hammer. “Where?”

Pg. 15
his wrist and went straight into my eyes. With the strength and speed of a jungle cat he was on me, the fingers of one hand around my gun-hand wrist, the other on my throat. The force of his charge knocked me back off my feet. I crashed back against the table with the liquor on it and hit the floor with a thud. Glasses shattered but the bottle of Synth rolled around on the carpet. Kilkenny slammed my gun hand down on the floor as hard as he could several times, the fingers of his right hand digging deep into my windpipe, cutting off my air. I sent four or five rapid fire punches up to his face with my left, while still trying to hold onto the gun, and keep on breathing. He let go of my throat, his right fist cocked and I saw stars when it hit my jaw.

“Whoa,” Kilkenny said. “Hold on there. I ain’t going to tell you like that. You gotta treat me a little friendlier you want any information out of me. We gotta come to some kind of underWith all the strength I could muster I standing. How about another drink?” He held slammed my left forearm up hard against his the empty glass out. “Come on. Be sociable.” Adam’s apple and threw all my weight behind “I’ve still got until midnight tomorrow to He might and then it. The blow to his throat stunned him and he make good on it,” he said. “As a professional again he might haveIfbeen bluffing the truth, I rocked back. I had enough momentum going yourself, I’m sure you understand the value of couldn’t afford not. tohe was telling had to say. to roll him over. He still had my gun hand in a man’s reputation. I’ve got a perfect record. I got out of thenot hear what he aimed at a vise-like grip and he kept the barrel pointed chair. I kept the gun If I let him go, the word will get out and my his chest and took the glass from him. I set it on away from us. I didn’t see him pick up the record won’t be perfect anymore. I can’t let the table, poured some of the Synth-Whiskey whiskey bottle by its neck. I got set to hit him that happen. You can see that, can’t you?” again when he swung it, and it smashed into and then handed him the drink. pieces on top of my head. Everything went I still had his pistol in my hand and I hefted “So old Jericho went you for help,” black. it without pointing it at him. “If you try, I’ll Kilkenny said. “Where is crying toat your place? he? Out have to kill you.” I pushed the laser activation I heard you got a cabin out there in the wilder# button on the side of the butt and aimed it at ness not too far away. What’s the matter? You him, as the gun buzzed with energy. don’t like being with people?” My head hurt plenty when I came to. I smelled like booze and there was a small cut in “Do that and,” he said, looking at me slyly, He to his lips and started “you might miss getting some valuable infor- to take raised the glass have been ready for it. my scalp, but otherwise the bottle hadn’t done a sip. I should mation. I hear you’re still looking for that sister Maybe I was too busy trying to figure out if he too much damage. I got to my feet. Kilkenny was gone and so was his gun. I looked at my of yours, even now, seven years later. Maybe I the my sister Terry. The might know where she is, Brand. Shoot me and was telling out truth about with a quick flick of watch. It was about 4:45 a.m. He had a half Synth flew of the glass hour start, and I knew he’d probably gone off

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

An Iron Clad Contract, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen
to find my cabin and finish his business with Jericho Reynolds. dyin’ I thought that’s what had been written in the book. But I didn’t want to go that way. So I hired this here hit man so I could go out quick and easy. Now that I found out I ain’t dyin’, and John Kilkenny won’t cancel the contract, I see the truth now.”

Pg. 16
fireplace. I walked over to the middle of the room and lifted up a rug that covered a trap door cut into the floor. I raised the trap door lid and started down wooden steps. “Whatcha got there, Brand?” Jericho asked. “It’s a tunnel I dug,” I said. “I had some trouble a while back with the Nomads that roam around out here. It comes out behind a hill where I can watch the cabin. I’ll be able to seem him when he makes his play. But remember what I said, if you see him, don’t shoot if you don’t have to, I need to talk to him first.” “All right, Brand,” Jericho said. “Whatever you say.” I flicked the radium torch on and dropped down into the tunnel. It was only big enough to crawl through on hands and knees, and with the laser rifle strapped to me, it took a while to get to the end. When I got there I turned the torch off and waited for sounds. There weren’t any. I reached up over my head and pushed up on the wooden trap door. Sand poured down on me as I shoved the door open, and I saw the dark blue night sky above and bright stars twinkling bright as lanterns. I ran the binocs over the landscape and failed to detect anything moving. I climbed out of the hole and crawled up to the rim of the hill I’d come out behind. When I got there I looked down and I could see the back of the cabin about a hundred yards away. I ran the binocs out in front of the cabin out to the ridge on the other side. Kilkenny was probably right there on the other side of it, waiting for his moment. “I could have killed you back in Leedsville,” a voice behind me said. I stiffened. “Don’t move.

I got my Hover-Jeep out of the hotel garage and the sky was that dark grey color it gets just before sunup when I pulled up on the crest of the ridge that looked down on my cabin. I took the night-vision binocs out of the glove com“What truth?” partment and got out of the Jeep. I scanned “That what was really in the book was for the terrain in all directions, but I saw no sign of me to die this way, at the hands of a hit man Kilkenny. The only vehicle in front of my cabin I hired my own self. D’ya see? I was fated to was the dune buggy Jericho had arrived in. bring about my own death.” Reynolds was still snoozing on the couch “Calm down, Jericho,” I said. “You’re when I came in through the front door. I went talking a lot of nonsense. You’re not dead yet. over to the sink and pumped some water into a coffee pot and threw it on him. As he sputtered Kilkenny’s plenty tough, and I hear he’s a pretty and spit, I went back to the sink and made a good shooter. But there’s two of us and only one of him.” pot of coffee. “You mean, you’re gonna stand by me?” “What’s going on?” Jericho asked, wiping the old man asked. “That’s mighty good of you, water off his face with the sleeve of his shirt. Brand.” “What happened?” “Just one thing, Jericho,” I said. “I want him “I couldn’t talk him out of it,” I said. “I made matters worse. He got away from me. He alive. He’s got some information I want.” figured out you’re hiding here. He’s probably We waited all day, but I knew Kilkenny out there waiting to make his move.” was too smart to make his play in daylight. At “I knew it,” Jericho said. “I just knew it. They sundown, when the Jack-yenas started their ain’t no way out of this. I done messed around howling, and the wind picked up a bit, we ate with Fate and once you start doin’ that, it’s as some hardtack and drank coffee and had a taste of that Wild Turkey. good as puttin’ your neck in a noose.” “Reckon he’ll be coming now,” I said. I had “What are you talking about?” my Beretta on my leg and the night vision “I’m talkin’ about destiny,” he said. “I heard binocs hanging from my neck. I grabbed up this preacher guy explain it once. There’s this my AR-525 Plasma Rifle and handed it to him. book, and in it is written all our fates. When “You stay inside and keep watching through we’re supposed to be born, when we’re the window. Use this if you have to.” I grabbed supposed to die. And he said there’s nothin’ the Sony Laser Rifle down off the mantle and can change it. When the doc told me I was a picked a radium torch up out of a box by the

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

An Iron Clad Contract, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen
Get rid of the rifle.” He had me cold. I pulled the strap off my shoulder and tossed the rifle away. the laser rifle and aimed at the center of my chest. “Any last words?” Well, I’ll be—”

Pg. 17

A purple beam came out of nowhere and hit him in the side. He spun and fired in the “Now the pistol. Easy. Just the fingertips.” direction the shot came from. There was a yelp of pain the dark. I dove I did like he said and tossed the Beretta out lying inout in sand. I grabbed for the Beretta the it and rolled. into the sand. Kilkenny turned my way and fired a shot that just missed my leg. I fired back. A blue bolt of “Turn around.” electricity crackled through the night air and I rolled over on one side and looked back hit him in the chest. He went down on his side at him. He was crouched down a few feet away with a groan. I heard Jericho Reynolds moaning, from me, a Laser Rifle resting across his knees. and I got to my feet and saw him lying on his The wide grin on his face told me how proud of back several yards away. I went over to him himself he was. and knelt down. “A fellow told me about that tunnel,” he said. “A Nomad named Shadrack whose gang you wiped out some time ago. He told me to give you his regards.” “I knew it,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get out of this. Like I said, you can’t mess around with Fate. You try to get one step ahead of it and it’s already two steps ahead of you.”

I went over to Kilkenny. The way he lay there on his side, I thought he might still be alive. But he wasn’t. His dark eyes stared out at the Big Nothing. I looked up at Jericho. “What do you have to say now about what’s written in that book you were talking about?” “Guess I was wrong,” he said. “Don’t nobody know what’s written there. Better off not trying to figure it out. Just let everything be. Otherwise you just get yourself all tangled up.” We went back to the cabin, and I patched Jericho up. Next day I dug a grave for Kilkenny. Jericho even said a few words over him. And then he got into his dune buggy and took off under Tulon’s bright searing sun. Like I said, I don’t spend much time thinking about philosophy. But I remember that saying that there’s a time for everything and a season for every purpose. Maybe there’s some truth to that. Jericho Reynolds thought he could outwit fate. He tried to take his destiny into his own hands. But destiny had other plans. It always does.

“I thought one of them had got away,” I said. “What are you doing out here?” I said. “I “But I wasn’t sure til now.” thought I told you to stay in the cabin.” “I didn’t kill you back there in Leedsville, because nobody was paying me to,” he said. “I don’t do freebies. But I guess I gotta kill you now, or you’ll try and stop me from doing what I came here to do. Stand up. Put your hands up.” I got to my feet with my hands raised shoulder high. “I saw him moving around while you were down there in the tunnel,” he said, grimacing with pain. “Figured he was fixin’ to take you out first and then come get me. He must have knowed about the tunnel.” He groaned with pain again. “How bad is it, Brand? How long you reckon I got?”

I looked him over and all I saw was some blood on his shoulder. The laser had only “You really know anything about my sister, rendered a flesh wound. It didn’t look too Kilkenny, or was that just a bluff?” deep. “What do you think?” “Get up, Jericho,” I said. “You’re not going to die.” “Most likely hot air,” I said. “Have it your way,” Kilkenny said. He raised “Huh?” he said, blinking in disbelief. “I ain’t?

