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by Clinton Lawrence Season Three, Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes!
by Johne Cook
4 First Film
by Alexander Field 70 RGR Author Bios
11 Doors Through the Places You Live
by Michael Merriam
17 The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale
by Andy Heizeler
28 This Raygun For Hire: Forever Eden
by John M. Whalen
Juha Järvinen, Finland
41 TALES OF THE BREAKING DAWN, The Ties That Bind, Part Four
by Justin R. Macumber
46 Calamity’s Child, Chapter 8
ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two
by M. Keaton
The Rescuers, Part 1
by Keanan Brand
60 DEUCES WILD, Season Two Ray Gun Revival Issue 54 © 2009 by Double-edged Publishing,
Holding Pattern a Memphis, Tennssee-based non-profit publisher.
by L. S. King

OVERLORDS (FOUNDERS/EDITORS) Serial Authors M Keaton, Keanan Brand. Justin R. Macumber
Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn
Cover Art
Matthew Winslow Book Reviews Editor “Spectral” by Juha Järvinen
Shannon McNear Lord High Advisor, Grammar Consultant, Listening Ear for Overlord Lee
Paul Christian Glenn - PR, Executive Tiebreaker, Desktop Publishing Bill Snodgrass Site host, Web-Net Solutions, admin, webmaster, database admin,
L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, webmistress mentor, confidante, liaison – Double-edged Publishing
Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle washer
Special Thanks
Submissions Editors John M. Whalen, Alice M. Roelke, Martin Turton Ray Gun Revival logo design by Hatchbox Creative

Page 1

Santa’s Spaceship
by Clinton Lawrence

J essica was looking out the win-
dow at Proxima Centauri. The red
dwarf hovered just over the moun-
“How did he reach every house?”
“He lived at the North Pole, and
he used a sleigh pulled by rein-
colonies on Christmas Eve. He would
take care of them in the weeks be-
fore Christmas, and save the Earth
and back in a week?’ Santa asked
the elves.
“’No problem,’ the elves said.
tains on the horizon, shining like a deer. The sleigh flew through the for the traditional Christmas Eve ‘We built the finest faster-than-light
scarlet beacon. A branch from the sky and landed on the rooftop of flight. And then the Yasuko Drive drive imaginable.’”
bright violet Christmas tree brushed each house. Santa would then take was invented, and with it the hope “Wait a minute,” Jessica inter-
her cheek. This was her seventh the presents reserved for that fam- of expanding civilization beyond the rupted. “Doesn’t the law of special
Christmas, and she could remember ily out of the sleigh and slide down Solar system.” relativity forbid FTL travel?”
all but her first. the chimney very quietly so that he “We learned about the Yasuko “I’m getting to that. Anyway,
Her father walked up behind her, could put the presents under the Drive in school last week.” Santa tried it out. He climbed the
and she turned at the sound of his tree without waking anyone. This “Well, you know how important ladder into the spaceship, and the
steps. worked very well until humans first it was. The first true interstellar reindeer followed. An elf gave San-
“I was looking at the stars,” she left Earth. Neither Santa Claus nor probes discovered this world and ta the instruction manual and told
said as she released the curtain and the reindeer could fly through a one circling Tau Ceti that seemed the reindeer how to start the ship
stepped over one of her presents. vacuum.” suitable for habitation. A coloniz- and maneuver it. Then the engines
Her father smiled. “You weren’t “What did he do?” ing ship carrying our ancestors set started and the ship lifted off the
snooping around in your packages, “I told you he lived at the North out for Alpha Centauri twenty years ground. In minutes, they were in
were you?” Pole. Living with him were elves later, with an estimated travel time empty space. They flew all the way
“No. Will you tell me a Christmas who built the toys he gave away for of seventeen years. And Santa Claus out to Pluto and around the Solar
story?” Christmas. He told his elves to build had to find some way of delivering system three times, and got back to
“Of course. How would like to a spaceship for him so that he could presents to the children on the Star- the North Pole in twenty minutes.
hear the story of Santa Claus?” reach the space colonies. Of course, flower. He needed a ship that could Most of the time spent was for take-
“Who is Santa Claus?” he had some special requirements, overtake it and return in time to de- off and landing.
“I see you need a history lesson,” such as a docking mechanism that liver the presents and still leave him “’This is great,’ Santa told the
her father said. “On Earth, all the couldn’t be detected. He also had to time to deliver gifts to the rest of the elves. ‘Of course, you better get to
children know about Santa Claus. have a new generation of reindeer space colonies and Earth. He turned building the toys. There’s not much
Long ago, when all people still lived genetically altered to serve as his to his elves again with his problem, time left.’ You see, the elves had
on Earth, Santa Claus would come crew. As all this was occurring, more and a month before Christmas, they spent all year on the spaceship,
every Christmas Eve, and at exactly colonies were established, and they had a new spaceship ready, with the and had not started building the
midnight, he would leave presents were farther from Earth than ever. sleigh and reindeer and Santa him- presents yet. The spaceship wasn’t
for all the good children under the He had to have new, faster engines self painted on the side. It rested on much good without the presents.
Christmas tree. No one ever saw built for the spaceship, and eventu- the ice on a long pair of skis. So the elves worked all day and all
him, but they knew about him.” ally he gave up trying to reach the “’Will it get me to Alpha Centauri night, and barely finished one gift

Santa's Spaceship, by Clinton Lawrence Page 2

per child by the deadline. They were um near Earth and promptly sent a “’Nonsense,’ the judge said. that he never build or fly another
all simple toys, and it was a bleak patrol to investigate. ‘These laws are well known on your faster-than-light vehicle. So Santa
year for the children, but Santa “Santa was just loading the space- planet and have been for several Claus once again delivers gifts to
promised that they would have the ship when the Cosmocops entered generations. We cannot allow bar- the children of the Solar system, but
best Christmas ever the next year. Solar orbit. After calculating the po- barians from primitive worlds to here, we parents still have to act as
The elves, on the other hand, had sition of the Starflower, he ordered cause the kinds of cosmological dis- his substitute.”
a big party to celebrate the end of the ship to take off, and it did, and ruptions you are responsible for just Jessica’s father waited for a few
their ordeal. as soon as they engaged the FTL because you claim ignorance. You seconds, and then asked, “Well,
“As Santa Claus prepared to drive, the Cosmocops docked with are guilty as charged and sentenced what did you think of that story?”
leave, he did not yet know this, but them and forced open the door. to confinement for one galactic year “That’s one of the dumbest sto-
a special agency exists to enforce “’Who are you?’ Santa demand- in a black hole.’ ries you’ve ever told me,” Jessica
the laws of the universe. The agency ed. “’But I was only doing it so all the said. “If Santa Claus would have
is best known as the Cosmocops. “’Cosmocops,’ they said. ‘Stay children would have presents at been intelligent, he would have just
Santa’s spaceship definitely violated where you are. You are in serious vi- Christmas,’ Santa protested. cloned himself ahead of time and
the law of special relativity, as you olation of the laws of this universe, “’No excuse,’ the judge said. ‘Let trained his clone to carry on his work
noted, by being able to go faster and we have no choice but to arrest their parents give them presents. on other worlds. Then he wouldn’t
than the speed of light.” you and seize your ship as evidence.’ Take him away.’ have had to build a faster-than-light
“Well everyone should know “Santa cooperated, having no “Santa thought as he was led drive, and he wouldn’t have broken
that,” Jessica said. “Santa Claus did other choice, but he wiped a tear away that he would like to give the the laws of the universe.”
pass preschool, didn’t he?” from his cheek as the Cosmocops judge three ghosts for Christmas. Jessica’s father laughed. “I’ll try
“You have to remember, Jessica, marched him and the reindeer into But the Cosmocops let him send a to do better next time. I think din-
that Santa Claus is almost as old as jail cells in their ship.” message back to Earth (it took al- ner is almost ready.”
Christmas itself. He was an old man “Didn’t they even tell him what most nine years to get there, of
delivering presents before Coper- law he broke?” Jessica asked. course), informing us of the situa-
nicus discovered that the Earth re- “Yes. I forgot that part. Anyway, tion and instructing all to act as his
volves around the Sun.” they took him to a planet orbiting substitute, though at least for Earth,
“Well, surely he should have read Sirius for trial. He and his reindeer Mrs. Claus filled in. And you know
it somewhere. Or Einstein could had to stand in an empty room, and what happened then?”
have told him. Or the elves, they the judge was only a voice that filled “What?”
must have known.” the chamber. “The people of Earth formed
“The elves were engineers, not “’You have been accused of a protest movement to get Santa
physicists,” her father said. “All they speeding,’ the judge said. ‘How do freed. They called themselves the
cared about was whether they could you plead?’ Santanistas, and they beamed their
make something work. The point is “’Ignorance,’ Santa replied. ‘I had plea throughout the cosmos. And
that the Cosmocops detected a dis- no idea we were breaking the laws the ruler of the universe heard it
turbance in the space-time continu- of the universe.’ and freed Santa on the condition

Santa's Spaceship, by Clinton Lawrence Page 3

First Film light, he watched the superhigh- a snowy cliff face, all jutting ledges
by Alexander Field way stream pass beneath the giant and gnarled outcroppings topped
billboard, a trail of cars that looked by a dangerous looking peak. The
like a string of cheery Christmas cliff sat directly in front of a matte
tree lights circling the city from five painting of a sprawling white-moun-
The digital billboard flickered to mid stream, and onto a flaming ve- hundred feet up. He wondered how tain range, a diving sun, and a sky of
life with a small pop, the screen hicle riddled with suit-clad bad guys, much it would cost to run a movie deep reds and oranges with hints of
humming on, and then bang! a pow- Fargrave’s selective audio synapse trailer on that billboard then, guess- impending dark.
erful explosion leapt out into three- panged annoyingly, pestering him ing that it was beyond his budget, Mantrove had lassoed an art stu-
dimensional space, like a fireworks to turn the sound back on. he banished the thought from his dent into creating the backdrop as
display spitting out of a gargantuan He ignored it, and instead mind. an art project.
set painting, only five-hundred feet watched his cigarette burn down. He took a deep breath and At the back of the stage, Man-
up in the air. It was hard not to be jealous of Mc- stepped through the heavy sound- trove showed Señor Andas, through
As the fireball disappeared, Naulty’s budget, his vision and his proofed door into the sound stage, a square lens formed by his fingers,
flames roiling upward, the billboard multi-dimensional campaign; a slo- taking the iron stairs down the back just how he felt the next shot should
lit up and launched into the movie gan like Raindown Justice crossed wall to the stage floor where gaffers go. Señor Andas, the film’s director
trailer for Raindown Justice. The over into so many audiences that were preparing some rusty old float and a very talented man, watched
trailer opened with a massive explo- his message could play in both an lights at varying heights arranged with his eyebrows raised, his eyes
sion as subway cars crashed into a action film and a sensitive TV ad around a huge set piece. distant.
spiked barricade at high speed and about immigration. He looked down at the small “Are we ready to shoot this
then a half dozen flycars slammed Maybe Mantrove is right, Far- crew, most of them unpaid univer- thing?” Fargrave said as he ap-
sideways into one another as they grave thought. This is probably the sity students, his cameraman, Señor proached Andas and Mantrove.
sped along the superhighway best way. Andas, the director and Mantrove, “C’mon dad, let Andas direct this
stream. He looked back up at the billboard his producer and father‘n’law, the picture. Let’s get this movie in the
This looked like an expensive as the trailer wrapped up with more man who had imagined up the story can.”
movie. explosions and a series of words de- for this infernal little venture. As far “Mr. Governor!” Andas said. “We
Fargrave Goodman tapped a claring the film’s critical acclaim lit as equipment was concerned, they are ready for you, yes. Why don’t
dash of cigarette ash into the slag up the screen: “Superb,” “McNaulty had precious few cameras, all rent- you take your place on ledge of the
tray hanging off the small balcony Strikes Again!” though it wasn’t ed, a set of old lights, some dingy cliff and we’ll get Karla up there
on which he stood. He leaned on clear who had said what. Fargrave microphones and booms, a rickety with you so we can finish this thing
the railing with his elbows, switch- allowed his selective audio synapse track for the makeshift dolly, and a with power! And here, put on these
ing off his selective audio synapse to flick back on just as McNaulty’s rented deck that had been digitally camglasses so we can capture the
and watching the move trailer play rattled off a one-liner from the back recording their efforts all week long. opposite angle.”
on in silence. For the rest of the ad- of a meaty, green tank, “McNaulty’s He knew that the set of Raindown “All right Andas, let’s get it done
vertisement, during which he saw justice will hit the streets!” Justice looked nothing like this. and get out of here by midnight.
McNaulty, Richard McNaulty, presi- He dropped his cigarette into The focus of the crew’s efforts And stop calling me Mr. Governor,”
dent of the United States, leaping the small tray and watched it melt on the final scene was a towering Fargrave said, putting on the glass-
off a chromed-piped floatbike in and disappear. In the early evening twenty-foot posifoam sculpture of es.

First Film, by Alexander Field Page 4

“Fargrave, come here,” Mantrove late to.” handholds and made his way along two-player adventure, maybe first-
took his arm. “When you say that Fargrave stopped. “All right then, the sculpture, he noticed that the person shooter. We also think he’s
last line, steel your eyes, you know, let me say something different. How cliff face was lined and pocked with working on an alliance with the
McNaulty always does that, and about this, I could say, ‘Karla, I’m go- tight crevices and small granite-like State’s Gaming Consortium that
kind of boom it out, you know, like ing to help change this state. I just grooves. The art student had been would get the game distributed fast
‘I’m going to pulverize Peterson and want the people who live here, to a steal to get this thing made so and cheap, statewide.”
put a ‘Man’ back in the governor’s live better.’ Say it from my heart, quickly. Breathing heavy, he pulled “But you don’t know for sure.”
mansion!’ Can you say it like that?” with some passion and sincerity.” himself to the top ledge next to Fargrave called back, as the makeup
All Fargrave’s doubts resurfaced “Hmmm,” Mantrove looked at Karla, swinging both legs onto woman continued working on his
in an instant. Why am I doing this? him. “That could work, empathetic, the pseudo-summit sending small face.
He thought. He had seen the suc- a man of the people, a robin hood spouts of foam dust spinning lazily “I’ve got a credible source, sir, but
cess that the president had had per- swooping into the political machin- into the air. it could be a plant, though that’s not
fecting the art of agitprop, and he ery with a wrench, not to jam it, but He stood up and wiped the dust likely.”
knew that movies these days could to fix it right up. I think that could off his pants, turning toward the “It sounds to me as though he’s
be cheaper to make than most cam- work Fargrave. But why don’t we go camera as he did. targeting a younger audience this
paign bus tours but something in- with the first line in this film, and Below, he saw Shon walking to- time, Fargrave,” Mantrove said,
side him didn’t feel right. Maybe he when we make your sequel, in the ward the cliff face, talking rapidly— now standing next to Shon.
wasn’t supposed to go into politics next election, we’ll use that as the always talking—she probably talked “Sir, I’ve got somebody working
after all. theme. Show that you’ve got some on her synapse phone more often on scooping a copy of the game,
“I’ve been thinking about that depth, show that you’ve grown. than she talked to anyone face to an independent ‘researcher,’” Shon
line,” he replied. “It needs to be Good? People like characters who face, although that wasn’t necessar- said with a sly grin. “We’ll see. I
more honest, this whole film needs grow, change. So the line again is ily a bad trait for a campaign man- don’t think it’s even finished.”
to be more sincere, it needs to be ‘I’m going to pulverize Peterson and ager. “Shon, call off your researcher,”
about me, do you know what I put a “Man” back in the governor’s The makeup woman stepped off Fargrave said. “Remember we’re
mean, not about some caricature of mansion.’” the rusty crane lift to touch up Far- counting on the issues here. This
me. Don’t you think?” Fargrave sighed, frustrated with grave’s face and he tried to stand guy is a slam-dunk on the state
Mantrove laughed heartily, as if a how his first film was turning out. still while she powdered the sheen economy. We can nail him on the
four-year old had just told him how “All right, let’s get this over with.” of sweat on his forehead. He over- five of the top seven voter con-
the clouds look like teddy bears. He “Mr. Governor, step up on that heard Shon say, “Please hold on,” cerns. Have you sent out a press re-
put his hand on Fargrave’s shoulder cliff face, okay?” Andas called out. from below. lease on that?”
and walked him slowly away from Karla, his co-star, already stood on “Mr. Goodman, we got just word,” “I’ve got a writer working on five
the set. “Listen, if you really want to the posifoam peak, in place and Shon called from the stage floor. variations of that press release right
be the next governor of this state, if ready to go. “Peterson is working on something now, sir, one for each of our issue
you really want to help people, we Fargrave walked up to the bot- interactive. We don’t know what it priorities, but whatever we can get,
need to play the game, you need to tom of the posifoam cliff and began will be exactly but our sources say we can use,” she said. “At the very
create a persona that people can re- to pull himself up. As he groped for that it’s a low-end virtual game; least, I’ll get our team working on

First Film, by Alexander Field Page 5

spinning some stories we can throw named Karla, stepped forward to of brute strength. of posifoam dust on his tongue. He
at the press before Peterson does the edge of the mountain in full Fargrave held Karla there for a hit the stage floor, landing in a bed
any PR himself. We might be able to mountain climbing regalia, and moment, gathering himself, then he of foam shards as the sculpture
sell the idea of the game being too now Fargrave was going to save her reached down toward her with his crumbled into chunks, breaking his
violent or too dull before he’s even life. He took a deep breath, settled other arm, locking both his hands fall entirely.
finished it.” himself, and rolled his head around around her wrist, and he pulled her His mind swam and reoriented,
“Shon, please hear me, let’s focus slowly. up, working every moment for max- seeing the set totally destroyed. He
on the issues.” Then everything moved quickly. imum effect. wouldn’t have the money or the
“No problem, sir, focus on the is- Karla got into position below him, He flexed his muscles, leaned time to rebuild any of it. At least we
sues. Consider it done. A gaming de- poised to grab the handhold above his head back, the veins in his neck got that last shot.
bacle would simply be icing on the her, Andas grabbed his megaphone pounding with the effort. Then Karla After the initial shock of hit-
cake.” and a pair of floating mics hovered was on the summit with him and the ting the ground wore off, Fargrave
“Let me know how that press and darted overhead. two of them were together, smiling, stood up, finding himself in a hov-
conference is shaping up for tomor- “Rolling,” a volunteer called out. hugging, and breathing deeply. ering cloud of posifoam snow that
row,” Fargrave said, but Shon was al- Andas let the stage breathe for “Fargrave Goodman, you saved swirled and drifted around him. He
ready walking away. Mantrove had a long second and gave a dramatic my life! You’ll make such a wonder- went to Karla, and helped her to her
taken her arm, walking Shon back cue. ful governor!” feet; she coughed to herself but ap-
to the small office in the back, but “Action.” He steeled his expression and she peared to be unhurt.
she nodded her response as they Karla reached up toward a hand- melted into his half-embrace. Then He turned and made his way
moved away. hold as Fargrave talked her through he readied himself to bestow his through the cloud toward the cam-
She was a hard-working cam- it. father’n’law’s superfluous one-liner era setup.
paign manager, and the woman “Be careful, darling, it’s only a upon the world. He didn’t see Señor Andas, Man-
who convinced Fargrave to make little further. You can do it,” he said. “Darling, I’m going to pulverize trove, or Shon. He saw movement
this film when he had balked at the She scurried up a little further, then Peterson and put a ‘Man’ back in at the back of the sound stage—a
idea. “Mantrove is right,” she had paused, and suddenly a look of the Governor’s mansion.” person darting around purposefully.
told him. “If we air it on key regional alarm came over her face. BAAAM! A burst of hard white Then the person was gone. He ran
stations, everyone in the state will At that moment Karla’s hand light knocked everyone down. Far- toward the back of the stage, mak-
see it, and even those without TVs slipped from its hold and she let grave covered his face instinctively ing his way past chunks of foam,
will hear about it with a couple of out a shriek as she slipped—until as a small shockwave hit the cliff fallen float lights and found nothing
well-timed marketing hits.” Fargrave’s arm shot out and caught face. Suddenly he, Karla, and the but more swirling foam.
“Places people!” Andas called out hers in mid-slide. posifoam sculpture slammed back- “Shon? Andas?” he called. He
from below as he stepped in behind The moment had been perfectly wards into the painted backdrop, heard muffled replies behind him
a bay of monitors showing various timed in rehearsal, her feet land- the set piece shattering. back toward the set. Maybe they
angles of their final scene. ing on the ledge below—but from Fargrave felt himself tumbling were looking for him.
The young actor playing the lead- the camera’s point of view he had into large posifoam chunks, his eyes He groped around in the hazy
ing lady, a sculpted six-foot brunette caught her in a one-armed display blinking white flakes, the bitter taste white aftermath until his hand met

First Film, by Alexander Field Page 6

the catering table. He moved right After a few moments he caught softly. Then he sprinted straight to- natorial candidate of immeasur-
until he reached another empty sight of a man running. Fargrave saw ward the parking structure. able strength and vast, but as yet
table, and time moved slowly, per- a man wearing dark clothes ducking Fargrave could see the three level unknown potential. This small act
haps because his ears rang and his around a corner. Fargrave sprinted structure ahead, three warehouses could destroy everything he, Shon
eyes blinked through the posifoam after him. away. He put his head down and and Mantrove had worked for.
dust trying to focus. His mind raced. This was his first ran, sweat sliding down forehead As he neared the end of the al-
Wait. An empty table? The digi- film, hours worth of footage, over a and ruining the thin layer of makeup ley, the parking structure loomed
tal recording deck. Fargrave whirled week’s worth of work, gone. More he wore. before him. He had taken a chance
back to look at the table again. The importantly, a large chunk of his That was when it occurred to him. coming this way, betting that the
digital recorder deck they had rent- meager campaign budget was in- The saboteur wouldn’t just de- saboteur would take this route.
ed, was gone. Then he flashed on vested in that footage. He tried to stroy this film. He or she would give Now he wasn’t so sure.
the movement he had seen earlier. remember if they had backed up it to someone, or sell it to Peterson. He peeked out of the alley look-
It had been a person, moving pur- everything on the digital record- After all, this saboteur had in pos- ing both directions, warehouses
posefully in the midst of the posi- er deck. Señor Andas may have session, footage that contained ev- stretching as far as he could see.
foam snowfall. His mind did a back backed up the footage, but even if erything they had shot that week; The parking structure sat in front
flip. Had someone has sabotaged they had everything from the week, including outtakes, line mistakes of him, and beyond that, the super-
the movie? they would still be missing the final and even whole sections where Far- highway launch strip pealed off into
Someone had stolen his film! scene on the snowy mountain face. grave had tried to improvise a scene the sky—a horizontal highway that
# If he didn’t get the footage back, that eventually went nowhere, or ramped upwards, quickly morphing
Fargrave slammed down the door they would have reshoot the scene worse, ended with laughing and into a vertical strip of roadway that
handle and rammed his shoulder somehow, somewhere. cursing amongst the crew. ended abruptly a hundred feet into
into the back door of the sound Fargrave quickened his pace and He tried to think like Shon for the air. The launch strip appeared
stage, sprinting out into the night. reached the corner, ducking around a moment. Was there anything as wide as a skyscraper or thin as a
Outside it was dark, the blinking it quietly, hoping to surprise the on those reels that could be used flagpole depending on your vantage
lights of the superhighway stream man wherever he had gone. Turn- against him? There were plenty of point.
flashing in the air above the city. ing the corner, Fargrave spied him line mistakes and gaffs that were no But still, he saw nobody, no
He looked right and left, and saw about two warehouse blocks away, big deal normally, but it amounted movement, and no sound. Nothing.
no signs of movement. Ahead of and it looked as though he ran for to an amazing batch of footage for Fargrave dashed toward the right
him there were more warehouses the superhighway launch strip. a competitor’s campaign or press hand side of the parking structure,
like the one they had rented, most Surely the man had a car waiting in release package that the networks hoping to catch the man off guard.
of which were only used during the the parking structure. would pounce on. He couldn’t have gone too fast car-
day, meaning that most of them Fargrave chanced a short cut and Fargrave groaned. rying the digital recorder, but the
were now empty of life or aban- ducked into a side alley running as It had come to this and in a mat- man did have a head start.
doned. fast as he could manage. He found ter of moments his entire political Just as Fargrave began to doubt
He ran forward cautiously, his the end of the alley and scaled a career had been put in jeopardy. his decision to head toward the
head swiveling as if on a tripod. fence, landing on the other side One moment he had been a guber- parking structure, he heard footfalls

First Film, by Alexander Field Page 7

on the second floor. Fargrave ran to era screen when the other car sped fumes, cars, flybikes and small air- ten extremely lucky.
the nearest stairway and took the past, behind him. He swiveled to craft that blinked erratically and But Fargrave didn’t have time
steps two, three at a time. He leapt look out the window and caught a continued on as such night and day. to wait. He checked his rearviews,
out the door on the second floor to glimpse of the driver. It was a man He flicked on his signal, showing his looked out both sides, gauged his
see a car starting up on the far side wearing black driving a sporty pur- intent to enter the stream. thruster for evasive action, and
of the structure. ple sedan, and driving very fast. But before he had the chance to swerved his car out from under the
Quick! Think! Where is my car? Fargrave kicked his car into re- dive up into the stream of cars and stream diving up and to the right
The saboteur’s car was pulling out verse, pulled it out of the park- flybikes, he saw the purple sedan so that he was flying parallel to the
of its spot fast; he could hear him ing spot, slammed it into drive, spin about and catapult into the stream itself. He leveled his car with
jamming the gear stick into first gear and peeled out across the lot. As stream going the opposite direction, the stream, earning a few nervous
so quickly that Fargrave guessed the he neared the exit he kicked the a dangerous maneuver that might looks from the other drivers passing
man must have seen him. car into overdrive readying for the have suggested he didn’t want any- him only a few yards away.
He dove back into the stairway, deafening launch onto the super- one following him. He could no longer see the purple
taking the stairs down, four, five at a highway—as he did so he fishtailed Fargrave spun his wheel around sedan he was following. This was
time. He could hear the car squeal- through the last of the parking lot, and followed, watching the sedan costing him too much time!
ing across the second floor now. He sliding across the concrete, correct- enter the stream at high speed, Even more abruptly, and just be-
burst out of the stairway and made ing slightly, and shot out the exit another dangerous maneuver. Far- fore slamming into a flashing super-
for his own car, halfway across the with a lurch—close behind the pur- grave increased his speed, dodging highway marker, Fargrave threw his
first level lot. The grimy, stained ple sedan. cars as he flew up underneath the car above the stream at high speed,
floor of the lot was slick, forcing Both cars gathered speed quickly stream, waiting for the next avail- passing the cars below him.
Fargrave to slow down to a careful and began the ascent up the launch able window. Flying at a deafening speed, Far-
sprint. He sweated heavily now, his strip. A steady band of cars sped over- grave caught sight of the saboteur
shirt sticking to him, his legs starting Just as the highway went verti- head as he maintained speed and and his purple sedan about a mile
to throb at the sudden, prolonged cal, the sedan in front of him took kept an eye on the saboteur a few ahead. Finally seeing an open sec-
impact. off with a burst of speed, shooting cars above and ahead of him. As tion in the highway up ahead, Far-
Yelling out his unlock code, his up the launch strip and taking to the he watched the stream continue grave brought his car down, drop-
own car door popped open just as air in a flurry of exhaust fumes and to move overhead, he checked his ping into the stream a few cars
the saboteur’s car came into view at a small exploding fireball. rearview camera angles and saw behind the purple sedan.
the other end of the structure. Fargrave reached the minimum that there wouldn’t be an entry win- An instant later the purple fly-
Fargrave slid into the front seat launch speed seconds later, en- dow between cars for some min- car moved to the left, and dropped
of his two-door sedan, slammed gaged his booster, and took to the utes. In a few moments he would through one of the stream gates
the door, and started the car in a incline abruptly, slamming up the have to slow down because he was which led into a downramp tun-
series of swift motions. The motor vertical ramp. flying too low and coming danger- nel that would direct it to the city
roared to life and he jammed it into The superhighway stream flick- ously close to the hovering super- streets. On the streets, the sedan
reverse. ered in front of both of them now, highway markers. would disappear completely.
He looked at the rearview cam- a thick braid of lights and exhaust Somehow the saboteur had got- Without thinking, Fargrave took

First Film, by Alexander Field Page 8

his car across three lanes of stream for a few ineffective pale wall lights. sewer tunnel stood three conspicu- Spangler for a ride four years ago?
traffic, dangerously cutting off a gi- There was no gate or service booth ous looking men. You’re trying to sabotage my film.”
ant airbot trash compactor, which at the bottom of the driveway, and The men, who had been talk- “Listen, Goodman, you can stop
heaved suddenly at the rude en- the rest of the area was only subtly ing in quieted tones, hushed when right there,” Peterson said calmly.
counter, and dove his car into the lit. Fargrave drove slowly past a few Fargrave opened the door, turning “Everyone knows that political rivals
downramp tunnel. He sped through rows of cars, looking for movement, toward him. The dark service dock look in on each other’s campaign
the tunnel, blind to anyone in front scanning the dark. was not well lit, but he could see strategies. That’s just the way of
of or behind him. When he reached the last row the three men well enough, stand- politics these days, rookie.”
Fargrave took a deep breath, pre- of cars, he saw it. The purple se- ing in a makeshift circle. He heard Peterson moved forward as he
pared for reentry as the tunnel guid- dan sat in the last stall in the row, the sounds of rushing water and he spoke, his voice smooth, his hands
ed him down. In a moment he shot no occupant anywhere in sight. He noticed that one man held his digi- reaching out and taking the record-
out onto the bustling city streets, breathed in, feeling a burst of confi- tal recorder. er from his associate.
seeing no sign of the purple sedan. dence knowing that his film footage Fargrave wasn’t a necessarily big “That is not the way of it—that’s
As he slowed his flycar down to a was here in this place and that he man, but when he found himself in called political espionage.” Fargrave
normal speed, he analyzed the road was going to find it. awkward or threatening spaces, he said. He moved forward, matching
for a moment. He smiled to himself. For the first always tried to assume control of a Peterson’s movements and grabbed
He looked left, and looked right, time in the last couple weeks, he situation to turn it in his favor. recorder at the same moment, both
seeing nothing. just wanted to finish this film for “All right, now which one of you is men taking hold of the box, trying
Valuable seconds were passing himself. He wanted to be governor going to return my recorder? You?” to wrest it from the other.
by, and the purple sedan was get- of this state. Fargrave strode swiftly down the “You know what, it’s your word
ting away. Fargrave parked his car nearby. short hallway toward the three men against mine, and who are you?
Then on a hunch, Fargrave spun He got out hurriedly and ran to as if he were entirely unsurprised You’re a political neophyte, some-
his steering wheel 180 degrees, the purple sedan, looking through to find them there. Two of the men one with nothing going for you. In
swung his car around and drove past the windows of the car for any trace stepped backwards as if caught by this state you’re no one, Goodman.
the tunnel from which he had just of the recorder. The sedan was emp- surprise, while the man holding the No one.” Peterson lunged at him,
emerged, shooting underneath the ty. recorder was so dumbfounded that pulling on the recorder.
stream downramp and into another Across the lot Fargrave saw a pri- he just stood stock still. “That’s grounds for disqualifica-
part of the city. A moment later, Far- vate elevator, but it wasn’t moving. “Well, if it isn’t Fargrave Good- tion,” Fargrave said through gritted
grave caught sight of a sedan diving There was only one other possibility man,” one of men said, in a voice teeth, as he pulled at the recorder.
down into a driveway that took the for so hasty an exit: An unmarked Fargrave recognized. “Mr. Peterson, I’m going to have to
car below street level, under a non- service door in the back wall of the Fargrave stopped and looked at ask you resign your post as gover-
descript office building. Fargrave parking lot. one of the men, who had stepped nor and forfeit the election to me.”
couldn’t tell if it was the purple se- Fargrave walked toward the door forward. Fargrave leaned over and tried to
dan, but seeing no other similar cars confidently. He grasped the handle It was Peterson. wrap his arms around the recorder
in sight, he followed. and pulled the door open wide. “Mr. Peterson, is this how you win in a sprawling bear hug. The other
The ramp down was dark except There at the end of a dingy concrete your elections? Is this how you took two men had slowly backed off,

