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Issue 44 June 2008

 Pg. 2
Ray Gun Revival
Table of Contents
Overlords (Founders / Editors): 2 Table of Contents
Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn 3 Overlords’ Lair: Escapism as Balm
Venerable Staff: 5 Colater 696
by Todd Reiser
A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor 7 No Shelter
Shannon McNear - Lord High Advisor, grammar consultant, listening
ear/sanity saver for Overlord Lee by S. Hutson Blount
17 Alien Cafe - The Disconti Incident
Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand by Russell J. Fellows
L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, 23 The Affair on Silly Twelve,
webmistress Or, It Could Have Been Love, but the Turtle Broke
Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle the Harmonica
washer by T. W. Williams
29 Calamity’s Child
Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight
John M. Whalen by M. Keaton
David Wilhelms 40 Featured Artist: Randall MacDonald
Alice M. Roelke 43 Fear Lies Waiting, A Jack Brand Story
Scott M. Sandridge by John M. Whalen
Shari L. Armstrong 54 Deuces Wild, Season Two
Jack Willard Chapter 4: Fractured Facets, Part Four
Serial Authors: by L. S. King
Sean T. M. Stiennon 61 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
John M. Whalen Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen
Ben Schumacher by Johne Cook
M Keaton 81 Memory Wipe, Chapter 21, Vulture’s Prize
Lee S. King by Sean T. M. Stiennon
Paul Christian Glenn 88 The RGR Time Capsule
Johne Cook May 2008
Cover Art: “The Visitors” by Randall MacDonald
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Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008 
Pg. 3

Overlords’ Lair:
Escapism as Balm

R adio talk show host
Mark Belling spoke
this month about the
our tales. I think
there are nuggets of
true scattered here
definition of irony. He said and there, but first
that when people use the and foremost, our
word ‘irony,’ they are more stories are written to
likely to get it wrong than entertain.
right. Something may be
interesting or coincidental Entertainment can be
without being ironic. taken too far. We are
saturated in sensation
A classic definition is that and distraction and
when A happens, instead on-demand services.
of producing B, it produces It is easy to lose track
the opposite of B. Here in of the meaning of life
Wisconsin, we’ve recently in a contemporary
seen an example of irony culture built on
in action: Because of heavy What does irony have to do with Ray Gun summer blockbusters
flooding, Lake Delton, in the Wisconsin Dells, is Revival? Nothing in particular, but calamity and the apparently holy pursuit of eradicating
now dry. does, sort of. silence from our daily experience. But if it is
important to periodically slow down and take
http://www2.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=760060 There is some question whether the aphorism stock of one’s direction and meaning, it is just as
“may you live in an interesting age” is actually important to provide ways to blow off steam.
On Sunday, man-made Lake Delton covered 267 an ancient Chinese curse. Whether it is or not,
acres and held more than 600 million gallons of we certainly live in interesting times, and there For me, I take time at lunch to read. I’m
water. On Monday, it was all but drained within is no shortage of stress to go around. Whether nothing if not gregarious. But at lunch, unless
two hours after the shore gave way, less than your uninsured house has just floated down we have a lunch appointment, I’m an absolute
a quarter-mile from the dam that controls the a river or you’ve had to control your temper curmudeon. I’m going to have my nose stuck in
lake. The breach created a ferocious current because some ne’er-do-well has just cut you a good book to reset my mental processes and
as the water tumbled into the Wisconsin River off in traffic, our lives seem to have no end of restoke my wells of patience and forebearance.
40 feet below. The failure destroyed homes struggle. That child in me who craves escapism is one
and dealt a blow to an important piece of the of the keys to being successful as an adult.
Wisconsin Dells-area tourism industry just as And that’s where we come in. I have no illusions Personally, I need time on Sunday morning to
the high season was about to open. about the critical excellence of the stories in reconnect with my belief in a personal God.
RGR, or the transcendent wisdom coming from However, just as important is the time I spend

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008 
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on noon Saturday in a dark cinema immersed postscript:
in someone else’s story for an hour or two. In
both cases, when I emerge from those two When I was writing about the definition of
sanctuaries, I feel creatively challenged and irony to my friend Egnix, he directed me to his
spiritually renewed. There’s something about favorite definition:
getting away that makes coming home all the
more special.
The stories we have in Ray Gun Revival this
month can help accomplish the same thing, a
little healing through escapism. If our efforts
help ease your load just a little, or contribute
in some small way to your mental health
and overall sanity, we will have done our job,
accomplished our goal. We aim to make you
smile, to laugh, perhaps to think a little. And
when you are done reading one story or the
entire issue, we hope you will likewise be
renewed in some small way and rearmed to
take on the stresses and challenges of this
interesting age.
And come to think of it, that’s pretty important,
not what you might expect from a frivolous
little rag like ours. Some might call that ironic.
I’ll just smile and stay my finger from vaporizing
your puny planet.
For now. ; )
Johne Cook
Overlord, RGR
Breezeway, Wisconsin
June, 2008

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Colater 696, by Todd Reiser Pg. 5

Colater 696
by Todd Reiser

I knew what it was, Junkman didn’t.  Whoever he was, he had sprung upon me. He Junkman didn’t move either.  The trinkets tied
The Twighler held the device in his large palm; hadn’t scared me, but surly he was as desperate to his bent knee swung rythmically grazing the
two fingers drapped over the polished marble. as the rest of us, and his presence jarred me metal floor.   His eyes were narrowed, squinting
“It’s a Twighler ain’t it?”  Junkman was ready from my inner questioning; ‘How had a Twighler against the slice of setting sun coming through
to take the thing from the dead beast’s hand.  wound up on the floor of the Colater’s bridge?’ the viewport; I got the feeling he wasn’t sure
“Was.  I’ve never seen one, but if that’s “They’ll be back for it,’ I said. of the request he had made.  We stared at
not one…” The thing it held, I knew what “Who?  Twighler?”  Junkman asked.  each other until he told me again, more of
that was too.  Third day I had been here, “The Cathedral.”  It was a Cathedral device.  a command now than a hasty statement. 
probably going to be a fourth.  The Naviga- Powerful enough to warrant a return trip to I slid off the control rig, switches clicking
tional Key in its two fingered hand would the planet they had eviscerated. downward as I did. Stepping toward him he
stay put until I felt removing it was safe. stood up.  “If I do, it should activate.”  I knew
“Been here awhile looks like.”  Junkman was a “Maybe the Twighler.”  I wasn’t sure of it would, my uncle had worked under the
scavenger.  Having left the way they did, the that, I didn’t think anyone was or could be, Cathedral.  “The Key will…”  I stopped myself
Cathedral had forced many men, good and they weren’t real.  Twighler were creatures because I wasn’t sure what it would do, only
bad, to forage for their livings.   of fantasy, underground PsyVids portrayed that the Key would do something.  Navigation
the elephant looking men as unseen galactic was what it was used for; I didn’t think the
“Watched you come in here now for protectors. Here, for some reason, in the Colater was even functional, and a Key chart
two days.  I’m going to take it if you ain’t.”  belly of a forgotten Colater fantasy was reality. wasn’t necessary for a vehicle terrestrial bound. 
Here, was the Colater, one of the mighty “They stop them. From the stories, the “You get it, give it to me,’ Junkman pointed
relics left behind by the Cathedral.  Hadn’t Twighler keep the Cathedral from finding the the square tip of the gun at me.  “I’ll leave,
watched my tail, didn’t think any were as Center.  Maybe the Cathedral stopped this one and you can sit back down.  I’ll even let you
brave.  The massive machines that dotted instead,’ I said. go through those lockers over there.”  I
the prairie of R’ger, round steel balls meant
He wasn’t listening to me; he smelled like ago, gone
had through the lockers three days
to crunch away toward the center of the nothing of value had been forgotten.
planet, had just been left by the Cathedral.  sweat, the closer he moved to the felled being Walking over to stand where he had knelt I
After one hundred and thirty-five years of the more anxious he appeared, fingers tapped looked down at the creature; Junkman took
looking they had found whatever it was they against his legs. He knelt down. Spread out my place over by the control rig, behind
had wanted. The Cathedral had scurried on the metal floor the Twighler was at least me.  I felt the gun and its two slim barrels
from the planet as silent as their coming. nine feet from his ears to his boots.  Slashes staring like eyes, focused on my back, on
Though Junkman talked tough, I knew he wasn’t had been cut deep into one of those myrtle my head.  The Junkman was going to kill
going near the hand holding the device.  I saw colored ears looking like a thin shield draped
across his torso. Junkman looked back at me.  me, whatever happened.  He had waited for
him in the near dark entrance that led out into me to enter the Colater again; he wanted
the day, all of the junk strapped to the flight He must have taken the gun out when he knelt someone to get the Navigational Key for him.
suit he wore glittered in what little light came down, it was black and fear invoking.  “No one’s going to buy it,’  I said, and rested
from the doorway.  I sat atop the dead control take it, and we’ll find out.” a knee on the floor. “The kind of money this
rig of the Colater and hadn’t moved an inch.  For“You could get, you won’t find on R’ger.” 
a moment I stayed where I was, the

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Colater 696, by Todd Reiser Pg. 6

The Twighler’s other ear was beneath him, “I got it for you!” I yelled at him.  My voice I settled near the Colater.  I watched, not moving,
eyes were closed, and the snout lay extended realized was gone. “Don’t shoot, you can have the gun in my hand.  There was nowhere to
straight out from the body.  I hadn’t been this it!” Again, no sound came from my mouth.  hide, the next Colater a hundred yards away.
close to the Twighler since finding him, expecting
Junkman pulled the trigger back; the shot
a rancid smell, or even a reaction from the body. didn’t hit me, but ruptured into one of the
I had no idea how Twighler died, or even if they panels.  My shoulder caught some of the debris. 
did. Maybe he slept.  There was no smell, but Junkman’s mouth moved again.  I shrugged
blood, thick and gelatinous stuck to him and my shoulders, and offered him the device.  He
the floor.  Its hand, the one holding the device, pulled at it, my hand gripped it tightly.  The
was covered in what should have been dry stone wouldn’t budge.  The burnt bitter smell
crusted blood; instead it was wet, gelatinous. of his fired gun hung in the small control room.
The Twighler had only two fingers. Appar- “Cra--!” It had begun to vibrate.  Sound returned
ently the PsyVids were incorrect.  My hand in that instant with the thrumming of the Key. 
was about the size of one of them, and took My hand fought against it at first, tightening,
both and all my strength to pry one of the
brick like fingers from the oblong instru-
but as it continued in it’s ferocity causing my
hand to jump and spasm, my fingers began
Todd Reiser
ment.  I slipped the Key out in one swift pull. to recede giving in to the living stone.  Just
Hell! I figured I was dead either way, may as as they peeled free, and it lay in my palm A self proclaimed person, Todd Reiser has been
well pull it out determined to have it free. quivering like a fish, it jumped above my glove writing free of charge for decades. Limited
I held it up.  Though my hand was slick with to hover there.  Vibratory waves rippled from publication of his works, both in written and
blood my prize didn’t retain any upon its the Key, pushing and tearing against the air. other artistic forms, have appeared in various
surface.  I brought the device down to my body.  Junkman grabbed it, through his skin and bone journals.
No markings were visible in the marble, nor it continued to hover.  Blood sparkled against
were there engravings, nothing to betray what the marble for an instant then ran off as
it was.  My hand, though my heart raced, was though pushed with intent.  He fell to the floor, He has been known to indulge in the annual
steady.  his hand mostly mush but for a single finger humbling experience known as NaNoWriMo,
dangling from what was left, the gun forgotten a challenge that he believes all would be
Slowly the Twighler’s fingers collapsed in on the floor at his side. 
toward the palm, muscles contracting, pro- writers should undertake.
tecting what I noticed was burned dark green I picked up the gun and ran, and
flesh, blackened and peeling.  I opened my my boots reassured me that I could Todd works in a Texas city where the old west
hand, and dropped the Key.  The Key didn’t hear again echoing in the dark hallway.  still seems alive, and nearly every weekend
fall. It stuck to my hand, and my hand to it, Jumping down the four feet to the ground, I he can be seen hiking in the mountains that
my gloved fingers wouldn’t retract from the smelled the sulfur hydrogen mix of an Exo-stel- surround the desert city.
stone, my hand wouldn’t obey, rigid wrist and lar engine.  The moons had risen; both were
hand muscles clenched. My fingers strained full, both bright against the night sky.  One
against my fierce command to do otherwise.  of those white moons disappeared, then the
Something hit me in the head.  I whirled to face other, a ship soon blocked both from view. The
the Junkman.  His mouth moved with no voice, gold underbelly of a Cathedral Arch shimmered
the barrel of the gun smoked.  He had let off a with the radiance of its massive engine.  Silent,
round, but I hadn’t heard it.  Did he shoot me? the ship of volcanic proportion and appearance

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 7

No Shelter
by S. Hutson Blount

“I s that it?” asked Cadet Penny Guilder. “It
sure doesn’t look like much.”
“The mouth on you, woman!” Henry
affected his most wounded voice. “Double-A,
you ever considered a new career as a short-
and cycled the travel lock for the telescope did
Zang actually touch the controls.
Pilot-lieutenant “Zang” Henry smiled, order waitress? I know some diners in New The rocket seemed to settle back onto itself
not quite chuckling, at her disappointment. Detroit that would be glad to have you.” as Henry gently laid on power. X119’s atomic
“Sayso-VanDutch there is one of the largest engines pushed against their mountings, and
bodies found in the trans-Pluto belt,” he said. Anvari’s voice again wafted out from the the notion of aft became the visceral reality
“There’s just so little light that it doesn’t show concealment of the monitor’s enclosed turret of down. As acceleration replaced the weight-
up well in the telescopes, even from close up. seat. “Have you ever thought about renting lessness the crew had experienced for days,
Nothing looks like much out here.” yourself out as a bridge abutment? There’s a Cadet Penny found herself lying on her back,
road near my family’s place in Isfahan that’s breathing suddenly an effort. Henry flew by
“Yes,” said Monitor-lieutenant Ariana never been the same since the last attacks. the plotted numbers, while Anvari kept the
Anvari, “just one of the many thrilling attrac- You seem large enough.” count, stopwatch and slide rule working to
tions of deep patrol.” back up the electronic brain’s plot.
Penny studiously kept the rocket’s main
Cadet Penny couldn’t see Lt. Anvari inside telescope trained on the fuzzy disc of the In a few hours, Sayso-VanDutch was
her monitor station, but recognized the tone planetoid and tried not to eavesdrop. She discernable as a starless patch outside the
she had begun to think of as Anvari’s Raid was uncertain why Anvari’s transfer from one canopy. The engines went quiet, and every-
Warning Voice. branch of the Patrol to another caused such thing floated again. Penny suppressed the
conflict. They never seemed to have any ill sensation of panic as her body readjusted
“Oh, I suppose your old mates in the inter- will left after their daily verbal sparring. Was itself to extended freefall.
ceptor crews are finding their own ways to their incessant quarreling a hobby, or did they
kill the time,” Henry said, responding to the Anvari clicked off her stopwatch when the
actually dislike each other? After a week in
thrown gauntlet, “seeing as how they’ve got a engines shut down and checked the number.
space with them, she remained unsure.
difficult job to do of their own. If they didn’t “Very smartly done, Pilot-Lieutenant.”
have those little rockets of theirs holding down The battle seemed over for today, and the
the landing pads, why, there’s no telling what long greenhouse canopy of Patrol Rocket X119 “We aim to please, Ma’am.”
might happen. Sudden windstorm on Mars was filled only with the noises of clicking relays
might sweep those pads away, for instance.” The three released themselves from the
and humming transformers. X119’s electronic acceleration mesh. Anvari floated back to the
brain had been busy shaping up the numbers
“I’m sure they’ll take that chance, Zang.” observer station.
for the final orbit-matching burn when an
Anvari said, poison sweetness coloring her alarm buzzer sounded. “Find us a landing site, Cadet,” said the
liquid Persian accent. “I mean, if something
should happen out here and we need some Monitor-Lieutenant as she came gliding up.
“Secure your station, Cadet!” the pilot
actual firepower to pull us out of it. The inter- Free of her mostly-enclosed cocoon at the
called over his shoulder as he reached for the
ceptor force isn’t above charity work.” monitor station, Lt. Anvari was hummingbird-
main thruster verniers. Only when Penny had agile in freefall, her silver Space Patrol uniform
pulled the acceleration netting over herself