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

An Iron Clad Contract, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen

Pg. 18

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

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Featured Artist: Carl

Pg. 19

Featured Artist
Carl
Name: Carl Age: 21 Country of residence: U.K Hobbies: Obviously, drawing, and picking at belly button fluff. Favourite Book / Author: Max Brooks, the Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. Favourite Artist: Ashley Wood, at the moment. When did you start creating art? I started drawing about three and a half years ago What media do you work in? It used to be acrylics and oil paints, but it takes up too much space, so I’ve had to go for digital. But now, I’m back to hand drawing again because I spend all day on a computer at work. Where your work has been featured? Two daily deviations and four featured prints on deviantART, and on the Image Fx website Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your works? www.cabul-noir.deviantart.com or you could just hunt me down, whatever floats your boat. How did you become an artist? I didn’t… I’m on my way to becoming an architect; I just finished my first degree, only two more to go. What were your early influences? The artists at games workshop, especially Adrian Smith. What are your current influences? At the moment nothing; it’s becoming a problem. What inspired the art for the cover? Well, it was done one and a half years ago. I hadn’t spoken to a single person in five months, and I spent
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Featured Artist: Carl

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every day trying to paint calendars to save up money for uni. One day, the cupboard asked me how Henrietta was doing. I have no idea who she is or what the cupboard was doing with her, but for some reason the lemon salad had started to turn, so it was at that point I decided to draw my current situation. Without interaction and too much time spent in self reflection you become monotone, robotic. It isn’t good for you. How would you describe your work? Bull plop... Lots of people have said apocalyptic, but in truth, it revolves around why heroes die young. I want to see emotion in the heroes, I want to see them on the edge, that moment before they crack, turn to their comrades, and put their underpants on their head. Where do you get your inspiration / what inspires you? I go to the cinema once a week, I read, I daydream. I see other people get better than me and think, ‘wait a second.’ What have been your greatest successes? How has success impacted you/ your work? I’ve only been happy with two drawings out of hundreds that I’ve done. Trying to reach that happy moment again is what drives me. Well it used to... I’m not too sure anymore, it’s been months since I painted anything. What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art? Depends on my mood. Oil paints are arousing. I like sticking my (trails off) and Photoshop/Painter take up less space. It’s quicker, so it depends on whether I want to get messy or not. What tool / equipment do you wish you had? Right now I wish I had a toothpick—I can’t get this apple from between my teeth. What do you hope to accomplish with your art? Motivation and purpose, for it to be that bright spark in the universe and make
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Featured Artist: Carl

Pg. 21 goodness cool, bring focus to a blurred future. To fight big robots with a bat, meet metal with its bare fists, and to swing a bat around like it didn’t have a care in the world. Is that too much to ask for? No, what I really want is for my artwork to be used for something and be acknowledged for it.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
Chapter 20, Liberty Before the Storm by Johne Cook
The story so far:

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook

Pg. 22

Cooper Flynn has discovered the existence of another Haddirron airship, the HMS Tanith, a Captain Flynn finished signing a cargo revelation  that  provides  more  questions  than  manifest and tossed it to Mr. Humble. “There’s answers. The Tanith is captained by Clarissa only one way to find out. Are we ready to go MkDougal,  whom  Flynn  knew  from  the  Naval  ashore?” Academy, and sparks flew again at their Mr. Pitt shook his head but said nothing, reunion.   looking over Flynn’s shoulder. Flynn turned After  conducting  a  successful  raid  on  the  and followed his gaze. legendary guns at the cliffs of Yempher, the two  Cleric Mathen Vaneras walked toward the airships  return  to  Roarke’s  Island  to  meet  up  with the rest of the crew and engage in some captain with a purposeful expression. eagerly-awaited rest and relaxation as Alacrity Flynn sighed and waited. Now what? prepares for her first island liberty. “Captain, the crew is excited about this liberty ashore,” said the cleric as he approached. “It’s clear that you care very much for your Part One: Liberty crew.” aptain Flynn and the crew of Alacrity “Thank you, Cleric,” replied the captain, were restless and frankly giddy as the ship trying not to sound as guarded as he felt. “I descended toward the port at Roarke’s Island. Clarissa MkDougal’s airship, the HMS Tanith, appreciate your opinion.” dropped toward the water first. The crews The arms behind his back of the two ships waved at each other as they he was cleric put his message. “I intend tolike delivering a go dropped down, and then Captain Flynn gave ashore at port with the rest of the crew, but the order that none of them had yet heard there is a thing we need to discuss before I aboard the new airships— “Set ‘er down!” disembark.” With belabored grace, the airships settled Captain Flynn longingly at port, down into the crystal clear waters of Parrot searching in vain forlooked of Clarissa, with her a sign Bay at Roarke’s Island, silencing for the first copper red hair and her fiery smile. He sighed time the barely audible background thrum of and fixed his attention back on the cleric. Very the antigrav engines. well, best to get it over with. Flynn knew it “You don’t suppose I’ll lose my sea legs would be a theme for this liberty.

while we’re here at port, do you?” asked Bola, and there was a twitter of laughter.

“Please, go ahead,” said the captain. The cleric cocked his head slightly to one side. “I thought perhaps you would like to go first.” That  was  unexpected, thought Flynn. He was careful not to let his surprise reach his face. One thing was certain—he wasn’t in the mood for games. Clarissa awaited, or so he imagined, and every moment he was away from her was a special torture. Furthermore, the cleric knew it. What was he trying to accomplish by sandbagging him just now? Very well. Flynn wasn’t in the mood to cater to the cleric, so he quickly gathered his thoughts and launched into the first random spiel that occurred to him as if he’d had something prepared in advance for just such an occasion. Flynn could see Bola watching him. “Cleric Vaneras, we all have our secrets. you have displayed to me that you are a man of Cyl, a good and honorable man, and I would be glad to have you at my back or take yours any day, any secrets of yours notwithstanding.”
However,

C

Flynn looked at Bola. She appeared to be buying it, at least. For what that was worth. Flynn thought further and said, “It is no

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
secret that I have something big in my past standing in my way of accepting any belief in Cyl, largely because of well-intentioned but clumsy Cyl-worshippers at the abbey where I grew up after I was orphaned as a child. Therefore, it is no small thing to admit to you that you have gone a long way toward dispelling my bitter disillusion.” And then Flynn had his edgiest brainstorm. “And at the risk of falling into hypocrisy, I would not be opposed if you would pray to your god for me. Without getting into what is and isn’t sin according to your religion, I will take any wisdom I can get.” Flynn saw a climax and warmed to the subject. “I gave the order and we carried you onto Alacrity against your wishes,” Flynn continued. “If I haven’t made it clear yet to all involved, you are free to walk off her deck whenever you feel the need or desire to. Simply know that you have my greatest respect and are welcome aboard whenever you need to get up to where you can get a better view of your Almighty from the heights that Alacrity rises to.” And then, reasonably sure he had dolphined the cleric, Flynn bowed with a flourish before the holy man, hiding a smile in the process. Hands behind his back, Cleric Vaneras eyed the captain. And then he lashed out and struck the captain’s jaw. It happened so fast, Flynn never saw it coming. That one powerful stroke snapped Flynn’s head to the side and spun him completely around to land on his back on the deck at the cleric’s feet. Flynn, who had taken his fair share of strokes along the docks and taverns of his flight and his tutelage with the Friar of Briar Island, was thinking before he even hit the deck. The realization hit him harder than the stroke itself—Vaneras, the man of peace, the holy man of principle, had attacked him like a lithe cat, springing from full rest to the attack in the blink of an eye. The cleric had a whale of a right cross. That was no mere lucky strike, it was a tactical strike executed to perfection out of the blue without the slightest telegraphed intent. It suggested the sort of intense musclememory training you don’t just acquire in the taverns. Flynn had the presence of mind to tuck that little tidbit away for later consideration. He permitted himself the briefest smile. The cleric had made a strong point with his perfectly executed blow, but in the process had betrayed himself to Flynn. Flynn collected himself and made a show of it as a large shadow quickly passed by overhead. Flynn blinked the stars away and licked the tang of blood off his lip with a gravelly tongue. He looked up and saw Bola watching. “Bola, are you just going to stand there, or are you going to protect me?” She laughed. “From a cleric?” She snorted in disdain. “You’re on your own, Cap’n.” She backed up to a stack of crates and hopped up to watch the proceedings. “Thanks,” he said dryly. “No problem,” she said absently, picking her teeth with her boot dagger.

Pg. 23

Irony was lost on Bola, thought Flynn. He looked around. Eggplant—of all people—started forward with a broom handle in his hand…amusing but touching. Mr. Pitt had a thoughtful look on his face and put his arm out, preventing Eggplant from approaching. Good man. Flynn saw Dr. Deena Prentiss standing behind Mr. Pitt, a smug smile blooming on her face. He noted she wasn’t rushing to his aid, either, blood notwithstanding. There was more work to be done there, apparently. Flynn raised himself onto one elbow and spat blood onto the deck. “You were saying,” he said. Cleric Vaneras said, “I hereby forgive you for my abduction, for your secrets, and for your sins against the Crown and against myself.” Flynn wiped away the blood from his lip with the back of his hand. “Let me guess—this is why you’re not ensconced in some abbey somewhere,” he remarked wryly. “What is your expression? ‘Men of action understand each other’,” the cleric said. Flynn snorted. “That we do, Cleric, although I’d pegged you as a man of peace instead of a man of action.” The cleric shrugged. “Sometimes you need the other to have the one.” “Are you talking about peace or action?” The cleric grinned without answering. And then he bent over and extended a strong, steady hand down to Flynn.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
Flynn briefly flirted with the idea of throwing the cleric over his head with his boot, but it seemed clear to Flynn that the cleric’s intention with this scrap wasn’t to actually harm him, it was to send a not-so-subtle message. For the moment, it served Flynn’s interests better to tuck that information away and flatter the cleric instead of fight him. There would be time enough for that, later, when the liberty was over and the cleric wasn’t expecting it. Flynn snorted and grinned painfully, then stuck out his own hand to accept the hand up. Cleric Vaneras leaned into it and pulled Flynn up powerfully and quickly. When Flynn gained his feet, Vaneras clapped the captain on the back. “You’ll do,” he said cryptically, and slapped Flynn on the back again. This isn’t over, thought Flynn, who then smiled blissfully at the cleric. Bola hopped off her crates. “Well, I’m off. I’ll be back in three or four men.” “Days,” said Flynn. “Be back in three or four days.” She stopped and looked back at him. “You keep track of time your way, I’ll keep track my way.” She smiled wickedly and sauntered off down the gangplank. Flynn made a mental note to set aside funds to get her out of the stockade when liberty was over. That, in turn, reminded him of one other Bola-related matter. He motioned Deena Prentiss to step over. “That reminds me. Doctor, while we’re here, I think you should make sure our supplies are fully stocked.” “I’ve taken a full inventory,” said Dr. Prentiss. “We have plenty of bandages.” Flynn watched Bola until she vanished into the nearest saloon ashore. “It wasn’t bandages I was thinking about,” he said, thoughtfully. He stepped forward and spoke to the doctor in hushed tones. The light went on in on her eyes. “Oh. Ah, yes…I’ll take care of it.” The cleric stepped forward. “Doctor, would you like an escort into town?” and stuck out his arm. Deena gave Flynn a very strange look. “Why, thank you, Cleric. I’d like that very much.” She made a show of taking his arm. As they walked past and off the ship, she had her head up and her eyes front, and made a point of not looking at Mr. Pitt. For his part, he made a point of finding something intriguing happening on the deck by the toe of his boot. Mr. Pitt looked up and watched the retreating figure of his wife on the arm of the cleric. “I don’t think I like that man,” rumbled Mr. Pitt. “Really?” said Flynn. “He’s starting to grow on me.” Flynn smiled to take the sting off. Chain rolled his eyes. Flynn felt his jaw with his hand and took in all those gathered quietly on deck, studiously looking at their boots or over each others’ shoulders. “Well,” said Flynn into the pregnant silence, “what are you lot waiting for? Go frolic!” Hooting and hollering, the crew broke and ran off the ship. Liberty had begun. #