First Film, by Alexander Field Page 9

stunned by the sudden wrestling a single blunt motion. left the sewer tunnel, leaving Far- ple deserving better, everything!”
match that had sprung up between The force of the kick loosed Far- grave slouched on the ground. “What are you talking about?”
the politicians. Peterson leaned grave’s arms from around the re- “Hey Peterson,” Fargrave said, Fargrave said, wanting to share her
backwards now, both his hands corder and sent it flying backwards coming to his feet. excitement, but feeling skeptical.
straining on the sides of the record- through the air, tumbling end over Peterson turned around. “What?” “Your camglasses sir,” Shon said,
er, his face red. end toward the sewer tunnel. Far- “Peterson, you’ve made a mock- and Fargrave sighed in shock taking
“What do you think you’re do- grave watched it clatter against the ery of this state, and even if I lose, the glasses from his face.
ing?” Peterson growled, his tone sewer wall, fall and crack, breaking somehow I’m going to help change “Sir, we recorded everything.
shifting abruptly. “This is just poli- open and splashing into the water this state. The people who live here From the moment you left the
tics! It’s not my fault you squan- beyond the tunnel’s end. deserve better.” sound stage. I had Señor Andas
dered your campaign money on a Fargrave jumped to his feet just Peterson laughed out loud as he patch the feed from the camglasses
film so bad, you decided not to re- in time to watch it all bubble in the left, his men following him back into to an open channel, I made a few
lease it!” dark water, its battery crackling and the parking garage. calls and suddenly Internet feeds
“What are you talking about? sparking as the expensive piece of After a few moments, a slow across the state were broadcasting
Your record in office hasn’t even im- equipment died, and sank to the smile broke on Fargrave’s face. the feed and following your chase
pressed your own party!” Fargrave bottom. Fargrave wondered absent- Maybe this is the best thing after live. The newscasters have been re-
shot back through clenched jaws, ly how much his campaign would all, he thought. My campaign will be playing the last bit on every evening
wrenching even harder. have to pay to replace the rented about this state, not some movie or news update for the past twenty
“My party! I am my party, Good- recorder. It would probably cost him interactive video game. He dusted minutes. You don’t even need a film
man!” more than he had left in his meager off his pants, rose, and made his now. This was your first film! He
At that moment, Fargrave stepped budget. way toward the door. doesn’t even know it yet, but Peter-
forward, latching his arms together “A debate?” Peterson said with a # son is ruined!”
around the recorder. “Instead of growling laugh. “Why would anyone
wrestling over my movie we should want to watch that?” Back in the car, Fargrave called
be debating the issues of this cam- Fargrave slumped to a heap on Shon.
paign. If you’re man enough, why the ground. His film was ruined. It The first words out of her mouth
don’t we set a date and stage a was irrecoverable. His campaign were, “Brilliant work, sir.”
debate—the winner gets the other budget was spent. There was no “What do you mean? I didn’t get
person’s vote!” money to reshoot the final scenes. it back. The film is six feet under wa-
At that moment, Fargrave lunged Fargrave didn’t care. He had always ter—”
backwards, pulling on the recorder hated the last line of his first film Shon cut in. “Forget the movie
with all his might, almost bringing anyway. That silly line Mantrove had Fargrave, we had a backup recorder.
his opponent down on top of him. written about putting a man back in Your little adventure just played on
But Peterson quickly brought up his the governor’s mansion. So ridicu- live feeds to the entire state. Every-
foot and slammed his size ten-dress lous, he thought. one saw it unfold, Peterson, the re-
shoe against Fargrave’s shoulder in The three men laughed as they corder, your last line about the peo-

First Film, by Alexander Field Page 10

Doors Through the Places You Live
by Michael Merriam
he pressed a series of buttons and hatches and airlocks secure, the es-
the device beeped. cape pods unlaunched.
“No. There’s too much dust on Gary had identified the ship as a
“N ice and gentle now.”
Gary Ampierre eased on
his suit’s control thrusters, steering
of the vessel, the lamp on his hel-
met illuminating the way.
They reached the hatch, sweating
the window.”
Terrell pressed another button. A
Caryago-class heavy cruiser of the
defunct Earth Space Navy. He told
series of lights started to flash as he his captain that the ship had been
himself up to the derelict warship. in their clumsy suits from the strain looked around the little airlock. “I’m old when the war between Earth
Through his visor he saw Terrell of walking with the magnetic grips telling you, I saw someone in one of and her rebellious colonies had bro-
Bingham, his partner for the mis- turned on. the port windows.” ken out.
sion, flip over and point his boots at “What do you think happened?” Gary frowned. “There’s no one Captain Tomlinson had dutifully
the hull of the vessel. Terrell asked as he knelt on the hull alive on board.” radioed the contact, including the
Gary mimicked the maneuver, al- to grab onto one of the manual ac- The Wanderer and her crew had ship’s registry numbers, to the Alli-
lowing the soles of his boots to gen- cess switches. Across from him, been traveling to the site of a re- ance military and continued on her
tly touch the metal of the warship. Gary did the same. cent skirmish between two mem- course.
He engaged the magnetic grips, “I don’t know.” Gary pulled up ber worlds of the Colonial Alliance. Five hours later they received a
sticking him to the hull. on his switch. He glanced up to find A minor dispute over asteroid min- priority message from Alliance Fleet
Gary turned and looked back to- Terrell’s switch pulled up as well. eral rights had escalated into an Command, requesting they return
ward the ship he and Terrell had “On three.” exchange of fire between ships be- to the Earth vessel to collect its logs
traveled from. It floated only a few Terrell nodded. longing to two colony worlds. The and any other surviving information
hundred meters away, illuminated Gary counted to three, and both Alliance parliament had stepped in they could retrieve from the ship’s
by its running lights. As he watched, men turned his switch counter- to mediate, but not before an Alli- computer. They were to disturb the
a thruster fired, keeping the salvage clockwise. The hatch opened, expel- ance frigate was damaged in the ship as little as possible and to take
vessel lined up with the old warship. ling particles of dust into space. crossfire. The Wanderer was hired nothing off the vessel except the
“Ampierre to Wanderer: we’re The two men climbed inside. Ter- to tow the stricken vessel back to requested data. They were to set a
here.” rell closed the hatch behind them its home port. It was the kind of job tracking buoy on the warship and
The voice of Lycinda Tomlinson, and gave the internal locking mech- the small, powerful Wanderer was make best possible speed toward
the ship’s owner and captain sound- anism a sharp turn. They climbed designed to accomplish. the Alliance command post at New
ed in his helmet. “You’ve got two down the metal ladder and landed They had discovered the derelict Helena. A military courier would be
hours. Get what we came for, and on the deck below, facing the door warship adrift in space five days dispatched to meet them in route to
get back to the nest.” leading to the ship’s interior. Gary from their destination. Scans, both take possession of the logs and files.
“Check that,” Gary said. He turned looked through the small window electronic and visual, showed no Captain Tomlinson had served in
and looked at his companion. “How while Terrell fumbled in his kit, fi- signs of activity on the ship. There the Alliance fleet long enough to
do we get inside?” nally withdrawing a small electronic was no active power signature, no read between the lines: something
“The entry hatch should be about device and placing it on the wall lights, and no distress beacon. about this ship was important to
two meters that way.” Terrell point- next to the access door. There were also no obvious signs the Alliance, and the Wanderer was
ed along the hull toward the stern “See anything?” Terrell asked as of damage. No blast marks, all the the only vessel nearby. Tomlinson

Doors Through the Places You Live, by Michael Merriam Page 11

knew the military would revoke her ried a crew of over seven hundred. “This is the Captain: space trials body at the duty station they had
captain’s license and impound her He had expected to find human re- of the new engines will begin in one manned in life. Gary swung his light
ship if she did not cooperate. They mains as soon as they entered. hour. Engineering and damage con- around.
turned about and made best speed Gary and Terrell took hold of the trol crews report to your stations.” The thin remnants of a blonde
back to the warship. It was right door and pulled, opening it enough Gary turned toward Terrell as the ponytail sticking out from a decom-
where they had left it, floating in for both men to step inside. blonde technician stood and turned posing head caught his attention.
space, dead. Gary nearly knocked Terrell off his around. He noted the name “Jen- He pointed his light at the corpse’s
A soft click came from the door in feet as he tried to enter through the kins” on her uniform before she name patch: “Jenkins.”
front of them. narrow gap. “Jeez, Terrell, what are walked past him and through Ter- He looked up to find Terrell clear-
“Got it,” Terrell said. you—” Gary stopped talking as he rell, moving purposefully toward ing dust from a panel, cautiously
Gary stepped away from the door. noticed what had made his partner the bulkhead door they had entered moving around another withered
“Ready?” stop in his tracks. from. “I think we need to get out of body. Near the panel was a placard
Terrell nodded and pressed an- The corridor beyond the door here,” Gary said. giving the name of the ship: UES
other button on the electronic de- was brightly lit. Crewmen, dressed Terrell’s voice sounded thick and Gambia.
vice. The door groaned and swung in modern Alliance uniforms, muffled in his ears. “Yeah.” “What are you doing?”
open. went about their business. No one Gary toggled his communication “Trying to download the logs.
Gary stepped cautiously into the seemed to notice the two intruders unit as he turned to follow the crew- That’s what we’re here for, right?”
corridor, looking both directions. in their bulky suits. No one stepped man. “Ampierre to Wanderer, do He chuckled. “Though if I didn’t
The ship appeared empty: no signs up to challenge them. you copy? Wanderer, this Ampierre, know Lycinda would have a fit, I’d
of whatever incident caused the Terrell stopped front of a crew- can you hear me?” dig through this ship’s systems a bit:
vessel to end in its current state. man, a technician first-class if Gary Terrell fell into step beside him. I’ve always wanted a closer look at
Behind him, Terrell unhooked the was reading her insignia correctly. “Is the hull too thick?” one of these old-time warships.”
electronic door bypass and returned The crewman ignored them. Terrell “Maybe,” Gary lied. He knew Gary grunted at the engineer. “As
it to his kit, then stepped up next to reached out to touch her shoulder. the armor thickness on this type of if Wanderer isn’t enough of an an-
him. “Don’t” Gary cried, an instant too ship. His transmission should have tique.” He looked back at the corpse
“Let’s do this,” Gary said, setting late. no trouble reaching the Wanderer. of Technician Jenkins, then turned
off down the corridor toward the Terrell’s gloved hand passed Something was definitely wrong. away to scan the bridge. There had
left, heading for the maintenance through her body. The crewman Gary and Terrell followed the been a battle here. Spent cartridges
tube leading to the ship’s computer shivered and stopped working for a young technician through the bulk- lay on the floor, and he saw bullet
core. moment. She looked over her shoul- head door, back toward the corridor holes in both equipment and bod-
“I was expecting bodies,” Terrell der, blue eyes scanning the corridor. leading to the hatch. ies. He turned back to the remains
said. “Help me,” she whispered, before “Sweet mother,” Terrell whis- of Jenkins. There was a rip in the
“Me too. I think this is worse, turning back to the communication pered through his radio. upper part of her uniform’s left arm
though.” Gary kept himself moving panel. She snapped the panel back They were on the bridge of the and a dark stain around the area.
steadily toward another bulkhead into place and a voice filled the cor- cruiser. The desiccated remains of Behind him Terrell’s equipment
door. He knew a ship of this type car- ridor. the crew surrounded them, each beeped and buzzed.

Doors Through the Places You Live, by Michael Merriam Page 12

“Can you get anything?” Gary leveled his weapon at them. cried. When no one appeared, she bunk, Jenkins landing on her back.
asked. He was ready to get off this Gary instinctively ducked to his scowled, stood, and started off Terrell walked deeper into the
ghost ship. left and flattened himself on the down the corridor at a trot. room, heading for the computer ac-
“No, I need to be at the computer deck, trying to dodge the weapon’s “Stay with her!” Gary cried out cess station. “I wonder if I can use
core.” fire. He did not know if the bullets through the radio and took off after her access panel.”
Gary sighed. “Let’s try to walk for could harm him in this place, but he the receding form as quickly as his “Terrell—” Gary said as the en-
it.” did not want to find out. suit allowed. counter on the bunk became more
Terrell repacked his kit and looked Behind him, Terrell gasped. Gary The two men followed Jenkins intimate.
at Gary. “Lead on.” rolled and found Terrell looking around a corner. Strewn along the “What? They don’t know we’re
“Help me.” Technician first-class down at his chest, the man’s hands deck like so many broken toys were here. They’re both long dead, Gary.
Jenkins—or something in the form clutching the front of his suit as if bullet-riddled members of the crew, It doesn’t matter.” The engineer
of Technician Jenkins—stood in the expecting damage. For a moment officers and enlisted both. Occa- turned his back to Gary and started
corner, pale, translucent, washed- he thought his friend was shot, but sionally they would find a dead ma- pulling equipment from his kit. “If it
out. there were no wounds or blood on rine or two surrounded by several makes you uncomfortable, you can
“Gary,” Terrell said, looking to- Terrell’s suit. bodies of the ship’s crew. wait for me outside.”
ward the spot where Gary’s light A guttural roar caught Gary’s at- “What happened here?” Terrell “That would be a terrible idea.
shone. tention. Technician Jenkins sprang asked. We shouldn’t separate.”
“Do you see her?” from the ground near him, bleeding Gary ignored him, saving his Terrell placed a hand-held com-
“Yeah. Yeah, I do.” from her left arm where she had ap- breath for the mad dash he was en- puter unit on the panel and pressed
Gary Ampierre turned to look at parently been hit. She smashed into gaged in. a sequence of numbers into it.
his partner, then turned his light the man with the assault rifle, slam- Jenkins reached a door and Gary turned his back on the amo-
back on the corner where the ap- ming him backward against the hull. stopped. She pointed the rifle up rous encounter between Jenkins
parition had stood. Dust and debris Before he could react, she struck and took two deep breaths. In one and her friend, ignoring her gasped
was all to greet him. him between the legs with a raised fluid motion she slapped the entry cries of “Help me.” He walked over
“Come on,” Terrell said, his voice knee. The man doubled over and switch on the door and, lowering and stood next to Terrell. Terrell was
low and shaky. “Let’s try to reach Jenkins brought her knee up into his the rifle, dived through the open- the ship’s engineer on the Wan-
the computer core.” face. ing. Gary followed her. derer. He was the tech guy on the
They walked across the bridge, Technician Jenkins tore the rifle He stopped in his tracks. “Um— mission. Besides the requirement
past the navigator’s station and from the stricken Marine’s hands maybe we should leave,” he said. that a minimum two crew members
helm controls, to a door just off and fired one round into his head. Terrell pushed his way inside. be assigned to any off-ship mis-
the bridge. Gary stepped over the Seeming satisfied with her handi- “Why? Oh!” sion, Gary was here because of his
fallen body of a marine and pulled work, she turned to another crew- Technician Jenkins was most of knowledge of this model of ship and
the manual release lever. The door man lying stretched out on the deck the way out of her uniform, her the fact that he was Tomlinson’s ex-
popped open and Gary, with Terrell in a pool of blood, and touched the arms and one leg wrapped around ecutive officer as well as navigator.
following, passed through. still form’s neck. a crewman in a similar state of un- He sighed. All the—oddness—had
A marine with an automatic rifle “Somebody help me!” Jenkins dress. They toppled over onto the made his knowledge of this vessel

Doors Through the Places You Live, by Michael Merriam Page 13

useless. “Looks like the Captain and Stevner both men fled, the creature that was Terrell leaned over one of the
Terrell swore and packed his are coming to find us.” once Tech Jenkins following them. display stations, wheezing hard.
hand-held in his kit. “Nothing. The Gary gave the two figures com- Gary decided to take a chance and “Gary? Gary, they’re trying to jump
hand-held says there’s no power to ing toward the ship a closer look. dived through an open hatch, pull- to another star.” Terrell could not
this console despite what my eyes As they approached he suddenly ing Terrell with him. keep the slight note of awe from his
tell me.” recognized them by the way they “Hull temperature at critical!” a voice.
Gary nodded his head. “Let’s go moved in their suits. man’s voice cried. Gary dashed over and looked at
back out the door and see what “Get down!” Gary cried, grabbing Gary and Terrell found them- the display. “Jump technology’s a
happens.” Terrell and dragging him from view. selves back on the bridge. This time myth. It’s impossible.”
“Age before and all that.” “What’s wrong with you?” it was chaos, as crew and officers “It possible in theory, but they
“Very funny. Stay with me.” Gary “That’s us out there. Come on, dashed from station to station, don’t have enough power or
opened the door and stepped there’s an airlock this way, away checking readings. Outside, Gary speed.” Terrell said. “This ship has
through, Terrell on his heels. from where we came in. Let’s make saw the bright orange-yellow orb of an early stage Pratt and Lockheed
Outside the room they found for it and hope for the best.” a star he could not identify growing power plant. Probably a type two.”
themselves in a corridor near the The two men started down the larger in the window. Around him “All hands, this is the Captain:
outer hull. The ship around them corridor. As they turned a corner, equipment shorted out, causing abandon—”
was dark and dead. they found themselves facing the sparks and smoke to fill the bridge. “I’ve got it!” a female voice
“Well? What now?” Terrell asked. form of Technician Jenkins. He caught a glimpse of Technician called. Gary recognized as the same
Gary peered down the dark cor- She stood, or more accurately, Jenkins, her ponytail loose and voice that had asked him and Terrell
ridor. He was in charge of the mis- floated, in front of them. Pale and her blonde hair in disarray as she to help her.
sion. What they did next was his grey, her skin peeling from her face worked, lying on her back under the Technician first-class Jenkins
call. “I think we should try to get off in narrow strips, her eyes pale and navigation console. screamed as a shower of sparks
this ship. The military can retrieve sightless, tendons and muscles “Navigation?” a man’s voice rained down on her. Her body
the logs themselves.” on her neck visible where the skin asked, strained and tight. jerked and bucked, as if caught in a
“Good. How exactly are we get- had rotted away. Her uniform was Gary turned to the sound. An old- powerful electrical current.
ting off this tub?” bloodied and shredded below the er man sat in the command chair. The Gambia seemed to hesitate
“I don’t know.” knees. She opened a mouth full of “Still nothing,” said a young wom- for an instant, then moved with a
“Well, we better figure some- yellowed teeth. an sitting at the station Jenkins was sickening lurch, Gary and Terrell
thing out before our oxygen fails.” “Please. Help me.” working on said. were thrown backward. The burn-
Gary walked down the corridor Gary leapt backward as the appa- “Engines?” the captain asked. ing orb outside filled the window.
a few feet and looked out of a port rition reached for them. He grabbed One of the officers checked a dis- Gary screamed. He could not
hole. In the distance he could see Terrell, too late. Jenkin’s own ghost- play station. “We’re at full power. help it: he knew he was going to
the lights of a ship illuminated the ly hand shot out and took Terrell by Without the navigation computer die, so there was no reason to hold
dark. “There’s Wanderer.” the arm. It passed through his suit online, and connected to the jump back. He screamed until his throat
Terrell moved next to Gary and and the man screamed. drive, the rest of the sequence was raw as the bright light washed
looked outside of the warship. Gary yanked Terrell away and won’t finish.” over the warship. The Gambia gave

Doors Through the Places You Live, by Michael Merriam Page 14

another lurch, and Gary was thrown lips slightly parted. cause we technically don’t exist in think I’ll find my way back out? And
across the bridge. His helmet struck Gary turned back to his friend. this space. If you take a closer look, what about you? If I walk out and
the corner of the navigation station “What do you think you’re doing?” they’re not frozen, they’re still mov- leave you behind, do you just disap-
with a dull crunch. He heard the hiss “Hopefully, saving your life.” ing.” pear?”
of oxygen escaping his suit. He nodded toward the still form “Jenkins saw us,” Gary said. He “I don’t think so. I may not exist
Gary turned his head to the left. in his suit. “Saving hers too, if I’m looked back out at the other mem- in the same space or time as you do
Technician Jenkins lay on the deck lucky.” Terrell drew his hand across bers of the Gambia’s crew. “They anymore, but I don’t think I’ll cease
next to him. She looked at him, a his nose: It came away smeared in must have all seen us.” to exist. I’m not completely clear
horrified expression on her face. blood, and a line of deep crimson Terrell shook his head and on what will happen, but—” Terrell
Gary Ampierre blinked at her. She ran slowly down, toward his upper dabbed at his nose with a sleeve. smiled at his friend and dabbed the
mouthed the words “Help me,” and lip. “As for me, I think I might be “No. The rest of the crew never ac- blood off his lips. “—the engineer
then his world went black. done.” knowledged either of our existences in me really wants to see this jump
# “No.” in any way. It’s just her. So I knocked through.”
Gary pushed away the dark- Terrell smiled a small smile. “Ever her out and put her in my suit while Gary nodded and exhaled slowly.
ness, forcing his consciousness to since her shade passed through me the world around me slowed to a “You realize this jump, if that’s what
rise to the surface. A quick inspec- back in that first corridor, I’ve felt it.” crawl.” it is, will most likely end in the mid-
tion showed that his suit had been “All the more reason for me not Gary frowned. “I still don’t under- dle of some star somewhere?”
damaged, but someone had already to take her in your place!” stand.” “Possible. But if it does, I’ll never
patched and sealed the cracks in “Yeah, well, I don’t think that’s “I think she’s a part of why we’re notice anyway.”
the helmet. He hoped it would hold how it works.” Terrell wiped his face trapped. Take her out of the trap “Terrell—”
on the trip back to the Wanderer, and coughed. “Look, I went through and we, or at least you, should be “Get out of here, Gary. Take the
assuming there was a trip back. the trouble of stuffing her into my able to escape. She’s the only thing girl. She’s the key to all this, I think.”
He saw Terrell’s form lying next to suit. The least you can do is drag her or person on this ship that interacts “We were told specifically by the
him. Gary reached out to shake him out the door.” with us. I think when that charge military not to take anything off the
awake. Gary gave his surroundings a look. went through her body, she con- ship.”
“Welcome back.” They were still on the bridge, the nected for a moment to the jump “She’ll be a better source of in-
The voice sounded muffled, dis- crew frozen in their positions from drive, and it tore something in formation about what happened
tant to his ears. Gary sat up and the moment before the attempted space-time.” Terrell leaned forward. here than the logs ever would. Take
looked at his companion. jump. He turned toward the viewing Resting on his hand and knees, he her and get back to Wanderer be-
Terrell Bingham squatted in front windows. The star that had filled the put his head down and coughed, fore your oxygen is gone.”
of him in his lightweight uniform. screen was gone. There was nothing long and wet. He caught his breath Gary lumbered to his feet. He
Gary gasped and looked at the form out there. No other stars or ships, and looked back up at Gary. “She reached down and took the limp
lying on the deck. He reached over just blankness. keeps asking for our help. I think we form of Technician Jenkins un-
and rolled the suited body toward “How come we’re not frozen?” should give it to her.” der her arms and started dragging
him. Technician Jenkins’ face greet- Gary asked. Gary nodded. “So if I take her her toward the hatch. He reached
ed him. Her eyes were closed, her Terrell shrugged. “I think be- with me through that door, do you around behind his back and opened

Doors Through the Places You Live, by Michael Merriam Page 15

the hatch with one hand. Pausing, ed supply of oxygen and turned the held together. Did you two fall his wife called home.
he gave Terrell a last look. His friend hatch mechanism. through something?” Samantha had come by to check
sat cross-legged on the deck. He The hatch opened, and Gary Gary blinked. “I don’t remember.” on him, and for fleeting moment
had his arms around his body and clamored up and out onto the hull. He watched the captain and the he felt something was wrong. The
was shivering. In the distance he could see the medic exchange a look. memory of ghosts and a man who
“It’s been a pleasure working Wanderer, her maneuvering thrust- Gary looked around. “What he thought he should know flitted
with you, Terrell. You’re the best ers firing as she slowly closed the about—” through his mind, but Samantha
engineer the Wanderer ever had, at distance between herself and the “Samantha’s fine,” Captain Tom- banished those images, pushing
least in my time on her.” Gambia. linson said. “She came around him onto his back and straddling
Terrell smiled. “Thank. Tell Ly- “Ampierre to Wanderer. Wander- shortly after you got back.” him as she whipped her tunic over
cinda—tell her it was an honor.” er, come in.” Stevner gave a low chuckle. “That her head.
Around him, the bridge crew of “This is Tomlinson: Gary, are you wife of yours is the most stubborn Later, he lay on his bunk, watch-
the warship started to accelerate in two all right?” person I know. She’s already down ing the ruined hulk of the Gambia
their movements and Jenkins stirred “That’s a long story, Captain. I’ll in the engine room.” drift in space, her hull and super-
in the suit. tell you more when we’re on board.” “Breaking who knows what,” structure ripped and torn from bat-
“I will,” Gary said. Gary maneuvered himself and Tomlinson added. tle, and worried that he could not
He stepped through the hatch, Jenkins toward the Wanderer, which Gary smiled. “She keeps this remember his time aboard the old
dragging his burden, and turned. had taken up a stationary position bucket flying, doesn’t she?” The warship.
He found himself facing the airlock only few dozen meters away. He smile faded from his face. It had felt The Wanderer jumped away from
to the hull, the same airlock he and managed to reach the outer airlock natural to say that, but something the ruined warship, and it was no
Terrell had entered the doomed and run the cycler. He knew that seemed off. longer his problem.
ship through. once he was inside, one of the crew “That she does,” Tomlinson said
Gary took the rescue straps from would handle the rest. He climbed agreeably. “You, on the other hand,
his suit’s kit and, after several clum- into the airlock, closed the outer are going to go to your quarters and
sy moments of moving her limp door, and collapsed on the deck. get some rest.”
form around, cinched the two of The next thing he was clear about Gary nodded in agreement. “Fine.
them together, her back against his. was Captain Tomlinson and their Captain, about the logs and files—”
Gary climbed the ladder, struggling medic and freight master, Karl Ste- “I found them in Sam’s kit. Don’t
with each step. He reached the lock- vner, peeling him out of his suit. worry, the Melpomene navy sent a
ing mechanism for the outer hatch “What happened over there?” destroyer to meet us. It will be their
and hesitated. He had no idea what Tomlinson’s asked, her anxiety obvi- problem by tomorrow. I am still a li-
would happen. Wanderer might not ous. censed pilot: I think I can still plot a
be there. His damaged suit might “I—um, we ran into some trou- jump course without your help.”
fail. He might find himself standing ble.” Gary laughed in agreement and
in the Gambia armory. Gary took a Stevner chuckled darkly. “I’ll say. let Stevner finish his examination
deep breath from his nearly deplet- I’m surprised that helmet of yours before return to the cabin he and

Doors Through the Places You Live, by Michael Merriam Page 16

The Grand Illusion: black-out area in one jump?” asked sining were added to the no-travel
A Dean The Space Rogue Tale the Captain with a renewed, deadly list in the treaty of Ending. In the last
by Andy Heizeler calm. The answer came back only three years, no one has attempted
moments later. any landings on either planet. That
“Sorry, Captain. It would take at entry was made six years ago,” nar-

“T hank you!” cried Dean, tak-
ing his hands from his ears
as Captain Sedona shut down the
her?” asked the Captain gently into
the intercom.
“I’ll have to replace the entire in-
least three just to get us anywhere
near the outer range of the closest
quantum repeater,” said Arc in dis-
rated Creon in his deep, clear voice.
“On the upside we’re not going to
have to take bets on weather we die
alarms. Dean had been in his fair verter core. The old one is cracked mal tones from the intercom. From of starvation or asphyxiation first,”
share of shipboard emergencies so badly that I can actually see the his perspective on the couch in the said Dean. No one gave him even
and remained certain that none had fracturing! We just pushed her too mess lounge, things were headed the slightest hint of a smile.
ever been the least bit improved by hard,” answered Cloey with sympa- towards certain doom. Such a jour- “Captain, the chances they have
blaring sirens and flashing red lights. thetic pain laced into her words. ney at sub-light speed would take any Bohm Drive technology are
“What in the devil was that all Captain Sedona narrowed her several thousand years. pretty slim. Prison planets are tra-
about?” shouted Creon, working eyes and balled up a fist. Dean had “Bring up the chart,” ordered ditionally kept low tech. Besides, if
his way towards the cockpit where seen that expression only once be- the Captain. Dean had already be- they did somehow manage to cre-
Dean and the Captain waited amidst fore, and it had ended in three un- gun punching commands into the ate Bohm Drives, they’d have used
screens full of error reports. Though conscious bar patrons. Dean could noisy keys. His heart didn’t know them to escape,” said Creon with
the chances of being jumped by pi- understand her upset, however. if it should lift or drop as the data growing dread.
rates in deep space were beyond They’d just offloaded their last run emerged. “Cloey, what would you need to
vanishingly small, the big ex-merce- of less than legal cargo and taken on A series of large, violent stars sur- build a new inverter core?” asked
nary had armed himself just incase. a pallet of Post Martian Federation rounded by barren planets leaped Captain Sedona. After a short pause
“Something’s wrong with the Cred-Sticks. The territory they were onto the main screen. One lonely filled with quick thinking, Cloey re-
Bohm Drive,” answered the Captain, passing through had no use for the system within their jump radius in- sponded.
keying the intercom to engineering. PMF or their credits, and the entire dicated settlements. The computer “A new fusion torch, about thirty
Moments later Cloey’s voice broke region remained a Quantum Wire- displayed its elderly records next to pounds of neutron enriched silver
through in a series of static ridden less black-out area since no one had the binary planets in the solar habit- and an industrial grade compres-
sobs. bothered to launch repeaters out able zone of a G class primary. sion chamber.”
“Oh, it’s horrible! She’s gone un- this far. “The planets Golgotha and Os- “I don’t know if they’ll have
stable, boss! If we try to jump again “Cloey, would it be possible to sining, originally occupied by pris- those things, but we don’t have any
the whole ship could end up as a squeeze one more jump out of the oners of the Dai Kon Empire as far choice. Arc, set a course for Gol-
cloud of atoms spread across the drive without killing us?” asked the back as 2719. Traditionally Golgotha gotha. Cloey, say your best prayers
Galaxy!” Captain with a glimmer of hope. received political and nonviolent over that Drive. Everyone else, hold
“All the king’s horses and all the “It’s possible, boss, but risky. I’d offenders, while Ossining was re- on,” ordered the Captain, her eyes
king’s men wouldn’t even bother,” say we’d have a sixty percent chance served for the most dangerous of aflame with wild desperation.
muttered Dean. of survival at best. After that our the Empire’s offenders. After the “You know what’s worse than a
“Just take it one step at a time, odds drop down to zero,” said Cloey. Great Galactic War and the fall of prison planet,” asked Dean in low
Cloey. What do you need to fix “Arc, could we get clear of the Dai Kon in 2943, Golgotha and Os- tones to Creon. Creon arched an

The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale , by Andy Heizeler Page 17

eyebrow. populated the scanner sub-screen. logical signatures from the forward “A prison planet has a foreign af-
“Two prison planets,” answered From the looks of it, they had twice sections of those ships. They’ve got fairs minister?” asked Creon, stuff-
Dean, holding up two fingers just as many ships as Golgotha. some form of nuclear weapons,” ing more shells into his pulse gre-
before the Tachyon Valkyrie leaped “We’re being pinged by old fash- said Arc. nade launcher.
across the dimensions into possible ioned radar! I’m also picking up fre- “The Valkyrie’s armor plating #
oblivion. quency modulated radio signals,” used to be rated at 588 megatons,
exclaimed Arc over the intercom. but I don’t think it’s up to that kind The old Izar Class light cruiser,
# heavily modified with thruster banks
“I never thought I’d say this but, of beating anymore,” said the Cap-
“Can anyone tell me what pre- those guys make us look state of the tain. The venerable spaceship had for added lift capacity, dwarfed its
space submarines are doing in high art,” said Dean. been through more than one scrap escort of crude space planes on
orbit?” asked Dean, leaning over “Hush, Dean. Arc, patch that sig- and taken its share of poundings the landing pad. Nearby the white
the flickering scanner display. Cap- nal through!” ordered the Captain. just since she and Cloey had rebuilt walled capitol building glowed in
tain Sedona crossed her arms and A crackling, garbled voice erupted her. the light of the deep red sun and
frowned. They weren’t submarines, from the speakers a moment later. “The best armor in the world can’t the giant moon of Golgotha’s sister
but they could have been, if one dis- “This is Captain Roberts of the stop a bullet like a few well placed planet.
counted their aft fission rockets. Golgotha Planetary Defense Ship words before the trigger’s pulled,” When the loading ramp touched
“I don’t know, but it looks like Sidney. Identify yourselves!” said Dean, hoping he sounded more down, the crew of the Tachyon Val-
they’re shifting orbit to interdict us.” Dean put a finger to his lips, then confident than he felt. kyrie was met not with a minister,
“Of course they are,” said Dean, tapped it on his temple. Captain Se- After several minutes of what had but a large contingent of armed men
checking the low band frequency dona narrowed her eyes for a mo- to be an intense series of commu- and women in grey thermoplast ar-
monitors. Nothing came across as ment in deep thought before giving nications between the picket ships mor, their cartridge based firearms
four tiny vessels approached from Dean the go-ahead for whatever re- and the surface, a response came. consistent with the technology level
the steep gravity well of Golgotha. sponse he’d cooked up. “Mr. Hutchinson, you couldn’t the crew had witnessed on the way
Six others waited in orbit. “Sidney, this is Hal Hutchinson of have come at a better time. We’ll down. Massive steel and concrete
“Our thrusters are far superior, the Greater Star Republic aboard escort you to orbit where our space buildings, economy sized petrofuel
boss. We could easily out run them,” the GSR J. Carter. We’re on a diplo- planes will guide you to the sur- vehicles, and dirty fission plants for
said Cloey from engineering. matic mission of peace,” said Dean face. Our foreign affairs minister will energy sprawled across a landscape
“That’s our girl, Cloey. Let’s hope boldly, to the eye rolls of Captain meet you on landing pad eight.” webbed by blacktop roads. It re-
we don’t need to,” said the Captain. Sedona and Creon. Dean lifted his “Excellent, oh, and call me Hutch,” minded Dean of a time he’d never
Dean thought about fleeing at sub- finger off the transmit button and said Dean, spinning to face his com- experienced on old Earth, and was
light speeds. The only place they’d smiled. panions. glad he hadn’t.
have to go would be the other prison “We’re going to pull this off, “Ok, we don’t have much time. Dean rested his hand on the rail
planet, which probably wouldn’t be how?” asked the Captain. They’re playing along but that pistol seated in a black holster on
any more hospitable. Dean dialed in “Very smoothly, thank you. I’ll ex- doesn’t mean they bought our sto- his side. His T-shirt bore the words
a long range scan of Ossining. Mo- plain on the way,” answered Dean. ry. The fact that we tried should gain “Blame The Snake, Not The Sales-
ments later images of similar ships “Captain, I’m picking up radio- us some credit, though.” man.”