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 8

liquidly reflecting the stars and cockpit lights “It’s these soft-looking areas that concern had a distant, grave expression. “It could be,
alike. me. Until we establish what’s going on, the Cadet. That’s why we have the Space Patrol.”
rocket will stay tethered at a distance.”
It had taken Penny this long just to get free “Yes, Sir,” Penny said doubtfully. “I’ll wait
of her restraints, and she had to rush to get the Penny wanted to ask more, but Lt. Anvari here.”
‘scope unlocked and pointed again. was clearly preoccupied with the problem. The
entire point of Cadet riders on missions was for “We’ll be checking back on our helmet
“How does it look?” Anvari prompted. them to learn by observing and doing; helping radio every few minutes, Cadet,” said Lt. Henry,
the mission crew rather than make the mission folding himself with difficulty into the cramped
“Weird, Ma’am. Have a look.” Penny airlock. “If we miss two call-ins, or launch one of
crew stop and teach them.
unfolded the projection viewer from the these signal flares, send the Red Nine signal.”
observer’s panel. It took a few seconds for the “You know I could land there,” came Lt.
tubes to get warmed up, but shortly the viewer Henry’s voice. “I landed a rocket on top of New The button on the rocket’s main radio panel
lit with a magnified image of the planetoid’s Detroit Dome once.” was covered by a guard wired shut to prevent
surface. false alarms. RED 9 DISTRESS, it said in threat-
Penny had to stifle a giggle as Anvari rolled eningly-large letters.
“It isn’t focused,” Anvari said, reaching her eyes and lip-synched the often-repeated
past Penny to dial in the settings herself. The line. “It’s all under control, Sir.”
monochrome surface wavered and fogged as
the telescope’s lenses rearranged themselves Soon, a port had opened between X119’s Henry smiled at her and dogged the ‘lock
on command. gleaming exhaust nozzles, revealing a barbed door shut behind him. Machinery bumped and
spike. Propellant gases crystallized behind the vibrated in the walls around him as the airlock
“I had some trouble with that, myself. You tether harpoon as it was fired away from the pumps conserved as much breathable air as
can focus on the major features, but not the rocket, trailing an uncoiling skein of thin high- possible before releasing him to the void.
flat areas.” Penny didn’t move to demonstrate, tensile line into the darkness. After the impact,
not wanting to get in the way while Lt. Anvari the plastic core of the tether line hardened, Lt. Anvari was waiting on him outside,
still had hands on the controls. Cadet Penny supporting the rocket atop what had become connected to the ship’s heavy tether line by
Guilder had learned that particular lesson very a five-mile-long rigid wire. The planetoid was a much smaller loop of the same material.
early. “Ready, Zang?” she asked, her voice tinny and
unusually dense, but its surface gravity was close in Henry’s helmet.
“I’d have to second your analysis, Cadet. It’s still essentially negligible.
weird.” “Shall we dance?” he asked, connecting
Anvari and Henry had donned spherical himself to the tether as well. Anvari’s answering
“It looks like two asteroids got mashed vacuum helmets and fastened on rocket belts. scowl didn’t register over the radio.
Penny looked concerned when they strapped
together.” on holstered needle-ray pistols. With short bursts from their rocket belts,
“That part’s not all that uncommon, actually. the two Space Patrolmen were at once
“Ma’am, do you really think there’ll be skimming
When two bodies impact with enough energy trouble? along the tether line towards the
Are the Kayzark here?”
to cause some thermal effects, sometimes it dark planetoid’s surface. Lights built into the
can fuse them before they rebound from each The Monitor-Lieutenant drew her ray gun fin extending from their dome helmets, like
other. It depends on the exact composition, of and inspected it briefly, tugging on the lanyard miner’s lights, illuminated only the tether
course, but you do see it. to make certain it was secure to her belt. She line and each other. The two faceless silver

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 9

shapes—one broad, one slender—fell away “Yes, Ma’am. I can see you in the scope. “Nobody’s ever seen them this far from
along the thread of the tether. Your lights are making everything easier to see.” the Vortex, not even during the bad years of
The rocket’s twenty-inch reflector could gather the war when they were invested all over the
When Sayso-VanDutch began to loom close quite a bit of starlight, making the suit lights system. I think the Kays know they’re beaten. I
enough to be touched by the beam from their the equivalent of a camera flashbulb. “Is that think Old Lady Dantreeves just wants as many
lamps, it was time to start braking, cinching grass?” Penny added. rockets away from the station at once as she
their loops tighter against the heavy harpoon can arrange. Probably saves on supplies.”
line. The planetoid was a gray wall, rapidly “No. Anvari out.”
becoming a horizon. The ghostly touch of real “Zang.”
gravity was just enough to give them a visceral Henry was still examining the streamers.
cue as to which way was down. The harpoon “Look how they’re curved. Each one points to “You get any of those synthetic eggs in last
had impacted on one of the areas that were the base of another one.” He grasped one in month’s supply run? Better than the real thing.
fuzzy in the telescope image. The reflected a silver-gauntleted grip and pulled. “They’re Ghant and Thomaston didn’t get any. I wonder
light grew stronger as the surface grew nearer, tough. They bend a little, but don’t break.” what we’re missing right now.”
shadow lengthening radially away from the “I’m sure the lab-coat crowd in Science “Maynard!”
harpoon. Under the shifting, multiple lights, it Section will be fascinated, Zang. Let’s find out
looked like the entire surface was moving. “Double-A, are you forgetting our arrange-
what else is going on here.”
ment about not using that name?”
Anvari and Henry touched down lightly, Ariana Anvari did not consider herself over-
freeing themselves from the tether and moving “Then start responding to the nickname,”
cautious or overprotective, and certainly not
carefully in the planetoid’s one-thirtieth gee. Anvari snapped. “And come over here and look
superstitious. The movements in her periph-
The broken horizon raggedly divided the sky at this.”
eral vision were shadows from the streamers,
into halves of stars and no-stars. The farthest that was all. The two figures moved slowly,
points they could see were a few thousand Henry had bounded on for a quarter-mile
occasional touches of boot-toe to rock keeping
yards away due to the curvature of the tiny past where Anvari had stopped to examine
them drifting along. Neither wished to use their
world’s surface. some surface feature. It took him a few
rocket belts to get around, partially because it moments to return.
“Double-A, is that- is that grass?” was a prodigal use of propellant, but mostly
because it was a matter of pride in technique. “Look. The rock texture there.”
Henry knelt on the blasted rock surface, Both wanted the satisfaction of watching the
examining the wiry spikes coming out of the other have to admit defeat and need mechani- “Looks chewed up. Like somebody took a
ground. They were about a foot long, thinner cal assistance. grinder to it.”
than a pencil and translucent like gypsum.
Hundreds of them in every direction, stretch- “This wouldn’t be the first false alarm Dant- “There are signs of it all around here. Like
ing as far as their lights could reach. Most were reeves sent someone after,” Henry radioed, someone was extracting ore.”
bent crazily, nearly touching the surface again bouncing ahead of Anvari. “She’s got Kayzark
on the brain. Sent Ghant and Thomaston out “Miners?”
on their free ends.
after a comet, thinking it might be a Kay base “We’re too far out for that. No miner would
“It’s got to be mineral,” Anvari said. “There’s saucer last month.” spend the fuel to come out here.”
no energy out here for any organism to use,
alien or not.” She adjusted her radio link. “Zang?” “Pirates?”
“Penny, we’re on the surface.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 10

“Too far from the main shipping orbits.” been disappointed that she hadn’t followed the area of the planetoid where its halves had
him into La Grange University, and her mother crushed together. Before impact, they fired
They stood carefully to avoid launching had been adamant that she choose any career their rockets again with practiced ease and
themselves off the surface. Local escape except the Space Patrol, but their expressions braked to a near-halt. Both landed ungracefully
velocity was almost achievable on muscle on that one day had made Penny Guilder deter- in the uncertain footing of the curved spikes,
power. Their helmet lamps swept across the mined that she would never wait helpless in a which were especially thick here.
tangle of curved, glittering streamers that shelter again.
adorned every flat surface. “It was over by me,” Anvari said, righting
The planetoid’s surface looked the same: herself.
“Zang, when we first landed, did you notice starkly lit where Ariana and Zang were moving
anything moving off in the distance?” around, dimly so over their local horizon where “What’d it look like?”
only starlight struck it. The sun was not much
“No.” “It was small. Or maybe just low, or partly
more than one star among many this far away, concealed in one of these fissures.”
“Good. Me neither.” yet the ‘scope could make much more detail
over a much wider area with even its dimin- “Maybe we should turn off our lights. You
They both drew their needle rays. ished radiance. Penny checked the charts and know, make ourselves less conspicuous.”
figured the rough local sunrise in her head. It
# was fairly soon, so she began concentrating “Sure. You first.”
on the areas where the terminator line would
cross first. The lights stayed on.
“X119, come in.”
“Double-A?” Henry’s voice sounded wavery
Penny returned to the radio set. “This is # to Anvari, even over the helmet radio. “Are you
Patrol X119, go ahead.” moving that rock by your foot?”
“Cadet, we’re investigating some clues on that“Okay, I definitely saw something moving
time.” Anvari had her back pressed against “Let’s say, just for the purposes of this dis-
the surface. This planetoid may be inhabited. Henry’s as they scanned the rocks. cussion, that I’m not.” Anvari did not look down
Keep watching the areas around us for anything or allow any change in her scan pattern. Or her
moving.” “Where?” voice. “Why do you ask?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” “There’s a draw, or crater, or something “I think you should move my way, just a
The word “inhabited” carried a chilling pointedtwo
about hundred yards that way.” Anvari little.”
ambiguity that Penny wished she hadn’t heard. that.” with her gun. “It was moving out of “Okay,” she said, still fighting for control of
The telescope responded as it had before, her composure. “I’m going to do that now.”
but now she was unsure if she wanted to see Henry tried to look over his shoulder and in
what it showed. Was the Enemy here? The last every other direction also. “Belts?” She’d planned a slow, non-threatening glide
major Kayzark attack had happened when she out of Zang’s line of fire, but ended up in a wild,
was ten years old. She remembered the trip to “Yeah. Go.” spastic cartwheel over his head, landing with
the shelters as having been a kind of adventure
vacation; the only source of fear had been the They triggered their rocket belts in near- ray pistol aimed at where she’d been.
looks on her parents’ faces. Her father had unison, jetting up and away into a parabola The rock they’d drawn their sidearms on
that would land in the folds and fractures of

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 11

resembled nothing so much as a child’s drawing “Hate to get in the way of those,” Henry Henry was still shaken after a pause. “What
of what an asteroid should look like: a sphere, said. do you mean, ‘they?’”
studded at irregular intervals with overlarge
craters that looked more like small volcanoes As if it had heard this radio broadcast and Anvari gestured up at the outcropping,
than impacts. It was slightly darker than the no other, the crawler stopped chewing and where a dozen more crawlers stood poised on
brown-gray of the planetoid and about a lifted itself on the streamer. The spike bent the end of new streamers.
foot across. One of the craters on the thing’s back towards Henry, lingering in mid-stride on
its tip like a huge, stalked eyeball. “Double-A, does your belt have enough
surface held on to the free end of a translucent juice to get us both back to the rocket?”
spike, as if it were impaled upon it. As they The crawler was on Henry’s back before
watched, the creature (for a creature it surely “I’m inclined to doubt it.”
either of them realized it, covering three yards
was) released its grip on the spike. in an eyeblink, rolling and extruding six spikes Anvari slowly unlatched her belt, tossing
“Nasty-looking teeth in those mouths,” to get there. Another streamer was glued it towards the crawlers in the near-flat arc
Henry noted. “All of them.” onto Henry’s suit leg where it climbed onto of three percent Earth gravity. The creatures
him. Henry had fired his pistol reflexively, the stopped scavenging for particles of spilled fuel
It began to rise off the surface again, sweeping needle ray missing the fast-moving as soon as it stopped moving and swarmed
extruding from another mouth that had been crawler and slicing streamers and rock in a over the new belt as quickly as their deceased
on the lower surface a new spike of the same shower of sparks and dust. Anvari held her predecessor had moved. “Come in, X119,” she
material as all the others. The spike grew, finger off the trigger for fear of hitting Henry. said flatly. “Come in, Cadet.”
lifting the spherical alien off the surface as it
did so. After it had grown to the familiar length, “GETITOFFME GETITOFFME!” The two spacesuited figures looked at each
the spike bent and deposited the creature on other.
“Zang, it’s chewing on your rocket belt. Take
the ground again. As they watched, the cycle it off, quick!”
began to repeat. They remained spellbound as “Penny?”
the crawler moved along a few more spikes. Crystallized flakes of rocket fuel were
spreading from where the crawler’s metal #
“It never lets go of the surface,” Anvari said, teeth had already ground through the belt’s
after remembering to breathe. “It starts the fuel tank. Henry was slapping at the belt’s Sayso-VanDutch rotated with maddening
next streamer before letting go of the first one. latch frantically, finally releasing it. He flung it slowness. Penny had stopped checking the
It’s evolved in freefall somehow.” and the attached alien away, to come to rest cockpit chronometer every twelve seconds
“Look,” Henry pointed. “It’s eating the entangled in the field of old streamers. The and concentrated on searching the planetoid
rock.” spike the crawler had left jutted from his leg for any signs of Enemy activity.
like a parasite.
Instead of moving on, the crawler was When the shadow appeared, creeping into
using its current streamer as a base to move Anvari fired short bursts from her ray pistol visibility at the edge of her ‘scope picture, she
its body around, pressing its various mouth- (while Henry added much longer, more erratic immediately felt angry with herself. Her calcu-
craters against the surface. The Patrol spacers shots) until the dust settled and they could see lations had been wrong! It hadn’t been local
could feel the vibrations through their boots as pieces of the creature tumbling away. night at all—the gloom had been local day.
it worked, and could see the teeth marks it was Penny floated back over to Zang’s station to
“They’re after the fuel,” Anvari said quietly. retrieve a slide rule to find her error and find
leaving in the rock.
out how long she’d have to wait for daylight