Pg. 24

The crew streamed out off the gangplank with the air of blooded combat veterans happy to be on liberty at port, with a certain swagger for having stared death in the face without turning aside. They dispersed along the wharf and found their way to the little taverns and shops bordering the central market in the square of Parrot Bay. Flynn sent Mr. Pitt on ahead to assemble the village elders. Meanwhile, Captain Flynn, Eggplant, Chain, and Mr. Humble walked past HMS Tanith and some of the sailing ships from Her Majesty’s Navy on their way to the central market. Captain MkDougal and her First Officer, Mr. Ipness—“Georg,” he said, sounding it out like ‘gee-org’ as he identified himself— appeared on their gangplank as Flynn’s crew walked past. “Good to see you again, MkDougal,” said Flynn with a wink as they fell in and walked with them along the docks. “Good to see you, too, Flynn. I thought for a moment there that you’d forgotten us.” “He didn’t want you to get all the glory,” grinned Mr. Humble. “We had some trouble tacking into the wind to swing around and get in position,” said Eggplant, apologetically. “Eggplant is being modest,” said Captain Flynn. “I doubt that one pilot in twenty could have put Alacrity in position that quickly.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
“Hey, there’s Smythe and Gillings,” said Chain, pointing to a cafe on the edge of the market. “It appears they’re all there, Captain,” said Eggplant quietly. “Excellent!” said Flynn, “We needed this rendezvous” he said, and strode off to visit with the others. “Hello, Captain Smythe,” Flynn bellowed, exuberant as a puppy. Smythe and Gillings sat relaxing there with some of the local tea and lemonade— both soft and hard—with their feet up on the wooden cross-post that served as an unofficial boundary between the dirt walkway and the cafe. “Welcome to Parrot Bay,” said Captain Smythe from his seat, raising his mug in salute, reinforcing the age-old tradition of relaxed protocol when on liberty. Flynn stepped forward and shook hands with the men. “Smythe, Mr. Gillings, I trust your trip back was uneventful?” “We weathered a squall on our third day, but otherwise it was smooth sailing,” said Gillings. “Excellent. Have the locals been taking suitable care of your men?” “They’ve been more than hospitable,” said Smythe. “One suspects that the combination of good Haddirron gold and the knowledge that we’re the only thing between them and the Sylvan raiders makes for a grateful populace.” “Not that the Roarkies are churlish to begin with,” said Gillings. “I’ve been through here before with my Paa and they were kind enough then, as well.” “Very good,” said Flynn. “Well, I need to meet with the local authorities this afternoon; however, we’re going to be meeting later at The Brazen Barnacle for a bit of a celebration and we’d love it if you’d all come,” he said, waving his hands to include the table where the Grenville sailors sat and getting quiet nods in return. “Perhaps you men would be willing to show the crew here where to get some decent food while we go check in? Captain Smythe, Mr. Gillings, you might want to tag along for this.” With that, they parted company and the officers walked along a small path bounded by palm trees on their way to the Port Hall. Flynn wasn’t looking forward to the upcoming conversation, but there was no way around it if he wanted to spend any time with Clarissa, and he surely wanted that. The best thing was to get it over as quickly as possible for the sake of everyone involved, They picked up Captain Lem Kend and his first officer along the way from another eatery and walked along the road amid the bustling little town, watching the locals move back and forth with carts full of local foodstuffs like mangos, melons, bananas, fish, shellfish, and various meat animals. The air itself was a curious mix of fresh sea air and thick, fragrant scents filled with various spices, smokes, and other sundry aromas of land so absent aboard ship. Flynn found the thatched-roof building and spotted Mr. Pitt there in front of it talking to a

Pg. 25

local. They walked over. “We ready?” Mr. Pitt nodded and acknowledged the others with a spare nod and a knowing grin, shaking hands all around while growling things like “Hello, Ven” or calling them by name. “This is Pav Gherkew, the local town head” said Mr. Pitt as they exchanged greetings and introductions. “The others are in there whenever you’re ready.” Flynn looked around. May as well get this over  with  and  pick  up  the  pieces  later. “Ok, then. Let’s make this quick so we can celebrate a little” and they walked up the steps under the thatched roof and entered the simple building. Pav Gherkew led the way into the room where three other men stood around a chart and spoke. Two of the three were dressed comfortably in the loose cotton shirts of the port while the final man was dressed in a spare if ornate loincloth and had an impressive variety of markings on his skin. His hair had obviously been cut with a bowl for a pattern. Despite that, he had an easy manner about him and spoke the local dialect perfectly. “I’d like to present Captain Flynn and his men. These are leaders of Parrot Bay, Roarke’s Island, and the local indigenous population.” They exchanged greetings all around and then sat down at a round table on chairs crafted from the local wood. Captain Flynn stood and spoke first. Now that the moment was at hand, his mind was clear, his focus absolute. “Thank you for meeting with me on short notice. I’ll try not to make this a habit.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
The men smiled and nodded to continue. Flynn said, “We have just finished the first wave of action with airborne ships against the Sylvans in which we claimed one raider and destroyed another at sea. We also visited a devastating attack on Yempher.” The representative of the indigenous locals waved his arm casually. “Captain Flynn, I am Birot of the Haw. I have seen the cliffs of Yempher. They bristle with very large cannon. How did your ships fare against those emplacements, for their reputation is fearsome.” Captain Flynn bowed to acknowledge the Haw representative. “They were indeed fearsome, as Captain MkDougal, here, can attest. She sailed her ship straight up the coast toward the cliffs, taking fire from the large cannon there in the cliffs.” At that, there was an excited whistle of admiration and simple disbelief, at which Clarissa laughed and waved her hands dismissively. “It wasn’t my idea, I assure you. Captain Flynn here simply used the age-old tactic of using a woman’s wiles to divert men’s attention from the real objective. In this case, while thus distracted, he piloted his own airship, Alacrity, a mere 100 feet away from the cannon emplacements and pounded them into oblivion at great risk to his ship and crew.” The heads of those assembled swiveled back to reassess the captain. MkDougal was a wonder. She had them eating out of her hands. The captain smiled and mock-bowed. “By the time we left Yempher, our airships had visited great destruction on her ships and docks and ruined those cliff-side guns for the foreseeable future.” Flynn stopped to emphasize what he would say next. “However, that wasn’t the primary purpose of our attack.” He had their attention now. He turned to Clarissa. “Let me backtrack for a moment. Captain MkDougal, early on, when you saw the abandoned ship engulfed in flames, it wasn’t just an unfortunate accident at sea, that was a message sent to us from an implacable enemy, a member of a small but absolutely horrendous breed of fighting being known as the Riven.” A shocked murmur went up from the table and worried glances were exchanged all around. “We have heard of tales of such creatures,” said Birot, “but assumed they were ghost-stories meant to frighten an impressionable and superstitious populace…which, to be fair, is not far from the truth.” Flynn didn’t like thinking about the Riven, either, and used that to his advantage here. “I think they were initially just that, myths and stories to buckle a man’s knees and sap his will. However, the Sylvans have some minds of genius at work and have apparently been busy in the past years conducting the worst form of experiments and yielding the most horrific results. These tests have not only been genetic but technological and I have reason to believe that the current air superiority we enjoy is a brief window before the Steamdrivers respond with their own innovations. I have heard

Pg. 26

rumors of their own innovations, which would be designed to trump our airship technology. Therefore, we must press our advantage while we can.” He scanned around the room and waited for that to sink in. And then Flynn told what could be considered a ‘hopeful truth.’ “Certain leaders in the Haddirron government have been astute enough to acknowledge this. Many others, however, have been slow to acquiesce. Therefore, the force we now have is operating under a principle of common sense while we wait for wiser heads to prevail.” “What are you saying, Captain?” asked Mayor Gherkew. Flynn looked at Clarissa MkDougal, whose expression had gone from engaged, to intrigued, to knowing, to stony, to graven. “Therefore, my presence here, while necessary and effective, isn’t exactly well-publicized just yet back in New Queensland.” You could have heard a palm frond drop in the room. “Well, snork,” said Birot of Haw. # Captain Smythe was speaking, and it was all Flynn could do to listen. He didn’t have the heart to look at Clarissa’s face anymore. He’d been out pretty far before without a rope, but nothing like this. It was scary. It was also strangely and potently exhilarating. Flynn just hoped the power of the moment wouldn’t break him like a twig.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
“So,” said Captain Smythe, “to recap, the Sylvan government is supporting a brilliant if amoral mad scientist who is single-handedly jeopardizing the world with his experiments and creations, especially as they start to use these aberrations to send forth military sorties toward their neighbors and perhaps farther. In the meantime, you and your peers have deciphered some of this intelligence and have moved quickly and decisively to contain or possibly even nullify the spreading hordes. However, your role out here on the front line is at best as an unofficial privateer, and at worst unsupported and completely illegal.” He looked at Captain Flynn in comic understatement. “Is that about it?” Flynn met his gaze evenly and was careful not to crack a smile, although some of that may have leaked out past his eyes. “Yes, that’s about it.” If her face had told a story of cascading emotions before, Captain Clarissa MkDougal’s expression had finally traversed all the way to frankly unintelligible. “So what happens now?” she said in a voice suddenly sandpaperdry. Flynn wondered if he was the only one in the room who imagined there were multiple dimensions contained in her question, if his heart was writ so large on his sleeve. He met her eyes and spoke as earnestly and clearly as he could. “I can’t speak for anyone else. For myself, I feel a duty to the people of this world to fight the fight in front of us by any means necessary. I have tacit permission to take this course, but nothing official to hold up in court.” “‘Permission’ is an interesting word,” said Captain Smythe. “Whose instruction are you under?” “I am under my own authority,” said Flynn “under the instruction of present necessity.” Captain MkDougal picked her words carefully. “By your reasoning today, I understand that your ‘necessity’ today is to serve Haddirron. What if your ‘necessity’ constrained you to oppose Haddirron?” And there it was. Flynn had been looking at the table as he listened to her. He took his time to consider his answer. Where there had been a gathering of leaders assembled to deal with important issues, he now felt the weight of history upon him. Flynn looked up and met her gaze. “I am a Queen’s Man doing what needs to be done in the queen’s name. That was enough to warrant the possession of something rare, something that I have been careful to use when necessary as the queen’s strong right arm, her very will in parchment form,” he said firmly, and produced the Queen’s Writ, which he passed to Mr. Pitt to further pass around the table. He looked at Clarissa. “If she asks for that back, you can consider it cause for alarm,” he said with a sudden wink. “Until then, I ask for your support as you would support the queen herself if she were here.” Captain Lem Kend spoke up. “So what’s the current risk? What do we have to look forward to this season? What are our current strengths, and what are our orders?” Flynn was ready to address this question, and was practically relieved to discuss it. “I expect to receive word of Sylvan ship movements any day, and I expect they will manifest coming