The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale , by Andy Heizeler Page 18

On Dean’s left Creon waited with nodding to the Captain before the don’t see how that concerns you,” product literature for stereo-projec-
his double barreled particle gun. three of them started off. The ramp said Neuman, waving a dismissive tor lens cleaner that had been plas-
Slung across his back the pulse gre- closed behind them, sealing in Cloey hand. tered to one of the high cargo bay
nade launcher provided a deadly and Arc. “Like you said, I’m not blind, and viewports.
alternative weapon and a sharp ac- “That man is a con artist if I’ve neither were our scanners. Ossin- “Where could they be? This deal
cessory to his parabolic battle ar- ever seen one,” said Arc in worried ing’s got you outgunned two to one. needs to be closed before the mob
mor. tones. All other things being equal, they’re out there starts wrenching off our
Captain Sedona stood to Dean’s “It’s like being on a whole planet going to kick your asteroids, so let’s thruster bells just so they can sell
right in her black leather Echelon of Deans,” said Cloey thoughtfully. cut through the bull here. If you ‘em back to us,” said Cloey, glower-
test pilot’s suit complete with laser “This is far worse than I thought,” want to defend yourselves against ing at the people outside the hatch.
pistol. She held a small, shiny box replied Arc, heading for the com- Ossining, you’re going to need Arc had never known her to get this
with a long metal antenna in a men- forting embrace of the broken down help,” said Dean before finishing off upset.
acing outward salute. old couch in the mess lounge. his drink. “Me too,” said Arc, turning back
“Mind the lady with the detona- # “And you think that your old Izar to Cloey. “You think this plan has a
tor, folks. One twitch from her and Class cruiser out there is going to be golf ball’s chance in a black hole?”
we’re all a very colorful demonstra- “If y’all are with the Greater Star able to stand up against their entire “Don’t ask me!” she said, “I never
tion of what happens when matter Republic, I was never convicted Navy?” asked Neuman, an eyebrow play golf, it’s too violent!”
and antimatter play demolition der- of running government contract arched for effect. “What are you talking about?
by,” shouted Dean, hoping no one schemes on Dai Kon,” said Neuman, “Not exactly, but it’s a start. You Golf isn’t violent.”
would guess that they didn’t have who had unsurprisingly turned out ever pulled a Quaker con?” asked “You’ve never seen me play it,”
antimatter aboard. to be President Dixon. After drinks Dean. The blank stare gave all the said Cloey with a distinctly non-Clo-
“No need for that, I assure you!” were handed around and the ser- answer he needed. ey like evil grin. Arc thought about
shouted a green suited figure who vants dismissed, Neuman settled “Refill my drink and I’ll lay it out that for a minute before giving up.
emerged from the back. The armed right down to business. for you. Then we’ll talk about pay- “Open up, we’re back,” said Cap-
contingent parted to allow him “Where we’re from isn’t impor- ment,” said Dean, pleased to be tain Sedona over the intercom.
through. Once before the crew, the tant. What is important is that your educating the youth. “Sure thing, boss! Glad you made
well groomed man bowed deeply. world is about to be invaded,” said it, Arc was getting agitated,” said
Dean glancing up at the looming #
“I’m Sam Neuman, foreign affairs a smiling Cloey, slapping the but-
minister and personal advisor to orb of Ossining through the large “We don’t want any!” shouted ton next to the big cargo ramp. Arc
President Dixon. Please, follow me,” transparicrete dome of the Presi- Cloey through the closed hatch dropped his jaw with a squeak of
he said breathlessly, flashing his ex- dential Office. Creon and Captain door. Hordes of enterprising sales betrayal.
pensive, if archaic gold watch. Sedona kept an eye on the door, people had surrounded the ship for Once the ramp touched down,
“’Never buy something from a their hands never straying far from the last two hours. Creon, Dean, and Captain Sedona
man who’s out of breath,’” quoted their weapons. “You realize that by talking to strode quickly up into the ship,
Creon quietly. “David Carradine.” “So you’re not blind. We’ve got a them, you’re just giving them hope, keeping the sales crowd at a dis-
“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Dean, Space Navy to deal with Ossining. I right?” asked Arc, reviewing the tance with pointed weapons.

The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale , by Andy Heizeler Page 19

“We’ve got a lot of work to do ordered Dean before leaning back this?” asked Dean, still wishing she bling down. If he’d gone with his
and not a lot of time to do it. Arc, with a sigh, trying not to notice the would have agreed to let someone first plan, things would have been
we need to check our database for strange smells of the cab. In the else pilot the shuttle. even riskier, but as it stood, he still
a formula on radar-absorbing paint. past week he’d spent more time in “None, so no sappy stuff. Do your wouldn’t have laid good money on
Cloey, you and I need to start work- front of cameras than sleeping. The part. I’ll see you when we get back,” their odds.
ing on the engineering specifica- relentless schedule had kept him she said with a quick peck to his #
tions for a Greater Star Republic away from the heavy labor, though, cheek before climbing in.
Dreadnaught Class Super Cruiser,” which he couldn’t complain about. “How about you, Creon. Any last Dean paced in the cockpit of the
said Captain Sedona, hitting the The news of the “New Alliance,” words before your mission?” asked Tachyon Valkyrie, the main screen
hatch button to close up. had spread like wild fire, with more Dean. quickly filling up with enemy icons.
“I’m going to go prepare my companies now producing Greater “If you are far from the enemy, “They’re almost to attack range,
speech for the newsies. Creon, I Star Republic flags, coffee cups, and make him believe you are near,” Dean,” said Arc from the mess
suggest you start getting things T-shirts than Carter had liver pills. said Creon, grunting as he sat the lounge. Dean wished Arc didn’t
together for your special mission. If Ossining was watching, which he big cylinder down in the smallish have a special brand of Post Trau-
We’ve got just two weeks before was sure they were, the deception cargo compartment. “Sun Tsu,” he matic Stress Disorder preventing
the Ossining Navy attacks accord- had to be at least somewhat con- finished. him from entering a cockpit. Dean
ing to Golgothian intelligence. With vincing. With just a little luck, the “Someday you’re going to have didn’t care about having to use the
timing like this, I’m thinking the uni- plan would work. If not, at least he’d to tell me how you memorized all intercom, but without anyone else
verse has a sense of humor after gotten more than his fifteen min- those quotes,” said Dean. there, the cockpit felt lonely. Espe-
all, unfortunately we’re the butt of utes of fame. “If we live, I just might,” said Cre- cially with a nuclear armed Space
the joke,” said Dean, setting his hair “We’re here,” said the cabby, on, shaking Dean’s hand. Navy approaching at near relativis-
with a comb. reaching out his hand. “Good luck,” said Dean, accepting tic speeds.
“I think our golf ball just passed “It goes on Mr. Neuman’s bill,” a quick hug from the big man be- “Cloey, are the engines ready?”
the event horizon, Arc,” said Cloey. said Dean to the driver’s dismay. fore heading back to the cab. He still “As ready as ever, Dean. Just let
Everyone else except for Arc adopt- “Stay here, I’ll be right back.” had more interviews, after which he me know if we need extra juice to
ed a confused expression. Once free of the cab, he quickly would be taking a trip aboard one run,” said Cloey.
found Creon loading the last of the of the space planes to the planet’s “If it comes to that, we’ll be
# doomed anyway, but thank you,”
heavy cylinders onto the Assault dark side orbit. With Cloey supervis-
“Thank you, and welcome to the Shuttle Eris. The elderly shuttle’s ing, everything should be going well said Dean, realizing he sounded
Republic!” said Dean, enthusiasti- skin had been neatly painted in there, but with the Captain out of more like Arc than himself these
cally shaking the hand of broadcast stealth black as well as receiving a the picture he felt the need to get days.
host as the interview ended. The HD tune up on her thrusters. eyes on the project. He just hoped Dean opened a channel to the
crew started packing up to leave as Captain Sedona came around the Ossining spies here hadn’t ships of Golgotha’s smaller Navy,
Dean jumped into one of the many from the other side, completing her caught on to the entire plan. It was taking a deep breath.
taxicabs of the capitol city. external pre-flight checks. all a long shot with a few critical “Hold your positions and keep
“Take me to the landing site,” “Any chance of talking you out of lynch pins waiting to bring it all tum- your fingers off your triggers. I’m

The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale , by Andy Heizeler Page 20

going out to meet our enemy.” Dean activated the RF transceiver, before you face the consequences,” gotha’s underpowered Navy, our
Arc lit off the main thrusters, opening a channel to the Ossining said Dean. Ossining resided exactly very real Stealth Destroyer has po-
pushing them ahead of the forma- Navy which would appear to come one and a half light minutes from sitioned itself in a strategic location
tion. In the vast distances of space, from the remote controlled vessel. their current position. Allowing for to bombard your planet’s cities with
such an act was merely symbolic, “This is Captain Nelson of the an acceptable margin of delay and nuclear hellfire missiles. We may
but hopefully enough to designate GSR Victory. Planet Golgotha is human response times, he had to just be a small diplomatic force, but
their icon as the scout ship on en- now under our jurisdiction. Any act stall for at least three and a half we have more than enough to take
emy screens. of aggression against them will be minutes. on the likes of you,” said Dean, lis-
“How’s the patch to the Victory?” taken as a formal declaration of war “Dean! Their command ship just tening with relish to the lack of im-
asked Dean. against the Greater Star Republic. launched a missile!” shouted Arc. mediate response.
“Perfect. She should be round- Cease your advance at once!” de- Dean snapped his attention to the “You’re bluffing again, Nelson.
ing the curve of the planet in just manded Dean, hoping his timbre scanners, flashing his fingers over You have ten seconds to power
a few moments,” replied Arc. Dean had been sufficiently gruff. The re- the command keys. In moments he down and surrender before we end
felt a glimmer of hope as his screens sponse came immediately from a had the calculations he needed. In you,” said the Admiral.
caught sight of the Super Cruiser smooth female voice. one minute and twenty two sec- “They’re not going for it, Dean,”
sized ship. To the relatively modern “This is Admiral Von Brustien of onds, the Victory would be an ex- said Cloey over the intercom.
scanners of the Valkyrie, the Victory the Ossining Navy Ship Bloodstorm. panding sphere of hot, irradiated “I can have us running before
could be seen for what it was; a gi- As much as you’d like us to believe aluminum and plastic molecules, they turn their launch keys, Dean,”
ant mock-up made of aluminum and you, Captain, it appears all your blown apart along with the charade. said Arc.
plastic, equipped with low cost, low hard work has been for naught. Our Admiral Von Brustien would simply Dean closed his eyes, the num-
yield thrusters, running lights and spies reported that your leading wait for confirmation of the decoy’s bers of the countdown racing in
plenty of radar reflecting surfaces. vessel is hardly GSR material and destruction, proving her spies right, his head. The Victory exploded into
It also had a battery-powered RF furthermore, your ridiculous fake then annihilate the rest of the ships silent brilliance on the scanners.
repeater and a parabolic antenna. contraption out there isn’t a threat before her. Dean checked the sys- Dean took one last, deep breath
With some creative wiring and a to anyone. I highly doubt you peo- tem clock again and talked fast. again and hit transmit.
simple low band transceiver, Arc ple are even from the Greater Star “Congratulations, Admiral, you “On your planet is a corrupted
had complete control of the faux Republic.” fell for our plan.” The triumph in his reproduction of an old Earth monu-
ship from his telepad. To the old, The words pounded into Dean voice carried even over the primi- ment known as Mount Rushmore.
radar-based scanners of the Ossin- like lead pistol slugs from days gone tive radio frequencies they were In twenty seconds you’re going to
ing Navy, the Victory would appear by. He flipped a special switch on forced to use. receive a transmission that it’s just
to be the most deadly class of star the control panel and checked the “What are you talking about?” been destroyed in a nuclear blast.
vessel known to man. One of them system clock. He kicked his brain demanded Admiral Von Brustien. Worse yet, your planet’s defenses
could destroy a planet without even into “Plan B” gear. “Your spies learned exactly what won’t even have seen the missile
pausing for lunch. If everything “I’m afraid you’re sources are we wanted them to. While your en- or our stealth ship. I’ll be waiting
went well the Ossining Navy would quite mistaken, Admiral. I will give tire fleet is out here facing off with for your unconditional surrender,
be turning tail in no time. you one last chance to stand down our fake Super Cruiser and Gol- unless of course you want to be re-

The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale , by Andy Heizeler Page 21

sponsible for the complete destruc- a wicked grin. The work of flying landing pad,” said Dean with a said Dean, not mentioning they’d all
tion of your world,” said Dean, nev- under cover of darkness to various touch of admiration. He’d expected be dust if things went sour, as was
er looking away from the scanners. locations, sneaking past armed pa- something of the sort, but nothing usually the case.
If they didn’t wait, if they launched trols and gangs of madmen while so very close to what he would have #
their salvos anyway, there was noth- hiding nuclear bombs now seemed done himself.
ing Dean or anyone could do to all worth it. “That ingrate! Doesn’t he realize “Tell me,” said Captain Sedona,
stop the demise of the Golgothian “That quote isn’t right,” said Cre- we really can set his planet up with a holding Dean down on the couch.
Navy and very possibly the Tachy- on. meeting from GSR representatives? Cloey stood ready to tickle him
on Valkyrie. With violent criminals, “It is if it’s mine,” said Captain Se- Hell, Tim owes us that much after all again while Creon and Arc lounged
it didn’t always work to appeal to dona, setting a course back to Gol- we’ve done!” she screamed. nearby, watching in amusement.
their sense of self preservation. gotha. “You know that, and I know that, With the prison planets several
The seconds dragged through but Neuman doesn’t trust us. I can’t jumps behind them, the Captain
# had demanded the contents of
space-time as if it were mud. Dean say I blame him, we did just prove
could feel his heart pounding right “All finished, Boss!” said Cloey ourselves to be quite capable of de- Dean’s last transmission.
until the moment when the Ossin- from the engine room. Captain Se- ception,” said Dean. “An artist does not reveal all his
ing Navy would be receiving the re- dona looked up from the Bohm “Why are you defending that secrets,” Dean started before break-
ports. Drive Status monitor with a smile. weasel? I’m going to find him and ing out into uncontrollable laughter.
The Tachyon Valkyrie would take burn a hole right through his skull!” Cloey let up at the Captain’s signal
# them as far as they wanted to go after a good bout of tears from
said Captain Sedona, reflexively
“That’s the signal,” said Captain once again. With the Ossining Navy drawing her laser pistol. Dean.
Sedona, looking up from the blink- now part of the Republic, after a bit “You’ll have to settle for shooting “Okay, okay. I’ll tell you,” Dean
ing light on the control panel in the of creative negotiating, all was well what’s left after I’m done with him,” started, panting. The Captain re-
Eris. Creon nodded and flipped the on Golgotha. said Creon, pumping the slide on his leased him but sat down close on
switch on his transmitter. Far be- “Excellent! Break out the cham- pulse grenade launcher. the couch.
low, on the surface of Ossining, a pagne,” she said. “As pleasant as you both would “I told him that if he didn’t let
nuclear fire bloomed into existence, “I wouldn’t get too hasty, Cap- find that, we have no way of know- us go, I’d radio the truth about the
followed by the grand plume of a tain,” said Dean, ripping off a dis- ing where he is. We’ve got one operation to Admiral Von Brustien,
traditional mushroom cloud. The solvable printout from the wall move left to get off this planet. Let detonate the nukes we covertly
monument had been sufficiently far printer. me write the response,” said Dean, planted under his cities and not
from population centers to make for “What is it now?” she asked in ex- ripping the tab off the printout to let give him the antidote to the virus
a casualty free blast, but the people asperation. it bubble away. we released just that morning,” said
down there had to be wondering “Neuman just wired this from a Captain Sedona holstered her la- Dean.
where the next hit would land. ‘secure location.’ He says that if we ser pistol with obvious hesitation. “No one would believe all that,”
“Ahh, nicely done, Creon. I love don’t give him our ship, he’ll deto- Creon looked ready to chew bullets. accused the Captain.
the smell of stark terror in the nate the bomb his agents planted “If this doesn’t work,” she started. “Oh, of course not,” said Dean,
morning,” said Captain Sedona with on our hull while we were on the “I know, I know. You’ll space me,” reaching for his glass of champagne

The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale , by Andy Heizeler Page 22

now that he’d stopped laughing.
“But if even one of those things
were true, Neuman would be ru-
ined. Besides, we were both bluff-
ing. It was more of a parting hand-
shake between cons than anything,”
said Dean, sipping lightly.
“I’ll never understand your kind,
Dean. For all I know you could still
be running some kind of long con
on all of us. I should have stuck with
armed robbery,” said the Captain,
reaching for her own glass now.
“All the Galaxy is a con, and we
are but the Space Rogues,” said
Dean, adopting his Paradoxus the
philosopher voice.
“Get him, Cloey.”

The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale , by Andy Heizeler Page 23


The Mote in God’s Eye field from first officer to captain, abilities. And they seem more than «hard SF».
By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle due in no small part to his efforts friendly. One cannot deny that the science
Simon and Schuster, 1974, 537pp. in suppressing rebellion against Yet a series of mishaps starts to of the novel is rigorous and directly
the Empire on the planet of New suggest that things are not all as affects the plot. The description of

T he title of our favorite magazine
implies that we—editors,
readers, and writers—are together
Chicago. He is ordered to take his
new command for repair in the New
Caledonia system.
they seem. Captain Blaine must
decide whether it is safe for the
Empire to enter into relations with
combat in space strikes me as true
to the laws of physics, as does the
astronomy of the story. And the
bringing the space opera subgenre While there, Blaine receives the Moties, or whether they must aliens' physiology and psychology
back to life. There is a newness to word that an alien spacecraft has be declared enemies to the state. are rationally thought out. If plots
what we are doing. But there is been detected, and he is ordered This summary, as spoiler-free as strongly dependent on the physical
also a connection to what has gone to intercept it. The MacArthur is I can make it, in no way captures sciences define hard SF, then can be
before. For our revival to truly take fired upon, but is able to retrieve the complexity of The Mote in no doubt that The Mote in God's Eye
hold, we need to breathe into it the the craft. Its pilot is dead, a bizarrely God's Eye. The cast of characters is hard SF.
same spirit that has inspired space asymmetric alien. And there is (as I've noted) is large, and there But there can also be no doubt
opera through the decades. only one place the ship could have are a good number subplots. Even that The Mote in God's Eye is
To help further that end, I come from—the yellow star near the MacArthur's lowly midshipmen space opera. You have a far-
occasionally review classics of the Murcheson's Eye, sometimes called get a chance to shine. Niven and flung interstellar empire dealing
genre. This issue, let’s examine Larry the Eye of God, a red supergiant Pournelle assume that their readers with rebel planets. You have
Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The near New Caledonia. (The yellow are smart, able to piece together an interstellar navy complete
Mote in God's Eye, first published in star is thus the «Mote» of the the mystery of what the aliens are with battleships. You have first
1974. novel's title.) hiding from humanity and what contact with an alien species with
This long (500+ pages) novel is Blaine takes the MacArthur to the they really want. questionable motives and a secret
intricately plotted, but I will attempt alien home system, where due to a The Mote in God's Eye was to hide. There is adventure, mystery,
to give a brief summary, knowing it peculiar astronomical arrangement, published during a dark time for intrigue, suspense, even romance.
will be inadequate. (When there's the aliens have been bottle up for a space opera, during the so-called All marks of the action-adventure
a dramatis personae list before the long time. The aliens—christened «New Wave» of SF and before military-style SF that defines space
first page of the story, you know «Moties» by their human visitors— publishers like Interzone magazine opera (or at least a large subset
things are going to get complex.) are highly intelligent and have in the UK and Del Rey books in the thereof).
The protagonist of The Mote evolved into a number of distinct US created a place in which a space One of the most important
in God's Eye is Roderick (or Rod) castes: Engineers, Mediators, opera revival might occur. Some lessons we can take from The Mote
Blaine, of the Imperial Battleship Masters, Doctors, and more. In might object to The Mote in God's in God's Eye is that space opera can
ISSN MacArthur. It is 3017, and many ways they are far beyond Eye being classified as space opera, be both a page-turning adventure
Blaine has been promoted in the humanity in their knowledge and preferring instead the designation and scientifically rigorous. Niven and

RGR Reviews Page 24

Pournelle use the limits provided shape from the animals of Earth, only on the planet Norstrilia, the the decadence of the home planet
by the science framework of their who now do what humans no longer average person lives for 400 years, of humanity and the need for the
story to their best advantage. The care to do. Beings who must do as a lord or lady of the Instrumentality Rediscovery of Man.
science becomes a rich element they are told and enjoy it or they will for a thousand. Everyone is happy. In «Mother Hitton's Littul
of the story's setting, making the be euthanized and a replacement They are conditioned to be, with Kittons,» we see our first glimpse
speculation more believable. instantly manufactured. Beings as psychological reconditioning should of Norstrilia—or as it is listed on
I have read that in writing intelligent as humans, but with the anyone become unhappy. the star charts, Old North Australia.
The Mote in God's Eye, Niven physical advantages of their various Only a few lords of the We learn a little more about the
and Pournelle set out to write root species. Plus the knowledge Instrumentality realize that this longevity drug, stroon, and the
the ultimate first contact story. I that if they make a single false enforced happiness has led to lengths to which the Nostrilians go
challenge every reader out there move, death awaits. a stagnation of the species. The to protect their monopoly.
to read (or re-read) the novel and We the Underpeople is a collection Underpeople, made from animals «Alpha Ralpha Boulevard» is
see if you agree. I challenge every of five short stories and a novel by to serve mankind, could cause real set during the first stages of the
writer out there to write a better author Cordwainer Smith. It is the problems for mankind were it not Rediscovery of Man. It is a poignant,
first contact story yourself. companion volume to Baen's other for the draconian measures used tragic story, raising the question
collection of Smith's fiction, When to keep them in their place. And if the risk of such tragedy is worth
Reviewed by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt the People Fell. In my review of that even these measures breed into the more than stultifying happiness.
work (published in RGR issue 48), Underpeople a will to survive that And in «The Ballad of Lost C'mell»
I commented on the wide range mankind seems to be losing. we see the revolution of the
We the Underpeople and power of the author's intellect, The stories in We the Underpeople Underpeople taking a new turn and
by Cordwainer Smith how his stories roam 15,000 years focus on two interrelated events in finding an unexpected ally.
Baen Books, 2008, 619pp. into humanity's future yet form a Smith's future: the peaceful revolt of And then there is Nostrilia.
coherent whole. the Underpeople and the so-called Smith's only novel among the

I magine a universe where humanity
has traveled to the stars and
settled hundreds of worlds. Imagine
The stories in We the Underpeople
are part of the same sequence
of stories, sometimes called the
«Rediscovery of Man,» where the
Instrumentality has reintroduced
danger and uncertainty into the life
Instrumentality stories, it stars
young Rod McBan, heir to a large
estate on Old North Australia. A
a world where disease and disaster «Instrumentality of Mankind» of the human race in the hopes of friendly computer AI manipulates
have been eliminated. Imagine a stories, but they all deal with a invigorating the species again. All Rod's finances in such a way that
society where life span has been (relatively) narrow slice out of of the stories touch on one of these the young man winds up owning
extended to 400 years—to the exact Smith's timeline. The range of c. two issues, and many both. the planet Earth, which puts his life
day. All worry and care have been A.D. 14,000 to 16,000. The first story, «The Dead Lady in danger and sets him on a journey
eliminated from life, thanks to the The Instrumentality of Mankind, of Clown Town,» investigates the in which we meet a number of other
robots and underpeople who do the lords of Earth, rule humanity for beginning of the revolution of the people familiar to us from Smith's
real work. the good of the species, at least Underpeople, focusing on the dog- other stories. And we watch Rod
Imagine the underpeople, beings as they perceive it. Thanks to the girl D'joan and her human friend, grow up through all his adventures.
formed into more-or-less human miracle drug stroon, produced Elain. «Under Old Earth» shows Of course these brief sentences

RGR Reviews Page 25

do no justice to the 450+ page The New Space Opera escaping even harder than he with poetic folklore overtones.
collection. Cordwainer Smith must Edited by Gardner Dozois and Jona- thought. Greg Egan's «Glory» «Remembrance» is set in Stephen
be read to appreciate his thought than Strahan displays the contrasts between Baxter's Xeelee universe. As
and his utterly unique voice. It has Eos Books, 2008, 656pp. civilizations that are composed humanity recovers from an alien
been said that reading Smith is like of Seekers and those composed invasion, one man claims to know
reading a translation from another
language. I know that I have read
few other SF authors whose prose is
G ardner Dozois and Jonathan
Strahan’s anthology,
New Space Opera, is a collection
of Spreaders. Kage Baker's
«Maelstrom» is a comic reminder
that sometimes art is what we
what really happened when the
aliens first arrived.
Robert Silverberg's «The Emperor
as invigorating as Smith's. I cannot of short stories and novellas by need to survive life, especially life and the Maula» presents a complex
recommend his writing enough. eighteen authors at the forefront among the stars. Peter F. Hamilton's galactic empire in which humanity
Baen is to be highly commended of the revival of space opera that «Blessed by an Angel» suggests that is just one of countless minor
for re-issuing Smith's works in an began in the 1990s and continues the future battlegrounds of warring barbarian species. In such a world,
affordable two-volume edition. to the present day. The editors ideologies may be surprisingly perhaps our greatest weapons as a
Unfortunately, as of this writing, define space opera as «romantic personal. species against our conquerors are
We the Underpeople is out of print. adventure set in space and told on Ken Macleod contrasts life in audacity and the power of story.
I hope that Baen will reprint the a grand scale,» although they are space to life on a planet in «Who's Gregory Benford's «The Worm
volume soon. Until then it is possible less concerned with definitions than Afraid of Wolf 359?» Tony Daniel's Turns» shows that discovering
to get the volume (and other out- with presenting fun stories. They fascinating «The Valley of the where a wormhole leads may not
of-print editions of Smith's works) succeed. Gardens» holds that in battle be as problematic as figuring out
through various online sellers of Gwyneth Jones's story «Saving between beings of two radically how to get home again.
used books or as an e-book through Tiamaat» presents an interstellar different realities, love and art In Walter Jon Williams's «Send
Baen's e-book seller, webscription. diplomat who must make a difficult may make all the difference. Living Them Flowers,» two rogue
net. decision for the sake of peace. In so forever presents strange new adventurers find that no matter
doing, she is reminded that she is challenges in James Patrick Kelly's how far they go in the multiverse,
Reviewed by Donald Jacob Uitvlug much more like her enemy than she «Dividing the Sustain» for post- the past has a way of catching up
would like to be. Ian McDonald's humans whose greatest fear is with them. Nancy Kress's «Art
«Verthandi's Ring» is high on the becoming bored. of War» raises a very interesting
wow scale. It posits that in a finite Alastair Reynold's «Minla's question. Humanity tends to see art
universe, total war must in fact be Flowers» is a poignant reminder and war as antithetical occupations.
total on a literally cosmic level. that even plans made with the best But is that necessarily the case? Dan
Robert Reed's «Hatch» is one of his of intentions can have unforeseen Simmons's «Muse of Fire» posits a
Great Ship stories, set in a kind of consequences, especially when future where the fate of the human
Gormenghast in space. people are involved. Mary race depends on an interstellar
Paul J. McAuley's «Winning Rosenblum's «Splinters of Glass» acting troupe.
Peace» tells the story of a prisoner is a taught cat-and-mouse tale One can read The New Space
of war sold into slavery who finds set in the ice-caves of Europa Opera simply for fun. All of the

RGR Reviews Page 26

stories are well-written, though a bookshelves. The New Space Opera
couple aren't to my personal tastes. should be a welcome addition to
Fun is one of the things space any fan's library, and even more
opera is all about, and on this level welcome to anyone who wants to
The New Space Opera certainly write in the genre.
succeeds. Some of its stories are
much more. Reviewed by Donald Jacob Uitvlug
Another sort of reader might look
at the anthology more analytically,
looking for trends in what critics call
the New Space Opera. For instance,
of the eighteen authors in Dozois
and Strahan's volume, seven hail
from the United Kingdom and one
from Australia. Almost half from a
non-North American milieu.
Four of the anthology authors
are women, a significant but low
number. Female authors have
always played an important role
in space opera: C. L. Moore, Leigh
Brackett, C. J. Cherryh, and Lois
McMaster Bujold come immediately
to mind. It would be nice to see the
22 percentage of The New Space
Opera increase in the future.
The New Space Opera is
an important anthology of
contemporary stories in the space
opera genre, ranking a close
second to Hartwell and Cramer's
The Space Opera Renaissance. (I
note in passing that seven authors
are represented in both volumes,
though no story is duplicated.) The
two volumes sit side by side on my