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 12

to come back. After several unsuccessful lights went out. The radar panel went dark a “I ran out of ideas when I saw my ten
attempts to discover computational problems, few seconds later. The Red Nine Emergency millionth one of those things.”
she decided to recheck her fix on the stars. button beckoned silently. Thirty rockets and
crews from the base above Titan could be here “Do you still have either of your flares?”
They were where they were supposed to in a few days if she broke that wire and pressed
be. More troubling, the shadow terminator the button beneath. It would be completely “They were on my rocket belt, just like yours.
wasn’t moving opposite the direction of the within her orders to do so. But it wouldn’t help And even if I did, I couldn’t move to get it.”
planetoid’s rotation. Zang or Ariana one bit and would mean several “I don’t plan on dying here, Zang.”
The telescope revealed only the faintest days of sheltering here while someone else
came and faced the trouble. “That’s good to hear, but I think we both
traces of movement in the shadow as it moved might have to revise our calendars real soon,
along. A great, fluid movement of...? Penny Alarming grinding noises came from aft of here.”
couldn’t think of anything likely. It looked like the firewall, in or near the atomic pile com-
a fast-moving landslide or flood, but it didn’t partment. “They don’t seem to have any attraction for
move exclusively downslope, and in one-thir- the minerals in our bodies or suits, so I don’t
tieth Earth gravity, shouldn’t have moved that # think they’ll eat us.”
rapidly anyway.
“You’ll excuse me if I don’t cheer and dance
The flood was approaching the site beneath With all the streamers anchored over her right away.”
the rocket where the harpoon was buried. The faceplate, Anvari couldn’t see Henry any more.
fixed reference point of the tether line would From the tickle of gravity, she could tell that she “How much air do you have left?”
allow her to calculate the speed of the phe- was plastered upside-down against a fissure
nomenon’s movement when she made her wall. She wasn’t sure how far Henry had gotten “Enough that I’ll die of dehydration first.”
report to the Lieutenants. when the wave of crawlers had crashed over
them, attaching their unbreakably-tough spikes “We’ll keep trying to raise Penny. She’ll have
The tether line seemed to have grown a to everything they touched along the way. After figured out something’s wrong by now.”
series of curved filaments, spaced as regularly establishing that the adhesive the crawlers “If those things haven’t gotten to the rocket,
as teeth on a comb. It couldn’t be fraying line, generated was stronger than the material of too.”
since the line wasn’t woven. The filaments their suits, she’d finally stopped struggling and
all curved their free ends towards the rocket, think of a way out of their problem. A light blinked on inside Anvari’s helmet.
Penny noticed offhandedly. The amber pip flickered a few times, then
Henry was still well within radio range, stayed lit. “On that happy note, we have a new
There were some irregular machinery noises though. problem. But I think I just figured out how the
from the propulsion section, which she’d have
“Would you like to reconsider your assertion Crawl live here.”
to investigate after calling in. X119’s radio set
seemed to have trouble regaining the carrier, that there couldn’t possibly be any organisms
which was odd, since the vacuum tubes were living out here?” He asked. #
already warm from previous uses. Anvari wished there were a way to send The thick leaded-glass ports allowing
“Patrol X119 for Lt. Anvari, come in, please.” glares over the radio. “Would you just concen- narrow vision into the housing of the rocket’s
trate on helping me get us out of this?” atomic pile revealed nothing to Penny, which
There was static, then nothing. The panel in one sense was a relief. Unfortunately, it

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 13

did nothing to solve the mystery cause of the Zang eventually broke a long, contempla- “Just a minute Ma’am, there’s something
noises and malfunctions. Penny greatly desired tive silence. “We really need to get off this rock moving in the dorsal avionics blister.”
the security of a ray pistol in case this was a soon.”
Kayzark attack of some sort, but discharg- “They can climb the tether! Penny! Get
ing a needle ray aboard ship would be more “Thanks for that analysis.” rid of your rocket belt! They’re attracted to it
hazardous than enemy action. She settled for somehow!”
“Does that mean that these crawling things
a stunner and a stout wrench. are technically plants?” A howl of static whitened the noise in
The helmet went on right away. Decompres- Anvari’s speaker.
sion drill was a plebe religion at the Academy. for “Taxonomy isn’t my field. I blow things up
a living.” “The stunner doesn’t seem to bother it,
She had her spacesuit on over her silver Ma’am. I’m trying something else.”
uniform and locked into the helmet without Their helmet speakers crackled softly. “...Is
having to think about any of the steps. It took that you, Ma’am?” said a new voice, faintly.
some self-convincing before she was ready to #
use the airlock, to go outside and confront the “Penny? Penny!”
problem. The inactivity of the radio was the The rocket belt sailed away, almost tumbling
convincer—if the rocket’s main set was down, There was much whooping and cheering. out of sight before he safety line stopped it. In
then she had to get her suit radio outside the When Anvari was able to shout both of them her haste to obeyed Anvari’s order promptly
hull to hear them if they called. down, she asked, ”Where are you, Penny?” and jettison the belt, she’d failed to transfer
the tether to another fastener on her suit. By
The automatic cycle didn’t work now. Penny “I’m outside the ship right now. There’ve her count, that made the sixth EVA movement
had to fumble with the hand valves to vent the been a lot of malfunctions, including the main regulation she’d broken since leaving the
airlock. The outer door opened to the void and radio. I heard you on my suit radio as soon as I airlock, but there wasn’t time to worry about
the unknown. opened the outer door.” it now.
Anvari looked at her dosimeter light and It would cost her the other weapon in her
# swallowed. “Cadet, listen very carefully. Lt. arsenal, but she figured the little thing couldn’t
Henry and I have been immobilized on the mass any more than the sturdy omniwrench.
“A naturally-occurring atomic pile,” Henry surface. You’re going to have to find a way to cut She would apply a little basic physics. Penny
repeated. us out of here. We don’t have our rocket belts, wound up as best she could in the confines of
“Yes,” said Anvari though gritted teeth. “Like fromwe’re
and receiving a high dose of gamma rays her suit, and threw the wrench at the round
the planetoid.” She briefly explained her alien. It was a pretty good throw, by her own
the one in Africa. The screwy gravity figures natural atomic pile theory to Penny. estimation. Of course, basic physics applied to
told us this rock was unusually dense. Enough
heavy isotopes in one or both pieces of Sayso- her, as well. Her boots left X119’s side as she
“Ma’am, a lot of equipment is out of com-
VanDutch have been compressed into a space mission right now. The radio, radar—“ recoiled from the throw, casting her outwards
small enough to react faster than ordinary into space.
decay. The core of this rock is hot, in tempera- “We’ll take care of it when we get back up The wrench hit the crawling alien, caromed
ture and radiation. That’s what gives these there, Cadet. If you can only hear us while off, and spun away towards the planetoid’s
creatures energy to metabolize minerals so far EVA, write all this down and make yourself a surface. The crawler reeled on its stalk but
away from the sun. And now we’re getting a checklist. Penny, can you read me?” didn’t let go. Then, faster than Penny would
pretty heavy dose of radiation.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 14

have given it credit for moving, it had laid a line away from her, bounce off X119’s fuselage, and an unbearable delay.
of spikes in a sudden dash for the airlock door. detonate in a blinding shower of red sparks.
Penny knew she was falling, even if she were When her vision cleared, she could see that “Penny!” Lt. Anvari spoke louder and faster
still technically moving upwards. She supposed she’d gotten enough impulse to make it back than she’d intended. “What is your status?”
she had five miles to think of something. Her to the airlock hatchway, maybe a little more “I got rid of the creature, Ma’am. I’ve cut
life wasn’t flashing before her eyes, fortunately, than she needed. the anchor line to prevent any more of them
as she was quite busy at the moment.
Penny entered the airlock feet-first, not as from getting up here. I used the attitude jets to
# perfectly aligned with the hatch as she’d origi- push the ship away from the planetoid.”
nally thought, and landed in a heap. She felt “Are you all right?” Zang cut in. Anvari didn’t
her ankle twist painfully beneath her as she stop
Lt. Henry tried to convince himself the him.
grabbed for a handhold to keep from rebound-
warmth was just his own body heat trapped by ing back out into space. She came to rest face- “...I’m fine. But everything aft of the firewall
the too-efficient insulation of his suit and not to-mouth-crater with the crawler. is an awful mess. I don’t trust anything in the
the planetoid’s radiation going through him.
It moved slightly on its stalk, pausing from pile or the motors.”
A faint red glow cut in through the milky using another of its mouths to try to grind Imprisoned in her suit, Ariana Anvari found
crystalline mess of the alien spikes covering his through the airlock bulkhead. Penny reached it safe enough to shed huge weightless tears
helmet. carefully into her sleeve pocket, retrieving her without fear of discovery. “You can’t come
“What’s that, Double-A?” remaining flare. She held it by the handle, in down here with a belt. If you do, the crawlers
proper launch mode this time. will swarm you just like they did us. If the ship
“A flare, maybe?” only has reaction controls left, then you’ll
“Come on, Globie,” Penny said, though she never get to us in time. From where you are,
“How much longer can we last?” knew it couldn’t hear her across the vacuum in a hand-held
the airlock. She waved the flare as if teasing a free. Call forray isn’t precise enough to cut us
“Not long.” help,” she added, bitter rather
cat. “Get the nice rocket snack.” than afraid.
# Despite being in a vacuum, it could sense “I sent the Red Nine five minutes ago. But
the fuel in the flare’s rocket. The crawler they won’t be here in time to help!”
Penny could add to her list a seventh and lunged forward, ingesting the flare up to half
eighth reg she was breaking: she probably the handle. Penny pulled the trigger, and “We know, girl.” Zang’s radio voice had a
wasn’t supposed to store pyrotechnics in her covered her helmet with her arms as much asflat finality to it.
uniform pockets, and she was pretty sure that she could.
launching a flare and hanging onto it wasn’t “What if I could shut down the source of
This starburst wasn’t as bright as the last the radiation?” Penny’s impossible question
something you were supposed to do. The tiny one, and there was a lot more burnt-out alien
rocket that propelled it didn’t generate tem- carcass left over than she recalled, too. hung there in the silence. Anvari realized she
peratures that would harm her gloves. She was gaping instead of answering when Penny
wasn’t sure about the flare’s bursting charge, continued, “If the two halves of the planetoid
so she was keeping careful count of seconds # each contain a subcritical mass, then cutting
of burntime. When she got down to one, she them apart would stop the reaction, right?
released the flare, allowing it to accelerate “X119 for Anvari,” came the radio call, after That would give us plenty of time. Aren’t the

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 15

ship’s ray cannon powerful enough to do it?” whisper to herself. She dialed in the number rotating past as the station spun. She hobbled
she’d estimated; radar wasn’t working. Com- along until she found the appropriate ward.
Hope, that most powerful and addictive pression rings on the ray cannon tubes slid
toxin, flooded Anvari’s mind. “Yes, and yes. forward, focusing the rays on the unusually- “Hey there, hero!”
And, you could conceivably kill us instantly.” near target. Zang grinned and used a cane to reach
“It’d be preferable to dying of radiation Penny took a deep breath. “And, fire.” She Ariana’s bed. Prodded awake with a snort,
poisoning, either way,” Zang added. stepped on the foot pedal trigger. A dagger of she put away her ready insult when she saw
pain reminded her that she’d used her bad ankle. Penny.
“Can you talk me through how to use your She bit her lip and watched the lightshow.
chair, Ma’am?” “Congratulations,” Anvari said sleepily.
Sayso-VanDutch erupted where the rays
# “I just came to see how you were doing.”
intersected it, bright ejecta lit from the blue-
violet inferno of the impact. The liberation of “Bored,” said Henry. “We’ve got another
The ray cannon director wasn’t too different mass began to slowly propel the entire asteroid week of blood filtering to go through. I hear
than the search telescope, Penny kept telling across Penny’s line of fire. She held down the they wanted to rename half the rock after
herself. She blocked from her mind images of trigger pedal, ignoring the hurt from her ankle you.”
the terrible energies now at her command incin- while correcting her aim.
erating Henry and Anvari by an errant twitch Penny nodded. “I thought they should just
of her hand at the controls. There wasn’t time The line of fire marched across the cratered split the names. It’s asteroid Sayso and asteroid
to rehearse. She aligned the crosshairs of the landscape. VanDutch now. Science Section has a mission
attack scope on the edge of Sayso-VanDutch, out there now. The word is the Crawl is from
right where the surface buckled and folded # the other side of the Vortex.”
from the impact that had fused them.
The ground shook beneath them. What they Anvari rubbed her eyes. “What about
“Unlock and arm the battery,” Penny recited could see outside looked a great deal brighter. you?”
to herself, pulling the red-and-yellow striped The crawlers scattered in a panic, layering them
grip. Panels on X119’s ogival nose slid open, deeper in the translucent spikes. As the tremor “Back to Mars,” she said. “Flight school.”
freeing the long tubes of the ray cannon mount built in intensity, Anvari swore she could hear “You’re going to have that Red Nine call on
to slide out. They clunked solidly into place, the Zang laughing over the radio. She’d reprimand your record, not mine. Good luck, Lieutenant,”
most reassuring noise the rocket had made in him later, if they lived. Anvari said. Said it like she said things to Zang,
a while. or to Old Lady Dantreeves.
“Match director bearings.” She flicked open #
Zang grinned like he couldn’t help it.
the molly-guards for the director synch system,
Brevet-Lieutenant Penny Guilder stepped “Goodbye, Penny. Send us something contra-
and pulled the toggles beneath. The rocket’s band from Mars.”
nose cone turned on its axis, and the cannon off the lift back into the infirmary ring at Yeager
tubes simultaneously pivoted to aim the whole Station. Her ankle gave her a little problem Penny saluted, and limped out of the shelter
battery in the same direction as the attack with weight on it, but she was pronounced back into the wild, dangerous universe.
scope pointed. fit for duty shortly after her field promotion.
She admired the view of Titan outside the
“Range correction,” Penny continued to station window, with the rings behind it, slowly

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
No Shelter, by S. Hutson Blount Pg. 16

First appeared in slightly different form as
“The Coming of the Space Crawl” in Andromeda
Spaceways Inflight Magazine #24, July 2006

S. Hutson Blount

S. Hutson Blount has had the usual
odd employment history common to those
engaging in the disreputable business
of fiction. Though possessing no higher
education, he pretends that his Navy
technical training counts as college. He was
spotted in Seattle in the summer of 2005
associating with more talented graduates
of his Clarion West class. When he’s not
thinking up more ways to tell lies to people
for money, he masquerades as a devoted
husband. Another example of his “work”
can be found in Andromeda Spaceways
Inflight Magazine, Black Gate magazine,
and Aeon Speculative Fiction.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Alien Cafe - The Disconti Incident, by Russell J. Fellows Pg. 17

Alien Cafe - The Disconti Incident
by Russell J. Fellows

F ive years ago, Lady O’Reilly ran the Alien
Café. She was an old mother with a
penchant for telling her customers what they
Lady O’Reilly wasn’t one to talk about
my freight runs, so I knew something was up.
“Yeah?”
visited Jimmy once at our home station when
she was a teenager. That was quite a few years
ago. “Sure.”
wanted rather than asking them. I guess that’s
why I had such a soft spot for her. Besides, her “That’s nice. Where are you going?” She “Well, she’s an archaeologist now. Such
son sacrificed his life to save mine. We’ll save pulled up a stool behind the counter and sat a smart girl. And she’s very pretty.” Her eyes
that for another time, though. in front of me. sparkled and her smile grew.

I ran freight from old Earth to the Rheingold I looked around the café, but no other eyes “I’m sure she is, but I...”
Quadrant. Station Beta Nine served as my were on us. “Why the sudden interest?”
She shushed me before I could finish. “I’m
refueling point after I burned it all up leaving “I never could fool you, could I? Such a not asking you to take her to the prom. I need
Earth’s atmosphere. The Alien Café was the smart boy.” Again with the cheek pinch. I’m you to rescue her.”
last place I could get anything that resembled surprised I still have a cheek. “You’re not really
food. “Rescue her?” This just kept getting better
on a supply run for the Disconti stationed in
the 55 Cancri System.” by the minute.
“Ralph!” I waited for the obligatory greeting.
“You’re not getting any younger, Ralphie. When “It seems that May was on an excavation at
The meatloaf hit my stomach a second later
are you going to settle down and make me a the Ardian Ruins when the Disconti Imperial
than my heart did. “What do you mean? How
happy grandmother?” Guard took her. They’re calling her a treasure
did you know where I was going?”
hunter of all things. You know what they do
I didn’t mind. Since her son’s death, most “I called the order in, sweetie. I need a with treasure hunters.”
of her customers became surrogate children. I favor from you.”
was just her favorite. I did, and it wasn’t pleasant. They made
I hoped the nausea I felt was from her them slaves, and I’m not talking the sexy ones
“Here, eat.” She sat a plate full of meatloaf, cooking, but I knew better. who parade around in slinky lingerie while
mashed potatoes, and corn on the counter chained to giant slugs either. “What is it you
before I could sit. Not that I’m arguing. “Oh dear.” She pressed her wrist to my want me to do? You know I’m not the hero
forehead. “You don’t look so well.” type.”
“Thanks, Mom.” I sat, picked up a fork, and
began to devour all in front of me. “What kind of favor?” I pushed the food “I will not have you talk about yourself like
away. It would not have been wise for me to that. You were Air Force Star Brigade, same as
“Ah, Ah.” She waved a finger at me. continue to eat. my Jimmy. It’s not your fault he saw the Natarri
I put the fork down and said grace. destroyer and sacrificed himself in blowing it
Lady O’Reilly smiled and leaned closer to up before you could. He was just lucky that
“Such a good boy.” She pinched my cheek. me. “Do you remember my niece May?” day.”
It hurt. Really, it did. “So, you’re on a shipment Cute kid from what I remembered; she
run?” How does one answer something like that?

