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Issue 40 February 15, 2008

 Pg. 2
Ray Gun Revival
Table of Contents
Overlords (Founders / Editors):
Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn 2 Table of Contents
Venerable Staff:
3 Overlords’ Lair
A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor 6 Dean, the Space Rogue
Shannon McNear - Lord High Advisor, grammar consultant, listening
ear/sanity saver for Overlord Lee
by Andy Heizeler
Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand 13 An Iron Clad Contract
L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, by John M. Whalen
webmistress
Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle
19 Featured Artist: Carl
washer 22 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
Chapter 20, Liberty Before the Storm
Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): by Johne Cook
Scott M. Sandridge
John M. Whalen 34 Memory Wipe
David Wilhelms
Shari L. Armstrong
Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts
Jack Willard by Sean T. M. Stiennon
Serial Authors: 43 The RGR Time Capsule
Sean T. M. Stiennon
John M. Whalen
February 1 - February 14, 2008
Lee S. King
Paul Christian Glenn
Johne Cook

Cover Art: “Me I.D.” by Carl

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Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008 
Pg. 3

Overlords’ Lair

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

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008 
Pg. 4

that was a great liberty! I was truly loved!” “To love,” said Captain Spill, raising his tiny Stamp’s feet dropped sideways to the
cup to the table. “Eternal and true.” bunk, and he twisted himself around into a
Cooper Flynn looked at Bola and shook his halfway recognizable sitting position. “I’m
head. “True lust, maybe, but that’s not “Captain,” grinned Rey, “I didn’t know you just sayin’, there ain’t no reason to make
love.” were such a romantic.” it all mysterious and dreamy-like. Fallin’ in
Bola was nonplussed, although she never “All things in moderation, of course,” replied love is the luckiest thing that can happen to
would have used that word. “Well, it works Spill. a man, and it’s easy. Too easy, sometimes.”
for me, very well for me!” “Look at that,” muttered Spill, “The hoodlum
“No such thing as ‘love, eternal and true,’”
Flynn smiled at her, his black eyes crackling muttered Jackaby, repeating the old cliche. with a heart of gold.” Reaching for the
with amusement. “People accidentally cross paths and start bottle of Fair, he noticed Rey gazing over
to imagine they need each other. That’s at Stamp with a curiosity that was entirely
Bola flushed and started flipping her dagger, all.” disconcerting.
as she did when she was flustered. “Why
don’t you tell me what true love is to you, “You’re awful young to be so cynical,” said “Who have you been in love with?” she
then, hotshot.” the Captain. asked Stamp.

Flynn’s face took on a noble look. “Very “And you’re a little too old to believe in fairy He closed his eyes and leaned his head back
well. True love is the affection of a good tales,” replied Jackaby. against the wall. “The last one was called
crew, the dependability of a good ship, the Esnielle. Prettiest girl I’d seen in a long time.
sacrifice of good leaders, the thankfulness The Captain glowered. “I”ve been married Short, black hair, smoldering eyes, thin lips
of a grateful populace. True love is setting 31 years, kid,” he said darkly. “I know a that opened up into a smile that outshone
aside what you want for what’s best for thing or two about love.” the stars. She liked red leather, and let me
others. Isn’t that right, Mr. Pitt?” tell you, she could wear it.”
“Wish I did,” sighed Rey. “I’ve never been in
Mr. Pitt leaned back against the wheelhouse love. Not really.” Spill rolled his eyes and took a plug straight
with his arms crossed. He watched from the bottle, but Rey smiled and leaned
“I’ve been in love plenty of times,” forward.
estranged wife Deena Prentiss walk past interjected Stamp. He was lying upside
without giving him so much as a glance. down in his holding cell, feet climbing up “Where was she from?” she asked.
“True love...hurts,” he said. the wall, head hanging lazily off the side of
the bunk. “It’s as easy as fallin’ in a puddle. “Janits, originally,” said Stamp, opening
JASPER SQUAD - by Paul Christian Glenn his eyes. “But I met her in Cole City. We
And if you’re lucky, you end up just as
In a rare moment of serenity, Jasper Squad dirty.” were pullin’ a job there, a little grift she’d
lounged around the conference table in worked up on her own. We used to lie in
the middle of the deck. Jackets had been “We’re trying to have a civilized conversation bed—a nice little room in a respectable
thrown off, chairs tipped back, and feet over here,” said the Captain, over his motel—and talk about going back to her
kicked up on the table as an old bottle of shoulder. “Keep your puddles to yourself.” homeworld. Settlin’ down, makin’ a family,
Feschian Fair was passed around. all that stuff.” Stamp sighed long and deep,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008 
Pg. 5

and closed his eyes once more, lost in the
memory.
Here’s hoping you find your true love,
“Don’t let him fool you,” said Melendez. She from Ray Gun Revival magazine.
stood abruptly, and pulled her jacket back Johne Cook
on on. “Love comes once, Cadet. If you lose Overlord, RGR
it… that’s it.” With that, she stalked off to Breezeway, Wisconsin
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…”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler Pg. 6

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
melt his brains out,” promised the lady pirate.
“You smell fantastic, by the way,” whispered
The older men looked at each other and
nodded. They lowered their weapons. Hugh
held his up, but his stance was somewhat
manager fainted. Dean. He wasn’t lying; she gave off a combina- deflated.
tion of rose oil and leather, which made sense
“Do you want me to be?” he asked, considering her outfit. “No one does anything stupid, no one gets
entranced. For a space pirate, the lady hurt,” said the lady, edging Dean towards the
displayed both grace and style. With skin like “Stop sniffing me.” doors. The ape closed up the steel cage and
soft charcoal, a voice like a marine and an aim followed, waving around a gun that looked
Even her voice was sexy, thought Dean.
a sniper would envy, she had taken control of highly outlawed in most of the Galaxy.
You just don’t find women like this anymore,
the situation in mere seconds. he reflected forlornly. The front doors of the Post Martian Fed-
Everyone in the casino who was not eration Regency Casino and Hotel opened to
The guards were debating the value of
robbing it, save Dean, cowered face down on reveal a pirate vessel, parked serenely on the
saving a life versus their job prospects if they
the floor, hands where they could be seen. The smashed remains of the water fountain. The
lost the casino’s money.
auto-guns and cameras smoked impotently, battered ship had seen better days, presum-
having been neutralized in a hail of laser blasts. In the next couple of seconds it could ably sometime before the invention of quick
Near the vault, a man with arms the size of all end in a flurry of laser and pulser blasts, bond armor sealant. If forced to guess, Dean
legs was busy throwing piles of universal credit thought Dean. He would have been fairly would have said it was an old Izar Class Light
sticks into a rolling metal cage. confident that wasn’t going to happen, were Cruiser that had been savagely chopped in half
it not for Hugh, the youngest of the guards. before being resurrected out of a junk yard by
“You’re a pit boss, right?” Dean wasn’t someone with a thruster fetish.
He hadn’t talked much to that one, whereas
given time to answer before being dragged the others had an attachment to Dean and his
over the blackjack table to begin what might The cargo ramp was down, revealing two
generous bookkeeping skills.
be a very short career as a human shield. other crewmembers waiting at the top of it.
Dean spoke as if the situation were routine. On the left a skinny fellow bearing a refund
The lady pirate had an incredibly strong quality haircut frantically typed into a keypad.
“Relax gentlemen, the casino is excellently
arm around him with the pistol pressed men- Opposite him stood an attractive blonde girl
insured against theft. If you shoot, someone
acingly against his temple. This was just in time with a pulse grenade launcher that looked too
could get hurt.”
for the security teams who blasted through big for her.
the locked side doors with their pulsers. “Isn’t that the point?” asked Hugh.
She was wearing pink coveralls and an
So far, no one had died. Dean had faith “Only if you want to be axed for bringing expression of pure joy.
it would stay that way despite the murder a lawsuit down on the casino. Do you want
brewing in the eyes of the guards. to get fired?” Dean had no idea what kind of “Captain, we’ve got company,” shouted
insurance the casino carried, but it sounded the man with the slanting flat top, looking
“Stop where you are! Hold your fire or I’ll worriedly at the skies now. Coming in steep
good.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler Pg. 7

were three security drones, wildly firing pulsers. The Captain holstered her laser pistol and neo-bastist ceremony, but there’s always that
The girl in pink aimed up and started shooting rested her hands on her perfectly curved hips. X factor,” he said, raising his finger.
back.
“You’re right, we could just dump you out “There’s always that chance that you’ll run
Thoomp! Thoomp! Thoomp! The pulse at high orbit for a couple of cold spins and a into someone with military training or a hero
grenades flew high and true before exploding long burn,” she said with an amused glint in complex with dreams of glory. Then they’ll
in spectacular brilliance, sending the robot her eye. fight.” He made a fist and shook it.
planes to the Elysium Electronica.
The towering hulk, who had ex-mercenary “Then you’ll be forced to kill him. If you don’t,
“Woo hoo,” she shouted happily, retreating written all over his scars, chuckled sardonically. he’ll wind up killing one of you or an innocent
inside the cargo bay with a smile and a smoking The pilot was distracted with his telepad and bystander. Then you’ve got real problems,”
barrel. the girl in pink was busy wrestling the grenade said Dean ominously as he lowered his fist and
launcher into a battered weapons locker. raised his other hand, opening it as if revealing
The lady pirate dragged Dean into the ship something he had magically plucked from the
at an undignified pace. The ramp slammed Dean shook his head. “If you were that type air.
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 “On the other hand, if you send me in first,
no doubt. murder charges added to armed robbery. I’ve you’ve got an instant compliant already there.
got a better idea. Take me with you,” he said, A professional hostage, if you will. No more X
“Get us out of here, Arc,” ordered the lifting his chin for effect. factor,” he finished with a warm, trusting smile.
Captain. The skinny man punched something The Captain narrowed her tastefully lined eyes.
into the pad, causing harsh vibrations to pass The Captain crossed her arms, and the ex-
through the floor plates. mercenary frowned, obviously discontent with “What about your job at the Casino?” The
the prospect of missing a good spacing. suspicion practically dripped from her voice.
The Captain released her hostage and
grabbed onto something solid, along with “Why would we want to do that?” asked Dean shrugged. “First off, working for a
everyone else save Dean. The violent inertial the Captain. Casino is morally equivalent to working for
shift sent him tumbling across the bay and pirates and with pirates the upward mobility is
crashing into the bulkhead. After the compen- “The X factor,” Dean said with an air of more, well, mobile.”
sators kicked in, and he was certain nothing mystery. Now that he had their attention with
was damaged other than his pride, Dean stood confusion, he continued, “Judging by your “Pirate is a negative label,” interrupted the
up on the now level floor. performance back there, this isn’t the first job ex-mercenary. “We prefer the term freelance
you’ve done by a long shot and by the looks of monetary redistribution professionals.”
“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 Dean stared at the big guy with an expres-
out,” said the violet-eyed pirate. marked her as the engineer. sion of disoriented fascination. He nearly
commented before deciding to ignore the
“You could do that,” said Dean, running “Now, if you take a hostage each time, or remark.
his fingers through his hair to make it more even just most of the time, you can plan out
roguish. “But that would be an unnecessary every aspect of the mission except for what “Secondly, I have ideas,” he waited for
waste of fuel and time.” that hostage is going to do. Granted, most of someone to ask what kind of ideas. No one did.
the time they’ll be as docile as kittens at a “Ideas that require associates with guns and a

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler Pg. 8

starship. You can make a great deal of money Dean swung his finger to point at the Dean felt a rush of elation chased by a
with a minimum of risk, with my help.” 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
any piloting, engineering, or security counter- “The bold are helpless without cleverness,” “Arc, primary pilot, ship’s surgeon and
measure skills?” quoted the ex-mercenary obligingly. systems expert.” Arc had a lousy handshake,
somewhat distracted and clumsy.
Dean shook his head. “Well no, but,” he was Dean turned on the engineer next. “You’ve
cut off by the ape with a neck that contained looked over your shoulder a total of eight times “Cloey, my chief engineer, relief pilot and
more muscle than should have been possible. since we took off, chomping at the bit to check ship’s chaplain,” Cloey’s handshake was sur-
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-
aguments or chem boost tolerance?” “Creon, fill him in on the rules. Cloey, you
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,
Captain held up her hand before the engineer my dear Captain, are wearing the leathers of “Sure thing boss, she could use some
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.
“So you have aspirations but no skills. You aerial displays, maybe doing some instructing “One last thing. What’s your name?” asked
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.
jested.
do have skills. I read people. An exceptional “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

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler Pg. 9

was going. “You need to relax, loosen your muscles,” himself that he would repay Tim, and he always
Dean could see that despite his frustration, the fulfilled his promises to himself, if no one else.
“If you’re looking to experience it, disobey big man loved to teach, which was perfect. The Even if he stayed with these guys and tried to
the Captain. Come on, I’ll fill you in on the rest stunner recharged to full power again while make the money that way, the GSR had them
during the tour.” Dean appeared to concentrate on relaxing. He pegged enough to know they were going to hit
was in the middle of flexing his shoulders when that Casino, they wouldn’t get far. Besides, he
Dean smiled inwardly while maintaining he looked past Creon into the cargo bay and was past the point of no return, a traditionally
a sober face. Some days, he amazed even adopted a stupid grin. bad place to attempt U-Turns.
himself.
“Does she always walk around naked like He drew the pistol and stayed low as he
# that?” he whispered. moved along a bank of recessed thruster
bells. Though he had served in three different
There are times in the life of a space rogue, Creon spun faster than a startled cat. Dean militaries, he had never actually participated in
thought Dean, when it is advantageous to fired the stunner, sending all seven feet of combat. He did manage to pick up some skills
appear both curious and incompetent. As he Creon crashing to the deck, unconscious. here and there though. He stayed low and to
pulled hard on the trigger of the stunner pistol, the shadows, his steps light upon the deck
“I can’t believe you fell for that,” remarked
completely missing the target, now was one of plates.
Dean, jumping over the body and closing the
those times. hatch to the cargo bay. It was the best he could Peeking around the corner, Dean spied
“No, no, no. You’re jerking your shots do to conceal his work, considering Creon’s Cloey as she hummed softly to the main reactor.
to the right. Imagine that you’re squeezing weight. The presence of incense, candles, and crystals
the charge into the target,” instructed Creon, confirmed a great deal about her eccentrici-
With a speed born of wanting to be done ties.
standing safely behind Dean. Creon had informed him that Cloey was a
with this business quickly, he clipped the human variant type twenty seven, a polygen-
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 super-
These were his type of people, and he was
stitious about machines, and had probably
“Right, squeeze,” repeated Dean, listening to betraying them to save his own skin. He hated never hurt another living thing.
the Cheney-Stokes wheezing of the air recyclers having to do it, especially for the Greater Star
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
shooting as if it had been his own idea. origami to fill a black hole with spaghettified
swans. Still, it felt wrong working for the right emergency breather, lower the oxygen levels
enough to knock out the rest of the crew and
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 in the coordi-
bolt of energy into the intercom. It died with reward money, he would have refused the nates for the rendezvous with the GSR Secret
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