RGR Reviews Page 27

This Raygun For Hire: could be far-reaching repercussions. half empty kind of guy. Stopping
Forever Eden We sent a team of neurobiologists this madman can only be for the
by John M. Whalen to check on him. They’re all dead public good. You can see that can’t
now. One of them sent word back you? Byron funded this project as
before he died. Shannon has creat- a philanthropic enterprise. Some-

don’t have to tell you this is a
matter of utmost confidential-
“You said this scientist, Dr. Patrick
Shannon, killed the project director
on Reynolds III,” Carson said, “tak-
ed some sort of humanoid creature.
A mutation of one of the indigenous
life forms on Reynolds III. For what-
thing that would benefit human-
ity. Dr. Shannon has turned it into a
Byron Murchison, CEO of Mur- en over the lab, and is conducting ever purpose, we’re not entirely Carson didn’t know if he believed
chison Corp. took the 100 Univer- some sort of experiments.” sure. He won’t let anyone near the that Byron Murchison had philan-
sal Credit Darlan cigar out of his “The man’s gone mad.” Mur- facility. He’s cut off all communica- thropic motivations. He wasn’t par-
clenched teeth and set it down in chison’s eyes shifted to the young tion on Reynolds III, and rigged the ticularly known for that. But Sari
a brass ash tray that rested on top woman, his administrative assistant, lab and manufacturing plant to ex- seemed convinced. He wondered
of his Centauri cherry wood desk. sitting in a leather upholstered chair plode if anyone tries to enter.” what exactly her relationship with
Although the business executive ap- at the other end of the desk. “What do you want me to do?” Murchison was.
peared concerned, Frank Carson, “Genetic mutations,” Sari Riegel Carson asked. “If I can take him alive, what will
who sat in a chair on the other side said. “New life forms.” Her dark eyes “This is a job for one man,” Mur- you do with him?” Carson asked.
of the desk, noted that his shaved looked straight across the room chison said. “One capable man. “Turn him over to the authorities,
bald head was absent any perspira- at Carson as she spoke. She was in Sari has convinced me you’re that of course,” Murchison said.
tion and his brow was unwrinkled. charge of Murchison’s security, and man.” He picked up a small plastic “What about media attention
The man was the head of one of an old acquaintance of Carson’s. object from his desk top. “I created then?”
the known Universe’s biggest inter- He’d known her when she was a se- the security system for the lab. This “Once we have this under con-
galactic conglomerates, and he had curity agent for Trans-Exxon back in key will momentarily circumvent trol,” Sari Riegel said, “and Shannon
a reputation for not sweating the the days he’d lived on Tulon. They’d the system and allow you to enter is locked up our PR department has
small stuff. had something that might be called without being detected. I want you a full media package prepared to
“If word of this leaked out to the an affair. Whatever it was called, to get in there and subdue Shannon, show the extraordinary steps Mur-
media, it would mean disaster. Not he’d ended it when he realized they if possible. Or, in the worst case sce- chison Corporation took to prevent
just for the company, but for all our were too alike for it to ever work. He nario, terminate him. I want the fa- what could have been a catastro-
stockholders. That’s why I haven’t was surprised when she called him cility on Reynolds III closed down. phe. You can be at the center of me-
brought the police into this. You about the job. The man must be stopped. If he dia coverage, if you wish. You’ll be a
must act with complete discretion.” She was in her early thirties now, succeeds in his plans, the cost to hu- galactic hero.”
Carson crossed his legs. The black still attractive and the tailored, black manity could be incalculable.” Carson pulled his lanky frame out
gabardine pants leg of his business business suit she wore did a nice job “To say nothing of Murchison of the chair. “I prefer anonymity,” he
suit rode up, exposing the embossed of making her ample curves neither Corporation’s bottom line, eh?” Car- said. “You know that, Sari. I’ll take
Krylor boot that covered his foot. overly conspicuous nor un-busi- son said. the job. But leave me out of the
They were sitting in Murchison’s nesslike. Sari Riegel shook her head. “No limelight.”
skyscraper office in the company’s “It’s beyond all ethical scientific need to be cynical, Frank,” she said. “That’s what I told them,” the
main headquarters on Zeta-4. research,” Murchison said. “There “But then you always were a glass woman said, standing up. “Anonym-

This Raygun For Hire:
Forever Eden, by John M. Whalen Page 28

ity is a prerequisite for your line of ach, as The Corvette jumped out of Seeing her again had stirred up old an ideal place to begin a career as
work.” hyper speed. A blue-white orb hung memories. But even more, he kept a gun for hire. The rest, as they say,
“It helps.” in the black void ahead. Reynolds thinking about the question she’d was...
A sarcastic half-smile played on III was a Class B planetoid that trav- asked. What was it that had made A little girl with long golden hair.
the woman’s full red lips. “I’ve al- eled a distant orbit around a weak, him become a hired gun? Nobody Laughing. There was water splash-
ways wondered what makes a man dying sun in the Morrow Sector. Ice had ever asked him that before. ing all around. A little boy was with
become a hired gun,” she said. “Kill and snow covered its gleaming sur- He’d never given it much thought, her in the water. He was laughing
or be killed. All in a day’s work.” face. Carson switched on the gull- either. A rough childhood? she too, just as hard as the little girl.
“Nobody dies who doesn’t need wing’s cloaking shield, and brought asked. A short one, he’d joked. They were naked as jay birds.
to,” he said. “You know that. You’ve the ship down closer. He didn’t believe in digging into The rim of a crater rolled toward
taken down your share, I seem to “Seventy kilometers to the Mur- the past. None of that mattered, to him from the white distance ahead.
recall.” chison Corp. facility.” The on-board his way of thinking. What counted The ship banked right, running along
“But I never free-lanced,” she computer reported. was the present. You make your the edge of the rim. A large complex
said. Her eyes suddenly flared hot. “Any life forms, Bogie?” Carson choices as you go along, and what of steel domes and square-shaped
“I always tried to belong to some- asked. The voice of the computer happened way back when didn’t buildings nested in the center of the
thing. Something bigger than my- had been created from samples tak- have anything to do with that. crater. A computer readout told him
self. Was it a rough childhood that en from the voice of an actor popu- And anyway his childhood was no the crater was forty kilometers wide
made you what you are, do you sup- lar back in the twentieth century. rougher than anyone else’s on plan- and the complex lay in the center
pose?” “Some primitive animal life scat- et Earth. Terror wars had messed of it. Murchison had warned him
A little boy stood under a starry tered all over the planetoid. More up his world. The destruction and that an Electro-Radar system was in
sky, raising a clenched fist. “I’ll kill complex forms within the facility economic chaos that resulted left place. Anything that moved across
them,” the little boy said. “I’ll kill where we’re headed. These appear no one with a normal life. His par- the crater would be detected and
them all.” to be humanoid.” ents killed by the Kerulian terror- automated laser cannons would
She evidently held something of a “How many inside?” ists when he was only four, he was blow his ship to pieces.
grudge against him, not surprisingly. “Thirty.” raised by a crazy aunt and a mean When the autopilot indicated
He shrugged it off. “Not rough,” he Carson punched in landing coor- old man of an uncle. As soon as he the landing coordinates had been
said. “Just short.” dinates supplied by Murchison and was old enough, he ran away and reached, Carson brought the gull-
Murchison pressed one of a doz- set the autopilot on. As the ship joined the United Tech Territories wing down. The ship slid along in
en buttons on his desk top. “You’re turned slightly and descended clos- Army. Nothing unusual in that. A a spray of snow and came to rest
fee has been transferred to the ac- er to the surface, he sat back and common story in these times. by the high, ice-covered wall of
count number you’ve given us. With watched the snowy terrain moving The Army taught him the skills the crater. Carson donned a fur-
a small bonus.” beneath him. But he was only half that would later serve as a way to trimmed parka and sprayed his face
“Then I’d better be on my way.” paying attention. His thoughts were earn a living. When he quit the with Therma Spray to protect his
# on something else entirely. Sari Rie- Army, he took a job on an oil tanker skin against the -60 degrees C tem-
gel. He couldn’t stop thinking about bound for Tulon, he found the fron- perature outside. He strapped on a
Carson felt the lurch in his stom- her and those luscious red lips. tier conditions on the oil-rich planet backpack that contained commu-

This Raygun For Hire:
Forever Eden, by John M. Whalen Page 29

nications and survival equipment, door whirred shut behind him and kilometers to the complex. Some- ger of the laser rifle and squeezed.
then checked the Ruger Plasma pis- he heard the lock turn. The light in thing grunted in the pitch black And kept on squeezing. White laser
tol holstered on his leg. He took a his hand revealed a car sitting on a darkness ahead of him. His blood blasts strobed the tunnel. A huge
Laser Rifle down from a rack on the track. To the right, a metal box hung turned to ice as he flicked on the ra- shaggy form loomed in the flashing
wall and disembarked The Corvette. on the side of the concrete wall, dium torch again. A mass of shaggy, light. Carson kept firing. There was
A fierce wind whined mournfully where Murchison said it would be. blue hair and a hideously distorted a savage, animal scream and the
over the top of the crater’s edge, He opened the box and lifted the face that was half-human, half- sound of something heavy falling.
as Carson trudged across the snow- handle of a circuit breaker. There beast appeared in the light. A hairy Carson scrambled to his feet
covered ground. It sounded like was the hum of electricity and a arm swung, smashing his wrist hard. breathless. There were footsteps
ghosts calling from another world. pale yellow light filled the entire Numbing pain shot up his arm, and in the darkness. More of the things
The high wall of the crater’s rim length of the tunnel. the torch flew from his grip, throw- were coming. Several loud roars
towered four hundred feet above Carson turned the torch off and ing the tunnel in darkness again. A echoed, and Carson fired the rifle
him, making him feel small and in- got into the car. Pressing a button powerful hand grabbed the front of again. More white lasers leaped
significant. To his right stretched a in the center of a console, the car his turtleneck. Fetid, stinking breath from the barrel of his gun, illumi-
flat snowy plain. The dim light of the moved forward with a clank. He filled Carson’s nostrils, as the thing nating flying tufts of shaggy blue
distant sun was enough only to give checked his laser rifle, and blaster, that had grabbed him lifted him fur. He kept firing. A cacophony of
the snow-covered surface a weird making sure they were set on full from the car. It was strong, and he savage screams and roars echoed
twilit glow. Stars glittered feebly in power. As the car rolled along, the felt powerless in its grip. A deep loudly and mingled with the loud
a charcoal grey sky. temperature in the tunnel seemed growl rumbled and powerful arms blasts from the laser gun, tearing at
A black door appeared ahead, to rise. Carson took his parka off. threw him through the air. Carson his eardrums. Then Carson stopped
built into the side of the crater wall. The black Spandex pants and turtle crashed hard against the tunnel shooting and all was silent.
Carson heard his boots crunch in the neck sweater he wore underneath wall, and landed next to the tracks He waited tensely, rifle ready.
ice-crusted snow, as he approached would suffice. behind the car, knocked nearly The lights came back on in the tun-
it. He reached into his pocket with The little girl with the golden hair senseless. nel suddenly. Before him lay half a
one gloved hand for the electronic took off her bathing suit and the His heart hammered wildly as dozen of the things he’d killed. Red
key Murchison had given him. There little boy did too. They were gig- he lay there. He shook his head to blood streaked the long blue hair
was a layer of ice covering the lock. gling as they climbed into the plastic clear it. He still had his rifle but his that covered their bodies. He crept
He pulled the Ruger and clicked the swimming pool. Then a shadow fell right hand was totally useless from closer. The creatures were all dead.
Plasma Regulator to its lowest level. over them. the blow it had received. He swung Mutants of some kind. Their large
A faint purple ray melted the ice and The car rolled clicked along on the rifle from his right shoulder to bodies were a weird mixture of sim-
he inserted the key. The door swung the track for almost ten minutes his left hand. He could hear the ian and ursine characteristics, but
outward slowly and he stepped in- when the tunnel suddenly went thing coming closer. Carson fought their grotesquely distorted faces
side. dark. Carson felt a sinking sensation to keep panic down. If that thing looked almost human—like the fac-
The greenish light of a radium in the pit of his stomach as the car got him again he wouldn’t have a es of a missing link lost somewhere
torch taken from his backpack re- came to a halt. He reckoned he had chance. The index finger of his left in the chain of evolution. Their
vealed a long dark tunnel. The traveled about fifteen of the twenty hand tightened around the trig- eyes stared up at him, empty and

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almost sad. He reasoned that they the door closed and the car ascend- bright blue eyes sparkled. “They want you brought in. They
were the products of Dr. Shannon’s ed. The bestial sounds of the crea- Carson still had his plasma gun want to turn you over to the police.”
experiments. A shudder ran down tures faded away below him. in his hand and kept it aimed at the The doctor smiled. “You believe
Carson’s spine. Why would anyone Carson stood ready, the pistol still man. that?”
create such things, he wondered? in his hand. He had no idea what “I can see you’re having trouble “What I believe doesn’t matter,”
It wasn’t for him to worry about to expect when the elevator doors comprehending what you’re seeing, Carson said. “I’m being paid to do
such things. He was here to do a job. opened. “All in a day’s work,” he told Mr.—eh—” a job, and I always finish whatever
No questions asked. With power re- himself, recalling Sari Riegel’s words. “Carson.” He looked around at job I take on. Murchison wants this
stored, Carson believed he could Something told him this would be a the lush setting. “What is this place? place shut down and you brought
continue his journey to the end of day’s work unlike any other. Is it real?” back to Zeta-4.”
the tunnel. With great effort, pulled When the doors opened, he “Mostly,” Dr. Shannon said. “Some “What exactly did Murchison tell
the fallen beasts clear of the tracks stepped out. He took only a few of it is a digital recreation. Some you about me and this place?”
and then got back into the electric steps and then stopped, his mind is the result of my experiments in “He said you were experiment-
car. reeling, trying to comprehend the dimensional expansion. Creating ing with mutant life forms.” Carson
# sight that met his eyes. Palm trees space where there is none. What pointed down below. “I ran into
rose high up over his head, green, you see is my attempt to recreate some of your experiments down
The car rolled to a stop at the end green vegetation and bright colored the Garden of Eden as described in stairs.”
of the tunnel and Carson stepped flowers—orchids, roses, sunflow- the Book of Genesis. I thought such “I see,” Dr. Shannon said. The
out of it. He saw a flight of concrete ers—dazzled the eye. The sound of a setting was appropriate for the doctor smiled sadly. He started to
steps that ran up the tunnel wall to falling water came from far off and work going on here.” turn. “Come along,” Shannon said.
a railed landing where there was an unlike the frozen world outside, the Carson stared at him and won- “Let’s walk. I want to show you
elevator. Carson crept up the steps temperature here was balmy. Car- dered if the doctor was insane or something.”
cautiously. A roar echoed behind. son looked up and saw an impos- just putting him on. Carson raised his pistol. “Hold it!”
Carson wheeled. Three more of the sible blue sky and a warm, burning “You’re confusion is understand- he ordered.
shaggy, ape-like creatures lumbered sun shining down. He was sure that able, Mr. Carson, especially consid- Shannon turned and faced him.
out of the shadows toward the most of what he was seeing couldn’t ering what Byron Murchison prob- “Please, Mr. Carson,” he said. “I
stairs. Carson drew his plasma pis- be real. ably told you.” mean you no harm. If I didn’t want
tol and fired. The creatures tumbled “Welcome,” a deep baritone voice “You know Murchison sent me?” you here I would never turned the
down on the tunnel floor, but more said. “Welcome to Forever Eden. I’m “I knew he’d send somebody. power back on inside the tunnel.
of the beasts were coming from fur- Dr. Patrick Shannon.” A tall, broad- Somebody like you. A mercenary, no The Shivoths— those ‘things in the
ther down the tunnel. shouldered man in a blue jump suit doubt. A gun for hire.” tunnel’ as you put it—they turned it
Carson ran up the stairs and in- and high top boots stood there in “Then you know why I’m here.” off before they attacked you. They’re
serted the key Murchison had given front of Carson. A thick head of dark The doctor looked at the pistol in primitive creatures, but their minds
him into the elevator lock. The door hair covered his head, in stark con- Carson’s hand. “Have you come to are growing more intelligent every
slid open and he got in. The shaggy tradiction to the nearly white beard kill me?” day. You have nothing to fear from
blue creatures roared savagely as on his face. He smiled at Carson and “That’s up to you,” Carson said. me. No need for violence.”

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“I didn’t come here for a little son hadn’t been completely truth- “Can you remember your childhood, biologist to successfully create a
chat, doctor,” Carson said. “Why ful about everything. It might be Mr. Carson? Can you remember humanoid creature by mutating the
don’t you get your things. I’ve got a wise to hear what Dr. Shannon had that glorious time when the world genetic pattern of a previously exist-
ship waiting.” to say. A few minutes more or less seemed bright and clean, not grey ing species. That was the nature of
“I have no intention of leaving wouldn’t matter. He holstered the and dirty, the way we see it now as my particular brand of hubris.”
here,” Shannon said defiantly. “I’ve Ruger. adults? When sound and color and Carson let the scientist go on.
done nothing wrong. The only rea- “You’ve got five minutes,” he smells were so vivid? When life was “Byron Murchison’s corporate
son Byron wants this place closed said, and followed the scientist as a promise to be kept, and no lies empire was in trouble,” the doctor
is so he can keep the public from he started down the tree-lined path. had yet been told?” said. “Labor unions were cutting too
knowing what he himself has done # “I don’t remember much of my deep into his profits. He had a solu-
here.” He looked Carson straight in childhood,” Carson said. “And I don’t tion. He wanted a humanoid work-
the eye. “Come along with me, and As they walked Carson observed believe in looking back.” force created especially to work in
I’ll explain everything. When I’m the foliage that grew all around the “I’ve been thinking about it a lot his mines, refineries, and factories.
done, if you still want me to, I’ll go place. Big lavender orchids, bright lately,” the doctor said. He stopped I’m a neurobiologist. He knew I was
with you peaceably.” orange and blue Birds of Paradise, walking and a cockatoo flew down foremost in my field. He’d heard of
Carson didn’t want to waste time. and a hundred other flowers he and landed on his shoulder. He took my work altering the genetic codes
But something bothered him. couldn’t name. Bright plumaged a seed out the pocket of his overalls of lower life forms. Protozoa, in-
“How did you know I was in the birds flew high up in the trees and and fed it to the bird. sects, reptiles, chimps. He came to
tunnel?” he asked the doctor. “Mur- hopped along the forest floor. From As the bird fed, the doctor’s eyes me. He knew I wanted to move up
chison said you wouldn’t be able far off he heard the sound of falling narrowed suddenly and he looked to higher life forms. But the laws of
to detect my arrival, if I came that water. at Carson with sudden rage. “Do Zeta-4 forbid such experimentation.
way.” “Have you ever wondered,” the you know what this place is, Mr. “He asked me, if I could work
“Just one of the many lies I’m doctor began, “what it must have Carson? Do you have any idea what unhampered by restriction, could I
sure he told you,” Shannon said. been like in Paradise? The Garden it was built for? Did Murchison tell create the kind of creature he was
“Wouldn’t you like to hear a least of Eden? How Adam, the first man, you what he wanted me to do?” looking for. I told him I was certain
some of the truth?” felt before he was expelled from the Carson was surprised by the I could. He said knew about this
Carson was convinced the scien- Garden for eating the fruit of the man’s sudden change of mood. place, Reynolds III, and the Shivot-
tist posed no immediate threat. He Tree of Knowledge?” He turned and “Not really,” he said. hs, those creatures you saw in the
could take him down and have him gave Carson a quizzical look. “I have no right to condemn him,” tunnel. Despite their appearance,
on board The Corvette whenever “Can’t say I have,” Carson an- the scientist said. “I agreed whole- they have a genetic structure amaz-
he wanted to. He didn’t like the swered. “Haven’t read much of the heartedly to do what he wanted. ingly similar to humans. He offered
fact that Murchison had told him Old Testament. These days hardly I was lured by his money and the me what I thought was the chance
the tunnel was safe, when in fact it anybody has.” chance to prove I could do what no of a lifetime.”
wasn’t. That kind of misinformation “I’ve often thought it must have one had ever done before. God, I The cockatoo flew off the doc-
could have gotten him killed. He been like the way we were when wish now I hadn’t listened to him. tor’s shoulder and soared up into
had felt at the outset that Murchi- we were children,” the doctor said. But I wanted to be the first neuro- the trees.

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“Murchison gave me the resourc- forest seemed incomprehensible, Doctor Shannon laughed. “Those son?” the doctor said, “that Adam
es to build this place,” Shannon said, given the size of the domed build- are eggs, Adam,” he said. “You must comes from the same embryo as
“if I agreed to create a race of slaves ing they were in. What he saw must put them back in the nest. The those wretched things down be-
to work for him.” have been the product of what the mother bird must be sad, you took low?”
The doctor stared up into the doctor had called dimensional ex- her eggs away. In a few weeks they’ll “You’re saying Adam is your cre-
trees, watching the bird land on pansion. He looked up and unbe- hatch and baby birds will be born.” ation?” Carson asked. “Then what
a branch. He turned to Carson. lievably, he saw a young man swing- “Hatch?” the youth said. “Baby about those things down in the tun-
“Sounds diabolical, doesn’t it?” ing through the trees on thick liana birds?” nel you created?”
he said. “It was diabolical. And I’m vines. The boy had long golden hair “That’s right,” the doctor said. “I didn’t create them, Mr. Car-
ashamed to admit my part in it now. and wore a dark loincloth. The youth “Now you go and return them to son,” the doctor said. “Byron did.”
But arrogance and pride blinded swooped down in a long, graceful their nest.” #
me. It took five long years. There arc and landed on the ground a few The youth looked at the turquoise
were many failures, but eventually I feet away from them. eggs resting in his palm. “But they’re “Adam was something more than
succeeded.” “Doc-tor!” the young man cried so pretty!” he said. Carson couldn’t I ever hoped to create,” Shannon
“Succeeded?” Carson said. “You out. “Hel-lo, doc-tor.” help noticing how the boy’s eyes said. “You saw him. He’s pure, full of
call those things in the tunnel a suc- “Adam, come meet someone,” gleamed as they peered intently at life, and hope. He knows nothing of
cess?” the doctor said. “This is Mr. Carson. the round objects in his hand. Al- the ways of the world. He has not
“No, Mr. Carson,” Doctor Shan- He’s come to visit.” though the boy appeared to be in yet tasted the fruit of the Tree of
non said. “Not those pitiable mon- The youth came nearer, his face his late teens, early twenties, he Knowledge. When I saw how Adam
sters down below. Come. Look!” illuminated by a bright, open smile. seemed nothing more than a child. turned out, I no longer had the
His clear grey eyes seemed honest, Every experience, every sensation heart to turn him over to Murchison
# Corp. to be made a slave. I contact-
holding nothing back. The eyes of a seemed to be a new delight to him.
They came to a pool of blue water child, Carson thought. “You must take them back,” the ed Byron and told him I couldn’t go
that sat at the base of a waterfall. A “Hel-lo, Car-son,” he said. “Wel- doctor admonished. through with it. He came out here
high wall of rock extended up into come to our Garden.” “All right, Doc-tor,” the youth said. with a team of technicians and a
the blue sky and Carson could not Carson nodded but said nothing. He put the eggs back in the pouch. security force. They locked me up
tell if it were a real cliff or only some The youth glanced excitedly over “I will.” He looked at Carson. “Good when I refused to cooperate and
kind of digital projection. All around at the doctor. “Doc-tor, I saw some- bye, Car-son. Nice to meet you.” Byron set his team to work, using
where they stood, rose a lush tropi- thing new!” he said. “Up there in Adam turned and, with the grace the data stored on my computer, to
cal forest. the trees. A nest. A beautiful bird. and speed of a jungle cat, ran for the duplicate my efforts. He went back
“Adam!” the doctor suddenly It flew away, and I looked inside the vine that he’d swung in on and flew to Zeta-4.
called. He cupped his hand around nest. I found these.” up into the trees. Carson watched “They were incompetent fools.
his mouth and shouted the name He lifted a pouch tied to his waist in amazement as the youthful fig- You’ve seen for yourself the results
again. “Adam!” and opened it. Three small blue ure disappeared into the seemingly of their work. They produced fifty
Carson heard something moving eggs rolled out into the palm of his endless forest. of those pitiable monsters, hoping
up in the trees. The expanse of the hand. “See!” “Hard to believe, isn’t it, Mr. Car- each one would turn out better than

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the last. But instead the results be- # son felt the hair on the back of his Then something blocked out the
came more and more grotesque. But They entered Shannon’s labora- neck stand up. That phrase. It meant sun and a shadow fell over them. It
they paid for their incompetence. tory. Stainless steel, glass tubes, something to him. Something from was his Aunt Sadie.
They were destroyed by the very powerful generators, electron mi- the past. What? He never ruminat- “What is this?!!” she shrieked,
monsters they created. The Shivoth croscopes. They stood in front of a ed on the past. But suddenly images her big nose hovering over him.
mutants broke lose from the cages glass tank filled with a blue, bub- poured into his mind. Memories “What is this?!!!”
they kept them in and killed every bling liquid. Carson was awestruck. of long ago. Earlier the doctor had He was yanked out of the pool by
last one of them. Adam freed me In the liquid, a young, naked girl asked him if he could remember his ear.
from the cell I had been put in and floated, her dark hair splayed out a time “when the world seemed “For shame. For shame,” his aunt
we managed to lock the creatures around her head like a fan. Her bright and clean, not grey and dirty, screeched. “What do you two think
out of the Garden, when they tried features were not yet fully formed, the way we see it now as adults?” you’re doing? Get some clothes on,
to return to their world. Being half- but Carson could see she would He did remember a time like that. young lady. I’ll speak to your moth-
human, they can no longer tolerate be beautiful. Plastic tubes were at- He remembered a little girl named er about this. And you, young man.
the freezing temperatures. They are tached to her nose and mouth. She Judy. You’re going to bed without your
doomed now to roam the tunnels floated with her eyes closed, her He was only seven or eight years supper. And wait until your uncle
and other underground parts of the arms down by her sides but seem- old. Judy was six. He remembered gets home. You’re bad! You’re bad!
compound like damned souls, un- ing to reach out. how that golden-haired Judy girl And you’ll get the licking you de-
able to return to their world and “Eve,” Dr. Shannon said. “She is could really make him laugh. They serve. Believe me!”
locked out of the garden.” almost finished. Only another day lived in a housing project built for Uncle Vernon and his razor strop.
Carson’s mind reeled. Was the or two. Then Adam will have his those displaced by the Terror War. Carson remembered how he had
doctor telling the truth? It was all companion. He won’t be lonely One day they played in a plastic wondered what she was so angry
too nightmarish, too impossible to anymore. They will be like the first swimming pool, in back of the build- about and how hard he had fought
be true. Yet he had seen the beasts couple in that mythical garden. ing that served as living quarters for not to cry.
down in the tunnel. And he had But in their garden there will be no six families. They played there most “Stay right where you are!” a
seen Adam. He stood this very mo- serpent. No fruit from the Tree of every day that summer. But this day, voice said from behind, shatter-
ment in a place that for all practical Knowledge to tempt them. Nothing just for fun, they decided to take ing Carson’s vivid recollection. He
purposes could actually be a virtual to cause them to be expelled from their bathing suits off. They swam turned, startled. Yet somehow he
Garden of Eden. He felt as though Paradise. I’ve done what no man around, splashing each other. They wasn’t surprised to see Byron Mur-
his mind was beginning to unravel. has ever thought to do. Created a could not stop laughing. chison standing there. Sari Riegel
“I’ll kill them,” the little boy said. Paradise in this life. They will live Now that he remembered, he re- stood next to him. They both held
“I’ll kill them all!” The little boy happily and reproduce with no guilt, alized he’d never laughed that hard pistols in their hands. Behind them
raised a clenched fist to the sky. no shame. They will be innocent in before or since. Innocent in their na- stood four armed uniformed men.
I swear I’ll kill them. If it’s the last their nakedness, as innocent as chil- kedness. That described it perfectly. “Don’t even think about using
thing I do. dren, and from them a new race will Two children happy, laughing them- your weapons, Carson,” Murchison
“I want to show you something be born.” selves to death, oblivious to the dan- said. “Unsling that carbine and drop
else,” the doctor said. Innocent in their nakedness! Car- ger that lurked near them it on the floor.” Carson saw there

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were no options for this play. “Kick what happened back on Tulon. ma pistol in Murchison’s hand was would be hurt. There’s no need—”
it over to me. And then the pistol.” Murchison turned and his eyes primed and ready to fire a lethal ray “Shut up,” Murchison said.
Carson kicked the guns away. feasted on the girl floating in the into the boy’s head. His eyes shifted “There’s a lot you didn’t tell
“You’re slipping, Frank,” Sari Rie- tank. to Sari, as Murchison counted. He me about what’s going on here,”
gel said. “I thought maybe it was a “All I want him to do is make me noticed a frown on her face. Surpris- she said. “I guess Carson isn’t the
lousy childhood that made you the more like her and Adam with one or ingly, she seemed distressed. only one you’ve been deceiving. I
hard-nosed louse you are. So hard, two minor modifications.” “Please,” the doctor said. “Don’t thought you were funding a human-
nobody could ever take you. But “I will not make compliant slaves do it! I told you, it would be point- itarian project out here. Something
maybe I was wrong. Maybe your to do your bidding, Byron,” Dr. Shan- less anyway. This boy knows nothing that would help people. Cure dis-
childhood wasn’t that rough after non said. of work. It’s a concept he’ll never be ease. This is nothing like that at all.”
all.” “We’ll see,” Murchison said. He able to grasp. He exists only to ex- “I’ve no time for this, Sari,” Mur-
That joke again. “I didn’t say it looked back to the doorway to the ist. Like the lilies of the field. They chison barked.
was rough,” Carson answered. “I lab. “Bring him in!” he shouted. toil not, neither do they spin. He “I’ve gone along with you on a
said it was short. Anyway I don’t be- Two more uniformed men came wasn’t made to spend his days in lot of things,” the girl said. “Some
lieve in looking back.” into the room dragging Adam with your mines and factories. His brain things I wasn’t too crazy about. But
“There’s no reason for you to be them. The youth seemed frightened is useless for your purposes.” I always overlooked what I saw, be-
stupid, Frank,” Sari said. “You’ve and confused. The men marched “Then alter it,” Murchison said. cause I admired you. I thought at
done your job. You were Murchi- him up to where Murchison stood. “What?” bottom you were a good man. But
son’s Judas Goat. You’ve been paid. Carson noticed how Sari’s eyes wid- “Alter his brain,” Murchison said. you’re ruthless. What’s happening
Just walk away.” She motioned with ened in surprise at sight of the boy. “Give him a virtual bite of the Tree here is too much. It’s sick. I won’t
the gun for Carson to step away She stared at him in fascination of Knowledge, as you so eloquently go along with it. I think you’d better
from Dr. Shannon. “But keep your as he came in. Murchison’s pistol refer to it. Make him know his real stop.”
hands up.” swung around and the muzzle of place in this world. Make him know Murchison turned, his gun swing-
Carson stepped back from the the gun came to rest against Adam’s he was made to serve me!” ing around to point at her. “Do you,
doctor with his hands shoulder high. temple. “No!” Shannon screamed. really?” he said.
“There’s no reasoning with this “You’ll do what I tell you, Shan- The barrel of Murchison’s gun “I’ve got a gun in my hand,” the
mad man,” Murchison said, nodding non,” he said. “Or would you rather cracked down hard on the side of woman said.
at Shannon. “I tried. But he won’t see your creation dead?” Adam’s head. Sari Riegel let out a “Do you think you can fire it be-
listen. He threatened to blow ev- “Doc-tor. Shan-non,” Adam cried. startled cry. The boy yelled and sank fore I or the men behind you cut
erything up and himself with it, if I “Who are these men? Why do they down on his knees. He began to cry. you to ribbons?” Murchison’s eyes
came near this place. That’s why I want to hurt me?” “Byron, what are you doing?” Sari were hard as steel.
sent you, Carson. A distraction.” “They won’t hurt you, Adam,” the Riegel said. “Is that necessary?” Sari hesitated.
Carson felt anger heating up in his doctor said. “Don’t be afraid.” “What is necessary is that this “Take her weapon,” Murchison
stomach. He didn’t like being used. “You have three seconds,” Mur- fool understand I mean business.” barked. One of the security team
He glared at Sari. It was obvious she chison said. “You said you were going to rea- snatched the pistol from her hand.
still held a grudge against him for Carson could see that the plas- son with him,” the girl said. “Nobody “Just stand back and be quiet, Sari.