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Alien Cafe - The Disconti Incident, by Russell J. Fellows Pg. 18

I didn’t know either. British man dressed in a brown cloak stood at “I became princess to a people who were
the bar with a young dusty-looking kid. They almost wiped out of existence because of a
“Dear, boy. You’re every bit of hero that he were asking around about obtaining a pilot for few bad apples. And now, we thrive.”
was, maybe more so. Who helped navigate the some mission of theirs. I passed. One thing at
trade routes once the wars were over?” She a time. She slid herself around the bench until she
grabbed my hand and squeezed it. sat next to me. Her leg draped over mine and
“Mattie.” I found the California blonde she ran her fingers over my chest. “Come now,
She had a way of really stroking a guy’s beauty in her usual corner booth, alone in the let’s stop talking about the bad times. Why not
ego. I felt like a regular Han Solo, only better dark. If I didn’t know her, I’d wonder how she talk about the fun we had together.”
looking. “All right. I’ll see what I can do. Where became princess of the pirates.
is she being held?” Her all too familiar scent of cinnamon and
She had her blaster trained on my head gun oil triggered memories, but I pushed them
“The same place you were headed. The without me seeing her move a muscle. “Ralph.” aside. “Will you help me?”
Disconti are expecting you. They think they’re She lowered her gun and tapped the seat next
getting some free promotional stuff from the to her. “Sit.” She mussed my hair. “For you, sure…if you
weapons company.” She hopped off her stool help me.”
and grabbed me a slice of pie. I sat, just not next to her. I pulled my own
blaster from my side holster and held it on my I figured it would cost me. “What do you
“Nothing like having the element of surprise.” lap. need?”
I muttered under my breath.
“Aw. I guess this means you didn’t come Mattie leaned in and purred in my ear. “I’ll
“Did I do something wrong?” She slid the here to play with me.” She leaned back in the let you know.”
pie in front of me and handed me a clean fork. vinyl bench and stretched her arms.
The jazz stopped. Mattie whipped her
“No, don’t worry about it. I’ll think of “Tempting as always, but no. I need your blaster out and fired a shot that singed the hair
something.” I think my cousin Mike could do help.” of the saxophonist while still staring in my eyes.
my eulogy. People like to hear him speak. “It’s not break time.”
Mattie leaned forward with her elbows
# on the table. Her light blue eyes danced with The music started again.
excitement. “The infamous Butcher of the
comes to seek help from their princess? and“Still the same, Mattie.” I slid away from her
I docked my ship at Blaster Cove, a freight Natarri stood.
runner’s hub on one of Ardan’s uninhabited Can it be?”
moons. The metallic cluster of environment “If I weren’t, you wouldn’t be asking me for
domes posed as a network meet up, but really that“You know you had just as much to do with help.”
as I did.”
served as a place for booze and girls.
“No. When you and Jimmy flew the mission #
It was also a hot spot for pirates, which is to Nattorose is when I left the Star Brigade.”
why I stopped there. The plan was simple. I’d dock with the
No matter how many times she brought it Disconti Imperial Cruiser and unload the
I poked my head into a smoky place called up, it still hurt. “You left without a word and
Joe’s Joint. Jazz tunes mingled with soft became princess to the same people who cargo. While I kept everyone busy with chaotic
laughter lofted out the open door. An older obliterated half the Earth’s population.” paperwork, Mattie and a couple of her cronies

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Alien Cafe - The Disconti Incident, by Russell J. Fellows Pg. 19

would pop out of my hidden cargo spaces and together. “My aunt sent you, didn’t she?” She helped
trek down to the detention hold. Somehow me sit up.
they would find May, though I didn’t even “Let me give you a hand.” I snatched the
know what she looked like, and bring her back papers out of her hand and was met with a My head still pounded and I winced when I
to the ship. I’d finish my delivery and get us outlow, guttural growl. “Easy, Sasha. Just trying touched the goose egg above my right temple.
of there. to help.” I hopped out of my ship and leaned “Yeah. How did you figure I was here for you?”
against one of the boxes.
Simple never works the way it’s supposed May nodded toward the other side of the
to work. “What is Sasha?” She followed. cold white room where Mattie and her one
compatriot sat. “Your friends over there filled
“NSangre tedel Asha Oaaringnth.” The “No disrespect, but there’s no way I can me in.”
green-skinned Amazon introduced herself as pronounce your name. So, you look like a Sasha
soon as I lowered my cargo bay hatch. to me.” I smiled and she grumbled. At least it Mattie’s pretty face was banged up badly. I
seemed to put her a bit more at ease. would say the same about the Natarri with her,
“Ralph.” I held out my hand to shake hers, but they’re pretty ugly anyway.
but she rebuffed it. “Right. I keep forgetting Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mattie
the Guard never shakes hands.” and her men take the opportunity to pop out I stood and slowly walked to Mattie. “You
of their hiding spots. They silently slinked to okay?”
“I have set my translator to English for you. the far right wall and ducked into a corridor.
Paperwork?” She was all business, which was She touched her fat lip. “I’ve had worse.”
fine with me. That’s when the alarms sounded.
“What happened to the other guy?” I asked
“Sure thing.” I handed her the stack of “Ah, crap.” I dropped the paperwork. her.
loose-leaf papers I had rolled up in my hand, Sasha blinked and her eyes became black. Mattie looked at her partner, who cowered
stepped off the cargo hatch, and looked around I reared
the enormous and strangely empty hangar. against her jaw. I think every bone in my hand him.” from her. “He tripped the alarm, so I shot
back and smashed a right hook away
The faint smell of ship thrusters told me it just shattered. An animalistic growl thundered
became empty recently. “You here all alone?” I from deep in her. I didn’t even see her fist hit I made an instant mental note to make
asked. good on whatever favor she asked of me.
me before everything went black. I felt it, just
“No.” She grunted as she tried to put my didn’t see it. “So, hero.” May called from her corner.
paperwork in order. “You freight runners are “What’s your big plan on getting us out of
all the same. Paperwork is always a disgrace.” # here?”
“All the fighters on a training mission?” I “Hey, hero,” an angelic voice sang to me. “Plan has to be revised a bit. The part about
hopped back in my cargo hold and pressed a being in here didn’t come up in discussion.” I
couple buttons on the left wall. All the boxes I opened my eyes to see piercing blue-green walked over and pressed my ear to the solid
slid gently into the hangar. eyes staring down at me. My focus sharpened metallic door.
to see the perfect face framed by short auburn
My friendly cargo inspector didn’t bother hair. The scent of lilacs mixed with sweat and “Anything?” Mattie joined me.
to answer me. She muttered under her dust lightly filled my senses. “Let me guess,
breath while still trying to put the paperwork May?” “No, but that doesn’t mean anything.” I

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Alien Cafe - The Disconti Incident, by Russell J. Fellows Pg. 20

sat on the floor and pulled off my right boot. once my head broke the beams of light hovering May reached the hangar quickly, and I
A quick twist on the heal and out slid a small over the top of the holding cells. admit it, I was impressed. “A cargo ship? You
laser cutter. came to rescue me in a cargo ship?”
The door to the cell slid open with blinding
“I knew there was a reason I liked you.” speed and the Natarri was shot from under me. “What were you expecting, Buck Rogers and
Mattie purred. I grasped the sharp edges of the ceiling and a star fighter?” I ran up the open cargo hatch of
swung myself at the Disconti guard rushing my ship with May right behind me.
May rolled her eyes. “He’s dreamy, I get it. into the cell.
Wanna tell me what you’re going to do with “I at least expected something that could
that? You know that there are guards right Thankfully Lady O’Reilly’s meatloaf added make a quick getaway.”
outside the door. Do you think you’re going to just enough bulk to me to make an impact.
cut through the door before they shoot you?” The guard lay on the ground, and I grabbed his I hopped in the pilot’s chair and started
rifle. flipping switches. “You just hold on and I’ll get
“You know May, for a treasure hunter, you’re us out of here quicker than you think.”
not very adventurous.” I slipped my boot back “I think now is the time to go, don’t you?”
on and stood. “Uh, Ralph!” Mattie’s strained yelp came
Neither of the women argued; they stuck from the hangar. “About that favor?”
“I am not a treasure hunter! I am an archae- close behind me as I charged through the
ologist, for crying out loud!” She looked like corridor. Shots exploded to either side of us I ran down the cargo hatch to find Sasha
she was about to sock me, and I’d had enough and sparks seared my arms. gripping Mattie by the throat.
of getting walloped by women, so I conceded.
“Do you know where you’re going?” May “I thought I could use it after we were back
“How tall is your friend over there?” I asked screamed from behind me. at Blaster Cove, but this might be a bit more
Mattie. urgent.” Mattie gagged.
“I figured we’d just run around awhile and
“About average Natarri. Seven feet I would give them target practice. Sound good to you?” “I will crush her if you do not surrender right
guess. Why?” I fired off a couple of stun shots and cleared a now.” Sasha growled.
path in front of us.
“Because we’re not going through the I held my hands in the air. “Now, Sasha...”
front door.” She caught my idea and barked “I personally would like to go to the hangar, Mattie gasped again as Sasha tightened her
something in Natarri. which is in the other direction!” May grabbed grip.
the rifle from my hand and ran the other way.
The lanky snaggletooth stood and lowered “Whoa, okay, I get it. You don’t like ‘Sasha.’
his shoulder for me to climb on. He hoisted me Mattie looked at me and smiled. “I like Duly noted. Now, put her down. You don’t
up until I could lay the palm of my hand flat on her.” really want to be known as a murderer, do
the ceiling. I squeezed the laser cutter and a
“Good for you. Can you grab the rifles from you?” I stepped closer.
small red beam sliced through the metal above
me. the two guards I took out and catch up to us?” “Of a pirate? I don’t see a problem.”
I ran after May.
Within seconds I had a hole large enough “I do.” I felt the energy blast sizzle by my
for all of us to slip through. I leveraged myself “Like you can move faster than me.” Mattie ear just before it hit a shocked Sasha. The giant
on the Natarri’s shoulders to peak my head laughed. flew across the room and dropped Mattie. I
through the hole. Ear-piercing alarms screamed

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Alien Cafe - The Disconti Incident, by Russell J. Fellows Pg. 21

turned to see May with her finger still on the “You two a thing?” May asked when we got May and I spun around on our stools to see
trigger of the rifle. “Can we go now?” back on the ship. Sasha standing there in all her rage. Her eyes
were black again and she was ready to rip into
“Uh, yeah.” I ran and picked Mattie up in my “Not anymore.” I flipped switches and us.
arms and carried her onto the ship. I laid her in pressed the touch screen. We lifted off and
the cargo bay and closed the hatch. were gone. What intrigued me, though, was the fact
she was alone.
Back in the pilot’s seat I flipped on more “Does she know yet?” May asked.
switches, and the ship roared to life. I hit a “I think you need to calm down, dear.” Lady
couple of keys on the touch screen in front # O’Reilly said.
of me, and ship’s cannons opened the hangar
“May!” Lady O’Reilly screamed when we rifleSasha
door for us. growled at her, but then saw the
in her hand. And then she noticed the half
“Why aren’t there more guards coming after walked through the diner’s door. “Thank you, dozen or more other blasters pointed in her
us?” May asked when she sat in the copilot’s Lord! It’s so good to see you.” direction by customers.
seat. May and I sat at the counter and Lady She didn’t move. “You may live today,
O’Reilly slid a couple slices of pie in front of treasure
“Don’t know, and don’t care. We’re out of us. hunter. The Disconti Imperial Guard
here.” Another couple of taps on the touch may think you are not worth the pursuit, but
screen and the thrusters propelled us out of the “Thank you, Ralph. I knew I could count on not I. I will hunt you down and eat your intes-
hangar as fast as the cargo ship could muster. you.” She poured us a couple cups of Turkish tines.”
“Is she going to be all right?” May asked, coffee. The deep aroma was a welcome “Sounds to me like you need some pie, dear.”
greeting and it energized me again.
looking into the cargo bay. Lady O’Reilly slid another slice of key-lime pie
May took a bite of her pie. “Yeah, he’s on the counter.
“Mattie? Oh yeah. She’ll be her deadly self great.” She rolled her eyes.
in no time.” “I do not need...” I think that’s when the
“You never did tell me why the Disconti scent of the pie hit the big girl. “Pie?” Her body
# pinched you in the first place.” I let the smooth relaxed and she blinked. Her eyes were their
key-lime sit on my tongue for a moment before normal yellow again and her posture was the
I was surprised we weren’t pursued by swallowing the bite of pie. same as when I first met her. Sasha rushed over
fighters and kept my eyes on my screens just and sat at the counter and took slow, savoring
to make sure. “I was on a dig and came across an ancient bites of the pie. “I love pie.”
Ardian temple adorned with jewels that just
We dropped Mattie off at Blaster Cove in don’t exist anymore. Next thing I knew, I was “Who doesn’t?” Lady O’Reilly smiled. “Now,
the questionably capable hands of her pirates. accused of being a thief and treasure hunter. I Ralph...about your job.”
She was already conscious and assured me she am not a...” “What about my job?” I raised an eyebrow.
would be all right.
The diner door slammed open and an all
“You do know that didn’t count. I’ll collect too familiar guttural growl echoed through the not“Well, I don’t think you have one anymore,
after your misadventures with the Disconti.
on my favor later.” Mattie whispered as she building. “Treasure Hunter.” I don’t think your boss will look at that as good
kissed me. customer service.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Alien Cafe - The Disconti Incident, by Russell J. Fellows Pg. 22

I sank onto the stool. She was right, and I
hadn’t thought about it. “I, uh, I don’t know.”
“Well, I do, dear. I’ve been looking to retire
for some time, and you’re about the only one I
can trust with this place.”
“What? I can’t run a diner. I don’t know the
first thing about it.”
“Neither did I.” Lady O’Reilly served me
another slice of pie. “You’ll do fine. And I’m not
really asking.”
I looked at Lady O’Reilly and then at May.
Was I really going to take over the Alien Café?
“If you make pie like this, I won’t kill you.”
Sasha said in the middle of bites.
That sealed it for me.