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler Pg. 10

He turned around just in time to see the “I should have never accepted the deal,” skills to benefit humanity. Just think about it; if
heel of Captain Sedona’s laser pistol coming at muttered Dean. If the Greater Star Republic I’m dead, I can’t help anyone,” adding, “amen,
him. The world went black with a quick, sharp wanted these pirates so badly, why hadn’t they Ra.”
pain. just gone into Post Martian Federation space
themselves to track them down? His heart pounded in stark fear as the outer
# 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 profes-
Dean was cold. It was a bad cold, a space covert mission, they could deny everything, he sion, not to mention the difficulty in scamming
cold. He opened his eyes to the inevitable. was just an unrelated criminal. Which probably omnipotent beings.
He was in an airlock. The inside hatch had a explained what they wanted the pirates for,
external resources, off the books. It’s what “Hey! I’m not even close to frozen to death
window, through which he could see the back
he would do if he were in charge of the SS, yet,” he screamed, wondering if that was a
of Creon standing guard. The outside hatch
which is precisely why he hated dealing with good idea. No point in making the inevitable
was all unforgiving metal, not to mention badly
them at all. Dean stomped his feet for warmth, even more miserable.
in need of fresh paint.
producing only numb vibrations in his wooden It was better to have robbed in the heavens
A quick search revealed an emergency legs. He looked at his breath in despair. than obeyed the rules below, he thought
release lever, but being of military design it
only opened the outer hatch. No help there. 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.
“Think, Dean. Think,” he said, pacing in a than having landed himself in an airlock about Blowing the air out of his lungs, Dean stood
quick circle and rubbing his arms for warmth. to be spaced, he had no regrets. He guessed bravely before the airlock door, waiting to be
he always knew it would end like this, dancing hurled to
from the end of a rope or doing the long closed his his
“You should have done that before you death across the starry void. He
decided to betray us,” said the static riddled eyes.
vacuum swim.
voice of Captain Sedona. The outer hatch swung open.
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 Nothing happened.
realizing too late how feeble that sounded. prayed. He had always assumed it was better
“Don’t bother with trying to talk your way for keep
to a low profile, considering his disdain Shivering and breathless, Dean opened his
honest work. eyes and sucked in a great gulp of air. It was
out of this. I’ve made my decision. I’m going to Tim! Standing in a connecting airlock, his old
space you just before you freeze to death,” she He decided it couldn’t hurt now. The floor partner was grinning at him.
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 “Tim, what are you doing in the afterlife?”
was the thought that counts, didn’t they? asked Dean, realizing this had to be the result
“Okay, it was a mistake. A terrible mistake. of a freezing brain having one last laugh at
I’m sorry!” “Er, God or gods or universe?” he started, itself.
“I’m turning off the intercom now, Dean. his style.of“Ihow
unsure to proceed. This really wasn’t
could use some help here. I know “You owe me for a ship,” said Tim mirth-
Make peace with whatever gods will have you,” I haven’t exactly been on the A list, but if you fully.
she said, followed by an audible click. just get me out of this, I promise to use my

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler Pg. 11

“Being dead might be a slight barrier to So that’s how she got the drop on him so “To counteract the damage done by those
that.” quickly, she knew what he was up to all along! within the government who have similar dis-
Tim had managed to save not only Steve’s ex- posable assets that he wasn’t able to liberate,”
“No, it won’t. It’ll help,” said Tim, handing girlfriend and her pirate crew from being taken said Tim with a crazy look in his eye.
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 “This is why I hate governments. It sounds
agent, both of whom were keeping their activi- like we’re in over our heads, Tim.”
GSR SS Intel Report: Security Level - Alpha ties
Blue. Disposable Asset “Dean Smith” Deceased. had secret from the secret service itself. They “Not at all Dean, I have faith in you,” said
all been played.
Pirate Vessel T9-031 Destroyed, All Hands Lost. Tim smoothly. Whenever he talked like this,
CC Supreme Senator Jarron. Dean shook his head. “Why didn’t she tell a scheme was sure to follow. Dean braced
me she knew the score the instant I got on himself.
Dean looked up with bewilderment. “All I board?”
rated was ‘Disposable Asset’?” He handed the “You’re going to join the crew of the Tachyon
document back to Tim, who pulled the tab and Behind him the inner hatch of the Valkyrie Valkyrie, for real this time. You’ll make Captain
let it bubble away. opened to reveal Captain Sedona and her crew, Sedona and her crew very wealthy, with a
modest repayment schedule to me, of course.
Tim smiled, clapping Dean on the shoulder. many of whom were still mopping up their
laughter. Dean glared. In the process, due to the aims of our SS friend,
“Welcome to the world of the nonexistent, you might even wind up saving the Galaxy,”
Dean. Remember how I said I had a pretty good “Oh, don’t look at me, ‘space rogue’—that announced Tim sweepingly.
job lined up when we split?” was Tim’s idea,” she said, barely containing a
“And how am I going to do that?” asked
“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. Dean skeptically. Tim shook his head, backing
the Republic SS.” into his Envoy Shuttle.
“Well it doesn’t, directly. I’m a diplomat. and“Sorry. I knew you wouldn’t hurt anyone
“That’s for you to figure out once you get
Best con I’ve ever run. Anyway I’ve got a friend “Trust me, on resist
I couldn’t the opportunity,” said Tim.
the outside of the hatch it was your mission, old buddy. I‘ll be in touch,” he
in the Secret Service who was keeping an eye much funnier.” finished and slammed the airlock door shut.
on you as a special favor to me. When he told Dean found his anger melting into astonish-
me you were nabbed, we came up with a plan “Oh, I’m sure it was,” said Dean, his face ment as he turned to face the crew of the
to save you. I wound up calling a buddy of mine. flushed as his hands made fists. Tim was a Valkyrie.
You remember Steve?” notorious lover of practical jokes. It was sur-
prising that such a man had lived as long as he They had proven their ability to lie convinc-
“Shoot-first Steve? On Planet Mall?” ingly, which was a good start. Where there was
had.
deception, there was opportunity.
“The same. His ex-girlfriend owns that ship “Well, in the final analysis you still owe me
behind you,” said Tim cheerily. Dean’s head “This should be interesting,” said Dean,
for the ship and I’m afraid my friend in the SS
was whirling. starting to feel better already.
may need some favors from time to time,” said
Tim continued. “How do you think the Tim. “I’ll meet you in the mess lounge to discuss
SS knew where the pirates were going to be plans in an hour,” said Captain Sedona cheer-
“Why does he need favors?” asked Dean
next?” fully, sauntering off.
with dread.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Dean, the Space Rogue by Andy Heizeler Pg. 12

Cloey surprised him by kissing him on the
cheek. “Welcome to the crew, Dean,” she said
Andy Heizeler stumbling upon downed 1940’s anti-aircraft
artillery training radio-plane drones in the
with a wink and headed for the engine room. swamps of Fort Stewart)enjoying the beauty
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. of our National Park System, debating the
promised Creon. Dean nodded in absolute By 1995 he had enough rejection slips to nature of the universe, and reading science
agreement. Creon gave him one last warning
glare before going to his quarters. account for the shrinking rainforests. Off and fiction.
on he continued writing in spurts, submitting
Arc raised an eyebrow. “How do we know randomly but mostly pursuing the art of daily
this wasn’t your plan all along?” he asked. living (as opposed to the art of daily starving.)
Dean smiled. “You don’t. But that’s exactly
the kind of thing they would want you to He joined the Army in 2001 after the terroist
think,” he said, putting his arm around Arc’s attacks of 9/11 and has deployed to Iraq
shoulders. a total of three times. During his third
“I think we have some champagne in mess deployment, at the age of 32, he decided
lounge,” said Arc. after a near miss by a mortar round (which is
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 Pg. 13
An Iron Clad Contract
A Jack Brand Story
by John M. Whalen
I ’m not inclined to think much about philoso-
phy. My life has been too busy to have time
to sit around contemplating such things. But
“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.
contract. For five grand he guaranteed to kill
me by midnight June 25. That’s tomorrow.”

a thing that happened a few months ago with “Wait a minute,” I said. “Back up. You hired
Jericho Reynolds, gave me pause to ponder. “You in some kind of trouble, Jericho?” I Kilkenny to murder you? Why did you do
asked, taking a slow sip of the bourbon. “I that?”
Jericho was an old friend from my days on don’t imagine you’d come out here at two in
the Tulon Security Force. He was about fifteen the morning looking like an unmade bed if you Jericho’s shoulders slumped and he let out
years older than I was—a cantankerous and fly- weren’t. What’s it all about?” a big sigh. “Because I thought I was going to
off-the-handle sort of hombre—but he had die. You see, I’d been feeling sick a lot lately.
been a good soldier.  We’d worked together “Someone’s tryin’ to kill me,” he said. “By So I went to the doctor. They did some tests.
on a mission to get rid of Darlons who had midnight tomorrow night I’ll be dead. There’s They found cancer. Prostate. The doc said I
landed on an oil field and tried to take it over. nothin’ I can do about it neither. He’s too much had six months to live. That’s a bad way to go,
The Trans-Exxon people didn’t take kindly to for me. He won’t listen to reason neither.” my friend. Very bad. They said they could give
oil poachers, and since they bankrolled the me stuff for the pain, but it would be a slow,
“Who won’t listen?” agonizing way to go out. I couldn’t stand the
Security Force, we had to go clean them up.
There had been a lot of fighting and Jericho thought of what was going to happen. I began
“Kilkenny. John Kilkenny. You know him?”
did his share. drinking. I just wanted to stay drunk all the
“I heard of him.” time. And one night in a bar I saw John sitting
When he came pounding on my door in at one of the tables. I remembered his reputa-
the middle of the night several months ago “He’s a professional killer,” Jericho said, his tion, and I got the idea of how I could beat
I was caught by surprise. I had a small cabin grey eyes watery and pathetic looking. “He’ll my fate. I went over to him and asked if he
out in the Tulon desert where I spent my early kill me by tomorrow midnight.” was still in the killing for hire business. He said
retirement from the Force and it had been at he was. We went to his room a couple blocks
least two years since I’d seen him. “Why? What did you do to him?” away and talked. I told him what I wanted and
we agreed on the price. I got the money the
“Brand, you gotta help me,” he said breath- Jericho reached for the bottle and poured next day and told him I didn’t want to see it
lessly after I put on a pair of jeans and shirt and another. “I hired him,” he said, holding the coming. But I wanted him to do it in the next
let him in. He looked ragged and I could smell glass in a shaky hand. “I hired him to kill me.” thirty days. The thirty days ends tomorrow.”
Synth-whiskey on his breath. I lit a lantern and He raised the drink to his lips and tossed it
set him down in a chair. “You got anything to down. “Sorry to hear about the cancer, Jericho,” I
drink?” he asked. said. I felt bad for him.
“You what?” I wasn’t sure I’d heard him
I poured us a couple of shots of Wild Turkey. correctly. “But that’s just it,” he said. “I ain’t got cancer.
The bottle had been a Christmas present from Turns out the doctors made a mistake. Got my
“I paid him five thousand Tulo-Creds to
back Earth. The real thing was hard to come X-rays and tests mixed up with somebody else.
bump me off. That was four weeks ago. It’s a
by on Tulon. 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 Pg. 14

have gone over there and plugged that damn heavy demand for it during the Terror War had the floor with stars in his eyes.
doctor. I felt great though, because I was going fallen off. Despite the fact that Digital Atomic
to live. And then I remembered Kilkenny. I was Fuel had been developed back on Earth, there I picked his pistol up from the floor, went
glad he hadn’t done the job yet and I went over were still some uses for oil that hadn’t been over to the door. There was nobody in the hall.
to see him at his place. I told him the deal was replaced by the new technology. Leedsville No witnesses. I slammed the door shut then
off. He could keep the money and forget about was still a viable operation, even though the walked over to Kilkenny and grabbed him up off
the whole thing. But that bastard said it’s too Big Shutdown had closed pretty much every- the floor. I threw him in a chair and slapped his
late. When he takes on a contract, he sees it thing else on Tulon. It took me an hour to get face a couple of times to wake him up. There
through to the end. Says it would be bad for his there by Hover-Jeep. was a bottle of whiskey and some glasses on a
reputation, if he failed to do the job.” 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
would have cared in a town like Leedsville. I can“Maybe
me?” 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.
How anybody could get into a fix like that I “I try not to.”
Nothing. I pounded it again. A muffled
couldn’t fathom. Jericho had always been a voice said something and I pounded louder. “Glad to hear it, because that must mean
hyper kind of guy and was known to go off Footsteps staggered on the other side. “Who you’re going 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
before I let myself out the front door. I stepped into the room and went after him. the whole story. Said you planned to go ahead
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.”
John Kilkenny lived in Leedsville, a floor. He swung his left fist, but I blocked it and
small town built out on the desert near the backedaup
threw hard left at his chin. He blinked and Kilkenny’s tiger eyes got narrower. “I know
Dankworth oil fields. The Dankworth fields his gut and a right at his jaw. He went down on Brand,he
some more. I threw another left at you,” said. “I mean I know who you are.
isn’t it? Jack Brand. Famous lawman of
were still pumping crude, even though the