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Let the grownups handle this.” He her hands in the air, covered by the pale. Then long tendrils of blue hair One of the uniformed men saw him
snapped at the guards. “Cover her.” guards’ guns. He wondered if he shot out of the follicles on this legs go for the gun and fired a shot at
“Welcome to the human race,” made a move, would she try to help and arms. His face began to change him. Carson dove for the weapon,
Carson told the woman. “But you him? shape. His nose widened and flat- and still sliding on the floor, fired
should have plugged him.” Adam stretched out on the ta- tened, his brow jutted out over eyes it. The security guard crumpled and
Murchison pointed the gun down ble and the doctor fastened straps that were receding into his skull. fell. Sari ran in and picked up the
at the kneeling boy. “Now, Shannon, across his chest, thighs and ankles. “What is going on?” Murchison fallen guard’s rifle.
we’ve wasted enough time. Do it, or He placed a mask on the boy’s face, asked. “What have you done?” For a second they stood facing
I’ll blow his brains all over the floor.” inserted an IV into his arm that was Long blue hair now covered Ad- each other, weapons raised. Carson
The doctor glared at Murchison. connected to a plastic bag filled am’s chest and torso. His body was saw Sari’s finger tighten around the
“What is it, doctor?” Adam blurt- with green liquid. He lowered a grid growing enormously in size. The trigger of the gun.
ed tearfully. “What do they want?” of neon tubes over his upper chest. boy’s mouth opened in a wide snarl, “Let’s get out of here!” she shout-
A steely resolve came over the He moved over to the electronic revealing long, sharp yellow teeth ed.
doctor. “Get up, Adam,” he said qui- console alongside the table and and fangs. His chest expanded. The Carson turned. “The doctor!” He
etly. “Come, my son.” flicked some switches. The neon restraining strap snapped in two. pointed at Shannon, who was stag-
# grid flashed to life, with light rip- With a guttural roar the thing that gering to his feet. “He’s still alive!”
pling through the gas-filled tubes had been Adam leaped up on the “Wait here.” Carson ran over to
They moved to the rear of the in rhythmic waves. The green liquid table— a giant, slavering beast. Dr. Shannon. There was blood on
laboratory and came to an operat- began to run down the IV to the “I warned you!” Murchison the front of his overalls. Murchi-
ing table that stood before a wall boy’s arm. shouted, firing his weapon. The son’s shot had gone clean through
lined with electronic equipment. “I’m sorry, Adam,” the doctor purple ray struck Dr. Shannon in the him.
“Lie down, Adam,” the doctor said, stroking the boy’s yellow hair. back. He spun around. The creature “Can you walk?” Carson asked.
said. “Just close your eyes.” let out a roar and sprang off the “Yes,” the doctor said.
The boy looked around at the “I urge you, doctor,” Murchison table, landing on top of Murchison. Carson put his shoulder under
armed men, Murchison, Sari Rie- said. “Not to try anything foolish.” The security team’s laser rifles spit the doctor’s arm and started wak-
gel, and Carson. “I don’t want to lie He had his gun on the doctor’s back. white beams. The creature picked ing him toward the doorway at
down, doctor,” he said. “Something The security team stood ready, their Murchison up and threw him across the front of the lab. “Come on,” he
is wrong.” weapons cocked. the room. Murchison crashed down shouted at Sari.
“No,” Shannon said. “Nothing is The light in the neon grid rippled on a table. Beakers and microscopes There was a loud crashing sound.
wrong.” faster and the electronic machinery fell in shattered pieces. The creature Carson turned and saw the tank
The doctor helped the boy up on behind the table pulsated with a leaped on the men firing at him, containing the female humanoid
the table. “You trust me, don’t you, deep rhythmic thrum that seemed tearing and ripping them apart with shattering to pieces. It had been hit
Adam?” to shake the floor. Carson looked his teeth and claws. by a laser blast. The water shot out
“Yes, doctor.” down at the boy on the table. Some- Carson sprang forward. He saw and the unfinished body spilled out
Carson’s eyes darted over to Sari thing was happening. Adam’s body that the gun that Sari Riegel given onto the floor.
Riegel. She stood now, like him, with started to tremble. His face turned up now lay on the floor. He ran for it. “No!” Dr. Shannon cried.

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Sari Riegel came up on the oth- “You two must go, immediately,” weak, “than take the chance Mur- when he saw The Corvette loom-
er side of the doctor and she and Shannon said. “I’ll give you fifteen chison, if he’s still alive, or someone ing ahead. Behind it, barely visible
Carson dragged him to the lab en- minutes. You can get back to your like him, tries to start over again. in the blowing snow, was the ship
trance. They got out of the lab as the ship. After that Forever Eden will Now go.” Murchison and Sari had arrived in.
sounds of carnage continued to rage cease to exist. You must hurry.” Carson stood over him a moment, #
behind them. They got through the “What do you mean?” Carson watching the life draining from his
door and stood in a hallway that led asked. eyes. “So long, doctor,” he said. Moments later, he was in the
back to Forever Eden. The wounded Shannon reached into a pocket He started to leave but Sari bent cockpit of The Corvette. Sari sat in
doctor pressed numbers in a key sewn into his jump suit and pulled down over the doctor. “I’m sorry,” the co-pilot seat. He fired up the en-
pad on the wall and the vault-like out a remote control detonator. she said. She looked up at the beau- gine and lifted the gull wing off the
door whirred shut. Even behind the “One thing Murchison told you is tiful environment Shannon had cre- surface. He got as much altitude as
thickness of the massive door, they true,” he said. “I’ve set this facil- ated. There was the rush of the wa- quickly as he could.
could hear the crashing, screaming ity up for destruction in the event terfall and the call of one of the rare “Do you think he’s still alive?”
rampage still going on. something like this happened. All I exotic birds. Sari asked.
The doctor leaned against the have to do is press this button. Ev- “Let’s go,” Carson urged. Twenty kilometers above the sur-
wall for support. Tears streamed erything will be destroyed. Now get They got to the elevator and Car- face, Carson looked down at the re-
down his cheeks. out of here.” son unlocked it. As they got into the ceding white globe of Reynolds III
“I know there’s no forgiveness “But why?” Sari said. car he took one last look at Forever and without warning a bright red-
for what I’ve done,” he said. “This The doctor cocked his thumb Eden and then the doors closed and orange flower bloomed in the cen-
is all my fault. But I had no choice. I over the red button in the center of the car descended. ter of the planetoid. They were too
couldn’t turn Adam into what Mur- the remote. It was a long fifteen minute ride far up to hear the explosion.
chison wanted. God help me!” “Don’t make me kill the both of through the tunnel. They found a Carson had sufficient altitude
“We better get you some medical you too,” the doctor rasped. “This dozen dead Shivoths lying at the now to engage Hyper drive. He hit
care,” Carson said. is the only way I can pay for what base of the elevator. Killed by Mur- the button and there was a blinding
I’ve done. I made a pact with the chison’s security team. Along the flash of blue light. In that flash, he
# suddenly saw the face of that gold-
Devil. I tried to do something no track they encountered more of the
They walked him down the hall man should ever try. I was foolish to beasts alive and Carson let them en haired girl of his childhood. For
and carried him through the por- think I could redeem myself. I tried be. He did not stop the car until it a man who didn’t like to remem-
tal into the jungle garden the doc- to fight Murchison. But the Murchi- reached the end of the tunnel. ber the past, he’d been doing a lot
tor had named Forever Eden. The sons of the world always win. It is a He used the key Murchison had of that lately. Sari had asked him if
waterfall and the plumaged birds grey, dirty world, after all.” given him to get out the door and it was a rough childhood that had
seemed like a mad hallucination to Carson could see the doctor was staggered out into the freezing wind, made him the man he was now.
Carson now. finished. He wondered if he would towing Sari along. It was snowing He’d always scoffed at the idea that
“Let me rest by the pool,” the even last twenty minutes. forcefully now, and the large white the past had any hold on you in the
doctor said. Carson and the girl set “Better to destroy everything,” flakes hit his face with surprising, present. It wasn’t rough, he’d joked.
him down on the concrete bench. the doctor said, his voice sounding stinging force. Carson’s heart lifted Just short. He knew now why he’d

This Raygun For Hire:
Forever Eden, by John M. Whalen Page 37

stopped remembering the past. all.”
Most memories were too painful. “What are you thinking about?”
He got the beating of his life when Sari Riegel asked, as the memory
Uncle Vern got home that day his exploded into mist.
aunt caught him skinny dipping. His “I was thinking about my lousy
uncle really knew how to use that childhood,” he said.
razor strop, and he seemed to enjoy Sari looked confused. Those full
it too. After that, he and his friend red lips started to smile sympa-
Judy were never allowed to play thetically. He pulled her to him and
together again. It broke both their kissed her hard.
hearts. They passed each other
notes saying no matter what, they
would stay friends forever. But sev-
eral weeks later, she and her family
were moved out of the project and
relocated to another settlement
camp. He never saw her again.
He heard that winter that the
camp they’d moved to had been
destroyed by the Kerulian terrorists.
A small nuclear bomb in a suitcase
had leveled the place and there
were no survivors. He remembered
how, when he heard the news that
night at the dinner table, he didn’t
cry. He’d just turned eight. Too old
to cry. He just stood behind the
building where he and Judy used to
play and felt hot waves of anger and
hatred washing over him.
At that moment he wanted to kill
everyone. His uncle. His aunt. The
Kerulians. Everyone in the whole
world. He clenched his fist and
raised it to the starry sky. “I’ll kill
them,” he said. “I swear, I’ll kill them

This Raygun For Hire:
Forever Eden, by John M. Whalen Page 38

Juha Järvinen, Finland
Greg Martin’s celestial art.

What are your current influences?
Name: Juha Järvinen Everything and nothing.
Age: 19 What inspired the art for the cover?
That was a early work of mine, probably inspired by the possibilities of color
Country of residence: Finland
usage in digital media.
How would you describe your work?
Literature, music, visual art, gym
Favorite Book / Author:  
Where do you get your inspiration / what inspires you?
The Pearl by John Steinbeck.
I get huge inspiration from modern art, music, books, movies, and people.
Favorite Artist:
Have you had any notable failures, and how has failure affected your
Impossible to pick one now.
When did you start creating art? The problem is, I see each of my works as some kind of failure, and that re-
Some would say at the age of ally affects my work—always trying to push further. I’ve made some awful
two, but I’d say fourteen. posters and CD-covers for example, which I don’t want to admit are mine.

What media do you work in? What have been your
Digital media mainly, but nowa- greatest successes? How
days, more and more traditional has success impacted
ones. you / your work?
Success always increases
Where your work has been featured? self-esteem, and for me
Mainly in some small publications, posters, websites, etc. it opens new ways to
execute a vision. I haven’t
Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your
had a single ‘huge suc-
cess,’ I feel successful
They should go to and wait for an update.
every time someone
How did you become an artist? comes back to me for a
If I knew that I probably could avoid making further mistakes in my life. :) new commission.

What were your early influences? What are your favorite
tools / equipment for

Artist Interview: Juha Järvinen Page 39

producing your art? 
When it comes to hardware, I plainly love my MacBook pro, as I can take
it anywhere. Also, I could never abandon my drawing tablet. Software of
course, Photoshop, but as it’s too narrow an answer, I’ll say layer blending.
I also like all kind of combining, for example: traditional Chinese inks and
hazy-glowy Photoshop layers—that’s really tasty at the moment. For poster
designs I mainly use InDesign.

What tool / equip-
ment do you wish you
I wish I had a bigger,
about 50sqm studio,
which I could decorate
for a more inspiration-
al look.

What do you hope to
accomplish with your
I’ve never thought of
this. I feel I’ve accom-
plished something
every time somebody
simply likes my work.
Drawing emotions in
an audience is some-
thing which makes me
very happy every time
it happens.

Artist Interview: Juha Järvinen Page 40

TALES OF THE BREAKING DAWN she asked. force hustled to intercept her.
The Ties That Bind, Part Four “Not yet, Captain,” the android As they neared the large moon,
by Justin R. Macumber replied, “but these ships are of an a new voice came over the loud-
unfamiliar design, so I could be mis- speakers.
taken due to insufficient data.” “Cargo Vessel Breaking Dawn,

“A ttention incoming vessel,”
a voice said over the loud-
speakers in the bridge of the star-
The small flotilla of ships grew
closer and closer by the second.
Nodding, Jessica locked in the
flight plan on her nav screen,
opened the ship-wide intercom, and
this is Tol Defense Command. Why
have you broken the zone of re-
striction around our planet? Speak
freighter Breaking Dawn. “You have Pressing her intercom button, she said, “Buckle your seatbelts, ladies. swiftly, or you’ll have more to worry
entered a restricted area. Please said, “Duka, I’m about to punch this This is going to be a bumpy ride.” about than those Yinushan blow-
state your business and prepare to baby way past the red line. Tell me As soon as the last word left her hards.”
be boarded.” you’re ready for it.” lips, she silently counted to five, “Tol Defense Command,” she re-
As Jessica was about to reply, an- “We’re as ready as we’ll ever be!” and then hit the afterburner switch plied, “we’re on a mission to deliver
other voice came through the open Duka replied, shouting to be heard on her throttle. The small freighter a cargo container. It was supposed
communications channel and said, over the noise of the engine room. leapt forward with so much force to be delivered by Jack Connelly, but
“Breaking Dawn, this is Traxal Dip- “Good.” that anyone not strapped in would he had difficulties, so I’m bringing it
lomatic Vessel A-A17. If you turn Behind her, Boo said, “Any ideas have been slammed into the near- in for him.”
about immediately you can disre- about that fleet?” est bulkhead. It didn’t take long be- “Connelly you say?” Tense sec-
gard that order. You have not yet Jessica brought her navigation fore red lights started flashing. onds ticked past as the Tolesian
broached the zone of contention screen up to her elbow and quickly “Private vessel, you have now reviewed his records. Finally he
that surrounds Tol, despite what- took in the situation. Their desti- officially crossed into restricted said, “Oh, that! Excellent! Break-
ever that overzealous Yinushan cap- nation was a landing port on Tol’s space,” the Yinushan voice from ing Dawn, you are cleared for ap-
tain might say. But, if you continue fourth moon, which was unfortu- before said. “The Traxal cannot in- proach. I’m transmitting authoriza-
on your present course, you will do nately on the far side of the planet. terfere now. Heave to, or we will tion codes to accept the cargo now.”
so in less than one standard minute. But, three other moons were on destroy you.” Smirking to herself, Jessica
Turn back now and stay under our their side of the Tolesian home- She could feel the wild energies looked at her screens and saw that
protection, or carry on and risk the world, and she knew those could of her engines throbbing through the codes were a match. “That’s
tender mercies of the Yinushan mili- help even the odds. With her right her veins, seeping into her skin, and wonderful. Now, why don’t you tell
tary. Your choice.” index finger she traced out a flight it gave her an almost uncontrollable those Yinushan ships that? It sure
“I appreciate the advice, A-A17,” path and sent it over to Boo’s con- feeling of power. “You have to catch would make my life easier.”
she said into her headset, “but I’ve sole. me first,” she told the officious voice “I doubt they’d listen to us,” the
got a package I have to deliver.” “Slalom, huh? With that many with a snarl. Tolesian told her. “Not that that
“Don’t say we didn’t warn you, turns and burns it’s going to be Two thousand kilometers ahead would be anything new. But, I think
Breaking Dawn,” the distant Traxal risky, but if it does work, there’s no of her was Tol’s third and largest we can assist you. I’m sending three
officer intoned. “More Yinushan way those big boys will be able to moon. The heavily cratered object of our fast attack gunships out to
ships are on the way, so if I was you keep up.” was huge on her screens, and she keep those buffoons busy.”
I’d get my business here done quick- “Do you see any Yinushan ships angled her ship toward its outer- “That would be most helpful.
ly. Traxal Diplomatic Vessel A-A17, that look like fighter carriers, Cam?” most edge. The Yinushan picket While you’re at it, why don’t you

TALES OF THE BREAKING DAWN , The Ties That Bind, Part Four, by Justin R. Macumber Page 41

get a ship ready out at your fourth that her engines’ heat levels were sels. Energy blasts lashed between aching body. “Desperate times call
moon? I don’t think I’m going to nearing critical levels. Fortunately, them. In the short skirmish the for desperate actions. I don’t like
have time to stop by for drinks, and the space between her and the Breaking Dawn lost several drones, it either, but this place is just too
I don’t want to just shove this cargo chasing Yinushan ship had grown to but they took one of the attack- damn hot to stop and enjoy the
out on your front lawn.” a respectable distance, so she slid ing ships with it. The second one scenery.”
“I’ll see what I can do, Breaking her aching thumb off of the after- poured on the speed and gained on The Kleeetan copilot couldn’t dis-
Dawn. We’ll be back in touch short- burner switch. them, but the remaining drones de- pute her words, so he nodded and
ly.” “Better?” stroyed it before it could get close went back to reviewing his screens.
Glad that all the talking was over “For now.” enough to shoot the freighter. Opening her comm, she said,
with for the moment, she tilted her “I might have to do it again, so be As they shot past the inner moon, “Ferron, are you ready to drop our
control stick to starboard to increase ready.” she hit the afterburner switch again little package off?”
her angle away from the Yinushan The engineer grumbled, then and urged her ship onward. The en- “You do know, Skipper,” the Du-
ships. As all of the spaceships drew said, “Understood.” tire vessel shook around her, but nadon replied, his tone almost chid-
closer, three small blips suddenly Quickly, they broke free of the within minutes they were passed ing, “that this goes against every
appeared on the top of her radar large moon and headed toward yet another moon. After letting off fiber of my being, right?”
and quickly blazed a trail in her di- the planet’s inner most moon. The the afterburner she banked toward “Considering your recent exploits,
rection. Three of the Yinushan ships chase continued as the ships hur- their destination. I’ll take that as a compliment.”
immediately peeled off to engage tled across space, neither one giving “Breaking Dawn, this is Tol Mili- The cargo chief grunted. “We’re
them, but the fourth one kept com- up. Finally, as they started to round tary Command. Sorry to keep you just about set. I’ve got the pod
ing straight for them. the moon, Cam said, “Captain, that waiting. We have a cargo ship in moved to the rear doors, and I’m
Leaving a torrential outpouring Yinushan vessel has launched two standby on the far side of the fourth lowering the grappler now. So long
of energy in her wake, the Break- smaller ships. They might be fight- moon, just as you asked for. What as you can keep a steady hand on
ing Dawn slipped into the gravity ers, or they might be shuttlecraft. exactly do you have in mind?” the stick, I should be able to let her
well of the large Tolesian moon and Either way, it’s trouble.” “Can she catch?” slip smoothly into our wake.”
sped along the outer edge of it to- “Launch half of our drones and “If you can get down to half your “Good to hear, Chief. I’ll call you
ward the far side, boosting the small power up the weapons systems. I current speed and drop the pod in when we’re in place.”
ship’s already hectic speed far past don’t intend on becoming a part of a stable wake, I believe we can ac- The next several minutes
the point of sanity. Tiny pinpricks of this war, but we’ll defend ourselves commodate that.” whipped by in a blur. The Breaking
light danced in her eyes. if they give us no choice.” “Then get ready, because I’m on Dawn raced faster than she ever had
“Jessie, I said I would give you ev- “I understand, Captain. Launch- my way” before, and the crew endured the
erything the ship had,” Duka shout- ing drone unit Gamma now.” “Understood,” the Tolesian re- stresses right along with her. The
ed in her ear, his engines roaring in Multiple blips appeared on Jes- plied. “We’ll be ready. Out.” Yinushan ship behind her still gave
the background, “but this is ridicu- sica’s radar screen. The small bits of From behind her Boo said, “Aren’t chase, but there was no way they
lous! We’re popping coolant valves, light drifted back from her ship and you cutting this a bit on the danger- could catch up before she reached
and I’m losing antimatter stability!” started to run crisscrossing patterns ous side?” her destination. As they slipped into
The captain looked down and saw with the two smaller Yinushan ves- Jessica laughed in spite of her the fourth moon’s gravity field and

TALES OF THE BREAKING DAWN , The Ties That Bind, Part Four, by Justin R. Macumber Page 42

rocketed toward the dark side, a Tol followed them exactly, her forward thing, Jessica angled the freighter Turning her about and walking
freighter pulled in behind them. facing doors open and ready. up and then shot toward the planet, her toward the nearest station en-
“Breaking Dawn, this is the Valor- “Releasing now, Skipper!” Ferron which would give them a final boost trance with his lanky arm entwined
ous,” the new arrival said over the shouted. of speed to assist them on their way around hers, Duka replied, “You
comm. “We’re ready to accept your Two seconds later the electro- back toward the gate from which don’t look so bad yourself.”
delivery. Call the drop.” magnetic head on the grappler de- they had come, picking up their “You mean this old thing?” Most
Hitting a button, Jessica replied, activated, and the pod was in free few remaining drone fighters along of her wardrobe consisted of stained
“Valorous, give us a moment to fall, though at first it was barely no- the way. With the job done, a pal- pants and shirts that had seen far
ready the package. Slowing to a ticeable. It wasn’t until the grappler pable sense of relief filled the car- too many dirty nooks and crannies
matching speed now.” Pulling the was well back from the pod that it go freighter. Jack, she knew, would of the ship, but in the far reaches of
throttle back, she then pressed an- became apparent just how insane feel the same once she told him the her closet hung a dress or two, and
other button and said, “Chief, are the whole thing was. good news. the strapless green number draped
you ready?” “You’ve got the drop,” she told # around her was one of them. A
“I am if you are, Skipper.” the Tolesian ship. green clutch purse in her right hand
She chuckled. “We’re as steady as “Acknowledged, Breaking Dawn. The trip out to Outpost 8A-14, held her ID and a few credit chits,
I can make it. It’s all up to you.” The drop is clean, and we’re moving where Jack’s ship was being re- and her red hair was accented with
“I’m lowering the rear cargo to intercept.” paired, was anticlimactic after the an emerald and ruby dragonfly clip.!” Jessica increased her speed, and blazing trail that had been torn Her meager makeup selection had
Through her earpiece she could in their wake the pod slowly tum- through the Tol-Yinush System. held her back a bit, but she’d cob-
hear a sudden rush of noise. bled though the vacuum of space Once they cleared the war zone bled together enough lipstick and
In the cargo bay, Ferron Cth hit a toward the Valorous. Several sec- they’d sent Jack a message letting blush to pull it together.
button. “The grappler is activated, onds later the alien vessel crept for- him know that the mission had been It was a long walk to the Sun’s
and the package is spooling out. ward and swallowed it with all the accomplished, and a short while lat- Sweet Smile, especially in heels,
Give me another few seconds to ease of a deep sea predator snack- er he’d replied with an invitation for but when they approached the res-
find the sweet spot.” ing on an unsuspecting guppy. the crew to have dinner with him at taurant’s doors and saw how well-
Jessica leaned over to a screen “The package is safely in our hold, Sun’s Sweet Smile, an upscale res- appointed it looked, they knew they
on her left and pulled up the rear Breaking Dawn. Command said to taurant on the outpost. were in for a treat. Inside they were
camera. On it she watched as the pass along their thanks for your ef- Once the Breaking Dawn was greeted by a Traxal maitre d’ who
cargo pod drifted behind them on forts on our behalf.” docked, the crew spent plenty of whisked them to a table with little
its line, swaying slightly from side “If you can keep those Yinushan time getting ready. By the time they delay, at which was already seated
to side in their wake. As the nano- ships off our backs long enough finally assembled outside the ship, the crew of the Wandering Star
fiber unrolled and the distance in- for us to make it back to the Coven Jessica couldn’t remember them save for the captain himself, who
creased, the swaying decreased, gate, that would be thanks enough.” ever looking so well put together. was expected at any moment.
until finally it was as still as if it were “Consider it done. Safe journey to “You bunch of roughnecks clean More than ready to enjoy them-
sitting cozy on a cargo deck. Further you.” up pretty well,” she told them with selves, everyone at the table
behind them the Tolesian freighter Hoping for exactly the same an appreciative laugh. consumed plenty of drinks, hors

TALES OF THE BREAKING DAWN , The Ties That Bind, Part Four, by Justin R. Macumber Page 43

d’oeuvres, and pleasant conversa- they knew something was horribly statements were made. By the time tell you whom I represent. You’re an
tion. Everything flowed so well that wrong. The lights were off, and it it was all over and both crews were intelligent woman, someone who is
for a while none of them noticed was silent, but there was a faintly released, the hour was very late. wise to the ways of the universe, so
that Jack had yet to arrive. But, as familiar smell in the air that threw The walk back to the Breaking I trust that you understand the grav-
the empty glasses began to pile up, their concern into full-fledged pan- Dawn took all the strength she had. ity of this particular conversation.
Jessica glanced down at her watch ic. Albert dashed to Jack’s room, and Once aboard ship, the crew filed off Am I correct?”
and realized that they’d been in the the doors opened automatically. As to their sleeping tubes wordlessly, “Yes,” she replied, keeping her
restaurant for over an hour. When his hand reached up to activate the already having expressed all that tone as even as she could.
she looked at Jack’s second in com- lights, Jessica almost asked him not they had to say for the moment. Nodding slowly, the figure gave
mand, a fellow human by the name to. She knew what they were going Jessica fell fully clothed onto her her a repugnant grin that was slop-
of Albert Reeves, she could tell he’d to find. bunk in exhaustion. As sleep was py and wet. “Very good. Now, let
lost track of time too. In the sudden harsh glare of over- reaching out to claim her, the com- me first say that I am sorry for your
Reeves reached into his right head halogens they saw Jack sitting puter on her desk chirped. She ig- recent loss. It is never an easy thing
pocket, pulled out a small commu- on a chair near a desk, his arms nored it at first, but it continued to lose a friend. I understand that.
nications device, and casually spoke hanging down to his side. His head to twitter until the aggravation of But, when promises are made, and
into it. When a reply didn’t come, he was tilted back, his eyes looked life- hearing it was more powerful that those promises aren’t fulfilled, ret-
tried again. When the third attempt lessly at the ceiling, and a hole was her fatigue. She got up, slumped ribution must be met out. You ap-
failed, he stood up and started walk- burned into his brow. There was into her cluttered chair, and activat- preciate that, yes?”
ing toward the exit. She followed almost no blood in the room, and ed her console. “But they were fulfilled,” Jessica
after him, but not before putting they couldn’t see any marks on his As soon as the screen lit up she said, her voice taking on a plead-
on a relaxed expression and telling skin, so it didn’t appear as though saw that she had an incoming call. ing quality that she was horrified to
everyone to stay where they were he’d been beaten or tortured. It had Assuming it was from Albert, she ac- hear echo in her ears.
and enjoy themselves while they been a straight hit, nothing more or cepted it, but instead of the fellow “Yes,” it replied, eyes blinking in
checked on Jack. less. human she saw an alien looking out slow motion, “but not by the prop-
Seeds of concern had taken root Jessica knew that there was noth- at her. Its skin was dark and moist, er people. Perhaps, in your view,
in Albert and Jessica’s minds, and ing she could do, no aid she could and the face had a vaguely amphibi- there’s no difference, but in our
they quickly walked toward the ac- give her old friend, so she dropped ous appearance. She’d never seen world it makes all the difference. If
commodations Jack had secured for to the floor and cried. She could the being in her life, but she knew it will give you a small measure of
himself and his crew on the station. hear the material of her dress rip who it was instinctively. Or, at least, relief, know that were it not for your
By the time they reached the corri- as she fell. Albert contacted the sta- whom it represented. swift and successful action, more
dor that lead to his quarters, both of tion’s security department, though “Captain Jessica Quimbly,” the than one person would have met
them were running. they both knew that Jack’s killer figured uttered, the English words an untimely end tonight. Several
The door to the suite was locked. would never be brought to justice. sounding fat and heavy as it spoke in more.”
Albert took out his passkey and Questions came fast and furious ponderous tones, “I realize that the Chills ran down the length of her
swiped it against the scanner plate. once security arrived. Evidence was hour is late, and for that I apologize. spine as the creature before her
It whisked open, and instantly searched for, pictures were taken, Now, I’m sure that I do not need to spoke of death and killing in such

TALES OF THE BREAKING DAWN , The Ties That Bind, Part Four, by Justin R. Macumber Page 44

casual tones. She didn’t want to Gorawnies. speakers in her cabin, and in the
know what evils it had committed, “No, I’m afraid I can’t accept your silence that followed she started
what evils it was capable of, so all offer,” she replied. to shake. It was slow and subtle at
she had was silence in response. “That is...unfortunate,” it said, first, but it quickly built in intensity,
“But let’s not continue to speak eyelids drooping. until her hands were clinched into
of such unpleasant things,” it said. Sitting forward, she said, “Don’t white-knuckled fists and her body
“I called to congratulate you on a misunderstand me. I’m not de- was doubled over. Through her ran
job well done. My employers and I clining because you murdered my jagged spears of anguish, or rage, of
were impressed not only with your friend. He was a big boy, he knew impotent fury, of helplessness, and
professionalism, but also with your what he was getting into. I’m declin- mostly of sorrow. She wept for the
courage and daring. The situation ing because, as meager as my life is, life that had been lost, and vowed
gave us cause for concern, but you I like it, and it’s my own. I make my that nothing like it would ever hap-
and your crew performed magnifi- own friends, I do my own chores, pen to her or her crew. The Breaking
cently. As such, we wanted to ex- I pay my own bills, and I do every- Dawn was her ship, the crew aboard
tend to you an opportunity for fur- thing I can to make sure that the it her family, and she’d be damned
ther employment. This offer would choices I make are my own. No one before she would let anyone take
also be an opening to other benefits owns my soul. So, while I mean no those things from her.
as well, such as a Guild member- disrespect, we have nothing more
ship. We would, of course, pay your to discuss, now or ever.”
admission fees, along with sponsor- She expected anything from
ing your application. You would be veiled warnings to outright threats,
wise to see the opportunities that but the clammy creature on her
are being given to you and to take screen only blinked liquidly and
advantage of them, Captain. Shall I nodded. “Very well, Captain. As I
forward your acceptance of our of- said, you have a great deal of cour-
fer to my superiors?” age, so I cannot fault you for using it
Jessica would have been lying to now. I regret that you’ve decided to
herself if she didn’t admit that, for a not make your services available to
fraction of a second, she was tempt- us, but that is your choice. We are
ed. More contracts would be open indebted to you, so we shall, as your
to her, as would faster conduit lanes people say, wipe the slate clean be-
and cheaper docking fees. She’d tween us. I doubt that you will ever
never have to deal with the Coven hear from us again. Good night,
again. But, none of that meant any- Captain, and goodbye.”
thing if it meant she would have The screen snapped to black as
to make deals with the likes of the the last word came through the