Russell J. Fellows

Russell J. Fellows is editor-in-chief of
Perpetual Magazine, and a writer with
stories featured in Bohemian-Alien.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Affair on Silly Twelve, by T. W. Williams Pg. 23
The Affair on Silly Twelve
Or, It Could Have Been Love, but the Turtle Broke the Harmonica
by T. W. Williams
Aboard Maelstrom’s Buddy Guild and the Travelers Interstellar Associa- Personal diary activated.
Celepides XII, 454.1010.22, tion—would be noticed by anybody. I guess
Galaxy Mean Time double-dipped female egghead drivers ain’t My hands are still shaking. My mind is still
just anybody. shaking.
To: Landers DeGrundt, Intersystem Com-
mercial Fiduciary & Savings. She is a pretty little ship, I’ll give you My first mission as commander. All the
that—the dainty snout of the navigation bridge, work I have done to get this far...all a few mil-
Well, Lannie, your outfit floated me the the twin research modules and equipment bay liseconds from being obliterated!
loan for this expedition, and even if it was all curving around the Enderberg 650 power
90 percent under the table and the interest I was just dozing off, only a few hours out
plant. Lordy, whatta package! Where do these
you’re charging is enough to make a shark of auto-thaw, still plugged into the computer,
scientist types get the money for an E-650?
puke, I guess I still owe you an update. but letting it do all the work—routine landing
I’ve modified my Anicon Z2i with E-250 in the registered exploration zone in the
Celepides XII, good ol’ Silly Twelve, was inductors and routing modules, and I bet my southern hemisphere—when every proximity
worth the trip. It’s a big, gray, glimmering Aunt Connie could run circles around that little alarm and collision alert on board flared and
planet hanging there like the biggest pearl lady, but a factory E-650...maybe I’ll get one of blared at the same time. I swear that I am still
ever pried out of the galactic oyster. Time to them after I strike it rich here on Silly Twelve. seeing red spots in front of my eyes.
sign off and catch twelve hours of cramsleep.
That should be enough to have all of the Pretty doesn’t change the fact that the Standard operating procedure, as any
planet specs loaded into the ol’ noodle... HOLY fool of a pilot—sure, she sounded efficient in lander training course will teach you, saved us.
HYDROGEN FUSION! WHAT THE ...?! her snooty, icy, scientist way, but that don’t I slapped thrusters to “emergency” and began
change her being a darned fool—chose a a rotate-twist-spiral clockwise. The heads-up
An Arcturan plague on all female drivers, trajectory that damn near took off my right display showed the intruder above and to port,
with a double-order of seeping boils for all rudder and landing gear. and so the R-T-S clockwise was the obvious
eggheads! Where in the bowels of Antares did choice.
she come from? So now I am awake and cranky and have to
re-plot my landing manually. Some fat scientist Why wouldn’t the fellow have broadcast
It shoulda been a no-brainer, popping out broad is gonna get her walleye blackened as his automated landing beacon in the clear? No
of hyperdrive and spiraling down to the des- soon as I touch down. What the heck is she sexist assumptions, but little doubt about the
ignated spot in the southern hemisphere... doing here, anyway? Scientist or not, I’ll punch gender, judging from a voice analysis of the
longitude and latitude fed into the landing her lights out, I swear it. So what if she’s a girl. curses on the ship-to-ship connection—not
computer, no problemo. She probably outweighs me. Ha! to mention the content of the curses them-
selves.
Shoulda been a no-brainer!
Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland ...Scanning the output. There it is! His
You would think that a broadbeam, con- beacon signal is cycling down at the bottom
Celepides XII, 454.1010.22.3
tinuously rotated landing beacon—the latest end of the spectrum, where it was sure to be
Galaxy Mean Time
model, approved by both the Pan-Galactic

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Affair on Silly Twelve, by T. W. Williams Pg. 24

fuzzed by the atmospheric interference. to cramsleep the planetary data. Geographic notes:
The pilot must be as sloppy as his ship It’s level, near those rich-looking foothills, Lots more refraction in the atmosphere
looks—some sort of Enderberg modification and not too far away from a fresh water supply. than anticipated. I’ll let the primary wind
linked to a second-rate engine plant. It would Lots of boulders around; good thing I missed down, but I doubt that deploying solar collec-
not surprise me if it was an Anicon Z, sacrific- those. Too bad she did. Ha. tors will be much use. Plenty of battery power
ing shield-field density for power and spewing for present. Evaluation: low priority.
high-end radiation like a leaky faucet—the Heavy clouds, and so everything’s kinda
devil’s bargain, if you ask me. gray, but more glimmery than dark. Scrub vegetation and signs of late-period
erosion. The boulders are a bit of a surprise.
I know it is not scientifically valid and I slapped Boswell awake and activated both Uniform size, as far as my visual scan goes. Lots
no more than poetic fancy, but irradiated, androids. They were out the door and picking of them. Dozens. Ovoid. Rough evaluation:
flatulent rodents could probably power that up soil samples while the egghead ship was still Four, five meters high and eight or nine across.
mess better. I indulged myself, and told him so. jetting in. The Sherwood Rowland, 2,000 tons,
It is good to vent the adrenaline from time to out of Madre Four in the New Colonies—a Personal note: Too bad his landing program
time. “Prick a man’s vanity, and the heavens pretty ship. Too bad it’s piloted by a blubber- was smart enough to miss them. The rat-jerk
themselves never hear the end of that storm.” butted fool. probably thinks he knows everything. I bet
Someone said that. Saunders? Gerem’Klell? No, he’s the kind who cramsleeps data instead of
Anyway, those androids are programmed bothering to really learn it. There’s no substi-
probably Twill. I will do a library search when I to plant claim markers everywhere that looks tute for leaning. Not to mention the havoc he’s
have time. promising and each has a supply of 500 wreaking to his brain cells, assuming what’s
Is it worthwhile to wake my crew up from markers, so boo-hoo, Miss Geek, you sterile between his ears isn’t inert.
the cryo-bins? (More fancifulness: it is surpris- science spinster.
ing that his curses did not do that already!)
Just to tell them that our research is going to Maelstrom’s Buddy
have to contend with some maverick resource- Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland Celepides XII, 454.1010.29
gouger? No. I am commander here. Let them Celepides XII, 454.1010.25 Galaxy Mean Time
sleep. It will get stressful enough after we land. Galaxy Mean Time
I have a good notion to give Mr. Rodent Pilot a It doesn’t pay to be nice. After the androids
piece of my mind! Now I am shaking again, but this time with were out doing their jobs and Boswell was
anger. How DARE he land in my registered setting up the thermal and solar launching
zone! Don’t the proper forms and filings mean regenerators—not that I plan on leaving for
anything to this cretin? And now there are a good long time, but it never hurts to be
Maelstrom’s Buddy robots or tracked androids out there ripping careful—I was just relaxing with a cold bulb
Celepides XII, 454.1010.25, through the native vegetation! of some muy fine cerveza and I got this snotty
Galaxy Mean Time
message.
It is tempting to land on one of them and
Plutonium-farting hamsters, my broad squash it flat, but I question how that would I don’t know, Lannie, you might want to get
behind! (Actually hers, more like it.) Well, let further my scientific mission. I am still greatly those hard-shelled thugs that pass for Inter-
’er fume. I beat the egghead ship to the ground, angered. It is an irritant and potentially a major system’s legal department to look into this. I
and got the best spot. Pretty good landing job, obstacle to this research mission. mean, those shysters can’t spend all their
if I do say so myself, especially since I didn’t get

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The Affair on Silly Twelve, by T. W. Williams Pg. 25

time dreaming up new ways to write crappy cedence over regulation, although you won’t It is a wonder that larynxes evolved at
contracts, can they? read that in any high-falutin’ science treaty, all when higher-end mammals—a generous
and besides, Finderum Keeperum—howzzat assumption, to be sure, in HIS case—get so little
Talk about cold ones. Dripping snotcicles, it for a legal concept? value out of them. As far as I can tell, Klegett
was. Here’s the upload: and his man expend a lot of breath and energy
Anyway, I was trying to be the nice guy and by polluting the sound waves with fantasies of
“To Hubert C. Klegett, captain, Calypso’s avoid all the red tape, and so I offered her a greed, barroom jokes and stories of scatologi-
Bloomers: Hereby be informed that, pursuant 30 percent cut. Way generous. AND FREAKIN’ cal and highly dubious physical achievability.
to the Scientific Codicil to the New Frontiers SALLY SCIENTIST REPOSITIONS HER THRUSTERS
Treaty of 2569 A.D. (600 New Earth Dating), AND BURNS ONE OF MY ANDROIDS! To a crisp. Sensor alarm. Something else moving?
re: Section 47, Paragraphs 13a-27a, 14b-f, and Craptacular. Well, looks like I’ll be here twice Sentient? Boosting power to scanners and
Addendum 27 (cited below), as of this date, to as long. Ha! initiating high-intensity, omni-spectrum 360-
wit 825 N.E.D., you are in violation, to wit...” degree sweep.
Darm, again. Sensors show something
Well, you get the picture. Blah, blah, blah, going on out there. Probably a glitch. I’ll have Something moving near the last position of
blah, BLAH. Galactic treaties are all fine and to get Boswell on it. Klegett’s crewman? I don’t see his signal now.
good, but the diplomats and governments are
a half-dozen light-years away...
Boswell reports that the atmosphere is too Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland Maelstrom’s Buddy
cloudy for the solars, and he hit dense rock Celepides XII, 454.1010.42
thirty meters down, so no-go on geothermal. Galaxy Mean Time Something spooky here. That bogey dis-
Batteries will do for now, but I might have to appeared faster than a ten-cred note in an
run the main for a burst later to recharge. I surmise it was temporary insanity. Anoka Prime streetwalker’s fist. Boswell’s
not answering on any channel. Better suit up.
... What the broad doesn’t know is that I, Aurora de Alba Carlisle-Phipps, who Double-damn that broad; she has me flustered
“Captain Hubert C. Klegett” plays a poor hand always carry the spiders outside instead of and looking the wrong way. I’d turn her over
of tri-poker and lost this ship to me eighteen swatting them, just perpetrated an act of my knee, but I’m not sure the old patella could
standard months ago. Changing the registra- violence against another being. It was just stand the weight. Ha.
tion would have meant a hefty fee, and then an android, but “Once down rage’s path we
there was that incident on Doreete, so better tread, each step is fraught with blacker dread.”
to be Hubert Klegett than to be wearing a (Yes, I know that Edward Twill was no Shake-
speare, but I once did have a schoolgirl’s heart Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland
docilator bracelet and doing public service
a billion miles from anywhere. She doesn’t and it gushed over such twenty-third-century Where did the reading go? I reviewed the
realize she’s dealing with Michael VandeHier, claptrap just like any other adolescent.) sensor data. Definitely a surge of some kind, in
late—permanently late—of Rhodes Station, quadrant A, sector 2. “Nothing’s an anomaly
I admit, part of me would like to incinerate
which is just fine by me. when you don’t know anything.” (words of
the other android, too, but not only would that
wisdom from my first mentor). Thanks, Professor
Calypso’s Bloomers, as if. Ha. Klegett’s be morally and ethically dubious, I also cannot
get a safe shot with Klegett’s crewman moving Tomkerr. I’ll recalibrate and try again.
imagination was no better than his bluffing.
back and forth.
I politely pointed out that profit takes pre-

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The Affair on Silly Twelve, by T. W. Williams Pg. 26

Maelstrom’s Buddy [ext. link] Sally Saggybutt made cookies and lemonade. the twenty-seventh century, and the old ste-
Ha! reotypes just don’t cut it.
Boswell’s dead. He was a cheat and a four-
fisted drinker, but he was a good mechanic and In other words, she was one hot chick. Kind
those extra two hands came in handy during of petite but her jumpsuit was full of curves
bar fights. Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland and she had hair the color of Sarassian spi-
dermoss—the kind of auburn-shot brown that
Something flattened him. If the Rowland Klegett’s a fool. The native life forms were glows from every angle.
wasn’t sitting there on its struts 500 meters approaching his position and he panicked
away, I would make her my prime suspect. and started firing a hand-blaster. Now he’s I could tell she wanted me to stay, but no
Then again, scientists would rather flap their in my airlock. He’s a robust specimen of a babe is going to call my shots. “Science comes
mouths about respect for life while their hands man—broad shoulders, dark, curling hair, a first,” she said, pretending to drip ice and all.
are busy dissecting you. My blaster’s powered twist of a grin, more smirk than smile, a sparkle You shoulda seen her face when I reminded her
up and I have a spare cell or two, so whatever of the eye (which could be the reflection of the that nice guys, or even nice gals with curves
got Bozzie won’t have a chance. I think some- disinfect beams). and auburn curls, finish last. Ha-ha! Like she
thing’s moving on that slope. I’m going to take didn’t want to lip-lock me right then and there.
He does not look at all like a “Hubert
a look. Wish those boulders weren’t in the way. Klegett.” She sure squirmed out of her flightsuit fast
I know, I know, I know. Not a scientific
They’re twelve feet tall easy and twenty-five observation enough.
and, besides, as Twill wrote, “The
feet across—I could get bushwhacked. name you bear, smart or foul, is ne’er what’s Anyway, the critters stopped moving and,
branded on your soul.” And to think I used to after six hours or so, I said I’d chance it. All
laugh at my roommate’s addiction to Sabatini. quiet so far.
Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland
It would be handy to have Jokanian
Something is definitely out there. Some unthawed and analyzing the data feeds, but
indigenous life-form, I mean. I picked up she’d be groggy for a few hours, and what use Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland
Klegett’s readings and found his suit-to-ship is a half-awake xenobiologist? No time for that
channel. His crewman’s dead. I know it seems now. I will have to baby-sit Klegett and still Nothing beats firsthand observation.
tactless to point it out, but perhaps he got collect the data on the natives. Hubert is smarter than he seemed. I could tell
what was coming. He and his foul-mouthed he wanted to stay, but he was getting nervous
boss shouldn’t have been down here in the No movement detected until our main over what I picked up on right away: basic
first place. engines were powered down. That must mean animal cravings.
something.
In retrospect, stripping off my jumpsuit—I
have just been keeping the temperature
Maelstrom’s Buddy [ext. link] settings up so as not to drain the battery
Maelstrom’s Buddy [ext. link] packs—was probably a flawed action. Neither
Great galaxies and heavenly bodies! The
Things seem quieter now, and I’m heading but then nor
Jokanian Ivers would have batted an eye,
boulders are moving—like great, gray headless again, they’re intelligent adults, not
turtles, but faster. I gave the closest one a full back to my ship. I kinda miss Rory already—boy, adolescent cavemen. I see now that I must
charge but it just bounced off. They’ve cut me did she burn when I cut through the “Aurora have triggered a mammalian
de Alba Carlisle-Phipps” malarkey. Taught me by prehistoric instinct: When reaction, spurred
off. I’m going to try for the Rowland. Hope old survival is threat-
something, though: We’re on the doorstep of

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The Affair on Silly Twelve, by T. W. Williams Pg. 27

ened, find a deep, safe cave and propagate. Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland Problem is, we can’t keep the mains online for
any length of time. Not even her E-650 can run
So I powered up the mains for a few cycles Mike’s safe. Thank heavens. full-bore on a planet’s surface for more than
to cool us off—the ship, I mean. The “turtles,” an hour or two without fusing. I know good old
as Hubert so quaintly—and erroneously— Why aren’t the natives attacking the ships? Aunt Connie can’t last half that.
called them, lapsed into inactivity. I am not There are scores of them, perhaps hundreds,
sure what stimulates them, but I am beginning and more seem to be gathering on the slopes. So it’s a simple matter of mechanics, physics
to form a theory on what repels them. Telepathy? Biological radio? Technology? and not much time. Looks like we’ll have to
I’ll have to run some theories through the abandon Silly Twelve. Scratch one big ol’ pearl.
These creatures—personal note: watch the computer. Lannie is going to be plenty p-o’d.
prejudicial phraseology—these beings are fas-
cinating. I wonder how they breathe, wonder They range from three to six meters high and Rory asked if she could experiment with my
about their mating habits. up to twelve in length, semi-ovoid in shape— other android. I told her sure and transferred
roughly even mounding above, flat against the codes and settings. I had forgotten it was
Systems note: Remember to edit closely. the ground. No visible means of locomotion, still out there, planting claim markers that it
Eating habits...eating...eating...concentrate! but then the hide—personal note: watch the now looks like will never be used.
prejudicial phraseology!—the epidermal layer
I’m monitoring closely to see that he gets is extremely resistant to fire and heat and is
back to his ship. Even in his environmental suit, thwarting efforts to gather sensor data. In
you can tell he has a well-developed gluteus. other words, if I hadn’t seen them move, I’d Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland
Call him “Mike,” he said. I don’t blame him. never have guessed they could.
Hubert’s not much of a name, but I don’t see I’m trying to reprogram Mike’s android to
where he derives “Mike” from it. No indication of external digestive or com- emit a pseudo-signature matching the engine
munication organs; no orifices of any kind. harmonics. If it works, we can probably go
Sensor spike! MIKE! RUN! to the enviro-suit level and get on with our
I bet his mouth is smiling that little devil- missions. Of course, I still have to persuade
may-care smile. him that science comes first. How I will do so, I
am not yet sure. The thought makes me blush,
Maelstrom’s Buddy [external link] although I am not certain why.
Black holes and cosmic clusters! They’re Maelstrom’s Buddy
moving again!
They’re crowding closer. Rory says her Maelstrom’s Buddy
Rory fired up her directional thrusters, theory—she’s smart, as well as sexy...I could
and they’re better than the cubed power of go for a babe like her—is that the ships’ engine In all this excitement, Lannie, I just realized
a hundred hand-blasters, but the turtles just harmonics were “exerting prohibitive influence that this log has been recording on open mode
waddled through it. Good thing I had a head on the indigenous beings.” Sheesh. She should ever since I approached Silly Twelve. Well, no
start. I’m at the hatch, and they’ve backed off. get paid by the word, although some might pay matter. Whatever you don’t like, you can edit
just for the chance to see those glistening ruby out. Shouldn’t be any harder to do than cooking
lips wrap themselves around each syllable. the books like you’ll have to on this mess. Ha.
And don’t bother to try and repossess the
O.K., let me break it down: She says if we Buddy. Ain’t going to happen.
run our engines, we can keep the turtles at bay.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Affair on Silly Twelve, by T. W. Williams Pg. 28