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
An Iron Clad Contract,
A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 15

Tulon. I saw your picture on the e-news couple I won’t be able to tell you.” his wrist and went straight into my eyes. With
times. Worked for Trans-Exxon for awhile didn’t the strength and speed of a jungle cat he was
you? Guarding their payroll shipments.” I kept the gun on him. on me, the fingers of one hand around my
gun-hand wrist, the other on my throat. The
“That right.” “It’s a bluff,” I said. “You’d say anything.” force of his charge knocked me back off my feet.
“I know she was up at the Dar-Zul ruins a I crashed back against the table with the liquor
“Only lost one shipment in ten years,” he
couple years ago with the Wilkersons,” Kilkenny on it and hit the floor with a thud. Glasses
said. “The one the Wilkersons took. They took
said. shattered but the bottle of Synth rolled around
something else too, didn’t they?” on the carpet.
I didn’t say anything. “That’s old news.”
Kilkenny slammed my gun hand down on
“Yeah. They took your sister and the payroll “That’s true. They ain’t there anymore. They the floor as hard as he could several times, the
and left you for dead. Never found the money went someplace else.” fingers of his right hand digging deep into my
or her. Pure shame.” He smiled at me. windpipe, cutting off my air. I sent four or five
I cocked the pre-fire hammer. “Where?” rapid fire punches up to his face with my left,
“And I know all about you, Kilkenny,” I said. while still trying to hold onto the gun, and keep
“Whoa,” Kilkenny said. “Hold on there. I ain’t
“You’d slit your own mother’s throat if someone on breathing. He let go of my throat, his right
going to tell you like that. You gotta treat me a
had the price. A killer for hire. I’ve put more fist cocked and I saw stars when it hit my jaw.
little friendlier you want any information out
scum like you away than I can even remember. of me. We gotta come to some kind of under- With all the strength I could muster I
Your contract with Reynolds is null and void. standing. How about another drink?” He held slammed my left forearm up hard against his
Hear that?” 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 it. The blow to his throat stunned him and he
He might have been bluffing and then rocked
make good on it,” he said. “As a professional again back. I had enough momentum going
he might not. If he was telling the truth, I to roll him
yourself, I’m sure you understand the value of couldn’t over. He still had my gun hand in
a man’s reputation. I’ve got a perfect record. I got out afford not to hear what he had to say. a vise-like grip
of the chair. I kept the gun aimed at away from us. and he kept the barrel pointed
If I let him go, the word will get out and my his chest and I didn’t see him pick up the
took the glass from him. I set it on whiskey bottle by its neck.
record won’t be perfect anymore. I can’t let the table, poured I got set to hit him
some of the Synth-Whiskey again when he swung it, and
that happen. You can see that, can’t you?” 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 crying to you for help,” black.
it without pointing it at him. “If you try, I’ll Kilkenny said. “Where is he? Out at your place?
have to kill you.” I pushed the laser activation I heard you #
button on the side of the butt and aimed it at ness not toogot a cabin out there in the wilder-
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
“Do that and,” he said, looking at me slyly, smelled like booze and there was a small cut in
He raised the glass to his lips and started my scalp, but otherwise the bottle hadn’t done
“you might miss getting some valuable infor- to take
mation. I hear you’re still looking for that sister Maybe Iawas sip. I should have been ready for it. too much damage. I got to my feet. Kilkenny
too busy trying to figure out if he was gone and so was his gun. I looked at my
of yours, even now, seven years later. Maybe I was telling the
might know where she is, Brand. Shoot me and Synth flew out truth about my sister Terry. The watch. It was about 4:45 a.m. He had a half
of the glass with a quick flick of 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 Pg. 16

to find my cabin and finish his business with dyin’ I thought that’s what had been written in fireplace. I walked over to the middle of the
Jericho Reynolds. the book. But I didn’t want to go that way. So I room and lifted up a rug that covered a trap
hired this here hit man so I could go out quick door cut into the floor. I raised the trap door lid
I got my Hover-Jeep out of the hotel garage and easy. Now that I found out I ain’t dyin’, and and started down wooden steps.
and the sky was that dark grey color it gets just John Kilkenny won’t cancel the contract, I see
before sunup when I pulled up on the crest of the truth now.” “Whatcha got there, Brand?” Jericho asked.
the ridge that looked down on my cabin. I took
the night-vision binocs out of the glove com- “What truth?” “It’s a tunnel I dug,” I said. “I had some
partment and got out of the Jeep. I scanned trouble a while back with the Nomads that
the terrain in all directions, but I saw no sign of “That what was really in the book was for roam around out here. It comes out behind
Kilkenny. The only vehicle in front of my cabin me to die this way, at the hands of a hit man a hill where I can watch the cabin. I’ll be able
was the dune buggy Jericho had arrived in. I hired my own self. D’ya see? I was fated to to seem him when he makes his play. But
bring about my own death.” remember what I said, if you see him, don’t
Reynolds was still snoozing on the couch shoot if you don’t have to, I need to talk to him
when I came in through the front door. I went “Calm down, Jericho,” I said. “You’re first.”
over to the sink and pumped some water into a talking a lot of nonsense. You’re not dead yet.
coffee pot and threw it on him. As he sputtered Kilkenny’s plenty tough, and I hear he’s a pretty “All right, Brand,” Jericho said. “Whatever
and spit, I went back to the sink and made a good shooter. But there’s two of us and only you say.”
pot of coffee. one of him.”
I flicked the radium torch on and dropped
“What’s going on?” Jericho asked, wiping “You mean, you’re gonna stand by me?” down into the tunnel. It was only big enough
water off his face with the sleeve of his shirt. the old man asked. “That’s mighty good of you, to crawl through on hands and knees, and with
“What happened?” Brand.” the laser rifle strapped to me, it took a while to
get to the end. When I got there I turned the
“I couldn’t talk him out of it,” I said. “I made “Just one thing, Jericho,” I said. “I want him torch off and waited for sounds. There weren’t
matters worse. He got away from me. He alive. He’s got some information I want.” any. I reached up over my head and pushed up
figured out you’re hiding here. He’s probably on the wooden trap door. Sand poured down
We waited all day, but I knew Kilkenny
out there waiting to make his move.” on me as I shoved the door open, and I saw
was too smart to make his play in daylight. At the dark blue night sky above and bright stars
“I knew it,” Jericho said. “I just knew it. They sundown, when the Jack-yenas started their twinkling bright as lanterns. I ran the binocs
ain’t no way out of this. I done messed around howling, and the wind picked up a bit, we ate over the landscape and failed to detect anything
with Fate and once you start doin’ that, it’s as some hardtack and drank coffee and had a moving. I climbed out of the hole and crawled
good as puttin’ your neck in a noose.” taste of that Wild Turkey. up to the rim of the hill I’d come out behind.
“Reckon he’ll be coming now,” I said. I had When I got there I looked down and I could see
“What are you talking about?”
my Beretta on my leg and the night vision the back of the cabin about a hundred yards
“I’m talkin’ about destiny,” he said. “I heard binocs hanging from my neck. I grabbed up away. I ran the binocs out in front of the cabin
this preacher guy explain it once. There’s this my AR-525 Plasma Rifle and handed it to him. out to the ridge on the other side. Kilkenny
book, and in it is written all our fates. When “You stay inside and keep watching through was probably right there on the other side of it,
we’re supposed to be born, when we’re the window. Use this if you have to.” I grabbed waiting for his moment.
supposed to die. And he said there’s nothin’ the Sony Laser Rifle down off the mantle and “I could have killed you back in Leedsville,” a
can change it. When the doc told me I was a picked a radium torch up out of a box by the voice behind me said. I stiffened. “Don’t move.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
An Iron Clad Contract,
A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 17

Get rid of the rifle.” the laser rifle and aimed at the center of my Well, I’ll be—”
chest. “Any last words?”
He had me cold. I pulled the strap off my I went over to Kilkenny. The way he lay
shoulder and tossed the rifle away. A purple beam came out of nowhere and there on his side, I thought he might still be
hit him in the side. He spun and fired in the alive. But he wasn’t. His dark eyes stared out at
“Now the pistol. Easy. Just the fingertips.” direction the shot came from. There was a yelp the Big Nothing. I looked up at Jericho. “What
of pain out in the dark. I dove for the Beretta do you have to say now about what’s written in
I did like he said and tossed the Beretta out lying in the sand. I grabbed it and rolled. that book you were talking about?”
into the sand. Kilkenny turned my way and fired a shot that
just missed my leg. I fired back. A blue bolt of “Guess I was wrong,” he said. “Don’t nobody
“Turn around.”
electricity crackled through the night air and know what’s written there. Better off not
I rolled over on one side and looked back hit him in the chest. He went down on his side trying to figure it out. Just let everything be.
at him. He was crouched down a few feet away with a groan. I heard Jericho Reynolds moaning, Otherwise you just get yourself all tangled up.”
from me, a Laser Rifle resting across his knees. and I got to my feet and saw him lying on his We went back to the cabin, and I patched
The wide grin on his face told me how proud of back several yards away. I went over to him Jericho up. Next day I dug a grave for Kilkenny.
himself he was. and knelt down. Jericho even said a few words over him. And
“A fellow told me about that tunnel,” he “I knew it,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going then he got into his dune buggy and took off
said. “A Nomad named Shadrack whose gang to get out of this. Like I said, you can’t mess under Tulon’s bright searing sun.
you wiped out some time ago. He told me to around with Fate. You try to get one step ahead Like I said, I don’t spend much time thinking
give you his regards.” of it and it’s already two steps ahead of you.” about philosophy. But I remember that saying
“I thought one of them had got away,” I said. “What are you doing out here?” I said. “I that there’s a time for everything and a season
“But I wasn’t sure til now.” thought I told you to stay in the cabin.” for every purpose. Maybe there’s some truth to
that. Jericho Reynolds thought he could outwit
“I didn’t kill you back there in Leedsville, “I saw him moving around while you were fate. He tried to take his destiny into his own
because nobody was paying me to,” he said. “I down there in the tunnel,” he said, grimacing hands. But destiny had other plans. It always
don’t do freebies. But I guess I gotta kill you with pain. “Figured he was fixin’ to take you does.
now, or you’ll try and stop me from doing what out first and then come get me. He must have
I came here to do. Stand up. Put your hands knowed about the tunnel.” He groaned with
up.” pain again. “How bad is it, Brand? How long
you reckon I got?”
I got to my feet with my hands raised
shoulder high. 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.
“Huh?” he said, blinking in disbelief. “I ain’t?
“Have it your way,” Kilkenny said. He raised

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, pulpand-
dagger.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 Pg. 20

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 Pg. 22
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
Chapter 20, Liberty Before the Storm
by Johne Cook
The story so far: while we’re here at port, do you?” asked Bola, “Please, go ahead,” said the captain.
and there was a twitter of laughter.
Cooper Flynn has discovered the existence of The cleric cocked his head slightly to one
another Haddirron airship, the HMS Tanith, a Captain Flynn finished signing a cargo side. “I thought perhaps you would like to go
revelation that provides more questions than manifest and tossed it to Mr. Humble. “There’s first.”
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?” That was unexpected, thought Flynn. He
Academy, and sparks flew again at their was careful not to let his surprise reach his
reunion. Mr. Pitt shook his head but said nothing, face.
looking over Flynn’s shoulder. Flynn turned
After conducting a successful raid on the and followed his gaze. One thing was certain—he wasn’t in the
legendary guns at the cliffs of Yempher, the two mood for games. Clarissa awaited, or so he
airships return to Roarke’s Island to meet up Cleric Mathen Vaneras walked toward the imagined, and every moment he was away
with the rest of the crew and engage in some captain with a purposeful expression. from her was a special torture. Furthermore,
eagerly-awaited rest and relaxation as Alacrity the cleric knew it. What was he trying to
Flynn sighed and waited. Now what? accomplish by sandbagging him just now?
prepares for her first island liberty.
“Captain, the crew is excited about this Very well. Flynn wasn’t in the mood to
liberty ashore,” said the cleric as he approached. cater to the cleric, so he quickly gathered his
Part One: Liberty “It’s clear that you care very much for your thoughts and launched into the first random
crew.” spiel that occurred to him as if he’d had
C aptain Flynn and the crew of Alacrity
were restless and frankly giddy as the ship
descended toward the port at Roarke’s Island.
“Thank you, Cleric,” replied the captain,
trying not to sound as guarded as he felt. “I
something prepared in advance for just such
an occasion. Flynn could see Bola watching
him.
Clarissa MkDougal’s airship, the HMS Tanith, appreciate your opinion.”
dropped toward the water first. The crews “Cleric Vaneras, we all have our secrets.
The cleric put his arms behind his back like
of the two ships waved at each other as they However, you have displayed to me that you
he was delivering a message. “I intend to go
dropped down, and then Captain Flynn gave are a man of Cyl, a good and honorable man,
ashore at port with the rest of the crew, but
the order that none of them had yet heard and I would be glad to have you at my back or
there is a thing we need to discuss before I
aboard the new airships— “Set ‘er down!” take yours any day, any secrets of yours not-
disembark.” withstanding.”
With belabored grace, the airships settled Captain Flynn looked longingly at port,
down into the crystal clear waters of Parrot Flynn looked at Bola. She appeared to be
searching in vain for a sign of Clarissa, with her
Bay at Roarke’s Island, silencing for the first buying it, at least.
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 For what that was worth.
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. 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 Pg. 23