TALES OF THE BREAKING DAWN , The Ties That Bind, Part Four, by Justin R. Macumber Page 45

Calamity ‘s Child, Chapter 8 of accepting Kingfisher’s offer, he “Ammo we’ll have unless we bog
ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two would never show it. Stet seemed down into a siege. Men are a differ-
by M. Keaton as devoid of emotion as the broken ent story. We’ve got sixteen ables
mountain crags around them. plus you and me.”
“The shuttle’s a total loss,” Stet “Sixteen?” Nagana asked, duck-

B orn Wayne Boles, they called
him Skunk for the gray stripe in
his hair. He hated the nickname, but
questionable circumstances more
than decade ago. No charges had
been brought, and the SES com-
said flatly. “Internal radiation levels
are too high to make salvage at-
tempts worthwhile. We’re better off
ing his head against a gust of wind-
blown sand.
“Skunk took a walk about an hour
it stayed with him. It was emblemat- mander retired on reduced pension. leaving it sealed up by its own fail- ago; didn’t come back.”
ic of his life; what he loved or hated Less than a month passed before he safes. This,” he pointed to the heavy “Alone?”
was irrelevant to what other people went into ‘private practice.’ Along .50 caliber machine gun at his feet, “Of course. All we found was
thrust on him. The latest chance the way, he gained the scar that ran “is all that’s left of the buggies. Sec- blood and sand.”
for fate to spit in his face landed from his right collarbone, beneath ondary explosions destroyed about Nagana cursed violently, calming
him stuck on some armpit world the curve of his jaw, to end behind half of the supplies we had off-load- with visible effort. “If he couldn’t
so worthless it did not even have his right ear. He had also become ed. We’ve got food for a month.” He follow orders, we’re best rid of him
a name, hunting an alien that had wealthy, enough to equip his men stopped, almost smiled. “Make that anyway.”
already blown away half his squad with the best armament available two months. We’ve fewer mouths “Maybe. I wouldn’t mind a few
and that ship that brought them. and live quite comfortably, but that to feed now.” more walking mine detectors,” Stet
And now that strutting martinet of was not why he did it. What mat- Nagana snorted. “Looking on the replied. “What next?”
a commander was telling him he tered was his ability to stay active, bright side, I see.” “We do the job. Secure our posi-
could not even take a leak without moving from one private war to an- “Water for half that long,” Stet tion so the bug can’t keep nipping
having another guy along to hold his other, avoiding the crushing dark- continued. “Maybe less. Atmo- away at us then send out scouts to
hand. Well to hell with that. ness that awaited him away from sphere’s thinner here. In the long find where he’s holed up.”
Skunk was still fuming over the in- the rush of the battlefield. Unlike run, evaporation might become a “Why do you think he takes the
justice of the universe when some- the men under his command, ‘Gen- problem.” bodies?” Stet asked.
thing reared up out of the sand, eral’ Anopheles Nagana did not “Don’t think the long run is an is- Nagana shook his head. “I’d rath-
blocking the sun. His last thought view their disastrous landing as a sue.” er not know.”
before the Cillian’s knives struck crushing setback. It was what it was, “Me neither. We lost most of our #
home was how unfair it was that he a thing that happened. No more, no heavy weaponry and electronics.”
Stet shrugged. “Could be worse.” “Hey Tumbo, Calamity and I are
would die with his pants down. less, and now the fight was more in-
“Men and guns,” Nagana said. “It heading out!” Ivan shouted, pre-
# teresting.
always comes down to that in the tending he did not know Pharaoh
While the General surveyed
“Tell me what we’ve got.” The end.” was asleep in the tent mere feet
the deployment of his perimeter
words came out harsh, pinched be- “It might come down to men and away. He glanced at the girl, who
through eyes locked in a perma-
tween tight lips clamped around a stones,” Stet countered. “We’re returned his mischievous grin.
nent squint, Stet sat passively on a
cigarette. The man who spoke them short on ammunition.” After a mo- “Fine, little brother,” Pharaoh’s
mound of rock, his own eyes blank
still wore the gray BUDs and scar- ment he added, “Short on men too.” voice rumbled from the tent. “Take
orbs of gunmetal. If he regretted
let beret of Special Earth Services “How bad?” the flare gun so I can find you when
his decision to join Nagana instead
despite leaving the service under you get lost.” Kylee chuckled, burst-

Calamity ‘s Child, Chapter 8, ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two , by M. Keaton Page 46

ing into laughter when Ivan glared matter?” tened. “The only thing I really worry looked like. Lumps of gray and
at her. Kylee frowned, continuing to about,” Ivan continued, “are the brown stone on the riverbank and
“I’m taking the entire jeep.” He watch the bushbuck. “I don’t know. crocs. When we first brought the—” in the shallows of the river. Then
hefted his rifle in one hand and a I’m worried, just feel tense, like He stopped himself, smiling at Kylee one raised its trunk and sprayed.
rucksack in the other. “Come on, something bad’s about to happen.” as he slung his rifle across his back. “Elephants?!” Kylee yelled. “I
kid. We’ve got about an hour’s drive “Probably the weather shifting. “The ‘what I’m going to show you,’ thought they were extinct!”
ahead of us.” The animals feel it and change their we thought the crocodiles might be “Shhh! Don’t startle them,” Ivan
“Don’t hurt the jeep,” Pharaoh habits. In fact,” Ivan slowed the a problem for them. We didn’t need cautioned, smiling. “We went all
called after him, emerging from his jeep, turning off the game trail they to worry.” The grass rose to just the way to the Inner Hedge to find
tent to squint at the newly risen sun. had been following to angle toward below his waist as he led the way them. They were at a genetic re-
“Make one little mistake twenty the river that separated the veldt forward toward the trees. “These search lab on Kensig. The original
years ago...” from the northern jungle, “James were the last animals imported to herd were left over from an experi-
It was a good morning to drive spotted something the other day Selous. It took all four of us to do it, ment with frozen embryos implant-
across the veldt. Clouds brooded when he was up in the chopper. I Old Pete, Nimrod, Pharaoh, and me. ed in surrogate mothers of different
on the northern horizon but the thought we’d take a detour if you Dad died less than a year later,” he species.” He shook his head. “In a
remainder of the sky was clear, don’t mind.” said sadly. “He never lived to see if way, you could say their mothers
blue streaked with the vivid reds Kylee shrugged. “I don’t know they took.” were hippos.”
and pastel purples of dawn. A light where we’re going anyway.” “And they did?” Kylee asked be- “You’re kidding,” she whispered,
breeze meandered above the grass- “Then it’s settled.” The grass hind him, walking with her own gun edging closer to the herd.
land as if adding wings to the herds thinned and the jeep sped up again. held up, near shoulder height above “Nope. The lab wanted to get rid
of bushbuck pronging across it. The “They usually don’t come this far the grass. of them because they cost a fortune
grass genuflected at their passing, east but Pharaoh says it’s been a dry “There were two stable herds to feed. But they didn’t want to put
at times barely a foot high, at others year.” before...before I left. Pharaoh says them down, because as far as any-
rising up taller than a man, almost “They what?” she asked, curiosity there are three now. It’s hard to be one knows they may be the last of
touching the dipping leaves of the overcoming her mood. certain, because the males especial- their kind.”
acacia trees. “You’ll see.” In the distance ly spend a lot of time either alone “They gave them to you for free?”
“Looks like it might rain tonight,” ahead, a pseudo-forest of acacia or in smaller groups.” Ivan glanced Ivan snorted. “Sort of. It took ev-
Ivan said over the noise of the jeep. formed a crescent at the edge of back over his shoulder. “If they ery penny we had plus a loan from
“It can get pretty bad, especially on the veldt, extending toward the riv- charge, climb a tree. It takes them a the Kwakiutl we’re still paying off to
the more open parts,” he contin- er and its stony bank. Ivan stopped few minutes to knock one over.” He transport them. They take up a lot
ued. “Lightning like you wouldn’t the jeep, killing the motor. “I doubt led her closer to the river. of space.” He followed in the wake
believe.” When she did not reply, he we’ll need the guns but...” He did “But what are they?” of Kylee’s tentative approach.
added, “This one shouldn’t be too not need to finish the sentence; Ivan stopped and pointed toward “They’re not as big as I thought.”
bad though. Probably just enough Pharaoh had drilled into her head the water. “Kallu. Boulders.” “They’re Indian elephants, not
to knock the dust down.” She gave to never go alone or unarmed into At first, seeing them from a dis- African. Kallana, to be specific. Al-
a non-committal hum. “What’s the the bush. Most of the time, she lis- tance, that was exactly what they most pygmies. Biggest one I ever

Calamity ‘s Child, Chapter 8, ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two , by M. Keaton Page 47

saw was the old bull. He was about a sad smile. “It’s the same thing.” he swept it across the narrow rock and side, spinning the man toward
seven foot at the shoulder.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, kid. ledge in front of him. Satisfied, he Robbins. The point man fell back-
Kylee stopped at the edge of the I’m not real good at explaining stuff scanned the cliff that rose on his left ward, tangled in the corpse, just in
trees, watching the herd bathe and like this. Ask Pharaoh.” He sighed, and continued forward. A few yards time to avoid the second blast. A
play. Eventually, she turned back to- meeting Kylee’s eyes at last. “Okay. farther, he stopped, repeating the mine, unaffected by the rock piled
ward Ivan. “Why?” The elephants, they’re Earth, what ritual, ignoring the complaints of in front of it, blew the patrol com-
He raised his eyebrows. “Why Earth was. They’re like a living sym- the man behind him. mander in half.
what?” bol of what Earth used to be at its “I don’t get it,” the second com- Robbins rolled instinctively with
“They’re beautiful, but you said best—maybe even us fool humans plained, his own gun still slung across the blast, letting the concussive
you had to borrow money to get at our best, in a way. It’s not a mat- his back. “What are we supposed to force throw him across the ground
them and you didn’t even know ter of making sense or being worth be looking for? Bug tracks?” like a leaf in the wind, clutching the
if they’d survive here. I just—you the risk, it’s just something you have The commander of the three-man second’s dead body as a shield. In-
know, why risk everything else to do. Because it’s worth it and you patrol was as disgusted with the stinct saved his life but it did not
that’s here for them?” She shook feel it you do it.” He sput- second as Robbins. “Everything,” take minor details such as ledges
her head. “I mean, they’re great tered to a halt, Kylee watching him, he said, making no attempt to hide into account.
and they’re worth saving, but so are face intent. Frustrated, Ivan rubbed the irritation in his voice. “Nagana The cliff was not a clean drop.
the bushbuck and suni and the rest. the back of his head and scowled. wants us to look for anything out of The shelf gave way to a ferociously
You gambled everything to take a “It’s life,” he said finally, his voice the ordinary.” steep slide of loose gravel and shale,
chance on the elephants. I’m just tinged with rising anger. “Everything “You mean like this?” Robbins a near-vertical fall on an avalanche
not sure it makes sense.” life throws at you that just keeps gestured with the barrel of his rifle of thousands of razor-edged sleds.
He shrugged, looking past her coming and coming, and everything toward a metal can partially buried Robbins reached the bottom an
toward the river. “I wondered the going to hell faster than you can in rubble. The second man stepped eternity later, clothes sliced to rags,
same thing when we did it. I can re- bail. Nothing goes right and peo- in front of him, kneeling to dig at the covered in blood, much of it his
member Old Pete and Nimrod stay- ple die, and all you’ve got is being loose rocks. Robbins stepped back own. His rifle had been torn away
ing up nights going over figures at mad and getting ready for more of to give him room. in the nightmare, its strap snapping
the table and worrying about losing the same, and it’s all a damn crying “There’s maybe a half-dozen of his wrist in the process and the ache
the lodge.” Ivan breathed deep, let- shame with no hope of nothing and them,” he said, standing with one in his side that stabbed with each
ting it out in a burst. “The older you then—” He stopped, holding up his in his hand. The can disintegrated breath warned him of broken ribs at
get, the more it makes sense. Some hands in surrender. He took a deep in a thunderclap as he turned, along best. He lay for what seemed hours
things are worth the risk. It’s like, if breath, letting his hands fall to his with most of the man’s arm. Frag- before he attempted to stand, dis-
John were in trouble, we’d take the sides. “And then somebody gives ments of metal buzzed through covering in the process that his
same risk to help him.” you free elephants.” the air like hornets as the rest of left ankle was swelled to twice the
“Yeah, but that’s people,” Kylee # the cans exploded behind him. The size of his fist. It held, supporting
insisted. “Family and loyalty and all second jerked like a marionette on his weight, but barely. He hobbled,
that.” The point man, Robbins, let the tangled strings as steel bearings and teeth grinding in agony at every
Ivan watched the elephants with muzzle of his gun follow his gaze as shards of rock ripped into his back step, through the ravine in the di-

Calamity ‘s Child, Chapter 8, ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two , by M. Keaton Page 48

rection he hoped led back to base against the hood of the jeep. “Go on instead to skirt the base of the hill. wind bent the grass stems, insuring
camp. up if you want to.” The grass was taller but the trees she remained upwind of the herd.
It was night before he reached “You’re not coming?” fewer. “Watch for cats,” she ordered, Ivan followed, dropping back a
it, delirious with pain and fever. It He looked down at his hands, an- snuggling the rubber shock cushion few feet, giving her more room to
would be hours later before he was swering in a mumble. “I don’t come of her rifle against her shoulder. She set the pace, watching her work.
able to say he was the only survivor, here anymore. Wouldn’t have come let the muzzle part the taller stands Her hair was longer, still fighting to
longer still before he stopped shak- at all but Pharaoh had a burr under like a narrow wedge as she moved, turn dark in spite of the sun’s con-
ing. his saddle. Said you ought to see.” taking deliberate, cautious steps. stant assault, blond glittering atop
# “I’d like to take an eland,” Kylee “Swing left,” Ivan said grudgingly brown. She had grown while he was
said, her tone subdued. “I’ve only behind her. away, and not just physically. She
Ivan stopped the jeep. “This is seen the one James and John “I know what I’m doing.” She con- moved with confidence now, head
it,” he told Kylee, stepping into the brought back to camp to eat. It was tinued forward several yards before up, eyes keen. How much of the
knee-high grass. Unlike the sprawl- already dressed out but it was still turning where the rise was lower, little girl he had only begun to know
ing plains behind them, the hillock beautiful.” the slope gentle. Beyond the hill- had already burned away into wom-
they faced showed clear signs of “They are. So go on, there’s al- ock, the veldt spread into a shallow anhood? He felt an odd tightness in
human habitation, once. Trees had ways at least a few on the far side depression before rising again. In his chest and grimaced at the direc-
been planted around the base and of the hill.” the wadi, the eland grazed. Giants tion of his thoughts. He wanted to
crest of the hill for shade and shelter She hesitated, looking at him, compared to the tiny bushbuck, warn her she was getting too close
from the weather. Flowering shrubs her expression torn. “Nobody hunts they stood as tall as Kylee, their to the herd but, at this distance,
once well tended ran rampant, spill- alone,” she said stubbornly. Ivan coats shining in the sun like golden even a whisper might send them
ing color down the low slope. Over- jerked his head up to glare at her, cream dusted with cinnamon. Their running.
grown bougainvillea loomed above an angry expression unsuccessfully spiral horns corkscrewed into the air She continued her slow stalk
the rest, in places standing as tall as masking a deep hurt. as they cropped contentedly at the across the depression, tacking side
trees. Wildflowers struggled to sur- “You’ve got a lot of nerve,” he tops of the grasses. to side rather than approach the
vive beneath the onslaught of pam- snapped. Ivan leaned to whisper in Kylee’s herd directly. Reaching some prede-
pas grass. The skeletal remains of She set her feet, shoulders ear. “They’ll spook if you get close,” termined spot, she stopped, shifting
what once must have been a house square. “I went to Nevrio.” he warned. She gave a shallow nod, the rifle muzzle ever so slightly as
peeked out from beneath a blan- Ivan opened his mouth then thinking of Pharaoh’s comments that she sighted in. Ivan’s gaze followed
ket of trailing vines, purple wisteria stopped, biting back a response. He the lack of predators had made the her aim, looking for her target.
blooms hanging from the leaning stomped to the back of the jeep, lift- herds too bold. She swept her rifle It was a huge buck, a genuine
spire of a stacked rock chimney. ing his rifle. “Lead on,” he growled, slowly, surveying the land through trophy kill. Ivan guessed it to be six
“Who lived here?” Kylee asked. scowling, his lips pressing together its scope. Something caught her foot at the shoulder with a heavy
“Everyone,” Ivan replied softly. in a white line. eye. She hesitated, studying it, then dewlap and elegant twisting horns,
“The eland still do. Alex used to feed Kylee turned with a sniff, match- continued her sweep, thinking. With nearly a ton in weight. Kylee stood,
them. These days I suppose they ing his anger with her own. She did a heavy breath, she started forward, zeroed in on the buck. Ivan found
come for the flowers.” He leaned not approach the house, choosing moving slowly now, watching as the himself holding his breath, won-

Calamity ‘s Child, Chapter 8, ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two , by M. Keaton Page 49

dering what she was waiting for. To at him expectantly. happens, I mean.” man. “Sundown soon. Are you go-
his surprise, she raised one foot, Ivan looked away, turning to start “You mean if you get hurt?” he ing back down?”
stomped it back to the ground. Ev- at the retreating eland. “They’re asked. “No,” the Cillian replied. “Red
ery head in the herd whipped aloft, dead,” he said harshly. “What’s to “Or killed.” Dog has culled as many fool humans
staring. The buck snorted, stamping tell?” “Don’t.” as possible for present. Must wait
his own hoof, staring her in the eye. “Why three?” she asked gently. “Well I’m not trying to,” she said for herd to settle again.”
“Go,” Kylee breathed. The herd The muscle of his jaw stood out in exasperation. “But, will you be “The way they’re clumped up,
burst into motion. Behind them, the in taut relief. “One’s for me. I died okay?” I’d love to see the damage a hand
buck jerked his head as if snapping when they did.” “No.” He squeezed her arm grenade or two would do to them.”
an invisible thread between himself “Still believe that?” against his side. “It’d hurt like hell, Priest paused, considering. “Why
and the girl, hurrying after the oth- He searched for more anger to and I’d never get over it. Plus Red don’t you?”
ers. Kylee watched them go, lower- sustain him, could not find it, not Dog’d never talk to me again.” He “Stick bombs would not kill
ing the gun with a smile. “I could’ve against her. His shoulders dropped looked at her, realizing she was al- enough fast enough. Survivors
had him,” she said casually. and his entire body seemed to sag. most as tall as he was now. “I’d live,” would find Red Dog.”
“I know.” “No,” he said wearily. “Not any- he continued seriously. “I might “So what now, great one?”
“It’s enough.” She wiped the more.” have to hurt a few people first, but “Red Dog waits. Now Red Dog
sweat from her face with her arm. “Me neither,” Kylee said and Ivan I’d live. What about you?” uses greatest weapon against hu-
“You didn’t hunt them this close to wondered if she were referring to “I’d be fine,” she replied promptly. mans. Red Dog uses fear.” The Cil-
the house, did you?” she asked. him or herself. “Kylee.” His tone turned the name lian grabbed Priest by his feet, pull-
“No. Kind of liked seeing them “Pharaoh put you up to this?” he into a warning. ing him backward, away from the
around, and Cat loved them.” He asked. She flashed him a timid grin. ledge. “Back to cave.”
smiled thinly. “Tried to make pets of She snorted in disgust. “No.” “Teasing. But I would be, sort of. Like “You could have just said so,”
the lot.” He scratched his forehead, He turned his head to smile at you said.” She let out a curt chuckle. Priest snapped. “I can get up on my
pushing his hat back on his head. her. “Sorry. Seemed like the kind of “Martha likes to tell me ‘girl, ain’t own.” He stood, slapping dust and
“You knew I didn’t hunt here, didn’t thing he’d do.” always all about you.’ It’s kind of like sand off the front of his crimson
you?” “He’s a meddler,” she replied so- that. Life goes on and, you know, robes. “How is fear a weapon?”
“I guessed.” berly, making him laugh. When he we’ve still got people.” Red Dog chittered in amusement.
“Then why all this?” stopped, she said, “I love you, you “Family.” “With enough fear, enough—” the
Kylee grounded the rifle, held know.” “Yeah,” she said happily. “We’ve alien bounced his upper arms to-
up three fingers. “First, I wanted Ivan squeezed his eyes shut, low- got family.” ward each other as if squeezing an
to see them.” She ticked off a fin- ering his head until his chin almost # invisible ball, “—pressure, humans
ger. “Second, I wanted to see how touched his chest. “Love you too, will do Red Dog’s work for Red Dog.”
close I could get.” Another finger. kid. Sorry I never said it sooner.” Priest lowered his binoculars, Priest gave up trying to undo the
“And third,” she pointed to the trio “No big.” She stepped to slip her wishing he was a better lip reader, damage to his robes. “I still don’t
of wooden crosses almost invisible arm under his, leaning against him. as Red Dog joined him on the ledge, get it.”
in the grass on the hillside, looking “What’ll you do now, if something standing at the feet of the prone hu- Red Dog tilted his head to one

Calamity ‘s Child, Chapter 8, ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two , by M. Keaton Page 50

side then the other. “Red Dog is a line waiting to take their place.” eyes. I don’t think he can pick up “—and the bad guys just keep
warrior. Drone does as told,” he He stared at her, a smile gradually the small differences on flat surfac- getting away with it. It’s kind of hard
said, starting the long walk back to working its way onto his face. “My es. Maybe if something were writ- to figure out.”
their cave. Priest suppressed his ir- little girl’s all grown up. More grown ten really big...I don’t know. I know “I don’t suppose you’d settle for
ritation and followed. up than I am, come to think of it.” Cillians have horrible depth percep- asking Pharaoh?”
# She smiled back but her eyes tion.” Kylee laughed and pressed the
were deadly serious. “You do the “Hunh. I always figured the stick accelerator to its limit.
Kylee and Ivan stood together at best you can at the time with the bombs and shotguns were just his “It’s a big universe,” he said. “Too
the graves until the afternoon sun best you’ve got. Old guy named style.” big for you or me to keep score on
became stifling. “I wonder,” Ivan Kipling said people have to be what Ivan laughed. “Oh, they are. They everything. It ain’t always all about
said, stepping away from her and they are and do what they must. I’m definitely are.” He continued to you, remember? Well maybe it ac-
lifting his rifle, “if I should’ve been comfortable with that.” chuckle as they reached the jeep. tually is, but we’re on a need to
going after Casey harder.” They started back to the jeep. “But that does explain why you’ve know basis. Even if we were to
“How much harder can you go?” “You’ve got a ruthless streak, kiddo.” never heard of a Cillian sniper.” get an explanation for everything,
“Dunno. I just always figured, “Gee, wherever would I have “I just can’t picture Red Dog as could we even understand it all?”
maybe there was a way, if I pushed picked that up?” she fluttered sar- anything but up close and person- He bounced painfully in his seat and
hard enough. If I’d just said to heck castically. al.” Kylee dropped into the driver’s wished he had remembered to fas-
with the law and went after him “Me, I think it’s because you read seat of the jeep. “I’m driving.” ten his seatbelt. “Slow down. You’re
full out. Just tried to find where too much,” Ivan teased. He tried to move her with a glare going to roll the jeep.”
he’s holed up and put a bullet in “Twain’s my favorite. What about and got a good look at her tongue “You can just flip it back onto its
his head.” He gnawed his lower lip, you?” for his effort. “Up close and anti- wheels again,” she shouted back
showing teeth. “Lot of people’d still “I don’t read much.” personnel,” he countered. over the wind. “James and I do it all
be alive, including your folks.” “But you can, can’t you?” Kylee rocketed the jeep into gear, the time.”
“Bullshit,” Kylee said matter-of- “Barely,” he admitted. “I can get almost tossing Ivan from his seat. “And Pharaoh trusts that boy
factly, hefting her own gun. “Ain’t by, but it’s hard. The letters get “You believe in God?” she asked, with a helicopter?” Ivan gripped
always all about you.” twisted around in my head. I’m bet- fighting the wheel and gaining the dashboard harder, watched his
“Watch your language.” ter than Red Dog, though.” speed at an alarming rate. knuckles turn white. “Anyway, just
“I’m serious,” she protested. “He has trouble?” “I do now.” because we don’t see the reason,
“Maybe you’d have got him. Maybe “He can’t read at all, not human “Seriously.” doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason.
you’d have got your fool head blown languages anyhow. Always said Ivan braced a hand against the Same thing on the bad guys getting
off, and then where would we be? that’s why he puts up with me, be- dash. “Yeah, I do. Why?” away with it. Maybe it looks that
I’ve been reading Pharaoh’s history cause he needs somebody to read “I’ve been wondering.” She jinked way, but we don’t get to see the
books; I’d bet you that even if you wanted posters to him.” the wheel to avoid a meerkat den. whole scorecard. You follow me so
capped him, nothing’d change but “Ever try to teach him?” “There’s so much bad stuff that hap- far?”
the name. There’s always been evil “Not me. You can try if you want pens for no good reason—” “Yeah, but it’s hard to swallow
people doing evil things and there’s to.” Ivan paused. “Problem is his “Like jeep wrecks.” when there’s so much pain. I mean,

Calamity ‘s Child, Chapter 8, ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two , by M. Keaton Page 51

you lost your wife and daughter, they shot across a shallow ditch. “Given the quality of material I derlain with a pulsating drone like a
I lost my folks, seems like it’d take “You want a better answer than have to work with, it’s a fair trade.” didgeridoo resounding without ori-
an awful lot of explaining to make that, ask Pharaoh. If we live.” “Not much longer.” gin or end. The flare sputtered; the
things balance out.” “Nah, that’s okay. I think I get it.” Nagana rolled a toothpick from light seeming to dance in rhythm to
“That’s the thing that—” Ivan “And you?” Ivan asked, wonder- one side of his mouth to the other. the noise.
broke off, almost biting his tongue ing if they really were outrunning He desperately wanted a cigarette “There’s more than one. They
in two as Kylee stomped the brakes, the antelope alongside or if it was but the glow would have made him lied to us.” The man’s words were
sliding the jeep to a halt before start- an optical illusion. an attractive target in the dark. “We barely audible when he started
ing forward again. While she was “Believe in God? Oh yeah.” She don’t need much longer. Once he’s speaking, rising in tone and volume
busy creeping down the loose dirt of smiled, taking her left hand from the pinned in, we can roll over him.” until he was shrieking. “They lied
an incline, he rushed to strap himself wheel and leaning further back in “Maybe.” to us! There’s an army of bugs out
into his seat. “That’s the thing that the seat. “I’ve seen the elephants.” “It’s just one bug,” Nagana there! We’ve got to get out of here!
makes it balance, though,” he con- # snapped. “You could take him your- We’ve got to—”
tinued. “You’re looking at what we self.” Nagana slapped him as hard as
lost like we’re entitled to it. You’re Night in the desert was as cold as “True.” he could swing. The man staggered
not looking at what we gained. I the day was hot. Nagana allowed The general curled his lips into a to his knees then his feet, grabbing
can’t think of anything I’ve ever his men what fire they could build sneer, vaguely disgusted by Stet’s at the general. “You gotta get us out
done that could possibly have made from the scraps of material scav- dry tone. He stood, flicking the of here, sir! We’re dead men! Out-
me worth Alex. Sure, I lost her, but enged from their landing site. He toothpick to the ground and un- numbered!” The man’s eyes were
before that, not only did I have her, made certain his sentries were well snapping the flap across the top of wide with fear; spit flew from his
we had Catharine too. Who am I to outside of the tiny circle of light and his holster. “I’m going to check the mouth. Nagana backed away from
deserve that?” The jeep bucked as it facing away from it. He sat at the perimeter again.” his frantic clutching hands. “We
reached the bottom of the slope and edge of the huddle of men around A screaming whistle split the air can’t fight ‘em all! They lied to us!”
Kylee floored the gas. “And what’d I the fire wearing a pair of flip-up as a flickering streak of light arched Nagana glanced to the other men.
ever do to deserve you?” he yelled sunglasses to offset night blindness over the camp. The flare lit with a They were still sitting, staring like
in mock-despair. if he had to move quickly. Beside pop, flooding the darkness with fish on the bank waiting for death
“So you’re saying that, if every- him, Stet lounged, hands behind his blinding white light, giving the en- to come collect them. Frustration
thing was even, we’d get nothing to head, staring at the sky with blank tire scene a pallid cast, men’s faces surged through him. He swung with
start with, so it’s okay if we lose it?” eyes. gaping upward like bloated corpses. a closed fist this time, knocked the
“No. I’m saying we don’t know “We’ll have him run to ground “That way!” Nagana shouted, man sprawling in the dirt. He fol-
the bad, but we do know the good. soon,” Nagana said, half to himself. pointing. “Get men out there—” lowed the punch with an angry kick
And the good makes it all worth- “Every attack gives away more of his A sound like the rattling of the hard enough to lift the man from
while. The good is too good for position and tells us the limit of his cages of Hell interrupted him, echo- the ground.
there not to be a God.” The jeep range.” ing off the rock face, booming loud- Panting now, frantic himself, he
springs screeched in protest and “Trading men for info,” Stet re- er and louder the longer it went kicked again, flipping the man onto
Ivan’s teeth snapped together as plied in a monotone. on—a buzzing, chittering rattle un- his back. “You’re afraid?” he shout-

Calamity ‘s Child, Chapter 8, ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two , by M. Keaton Page 52

ed. “Afraid of him?” Nagana jerked transportation around here?” King-
his sidearm from his hip. “Be more fisher asked.
afraid of me!” The crack of the bul- “Got some crawlers we rigged up
let put the exclamation to his words. from old mine cars.”
He turned, gun in hand, glaring at “They fast?” Rounder pressed,
the staring men. “Anybody else?” keeping the man off-balance with
No one moved to challenge him. questions.
“Then form up and get moving!” He “Hell no. But they got them solar
jammed the pistol back into the hol- batteries, run forever on this dust
ster. Men scrambled, suddenly gal- ball.”
vanized into motion. “We’ll take one. We’ve got a long
The flare winked out, plunging way to go before we get to the origi-
him back into darkness. The chitter- nal landing and I ain’t walking. Pay
ing faded, dwindling on the night air him, limey.”
like a lingering, mocking laughter. The foreman started to protest
# but stopped when he saw the mon-
ey. “Who are you guys?” he asked
The sounds of machinery and again in a more subdued tone.
grinding rock conspired to drown King took a drag from the ciga-
out the roar of the ship’s landing rette pinched in one corner of his
jets. Cobalt-neon light banks bathed mouth, blew smoke out the other.
the area in their blue glow, illumi- “Dependin’ on who you are, I reck-
nating as much airborne dust as ac- on we’re either the cavalry or the
tual workspace. Red Legs. Whichever, we’re here to
Kingfisher stepped from the fix your bug problem.”
transport’s ramp, pulling his hat
lower against the glare and wind.
Cupping his hands, he stopped to
light a new cigarette.
“No smoking!” yelled a heavy
red-faced man in blue coveralls.
“You the mine foreman?” Round-
er called back, stepping between
the man and Kingfisher.
“Dock foreman. Who are you?”
“What’ve you got for surface

Calamity ‘s Child, Chapter 8, ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two , by M. Keaton Page 53