She owes me two androids now. Maelstrom’s Buddy
As soon as it began transmitting, two of Just like a woman, to try and get in the last
the turtles lumbered over and smashed it word.
flatter than a Mugsusu pancake viper. Guess
she didn’t get the mix quite right, or maybe the Ha!
android’s field-emitter was too puny.
Now she wants to use my ship to try again,
turn it into one big fusion-powered harmonica
thing. She’s promised me passage on her ship,
but what’s the point in sleeping with someone
if you’re both frozen solid? T. W. Williams
Nothing to do now but leave. I’d follow her,
but I don’t think we fly in the same circles. TW Williams has been a journalist for more
than a quarter-century, recently relocating
from Ohio to the Chicago area. He is the author
Science Vessel Sherwood Rowland of dozens of short stories and two fantasy
novels, as well as co-editor of Carnivah
“Though endless nights eclipse our paths
and never again we meet, House, a fantasy publishing endeavor. His
writings include the serial characters Rai
out of boundless, bitter emptiness, there Memory-chanter, John Humble and Sefryn
still grows something sweet: Skullface.
This may be a universe of thorns, barren of
scantest rose,
but a billion lights in spangled void: in each
your memory glows.”
Why did I waste time memorizing Twill,
when I could have done advance studies in
field harmonics?
There he goes.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 29
Calamity’s Child
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight
by M. Keaton

Part One “True,” said Red Dog, sobering. “If Ivan dies, “And the devil?” Ivan asked.
Red Dog does not get recording of potlatch.”
I van Steponovich did not really call anywhere
home, but the luxury starliner/casino Orion
came the closest—especially since the orphan
“But it’s still funny!” gasped Kylee. The
two howled with laughter in the face of Ivan’s
“Nightmares. But not often and not as
bad.”

Kylee had become one of the ship’s residents. scowl. “Of all the people in the room, you shot “Makes hard for Red Dog to sleep. Kylee
The girl’s high-pitched laughter echoed down the dealer!” wakes up screaming,” the Cillian complained.
the hallway as Ivan approached. “Red Dog needs new room.”
Ivan clicked off the vid. “The dealer was the
“Wait, wait, go back,” boomed the clicks unknown. I knew he was in on the fix but not Kylee shot him a grin. “Like you’d even
and buzzes of her Cillian roommate’s voice. whether he was packing. It made sense.” He consider it. Who’d watch potlatch vids with
The giant red millipede was obviously excited. stared at Red Dog. “And you, you think this is you?”
“This is Red Dog’s favorite part. Slo-mo!” appropriate entertainment for children?” “Grub has cunning intellect,” begrudged
Ivan smiled to himself at the sudden “I am not a child,” Kylee snapped. Red Dog.
eruption of clattering chitin and howling
The alien lifted his upper arms in a shrug. Ivan chuckled and lowered himself onto the
laughter. After all she had been through, the
“Grub needs to learn. Is full contact world. Red edge of Kylee’s bed. “Get your Earth citizenship
girl was older than many people twice her age;
Dog not want Kylee to die. Red Dog want Kylee papers yet?”
it was nice to be reminded of the child’s spirit
that survived. to learn from best.” He paused, then added, “Yep,” she replied. “House put ‘em in the
“Red Dog is not recorded, so settle for Ivan.” safe. Now I’m a ward of the Orion, a citizen of
“Whole room full humans with guns,”
“Glad I could help.” Ivan accepted a hug Earth, and have Cillian diplomatic immunity.”
chittered Red Dog. “Who does Ivan shoot? Ivan
shoots dealer!” from Kylee, returned it stiffly. “So how’re you “Cillian?”
doing, kiddo?”
Ivan stepped into the room to see a san- Red Dog buzzed. “Red Dog is only Cillian
dy-haired whip of a girl clutching her sides in “Devil lives in Kylee’s head,” rattled Red outside quarantine—entire embassy in one
laughter. Beside her, Red Dog was waving his Dog. shell. Red Dog is sovereign.”
upper limbs wildly, his entire frame vibrating “I’m fine, Uncle Ivan,” Kylee said, ignoring
in what Ivan presumed to be amusement. He Ivan preferred not to think about the ramifi-
the alien. “Really, Doctor Pell says I’m right as
glanced at the vid screen—and saw an image of cations of Red Dog as a sovereign government.
rain.” She exaggerated a frown. “Actually he
himself diving behind a table in slow-motion. “You sorted things out with House?” he asked.
said I was ‘good enough physically and as sane After her rescue, the Cillian had argued with
“For crying out loud, Red, you think this is as any of the other lunatics around here.’” Her the Orion’s owner that he could claim Kylee as
funny?” he demanded. “I almost died.” impression of the doctor was accurate and payment.
unflattering.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 30

“Fool humans have dumb laws.” racket. “I figured you’d be in your office.” House laughed, a booming sound that
echoed back off the metal walls. “Ivan, my
Ivan could not resist a dig at the big alien’s House rolled a shrug. “Contractors! You boy, you’ve got to pay more attention to what
expense. “Red, I’ve been wondering why you’re gotta watch them every minute or they start goes on around you. You’ve got partners now
so attached to Kylee to begin with. I thought slacking off. Remember how you got here—this whether you want to admit it or not.”
you hated all humans.” is going to be my new Command Information
Center when it’s done.” “Red Dog, maybe,” Ivan said. “Not a partner,
“Because I’m cute,” injected the girl. but we work well together.”
“What’s wrong with the old CIC?”
Red Dog shook his triangular head. “Red “And Kylee,” House added.
Dog hates humans, will kill all someday. Kylee “It’s civilian. Come on out in the hall
is not human.” where I can hear you better.” House led the “The kid? No way.” Ivan shook his head.
way, continuing to speak. “I’m gearing up the “She’s sweet and all, but she’s no hired gun.
“How’s that work?” Ivan asked. old battlewagon now that I’ve got the cash The kid’s destined for better things, and I ain’t
to do it. Better sensors, new CIC, way better a babysitter.”
The Cillian ground his plates in frustration. point defense and targeting software. She was
“Red Dog hates humans. Red Dog likes Kylee. “Maybe I should’ve waited to talk to you in
military grade hardware to start with, so the
Therefore, Kylee is not human. Is logic.” my office if you’re going to be stupid and make
bones are good—just need to work on the
details...and bigger guns, naturally.” me explain everything in detail.”
Ivan shook his head but did not argue.
Cillians literally did not think like humans. Red Ivan gave a thin smile. “If you want to get
“Naturally. You looking for a fight?”
Dog was a true existentialist; what Red Dog me riled, you’ve got to do better than that,
did not perceive did not exist, and what Red House hooked his thumbs into his belt. House. I’ve been called Fool Human so often I
Dog perceived to be real and true was real and “Expecting one. Those butchers who almost got think it’s my name.”
true, externals be damned. Kylee are really starting to cut into my bottom
line, and Earth Defense is clueless as usual. House hissed like a leaky cylinder. “Pell
He stood and tousled Kylee’s hair, noticing guesses her age no less than fourteen—she
It looks like I’m going to have to fix it myself.
that it had become darker in the past few says she’s sixteen. Either way, the kid’s a legal
That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
months. “House wants to talk to me—I’ll be adult. She can do what she wants, walk right
back later.” He pointed a finger at Red Dog. Ivan leaned against a bulkhead, folding his off this station any time she gets the idea in
“And no more potlatch.” arms. “Sounds to me like you need a bunch of her head. And the idea in her head right now
cowboys, not one washed-up bounty hunter.” is that she wants to be a bounty hunter, just
Ivan found the ex-smuggler surrounded by like her heroes Ivan and the bug.” House pulled
the chaos of construction deep in the mobile “I’ve got cowboys. By the time the upgrades himself up to his full height and glowered
refueling station he had converted into the to the Orion are done, I’ll probably have half down at Steponovich. “So either she goes with
luxury starliner known as the Orion. In the belly the pilots in the frontier on payroll. But I want you, or she goes without you. Which way do
of the beast, beneath the black storm clouds your crew there, too. Nothing too binding, just you think she’s more likely to survive? I spent
of massive steel beams and the white lightning on retainer—we’ve got a common interest in good money getting the brat healed up—I’m
of arch welders, House looked like Hephaestus this one and it’s going to be a lot easier working not going to let her or you throw that all away
surveying his forge. together than separately.” just because she’s got some fool idea in her
“Dell told me you were down here.” Ivan head.” He spread his hands. “Just take her with
“What crew?”
had to raise his voice to be heard over the you, keep her busy with errands, and let her

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 31

see how the real world works. She’ll give up bounties you bring in on the side. In return, I and Graves brought in was a list of names on
the idea soon enough and come back to work want you to run down whatever leads I get. Casey’s payroll. One of those names was a
on the station. It’s just a phase. Help me out What do you think?” fellow called Fixer Gascoigne. A name like that
here.” doesn’t crop up all the time. It sounded familiar
“I think I should get you a swagger stick for so I cross-checked it against the old ErDef
“The kid’s tough,” Ivan said, as much to your birthday,” Ivan quipped. “Kylee gets full records. Gascoigne was listed as an engineer
himself as to House. “Might not be a passing rate, just like anybody else. She does the job, second class on the Hecate.”
phase. You could have headed this off if you’d she deserves the pay.”
kept Red Dog away from her.” “You want me to bring him in or put him
“Expensive, but I’ll go with it.” House down?”
House snorted. “Maybe I’ll keep water dropped his chin to his chest and continued
from flowing downhill while I’m at it. That’s a pacing. “I’ve had Max and Dell going through “What I really want is the Hecate. If Fixer
bad mix, Ivan, her and that bug. It makes him a the info dump your friend Graves sent from is still alive, it stands to reason that maybe the
lot more dangerous.” Earth. Lots of interesting things in there, but Hecate vanished to somewhere. Shake him
it’s taking them time to ferret it all out. I had down and find out. You bring me the Hecate,
“How d’you figure?” something jump out at me, though. Ever hear and I’ll be one very happy man. If she was
of a ship called the Hecate?” destroyed, bring Fixer in if you can. Otherwise,”
“She treats him like her own pet monster. House shrugged, “use your imagination.”
I’ve been wondering if he’s just going along “Should I have?”
with it as camouflage. The way they carry on, Ivan braced a foot against the wall behind
it makes it a lot easier to forget you’re dealing “No, but you have a knack for knowing him. “If I find your ship, I’m going to need a
with a member of an alien race that tried to things you shouldn’t. Back in my extra-legal cowboy to fly it.”
exterminate humanity. You trust him?” days, the Hecate was a kind of smuggler’s
bogeyman—an Earth Defense light cruiser with “Ahead of you there. I’ve got a call in to
Ivan nodded. “As far as Kylee’s concerned, top-of-the-line stealth and detection technol- Rainmaker. You find the ship, call, and I’ll send
yeah, I do. I trust his intentions—his judgment ogy. She was the ultimate hunter—silent, fast, him over with a couple of junior pilots to run
is another matter.” and deadly.” systems. He’ll take her off your hands.”
“We’ll see.” A hollow metallic banging “You say was.” “I thought Rain was retired.”
sounded from the room behind them. “So you
want a job or not? I’ve got to get back in there “Right.” House spun on his heal. “About House smiled. “He is, but for a prize like
before they weld their thumbs together.” four years ago, the Hecate vanished, assumed the Hecate, he’s willing to make an exception.
lost with all hands aboard. Guess where?” Rainmaker a problem for you?”
“I’m listening.”
“Nevrio?” “No, he’s good...nuts, but good.”
House clasped his hands behind his back and
began to pace as he lectured. “Earth Defense “Close. Fargone, but Nevrio was her next “All pilots are insane—it’s what makes them
is tied up around Farnham, where most of port of call.” pilots. I’ll tell Dell to give you access to every-
the attacks have been. That leaves us to work thing we’ve got on Gascoigne.” House glance
the Nevrio-Fargone side without stepping on Ivan clucked his tongue. “Handy coinci- over Ivan’s shoulder at the doorway. “Anything
anybody’s toes. I’ll pay you and Red your usual dence. So?” else? I’ve got to get back in there.”
retainers, and the kid half, and you keep any “So buried in that slug of information you Ivan shook his head. “I’m good. Go protect

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 32

your fortune.” “They were arguing,” the girl continued, nothing more than a little sleight of hand—no
“about who was going to kill you. Are you in shouting, no theatrics, no hassles. That’s
# some kind of trouble, Mister Breston?” the goal, always. Things only get exciting if
something goes wrong.”
He did not answer. The two bounty hunters
By frontier standards, Nevrio was an indus- had him flanked and, like a fool, he was not “So why did we bring Red?” she teased.
trial and population giant. The planet’s major even carrying a weapon. I’m an accountant,
cities rivaled those of the outer Hegemony with “Because things often go wrong,” buzzed
his mind screamed just short of panic, maybe
the accompanying architecture, cuisine, and the alien, “and nothing human can defeat Red
I skim a little, but nothing worth getting killed
entertainment. For Hugh Breston, part-time Dog.”
over. “You gotta get me out of here,” he said in
business accountant and full-time embezzler, it a stricken whisper.
was a place of relaxation and luxury, a vacation “In his own twisted way, he’s right,” Ivan
from an otherwise hectic and dangerous life. “Are you wanted for something? Some kind admitted. “Even the best plans go wrong more
He sat at an umbrella-shaded table outside of bounty?” often than they go right. All the more reason
an overpriced cafe nursing a cup of coffee for you to keep your head down and only work
that would have cost an honest man a week’s “Yeah, probably. Nothing major though.” the safe jobs for a few years until you get a feel
salary. It was the little things that made it all for things.”
worthwhile. The girl smiled coolly. “I have an idea. If
you’ll play along, I think I can get you out of “You could at least let me have a gun.”
Like being served by a pretty little thing in this alive.”
a black and white suit. Breston motioned her “No.” Ivan’s tone left no room for
over with two curled fingers. “Hey kid, freshen His mouth was dry and he had to try twice argument.
this for me, will ya?” to get the words out. “Tell me what to do.”
After a few moments of sulking, Kylee
The girl shook her head. “I don’t work here, Twenty minutes later Kylee walked out of asked, “Where’re we going?”
Mister Breston.” the Earth Security office on Nevrio happily
counting the money from her first bounty. Ivan “Sixth Street,” Red Dog answered. “Is only
Hugh came up straight in his seat. “How do and Red Dog lounged outside. place on Nevrio that serves my kind.”
you know my name?”
“Everything go all right?” Ivan asked. “What do we do after we eat?”
“That man over there. I overheard him
She flashed him a grin. “Like cake.” She “You go back to the hotel,” said Ivan. “I’ve
talking about you.”
stuffed half the money into a pocket, and split got to get some real work done.”
Breston resisted the urge to turn and stare, the rest between the other two. Kylee bristled. “Is Red going with you? To
lifted the spoon from his coffee, and used the
“Mercenary,” rattled Red Dog. do real work?”
curved surface as a mirror instead. “Who was
he talking to?” “No. Red sticks out like a sore thumb.”
“Absolutely,” Kylee replied. “I learned from
“The big red thing.” House.” The Cillian buzzed. “Is true. Red Dog is not
“Let’s get some food,” Ivan said, leading good at stealth.”
He twisted the spoon and almost choked
when he saw the distorted image of a Cillian. the way. “Now you see what I mean about a “Then why can’t I go?” she protested. “I’m
smart bounty. You brought Breston in with quiet, and I can keep a low profile.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 33