secret that I have something big in my past Flynn, who had taken his fair share of Irony was lost on Bola, thought Flynn.
standing in my way of accepting any belief in strokes along the docks and taverns of his
Cyl, largely because of well-intentioned but flight and his tutelage with the Friar of Briar He looked around. Eggplant—of all peo-
clumsy Cyl-worshippers at the abbey where Island, was thinking before he even hit the ple—started forward with a broom handle in
I grew up after I was orphaned as a child. deck. The realization hit him harder than the his hand…amusing but touching. Mr. Pitt had
Therefore, it is no small thing to admit to you stroke itself—Vaneras, the man of peace, the a thoughtful look on his face and put his arm
that you have gone a long way toward dispel- holy man of principle, had attacked him like a out, preventing Eggplant from approaching.
ling my bitter disillusion.” lithe cat, springing from full rest to the attack Good man.
in the blink of an eye. The cleric had a whale
And then Flynn had his edgiest brainstorm. Flynn saw Dr. Deena Prentiss standing
of a right cross. That was no mere lucky strike, it
“And at the risk of falling into hypocrisy, I would behind Mr. Pitt, a smug smile blooming on her
was a tactical strike executed to perfection out
not be opposed if you would pray to your god face. He noted she wasn’t rushing to his aid,
of the blue without the slightest telegraphed
for me. Without getting into what is and isn’t either, blood notwithstanding. There was more
intent.
sin according to your religion, I will take any work to be done there, apparently.
wisdom I can get.” It suggested the sort of intense muscle- Flynn raised himself onto one elbow and
memory training you don’t just acquire in the
Flynn saw a climax and warmed to the spat blood onto the deck. “You were saying,”
taverns.
subject. “I gave the order and we carried he said.
you onto Alacrity against your wishes,” Flynn Flynn had the presence of mind to tuck Cleric Vaneras said, “I hereby forgive you
continued. “If I haven’t made it clear yet to that little tidbit away for later consideration. for my abduction, for your secrets, and for your
all involved, you are free to walk off her deck He permitted himself the briefest smile. The sins against the Crown and against myself.”
whenever you feel the need or desire to. cleric had made a strong point with his perfectly
Simply know that you have my greatest respect executed blow, but in the process had betrayed Flynn wiped away the blood from his lip
and are welcome aboard whenever you need himself to Flynn. with the back of his hand. “Let me guess—this
to get up to where you can get a better view is why you’re not ensconced in some abbey
of your Almighty from the heights that Alacrity Flynn collected himself and made a show of somewhere,” he remarked wryly.
rises to.” it as a large shadow quickly passed by overhead.
Flynn blinked the stars away and licked the tang “What is your expression? ‘Men of action
And then, reasonably sure he had dolphined of blood off his lip with a gravelly tongue. He understand each other’,” the cleric said.
the cleric, Flynn bowed with a flourish before looked up and saw Bola watching. “Bola, are
the holy man, hiding a smile in the process. you just going to stand there, or are you going Flynn snorted. “That we do, Cleric, although
to protect me?” I’d pegged you as a man of peace instead of a
Hands behind his back, Cleric Vaneras eyed man of action.”
the captain. And then he lashed out and struck She laughed. “From a cleric?” She snorted
the captain’s jaw. in disdain. “You’re on your own, Cap’n.” She The cleric shrugged. “Sometimes you need
backed up to a stack of crates and hopped up the other to have the one.”
It happened so fast, Flynn never saw it to watch the proceedings.
coming. That one powerful stroke snapped “Are you talking about peace or action?”
Flynn’s head to the side and spun him com- “Thanks,” he said dryly.
pletely around to land on his back on the deck The cleric grinned without answering. And
at the cleric’s feet. “No problem,” she said absently, picking then he bent over and extended a strong,
her teeth with her boot dagger. steady hand down to Flynn.

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The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook Pg. 24

Flynn briefly flirted with the idea of throwing “I’ve taken a full inventory,” said Dr. Prentiss. Liberty had begun.
the cleric over his head with his boot, but it “We have plenty of bandages.”
seemed clear to Flynn that the cleric’s intention #
with this scrap wasn’t to actually harm him, Flynn watched Bola until she vanished into
it was to send a not-so-subtle message. For the nearest saloon ashore. “It wasn’t bandages The crew streamed out off the gangplank
the moment, it served Flynn’s interests better I was thinking about,” he said, thoughtfully. He with the air of blooded combat veterans happy
to tuck that information away and flatter the stepped forward and spoke to the doctor in to be on liberty at port, with a certain swagger
cleric instead of fight him. There would be time hushed tones. for having stared death in the face without
enough for that, later, when the liberty was turning aside. They dispersed along the wharf
The light went on in on her eyes. “Oh. Ah,
over and the cleric wasn’t expecting it. and found their way to the little taverns and
yes…I’ll take care of it.”
shops bordering the central market in the
Flynn snorted and grinned painfully, then The cleric stepped forward. “Doctor, would square of Parrot Bay.
stuck out his own hand to accept the hand up. you like an escort into town?” and stuck out
his arm. Flynn sent Mr. Pitt on ahead to assemble
Cleric Vaneras leaned into it and pulled the village elders. Meanwhile, Captain Flynn,
Flynn up powerfully and quickly. When Flynn Deena gave Flynn a very strange look. “Why, Eggplant, Chain, and Mr. Humble walked past
gained his feet, Vaneras clapped the captain thank you, Cleric. I’d like that very much.” She HMS Tanith and some of the sailing ships from
on the back. “You’ll do,” he said cryptically, and made a show of taking his arm. As they walked Her Majesty’s Navy on their way to the central
slapped Flynn on the back again. past and off the ship, she had her head up and market. Captain MkDougal and her First
This isn’t over, thought Flynn, who then her eyes front, and made a point of not looking Officer, Mr. Ipness—“Georg,” he said, sounding
smiled blissfully at the cleric. at Mr. Pitt. For his part, he made a point of it out like ‘gee-org’ as he identified himself—
finding something intriguing happening on the appeared on their gangplank as Flynn’s crew
Bola hopped off her crates. “Well, I’m off. deck by the toe of his boot. walked past.
I’ll be back in three or four men.”
Mr. Pitt looked up and watched the retreat- “Good to see you again, MkDougal,” said
“Days,” said Flynn. “Be back in three or four ing figure of his wife on the arm of the cleric. “I Flynn with a wink as they fell in and walked
days.” don’t think I like that man,” rumbled Mr. Pitt. with them along the docks.
She stopped and looked back at him. “You “Really?” said Flynn. “He’s starting to grow “Good to see you, too, Flynn. I thought for
keep track of time your way, I’ll keep track my on me.” Flynn smiled to take the sting off. Chain a moment there that you’d forgotten us.”
way.” She smiled wickedly and sauntered off rolled his eyes.
down the gangplank. “He didn’t want you to get all the glory,”
Flynn felt his jaw with his hand and took in grinned Mr. Humble.
Flynn made a mental note to set aside all those gathered quietly on deck, studiously
funds to get her out of the stockade when looking at their boots or over each others’ “We had some trouble tacking into the
liberty was over. That, in turn, reminded him shoulders. “Well,” said Flynn into the pregnant wind to swing around and get in position,” said
of one other Bola-related matter. He motioned silence, “what are you lot waiting for? Go Eggplant, apologetically.
Deena Prentiss to step over. “That reminds me. frolic!” “Eggplant is being modest,” said Captain
Doctor, while we’re here, I think you should
Hooting and hollering, the crew broke and Flynn. “I doubt that one pilot in twenty could
make sure our supplies are fully stocked.”
ran off the ship. 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 Pg. 25

“Hey, there’s Smythe and Gillings,” said before with my Paa and they were kind enough local. They walked over. “We ready?” Mr. Pitt
Chain, pointing to a cafe on the edge of the then, as well.” nodded and acknowledged the others with a
market. spare nod and a knowing grin, shaking hands
“Very good,” said Flynn. “Well, I need to all around while growling things like “Hello,
“It appears they’re all there, Captain,” said meet with the local authorities this afternoon; Ven” or calling them by name.
Eggplant quietly. however, we’re going to be meeting later at
The Brazen Barnacle for a bit of a celebration “This is Pav Gherkew, the local town head”
“Excellent!” said Flynn, “We needed this and we’d love it if you’d all come,” he said, said Mr. Pitt as they exchanged greetings
rendezvous” he said, and strode off to visit waving his hands to include the table where and introductions. “The others are in there
with the others. “Hello, Captain Smythe,” Flynn the Grenville sailors sat and getting quiet nods whenever you’re ready.”
bellowed, exuberant as a puppy. in return.
Flynn looked around. May as well get this
Smythe and Gillings sat relaxing there “Perhaps you men would be willing to show over with and pick up the pieces later. “Ok,
with some of the local tea and lemonade— the crew here where to get some decent food then. Let’s make this quick so we can celebrate
both soft and hard—with their feet up on the while we go check in? Captain Smythe, Mr. a little” and they walked up the steps under
wooden cross-post that served as an unofficial Gillings, you might want to tag along for this.” the thatched roof and entered the simple
boundary between the dirt walkway and the building.
cafe. With that, they parted company and the
officers walked along a small path bounded by Pav Gherkew led the way into the room
“Welcome to Parrot Bay,” said Captain palm trees on their way to the Port Hall. Flynn where three other men stood around a chart
Smythe from his seat, raising his mug in salute, wasn’t looking forward to the upcoming con- and spoke. Two of the three were dressed com-
reinforcing the age-old tradition of relaxed versation, but there was no way around it if he fortably in the loose cotton shirts of the port
protocol when on liberty. wanted to spend any time with Clarissa, and while the final man was dressed in a spare if
he surely wanted that. The best thing was to ornate loincloth and had an impressive variety
Flynn stepped forward and shook hands get it over as quickly as possible for the sake of of markings on his skin. His hair had obviously
with the men. “Smythe, Mr. Gillings, I trust everyone involved, been cut with a bowl for a pattern. Despite
your trip back was uneventful?” that, he had an easy manner about him and
They picked up Captain Lem Kend and his spoke the local dialect perfectly.
“We weathered a squall on our third day, first officer along the way from another eatery
but otherwise it was smooth sailing,” said and walked along the road amid the bustling “I’d like to present Captain Flynn and his
Gillings. little town, watching the locals move back men. These are leaders of Parrot Bay, Roarke’s
“Excellent. Have the locals been taking and forth with carts full of local foodstuffs like Island, and the local indigenous population.”
suitable care of your men?” mangos, melons, bananas, fish, shellfish, and
various meat animals. They exchanged greetings all around and
“They’ve been more than hospitable,” said then sat down at a round table on chairs crafted
Smythe. “One suspects that the combination of The air itself was a curious mix of fresh sea from the local wood.
good Haddirron gold and the knowledge that air and thick, fragrant scents filled with various
spices, smokes, and other sundry aromas of Captain Flynn stood and spoke first. Now
we’re the only thing between them and the
land so absent aboard ship. that the moment was at hand, his mind was
Sylvan raiders makes for a grateful populace.” clear, his focus absolute. “Thank you for
“Not that the Roarkies are churlish to begin Flynn found the thatched-roof building and meeting with me on short notice. I’ll try not to
with,” said Gillings. “I’ve been through here spotted Mr. Pitt there in front of it talking to a 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 Pg. 26

The men smiled and nodded to continue. eating out of her hands. The captain smiled and rumors of their own innovations, which would
mock-bowed. “By the time we left Yempher, be designed to trump our airship technology.
Flynn said, “We have just finished the first our airships had visited great destruction on Therefore, we must press our advantage while
wave of action with airborne ships against the her ships and docks and ruined those cliff-side we can.”
Sylvans in which we claimed one raider and guns for the foreseeable future.”
destroyed another at sea. We also visited a He scanned around the room and waited
devastating attack on Yempher.” Flynn stopped to emphasize what he would for that to sink in.
say next. “However, that wasn’t the primary
The representative of the indigenous locals purpose of our attack.” And then Flynn told what could be con-
waved his arm casually. sidered a ‘hopeful truth.’ “Certain leaders in
He had their attention now. He turned the Haddirron government have been astute
“Captain Flynn, I am Birot of the Haw. I to Clarissa. “Let me backtrack for a moment. enough to acknowledge this. Many others,
have seen the cliffs of Yempher. They bristle Captain MkDougal, early on, when you saw the however, have been slow to acquiesce.
with very large cannon. How did your ships fare abandoned ship engulfed in flames, it wasn’t Therefore, the force we now have is operating
against those emplacements, for their reputa- just an unfortunate accident at sea, that was a under a principle of common sense while we
tion is fearsome.” message sent to us from an implacable enemy, wait for wiser heads to prevail.”
a member of a small but absolutely horrendous
Captain Flynn bowed to acknowledge “What are you saying, Captain?” asked
breed of fighting being known as the Riven.”
the Haw representative. “They were indeed Mayor Gherkew.
fearsome, as Captain MkDougal, here, can A shocked murmur went up from the
attest. She sailed her ship straight up the coast table and worried glances were exchanged all Flynn looked at Clarissa MkDougal,
toward the cliffs, taking fire from the large around. whose expression had gone from engaged,
cannon there in the cliffs.” to intrigued, to knowing, to stony, to graven.
“We have heard of tales of such creatures,” “Therefore, my presence here, while necessary
At that, there was an excited whistle of said Birot, “but assumed they were ghost-sto- and effective, isn’t exactly well-publicized just
admiration and simple disbelief, at which ries meant to frighten an impressionable and yet back in New Queensland.”
Clarissa laughed and waved her hands dismis- superstitious populace…which, to be fair, is not
sively. far from the truth.” You could have heard a palm frond drop in
the room.
“It wasn’t my idea, I assure you. Captain Flynn didn’t like thinking about the Riven,
Flynn here simply used the age-old tactic of either, and used that to his advantage here. “I “Well, snork,” said Birot of Haw.
using a woman’s wiles to divert men’s attention think they were initially just that, myths and
from the real objective. In this case, while thus stories to buckle a man’s knees and sap his #
distracted, he piloted his own airship, Alacrity, a will. However, the Sylvans have some minds of
mere 100 feet away from the cannon emplace- genius at work and have apparently been busy Captain Smythe was speaking, and it was
ments and pounded them into oblivion at great in the past years conducting the worst form all Flynn could do to listen. He didn’t have the
risk to his ship and crew.” of experiments and yielding the most horrific heart to look at Clarissa’s face anymore. He’d
results. These tests have not only been genetic been out pretty far before without a rope,
The heads of those assembled swiveled but technological and I have reason to believe but nothing like this. It was scary. It was also
back to reassess the captain. that the current air superiority we enjoy is a strangely and potently exhilarating. Flynn just
MkDougal was a wonder. She had them brief window before the Steamdrivers respond hoped the power of the moment wouldn’t
with their own innovations. I have heard 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 Pg. 27