THIEVES’ HONOR: EPISODE 10 and torso disappeared. Bone frag- into a drawstring sack and cinching
The Rescuers, Part 1 ments pitted the garden wall. the mouth tight.
by Keanan Brand Bile tainted the back of Willa’s Sahir grinned, Ezra looked puz-
throat. zled, and Alerio turned red.
Governor Tarquin lifted her Kristoff tossed him a coarse tunic.
Previously, on Thieves’ Honor: stepped closer, the carlinnian col- brows. “Hm.” Then, in a meditative “Ditch the lab coat, and bring extra
Finney, the pilot of the pirate lar in her hands. She slid the device tone, her gaze fixed on the bloody ammunition.”
freighter Martina Vega, was cap- around his neck, snapped it shut, in- mess, the old woman said, “Girl, “The garrison, assuming it is still
tured by an extraction team hired serted a key into the almost invisible tell the extraction team to employ manned”—Alerio pulled the tunic
by former port governor Tarquin, lock. Saw a line of sweat slide down a new bondsman. Not just a smith over his head, muffling his voice—
the woman whose actions resulted the man’s face. Turned the key. who can forge strong shackles, but ”has to know a ship landed.”
in the death of Finney’s grandfa- He whimpered. someone skilled enough to dupli- “I’m counting on it.” Kristoff wait-
ther, Admiral Cunningham, when With a click, the tumbler engaged. cate the collar.” ed for the crew to disembark, then
Finney was a girl. As an adult, she Willa stepped back, bowed to Tarquin looked at Willa, a sharp pressed the exterior controls that
encountered Tarquin and tried to Governor Tarquin, and held out the gleam in her cunning eyes. folded up the gangway and closed
take revenge, but accidentally shot key on her upturned palm, her head Does she know? No, I am still in the freight hatch. He set the security
the governor’s grandson. Finney still lowered. Shiny boots appeared her service. Obey, and put lie to her shield. “No experienced crew would
was jailed but escaped. Now, years just inside her vision, their black tips suspicions. Willa bowed acknowl- foul their navigation so badly as to
later, she was finally going to face brushing the pristine hem of her edgement of the command, and overshoot or fall short of a known
retribution. white tunic, and rough-skinned fin- stepped toward the entrance. destination, nor would a pirate crew
However, rebels living as servants gers plucked the key from her hand. “Eight collars,” added the gover- worth their bounty travel on foot.
in Tarquin’s household helped her es- The boots stepped out of sight. nor. “By sundown. I expect visitors.” By doing so, we’re not worth the
cape not only her shackles but also a She straightened. The governor # garrison’s notice.”
bomb that had been locked around gestured her aside, flicked a hand at Alerio gave an unconvinced
“Tell me again why we’re walking grunt. “By walking, we delay finding
her neck, and their fellow rebels in the guards, and they half-dragged
to Horatio?” Finney.”
the desert have taken Finney into the stumbling bondsman along the
“I’m a sadistic son of a sailor.” “But we have these oh-so-fetch-
their underground hiding place, a palm-shaded path to the gate, his
Kristoff cast aside the arm sling then ing disguises.” Mercedes held out
colonial military bunker abandoned boots furrowing the neatly raked
tucked another gun under his loose the sides of her tunic and curtseyed.
after the war. gravel.
brown tunic. “I can’t wait to see how the women
Meantime, Captain Kristoff and He fell to his knees—”Please.
“I’m an engineer. I invent things. in Horatio are wearing their burlap
the crew of the Martina Vega are Please!”—but was yanked upright
I maintain things.” Through dusty these days.”
trying to rescue Finney, not knowing again.
glasses, Alerio stared at the expanse Towering over them all, Corrigan
she’s already safe. The guards kicked him through
of desert, his face as forlorn as that fumbled to tie a bandana around
And Governor Tarquin is waiting. the open gate then ran.
of any sailor forced to travel with- his head. Despite a broken hand, he
The sonic barrier hummed. Light
out his ship. “I’m not supposed to refused help, grimacing instead at
And now, on Thieves’ Honor: flared around his neck. In an almost

sweat.” Mercedes. “You’re such a girl.”
ocked in shackles of his own mak- soundless blast that pushed against
“I’ve seen you sweat,” remarked “I’m logical.” She shot a glare at
ing, the bondsman paled as Willa Willa’s chest, the bondsman’s head
Mercedes, lowering her medical bag

THIEVES’ HONOR: EPISODE 10 The Rescuers, Part 1 by Keanan Brand Page 54

Kristoff. “If not for a visit to the Katy an beaming on her admirers. table. For maybe thirty seconds, si- technically been ended for a year,
Joy”—the glare shifted to Alerio— lence reigns. that it was a draw, or that rebel-
”we’d at least have a runner.” A tall woman with a long red Then, “Hey, cap, beer’s gettin’ lion still festers. They want freedom.
“It was only a two-man kayak.” braid over one shoulder, a bright warm.” They want to be left alone.
The engineer cleared his throat. bandanna around her neck, lounges With the edge of his hand, he He’s flown the Martina Vega here
“Captain, what do you say to bring- on a stack of freight, one leather- pushes the bottle toward Corrigan. to deliver a load of smuggled goods
ing along the cart? It’s solar. Won’t clad leg bent, an arm resting on the On the crates, Finney folds her for the rebels, to duck from the law,
use any of our fuel.” knee, the other leg swinging like a legs and leans forward to address a and to ask Fiona Grace one more
Kristoff shook his head. “Nice try.” lazy pendulum. She watches the stevedore grinning up at her, mop- time to join the crew.
Wyatt held out several canteens, wharf busy with stevedores and sail- ping his chest with an old shirt. If the third time is the charm, as
their straps hanging from his open ors, a smile on her lips. Wyatt sets down his beer and the ancient saying promises, what
hand. The crew grabbed one each Does she smile because she slacks sighs. “Well, that’s a relief.” about the fifth time? The tenth?
and slung it over one shoulder and while they labor, or does she enjoy “Thirsty, eh?” asks Corrigan. Twelfth? How many times until each
under the opposite arm, so the the sight of sweaty, shirtless men? “It’s not men she hates. Just us.” request is an embarrassment?
strap crossed the chest. The excep- She’s Finney. It’s probably both. “Not me! I’m too pretty.” Well, that answer is easy: Any
tion was Sahir, whose girth required Under the awning of a dockside “Cor,” Wyatt’s voice is dry as the time after the first rejection.
ingenuity. He looped the strap a few tavern, Kristoff rolls a colonial coin sand that grits the lumpy stone floor Kristoff strides along the dock.
turns around his belt then let it go, between his fingers. She hasn’t seen beneath their feet, “you got a face Finney turns her head, meets his
and the canteen bumped against his him yet. Or maybe she has, and is only a rear exhaust could love.” gaze. He almost walks slam into an
knee. being careful not to look his way. The mechanic shrugs—”Love is upended trunk. She smiles.
Adjusting the pack on his back, Someone jostles his elbow. “You love”—and raises the bottle of beer.
Kristoff set the pace toward a green gonna finish that sandwich?” Kristoff snags it and downs the If her captors wanted to live, he’d
fringe of trees. He shakes his head. contents. Corrigan protests, but Wy- better see that smile again.
The petty arguing continued. “Don’t know why you keep pining att laughs. “Go get ‘em, captain.” Behind him, the crew stopped
The crew had shown uncommon for that one.” Corrigan’s words are An intense star that bakes half the squabbling. Kristoff turned.
restraint, but they were tired, on mashed by the food in his mouth. “ planet into desert but incubates the “So, cap”—Wyatt jerked his chin
edge, and this sniping sprang from She’s not the only pilot can fly our other half into a jungle, Ariel’s sun toward the colonial troops rising
their concern for Finney. Sahir, how- class of ship. If you really want to blasts the back of Kristoff’s neck as from behind jagged parallels of
ever, sweat streaming down his dark add a woman to the crew, I know he crosses the dusty street carving tumbled stone—”friends of yours?”
face, chuffed along in stoic silence. this girl—” a reddish path between the docks #
Kristoff pushed their bickering “Shuddup,” says Wyatt. and Vortuna. The city-province
back until it was only an annoying “You didn’t let me finish!” perches on the rim between colonial “Friends of mine?” The captain
static behind his thoughts. Ahead, “Captain don’t want your chip- rule and rebel territory, and more frowned. “More like Corrigan’s
heat waves radiated from a boulder pies.” and more folk are leaving the city pals.”
surrounded by smaller satellites: a “Chippies?” proper, collecting on its outer edges. “Hey, don’t look at me!” Corrigan
god rock and its acolytes, or a wom- Kristoff slams the coin on the Most don’t care that the war has raised a hand. “But that fella on the

THIEVES’ HONOR: EPISODE 10 The Rescuers, Part 1 by Keanan Brand Page 55

end reminds me of Sahir’s old bud- nodded toward the Martina Vega, incurious glances at the pirate crew Finney refused the pain shot, but
dies.” her silver hull dulled by layers of and walked on. let the medic change the dressing.
The cook squared his shoulders. dust and sand. “Your business in Martina’s crew split up. Alerio Sitting up, a couple of thin pillows
“I make no friends with uniforms.” Horatio?” and Mercedes wandered hand-in- between her back and the wall,
“Only ‘cause they wouldn’t fit.” “None but curiosity,” replied hand down a street. Kristoff sent she stretched out the injured leg.
“Well, some uniforms might,” Kristoff. “We haven’t traded here Corrigan and Sahir to the plaza. “What’s your name again?”
said Mercedes with a smile. “Cap- before, and our hold is empty.” “We must sit like old men in the “Leo.” He dumped the soiled
tain Zoltana seems to think Kristoff Beret took the papers, glanced shade?” His face no longer dark and gauze into a bin then held his hands
is just right.” over them, then folded the wallet sweaty, but pasty and not sweaty under a spout that sprayed a fine
Corrigan added, “And that Ser- and handed it back to the captain. enough, Sahir looked displeased. mist of chemical sanitizer. “But
geant Frank turned out to be use- He didn’t look entirely convinced, “You’re intimidating,” said Krist- you’re not making conversation.”
ful.” but he stepped back and waved the off, with a significant glance at Cor- “Not the chatty kind, no.”
Ezra cleared his throat and joined crew onward. rigan when Sahir looked aside. The He smiled. “Shoot.”
the fray. “Sahir, didn’t you and the Kristoff glanced back at them, mechanic tapped his canteen, and “Why join the rebellion?” She
captain used to wear uniforms?” and nodded. Only then did Ezra fi- nodded. gestured toward the open door.
Narrowing his eyes, Sahir nally reach up and scratch the back “C’mon, old man,” said Corrigan “Why not return to Earth, or live
touched the haft of his knife. “Long of his neck. His hand shook—he was with a smile that still caused Ezra to outside colonial law? It’s not such a
time ago, puppy.” unsteady from lack of sleep—and shudder at its horrifically ugly good bad life.”
A shot cracked the air. Ezra he couldn’t move his feet, but Alerio humor. How Corrigan attracted so Wiping his hands, he sat on a
flinched. The crew’s hands twitched grabbed one arm and Mercedes the many women—Ezra shuddered metal-frame stool. “Earth has its
toward their weapons—force of other; after two or three steps, his again. “We get the benches. We get own troubles.” He crumpled the
habit—then relaxed. Rifle pointed legs decided to work again. the shade. We get the fountain.” The green towel into a ball. “And, after
skyward, a man in a beret strode Thick grass bordered the cobbled mechanic draped a long arm over so many generations, the colonies
from behind the rocks and stopped streets of Horatio, and the sand- the cook’s round shoulders, and led are our home.” He looked at her.
a few yards from the captain. Each colored buildings with signs swing- him away. “Let everyone else do the “What about you?
man studied the other. No one ing over their colorful doors looked hard work. I, for one, could use a She shrugged. “Never was one
moved. like they’d been plucked from an old good long nap.” for causes.”
Just when Ezra couldn’t stand the storybook and planted in the oasis “Wise man,” chuckled Sahir, but “So you sail with pirates.”
itch of sweat and burlap any longer, by a giant. In the center rose the the laugh ended in a wheeze. “Captain Kristoff is a freighter.”
the man in the beret spoke. “De- squat, square garrison, a tower at “Yep.” Corrigan slapped him on “Kristoff.” He said it with the flat-
clare yourselves.” each corner, guards patrolling the the back. “About time someone rec- ness of a concealed sneer. Leo swiv-
“Freighters,” said the captain, walls. ognized it.” eled on the stool and tossed the
opening a supple leather wallet that Singly or in pairs, soldiers walked That left Wyatt, Ezra, and Kristoff. towel into a second bin. “Heard of
held the appropriate papers; forged, among the townfolk, weapons slung They entered the marketplace. him. Some kinda hero.”
of course. “Out of Port Nora.” forward, ready to hand, instead of # Yeah. Some kind of hero.
“A little far from the mark.” Beret hanging down their backs. They cast

THIEVES’ HONOR: EPISODE 10 The Rescuers, Part 1 by Keanan Brand Page 56

Bruised, cuts crusted with long- couple of months. Didn’t see much “When Willa sent the first mes- ard pulled off the hat and slapped
dried blood, she closes her eyes action there—two, three skirmish- sage, right after your capture, our it on Kristoff’s head, pulling it down
against the stringent glare of the es, tops.” leader—Daniel—started planning over his eyes.
cell’s floodlight. “God. God, where But there are several Scarlet your rescue.” Leo’s gaze sharpened. Wyatt muttered, “Your face is
were You?” She squeezes a wad of Swords, too—fifteen, at least—and “We don’t usually meddle with more famous than mine.”
rough blanket in her fist. “I said Your they’re not awarded for hangnails. criminals.” Right. Kristoff bowed his head
name. You could have stopped him. He saw action somewhere. Finney “What are rebels, then?” a little, hunched his shoulders un-
You could have guided the bullet to looks down at her scraped knuckles, “Good citizens?” He shrugged. der the big tunic, and kept his walk
the right mark. But why am I com- ashamed at her whining to God. “ Some fight for justice or for free- between a step and a shuffle. That
plaining?” She turns on the hard, “But it’s not just the pretty-pret- dom. Some want the government wasn’t difficult to do, considering
narrow bunk. “You probably don’t ties that got me in to Coopertown to honor broken promises. Some of he was exhausted, but adrenaline
even exist.” Jail.” Kristoff hunkers down beside us—peace makes us nervous.” kept him alert. Most “wanted” post-
“He’s just not in the business of the bars, and lowers his voice to a “Which one are you?” ers—printed or holographic—por-
helping murderers.” mock-ominous rasp. “I know se- Leo stood. “Four men died for trayed him in civvies, sometimes
Finney opens her eyes. crets.” you today.” in colonial uniform, and generally
It’s Kristoff, shaven and shorn and “Know a way outta here?” Finney swung her legs over the clean-cut. He hadn’t shaved in—
in a dark blue colonial uniform, chest “As a matter of fact.” cot’s edge, grabbed crutches in one what? Two days? Three? He rubbed
loaded with medals and ribbons. He Then he reaches through the hand and gunbelt in the other. his chin. Enough there to keep ‘em
smiles. “Hello, Finn.” bars, takes her chin between thumb “Hey. Hey!” He blocked her way. guessing. “You take the kid. I’ll head
“You look funny.” and forefinger, and turns her head. “That leg will start bleeding again, the opposite direction.”
“I look better than you.” Frowns. and those ribs need a chance to After an hour spent listening to
“You sure know how to flatter a “Secrets, eh?” Anything to dis- knit. You’re not going anywhere.” conversations and gossip, and en-
girl.” tract him from studying her face. She hung the heavy belt around gaging in a little of their own, the
He shrugs. “It’s a gift.” Releasing her, he stands. “Once her neck, leaned forward on the crew wandered toward the plaza
Wincing, she pushes herself up- upon a time, my daddy was in the crutches, and shouldered him aside. as if by happenstance, and sat on
right. “How’d you get in here with- prime minister’s secret service.” “I didn’t ask anyone to die for me.” the benches there or leaned on the
out being arrested?” Kristoff smiles again. “Knew your “Doesn’t matter what you asked waist-high wall around the fountain.
“I’m a war hero. See?” Kristoff granddaddy, too.” for.” Leo grabbed her arm, forcing Ezra squatted with his back to the
points to his chest. her to stop, to look him in the face. wall, and set a burlap bag in front
“Fun with arts-and-crafts?” “Admiral Cunningham was one “It’s done. Honor the sacrifice.” of him, rummaged in it, then tossed
“These aren’t fake. I earned ev- of our heroes,” Leo said in a quiet # Corrigan an apple that looked like
ery one. Well, except for maybe this voice. it’d had a hard journey across the
one.” He indicates a decoration in So. Finney lifted her brows. You Kristoff bought two hats woven of universe.
the shape of a torch. “It’s a gimme. know who I am. He waited for her strips of dried frond. He palmed the “Tarquin’s got a villa on the out-
Sahir has one, too. Got it just for be- to speak; she looked at him and said crowns, plunked one on Ezra’s head, side.” Corrigan bit a large chunk of
ing in the Promethean Theater for a nothing. the other on Wyatt’s, but the stew- the wizened fruit, and talked around

THIEVES’ HONOR: EPISODE 10 The Rescuers, Part 1 by Keanan Brand Page 57

it. “Right on the edge.” was Finney, and if she escaped.” we don’t have a clue.” don’t look much like the admiral—
“Some kinda ruckus earlier,” But the townfolk didn’t know any- # thank God—but you sure act like
added Wyatt, one hand hiding his thing beyond the skirmish between “Problem?” him.”
mouth. the troops and the rebels—or, if A man who could have been any- What was it with these rebels
Kristoff pulled his hat brim lower they did know more, they kept it where from a rough thirty-five to a and her grandfather?
and tried not to fidget. He hadn’t close. The crew met in the gathering young fifty stood in the doorway, I’m such a fine fellow, Gracie, who
uncovered the information he want- shadows on the edge of the oasis, flanked by half a dozen men carry- can resist?
ed. “Anything about Finney?” where trees and unkempt shrub- ing an assortment of large weapons. She gasped, and almost said
“Only some talk about rebels and bery formed a shield between the Leo bowed his head slightly, and aloud, You’re back!
an escaped prisoner.” last row of houses and the desert. stepped aside. Daniel frowned, but Finney cov-
Thus the ruckus. “Yeah, I heard. A long arm of green sward stretched “Yeah,” said Finney, too angry to ered the aural hallucination with
Prisoner get away?” to surround an opulent villa, its pale be intimidated, “I need to contact a cough that earned a sharp jab
“Not sure. Rebels lost a few men.” walls burnished by the sun clinging my crew and get outta here.” from her ribs. “I don’t want be un-
Mercedes scuffed a paving stone to the horizon. The man smiled a little—a very grateful,” as soon as she caught her
with the toe of her boot, turned her “So,” Ezra capped his canteen, little—then said to Leo, “Give me breath, “but I need to tell my crew
back to the rest of the crew. “Co- “we have a plan?” the room.” I’m safe. Knowing them, they’re do-
lonials lost a few, too, I’ll bet, but Sahir laughed, “Plan? What “Yes, sir.” ing something insane right now.”
they’ll never admit it.” plan?” and Mercedes said, “With The medic left, and the stranger #
Strolling past, a soldier glanced this bunch, a plan is only Posterior stepped in, closing the door. He
at the haphazard group. His nar- Locus-Aided Navigation.” looked at Finney. “How’s the leg?” From a gate in the wall appeared
row gaze snagged on Sahir then Kristoff hunkered behind a scraw- Hurts like hellfire. “It’ll do.” a young woman in a white tunic
Ezra then Kristoff, who lifted his ny-looking scrub of a bush, pulled a “Mine won’t.” He crossed the and wide trousers that rippled as
chin, smiled, and waved. The soldier spyglass from his pack, and studied room, favoring his left leg, then she walked. Her long hair blew back
looked at him a second or two lon- the building. eased himself down to the metal from her face, revealing a strange
ger, curled his lip, then continued “Ez has a point, cap.” Wyatt stool. “Daniel.” collar around her neck. As Kristoff
around the plaza. crouched beside him and lightly “Finney.” Shifting on her crutches, followed her progress, she turned
“Trust you, cap,” grumbled Cor- tapped the back of his shoulder, she leaned against the counter. “Leo her head and looked straight down
rigan, “to be first in line to be shot.” where a thick pad of gauze still said you saved me.” the spyglass.
“Just my way of avoiding the aw- marked the exit wound. “Thought “He did the saving. I just removed He jerked his head, and slammed
ful anticipation.” Sunlight hit the maybe Marty and his boys and the you from the line of fire.” Daniel the cylinder to its shortest length.
fountain at a steep angle, turn- Katy Joy put an end to seat-of-the- gripped his leg and winced. “Couple “Captain Kristoff?” she called.
ing the water red. Yeah, maybe he pants operations.” of hefty guns you snagged off those “The governor bids you welcome.”
was getting slaphappy. “Once more “How long you been on my guards.”
around the market, then meet me crew?” Kristoff swept the glass the “They were handy.”
at sundown near Tarquin’s place. length of the wall, but didn’t see any He smiled, and deep lines fanned
We need to find out if that prisoner guards. “We do our best work when from the corners of his eyes. “You

THIEVES’ HONOR: EPISODE 10 The Rescuers, Part 1 by Keanan Brand Page 58

THIEVES’ HONOR: EPISODE 10 The Rescuers, Part 1 by Keanan Brand Page 59

DEUCES WILD, Season Two and produced a data crystal, which “It seems they had failsafes on
Holding Pattern he held up proudly. “Military grade some of the systems so that if the
by L. S. King A.I.” computer was messed with they
Tristan leaned forward, teeth grit- would shut down.”
ted. “Did you hear me? Any attempt “What systems?”

“D on’t touch anything!”
Slap blinked at Tristan and
gestured around him in the passage-
in the pilot’s chair, and Carter at
Ops, the engineer’s icy-blue eyes re-
mained fixed on Tristan as the latter
to tamper or overwrite the comput-
“She’s a Black Ops type—created
“Looks to be main reactor and life
support. Aaaand...all propulsion.”
“So despite your miracle A.I.,
way. “I’m just gonna get the bots to explained both Reggie’s and Dray’s to circumvent systems, takeover. we’re dead in the water?”
clean up the mess I made, then take methods. She will win any fight, deactivate, Carter snorted. “If I can’t get
a shower.” The lines in the older man’s face and seize control in minutes, then the reactor and life support back
“Not yet.” deepened in a smile. “They both install her own OS.” Carter twirled up we’ll pretty much be dead.” A
“Uh, Tristan, in case you hadn’t sound paranoid.” it in his fingers. “Only a few yotta- pause. “Don’t worry, I think I know
noticed—” “It’s why they’re both still alive. bytes in size. Compact, neat, and... how to get past these failsafes.” A
“He stinks.” Addie wrinkled her Why I’m alive for that matter. Dray one of the reasons the Confedera- diagnostic display appeared over
nose. “So does this whole corridor.” teaches well.” Tristan ran a hand tion wants me back.” Ops, glowing in the dark. “Oh, I take
“I don’t care. I know Reggie. He through his hair. “I don’t know how “’One of the reasons’? What else that back. The A.I. detected the fail-
has booby traps in place in case this many booby traps might be installed of theirs do you have hidden in that safes and shut down the affected
ship is taken over. Until Carter and I to circumvent hostiles. Something jacket?” systems. I just need to remove the
can determine it’s safe, touch noth- as simple as making coffee might Carter grinned. “Captain, do I ask booby trapped hardware so the A.I.
ing.” trip something if a code hasn’t been you what you store in your vest?” will allow those systems to power
“Can we sit down?” Addie sniped, entered as an ‘all’s safe’ after an in- Tristan pursed his lips, glaring. up.”
crossing her arms. “Lean against the cident such as a pirate attack. And “Get to it.” He watched Carter with “How long will that take?”
wall?” for all we know, if the code isn’t a feeling of dread. Such a genius as “Well, with only the reserve pow-
Slap put his arm in front of her, entered within a certain amount of his was a prize to be coveted. The er, which is being shunted to the
a physical barrier to hopefully stop time, the ship will self-destruct or Confeds wouldn’t stop until Carter main computer so the A.I. can tell
the sparring before it started. Addie completely shut down in any event. was either back under their control me what’s booby trapped and how,
drew back, making a gagging sound. An attempt to overwrite the system or dead. Tristan wondered how long the doors aren’t working. I’m going
“Not even a shower?” he asked. would probably trigger something the engineer had until his luck ran to have to use crawl spaces to get to
“Be patient. It might be the dif- unpleasant as well.” out. engineering.”
ference between being able to “Sticky problem.” Carter’s eyes Carter hummed to himself as “Then the actual work itself. So
shower and having your smelly at- were sparkling. “I have the answer, he worked at the Ops station, but this is likely going to be some wait.”
oms scattered all over this sector.” however.” stopped as the lights blinked out “Sorry, Captain, but yes. Now we
Tristan turned fore, and said over Tristan didn’t trust that maniacal and they began floating. “Uh oh...” just need to find the magnetic lock
his shoulder, “I mean it: don’t touch gleam. “Oh?” Tristan gripped the arms of the release mechanism. There must be
anything.” Carter shoved a hand into a pock- chair, blind until he adjusted to the one on the bridge somewhere.”
et of the worn jacket he was rarely dim, blue glow of the emergency “Most people would just call it a
without. He rummaged for a bit bulkhead lighting. “What is it?” ‘key.’”
Face to face on the bridge, Tristan

DEUCES WILD, Season Two, Holding Pattern , by L. S. King Page 60

“But it’s not just a key. It’s a com- fright. “We’re going to die! We’re all ready done. After I get life support G acrobatics. Not his usual fare, but
bination micro power supply and—” going to diiiieeeee!” taken care of, I’ll do the reactor. he could kill time by seeing how
“Carter, just look for it.” Slap grabbed her arms and shook That’s going to be the hardest one many front tucks he could throw
“Yes, Sir.” her. “Hush, gal! We ain’t gonna die. to remove.” from port to starboard bulkheads.
Tristan began searching around Not now, anyway. If we were, we’d “If you can use an extra hand, I do He glanced at Carter’s legs stick-
the captain’s chair. Reggie would a done it already. The ship’s just know how to handle a spanner.” ing out from under the reactor and
want the key accessible but hid- powered down so Carter and get rid “I know. Thank you, Sir. I’ll let you bit back any questions about prog-
den. A small compartment, perhaps of something they found, that’s all.” know.” ress. Just then, the engineer called
easily reached when sitting in the “You sure?” Tristan drifted away, stifling a sigh. out, “Captain? Would you be able to
chair...? Tristan eased himself into No, he wasn’t, but letting her He knew how to wait, but to stand lend a hand?”
the chair, and felt down the sides, know that would lead to more cry- by while someone else worked and “I thought you’d never ask.” He
inside and out. His fingers touched ing and screaming. “Sure, I’m sure.” not be able to contribute, that was pushed off the bulkhead, aiming for
a groove on the right side, and be- The wildcat subsided with sniffles hard. He floated around engineer- Carter. “How much longer on the
low it, a small niche. He pressed his for a moment then gagged. “Ugh! ing, familiarizing himself with the reactor?”
thumb and a small panel opened. Ew! Oh, this is nasty! Your puke is set up. “With your help, not long, I hope.
“Found it.” floating around me!” Before long, Carter swam into After that is propulsion, shields,
He gave the key to Carter, who “Then go somewhere else to main engineering. Tristan helped weapons—”
floated near the floor just in front wait. But don’t touch anything.” remove the panel so the engineer “What about Slap’s shower?”
of the chair. Tristan joined him and “I know, I know!” He could see could wiggle under the port be- Tristan countered wiggling into the
helped heft the plating out of the her outline as she tried awkwardly neath the reactor. space next to Carter.
way so Carter could drift into the to swim aft. Tristan resisted the temptation to The older man shook his head.
crawl space. “Not a thing.” ask “how long?” He flexed his right “All systems must remain offline un-
“Try to hurry. Between Slap spew- “Old auntie,” she spat, continu- ankle, stretching his calf muscle. til I can get a look at them. I mean
ing in zero-G and whatever that ing down the corridor. He should have seen a doctor right all! No shower.”
hellcat might try, who knows what Slap grinned. after they left Eridani, but it hadn’t “Remind me to avoid him for the
might await us.” # seemed important then. The pain time being.”
Carter laughed, his voice echoing. was bearable, and he could hide the Carter snorted and returned to
Tristan belatedly followed Carter limp most of the time, but the lim- work.
# to engineering after realizing he ited movement irritated him. #
Darkness overtook Slap and Ad- had no other way to be updated He began methodically stretch-
die, and as they began to float, Ad- other than being on site. He finally ing as he would before a work out. Addie floated toward Slap—but
die cussed. Slap merely gulped. His found Carter in the port wing bay He should warm up first, but wasn’t not too close. He smiled to himself
stomach was sore and his throat floating sideways under a console sure if swimming around engineer- as he continued biting his nails; that
already raw, he didn’t need this. He for the main gravity generator. ing would do much good. A slow was one way to keep her at a dis-
really didn’t. “How is it going so far?” limbering up would be fine. He tance.
Addie’s cussing turned to wails of “Not bad. The air handler is al- eventually worked up to some zero- “How much longer do you think it

DEUCES WILD, Season Two, Holding Pattern , by L. S. King Page 61

will be?” she asked. convince Cygnus Hegemony to step ranch by myself. Married at sixteen, “I ain’t sayin’ he did it on pur-
“Dunno. As long as it takes to in and do something. I hope so. I’d became a pa at eighteen. There pose, but you tell me: how many
make sure we’re safe.” like to make a return run to Zenos ain’t a kid half your age among my folks like you?”
“The doors won’t open.” with supplies, but I won’t know for people who acts like such a selfish, “You do.”
Slap laughed. “Nothing I can do sure until this mess about the block- thoughtless, spoiled brat like you. “No, I actually don’t. I just figure
about that.” ade is cleared up. I’d love to com- You want me to think of you as an you need someone to keep you in
“Didn’t you get the doors open municate with folks back home.” adult, start acting like one.” Futility line. Like a big brother.” In a softer
earlier without power?” “Do you think they’ve got some washed over Slap—he gave her the voice, he added, “I kinda miss being
“Yeah, but I ain’t touchin’ nothing sort of government set up yet?” same lecture how many times? She a big brother.”
till Tristan tells me it’s all right.” Slap shook his head. “The way didn’t get it; he wondered if she ever “You had a sister?”
“I have to use the bathroom.” most folks can’t agree or get along, would. How could a gal be so smart “And a brother. He ‘n my sister
“Me too. Just wait.” probably not.” and so stupid at the same time? and pa all died close together. Fever.
“I can’t!” “My daddy says a government is “You always say that, but—” It was just me and ma after that.”
“Well, go find a corner—far away going to ruin everything.” “But what?” He stared into the near-darkness.
from me, please.” “I don’t see how it can be worse “I don’t...know what you mean. I “Then she took ill several years later
Addie didn’t move away, just than the Mordas was.” don’t know how to be any different and died.”
crossed her arms. After a few min- “How were they so bad anyway?” than I am.” “You...don’t have any family at
utes silence, she said, “I’m bored.” “Oh, I don’t know,” Slap spat. Slap stifled a chuckle, then real- all?” Addie sounded distressed, like
“Big surprise.” “Maybe because they took by force? ized she was serious. Too bad his ma she actually cared.
“You’re about as talkative as Didn’t mind letting women and ba- wasn’t alive. She could teach the “Closest I’ve got is my father-in-
Tristan.” bies die screaming in a fire?” His girl a thing or two. Huh. That was it: law’s family. And Gran is kinda fam-
“I’m tired.” He was. The enforced hands shook as he rubbed his face, “What you need is a ma.” ily to everyone, of course.”
inactivity of that cabin he’d been the nightmare replaying in his mind. “I don’t have one. Mine died Addie sighed. “I have older broth-
locked in, then all the fighting, not He took a deep breath and tried to when I was a baby.” ers and sisters, much older. I was
to mention the vomiting, had taken think of something else. Anything “Just a pa who spoiled you rot- the baby. They never bothered
its toll. He’d love to just curl up on a else. Shallah! ten.” much with me. They’re all either off
bunk and sleep. Addie didn’t answer right away. “I...guess. He always gives me lots planet or too busy, and of course,
“What do you think Tristan will do Finally, she whispered, “I’m sorry. of things.” my one sister had a fight with daddy
once we get moving?” I...I forgot.” Slap snorted. “And never paddled so they don’t talk.”
Slap inhaled, trying to think of “Forget’re just a stupid your hind end once, I imagine.” “Too bad.” Slap nibbled his nails
his priorities as ship owner—well, kid.” “That’s barbaric!” again. “An older sister might have—
former ship owner. I miss you, ol’ “I’m not a kid! I’m about your “Letting you grow up to be a wild- ”
gal! “We have to report back to the age!” cat with no manners or regard to The lights came up, down be-
Medani queen and hopefully get “What have you ever done to anyone but yourself is barbaric.” came down, and air flowed again.
paid. Tristan thinks the intel on the show you’re grown up? I was or- “Don’t you talk badly about my Slap exhaled slowly as he settled to
Confed base will help the Medanis phaned at fifteen and ran my folks daddy!” the deck. At least his stomach was

DEUCES WILD, Season Two, Holding Pattern , by L. S. King Page 62

happy. Addie ran for a door and “Thanks, Tristan.” Slap hauled him-
pulled up short when nothing hap- self to his feet. All he wanted was a
pened. head, shower, and a bed. Even food
“They’re not working!” could wait.
“I can’t do anything about that.” #
“But I have to go!” She stomped a
foot and squirmed. “Is that the last of it?” Tristan
“Find a corner aft. I guarantee I’ll asked, slowly unkinking his knees
stay up here.” and standing. This engine room was
Addie waved her arms. “I can’t gorgeous, so spacious and clean— it someplace in the corri- such a change from Giselle.
dor!” Carter scrambled out from un-
“When everything’s working, the der the console and rose, stretching
bots’ll do all the clean up.” both arms above his head. “We’re
“But I can’t!” good to go, Sir.”
“Then hold it.” “Good. I need to revise the Reg-
Addie plopped to the floor with a istry for the ship, and a new name.
pout. Despite the fact he had to go Then we can put into port.”
badly himself, he grinned. “Any idea what you’ll name her?”
Before long, Slap was ready to Carter asked, following Tristan to
shove Addie out an airlock him- the lift.
self. She wouldn’t stop whining and “I was thinking of: Phoenix.”
moaning. Finally, he said, “Look, gal,
if you can’t be quiet, go aft. I don’t
want to hear it anymore. Your needs
ain’t any worse than mine.”
That shut her up for a while, and
when she started again, he ordered
her aft. She kept quiet then.
After what seemed hours, Tristan’s
voice filtered over the comm. “Slap?
We’re working through the systems
one by one. Doors and plumbing are
next, it should only take a few min-
“Hooo, yes!” Addie squealed.