“No.” of the inner city. space. It took a certain kind of man to work a
port—to dodge the trucks and duck the cranes,
“Because you think I’m a kid! That’s it, isn’t Ivan sat at a counter in a ten by twenty to be scalded by the steam of ships’ exhaust;
it? I’m just some brat you have to baby-sit?” room with walls the color of a smoker’s finger- tear muscles to offload a cargo a few seconds
nails and ate a meal that tasted like ashes of faster; to be slowly poisoned by radiation but
Ivan suppressed an irritated sigh. the same. He did not tip, and he did not make not really caring, because the odds were that a
“Sometimes, yes.” eye contact. Eat, drink the motor oil disguised cable would break or a foot would slip and there
as a cup of coffee, and leave—welcome to the would not be a chance to get old enough to
“Well to hell with you then!” Spinning Sixth Street Grill, now go away. care about luxuries like cancer. It took a certain
on her heel, she stomped angrily across the
street. kind of man, but not the kind Ivan would have
At Fourth, the pavement gave way to a called special—men like Fixer Gascoigne.
tacky river of black chewing gum laughingly
“What was that?” Ivan asked, watching her called asphalt. Only the setting of Nevrio’s sun The hunter found a man with an emblem
pound pavement out of sight. kept the soles of Ivan’s boots from sticking as on his shirt pocket and long sleeves on his
“Red Dog has no idea. Maybe Ivan hit he walked. Men with faces where the absence shirt. “I’m looking for a guy, name of Fixer. He’s
scabbed spot?” of scars was unusual hulked in alleyways, while supposed to be working one of these crews.”
girls younger than Kylee stood on the corners
“Sore spot. Maybe.” Ivan paused, then, “Go and clutched themselves with stick-thin arms. A cheese grater face with a toothpick
with her, Red. Make sure she’s all right. I’ll talk Torn stockings and jaundiced skin passed wedged in its lips glared at him and spat. Ivan
with her once I get in and she’s cooled off.” for uniforms of the trade. If a streetlight had repeated the dance in all its variations for
bothered to come on, someone would have another half hour, then went to lounge against
“Red Dog do thing. Red Dog do next thing,” put a rock through it. the side of a shack. He waited long enough to
the alien clattered, waving his upper cilia. be certain he had been seen, made a show
“Always Red Dog sent to do things. When does The stretching shadows of waning twilight of giving up in frustration, and headed back
Red Dog get to kill things?” He was still grousing were made all the blacker by the city’s uptown. As he went, he eased a length of
as he went out of sight. core—the core of any colony city, the indus- surgical tubing from his pocket, wrapped the
trial spaceport. The mile-wide pit was ringed ends around either hand.
Ivan checked to make sure the .45 custom with towers sporting bulldozer-sized banks of
slid smooth in its holster and continued toward halogen lights. The blue-white glare stabbed He did not see his tail as much as feel it. The
Sixth Street. Nearly every city on every planet up and out like a ghost rising in a graveyard. jerking eyes of the corner girls gave away as
numbered its streets as the city grew and The tourists and the money would land at the much as storefront windows or pocket mirrors.
expanded out, a convention as old as Earth. In new port, somewhere with enclosed terminals Ivan stopped, looked at a girl like he was apprais-
Ivan’s experience, anything under eight was a and manicured gardens around the edges ing a side of beef, watched her eyes flick over
war zone. where never a harsh word was spoken, but the his shoulder. Her nervous instincts read off the
lifeblood of the city pumped through the same distance to him like a tape measure. When his
Glass windows and landscaping gave way to sclerotic heart that had sustained it since the pursuer was close enough, he started walking
abandoned warehouses and derelict factories world was settled. again.
that stared down from empty sockets and
cardboard eye patches. Soon came the looming Corrugated tin warehouses surrounded the At the next empty alley, he took a wide
brick fronts, steel-barred doors, and windows port, crates to hold crates, and the shadows turn, then sprinted back to the corner. A stump
of the shops that serviced the men and women behind them were darker than the void of of a man with a pug face stepped into the alley.
who clawed for survival even deeper in the pits

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 34

Ivan dropped the tubing over his head, around again. move his own crew on board and take her.”
his neck, and pulled. The fireplug was strong.
Ivan put a knee into his back until he was a “All right, all right. It was Farhold. We met “Ivan knows where ship was abandoned?”
little less active. another ship in orbit around Farhold, took on
some cargo. I don’t know the other ship, I don’t “Yeah. We can take a shuttle out and check
“Only my friends sneak up on me in the know what cargo, I don’t know anything.” just to make House happy.” Ivan fought the
dark,” Ivan hissed in his ear. “What’s your cushions, jerked free the toy pillow pressing
name? Maybe I know you.” “Next question then, Fixer. Who’re you on his back and tossed it onto an empty couch.
working for?” “Right now I just have a sick feeling in my gut
The man made a choking sound and clawed and a bad headache. How’s the kid?”
weakly at his throat. “Kor. Albert Kor.”
“Very angry.” The Cillian hesitated. “Kylee
“Nope. Not familiar.” Ivan hauled on the “Kor’s dead,” Ivan growled. “Who’s the in room. Red Dog called for help.”
tubing until he felt the man’s weight start to boss?”
sag. He eased off the garrote. “Try again.” “What do you mean, called for help?”
Fixer kept his lips clamped together.
“Fixer.” The voice was a raw whisper, the “Female of species angry.” Red Dog spread
“Who’s the boss?” The tubing went tight his upper arms. “When female angry, males
most air he could get through his throat. again. “Is it Casey or is there another cut-out die. Get head bitten off! Not problem Red Dog
“Better. You know, I was looking for you man?” is equipped for. So Red Dog called female for
earlier. Could’ve saved us both some trouble. help.”
“I don’t—”
I’m going to ask a few questions and you’re
going to answer them.” Ivan pressed the heels of his hands against
Ivan hauled back hard. “Don’t lie to me and his eyes and rubbed. “You called Martha?”
don’t play stupid. Tell me!”
“Go to—urk!”
“Pharaoh hates Red Dog.”
Fixer fought at his throat, refused to answer.
Ivan let him struggle, then asked, “Want Ivan kept up the pressure until the man slid to “Well then, who did you call?”
to start over?” Fixer nodded and the garrote the asphalt unconscious. “Guys like you always
loosened, barely. “You remember a ship called pick the hard way,” Ivan told the alley, panting. The alien remained quiet, but the fine red
the Hecate?” Another nod. “Where is she?” “Feel lucky. Red would’ve killed you.” He kicked cilia of his upper body waved nervously.
“Gone,” Fixer rasped. Fixer in the ribs for good measure.
“Red?”
“My hands are getting sore. Don’t make me # “Red Dog only knows one other female of
ask again.” species.”
Red Dog was waiting was in the hotel’s
“I don’t know, I swear. We left port an’ lobby, ignoring the nervous looks from the He cursed and wrestled free of the chair,
the emergency evac sounded. I jumped in a staff. “Learn anything?” heading for the stairs. Red Dog trailed forlornly
lifeboat, ended up here.” behind.
“Nothing I want to remember,” replied Ivan,
“I think you’re leaving out a few steps, but sinking into one of the overstuffed armchairs. #
we’ll let that go. What port?” When Fixer took “Fixer looks to be a dead end. They abandoned
too long to answer, Ivan started to pull back the ship. It was probably a setup for Casey to

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 35

Ivan opened the door to a gun muzzle terone is,” protested the Cillian. He heard clothing shift and dimly made
pointed at his stomach and the smell of straw- out a shrug. “I was in the area.” She let out a
berries. Silver, pupilless eyes peaked out at him “It means you’re both too male too often,” soft chuckle. “You two don’t really live up to
from a curtain of bright pink bangs. Rose snapped back. your reputations—the big red destroyer of all
mankind scared to death of a girl.”
“Hello, Rose.” “Not Red Dog’s fault. Red Dog was fed
wrong jelly as grub to be female!” Ivan smiled in the dimness. “I’ve seen her
A smile twisted one side of her mouth, and in action—she’s worth being scared of. Besides,
the professional duelist known as Quicksilver “Keep your voice down,” hissed Rose. Red’s an alien—how’s he supposed to know
Rose lowered her gun and stepped aside to let what to do with her?”
There was a rustle, and Kylee’s door
them in. “She’s sleeping.” opened. She had slept in her clothes and her “As if you do. And if she’s so scary, why are
They were staying in a suite, two bedrooms hair floated in a dozen directions at once. As you trying so hard to protect her?”
with a common room in the center; the door to she knuckled the sleep from her eyes, looking
Kylee’s room was closed. Rose had been sitting every bit the lost waif. “Uncle Ivan?” “That what she told you?”
in a wooden straight-backed chair pulled to “It’s just me and Red. You can go back to “Part of it.”
face the door. sleep.”
“Always this paranoid?” Ivan asked. He sighed. “She’s right, I guess. I just don’t
She blinked slowly. “I’m sorry I yelled at want to see her get hurt anymore.”
“Aren’t you?” Rose slid the chair until its you.”
back was at the wall and sat again. “You think she wants to be? From what we
“I’m sorry too, kid. I was out of line,” Ivan talked about, Kylee’s had plenty of first hand
Ivan took the sofa, losing sight of the said wearily. experience with the way the world works—
woman as Red Dog’s considerable length she’s no glass debutante. What she needs from
“We okay?”
walked between them. “Not really. I just have you is training. Teach her how to survive. You’d
Red sleep out here.” “Not a scratch on us.” be doing that if she were a boy.”
The smile ghosted to both sides of her lips Kylee nodded. “G’night” She pushed the “You’re right.”
and, for a moment, she smiled with actual door closed.
warmth. “He sleeps standing up?” Rose’s tone was grim as she leaned forward.
“Nice kid,” Rose said softly. “You’d better pay attention, Mister Stepon-
“Yes,” buzzed the alien. ovich. You’re all the family she’s got now.”
“Better than human,” clattered Red Dog,
“I bet you look like a horse,” Rose teased. crossing the room again. “Red Dog goes to “That how she sees it?”
“Does Ivan put a blanket over you?” Ivan’s room for resting.” With the second door “That’s how it is!” Rose said fiercely. “Oh,
closed, the only light in the common room
“How’s Kylee?” Ivan asked. there’s a handful of other people she thinks
was the omnipresent orange glow of the city pretty highly of—big Red’s on the top of the
“Fine, now. She’d be better if it weren’t for filtering in beneath the curtains. list—but you’re her world right now. She’s
you two testosterone-poisoned idiots.” counting on you to come through.”
“Thanks for coming,” Ivan said. “Sorry Red
“Red Dog does not even know what testos- bothered you.” “And if I don’t?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 36

“Then I’ll kill you.” Rose? Why do you care?” strangers you might be shooting someday.” She
flinched, and he wished he had not said it.
Ivan started to laugh, smothered it. “She “You mean because I’m a stone cold killer
does get under your skin, doesn’t she?” or just a bitch?” She put his glass on the end “Dinner?” he asked.
table, kept her own in her hand.
Rose sighed. “I’m not kidding, Mister Ste- “For a start,” she smiled. It crinkled the
ponovich. You want to go for a walk, so we can Ivan winced. “Not how I would’ve phrased corners of her eyes and lifted her ears slightly.
talk above a whisper?” it. But, sure, you’re a mercenary like Red and Ivan was amazed at how expressive her face
me, working for the almighty buck. What’s could be in spite of cybernetic mercury eyes.
“Call me Ivan, and I’ve been walking all your angle?” He felt himself smiling back.
night.”
She swirled the ice in her glass, looked at “But not tonight.”
“My room then, Ivan.” him through her hair. “I could ask you the same
thing.” She sat on the edge of her bed, folding He ducked his head in acquiescence and
“You’ve got a room here?” sipped his drink. “You still haven’t answered
her legs under her. “But you’re not a mercenary,
not the way I am, and I figure at least part of my question.”
“Got one when I arrived. House is paying
for it—you get to tell him that.” She stood, that has rubbed off on Red as well.” She took Her smile burned away like mist in morning.
and Ivan got the door for her, slipped it closed a drink, pointed at him with the glass. “You’re “My angle is more personal.” Rose leaned over
behind him. a throwback, Mist—Ivan, although to when, I the end table, poked at the ice in her glass with
don’t know. I checked. You only take the clean a finger. “Kylee’s an orphan. I—my folks died
“After you.” Standing close, Ivan realized bounties, the known bad guys. You’ve turned when I was ten. I got sent to live with an uncle
she was shorter than he was by almost a foot, down as many jobs as you’ve taken, and for on Farnham. It wasn’t even six months before
and younger—a lot younger. more money.” he—You want some more to drink?”
Her room was smaller—a kitchenette, “Gray areas are bad for business.” Ivan shook his head.
bathroom, and a bed—and almost as dark,
even after she clicked on the lamp on the night- She laughed. It was not pretty, an uneven “Well I do,” she stood abruptly.
stand. He found the room’s only chair, spun it cackle across unfamiliar ground. “You’re a
around and sat. white hat, Ivan. Not like me.” Her voice trailed “So I split,” she called from the kitchenette.
off. She looked into her drink, tossed it down, “I was younger than Kylee and out on my own.
“You’ve got to do right by her,” Rose was and sat the glass on the end table. “I’m a By the time I was her age...”
saying from the kitchenette. “You know what duelist. Some rich snob gets insulted by some
it’s like. How often do people in our line of other rich snob, one hires me, the other hires Ivan thought of the corner girls and stayed
work get a chance to save somebody?” somebody else, and then I go and stand on a quiet. Rose returned without her glass, sat on
grassy field and shoot a total stranger because the edge of the bed, studying him. He lifted his
“I already saved her,” Ivan replied. “What it’s what I’m paid to do. No rhyme, no reason, glass, drank the remainder, returned her stare
you’re talking about is something different.” it’s just a job and I do it because that’s what I’m back over the top of it.
good at.” She changed subjects abruptly. “You
Ice clinked into glasses. “Not really. “I’ll take care of her,” he said. She watched
owe me, by the way.”
Drink?” him a moment longer, then seemed satisfied
Ivan shook his head. “Red owes you. I’m with what she saw. Rose blinked, one eye at
“Just water. So where do you fit into all this, not the one who called—I’m just one of those a time, and curled on her side atop the bed,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 37

head propped up by a pile of pillows. not that they ever told me.” She hesitated, smile on her face.
then added, “We never talked much. I was just
Ivan drew a finger through the ring of con- one more mouth to feed, you know? So when Ivan’s smile was more sardonic. “As in Jane,
densation left by her glass, then stood. “After that guy from Earth, what’s his name?” I suppose?”
all, how often do we get a chance to save
somebody?” He brushed his lips against the “Graves?” Kylee gave him a blank look. “Who?”
top of her pink hair, then let himself out.
“That’s him. When he asked for my citizen- “Never mind.” Ivan shook his head. “Just
ship papers, I told him, well, Steponovich. I showing my age.”
#
didn’t think you’d mind. He laughed like it was “Calamity,” Kylee repeated. “Calamity’s
some kind of inside joke or something.”
He slept fitfully and woke early. Light Child.”
spilled from under Kylee’s door. Knocking, he Ivan drew a deep breath, let it out slowly,
let himself in when she bade. Hair damp, she Ivan pursed his lips. “I suppose you’ve
just short of a sigh. “No, I don’t mind. Heck of
sat upright in her bed reading dressed in fresh earned that.”
a compliment actually. You sure you wouldn’t
clothing. rather go with Kylee Dog? Red will be awfully “This is the last world my parents
disappointed.” ever saw,” she said in a subdued tone.
“What’re you reading?” he asked softly,
pulling a chair to her bedside. “I hadn’t thought about that. I should have
She laughed, overly loud with relief. Her realized. Sorry about that.”
finger slipped and her book dropped to the
She held the book with one finger inserted floor. Ivan picked it up and handed it back to Kylee shrugged. “Whatever. Can I have a
as a bookmark. “Mark Twain. House got me a her. gun, too?”
whole set. Said if I was ever going to under-
stand the way the Orion worked, I needed to “What I really want to go by,” she began, “is “No.”
understand Twain.” She frowned. “House says a nickname like everybody else.”
his real name was Samuel Clemens, but I figure “Why not?”
a person should get to be called what they “I go by Ivan.”
want.” “Because you’re not ready for a gun.”
“Crazy Ivan.” Kylee stuck out her tongue.
“Sounds fair.” “Did you know that Quicksilver Rose is not her The girl folded her arms across her chest
real name? Want to know what it is?” and glared ahead. “You’re saying that because
“Is Ivan your real name?” you still think I’m a kid, right?”
“Nope. If she wanted me to know, she’d tell
“Ivan Christopher Steponovich.” me.” Ivan sighed. “No. I’m saying it because
you’re not ready for a gun yet. Listen. Look at
Kylee gave a crisp nod. “Kylee Steponovich, The girl’s eyes widened slightly. “That’s me,” he resisted the urge to physically turn the
nice to meet you.” sooo cool. So can I?” pouting face toward him, “I’m not treating you
Ivan’s cheek twitched. “Stepononvich? like a kid...or a girl. All right? I’m treating you
“Have a nickname? Sure, pick out something
That’s quite a coincidence.” like a new hire who’s got to learn the ropes
you like and we’ll try it on for size. Let me know from the bottom up. Fair enough? You with me
what you settle on.”
She squeezed her forehead into ridges. so far?”
“Not really. My folks didn’t have a last name, “Calamity,” she said fiercely, a satisfied “I suppose.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 38