“So,” said Captain Smythe, “to recap, the under?” this way. By stirring the hornet’s nest, we
Sylvan government is supporting a brilliant if have turned the focus of the Sylvan leadership
amoral mad scientist who is single-handedly “I am under my own authority,” said Flynn toward us. This is what we want—we will meet
jeopardizing the world with his experiments “under the instruction of present necessity.” the enemy squarely and destroy them out here
and creations, especially as they start to use on the high seas, and then chase them back up
Captain MkDougal picked her words
these aberrations to send forth military sorties the islands to the Sylvan coastline and capital
carefully. “By your reasoning today, I under-
toward their neighbors and perhaps farther. itself.”
stand that your ‘necessity’ today is to serve
In the meantime, you and your peers have Haddirron. What if your ‘necessity’ constrained “Then what?” asked Smythe, clearly
deciphered some of this intelligence and have you to oppose Haddirron?” working something out in his head.
moved quickly and decisively to contain or
possibly even nullify the spreading hordes. And there it was. Flynn had been looking Flynn grinned and presented his open hand.
However, your role out here on the front line is at the table as he listened to her. He took his “Then we find this evil genius and sit down to
at best as an unofficial privateer, and at worst time to consider his answer. Where there had have a little chat,” he said, snapping his hand
unsupported and completely illegal.” He looked been a gathering of leaders assembled to deal closed into a firm fist.
at Captain Flynn in comic understatement. “Is with important issues, he now felt the weight
that about it?” of history upon him. “What about the Riven,” asked Mayor
Gherkew. “Do we know how many there
Flynn met his gaze evenly and was careful Flynn looked up and met her gaze. “I am a are, when to expect them, or how to defeat
not to crack a smile, although some of that Queen’s Man doing what needs to be done in them?”
may have leaked out past his eyes. “Yes, that’s the queen’s name. That was enough to warrant
about it.” the possession of something rare, something “Right now, we only know of the one, but
that I have been careful to use when necessary we’re still working on that,” said Flynn. “We’re
If her face had told a story of cascading as the queen’s strong right arm, her very will in all going to have to keep our ears, eyes, minds,
emotions before, Captain Clarissa MkDougal’s parchment form,” he said firmly, and produced and lines of communication open and deal
expression had finally traversed all the way the Queen’s Writ, which he passed to Mr. Pitt with him/them as we get a better handle on
to frankly unintelligible. “So what happens to further pass around the table. the situation. I really hate to leave something
now?” she said in a voice suddenly sandpaper- like this open-ended, but that’s where we are,
dry. Flynn wondered if he was the only one in He looked at Clarissa. “If she asks for that just barely beginning to start to understand
the room who imagined there were multiple back, you can consider it cause for alarm,” he what they are and what to do about them.”
dimensions contained in her question, if his said with a sudden wink. “Until then, I ask for
heart was writ so large on his sleeve. your support as you would support the queen “It is vital that we understand what this is
herself if she were here.” all about,” said the captain. “We are fighting
He met her eyes and spoke as earnestly and for nothing less than a different, specific form
clearly as he could. “I can’t speak for anyone Captain Lem Kend spoke up. “So what’s the of liberty, the freedom of independent people
else. For myself, I feel a duty to the people of current risk? What do we have to look forward to choose their allegiance. The Sylvan nation
this world to fight the fight in front of us by to this season? What are our current strengths, is preparing a push for domination of the
any means necessary. I have tacit permission and what are our orders?” region, and liberty is an unfortunate casualty
to take this course, but nothing official to hold to gears and steam and dread machinery.
up in court.” Flynn was ready to address this question, and They have some very intriguing equipment but
was practically relieved to discuss it. “I expect
“‘Permission’ is an interesting word,” said they have lost their soul. They are themselves
to receive word of Sylvan ship movements any
Captain Smythe. “Whose instruction are you Riven of their spirit in their desire for mere
day, and I expect they will manifest coming

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook Pg. 28

equipment.” first victories and to remember our first dead.” Gillings was interested but not appeased.
He looked around the room and reiterated: “But would you say that your ‘sources’ were
Flynn turned to Captain MkDougal. “I realize “...and make no mistake, there will be more responsible for the ship having such a low level
this is a lot to absorb all at once but I wanted dead.” With that, Flynn made the appropriate of Security before you took her over that first
everyone to be on the same chart before things pleasantries in the room, and the crews all left night?”
get too active out in the field. We functioned the locals there to talk among themselves and
very well as a duo out there. I need to know if discuss the manner of men they had fighting “I wish I could answer that,” said the
we are together in this endeavor.” on their behalf. If they contained any doubt captain. “All I had was a scrap of information.
about backing the captain and his unofficial Much happened behind the scenes that I was
She fixed him with an inscrutable expres- not privy to. I can’t really make a firm guess
command, they gave no sign of it, Regulation
sion. “I, too, am the queen’s instrument. I am one way or the other. Why do you ask?”
giving way to Practicality, as it is often wont to
yours as long as we are both performing this do.
service,” she said, and his heart jumped. “I thought it was strange then and I think
it’s strange now. There’s something about all
This captain—who attacked implacable # that doesn’t fit.”
killing machines, stared down intractable
captains, and was the destroyer of ships, fleets, Mr. Gillings got Captain Flynn’s attention “I hope to be able to stand before the queen
nations—this captain suddenly went weak in on the way out and fell in beside him as they some day and ask some questions of my own,”
the knees. Flynn wasn’t sure he’d gotten all walked back to the tavern. said Flynn with all candor. “I’ll add those to the
that, but was just beginning to hope it wasn’t list and maybe we can both have our respec-
relegated merely to service to queen and “That was an interesting revelation, tive curiosity satisfied.”
country when Clarissa quickly rose, saluted, and Captain,” said Gillings. “I still have some
strode out of the room, his desires and dreams questions, however. When you took over Gillings nodded. That was good enough for
scattering along after her like the papers that control of the Majeste, I felt at the time that him. For now.
the air currents dislodged and dropped onto post was somehow rigged. Was that part of
your plans? How did you first hear about the The place was jumping by the time the
the floor in her wake.
airships, specifically the one you chose for your officers arrived at the Brazen Barnacle. Flynn
That simple act was like a bomb in the flagship?” was looking over the heads of the jammed
room, setting off a minor storm in her leaving. establishment for a spunky coppertop but
Mr. Ipness had to think quickly to decide Flynn nodded and spoke willingly enough. kept getting handshakes and backslaps from
what to do and ended up leaving immediately “That part is easy enough—we built her, or at the celebrating sailors and locals who had
after her, running to catch up, the rest of the least retrofitted her in dry-dock, Chain and me. already received news of their actions, the
men hopping suddenly to their feet and left I tracked Mr. Pitt down at the Academy and tales growing larger with every telling until
wondering what they should do, ultimately started to put together the crew we have now they were all relative folk heroes and Captains
deciding to stay and finish hearing the captain with an eye toward reaching this all-important Flynn and MkDougal relative legends.
out, leaving Birot of Haw to smile sinuously at first stage. That part took surprisingly little time
the oddities of these ‘civilized’ men. and then we were on the docks that first night, #
ready to make our first bold move. I knew even
And with that, the meeting was unofficial- back then that we would need to make a quick, Flynn and his crew made their way up to the
ly adjourned. The captain looked around him memorable first impression, and would need bar. “Drinks are on me, courtesy of the Sylvan
then and said, “Well, you’re all invited to the support out here on the front lines of this new raiders!” he roared and the tavern exploded
Brazen Barnacle tonight for a celebration of our sort of war.”

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The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook Pg. 29

with cheers. Then, while the place got busy Chain, Bola, and Eggplant were at a table And she was furious.
with the business of dispensing spirits, he where they could see the door. The door to the
raised his voice again, and the crowd quieted Barnacle flew open, hard, and in blew Captain Without a word, Flynn left his table and
amid the clanking of cups and mugs. Clarissa MkDougal and Mr. Ipness. She stood pushed through the crowd toward Clarissa,
there, legs wide for support, her fiery hair ignoring the eyes on them, until he stood in
“We’re here taking a short break before whipping around in front of her face as the front of her.
we get into the main portion of our campaign wind kept whipping through, bringing in dust
against the Sylvans,” yelled Flynn. “This is Clarissa watched him approach. His black
and sand and fronds and angst. Her blazing
the farthest settled outpost representing Her eyes twinkled, but the muscles of his face were
gaze cast about the place, looking for Captain
Majesty the Queen of Haddirron. But this isn’t tense. He seemed guarded, but eager. He was
Flynn.
the last place she thought of defending. It is a sly fish. He had some heavy explaining to do,
the first place she thought of!” Flynn felt the wind change, turned in his and they both knew it.
chair to look, and rose where he stood, silent.
The place roared with celebration. And that was the knot. How much had he
The air was lightning, and the entire place lied to her, and for how long, and—most of
went silent in advance of a good show. They
“The queen thinks so much of Roarke’s all—why?
saw the two lock gazes through the crowd. The
Island—indeed, all the Independent Isles— two stood wordless, motionless, with a tavern He half-bowed and silently waved his left
that she directed us to base our operations out full of people between them who may as well hand, the ‘after you’ gesture.
of here and press forward into Sylvan territory. not have existed. The tension between them
We will press forward until we have forged was thick, and the room lapped it up. History When Mr. Ipness rose to follow, Mr. Pitt
deep into Sylvan territory itself, discovered the was spinning out right in front of them. stood as well, dwarfing him, and pressed a
leadership behind their illegal and immoral drink into his hand.
attacks, and taken them captive or killed them. “Storm’s brewing,” observed Eggplant
One way or the other, we will have found and quietly from the corner. “You’ll want one of these,” rumbled Mr.
put an end to these reckless and disruptive Pitt, and steered him over to his table with a
raids!” massive hand. “This is going to be one conver-
sation that extends beyond even our privileged
The room was eating out of his hand. “You Part Two: The Brewing Storm ears.”
have all helped make this happen. It will take
the cooperation of many more before we are She stood in the door, the wind blowing Mr. Ipness resisted for a moment and then
all done with this task. Some of us will leave past her into The Brazen Barnacle, and the acquiesced to Mr. Pitt’s logic and looming
this room never to return again. Please take the chaos that her arrival generated in the sailors’ presence, and took a seat with his counter-
next two days and live them as fully as you can, tavern betrayed only the barest indication of part.
for there is no telling when we will return.” what was going on in her head.… It was as if
Nature harmonized with her, and even now Clarissa spun and strode outside, the wind
He lifted his mug and his voice. “For the prepared to rage alongside her. pushing the hair out of her face, and Flynn
queen!” he yelled, and they cheered. “For followed wordlessly after.
Haddirron,” he yelled, and they cheered. “For “Cooper Flynn,” she said, her voice an octave
Parrot Bay and Roarke’s Island,” he yelled, and lower than normal, crackling like lightning “We Clarissa led Cooper Flynn out of the tavern
they lifted him on their shoulders and carried need to talk. Outside.” Without her hat, and and down the rustic wooden porch steps to the
him around the room. with her coat unbuttoned, she wasn’t a captain hard-packed dirt street. They wandered down
at the moment, she was a woman. 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 Pg. 30

slap of water acted as a soothing background hardly talk to you without him lurking about.” how he was orphaned and sent to the abbey as
to the discussion she wanted to conduct. a young boy.
Flynn snorted. “After a…disagreement at
For his part, Cooper Flynn simply walked the Academy, Mr. Pitt started following me, “The abbey may have been an ideal place
along, uncharacteristically silent. If he knew and has been a loyal friend. He has his own for some people but it was no place for a young
what she was going to ask him, he gave no history.” man who needed to grieve. Their rules were
inclination. If anything, he seemed at peace, meant for ascetic men, not grieving boys, and
simply happy to be walking along beside her. Now we’re getting somewhere, she clearly weren’t helpful to a boy of my age and
thought. “What about your history? That is circumstance. The men there needed women
Of course, that only irked her more. the thing driving this secrecy, this strange around to know what to do with me, but there
crusade of yours. It appears to be loyalty and were none, and the men were not naturally
Dark clouds started to obscure the moon yet is something else. This whole thing seems equipped to deal with emotions like grief.”
like dread over her heart, but there was so situational. I need to know what’s going on
enough light to walk alongside the docks and with you, what you’re thinking, what you’re Flynn threw the stone into the surf. “It was
then down onto the sand where the waves planning.” at the abbey that I learned to suffer, and then
lapped against the shore. “How is this going to hate. I learned to question Cyl and then to
to work,” she blurted, “if you can’t be open She noted with a perverse pleasure that he doubt if there is such an entity.”
with me?” She stopped and looked up at him didn’t ask why she needed to know anything.
with her fiery hair whipping around her face. That was positive, at least. Or so she thought. Clarissa took Flynn’s hand in sympathy and
“When were you going to tell me all that about he grasped it gratefully, unaware that it was
the Sylvans, about Haddirron, and where you Deep in thought, he turned and walked their first contact, caught up in his story, caught
stand between them?” into the strengthening wind; she dropped into up in the moment. Perhaps they both were.
step with him as they wandered further up the
He hesitated, and she presumed he was beach. “Strangely, however, while the abbey was
choosing his words carefully. Fine time to start horrible in ways where it ought to have been
now. “Clarissa, sometimes, the way to best “I’ve never been known for my intellect,” beneficial to me, it was an ideal place to read.
protect those you love is to keep them from he finally said, “but I have always been known The abbey had the largest library of rare and
truths that would implicate or rend them. for being somebody who believed in things. I ancient books and other fragments from the
The path I walk is mine alone. I have a unique used to believe in Cyl.” other world and earlier times.”
imperative: to protect Haddirron, and take the Her mouth dropped open. Well, that was Still holding hands, they started walking
fight to our enemies. I wouldn’t be a man if I an interesting tack, if true. further up the coast. “Most people have
ignored the potential for change that I wield.
There are so many who don’t know who they forgotten or denied our heritage, but I was
“Yes, it’s true.”
are, or what they’re meant to do with their lives. fascinated, and threw myself into long studies
I knew as soon as I received the items from my She had the uneasy thought that he could of arcane and wide-ranging subjects. I read
father that I was meant to save Haddirron from somehow read her. It wasn’t fair, especially through a vast cross-section of the library while
her many enemies. I’m simply working out my when she couldn’t—apparently—read him suffering frequent beatings for my ‘lack of
heritage.“ with any accuracy at all. faith’. I think the monks just didn’t know what
to do with me. I understand that they insti-
He was still hiding something. Or perhaps Flynn leaned back against a large rock, his tuted an orphanage after I left. I can’t prove it
he was fooling himself. Clarissa wasn’t sure restless hands playing with a smooth stone. He was because of me, but I can guess.”
which was worse. “What about Mr. Pitt? I can started telling her about his father, his mother,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook Pg. 31