DEUCES WILD, Season Two, Holding Pattern , by L. S. King Page 63

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SKY PIRATE dramatic. I’ll help you get them the rope from there and hand-over-
Season Three, Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes! down.” hand down...”
by Johne Cook The Friar yelled over to Bola, “We Bola pitched forward, hooted,
were protecting you from the Hadd- and dove headfirst down into the
iron Navy by drugging you and mak- water with a loud splash.

T he pounding in his head told him
everything he needed to know.
He didn’t know exactly what had
the Barracuda assuaged his pain
and professional shame with the
thought that there was one shifty
ing it appear you were dead. The
honey was for effect. We’ll get you
down from there.”
“...or, you can simply jump out,”
finished Pikir, turning to shoot a
look at Flynn.
happened to him, but he had a very navigator who had just earned his “I think I need a bath,” said Bola. Flynn flashed him a grin. “Wel-
good idea who was responsible. He unfortunate nickname. “And maybe a little more of the come to my world.” He walked to
used his rage to overcome the pain. grog.” the edge of the bank and looked
As he clawed his way back to con- Flynn laughed and stood. The down into the water. “Let me throw
sciousness, he was already planning As it happened, the last under glow of the fire lit half his face with you a rope.” He saw a coil of rope
his revenge. was the first to stir. From her cage warm color, leaving the other half in near him and threw it down. Bola
His eyelids opened. He was still in suspended out over the water by shadow. “Let’s get them down. Are thrashed around a little, grabbed
the jungle, and it was still dark. He the edge of the island, Bola yawned these doors roped shut?” the rope, and climbed quickly up.
tried to move but discovered that and stretched as calmly as if she Bola looked up, her eyes wide. The taller Bola enveloped Flynn in a
he’d been tied with what felt like were awakening from one more in- Pikir said, “No, just push, and the sticky web clasp that left him drip-
stout vines. He was seated with his dolent night. door will open.” ping and laughing.
back to a tree with hands tied to- Blind Bart caught Flynn’s eye and Flynn looked at the Friar, who “How...?”
gether in front of him, and his boots gestured at the cage. said, “They just had to look like “I’ll explain it when the rest are
tied together at the ankles. He ex- Bola’s hand brushed the wicker prison cages. They didn’t have to ac- awake and onshore.”
tended his right forefinger, carefully basket. She blinked. “Where am tually be roped shut for the illusion Bola stood there, a dripping
fished into the inside top of his right I?” She waved her hands at the to work, and we didn’t have a lot of mess, apparently loathe to let him
boot, lifted a small flap of leather. flies swarming around her face and time as it was.” out of her sight.
He slowly worked out a slim, sharp touched the sticky mess on her jer- Flynn nodded in approval. The Friar smiled and shook his
blade. He awkwardly sawed at the kin. She sniffed it, and then wiped Bola leaned forward and grasped head silently. Flynn turned to him.
vines at his wrists, parting them af- her hand on her breeches. “And why the vertical ropes, the cage creaking “Well done, my friend.” He looked
ter a few minutes work. He untied do I have honey smeared all over my and rocking with the shift in weight. at the dripping, disbelieving Bola. “I
his ankles and returned the thin clothes?” “Is that...Flynn, is that you?” guess.”
blade to his boot by feel. Flynn looked at the Friar and lift- Flynn laughed and sketched a The Friar laughed, and it sounded
He gingerly felt around at the ed his mug in a mock-toast. “I guess jaunty bow and salute in the flicker- like redemption.
back of his pounding head and dis- you get to live,” he said, grinning. ing firelight. “Hola, Bola,” he said.
The Friar lifted his mug in silent #
covered a little blood. His lip curled Bola drew her legs up from be-
acknowledgement. He had the tween the slats and pushed the door The Barracuda found the port of
in a silent snarl. Slowly, he rose,
grace not to look smug. “How are open with her foot. She skootched Parrot Bay, and stepped into the
stretched, cracked his neck. Then he
we going to let them know you’re forward. bar he found there. He ordered a
moved out into the full darkness. As
back in the land of the living?” Pikir called over, “You can grab mug of the local rum and took a stiff
he felt his way through the jungle,
“We don’t have to do anything swallow. Then he turned and spoke

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SKY PIRATE Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes!, by Johne Cook Page 64

loud enough to gain the attention figure how to get his friend out of happened, the door was facing the Flynn said, “It is so very good to
of all in the room. “I have thirty sil- the cage with a minimum of com- water. Mr. Pitt’s body pitched for- see everyone hale and hearty. There
ver coins for the first person who plexity. He ended up asking for a ward against the door, and he fell was a tense moment there when I
can tell me where the pirates cages long-handled boat hook. “I’m going straight out the bottom of the cage. finally returned and thought you all
are.” A man with calloused hands to snag the bottom of his cage. You But that wasn’t the weird part. had been tragically dispatched. But I
who stank of fish stepped forward, cut the rope and get some people The weird part was that as he fell misjudged the Friar here, who really
looked him in the eye, and gave him to gradually lower the cage. We’ll face-first out of the cage, Flynn did have your best interests at heart
directions. The Barracuda smiled as see if we can get the cage back on dropped the boat-hook and instinc- while I was gone. Thanks for taking
he paid the man. It was a literate re- land and let him come to his senses tively reached out. care of the crew. They are the clos-
ward that no one but himself would ashore.” He caught the 7’2” Mr. Pitt by est thing I have to family now.”
appreciate. Life’s pleasure came in It was a good enough plan, but his ankle, and held him dangling at From where he sat, The Friar
the little things. turned out the way most good plans arm’s length out over the water. The put his hands together and mock-
He finished his rum, overpaid do—unexpectedly. boat-hook hit the water with a thin bowed.
with a gold coin to make an impres- When she came to, Deena came splash. Bola finally bounced to her feet.
sion, and left. It was too late to fish, up to Flynn and gave him a sisterly Startled, Flynn dropped Mr. Pitt, “What happened to you? When
but not too late to hunt. hug, and then stepped back in sur- who seemed to fall a very long time you and the Riven took off into the
# prised appraisal. “You’ve put on indeed before he disappeared into heavens, I feared for you. And when
some muscle,” she noted. the dark waters below with a much the ship exploded into flames high
The rest of the crew started to “I missed you, too,” said Flynn. larger splash. Flynn stood looking at in the sky and crashed down into
wake, and they got busy helping the “Mr. Pitt’s taking longer to wake his empty hand. A flash whipped by the sea, I thought you were dead!”
others down. It went well enough, up than the others. Should we be him and dove cleanly into the water. Flynn smiled ruefully. “So did I. I
although they had to retell the story alarmed?” Deena said, “What was that?” had a SkyPack but it was sliced dur-
of how they all got up there with “Not yet,” she said. “It would Flynn said, “I think that was Bola.” ing our battle. I resolved to go down
each new awakening. There was a have taken more to knock him out, “No, I mean with Horatio. It with the ship, but I sort of spilled
lot of confusion and some epithets, and could take longer for him to re- looked like you held his entire that sail.”
but the strangest thing of all created gain consciousness.” weight without effort.” The Cleric said, “You’re telling us
more questions than it answered. “Let’s get him down and see if we Flynn shrugged helplessly. “It cer- that you were in the process of dy-
Mr. Pitt was the last in his cage, can help things along.” tainly did, didn’t it?” He stepped ing, but made a mistake, and here
and he still hadn’t awakened. The They untied the rope from the aside and threw the rope back you are?”
others had cleaned up in the moon- stake in the ground and started low- down to Bola. “Tie the rope under Flynn smiled. “Sort of, yes.”
lit water and were wrapped up in ering the cage while Flynn used the his arms and we’ll pull him up.” Gillings said, “How do you explain
blankets around the fire getting boat-hook to draw the cage toward that?”
caught up with what had happened #
shore. However, the cage walked Flynn shrugged. “I make mistakes
and speculating about Flynn’s reap- around as Flynn pulled the cage They got everybody wakened and like everyone else?”
pearance. toward him, and the unconscious dried off and cracked open some They all looked at each other.
For his part, Flynn was trying to Mr. Pitt started falling forward. As it mulled wine. Cleric Vaneras said, “If you were

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SKY PIRATE Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes!, by Johne Cook Page 65

flung away from an exploding air- mock. Flynn saw him and nodded pretending to be a cleric, and start- reverie, he didn’t seem to be aware
ship after stopping an implacable toward the door of the dormitory ed becoming one.” of what he was doing.
killing machine and the mistake you house. Vaneras nodded and rolled Flynn screwed up his face. “You Bola watched Flynn for awhile.
made was of not dying when all you out of the sleeping hammock to want me to become a cleric?” The lightest rap produced a reso-
had to do was succumb to gravity join him. They passed by the bar, ac- Vaneras laughed, a hearty, sin- nating sound. Such was Flynn’s
itself, I feel safe saying you do not quired mugs of hot java, and walked cere thing. “I’m saying that who we concentration, it was hard to tell if
make mistakes like everyone else!” wordlessly a little way off into the are depends on what we do. If you he even knew he was doing it. Fi-
Deena said, “Or anyone else, for trees until they came to a small say you’re a kind man but do noth- nally, her curiosity got the better of
that matter,” looking at Flynn with a clearing. ing but belittle people, you are both her. “Why, uh... Why are you doing
curious expression. The cleric said, “What’s on your a hypocrite and a cruel man. If you that?” asked Bola.
There was a brief silence while mind?” repair teeth, you’re a dentist. If you Gong.
they sipped their wine and mulled Flynn kicked idly at a root. “Some- create boats, you’re a shipbuilder. If The cleric grinned. “So he will
their sudden good fortune, and thing strange happened yesterday, you sail them, you’re a sailor.” have an amusing anecdote to relate
then Bola broke the quiet moment. and I don’t know what to make of Flynn flipped the stick to his other later?”
“Right!” she said. “When’s break- it.” hand and started working it around Gong.
fast? I could eat a horse!” “How so?” with that hand. “What if one was “Anecdote,” said Bola flatly, with
They all laughed. The Friar said, Flynn picked up a twig and start- born into a family of killers? What the air of one unfamiliar with the
“Come with me, and we’ll put you ed flipping it dexterously around does that kind of blood do to a per- word.
up for the night, and then make our with his right hand. “What makes a son?” “Hm?” Flynn blinked. “Oh.” He
plans on the morrow as to what man? I mean, set aside one’s back- “Where you come from doesn’t broke into a sheepish grin. “I guess
to do next.” With that, they broke ground and one’s racial heritage matter as much as what you do I’m thinking,” he said quietly. “Or
camp, lit some torches, and headed and financial situation and all that. yourself.” trying to.”
toward Parrot Bay. What’s left?” Flynn nodded and casually broke Light broke out over Bola’s face,
# The cleric thought it over. “With- the stick between his fingers. and she raised a quick finger in
out drifting into Theology, you’ve They were quiet when Bola comprehension. “Ah! Thinking!”
By the time the Barracuda taught me one thing this year that found them. The cleric had his arms she said sagely. “How hard can that
reached the clearing, the pirate cag- comes to mind.” crossed and leaned idly against a be?” Smiling broadly, Bola strode
es were all empty, the fire was out, Flynn said, “Oh?” great rock. He had a long blade of quickly up to the tree, reared back,
and it was too dark to do any further Vaneras said, “When you ‘re- grass in his mouth. Flynn stood and drove her head hard against
tracking. He shook out one of the cruited’ me for your crew, I was an pressing his forehead against the the trunk. A sound like a loud gong
blankets he found draped over a log assassin playing a part, the role of side of a thick, hollow tree whose echoed throughout the clearing
and curled up to catch a little sleep. a cleric. But you expected me to be top was snapped off. He had the air and scared a flock of birds out of
# a cleric, and when you asked me to of one whose mind was miles away. the surrounding trees with a clatter
Flynn woke first and stood. Cler- pray at the battle of Roarke’s Island, Every so often, he thumped his fore- of chirps and fluttering wings. The
ic Vaneras, a light sleeper himself, I did, and something happened, head against the tree trunk, produc- frantic exodus muffled the sound of
awoke and stretched in his ham- something I can’t explain. I stopped ing a pleasant, hollow echo. In his Bola’s body as she crumpled to the

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SKY PIRATE Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes!, by Johne Cook Page 66

ground, out cold. you’re still dancing around some- all laughing and in high spirits. come after. I’m rather enjoying the
Flynn frowned as he looked down thing.” Until a large shadow came up be- collateral damage. Think of it as in-
at her unconscious form. He turned “Perhaps no,” said Flynn, “and hind Blind Bart, and a strong arm terest on an overdue account.”
to the cleric. “What the...?” perhaps yes. I can’t tell. But I think pulled back on his forehead. A deep Flynn opened his hands. “You
Vaneras slowly stood, carefully I’m getting closer to it. Thanks, my voice hissed into his ear. “I told you came all this way for me. Why both-
took the blade of grass from his friend.” what would happen if you crossed er with middle-men? Here I am.”
mouth between thumb and fore- “My pleasure,” said the cleric. me.” There was a flash and then Bart The Barracuda shrugged and
finger, and deliberately dropped it. “Now you may want to want to was down on his knees, screaming, walked between Mr. Pitt and Bola,
“Some people think harder than step back—Bola can be a bit unpre- holding his right eye, blood welling brushing her shoulder rudely as he
others,” he said, dryly. “I’ll go get a dictable when she awakens.” And out between his fingers. passed. “We’ll dance later,” he mur-
bucket of water to rouse her from with that, he raised the bucket and As one, the crew grabbed blades mured as he passed.
her contemplations.” doused the sleeping Amazon. and turned to face the shadowed A feral, wordless growl escaped
“I guess this kind of thinking is # assailant. her gritted teeth. Mr. Pitt’s hand
a little harder for you than it is for “Bring me Cooper Flynn!” bel- shot out to grasp her wrists, and he
me,” said Flynn to himself under his At first light, the Barracuda awoke lowed a deep, cruel voice. restrained her from following.
breath, and then he snapped his and slid off the blanket. He felt A sailor darted forward, and the The Barracuda looked slyly back
fingers. Flynn rapped the tree trunk the knot on the back of his head, Barracuda sliced his belly open for and strode toward Flynn, who stood
firmly with his knuckles, launching winced, and stood. He stretched his trouble. He drove another back alone in the center of his crew, fists
more birds into the air. “Bola,” he and went straight into twenty min- until he tripped over a log and lay on his hips. The Barracuda ap-
said to no one in particular, “you’re utes of various stretches and calis- still. proached until he was a little over
a genius.” thenics. Then he loosened a knife Bola and Mr. Pitt came together an arm’s length away, towering over
When the cleric returned with a in its sheathe at his hip and started and faced the assassin. The Barra- the smaller, thinner man.
bucket of water, Flynn said, “I’ve got tracking the group who had quit the cuda barked laughter and stepped Flynn said, “You have the advan-
it.” clearing the night before. forward. “Ha! Yes! Resist!” tage of me. You seem to know my
The cleric prepared to douse # Flynn’s voice rang out. “Stop!” name, but I don’t know who you
Bola, but set the bucket down be- It was mid-morning, and the crew Surprisingly, everyone did, includ- are. What do they call you?”
fore he used it. “You do?” were gathered in a field nearby play- ing the assassin. They all looked The assassin regarded him for a
“Yes, or at least, I think so. It’s not ing a game of pass the stick. There back at Flynn. moment. “They call me the Barra-
just what you do, it’s also who you was row of rustic tables made of the Flynn’s eyes sparked dangerous- cuda, but my name is Horus Black-
are. Everyone has different weak- local lumber facing a playing field ly. “If this man seeks an ‘audience’ swell,” he said.
nesses and different strengths, and for sports such as that one. They with me, let him approach.” Flynn arched his eyebrows.
each is responsible to use those to were divided up into teams and The Barracuda said, “Oh, don’t “Blackswell? That’s pretty melodra-
the level of their unique abilities. took turns throwing a stick to each intervene on my account. I’ll take matic. Was Snarly Whiplash taken?”
How’s that sound?” other. One team were the attackers, out everyone between you and me They laughed.
The cleric raise the bucket again, and the other were the protectors. and count it as sport. I’ve certainly The assassin was nonplussed.
but set it back down. “It sounds like It was a lively game, and they were waited long enough to get what I’ve “My family possesses some of the

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SKY PIRATE Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes!, by Johne Cook Page 67

ancient texts. Yes,” he said, voice mains is to execute the sequence re- opened his free hand to the assas- own. He was everywhere, pressing
dripping with sarcasm, “...I read.” sulting in my sword running entirely sin. “Is this better?” the attack with his lighter, plainer
“What is a ‘barracuda?’” through your body.” The Barracuda bristled. “I have no cutlass. “Are you even awake?” Fi-
“It’s a killer fish known for its Flynn hmphed and drew his fa- need of edge with you,” he said. nally, he flicked his wrist, knocking
fierce deadliness, sharp teeth, and mous, electrically sparking sword. Flynn sighed loudly and stepped the Barracuda’s sword aside, and he
ruthless behavior.” “Very well. Having dispensed with quickly forward, brushing the Barra- stepped forward, rapping the Bar-
Flynn said, “I take it your visit isn’t the pleasantries, here I am. Com- cuda’s blade aside with the back of racuda’s temple with the flat of his
pleasure. Who’s paying you?” mence with your skewering,” he his hand. His nose was bare inches cutlass.
The Barracuda smiled. “You made said. “If you can.” from the Barracuda’s. “Do it, you The Barracuda’s head rocked to
a dangerous enemy at court. When The Barracuda waved at Flynn’s ninny!” he hissed. the side, and he blinked in pain and
he died, I received a posthumous sword. “That’s quite the blade. How- Flynn danced nimbly backward confusion.
contract. Nothing less than your ever, it will do you no good against in time to avoid the Barracuda’s Flynn stopped and opened his
death will do.” me. I am up to the challenge.” roar and charge, knocking the Bar- arms wide. “Strike me,” he said.
Flynn nodded. “Then a death it Flynn stopped and held up his racuda’s blade down with his simple The Barracuda shook off his cob-
will be.” sword. “You’re afraid of Baladon, cutlass. The Barracuda stepped for- webs and started stamping forward,
“I’ve come a long way for this,” here?” He wooshed it around twice ward and leveled massive swings. driving his blade straight at Flynn’s
said the Barracuda, idly swinging his in a circle from his wrist, the blade Flynn gave ground easily, deflecting chest.
sword between them. trailing circles of sparks and an an- the great swings with one-handed Flynn casually knocked the
“I regret your pending disappoint- gry hum. “You are wise to fear it— blocks seemingly from the wrist, strokes aside with his wrist. “Come
ment,” said Flynn, bemused. there are none others like it.” He putting no great effort into his de- on, put some spine into it. Strike
“On the contrary, I’m going to en- sheathed it with an smooth stroke, fense. The tremendous clanging me!”
joy this,” said the Barracuda. the blade swishing into the sheathe. filled the clearing with the sound of The Barracuda stamped and
Flynn crossed his arms over his Without taking his eyes from the combat. The Barracuda’s face was thrust, stamped and thrust.
chest and observed, a little sadly, Barracuda, he quickly unfastened filled with implacable concentra- Flynn clenches his fists and
“You have no idea what’s about to the sword and wrapped the leather tion, his dead mean eyes unblink- roared, “Strike me. Strike me! Strike
happen.” belt around it. “Mr. Humble,” he ing. For his part, Flynn’s eyes were me!” He extended his arms out to
The Barracuda sized Flynn up. He said, and tossed the bundle over to dangerously amused, like he knew a the sides, exposing his chest.
pointed the tip of his sword negli- the astonished sailor. secret. The Barracuda didn’t miss the op-
gently at Flynn and gestured with it “Captain?” The more the Barracuda whaled portunity—he darted forward and
as he spoke, drawing lazy patterns Flynn snapped his fingers. “Your away, the less Flynn seemed to drove his sword into Flynn’s chest.
in the air between them. “I’ve had a cutlass, if you please!” try, standing straight up and eas- The point clanked on something
long, long time to envision what will Mr. Humble looked to Mr. Pitt, ily parrying the onslaught. Without and the shock went all the way the
happen. I’ve played what is about to who shrugged. Humble pulled his breathing heavy, Flynn said, “Is this Barracuda’s shoulder. He pulled the
happen so often in my mind that the cutlass and tossed it hilt-first to his what you envisioned?” He started sword’s tip out of Flynn’s chest and
actual skewering is now a foregone captain. He took a couple of experi- to push back, driving the Barracuda looked at the bent tip.
conclusion in my mind. All that re- mental swipes with the blade and back with a blistering attack of his “Ow,” said Flynn.

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SKY PIRATE Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes!, by Johne Cook Page 68

And then he started to laugh. It He looked at Deena, stricken. “I’m And then he fell to his knees and
started as a quietly bemused chuck- Riven.” buried his head in his hands, weep-
le, quite at odd with the baiting Bola put her hand on the hilt ing uncontrollably. Deena and Bola
tone of the moment before. He took of her dagger, a look of ferocious exchanged looks, and then Deena
a breath and laughed harder, louder. concentration on her face, but she stepped forward and carefully put a
The Barracuda grunted and didn’t draw it. Deena took an invol- hand on his arm. He blindly brushed
lunged forward again, sticking Flynn untary step backward. “What? No, it her aside and raised his face to the
in the calf. Again, the blade clanged, can’t be.” sky. “Feeellllooooo!”
and the Barracuda felt the shock all Flynn strode to the nearby table
the way up his arm. and clubbed it in the middle, snap-
“Hey,” snorted Flynn, who started ping it in half. “Ahhhhh!” He ran
laughing again. He sounded just a along the line of tables flipping
little unhinged, just a little hysteri- them over like ten-pins.
cal. Mr. Pitt and Bola looked at each
The Barracuda’s eyes narrowed. other, and followed closely. “Flynn?”
“What manner of man are you?” He smashed another table into
Flynn calmed down and regarded kindling.
the assassin. “I could ask the same “Flynn?!”
of you,” he said calmly. Before the He picked up one table and
Barracuda could so much as flinch, slammed it into another, destroying
Flynn reared back and backhanded them both.
the assassin, stepping into the blow Mr. Pitt stooped and wrapped his
with his forward foot. arms around Flynn. Flynn shrugged
The Barracuda’s head snapped to and sent the much larger Mr. Pitt fly-
the side, and he was flipped off his ing.
feet and spun around twice before He approached a stone build-
he fell into a crumple on the ground, ing and started bludgeoning it with
his sword flying off into the green- the bottom of his fists. “Ah! Ahh!
ery. Ahhh!” The stone started splinter-
Deena ran up to him. “Flynn, are ing and cracking under the bar-
you unwell?” rage. He brought both fists up and
Bola stalked up to him. “What are brought them down together, send-
you?” ing a great crack down the side of
To Deena, Flynn said, “No. And the building. He reared back and
yes. And of course not, no.” To bellowed and kicked it, widening
Bola, he said, “I think I’m Riven.” the crack.

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SKY PIRATE Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes!, by Johne Cook Page 69

RGR Author Bios Galactic Saviors, that appeared in magazine. A separate story
will be appearing in issue 42 of the print magazine Cosmos, titled The Broken
2 Santa’s Spaceship David and his wife Kit have recently moved to the northern artic regions of WI
by Clinton Lawrence where they will be rediscovering the joys of deep snow and cars that need to be
Clinton Lawrence is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. His fiction thawed before starting. Since he is now a U.S. Army Recruiter, he won’t have as
has appeared in Galaxy, Reflection’s Edge, T-Zero, The Fortean Bureau, Walking much time for writing, but assures his small but untimid fan base that ultimatly,
Bones, and a number of other publications. For several years, he was a staff more Dean will come!
writer for Science Fiction Weekly. A former electrical engineer, he now teaches
high school science, and lives in Davis, California. 28 This Raygun For Hire: Forever Eden
by John M. Whalen
4 First Film John M. Whalen’s stories have appeared in Flashing Swords ezine, Universe
by Alexander Field Pathways magazine (print),,, and Science
Alexander Field edits books during the day, and writes in the evenings and on Fiction Trails magazine. Look for Jack Brand: The Search, a novel coming soon.
weekends. He is an aggressive film lover, a husband and father of three.
11 Doors Through the Places You Live Part Four
by Michael Merriam by Justin R. Macumber
Like most writers, Michael Merriam has worked a variety of odd jobs, includ- A victim of the economy, Justin is now a full-time writer of space-faring opera
ing as a musician, short order cook, and freight logistics manager. After being and daring-do, working to earn his big break. He’s written stories in almost every
declared legally blind, Michael began writing. genre, but science fiction is hwere his heart belongs, and it always will.
Michael has sold short fiction to several magazines and anthologies, including He also created and co-hostsa writing podcast called The Dead Robots’ Society,
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Fictitious Force, and Ruins: Terra. He which you can find at
received an Honorable Mention in The Years Best Fantasy and Horror 2008, was And if you want to learn more about him and read some of his other works, you
nominated for the James B. Baker Award, and is a two-time semi-finalist in the L. can go to
Ron Hubbard Writers of The Future Contest.
Michael is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and the Minnesota 46 Calamity’s Child, Chapter 8
Speculative Fiction Writers. He lives in Hopkins, Minnesota with his wife and an ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two
ordained cat. Visit his homepage at by M. Keaton
Growing up in a family with a history of military service, M. Keaton cut his linguis-
17 The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale tic and philosophical teeth on the bones of his elders through games of strategy
by Andy Heizeler and debates at the dinner table. He began his writing career over 20 years ago as
David Bridgette started writing at the age of ten in 1985 on a Tandy TRS-80 a newspaper rat in Springdale, Arkansas, U.S.A. before pursuing formal studies
Computer. By 1995 he had enough rejection slips to account for the shrinking in chemistry, mathematics, and medieval literature at John Brown University. A
rainforests. Off and on he continued writing in spurts, submitting randomly but student of politics, military history, forteana, and game design, his renaissance
mostly pursuing the art of daily living (as opposed to the art of daily starving.) education inspired the short television series: These Teeth Are Real (TTAR).
He joined the Army in 2001 after the terroist attacks of 9/11 and has deployed His literary “mentors” are as diverse as his experiences. Most powerfully, the
to Iraq a total of three times. During his third deployment, at the age of 32, he author has been affected by the works and writers of the “ancient” world,
decided after a near-miss (which is just as safe as a far-miss, only more personal) including the Bible, Socrates, and (more modern) Machiavelli, Tsun Tsu, Tacitus,
by a mortar round that it was time to achieve his dream of being published. and Von Clauswitz. (This horribly long list only scratches the surface; M. Keaton
reads at a rate of over two books per week in addition to his writing.)
The pen name Andy Heizeler was created as a conglomeration of the initials of
his favorite authors, under which he created a series of stories about Dean the
Space Rogue. The first Dean the Space Rogue story to be accepted appeared in
the anthology Star Stepping by Wild Child Press. The second, but first chrono-
logically, Dean the Space Rogue, appeared in Ray Gun Revival #40, with another

RGR Author Bios Page 70

The Rescuers, Part 1
by Keanan Brand
Writing since age nine, when an English assignment required a short story, Kean-
an Brand dreamed of writing Westerns or books about history, or recording the
crazy stuff of dreams. Late teens and early twenties witnessed the imposition of
real life and the putting away of dreams. For a time, he dabbled in nonfction and
freelance journalism, then a supervisor suggested a free writing seminar at the
local college, and Keanan returned to a greater love: fction, specifically fantasy
and science fiction. He started entering contests, winning awards for poetry,
essays, and short stories. These successes led to freelance editing for other writ-
ers, and for a science fiction small press.
His frst story to be accepted by a Double­Edge Publishing, Inc., publication was At
the End of Time, When the World Was New, a short piece of speculative fction
that appeared in the fnal issue of Dragon, Knights, & Angels. History, mythology,
folktales, C.S. Lewis, Howard Pyle, J.R.R. Tolkien, William Shakespeare, Robert
Louis Stevenson, and the Bible remain great infuences, as do the family tall tales,
pioneer stories, and Southern gothic with which Keanan grew up.

60 DEUCES WILD, Season Two
Holding Pattern
by L. S. King
L. S. King is a science fiction and fantasy writer with one book, several published
short stories, a column on writing, and an ongoing monthly serial story to her
When on the planet, this mother and grandmother lives in Delaware with her
husband Steve, homeschools their youngest child, and also works as a gymnas-
tics coach. In her non-existent spare time she enjoys gardening, soap making,
reading, and online gaming. She also likes Looney Tunes, the color purple, and is
a Zorro aficionado, which might explain her love of swords and cloaks.

Season Three, Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes!
by Johne Cook
Johne Cook is a technical writer by day and creative writer / editor at night. Mar-
ried 24 years to Linda, they share two kids and two dogs. They live in the rolling
hills of South-central Wisconsin, and are ardent fans of the Green Bay Pack-
ers. His interests include prog rock, film noir, space opera, and racquetball. His
friends call him Captain ADD. And also his enemies. Squirrel!

RGR Author Bios Page 71

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