Pg. 27

this way. By stirring the hornet’s nest, we have turned the focus of the Sylvan leadership toward us. This is what we want—we will meet the enemy squarely and destroy them out here on the high seas, and then chase them back up the islands to the Sylvan coastline and capital itself.” “Then what?” asked Smythe, clearly working something out in his head. Flynn grinned and presented his open hand. “Then we find this evil genius and sit down to have a little chat,” he said, snapping his hand closed into a firm fist. “What about the Riven,” asked Mayor Gherkew. “Do we know how many there are, when to expect them, or how to defeat them?” “Right now, we only know of the one, but we’re still working on that,” said Flynn. “We’re all going to have to keep our ears, eyes, minds, and lines of communication open and deal with him/them as we get a better handle on the situation. I really hate to leave something like this open-ended, but that’s where we are, just barely beginning to start to understand what they are and what to do about them.” “It is vital that we understand what this is all about,” said the captain. “We are fighting for nothing less than a different, specific form of liberty, the freedom of independent people to choose their allegiance. The Sylvan nation is preparing a push for domination of the region, and liberty is an unfortunate casualty to gears and steam and dread machinery. They have some very intriguing equipment but they have lost their soul. They are themselves Riven of their spirit in their desire for mere

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
equipment.” Flynn turned to Captain MkDougal. “I realize this is a lot to absorb all at once but I wanted everyone to be on the same chart before things get too active out in the field. We functioned very well as a duo out there. I need to know if we are together in this endeavor.” She fixed him with an inscrutable expression. “I, too, am the queen’s instrument. I am yours as long as we are both performing this service,” she said, and his heart jumped. This captain—who attacked implacable killing machines, stared down intractable captains, and was the destroyer of ships, fleets, nations—this captain suddenly went weak in the knees. Flynn wasn’t sure he’d gotten all that, but was just beginning to hope it wasn’t relegated merely to service to queen and country when Clarissa quickly rose, saluted, and strode out of the room, his desires and dreams scattering along after her like the papers that the air currents dislodged and dropped onto the floor in her wake. That simple act was like a bomb in the room, setting off a minor storm in her leaving. Mr. Ipness had to think quickly to decide what to do and ended up leaving immediately after her, running to catch up, the rest of the men hopping suddenly to their feet and left wondering what they should do, ultimately deciding to stay and finish hearing the captain out, leaving Birot of Haw to smile sinuously at the oddities of these ‘civilized’ men. And with that, the meeting was unofficially adjourned. The captain looked around him then and said, “Well, you’re all invited to the Brazen Barnacle tonight for a celebration of our first victories and to remember our first dead.” He looked around the room and reiterated: “...and make no mistake, there will be more dead.” With that, Flynn made the appropriate pleasantries in the room, and the crews all left the locals there to talk among themselves and discuss the manner of men they had fighting on their behalf. If they contained any doubt about backing the captain and his unofficial command, they gave no sign of it, Regulation giving way to Practicality, as it is often wont to do. # Mr. Gillings got Captain Flynn’s attention on the way out and fell in beside him as they walked back to the tavern. “That was an interesting revelation, Captain,” said Gillings. “I still have some questions, however. When you took over control of the Majeste, I felt at the time that post was somehow rigged. Was that part of your plans? How did you first hear about the airships, specifically the one you chose for your flagship?” Flynn nodded and spoke willingly enough. “That part is easy enough—we built her, or at least retrofitted her in dry-dock, Chain and me. I tracked Mr. Pitt down at the Academy and started to put together the crew we have now with an eye toward reaching this all-important first stage. That part took surprisingly little time and then we were on the docks that first night, ready to make our first bold move. I knew even back then that we would need to make a quick, memorable first impression, and would need support out here on the front lines of this new sort of war.”

Pg. 28

Gillings was interested but not appeased. “But would you say that your ‘sources’ were responsible for the ship having such a low level of Security before you took her over that first night?” “I wish I could answer that,” said the captain. “All I had was a scrap of information. Much happened behind the scenes that I was not privy to. I can’t really make a firm guess one way or the other. Why do you ask?” “I thought it was strange then and I think it’s strange now. There’s something about all that doesn’t fit.” “I hope to be able to stand before the queen some day and ask some questions of my own,” said Flynn with all candor. “I’ll add those to the list and maybe we can both have our respective curiosity satisfied.” Gillings nodded. That was good enough for him. For now. The place was jumping by the time the officers arrived at the Brazen Barnacle. Flynn was looking over the heads of the jammed establishment for a spunky coppertop but kept getting handshakes and backslaps from the celebrating sailors and locals who had already received news of their actions, the tales growing larger with every telling until they were all relative folk heroes and Captains Flynn and MkDougal relative legends. # Flynn and his crew made their way up to the bar. “Drinks are on me, courtesy of the Sylvan raiders!” he roared and the tavern exploded

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
with cheers. Then, while the place got busy with the business of dispensing spirits, he raised his voice again, and the crowd quieted amid the clanking of cups and mugs. “We’re here taking a short break before we get into the main portion of our campaign against the Sylvans,” yelled Flynn. “This is the farthest settled outpost representing Her Majesty the Queen of Haddirron. But this isn’t the last place she thought of defending. It is the first place she thought of!” The place roared with celebration. “The queen thinks so much of Roarke’s Island—indeed, all the Independent Isles— that she directed us to base our operations out of here and press forward into Sylvan territory. We will press forward until we have forged deep into Sylvan territory itself, discovered the leadership behind their illegal and immoral attacks, and taken them captive or killed them. One way or the other, we will have found and put an end to these reckless and disruptive raids!” The room was eating out of his hand. “You have all helped make this happen. It will take the cooperation of many more before we are all done with this task. Some of us will leave this room never to return again. Please take the next two days and live them as fully as you can, for there is no telling when we will return.” He lifted his mug and his voice. “For the queen!” he yelled, and they cheered. “For Haddirron,” he yelled, and they cheered. “For Parrot Bay and Roarke’s Island,” he yelled, and they lifted him on their shoulders and carried him around the room. Chain, Bola, and Eggplant were at a table where they could see the door. The door to the Barnacle flew open, hard, and in blew Captain Clarissa MkDougal and Mr. Ipness. She stood there, legs wide for support, her fiery hair whipping around in front of her face as the wind kept whipping through, bringing in dust and sand and fronds and angst. Her blazing gaze cast about the place, looking for Captain Flynn. Flynn felt the wind change, turned in his chair to look, and rose where he stood, silent. The air was lightning, and the entire place went silent in advance of a good show. They saw the two lock gazes through the crowd. The two stood wordless, motionless, with a tavern full of people between them who may as well not have existed. The tension between them was thick, and the room lapped it up. History was spinning out right in front of them. “Storm’s brewing,” observed Eggplant quietly from the corner. Part Two: The Brewing Storm She stood in the door, the wind blowing past her into The Brazen Barnacle, and the chaos that her arrival generated in the sailors’ tavern betrayed only the barest indication of what was going on in her head.… It was as if Nature harmonized with her, and even now prepared to rage alongside her. “Cooper Flynn,” she said, her voice an octave lower than normal, crackling like lightning “We need to talk. Outside.” Without her hat, and with her coat unbuttoned, she wasn’t a captain at the moment, she was a woman. And she was furious.

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Without a word, Flynn left his table and pushed through the crowd toward Clarissa, ignoring the eyes on them, until he stood in front of her. Clarissa watched him approach. His black eyes twinkled, but the muscles of his face were tense. He seemed guarded, but eager. He was a sly fish. He had some heavy explaining to do, and they both knew it. And that was the knot. How much had he lied to her, and for how long, and—most of all—why? He half-bowed and silently waved his left hand, the ‘after you’ gesture. When Mr. Ipness rose to follow, Mr. Pitt stood as well, dwarfing him, and pressed a drink into his hand. “You’ll want one of these,” rumbled Mr. Pitt, and steered him over to his table with a massive hand. “This is going to be one conversation that extends beyond even our privileged ears.” Mr. Ipness resisted for a moment and then acquiesced to Mr. Pitt’s logic and looming presence, and took a seat with his counterpart. Clarissa spun and strode outside, the wind pushing the hair out of her face, and Flynn followed wordlessly after. Clarissa led Cooper Flynn out of the tavern and down the rustic wooden porch steps to the hard-packed dirt street. They wandered down to the docks, where the creak of wood and the

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
slap of water acted as a soothing background to the discussion she wanted to conduct. For his part, Cooper Flynn simply walked along, uncharacteristically silent. If he knew what she was going to ask him, he gave no inclination. If anything, he seemed at peace, simply happy to be walking along beside her. Of course, that only irked her more. Dark clouds started to obscure the moon like dread over her heart, but there was enough light to walk alongside the docks and then down onto the sand where the waves lapped against the shore. “How is this going to work,” she blurted, “if you can’t be open with me?” She stopped and looked up at him with her fiery hair whipping around her face. “When were you going to tell me all that about the Sylvans, about Haddirron, and where you stand between them?” He hesitated, and she presumed he was choosing his words carefully. Fine time to start now. “Clarissa, sometimes, the way to best protect those you love is to keep them from truths that would implicate or rend them. The path I walk is mine alone. I have a unique imperative: to protect Haddirron, and take the fight to our enemies. I wouldn’t be a man if I ignored the potential for change that I wield. There are so many who don’t know who they are, or what they’re meant to do with their lives. I knew as soon as I received the items from my father that I was meant to save Haddirron from her many enemies. I’m simply working out my heritage.“ He was still hiding something. Or perhaps he was fooling himself. Clarissa wasn’t sure which was worse. “What about Mr. Pitt? I can hardly talk to you without him lurking about.” Flynn snorted. “After a…disagreement at the Academy, Mr. Pitt started following me, and has been a loyal friend. He has his own history.” Now  we’re  getting  somewhere, she thought. “What about your history? That is the thing driving this secrecy, this strange crusade of yours. It appears to be loyalty and yet is something else. This whole thing seems so situational. I need to know what’s going on with you, what you’re thinking, what you’re planning.” She noted with a perverse pleasure that he didn’t ask why she needed to know anything. That was positive, at least. Or so she thought. Deep in thought, he turned and walked into the strengthening wind; she dropped into step with him as they wandered further up the beach. “I’ve never been known for my intellect,” he finally said, “but I have always been known for being somebody who believed in things. I used to believe in Cyl.” Her mouth dropped open. Well, that was an interesting tack, if true. “Yes, it’s true.” She had the uneasy thought that he could somehow read her. It wasn’t fair, especially when she couldn’t—apparently—read him with any accuracy at all. Flynn leaned back against a large rock, his restless hands playing with a smooth stone. He started telling her about his father, his mother,