His final admission earned a chuckle out and it soaked them immediately. complicating things. Emotions were coming
of her, nearly muffled by increasing winds and too fast for her to handle, overwhelming her
darkening skies. The moon vanished beneath They found a small signal hut on the point more surely than the storm itself.
advancing clouds and the air itself felt full of of the island and made it inside just as the
portent and heavy with dread. winds hit. Flynn continued. “My whole life has been
spent in searching the world for an answer to
She noticed a small fishing ketch making for # the questions that have plagued me since my
Parrot Bay. That prompted a thought. “When youth,” he said, his voice low and broken. “I
did you start to sail,” she asked. Clarissa took off her soaked captain’s jacket, thought honor counted for something when
watching while Flynn found materials for a my father would come home from his travels
“The abbot sent word through his under- and bring me trinkets and hand-fashioned
fire and started one up, then settled back on
lings that it would be a good idea if I started toys, then he died. I thought that family meant
the floor, his back against some sacks of kava
working at sixteen. I beat him by four years. something, then my mother died. I thought
beans.
I was cabin boy on the local ferry at twelve, friendship would be my salvation, but then I
worked on tramp freighters between the The storm raged outside, but she hardly was abandoned in a horrible place. I grew up
islands at fourteen and had my own small boat noticed. Thinking hard, Clarissa knelt in front a little and started to make my own way. Then,
at sixteen that I used to take out around the of the fire and warmed her hands. “So that’s just when I thought that faith meant something,
islands. why you keep secrets?” I discovered that the cleric had died and left
me all alone to make my way. I’ve been going it
“It wasn’t long after getting the Lone Wolf “I roamed the oceans after I left Patience alone ever since, I guess,” he said.
that I left the abbey. In fact, it was on a night Bay. I have experience with many people and
like this. I’d bundled everything I owned up and many occupations,” said Flynn. “I have trod Clarissa scooted over and folded herself
stole out to Lone Wolf . I left the harbor and the halls of the utopia of Menorra, wandered into his arms, the warmth and strength of his
made back for my old home. I reached it the the back country of Sylva before they started touch the most honest thing about him just
following morning after a very wild night. Lone girding for war, and have spent more of my right then.
Wolf climbed up huge swells, and we were life aboard ship in the last ten years than I
soaked before we even left port. have spent on dry land. I am a castaway, one Flynn held her and rested his head on hers.
who has been to many places and seen many She felt his heart beating like a drum and hoped
Flynn’s eyes grew distant as he described her own wasn’t giving her away as well. That’s
things, loyal to no one country but honest
the scene. “It was cathartic. I vented my rage when she knew herself for a fool, and that there
and dependable because of the central truth
and sadness at the storm and rode out the anger was no point in pretending something that
that I hold closest, a fealty to truth itself, and
of the world. The more it rained, the more it wasn’t blindingly obvious to both of them.
love, and honor. And yet the honor I hold in
pounded me, the better I liked it. Before you my heart exists above mere national pride and
know it, the abbey’s tiny fleet was grounded “Clarissa,” he said, his voice cracking, and
supersedes regional preferences.”
and I was miles from there. I’ve never been she looked up at him. His black eyes were lit up
back.” Clarissa leaned back against the wall and by the firelight, his lips moist and inviting, his
watched Flynn as he reclined. She liked the body strong and lithe, delightfully scented with
Clarissa’s hand tightened in Flynn’s and they salt, sweat, and a vestige of what could have
way the fire lit up his features, so handsome
heard a coming roar. “Rain!” yelled Clarissa, been an exotic cologne. Although, maybe the
and mysterious. She realized she felt she could
and they ran. It wasn’t a minute before they last was just him—Clarissa couldn’t be sure,
look at that view for the rest of her life, and
were engulfed by the coming rain and lightning and she decided that the study of this alluring
that realization shot straight through her…
split the sky. They were pelted by a warm rain,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 20, Liberty Before The Storm by Johne Cook Pg. 32

scent could very well and happily occupy the to share her own feelings on her beliefs. Two any special reason I’m being rousted out of a
rest of her days. could play the game of secrets. But as forth- good sleep in an utterly random and remote
right answers went, it was good, very good. location,” he said with a wry smile, nodding
She twisted around and deliberately put his hellos to Mr. Pitt and Mr. Ipness, who had
her arms around his neck. “Flynn, your secrets He grinned just a bit wickedly. She saw he taken the stroll with Eggplant.
are safe with me,” she said huskily, her face knew it was good, too, the sly fish.
mere inches from his, and then she kissed him. “Nothing special, Captain, other than we
The kiss was hungry and exploring and deep, She nestled herself back into his arms. They couldn’t find you two last night through the
and as spiritual as anything Clarissa had ever watched the fire together silently for awhile, rain. It’s stopped raining and is a fine dawn,
experienced. It went on for a very long time listening to the popping wood and the sound so we thought we’d take a little stroll and set
and yet was over far too quickly. of the storm raging outside, their breathing our minds at ease with regards to your where-
finally slowing and coming together. Clarissa abouts.”
She separated again, her chest rising and wanted to tell him everything and have him
falling as she tried to catch her breath. “You hold her in his arms like that for the rest of his “How nice of you,” said Captain Flynn. “How
affect me, Cooper Flynn,” she said matter-of- life, but she still had too many demons of her did you happen to track me down? I thought
factly. “Sly fish!” But she smiled to take the own to slay and too many cards left in play, so I’d done a rather good job of getting lost.”
edge off. He was a bad boy, but he was her bad she contented herself with enjoying the solace
boy, and maybe he could pull off the ambitious, of the hut, the cheerful crackling of the flames, Mr. Pitt looked smug and Mr. Ipness grinned
freewheeling patriot crusade he’d undertaken. the warmth of his arms around her, and the in amusement.
It made him seem more selfless than she’d pounding of the wind and the water against Eggplant blinked as if this was unexpected
ever thought, the noble kind of hidden truth…. the hut. news. “Well, I walked out to the docks and
for a change.
They fell asleep like that, and there were figured that you wouldn’t have gone onto the
Flynn replied, “You’d like me to return the no more secrets that night. ships as we’ve just made port. You could have
confidence, and declare my love for you right gone left down the coast, inland, or right, into
about now, wouldn’t you? I’m not much for # the wind. I figured what with Captain MkDou-
baring my soul—which you know better than gal’s hair getting in her face, you’d have walked
anyone. Let me just tell you this—I’ve held into the wind for the gallant gentleman that
Eggplant found them early the next morning
some hands, and I’ve kissed some girls, but you are. Then I looked around and started
and woke them up, rapping on the hut’s door
I’ve never known a woman like you. I’ve been walking. This was the first place to hole up
with an odd cadence.
waiting my entire life for somebody who might from the rain, and here you are.”
be…special. Not just my equal, but my better.” Clarissa rose, stretched, and pushed the His face lit up in a grin at his discovery, and
He held her shoulders at arm’s length. “Clarissa hair out of her face. She watched Flynn where Flynn couldn’t help but laugh.
MkDougal, you are my better, and I’ve known it he reclined, and thought he looked especially
since the Academy. I would have waited forever dashing. Then Eggplant looked over Flynn’s shoulder
if need be to find someone like you. Perhaps with frank curiosity.
Cyl is playing a joke on me for leading you to He saw her looking him over and smiled
me now.” rakishly, then rose and stretched himself. He Flynn said, “Very good, Eggplant, you’ve
stepped over to her and kissed her chastely found me. What do you say we go back and get
She didn’t embrace the ‘my better’ part for on the cheek. “No rest for the secretive,” he some breakfast?” They all agreed that would
one single lightning-clap, and she wasn’t about said with a grin. “‘mornin’, Eggplant. Is there 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 Pg. 33

on the captain’s shoulder and pressed, pushing
him to the side.
Johne Cook
The captain, mystified, complied with his Johne is a technical writer, help author,
physical request, then turned to look where creative writer, and editor.
Eggplant was looking.
Flynn’s expression changed immediately. He likes prog rock, space opera, film noir,
“On second thought, “he said distantly,” maybe and the Green Bay Packers.
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 indeter-
minate 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.

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 Pg. 34
Memory Wipe
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
know too much, Rover.”
“It’s not my fault. I’ve had Lithrallian pas-
If Kingdom weakened, Empire would attack.”
She slowly poured the tea from the pot
and crime to anyone without permission...I will sengers before, and one of them carried the and into a plastic carafe. Sweet-smelling steam
kill you.” Sishik blades.” wafted around her nostrils. “Then earn your
father the Emperor’s gratitude by saving his
Esheera made a half-hearted attempt to “I...do not know what to think of this. royal ass. Just make sure His Imperial Majesty
keep a smile off her face. It failed. “I doubt Takeda has left.” knows to credit the Serpent Throne.”
you would,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter. Esheera nodded, rattling the beads braided Esheera poured tea and Zartsi accepted a
I’ll be asking your permission first. Hell, there’s into her hair. “Right. And you saved his life... full cup. The mug shook in his hands—Esheera
nothing to stop you from doing all the talking. how many times? More than once, I know” hoped he wasn’t clenching it hard enough to
I’ll just be your silent retainer.”
break the plastic. His tail thumped at the back
“It is not enough. I have penance left to
“Why would I give permission?” of his chair. “You weave tight argument, Rover,”
do.” he hissed.
“Because your position as prince-heir of The water on the stove released wisps
the Lithral Kingdom will give us some cred- “I’ve had practice.”
of steam as it came to a boil. Esheera added
ibility when we tell the Canghi governor ground tea leaves and stirred while she said, She sat down across from him with her own
what’s happening in the Vodrune province. “I’d be hard-pressed to think up any penance mug. The warmth of it made her fingers itch.
No one—and I mean no one—is going to listen better than saving the Empire from a tyrant
to some crazy Rover who walked in off the who isn’t afraid to rip apart human bodies to “How do you plan to travel?” Zartsi asked.
street.” make weapons.”
“That is a good question. How much money
“They won’t believe I am prince,” Zartsi “Empire is no ally to Kingdom.” do we have?”
hissed.
Esheera continued to stir until the hot Zartsi closed his eyes for a moment. “There
“I think they will.” tea reached an even consistency. “Don’t hold were...over two hundred Silvers. I don’t know
Esheera pointed to the ivory daggers grudges. It’s been forty years since the last how much Takeda took.”
strapped onto his hips. She had seen them often major war.”
Esheera cringed inwardly at this fresh
enough to know the complex web of geometric Zartsi hissed and clenched his jaw. “They reminder of how far she had let herself decay
designs etched on the blades. “You’re the only sell weapons to Drava worlds for use in raids since Nihil. Takeda and Zartsi had both hidden
Lithrallian in the galaxy to have that particu- against Lithrallian colonies. And human pirates their cash box from her, evading her occa-
lar pattern on your knives,” she said. “And I’m operating along border are left free by Imperial sional questions. They were probably afraid
willing to bet there’s someone at the Canghi Navy. Lithrallian ambassadors are treated with she would raid it for booze money. She hadn’t
court who would be able to identify them.” contempt while Drava are respected. There is started drinking—yet.
Zartsi growled down at the table. “You no friendship between my father and Emperor.
“Barely enough to get us to the capital,

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Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 35

even traveling cheaply,” Esheera said, sipping A gleam of interest came into Zartsi’s eyes. every Nii ship. And it just so happens that the
her tea. “How long would it take you to earn, “Theft?” only Vitai enclave in the Coalsmoke system is
say, three hundred?” controlled by the Suto.”
She snorted. “Nothing so simple. This might
“With current job? If continue to eat and involve shedding blood.” “Not friends?”
pay rent, longer than month.”
Zartsi gulped tea. “Tell me.” “Let’s just say that, ten years ago, they
Esheera shook her head. “That’s about killed six Nii in a tavern brawl and left them
what I thought. Too long. Our time is limited.” “I know of a Vitai enclave on the moon literally nailed to the counter. Then they killed
Coalrock. Most permanent enclaves have four more the next morning, for some hair of
Now she was getting to the difficult portion extensive scrap yards and machine shops for the dog that bit ‘em.”
of the conversation. Esheera sighed, dropped repairing ships, and if a Rover knows her way
her eyes to the steaming red surface of her around, its possible to cobble together a whole “I see,” Zartsi said. “Then they will kill you
tea. She had been doing a bit more than just ship. Parts are for the taking or very cheap for if you enter enclave.”
watching vids for the past few weeks. Every friends of the clan.”
other day or so, she had patched onto the “Most likely,” Esheera answered. “But they
Web to search for signs of Rover enclaves in Zartsi drained his cup in two more gulps. apparently have an extensive scrap yard, and I
the region of space surrounding Coalsmoke. Esheera doubted he had even taken time to think that, with some time to work, I could put
Maybe there was a caravan passing through taste it. “Then tell me what problem is.” a ship together. Maybe one to rival the one I
the area, sending out signals which could be lost. And that would give us the mobility we
Esheera emptied her lungs in a sigh. “You need.”
detected by those who knew the appropriate don’t know anything about Vitai clan politics,
frequencies and codes. Or perhaps there was do you?” Esheera sipped more tea. Zartsi tapped
a permanent enclave on one of Coalsmoke’s his claws against the table. “But how escape
barren moons. Her clan, the Nii, had allies and Zartsi laughed and said, “No.” problem of them killing you?”
branches widely spread throughout the human
Empire. The Laan, her clan-by-marriage, was “Didn’t expect you to. Well, there’s a “I’m a widow. That’ll buy me some pity. And
smaller, but several caravans would be willing damn lot of clans roaming the stars, including I’ve got you,” she said, smiling broadly. “That
to take in a Laan. families which are subsidiary branches of should count for something in a fight.”
larger clans. There are as many alliances, feuds,
And she had detected Rover traces in the marriage pacts, treaties, trade agreements,
system. A secretive visit to a local underworld #
and vendettas as there are rocks in the Songli
hot-spot—unknown to either of her compan- Chain. I could never keep track of half of it.”
ions—had confirmed her suspicions. There Stone pressed against her chest. Hot, solid
was a permanent and fairly large enclave of “Of course. It is same among principates of stone, smooth as glass, slick as ice underneath
Vitai operating on the dark side of Coalsmoke’s Lithral.” her clawing fingertips. She worked her jaw
smallest moon, their presence allowed by tacit and felt the flesh of her cheek grind against
permission from the planetary government. “I don’t doubt it is. The problem is that it. She slowly unfolded all four of her limbs,
But their identity had sent her back to the my birth-clan—the Nii—have plenty of allies. stretching them as wide as she could, and
apartment in a black depression. But they’ve got an equal number of enemies. felt nothing besides featureless stone. Sherri
Some of them are just friendly rivals, but opened her eyes to darkness. Not like waking
“There is...one way we might be able to others...well, there are Vitai who would leap at up in the middle of the night—this darkness
obtain a ship of our own,” she said, softly. the chance to let a pack of Hooktooths loose in 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 Pg. 36

forlorn star to soften it. feet. Even with her arms stretched out to their for her, or who those men with him had been.
full length she couldn’t feel any ceiling. She couldn’t be on Belar, which meant...she
The stone and air were hot. Uncomfortably could be anywhere, on any one of the Empire’s
so—Sherri could feel beads of sweat collect- Her faintly numb limbs kept her to a slow hundreds of inhabited worlds. There was no
ing on her forehead. Her limbs felt heavy and hobble as she walked out the circumference way to know how long she had been out.
weak, but there was no pain, and she slowly of her cell. It was impossible to be sure in the
curled herself up into a sitting position. She darkness, but she guessed it was about fifteen What the hell did Vass want with her
realized only when she felt her legs that they feet in diameter. As far as she could tell there anyway? She shuddered at the thought of
had taken her clothes, leaving her naked in the was no door, grate, or any kind of opening. Not him and his new cronies stripping her, pawing
dark. even a slot for food. The only feature was a her...no knowing how far they had gone. She
smooth hole, just barely wide enough for her scratched the bald dome of her skull ruefully.
A breath of cool air wafted across her bare arm, against the curving wall. She didn’t have It had been shaved recently.
shoulders. She shivered and curled half-numb to guess at its function.
arms over her chest. Hot, but not quite warm Suddenly, there was a hiss of a door
enough to draw out a full sweat, and wisps of She put her back to the wall—it was good to opening, and light erupted into the darkness.
cold continued to drift across her skin from all feel something solid, and its warmth protected Under normal conditions it would have been
directions. She turned her head around slowly her from the occasional wisps of cool air. At dim, but to Sherri’s light-starved eyes it was
on a stiff neck and missed the familiar brush of least the moving air proved she wouldn’t blinding. She looked up, eyes watering, to see
hair on her shoulders. The top of her head was suffocate. a door in the wall twice her height above the
as smooth as the floor. floor. A man stood in the opening, dressed in
Was Takeda also in this prison, somewhere? black. She couldn’t make out his face, but his
She finally felt some emotion: A flash of Vass had claimed to know where he was. Did shoulders were broad and his arms muscular.
anger. Stripped naked, shaved, and tossed in that mean Vass had succeeded in arresting him,
some pitch-dark cell. What kind of bastard and that this was some Imperial prison? None “Awake?” he asked.
had done this to her? Vass? She wouldn’t put she had ever heard of...and that snatch from
it beyond him. He had always treated women the casino hadn’t been any legal arrest. No She curled her legs up and wrapped her
like toys. legit police force used knock-out injections. arms around her chest in an effort to cover
herself up. She felt her cheeks heating. “Yes,”
It was hard to remember anything since Tak, what did you get yourself into? she croaked.
she had seen him in the Silver Sun. There had
been...a few seconds of frantic pursuit, an iron About an hour after she woke, there was “Eaten?”
grip on her arm, the cold prick of a needle. a faint grinding noise in the darkness. She
crawled towards it and found two bowls laid on She nodded.
Then...sleep. She had a few scattered impres-
sions of dark, unsettling dreams, but no real a flat tray. One was lukewarm water, the other The door slammed shut as fast as it had
memories. It had been deep and black. She chunks of bread that felt like crumbling rock. open, and darkness enfolded her once again.
might have slept for a century. She had to suck on them for several seconds Panic swelled inside her. She dropped her arms
before they became soft enough to chew. The and charged across the floor. Her fists pounded
And now this. She crawled forward on her water had a bitter tang to it, and she was still against the wall below the door, slamming
hands and knees until her fingertips brushed thirsty after she had drained the bowl. against the unmovable rock, and she howled
the wall of her cell, a glassy-smooth curve of
Time crawled by as she sat alone and naked. up into the blackness.
stone just slightly cooler than the floor. She
uncurled her body, scrambling up onto bare She couldn’t guess why Vass had come back

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 37

There was no response. Nothing except “It’s been several years since I’ve seen a “Because then I would lack...purpose. Do
heat and darkness. Sherri slumped down and Clordite,” Tong said, his voice soft and steady. you know a man called Takeda Croster?”
curled herself into a tight ball against the warm “Your name, dark warrior?”
stone. One of Tong’s eyebrows rose. Good—a
As always, he spoke through the translator dramatic reaction, from this man. “I’m
God help me. implanted in his throat. “I am called Lashiir.” listening.”

# “There is no temple name?” “I followed two of your men here from
Nihil. For some time now I’ve waited in the
“Not any longer.” desert, observing your base here. I must tell
Lashiir’s talons clacked against the slick you that I’m...impressed. Particularly if I’m
black stone of Count Tong’s throne room. Tong’s eyes remained fixed on him a moment correct about your operation. These men...
Streaks of fire-colored crystal ran through the longer, then they flickered to the man holding they are all enhanced?”
volcanic rock like veins of blood. He kept the Lashiir’s right shoulder. “Sixteen,” he intoned.
hood of his cloak lowered, displaying his red- “Why have you brought this Clordite?” He waved one claw to the six humans sur-
tinted eyes, armored head, and hooked beak. rounding him. Tong nodded. “Yes.”
Tong could not mistake a Clordite. “He killed three men at Gate 23, Lord.”
“You have a powerful force here. Powerful
The man perched in his throne like a Tong’s face showed no emotion. enough to do a great deal...perhaps even to
predatory bird eying its prey. His eyes were “Numbers?” make the Emperor shake.”
deep yellow, pupils marked by slashes of “Four-Three-Four, Six-Five-One, Two-Sev-
ebony, and his stringy hair was pulled back Tong inclined his head in a slight nod. “So
en-Eight.”
into a serpentine queue. Every bone in his face I hope.”
was clear beneath taut skin the color of sand. “I see. Why didn’t you kill him?”
Crimson armor covered his thin limbs. “Tsiika...my sword...has grown thirsty. In
“He requested the privilege of seeing my experience, she drinks better and longer if
He watched intently as Lashiir approached. you.” I find service with someone who can provide
Six of his men surrounded the Clordite, each one blood. I worked as an assassin for hire on
dressed in identical black clothing—a sleeve- Tong bent his head forward slightly. Freedan for several years. Now I offer my blade
less vest and loose trousers with an elastic “Why?” to you.”
belt. Simple clothing which wouldn’t obstruct
movement. Two of them gripped Lashiir’s bony “He would not explain.” “You seem to be a millennium or two in
shoulders while the other four aimed weapons the past. I have no need for...swords,” he said,
Tong’s eyes returned to Lashiir. “You are speaking with disdain. “I have every respect
at his chest. They were powerfully muscled, bold, Clordite.” for your people. But I have never understood
and Lashiir could see the careful attention in
their eyes. These men were trained warriors, your fascination with such things.”
“Not bolder then you,” Lashiir answered,
and he had already seen some of their super- laughter hissing through his beak. “I could have He raised one talon-like hand. “Tell the
human powers at work. pinned you to your throne by now.” Darkness who sent you, Clordite.”
But Tsiika hung in its usual place across his Tong’s dry, cracked lips bent in a faint smile. Lashiir felt one the hands gripping his
back, and he had no doubt he could slaughter “Why haven’t you?” shoulders tense just slightly before Tong
all six before they could react against him. brought his hand down. In that instant Lashiir

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 38

went into action. His hand found Tsiika and its edge. forgotten the full extent of a Clordite’s skill,”
the blade whipped from its scabbard as Lashiir he said, yellow eyes narrowed. “And you must
curled his legs and dropped to the floor. Five men dead, one man clenching his be exceptional even among them.”
teeth and sweating as he clenched the severed
He swung in a smooth stroke, slicing through stumps of his legs. Lashiir stepped towards the “So I have been told.”
the kneecaps of the man called Sixteen. Lashiir last, his claws sinking into the blood creeping
allowed the momentum of the stroke to carry across the floor, and he raised his blade to Tong raised one hairless brow. “You’ve
him into a roll, dodging scarlet energy beams strike. The man—Sixteen—raised one arm to deprived me of eight men and injured a ninth.
from the pulser rifles which had been aimed counter. I should kill you for your impudence.”
at his chest.
Lashiir’s blade swept down like a claw- Lashiir laughed softly through his beak.
The men’s reactions were fast. Faster than falcon striking at its prey. But it never sank into “Fighting you would be a joy, if you return
any normal humans Lashiir had fought. But he Sixteen’s flesh. A pair of bony hands clapped the Tsiika to me.”
was faster yet. He came up, whirling Tsiika in a blade between them, and the sword twisted in Tong stared into the mirrored black flat
full circle around his shoulders. The dark blade Lashiir’s hands. He failed to release his grip in of the blade for a long moment, considering.
split through bone and organ meat, bisecting time and was wrenched off his feet. Then he offered the grip to Lashiir. “Take your
one man, and the point jerked up between the
“Leave him,” Tong said, taking Tsiika by her sword—but not to fight me. I will accept your
shoulder blades of the second. Lashiir pulled
hilt. “He can be repaired.” offer of service if you swear your flesh to me in
himself up by the grip, planted both his clawed the name of Darkness Absolute.”
feet on the dying man’s chest, and threw Lashiir stood and bowed slightly in a
himself into a flip, kicking the corpse back and Lashiir clicked his tongue against the inside
gesture of respect. Tong had caught the blade
jerking his sword out. Blood spattered. of his beak. “You are well-informed.”
mid-slash without losing a hand. That alone was
Beams of energy, deepest red and electric amazing enough...but he had also approached Tong smiled without humor. “I’ve known
blue, lanced around him as he leapt through with a speed and silence to rival the greatest Clordites before.”
the air. Tsiika bit again, and another man died. blademasters of the Dark Sphere. Tong was no
Lashiir hit the ground in a crouch and eviscer- ordinary warrior, just as he was no ordinary Lashiir took Tsiika’s hide-wrapped grip in
ated a fifth man as he rose. man. one hand. “Then I, Lashiir, swear my flesh and
soul to Jezai Tong in the name of Darkness
Energy lanced across his shoulder, and The count barked a single word in a Absolute.”
Lashiir hissed through his beak as he smelled language Lashiir didn’t recognize, and the door
his own burnt flesh. He pivoted on one foot, swung open to admit two masked servants, Tong let him take the sword and drive it
ignoring the pain and whipping Tsiika up at his their bodies hunched in a perpetual cower. back into its scabbard. Tong nodded. “I accept
last opponent. The man dodged back nimbly. Tong pointed to Sixteen’s wounded body. your oath. Now come and talk with me. It has
His arms crackled with ice-blue energy. Lashiir One servant sprayed a clotting agent over his been...too long since I’ve had any intelligent
spun into a quick side-dodge as it arced out at stumps while the other injected sedatives into conversation.”
him. He released his hold on Tsiika, letting his his wrist. Sixteen’s screams ebbed, and they
rotational momentum hurl the blade forward. hauled him out of the throne room without He turned and strode towards a small door
The man was too surprised to react, and the any further word from Tong. set in the rear of the throne room without a
blade lodged deep in his spine. Lashiir jerked glance for the corpses and viscera splashed
Tong held Tsiika laid flat across both his across the floor. Lashiir followed as small,
it out a moment later, letting blood drip from palms, studying the curved blade. “I had 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 Pg. 39