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how he was orphaned and sent to the abbey as a young boy. “The abbey may have been an ideal place for some people but it was no place for a young man who needed to grieve. Their rules were meant for ascetic men, not grieving boys, and clearly weren’t helpful to a boy of my age and circumstance. The men there needed women around to know what to do with me, but there were none, and the men were not naturally equipped to deal with emotions like grief.” Flynn threw the stone into the surf. “It was at the abbey that I learned to suffer, and then to hate. I learned to question Cyl and then to doubt if there is such an entity.” Clarissa took Flynn’s hand in sympathy and he grasped it gratefully, unaware that it was their first contact, caught up in his story, caught up in the moment. Perhaps they both were. “Strangely, however, while the abbey was horrible in ways where it ought to have been beneficial to me, it was an ideal place to read. The abbey had the largest library of rare and ancient books and other fragments from the other world and earlier times.” Still holding hands, they started walking further up the coast. “Most people have forgotten or denied our heritage, but I was fascinated, and threw myself into long studies of arcane and wide-ranging subjects. I read through a vast cross-section of the library while suffering frequent beatings for my ‘lack of faith’. I think the monks just didn’t know what to do with me. I understand that they instituted an orphanage after I left. I can’t prove it was because of me, but I can guess.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
His final admission earned a chuckle out of her, nearly muffled by increasing winds and darkening skies. The moon vanished beneath advancing clouds and the air itself felt full of portent and heavy with dread. She noticed a small fishing ketch making for Parrot Bay. That prompted a thought. “When did you start to sail,” she asked. “The abbot sent word through his underlings that it would be a good idea if I started working at sixteen. I beat him by four years. I was cabin boy on the local ferry at twelve, worked on tramp freighters between the islands at fourteen and had my own small boat at sixteen that I used to take out around the islands. “It wasn’t long after getting the Lone Wolf that I left the abbey. In fact, it was on a night like this. I’d bundled everything I owned up and stole out to Lone Wolf . I left the harbor and made back for my old home. I reached it the following morning after a very wild night. Lone  Wolf climbed up huge swells, and we were soaked before we even left port. Flynn’s eyes grew distant as he described the scene. “It was cathartic. I vented my rage and sadness at the storm and rode out the anger of the world. The more it rained, the more it pounded me, the better I liked it. Before you know it, the abbey’s tiny fleet was grounded and I was miles from there. I’ve never been back.” Clarissa’s hand tightened in Flynn’s and they heard a coming roar. “Rain!” yelled Clarissa, and they ran. It wasn’t a minute before they were engulfed by the coming rain and lightning split the sky. They were pelted by a warm rain, and it soaked them immediately. They found a small signal hut on the point of the island and made it inside just as the winds hit. # Clarissa took off her soaked captain’s jacket, watching while Flynn found materials for a fire and started one up, then settled back on the floor, his back against some sacks of kava beans. The storm raged outside, but she hardly noticed. Thinking hard, Clarissa knelt in front of the fire and warmed her hands. “So that’s why you keep secrets?” “I roamed the oceans after I left Patience Bay. I have experience with many people and many occupations,” said Flynn. “I have trod the halls of the utopia of Menorra, wandered the back country of Sylva before they started girding for war, and have spent more of my life aboard ship in the last ten years than I have spent on dry land. I am a castaway, one who has been to many places and seen many things, loyal to no one country but honest and dependable because of the central truth that I hold closest, a fealty to truth itself, and love, and honor. And yet the honor I hold in my heart exists above mere national pride and supersedes regional preferences.” Clarissa leaned back against the wall and watched Flynn as he reclined. She liked the way the fire lit up his features, so handsome and mysterious. She realized she felt she could look at that view for the rest of her life, and that realization shot straight through her…

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complicating things. Emotions were coming too fast for her to handle, overwhelming her more surely than the storm itself. Flynn continued. “My whole life has been spent in searching the world for an answer to the questions that have plagued me since my youth,” he said, his voice low and broken. “I thought honor counted for something when my father would come home from his travels and bring me trinkets and hand-fashioned toys, then he died. I thought that family meant something, then my mother died. I thought friendship would be my salvation, but then I was abandoned in a horrible place. I grew up a little and started to make my own way. Then, just when I thought that faith meant something, I discovered that the cleric had died and left me all alone to make my way. I’ve been going it alone ever since, I guess,” he said. Clarissa scooted over and folded herself into his arms, the warmth and strength of his touch the most honest thing about him just right then. Flynn held her and rested his head on hers. She felt his heart beating like a drum and hoped her own wasn’t giving her away as well. That’s when she knew herself for a fool, and that there was no point in pretending something that wasn’t blindingly obvious to both of them. “Clarissa,” he said, his voice cracking, and she looked up at him. His black eyes were lit up by the firelight, his lips moist and inviting, his body strong and lithe, delightfully scented with salt, sweat, and a vestige of what could have been an exotic cologne. Although, maybe the last was just him—Clarissa couldn’t be sure, and she decided that the study of this alluring

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
scent could very well and happily occupy the rest of her days. She twisted around and deliberately put her arms around his neck. “Flynn, your secrets are safe with me,” she said huskily, her face mere inches from his, and then she kissed him. The kiss was hungry and exploring and deep, and as spiritual as anything Clarissa had ever experienced. It went on for a very long time and yet was over far too quickly. She separated again, her chest rising and falling as she tried to catch her breath. “You affect me, Cooper Flynn,” she said matter-offactly. “Sly fish!” But she smiled to take the edge off. He was a bad boy, but he was her bad boy, and maybe he could pull off the ambitious, freewheeling patriot crusade he’d undertaken. It made him seem more selfless than she’d ever thought, the noble kind of hidden truth…. for a change. Flynn replied, “You’d like me to return the confidence, and declare my love for you right about now, wouldn’t you? I’m not much for baring my soul—which you know better than anyone. Let me just tell you this—I’ve held some hands, and I’ve kissed some girls, but I’ve never known a woman like you. I’ve been waiting my entire life for somebody who might be…special. Not just my equal, but my better.” He held her shoulders at arm’s length. “Clarissa MkDougal, you are my better, and I’ve known it since the Academy. I would have waited forever if need be to find someone like you. Perhaps Cyl is playing a joke on me for leading you to me now.” She didn’t embrace the ‘my better’ part for one single lightning-clap, and she wasn’t about to share her own feelings on her beliefs. Two could play the game of secrets. But as forthright answers went, it was good, very good. He grinned just a bit wickedly. She saw he knew it was good, too, the sly fish. She nestled herself back into his arms. They watched the fire together silently for awhile, listening to the popping wood and the sound of the storm raging outside, their breathing finally slowing and coming together. Clarissa wanted to tell him everything and have him hold her in his arms like that for the rest of his life, but she still had too many demons of her own to slay and too many cards left in play, so she contented herself with enjoying the solace of the hut, the cheerful crackling of the flames, the warmth of his arms around her, and the pounding of the wind and the water against the hut. They fell asleep like that, and there were no more secrets that night. # Eggplant found them early the next morning and woke them up, rapping on the hut’s door with an odd cadence. Clarissa rose, stretched, and pushed the hair out of her face. She watched Flynn where he reclined, and thought he looked especially dashing. He saw her looking him over and smiled rakishly, then rose and stretched himself. He stepped over to her and kissed her chastely on the cheek. “No rest for the secretive,” he said with a grin. “‘mornin’, Eggplant. Is there

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any special reason I’m being rousted out of a good sleep in an utterly random and remote location,” he said with a wry smile, nodding his hellos to Mr. Pitt and Mr. Ipness, who had taken the stroll with Eggplant. “Nothing special, Captain, other than we couldn’t find you two last night through the rain. It’s stopped raining and is a fine dawn, so we thought we’d take a little stroll and set our minds at ease with regards to your whereabouts.” “How nice of you,” said Captain Flynn. “How did you happen to track me down? I thought I’d done a rather good job of getting lost.” Mr. Pitt looked smug and Mr. Ipness grinned in amusement. Eggplant blinked as if this was unexpected news. “Well, I walked out to the docks and figured that you wouldn’t have gone onto the ships as we’ve just made port. You could have gone left down the coast, inland, or right, into the wind. I figured what with Captain MkDougal’s hair getting in her face, you’d have walked into the wind for the gallant gentleman that you are. Then I looked around and started walking. This was the first place to hole up from the rain, and here you are.” His face lit up in a grin at his discovery, and Flynn couldn’t help but laugh. Then Eggplant looked over Flynn’s shoulder with frank curiosity. Flynn said, “Very good, Eggplant, you’ve found me. What do you say we go back and get some breakfast?” They all agreed that would be a good idea, but Eggplant placed his hand

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook
on the captain’s shoulder and pressed, pushing him to the side. The captain, mystified, complied with his physical request, then turned to look where Eggplant was looking. Flynn’s expression changed immediately. “On second thought, “he said distantly,” maybe it’s a good thing we came out here after all,” and with that, Eggplant turned to the group and pointed out to the North where an indeterminate collection of white blotches appeared over the moving horizon of the storm-tossed seas. Clarissa’s guts were wracked by the twin emotions of terror and a strange excitement. “Sylvan sails!”she cried. Flynn suddenly sounded like a captain again. He barked, “Round up the crews. Back to the ships!” “I told you a storm was brewing,” said Eggplant.