began to remove the mess. and his chest was bare except for a dozen or so aimed towards Coalsmoke. The planet didn’t
bone necklaces dangling from his neck. He had look so bad from orbit—like any other world, it
# even strung tiny bells through holes punched was mostly unsettled wilderness and desert.
in his thick male wing-flaps. They jangled every
time he moved his arms to work the controls. “So how will convince them not to kill you?”
The moon Coalrock was a lump of space- Zartsi asked.
cold rock three hundred kilometers long and Esheera settled back into her seat. The
another two hundred in diameter. Seen from “Well...for one thing, I hope to appeal to
cushions were thin and worn, and the restraint
space it was only of interest to meteorite their sense of honor and charity. I am a widow,
straps chafed at her bare shoulders, but she
analysts for the craters pocking its mottled and that’s good for something even with
was more comfortable than she had been in
gray-and-black surface. Suto.”
weeks. She felt happy just sitting in a ship, with
Esheera knew that a thriving Rover colony lay the familiar humm of a stellar engine behind “They will know this?”
hidden beneath that seemingly sterile surface. her, watching the bright pinpricks of starlight
In the three centuries since their homeworld through her porthole. “They’ll know it before I’m Nii. I lost my
had been razed by a fleet of humans serving clan insignia along with my ship. But I do have
“What guarantee that Suto won’t kill you
the warlord Xing Yao, her people had become these,” she said, indicating the ash-gray beads
just through airlock?” Zartsi hissed from the
expert in carving out niches for themselves in in her hair—incongruous for a people fond of
chair to her right.
the shadows of Imperial society. Their great bright colors. “And I’m not wearing too much
clanships orbited barren moons and uncolo- “Shhh—our pilot knows Imperish. And I jewelry.”
nized worlds where they grew food and meat don’t have any guarantee whatsoever. I thought
in massive hydroponic gardens. Others lived in She just had a few cheap bracelets on each
that was clear.”
smaller enclaves within human cities or tucked arm and two pairs of earrings. She had left
into remote mountains and forests. Still, from “Not clear enough,” Zartsi growled. “Will most of it behind on Nihil, along with the rest
what she had learned, the Suto enclave of kill me just for accompanying you?” of her life.
Coalrock was astounding even among Rover
Esheera smiled grimly. “Possibly. I The shuttle entered the moon’s shadow.
settlements, made possible only be an extraor-
recommend you keep your identity under The surface was completely dark—the landing
dinary degree of toleration from the Coalsmoke
wraps—the Lithral Kingdom isn’t particularly beacons would be visible only to a ship’s
government.
friendly to my people.” scanners, operating in non-visible wavelengths.
Their pilot lifted off a pair of headphones Esheera had nothing to distract her from her
large enough to cover his massive ears and “They are vagabonds and thieves,” he fears as the pilot guided them down into
let them hang around his neck. “We’ve got hissed. Then, as if realizing for the first time that darkness. It had been fifteen years since she
clearance to dock,” the young Vitai said, in he had befriended one, he added, “Excepting had even seen a Suto. They would probably
the Rover tongue. “Should be down in about some.” kill her as soon as they heard her name—she
twenty minutes, Emshee.” had been a fool to even think this would work.
“Vagabonds I’ll give you. But thieves... And even if they did give her access to their
Emshee—a respectful title for widows. He didn’t you and Takeda steal a whole ship to get scrap yard...welding up a ship with only Zartsi’s
had noticed the fresh gray beads knotted up in off Belar?” help would be one of the hardest things she
her braids. The young pilot’s politeness belied had ever done, and at best it would be barely
Zartsi mumbled something under his breath
his rough exterior. Orange tattoos sprawled enough to haul them through the light-years to
and turned to look out his portal, which was
across his nose, forehead, and eye sockets, the provincial capital.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 40

Even if she did manage to throw together Every one of them had black dye smeared machine gun swung it up and pointed it straight
a hulk from their scrap yard, she didn’t know across their nostrils and upper face—the dis- at her chest. Esheera’s stomach churned. They
if she would be able to live with herself after- tinguishing mark of Suto clansmen, also known weren’t joking when they threatened to kill
wards. as Blacksnouts. her. There were no police among the Rovers to
check their rivalries.
The shuttle docked in a cavernous bay that One of them set his hotchoker down on
had been left open to vacuum. Esheera sighed the table and stepped forward to meet them. Zartsi snapped his rifle up and cocked it in
as she heard their airlock mate with the dock’s His thick black hair was bound back with a one motion. He couldn’t understand anything
end and the pilot stood, letting his headphones thin steel chain, and his dark ears were heavy they said, but the Lithrallian understood beings
drape around his neck. with gold. He was young—probably a decade on the edge of violence. She waved him down,
younger than Esheera, the rust-red skin of his keeping all fear out of her expression. “You’d
“Thirty Silvers,” he said. “You need a lift face still relatively smooth. He wore a coat of shoot a widow just for her name?” she said,
back, Emshee?” white leather and short black pants. cocking her head to make sure they could all
see the gray beads in her hair.
She dug the money out of her cash pouch. “We don’t get Lithrallians often,” he said,
That left her with about seventy in coins—not in the Rover tongue. Many clans had their own “I just might,” the Suto growled back.
enough for bribes, even if she thought the Suto languages, passed from mouth to mouth since
would take them. the death of the homeworld, but a common “Yeah, I thought so. I’ve never expected
language bound scattered Rover groups. much more from you bastards. Have you really
The young pilot nodded and offered her a got nothing better to do than bully old ladies
smile. “Kind stars watch you,” he said, as he hit “This is my friend Zartsi,” she answered in and widows?”
the button to cycle the airlock. the same language. “He comes with me.”
A spasm of his wrist primed the Suto’s volgi.
“Thank you.” “So he’s the best man you could scrounge “We say who gets into this place.”
up?” the Suto answered with a mocking smirk.
A long passage of dimly lit gray rock “And the vacuum skull who posted you
“What’s the name?”
connected to others funneling newly arrived here—did he tell you that Rover hospitality
guests away from the docking bay. Cold gusts Esheera’s anger flared. The Suto’s remark is dead and that a widow with a knife—” she
nipped at Esheera’s nose. was all the more biting after their pilot’s polite- drew hers, the only weapon she carried, “—is
ness. There was no reason to hold her name enough threat to your clan that you need to
The corridor channeled them towards a back—doing so would only earn her more kick her into space?”
group of five Vitai standing around a table. A mockery. She spat it out like her own insult. “I
few worn hangings in pale blue, bright yellow, “You Nii sezzic killed my father,” the Suto
am Esheera Nii, widow of Jaggo Laan.”
and dusky orange covered the walls around with the pulser spat. “Cut his heart out because
them. Every one was armed—Esheera counted All humor drained out of the Suto’s smirk. they thought he cheated at Stones.”
two hotchokers, a stripped-down pulser, a “Yeah? You must have guts like heat piping, to
machine gun with ammunition belts looped show up here. Maybe I’ll give you five seconds Esheera flicked her eyes to him. “I’m sorry,”
across the Vitai’s shoulders, a shotgun, and an to haul your ass back out the airlock before I she said.
assortment of pistols and knives. Three wore roast it.”
volgi on their forearms, projectile weapons The lead Suto snorted. “Not the time for
that launched paper-thin blades at speeds too The Suto reached for his hotchoker and apologies. What do you want here, anyway?
fast for the eye to follow. pulled it towards him. The warrior with the 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 Pg. 41

“No,” she answered, struggling to keep her the crowd—it wouldn’t bother me if I had to Zartsi.”
voice even. “I came to ask your elders for the put a blade through your shoulders.”
Jallinza right.” They entered a yawning cavern that looked
Esheera followed, moving woodenly, and as if it had been blasted out of the moon’s crust
That seemed to interest the leader. His the two other Suto fell in just behind Zartsi by a tactical nuke. Sweeping ledges and alcoves
nostrils flared, showing cracks in his black as they moved up the gray stone corridor. She stood above the floor, spanned by wide steel
paint, and he lifted one brow. “Now that I heard the Lithrallian’s voice his by her ear: bridges that rang with hundreds of feet. The
didn’t expect to hear. You serious, woman?” “They imprison us?” beings moving through the cavern were mostly
Vitai, many of them Blacksnouts, but Esheera
“As serious as that gun,” she said, nodding “No,” she said. “They’re going to let me talk picked out a number of humans and a handful
to the machine gun aimed at her. to the Enclave Council.” of Drava. Their clothing was a riot of colors and
styles. Shops selling everything from cooking
“You’re not going to get it.” “They were ready to shoot. Why change of gear and knives to jewelry and advanced elec-
mind?”
“You take their job recently? Leave that to tronics lined the walls. Their owners shouted
them.” Esheera sighed through her nostrils, feeling to passerbys, and the thunder of a hundred
the pain in her gut spike. “There’s an old Rover conversations—bartering, arguing, persuad-
The Suto narrowed his eyes. His left arm custom,” she said. “The Jallinza right. It allows ing, mocking—was almost enough to distract
remained poised to send a blade through a Rover in need—particularly cripples, widows, Esheera from her anger and lingering fear.
her stomach, but some of the tension left his and the similarly disadvantaged—to use an
muscles. A little of Esheera’s fear ebbed—the “I’ll be honest, Zartsi. I’m planning to beg.
enclave’s scrapyard to assemble a new ship,
Vitai was considering her request seriously, if With any luck, whatever pity I can muster for
necessary for them to find a livelihood...with
only for a moment. my widowhood, added to the appeal of humili-
some conditions.” ating a Nii, will be enough to convince them.”
He came to a decision quickly. His left “Being?”
arm dropped to his side, and he picked up his “Why?” the Lithrallian growled.
hotchoker, throwing its strap over one shoulder. The words tasted like arsenic in Esheera’s “Because I need a ship. To help Tak, to
“Chuzi and Glar,” he said, “come with us. You mouth. “If I build a ship from Blacksnout scrap, help the empire, to do anything with my sorry
other guys stay here.” the Blacksnouts have to get something out of carcass.”
it. I’d have to agree to conduct all trade and
The one with the machine gun’s ears lifted transit using that craft in the Suto name, and Ratch and the other two warriors kept her
and his wingflaps darkened with shock. “Ratch, pay a substantial portion of any profits back to and Zartsi in a close triangle. Once or twice she
where in Hot Nothing you pull this from? She’s this enclave. Essentially...I become their ally felt the barrel of a pulser jab into her back. The
got no claim on us. Let’s just kill both and dump and trading partner. Among Rovers, that’s close Suto hadn’t changed from her last encounter
them in the garbage.” enough to an adoption in the damn clan.” with her—they were barbaric, with no respect
“No,” the leader—Ratch—answered. “The for anyone who didn’t dip her snout in black
The Lithrallian hissed in what sounded
old snorters may as well hear what she’s got paint.
like an angry tone. She glanced up to see his
to say. If they don’t like it...they’ll thank us for pointed teeth bared. “You hate these Suto.” Damn it, Esheera thought, Jaggo, would
letting them do the killing.” you have wanted this?
She smiled coldly. “You’re not the only
He beckoned with the nozzle of his person I’m asking to humiliate themself, Her husband had died years ago. There
hotchoker. “Come on. Don’t try to get away in

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
Memory Wipe, Chapter 18, The Blacksnouts by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 42

wouldn’t be any answer from him. She could Sean T. M. Stiennon
only pray to all the kind stars that he wouldn’t Sean is an author of fantasy and science fic-
hate her for what she was trying to do. tion novels and short stories, with many pub-
lications 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,” respective-
Next Month...Chapter 19: ly. “The Sultan’s Well” has been published
The World of Fire 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 bat-
tles. A lot of his work centers around con-
tinuing characters, the most prominent
of whom is Jalazar Flinteye (Six with Flin-
teye). He also writes tales of Shabak of
Talon Point (“Death Marks,” in issue #9 of
Amazing Journeys Magazine), Blademas-
ter (“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 fic-
tion alongside some history, mysteries, and
historical novels. His favorites in-
clude 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.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008
 Pg. 43
The RGR Time Capsule
February 1 - February 14, 2008
Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
RGR Date: February 03, 2008 If only there was some way to evaluate the Score: Plus 20 points.
Breakthrough in the writer’s strike? goodness or badness of science fiction, accord-
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1743 ing to an objective scale. It would put an end Drinking game: Have a shot of the good whiskey.
to all fannish arguments, not to mention that You know, the 20-year-old single malt stuff.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080202/
ap_en_mo/hollywood_labor whole “varying tastes” thing. Luckily, we’ve got Techno-babble and crazy jargon that
makes no sense. Or, if you’re read-
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A break- ing a book, a description of how a
through in contract talks has been spaceship works that goes on for
reached between Hollywood stu- more than two printed pages.
dios and striking writers and could
lead to a tentative deal as early as Score: Minus 5 points.
next week, a person close to the
ongoing negotiations said Saturday. RGR Date: February 13,
2008
The two sides breached the gap 10 Seconds to reach minimum safe
Friday on the thorniest issues, distance
those concerning compensation for http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/view-
projects distributed via the Inter- topic.php?t=1683
net, said the person, who request-
ed anonymity because he were not http://io9.com/355353/you-have-
authorized to speak publicly. ten-seconds-to-reach-minimum-
safe-distance
A second person familiar with the
talks, also speaking on condition Science fiction has always had a
of anonymity because he wasn’t dark obsession with destroying
authorized to comment publicly, things, and spaceships are a con-
said that significant progress had stant target. When not worrying
been made and a deal might be about enemy ships fragging them
announced within a week. to pieces, crews have to worry
self-destruct sequences, on-board bombs,
the very thing, just in time for the weekend. And lousy construction, bad driving, and suicidal
to increase its value to you, the end-user, we’ve commanders who seem hell-bent on piloting
RGR Date: February 09, 2008 made it a drinking game as well.
Spot the sci-fi cliche’! their ships to certain death in what we like
The main characters are real people, with believ-
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1751 to call “shipicides.” Damn the photon torpe-
dos! Set the engines for ramming speed in
http://io9.com/354086/spot-the-scifi-cliche-the- able flaws and non over-the-top personal issues. our picks of the best ship sacrifices in sci-
io9-drinking-game Which they don’t resolve in the course of an
hour. ence fiction.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 40, February 15, 2008

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