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

End of Chapter 20 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate continue next month.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon

Memory Wipe

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Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon

Z

artsi curled up against the table like a snake defending its hole. His sharp blue eyes crackled with electric anger. “If you reveal name and crime to anyone without permission...I will kill you.” Esheera made a half-hearted attempt to keep a smile off her face. It failed. “I doubt you would,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter. I’ll be asking your permission first. Hell, there’s nothing to stop you from doing all the talking. I’ll just be your silent retainer.” “Why would I give permission?” “Because your position as prince-heir of the Lithral Kingdom will give us some credibility when we tell the Canghi governor what’s happening in the Vodrune province. No one—and I mean no one—is going to listen to some crazy Rover who walked in off the street.” “They won’t believe I am prince,” Zartsi hissed. “I think they will.” Esheera pointed to the ivory daggers strapped onto his hips. She had seen them often enough to know the complex web of geometric designs etched on the blades. “You’re the only Lithrallian in the galaxy to have that particular pattern on your knives,” she said. “And I’m willing to bet there’s someone at the Canghi court who would be able to identify them.” Zartsi growled down at the table. “You

know too much, Rover.” “It’s not my fault. I’ve had Lithrallian passengers before, and one of them carried the Sishik blades.” “I...do not know what to think of this. Takeda has left.” Esheera nodded, rattling the beads braided into her hair. “Right. And you saved his life... how many times? More than once, I know” “It is not enough. I have penance left to do.” The water on the stove released wisps of steam as it came to a boil. Esheera added ground tea leaves and stirred while she said, “I’d be hard-pressed to think up any penance better than saving the Empire from a tyrant who isn’t afraid to rip apart human bodies to make weapons.” “Empire is no ally to Kingdom.” Esheera continued to stir until the hot tea reached an even consistency. “Don’t hold grudges. It’s been forty years since the last major war.” Zartsi hissed and clenched his jaw. “They sell weapons to Drava worlds for use in raids against Lithrallian colonies. And human pirates operating along border are left free by Imperial Navy. Lithrallian ambassadors are treated with contempt while Drava are respected. There is no friendship between my father and Emperor.

If Kingdom weakened, Empire would attack.” She slowly poured the tea from the pot and into a plastic carafe. Sweet-smelling steam wafted around her nostrils. “Then earn your father the Emperor’s gratitude by saving his royal ass. Just make sure His Imperial Majesty knows to credit the Serpent Throne.” Esheera poured tea and Zartsi accepted a full cup. The mug shook in his hands—Esheera hoped he wasn’t clenching it hard enough to break the plastic. His tail thumped at the back of his chair. “You weave tight argument, Rover,” he hissed. “I’ve had practice.” She sat down across from him with her own mug. The warmth of it made her fingers itch. “How do you plan to travel?” Zartsi asked. “That is a good question. How much money do we have?” Zartsi closed his eyes for a moment. “There were...over two hundred Silvers. I don’t know how much Takeda took.” Esheera cringed inwardly at this fresh reminder of how far she had let herself decay since Nihil. Takeda and Zartsi had both hidden their cash box from her, evading her occasional questions. They were probably afraid she would raid it for booze money. She hadn’t started drinking—yet. “Barely enough to get us to the capital,

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon
even traveling cheaply,” Esheera said, sipping her tea. “How long would it take you to earn, say, three hundred?” “With current job? If continue to eat and pay rent, longer than month.” Esheera shook her head. “That’s about what I thought. Too long. Our time is limited.” Now she was getting to the difficult portion of the conversation. Esheera sighed, dropped her eyes to the steaming red surface of her tea. She had been doing a bit more than just watching vids for the past few weeks. Every other day or so, she had patched onto the Web to search for signs of Rover enclaves in the region of space surrounding Coalsmoke. Maybe there was a caravan passing through the area, sending out signals which could be detected by those who knew the appropriate frequencies and codes. Or perhaps there was a permanent enclave on one of Coalsmoke’s barren moons. Her clan, the Nii, had allies and branches widely spread throughout the human Empire. The Laan, her clan-by-marriage, was smaller, but several caravans would be willing to take in a Laan. And she had detected Rover traces in the system. A secretive visit to a local underworld hot-spot—unknown to either of her companions—had confirmed her suspicions. There was a permanent and fairly large enclave of Vitai operating on the dark side of Coalsmoke’s smallest moon, their presence allowed by tacit permission from the planetary government. But their identity had sent her back to the apartment in a black depression. “There is...one way we might be able to obtain a ship of our own,” she said, softly. A gleam of interest came into Zartsi’s eyes. “Theft?” She snorted. “Nothing so simple. This might involve shedding blood.” Zartsi gulped tea. “Tell me.” “I know of a Vitai enclave on the moon Coalrock. Most permanent enclaves have extensive scrap yards and machine shops for repairing ships, and if a Rover knows her way around, its possible to cobble together a whole ship. Parts are for the taking or very cheap for friends of the clan.” Zartsi drained his cup in two more gulps. Esheera doubted he had even taken time to taste it. “Then tell me what problem is.” Esheera emptied her lungs in a sigh. “You don’t know anything about Vitai clan politics, do you?” Zartsi laughed and said, “No.” “Didn’t expect you to. Well, there’s a damn lot of clans roaming the stars, including families which are subsidiary branches of larger clans. There are as many alliances, feuds, marriage pacts, treaties, trade agreements, and vendettas as there are rocks in the Songli Chain. I could never keep track of half of it.” “Of course. It is same among principates of Lithral.” “I don’t doubt it is. The problem is that my birth-clan—the Nii—have plenty of allies. But they’ve got an equal number of enemies. Some of them are just friendly rivals, but others...well, there are Vitai who would leap at the chance to let a pack of Hooktooths loose in

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every Nii ship. And it just so happens that the only Vitai enclave in the Coalsmoke system is controlled by the Suto.” “Not friends?” “Let’s just say that, ten years ago, they killed six Nii in a tavern brawl and left them literally nailed to the counter. Then they killed four more the next morning, for some hair of the dog that bit ‘em.” “I see,” Zartsi said. “Then they will kill you if you enter enclave.” “Most likely,” Esheera answered. “But they apparently have an extensive scrap yard, and I think that, with some time to work, I could put a ship together. Maybe one to rival the one I lost. And that would give us the mobility we need.” Esheera sipped more tea. Zartsi tapped his claws against the table. “But how escape problem of them killing you?” “I’m a widow. That’ll buy me some pity. And I’ve got you,” she said, smiling broadly. “That should count for something in a fight.” # Stone pressed against her chest. Hot, solid stone, smooth as glass, slick as ice underneath her clawing fingertips. She worked her jaw and felt the flesh of her cheek grind against it. She slowly unfolded all four of her limbs, stretching them as wide as she could, and felt nothing besides featureless stone. Sherri opened her eyes to darkness. Not like waking up in the middle of the night—this darkness was absolute, without even the light of a single

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon
forlorn star to soften it. The stone and air were hot. Uncomfortably so—Sherri could feel beads of sweat collecting on her forehead. Her limbs felt heavy and weak, but there was no pain, and she slowly curled herself up into a sitting position. She realized only when she felt her legs that they had taken her clothes, leaving her naked in the dark. A breath of cool air wafted across her bare shoulders. She shivered and curled half-numb arms over her chest. Hot, but not quite warm enough to draw out a full sweat, and wisps of cold continued to drift across her skin from all directions. She turned her head around slowly on a stiff neck and missed the familiar brush of hair on her shoulders. The top of her head was as smooth as the floor. She finally felt some emotion: A flash of anger. Stripped naked, shaved, and tossed in some pitch-dark cell. What kind of bastard had done this to her? Vass? She wouldn’t put it beyond him. He had always treated women like toys. It was hard to remember anything since she had seen him in the Silver Sun. There had been...a few seconds of frantic pursuit, an iron grip on her arm, the cold prick of a needle. Then...sleep. She had a few scattered impressions of dark, unsettling dreams, but no real memories. It had been deep and black. She might have slept for a century. And now this. She crawled forward on her hands and knees until her fingertips brushed the wall of her cell, a glassy-smooth curve of stone just slightly cooler than the floor. She uncurled her body, scrambling up onto bare feet. Even with her arms stretched out to their full length she couldn’t feel any ceiling. Her faintly numb limbs kept her to a slow hobble as she walked out the circumference of her cell. It was impossible to be sure in the darkness, but she guessed it was about fifteen feet in diameter. As far as she could tell there was no door, grate, or any kind of opening. Not even a slot for food. The only feature was a smooth hole, just barely wide enough for her arm, against the curving wall. She didn’t have to guess at its function. She put her back to the wall—it was good to feel something solid, and its warmth protected her from the occasional wisps of cool air. At least the moving air proved she wouldn’t suffocate. Was Takeda also in this prison, somewhere? Vass had claimed to know where he was. Did that mean Vass had succeeded in arresting him, and that this was some Imperial prison? None she had ever heard of...and that snatch from the casino hadn’t been any legal arrest. No legit police force used knock-out injections. Tak, what did you get yourself into? About an hour after she woke, there was a faint grinding noise in the darkness. She crawled towards it and found two bowls laid on a flat tray. One was lukewarm water, the other chunks of bread that felt like crumbling rock. She had to suck on them for several seconds before they became soft enough to chew. The water had a bitter tang to it, and she was still thirsty after she had drained the bowl. Time crawled by as she sat alone and naked. She couldn’t guess why Vass had come back

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for her, or who those men with him had been. She couldn’t be on Belar, which meant...she could be anywhere, on any one of the Empire’s hundreds of inhabited worlds. There was no way to know how long she had been out. What the hell did Vass want with her anyway? She shuddered at the thought of him and his new cronies stripping her, pawing her...no knowing how far they had gone. She scratched the bald dome of her skull ruefully. It had been shaved recently. Suddenly, there was a hiss of a door opening, and light erupted into the darkness. Under normal conditions it would have been dim, but to Sherri’s light-starved eyes it was blinding. She looked up, eyes watering, to see a door in the wall twice her height above the floor. A man stood in the opening, dressed in black. She couldn’t make out his face, but his shoulders were broad and his arms muscular. “Awake?” he asked. She curled her legs up and wrapped her arms around her chest in an effort to cover herself up. She felt her cheeks heating. “Yes,” she croaked. “Eaten?” She nodded. The door slammed shut as fast as it had open, and darkness enfolded her once again. Panic swelled inside her. She dropped her arms and charged across the floor. Her fists pounded against the wall below the door, slamming against the unmovable rock, and she howled up into the blackness.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon
There was no response. Nothing except heat and darkness. Sherri slumped down and curled herself into a tight ball against the warm stone. God help me. # Lashiir’s talons clacked against the slick black stone of Count Tong’s throne room. Streaks of fire-colored crystal ran through the volcanic rock like veins of blood. He kept the hood of his cloak lowered, displaying his redtinted eyes, armored head, and hooked beak. Tong could not mistake a Clordite. The man perched in his throne like a predatory bird eying its prey. His eyes were deep yellow, pupils marked by slashes of ebony, and his stringy hair was pulled back into a serpentine queue. Every bone in his face was clear beneath taut skin the color of sand. Crimson armor covered his thin limbs. He watched intently as Lashiir approached. Six of his men surrounded the Clordite, each one dressed in identical black clothing—a sleeveless vest and loose trousers with an elastic belt. Simple clothing which wouldn’t obstruct movement. Two of them gripped Lashiir’s bony shoulders while the other four aimed weapons at his chest. They were powerfully muscled, and Lashiir could see the careful attention in their eyes. These men were trained warriors, and he had already seen some of their superhuman powers at work. But Tsiika hung in its usual place across his back, and he had no doubt he could slaughter all six before they could react against him. “It’s been several years since I’ve seen a Clordite,” Tong said, his voice soft and steady. “Your name, dark warrior?” As always, he spoke through the translator implanted in his throat. “I am called Lashiir.” “There is no temple name?” “Not any longer.” Tong’s eyes remained fixed on him a moment longer, then they flickered to the man holding Lashiir’s right shoulder. “Sixteen,” he intoned. “Why have you brought this Clordite?” “He killed three men at Gate 23, Lord.” Tong’s face “Numbers?” showed no emotion.

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“Because then I would lack...purpose. Do you know a man called Takeda Croster?” One of Tong’s eyebrows rose. Good—a dramatic reaction, from this man. “I’m listening.” “I followed two of your men here from Nihil. For some time now I’ve waited in the desert, observing your base here. I must tell you that I’m...impressed. Particularly if I’m correct about your operation. These men... they are all enhanced?” He waved one claw to the six humans surrounding him. Tong nodded. “Yes.” “You have a powerful force here. Powerful enough to do a great deal...perhaps even to make the Emperor shake.” Tong inclined his head in a slight nod. “So I hope.” “Tsiika...my sword...has grown thirsty. In my experience, she drinks better and longer if I find service with someone who can provide blood. I worked as an assassin for hire on Freedan for several years. Now I offer my blade to you.” “You seem to be a millennium or two in the past. I have no need for...swords,” he said, speaking with disdain. “I have every respect for your people. But I have never understood your fascination with such things.” He raised one talon-like hand. “Tell the Darkness who sent you, Clordite.” Lashiir felt one the hands gripping his shoulders tense just slightly before Tong brought his hand down. In that instant Lashiir

“Four-Three-Four, Six-Five-One, Two-Seven-Eight.” “I see. Why didn’t you kill him?” “He requested the privilege of seeing you.” Tong bent his head forward slightly. “Why?” “He would not explain.” Tong’s eyes returned to Lashiir. “You are bold, Clordite.” “Not bolder then you,” Lashiir answered, laughter hissing through his beak. “I could have pinned you to your throne by now.” Tong’s dry, cracked lips bent in a faint smile. “Why haven’t you?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon
went into action. His hand found Tsiika and the blade whipped from its scabbard as Lashiir curled his legs and dropped to the floor. He swung in a smooth stroke, slicing through the kneecaps of the man called Sixteen. Lashiir allowed the momentum of the stroke to carry him into a roll, dodging scarlet energy beams from the pulser rifles which had been aimed at his chest. The men’s reactions were fast. Faster than any normal humans Lashiir had fought. But he was faster yet. He came up, whirling Tsiika in a full circle around his shoulders. The dark blade split through bone and organ meat, bisecting one man, and the point jerked up between the shoulder blades of the second. Lashiir pulled himself up by the grip, planted both his clawed feet on the dying man’s chest, and threw himself into a flip, kicking the corpse back and jerking his sword out. Blood spattered. Beams of energy, deepest red and electric blue, lanced around him as he leapt through the air. Tsiika bit again, and another man died. Lashiir hit the ground in a crouch and eviscerated a fifth man as he rose. Energy lanced across his shoulder, and Lashiir hissed through his beak as he smelled his own burnt flesh. He pivoted on one foot, ignoring the pain and whipping Tsiika up at his last opponent. The man dodged back nimbly. His arms crackled with ice-blue energy. Lashiir spun into a quick side-dodge as it arced out at him. He released his hold on Tsiika, letting his rotational momentum hurl the blade forward. The man was too surprised to react, and the blade lodged deep in his spine. Lashiir jerked it out a moment later, letting blood drip from its edge. Five men dead, one man clenching his teeth and sweating as he clenched the severed stumps of his legs. Lashiir stepped towards the last, his claws sinking into the blood creeping across the floor, and he raised his blade to strike. The man—Sixteen—raised one arm to counter. Lashiir’s blade swept down like a clawfalcon striking at its prey. But it never sank into Sixteen’s flesh. A pair of bony hands clapped the blade between them, and the sword twisted in Lashiir’s hands. He failed to release his grip in time and was wrenched off his feet. “Leave him,” Tong said, taking Tsiika by her hilt. “He can be repaired.” Lashiir stood and bowed slightly in a gesture of respect. Tong had caught the blade mid-slash without losing a hand. That alone was amazing enough...but he had also approached with a speed and silence to rival the greatest blademasters of the Dark Sphere. Tong was no ordinary warrior, just as he was no ordinary man. The count barked a single word in a language Lashiir didn’t recognize, and the door swung open to admit two masked servants, their bodies hunched in a perpetual cower. Tong pointed to Sixteen’s wounded body. One servant sprayed a clotting agent over his stumps while the other injected sedatives into his wrist. Sixteen’s screams ebbed, and they hauled him out of the throne room without any further word from Tong. Tong held Tsiika laid flat across both his palms, studying the curved blade. “I had

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forgotten the full extent of a Clordite’s skill,” he said, yellow eyes narrowed. “And you must be exceptional even among them.” “So I have been told.” Tong raised one hairless brow. “You’ve deprived me of eight men and injured a ninth. I should kill you for your impudence.” Lashiir laughed softly through his beak. “Fighting you would be a joy, if you return Tsiika to me.” Tong stared into the mirrored black flat of the blade for a long moment, considering. Then he offered the grip to Lashiir. “Take your sword—but not to fight me. I will accept your offer of service if you swear your flesh to me in the name of Darkness Absolute.” Lashiir clicked his tongue against the inside of his beak. “You are well-informed.” Tong smiled without humor. “I’ve known Clordites before.” Lashiir took Tsiika’s hide-wrapped grip in one hand. “Then I, Lashiir, swear my flesh and soul to Jezai Tong in the name of Darkness Absolute.” Tong let him take the sword and drive it back into its scabbard. Tong nodded. “I accept your oath. Now come and talk with me. It has been...too long since I’ve had any intelligent conversation.” He turned and strode towards a small door set in the rear of the throne room without a glance for the corpses and viscera splashed across the floor. Lashiir followed as small, round robots emerged from hidden niches and

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon
began to remove the mess. # The moon Coalrock was a lump of spacecold rock three hundred kilometers long and another two hundred in diameter. Seen from space it was only of interest to meteorite analysts for the craters pocking its mottled gray-and-black surface. Esheera knew that a thriving Rover colony lay hidden beneath that seemingly sterile surface. In the three centuries since their homeworld had been razed by a fleet of humans serving the warlord Xing Yao, her people had become expert in carving out niches for themselves in the shadows of Imperial society. Their great clanships orbited barren moons and uncolonized worlds where they grew food and meat in massive hydroponic gardens. Others lived in smaller enclaves within human cities or tucked into remote mountains and forests. Still, from what she had learned, the Suto enclave of Coalrock was astounding even among Rover settlements, made possible only be an extraordinary degree of toleration from the Coalsmoke government. Their pilot lifted off a pair of headphones large enough to cover his massive ears and let them hang around his neck. “We’ve got clearance to dock,” the young Vitai said, in the Rover tongue. “Should be down in about twenty minutes, Emshee.” Emshee—a respectful title for widows. He had noticed the fresh gray beads knotted up in her braids. The young pilot’s politeness belied his rough exterior. Orange tattoos sprawled across his nose, forehead, and eye sockets, and his chest was bare except for a dozen or so bone necklaces dangling from his neck. He had even strung tiny bells through holes punched in his thick male wing-flaps. They jangled every time he moved his arms to work the controls. Esheera settled back into her seat. The cushions were thin and worn, and the restraint straps chafed at her bare shoulders, but she was more comfortable than she had been in weeks. She felt happy just sitting in a ship, with the familiar humm of a stellar engine behind her, watching the bright pinpricks of starlight through her porthole. “What guarantee that Suto won’t kill you just through airlock?” Zartsi hissed from the chair to her right. “Shhh—our pilot knows Imperish. And I don’t have any guarantee whatsoever. I thought that was clear.” “Not clear enough,” Zartsi growled. “Will kill me just for accompanying you?” Esheera smiled grimly. “Possibly. I recommend you keep your identity under wraps—the Lithral Kingdom isn’t particularly friendly to my people.” “They are vagabonds and thieves,” he hissed. Then, as if realizing for the first time that he had befriended one, he added, “Excepting some.” “Vagabonds I’ll give you. But thieves... didn’t you and Takeda steal a whole ship to get off Belar?” Zartsi mumbled something under his breath and turned to look out his portal, which was

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aimed towards Coalsmoke. The planet didn’t look so bad from orbit—like any other world, it was mostly unsettled wilderness and desert. “So how will convince them not to kill you?” Zartsi asked. “Well...for one thing, I hope to appeal to their sense of honor and charity. I am a widow, and that’s good for something even with Suto.” “They will know this?” “They’ll know it before I’m Nii. I lost my clan insignia along with my ship. But I do have these,” she said, indicating the ash-gray beads in her hair—incongruous for a people fond of bright colors. “And I’m not wearing too much jewelry.” She just had a few cheap bracelets on each arm and two pairs of earrings. She had left most of it behind on Nihil, along with the rest of her life. The shuttle entered the moon’s shadow. The surface was completely dark—the landing beacons would be visible only to a ship’s scanners, operating in non-visible wavelengths. Esheera had nothing to distract her from her fears as the pilot guided them down into darkness. It had been fifteen years since she had even seen a Suto. They would probably kill her as soon as they heard her name—she had been a fool to even think this would work. And even if they did give her access to their scrap yard...welding up a ship with only Zartsi’s help would be one of the hardest things she had ever done, and at best it would be barely enough to haul them through the light-years to the provincial capital.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon
Even if she did manage to throw together a hulk from their scrap yard, she didn’t know if she would be able to live with herself afterwards. The shuttle docked in a cavernous bay that had been left open to vacuum. Esheera sighed as she heard their airlock mate with the dock’s end and the pilot stood, letting his headphones drape around his neck. “Thirty Silvers,” he said. “You need a lift back, Emshee?” She dug the money out of her cash pouch. That left her with about seventy in coins—not enough for bribes, even if she thought the Suto would take them. The young pilot nodded and offered her a smile. “Kind stars watch you,” he said, as he hit the button to cycle the airlock. “Thank you.” A long passage of dimly lit gray rock connected to others funneling newly arrived guests away from the docking bay. Cold gusts nipped at Esheera’s nose. The corridor channeled them towards a group of five Vitai standing around a table. A few worn hangings in pale blue, bright yellow, and dusky orange covered the walls around them. Every one was armed—Esheera counted two hotchokers, a stripped-down pulser, a machine gun with ammunition belts looped across the Vitai’s shoulders, a shotgun, and an assortment of pistols and knives. Three wore volgi on their forearms, projectile weapons that launched paper-thin blades at speeds too fast for the eye to follow. Every one of them had black dye smeared across their nostrils and upper face—the distinguishing mark of Suto clansmen, also known as Blacksnouts. One of them set his hotchoker down on the table and stepped forward to meet them. His thick black hair was bound back with a thin steel chain, and his dark ears were heavy with gold. He was young—probably a decade younger than Esheera, the rust-red skin of his face still relatively smooth. He wore a coat of white leather and short black pants. “We don’t get Lithrallians often,” he said, in the Rover tongue. Many clans had their own languages, passed from mouth to mouth since the death of the homeworld, but a common language bound scattered Rover groups. “This is my friend Zartsi,” she answered in the same language. “He comes with me.” “So he’s the best man you could scrounge up?” the Suto answered with a mocking smirk. “What’s the name?” Esheera’s anger flared. The Suto’s remark was all the more biting after their pilot’s politeness. There was no reason to hold her name back—doing so would only earn her more mockery. She spat it out like her own insult. “I am Esheera Nii, widow of Jaggo Laan.” All humor drained out of the Suto’s smirk. “Yeah? You must have guts like heat piping, to show up here. Maybe I’ll give you five seconds to haul your ass back out the airlock before I roast it.” The Suto reached for his hotchoker and pulled it towards him. The warrior with the

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machine gun swung it up and pointed it straight at her chest. Esheera’s stomach churned. They weren’t joking when they threatened to kill her. There were no police among the Rovers to check their rivalries. Zartsi snapped his rifle up and cocked it in one motion. He couldn’t understand anything they said, but the Lithrallian understood beings on the edge of violence. She waved him down, keeping all fear out of her expression. “You’d shoot a widow just for her name?” she said, cocking her head to make sure they could all see the gray beads in her hair. “I just might,” the Suto growled back. “Yeah, I thought so. I’ve never expected much more from you bastards. Have you really got nothing better to do than bully old ladies and widows?” A spasm of his wrist primed the Suto’s volgi. “We say who gets into this place.” “And the vacuum skull who posted you here—did he tell you that Rover hospitality is dead and that a widow with a knife—” she drew hers, the only weapon she carried, “—is enough threat to your clan that you need to kick her into space?” “You Nii sezzic killed my father,” the Suto with the pulser spat. “Cut his heart out because they thought he cheated at Stones.” Esheera flicked her eyes to him. “I’m sorry,” she said. The lead Suto snorted. “Not the time for apologies. What do you want here, anyway? Just coming to see if you could get in?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon
“No,” she answered, struggling to keep her voice even. “I came to ask your elders for the Jallinza right.” That seemed to interest the leader. His nostrils flared, showing cracks in his black paint, and he lifted one brow. “Now that I didn’t expect to hear. You serious, woman?” “As serious as that gun,” she said, nodding to the machine gun aimed at her. “You’re not going to get it.” “You take their job recently? Leave that to them.” The Suto narrowed his eyes. His left arm remained poised to send a blade through her stomach, but some of the tension left his muscles. A little of Esheera’s fear ebbed—the Vitai was considering her request seriously, if only for a moment. He came to a decision quickly. His left arm dropped to his side, and he picked up his hotchoker, throwing its strap over one shoulder. “Chuzi and Glar,” he said, “come with us. You other guys stay here.” The one with the machine gun’s ears lifted and his wingflaps darkened with shock. “Ratch, where in Hot Nothing you pull this from? She’s got no claim on us. Let’s just kill both and dump them in the garbage.” “No,” the leader—Ratch—answered. “The old snorters may as well hear what she’s got to say. If they don’t like it...they’ll thank us for letting them do the killing.” He beckoned with the nozzle of his hotchoker. “Come on. Don’t try to get away in the crowd—it wouldn’t bother me if I had to put a blade through your shoulders.” Esheera followed, moving woodenly, and the two other Suto fell in just behind Zartsi as they moved up the gray stone corridor. She heard the Lithrallian’s voice his by her ear: “They imprison us?” “No,” she said. “They’re going to let me talk to the Enclave Council.” “They were ready to shoot. Why change of mind?” Esheera sighed through her nostrils, feeling the pain in her gut spike. “There’s an old Rover custom,” she said. “The Jallinza right. It allows a Rover in need—particularly cripples, widows, and the similarly disadvantaged—to use an enclave’s scrapyard to assemble a new ship, necessary for them to find a livelihood...with some conditions.” “Being?” The words tasted like arsenic in Esheera’s mouth. “If I build a ship from Blacksnout scrap, the Blacksnouts have to get something out of it. I’d have to agree to conduct all trade and transit using that craft in the Suto name, and pay a substantial portion of any profits back to this enclave. Essentially...I become their ally and trading partner. Among Rovers, that’s close enough to an adoption in the damn clan.” The Lithrallian hissed in what sounded like an angry tone. She glanced up to see his pointed teeth bared. “You hate these Suto.” She smiled coldly. “You’re not the only person I’m asking to humiliate themself, Zartsi.”

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They entered a yawning cavern that looked as if it had been blasted out of the moon’s crust by a tactical nuke. Sweeping ledges and alcoves stood above the floor, spanned by wide steel bridges that rang with hundreds of feet. The beings moving through the cavern were mostly Vitai, many of them Blacksnouts, but Esheera picked out a number of humans and a handful of Drava. Their clothing was a riot of colors and styles. Shops selling everything from cooking gear and knives to jewelry and advanced electronics lined the walls. Their owners shouted to passerbys, and the thunder of a hundred conversations—bartering, arguing, persuading, mocking—was almost enough to distract Esheera from her anger and lingering fear. “I’ll be honest, Zartsi. I’m planning to beg. With any luck, whatever pity I can muster for my widowhood, added to the appeal of humiliating a Nii, will be enough to convince them.” “Why?” the Lithrallian growled. “Because I need a ship. To help Tak, to help the empire, to do anything with my sorry carcass.” Ratch and the other two warriors kept her and Zartsi in a close triangle. Once or twice she felt the barrel of a pulser jab into her back. The Suto hadn’t changed from her last encounter with her—they were barbaric, with no respect for anyone who didn’t dip her snout in black paint. Damn it, Esheera thought, Jaggo,  would  you have wanted this? Her husband had died years ago. There

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon
wouldn’t be any answer from him. She could only pray to all the kind stars that he wouldn’t hate her for what she was trying to do.

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Next Month...Chapter 19: The World of Fire

Sean is an author of fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories, with many publications  under  his  belt.  His  first  short  story  collection,  Six with Flinteye, was recently released from Silver Lake Publishing, and he  won  2nd  place  in  both  the  2004  SFReader. com Short Story Contest and the Storn Cook Razor-Edged Fiction Contest with his stories  “Asp” and “The Sultan’s Well,”  respectively. “The Sultan’s Well”  has  been  published  in the anthology Sages and Swords. Sean’s short story “Flinteye’s Duel” was published  in Ray Gun Revival, Issue 01, and “Flinteye’s Sabotage” was published in Issue 35. Sean’s work tends to contain lots of action and  adventure, but he often includes elements of  tragedy and loss alongside roaring battles.  A  lot  of  his  work  centers  around  continuing  characters,  the  most  prominent  of whom is Jalazar Flinteye (Six with Flinteye). He also writes tales of Shabak of Talon Point (“Death Marks,”  in  issue  #9  of  Amazing Journeys Magazine), Blademaster (“Asp,” 2nd place winner in the 2004 SFReader.com Contest), and others who have yet to see publication. Sean  loves  to  read  fantasy  and  science  fiction  alongside  some  history,  mysteries,  and  historical novels. His favorites include  Declare by Tim Powers, the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy  by  Tad  Williams,  Stephen  Lawhead’s  Song of Albion trilogy, and King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. He has reviewed books for Deep Magic: The E-zine of High Fantasy and Science Fiction,  and  currently  reviews books at SFReader.com.

Sean T. M. Stiennon

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

The RGR Time Capsule
RGR Date: February 03, 2008
Breakthrough in the writer’s strike?

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Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
If only there was some way to evaluate the goodness or badness of science fiction, accordhttp://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1743 ing to an objective scale. It would put an end to all fannish arguments, not to mention that http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080202/ whole “varying tastes” thing. Luckily, we’ve got ap_en_mo/hollywood_labor LOS ANGELES (AP) — A breakthrough in contract talks has been reached between Hollywood studios and striking writers and could lead to a tentative deal as early as next week, a person close to the ongoing negotiations said Saturday. The two sides breached the gap Friday on the thorniest issues, those concerning compensation for projects distributed via the Internet, said the person, who requested anonymity because he were not authorized to speak publicly. A second person familiar with the talks, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment publicly, said that significant progress had been made and a deal might be announced within a week. RGR Date: February 09, 2008
Spot the sci-fi cliche’!
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1751

February 1 - February 14, 2008

Score: Plus 20 points. Drinking game: Have a shot of the good whiskey. You know, the 20-year-old single malt stuff. Techno-babble and crazy jargon that makes no sense. Or, if you’re reading a book, a description of how a spaceship works that goes on for more than two printed pages. Score: Minus 5 points. RGR Date: February 13, 2008
10 Seconds to reach minimum safe distance
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1683

http://io9.com/355353/you-haveten-seconds-to-reach-minimumsafe-distance Science fiction has always had a dark obsession with destroying things, and spaceships are a constant target. When not worrying about enemy ships fragging them to pieces, crews have to worry self-destruct sequences, on-board bombs, lousy construction, bad driving, and suicidal commanders who seem hell-bent on piloting their ships to certain death in what we like to call “shipicides.” Damn the photon torpedos! Set the engines for ramming speed in our picks of the best ship sacrifices in science fiction.

the very thing, just in time for the weekend. And to increase its value to you, the end-user, we’ve made it a drinking game as well.

The main characters are real people, with believhttp://io9.com/354086/spot-the-scifi-cliche-the- able flaws and non over-the-top personal issues. Which they don’t resolve in the course of an io9-drinking-game hour.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 40, February 15, 2008

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