“Everyone has a specialty. House is really “All right,” Kylee said cautiously. “When do laughing himself.
good with business and money. Max does the I have to leave?”
tech stuff. Quicksilver is probably the best shot. A loud buzzing clattered into the room.
I’m good at, well, getting lucky, at thinking on “My lead here turned out to be a dead end,” “Red Dog was desiring more sleep!”
my feet and getting out of jams.” Ivan began, breathing a mental sigh of relief.
“We were trying to find a stolen spaceship for In the face of the agitated Cillian, Kylee
“What’s Red Dog good at?” House. Red and I will still have to go out and pointed, and gasped, “Look! He talks!” before
look at the emptiness where it disappeared— lapsing back into a fit of giggles.
Ivan thought for a moment. “Talking.” you know how House is—but you can’t come
Kylee rolled her eyes. “No, I’m serious. Red’s a “Red Dog not equipped to deal with
with us because you haven’t learned EVA yet.”
master of camouflage, which is not what you’d partners.”
expect from an alien. But he does it by talking, “What’s EVA?”
a lot. He rattles on and on and next thing you
know, you’ve forgotten that you’re dealing with “Extra-vehicular activity, I think. It’s leaving
a Cillian. You start looking at him like he’s just a ship and going out into space in just a suit.
some funny, red, talking horse. All of a sudden, Max’ll teach you that. First, you need to learn
he’s turned his biggest weakness, being a a bunch of basic survival stuff from Pharaoh.
known and visible enemy, into a strength.” The sooner you leave, the sooner you get
back. But,” Ivan paused for effect, “you have to
“You know what Rose said you were really promise me one thing before you leave.”
good at?” She took his pause for assent. “She
said you were really good at trusting people. “What’s that?”
What’s that mean?” “Promise me that you won’t fall in love and
Ivan made a noncommittal grunt in his marry one of Pharaoh’s sons.”
throat. “Just another fault I’ve got to work on. “What?” Kylee squeaked in outrage before
Are you going to let me finish? Now, in order dissolving into laughter.
for you to be the best, you’ve got to learn from
the best.” “I know they’re handsome like their father,”
Ivan continued, pretending to ignore her. “And
“Like learning to talk from Red Dog.” you are getting up there in age. Your looks are
“Not exactly, but sure, close enough. But fading and you’re worried about becoming an
not just learning how the other person does old maid, so I understand that you’ve got to
it, but how you can make it work for yourself, take what you can catch.” He stopped, looked
too.” Ivan braced himself for another outburst. sideways at Kylee. “But, Miss Calamity, you’ve
“So I’m going to have to send you away for a got to promise: not one of Pharaoh’s sons.”
while.” No outburst, just an ominous silence. “I She struggled to fit a serious mask on her
want you to spend a couple of weeks with the features. “And why is that, Mister Crazy?”
guy who trained me. His name is Pharaoh and
he taught me almost everything I know.” “Because I can’t tell them apart.” He tried
to look serious and failed miserably, started

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part One: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 39

M Keaton
Growing up in a family with a history
of military service, M. Keaton cut his
linguistic and philosophical teeth on
the bones of his elders through games
of strategy and debates at the dinner
table. He began his writing career
over 20 years ago as a newspaper rat
in Springdale, Arkansas, U.S.A. before
pursuing formal studies in chemistry,
mathematics, and medieval literature
at John Brown University. A student
of politics, military history, forteana,
and game design, his renaissance
education inspired the short television
series: These Teeth Are Real (TTAR).
His literary “mentors” are as diverse
as his experiences. Most powerfully,
the author has been affected by the
works and writers of the “ancient”
world, including the Bible, Socrates,
and (more modern) Machiavelli, Tsun
Tsu, Tacitus, 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.)

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Featured Artist: Randall MacDonald Pg. 40

Featured Artist
Randall MacDonald
Name: Randall MacDonald
Age: Old enough to know better!
Country of residence: Canada
Hobbies: Origami, Magic, Tennis
Favorite Book / Author: So many, but
I enjoy Michael Crichton, Steven King,
Dave Williams, Tolkien...
Favorite Artist: Francis Bacon,
Michelangelo, Vermeer, Maxfield
Parrish, JC Leyendecker, John Berkey,
and many more!
When did you start creating art? As
soon as I could grab a crayon. As far
back as I can remember I have been
drawing.
What media do you work in? I was
trained as a classical painter, so we
learned in the traditional media: oils,
watercolor, gouache... I think that is sorely missing in a lot—but not all—of today’s artists. Learning the basics is essential—
perspective, anatomy, science of color, and plain old life drawing. I taught classes, and everyone wants a short cut to “Manga,”
thinking they will be the next Craig Mullins or Ryan Church. It’s not gonna happen; these guys practice hours every day, even
when not working on a project! I think “speedpainting” is a curse for the newbies. Take your time—you can’t run before you
can walk! Learn and practice the basics!
I am also a Director—TV commercials and TV series—so I use 35mm film and, lately, a Panasonic 900 HD camera, I think; I’ll ask
my shooter...LOL!
Where your work has been featured? Quite a few places, but I’m a professional, so I’m not too sure about this. I guess
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Featured Artist: Randall MacDonald Pg. 41

ImagineEX would count?
Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your works? I imagine DeviantART would be the best place,
although I just put up my own stuff there for feedback and to help out folks if I can, not to sell stuff.
How did you become an artist? I always was an artist...right from the beginning, but I went to art school and was hired while
still in school to be assistant to a great illustrator, so I guess I was a paid professional when I was seventeen.
What were your early influences? Most of the classic artists I mentioned in the previous question and the illustrator I worked
for as a kid.
What are your current influences? Well, when I’m
on the box...digital...I get influenced just by cruising
DeviantART; there are a great many fantastic talents
out here.
But to be specific, I guess Mullins, because he is a very
“traditional” painter! When I’m painting a canvas I
think Bacon and Michelangelo.
What inspired the art for the cover? I think it was
scene for a concept piece that was rejected.
How would you describe your work? As I said, I have
a lot of influences, and I am a working artist so it
changes—a bit of a chameleon I think...depends what
I’m working on.
Where do you get your inspiration / what inspires
you? Other artists...all of them!
Have you had any notable failures, and how has
failure affected your work? I think failures can
make you stronger...in every aspect of your life, art
included!
What have been your greatest successes? How has

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Featured Artist: Randall MacDonald Pg. 42

success impacted you / your work? Well, when I was about eighteen, I remember a friend introduced me at a party and said
my name, and then said “he’s an illustrator.” I almost fainted; it confirmed I was a pro.
What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art? Digitally, the basics: Wacom, PhotoShop and Painter.
Otherwise, I’m an oils kind of guy.
What tool / equipment do you wish you had? Got ‘em all, although I wish I had a kiln to do ceramics at home. LOL!
What do you hope to accomplish with your art? If I put a smile on someone’s face or even a frown, I guess I have achieved
something.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 43
Fear Lies Waiting
A Jack Brand Story
by John M. Whalen
D an Russell lifted a glass to his thirsty lips
and drank the Synth-Whiskey down in three
big gulps. He sat for a moment gazing into the
set us up for life. Look at this place—the best
casino in Green River. The money keeps rolling
in. This should be the best time of our lives.
There’s already talk of a Big Shutdown coming.
Everything we have here isn’t going to be worth
the match it will take to burn it down.”
mirror behind the bar at his own reflection Why isn’t it?”
with a look of distaste on his face. He saw a “Stop talking like a fool,” Christy said.
well dressed man in his late thirties with bags Russell stared down at the glass in front of “You’re the man I married. You’re the man I
under his eyes and slightly disheveled hair. The him. “The best time of our lives,” he said with a love. Whatever else happens doesn’t matter.”
man in the mirror did not look happy. snort. “Not even close. You think I don’t know? She moved closer and put her arms around his
You think I can’t see it?” neck and kissed him on the forehead. “Why
“Must you start so early?” Christy Jones can’t you believe that?”
asked. She had just come into the small bar “See what?”
from the larger gaming room beyond. It was He put the glass down and looked into her
“I guess it’s time it got said.” Russell ran his eyes. She leaned in and started to kiss him on
nearly four o’clock in the afternoon. Few fingers through his disheveled hair. “Every day,” the lips. He pulled away from her.
patrons were in the casino at that hour. The he said, “Every night. Every hour of my life I can
night shift croupiers, dealers, and cocktail see it in your eyes. Everything I say or do, every “Sorry,” he said, “nice try.” He got off the
waitresses were arriving at their stations to move I make I know you’re comparing me to bar stool. “It should be a busy night. We better
prepare for the night’s work. the man I took you away from—Jack Brand!” start getting ready.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” Russell said. “If I don’t “You’re crazy!” Christy said. “I made my He strode off to the main room of the
mind, why should you?” decision. I chose you. I thought I made the right casino. Christy sat for moment staring at the ice
Christy came over and stood beside him, decision. Why are you making me doubt it?” melting in the empty glass he’d left behind.
eyeing him with a frown. He looked at her sharply. “Then I am right. #
“I mind,” she said, “because I care. I can see It’s him you really wanted…still want. I’ll always
what you’re doing to yourself.” be second best.” He picked up the glass and The night seemed to drag on. Christy
gulped the drink down. watched as Dan moved around the casino
“So what?” Russell said. He waved a couple
“You’re wrong,” Christy said. “I don’t know floor. There hadn’t been a moment when he
of fingers at the bartender. The man looked at
what I can say or do to make you believe me, didn’t have a glass in his hand. As the evening
Christy. She nodded okay and the bartender
but you’re wrong.” wore on he got louder and progressively more
fixed another Synth-On-the-Rocks and put it drunk.
on the bar. “Maybe I should leave,” Russell said. “With
me out of the picture, you two can get back She tried to act the perfect hostess. The
“What is it, Dan?” Christy asked. “Why are
together. It’s time to get off this damn planet Milky Way Casino was one of the brightest
you doing this? Why are you so unhappy? You
anyway. Tulon is on its way to becoming a spots in Green River. It had one of the biggest
have everything you ever wanted. We came
wasteland. The bottom is falling out of the oil gaming floors in the town, and had 200 guest
back from Nemuria richer than we’d ever
market. They won’t need Tulon’s oil anymore. rooms in the twenty stories that rose above
dreamed of. The gold that Anemone gave us

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 44

the casino. Green River was a mid-size oil town ested gaze. a thin man with sandy colored hair sat behind
four hundred miles from Tulon Central, the a desk. There were television monitors on the
main hub of commerce on the planet. The oil “Don’t mind her,” a deep male voice said wall opposite the desk. Christy could see Dan
companies had built a neon-lit mirage here in behind Christy. She turned and looked up at on one of the screens, weaving with the glass
the middle of the Tulon desert. She and Dan a tall, head-shaved Nomad who had come up in his hand, putting one arm around the girl’s
were part of it. They used the money from the behind her. Silver studs were embedded in shoulder.
gold they brought back from Nemuria to tear his cheek bones, silver rings dangled from his
down the original Milky Way Club, which had ears and lower lip. Black leather covered his “I could put a stop to that,” the man in the
been a small, modest little affair, and put up massive, broad-shouldered body. He looked chair said.
this neon-studded extravaganza. her up and down with cold, grey eyes. “She’s
like that…friendly.” “Don’t,” Christy answered. “Let him have
But she knew Dan was right. Because of his fun. There’s a man who came in with her,
developments back on Earth, the mirage was “Really?” Christy asked. “She a friend of Fred, a big man in black.”
about to vanish into the thin, dry desert air. yours?”
“I clocked him,” the man said. “There are
Everything was changing. The crowds in the “Morvana is everybody’s friend.” His eyes two others, milling around the tables. They all
casino were getting smaller every night. And moved all over her. “You’re Christy Jones, came in together.”
there was a change in the type of customers aren’t you? You own this place.”
they were getting. The smart money crowd “Keep your eye on them,” Christy said. “I’m
had already packed up and gone back to Earth. “That’s right,” Christy said. “What about going out for a while. If I stay inside I’m afraid
Now only the oil field workers, the teamsters, it?” of what I might do.”
the tradesmen who lived off the paychecks of
the oil crews, and an occasional Nomad, the “I can be friendly too. I got a place in Hawk “Why do you put up with it?” Fred asked.
human refuse who dwelled in the desert, came Mesa I’d like to take you to. We could have a “There’s no reason for it.”
in from the desert to gamble. The Nomads good time. Don’t look like your husband will
wouldn’t have been allowed inside the club in mind.” “He was a good man once,” Christy said,
the old days. But now the casinos and hotels “until he met me.”
couldn’t afford to be so choosy. “I’ll take a rain check,” she said and walked
off. The big man laughed. She left the office, took the elevator down
Around eleven o’clock that night, Christy to the ground level, and walked out of the
saw Dan standing by the roulette wheel with a “We’ll see about that,” he said as he building through the rear entrance. The night
young woman at his side. She was an obvious watched her walk away. was cool and dry, and neon sprayed itself all
Nomad. She was dressed in a black skin-tight over the night sky. Her heels tapped out a
body stocking with a plunging neckline. Long # steady, fast-paced beat as she passed by the
black leather boots came to her knees and restaurants, clubs, and hotels lining the street.
her black hair was spiked high and tinted with Let him make a fool of himself over the She turned in under an arcade and went into
purple highlights. She kept touching Dan on his Nomad witch, Christy thought. It wouldn’t be a cinema. It was a favorite place of hers, a
arms and shoulders as she talked to him. Every the first time she’d had to look the other way theater that showed only vintage films from
time he spoke she erupted in wild laughter, while he dallied with some stray female or Earth. Sitting in the cool darkness, she let the
as if she’d just heard the funniest thing in the other who happened to wonder into the casino images on the screen take her away from the
world. She kept her pale face and wide dark on the prowl for a man. She stormed into the anger, the sorrow.
eyes tilted up at him, basking in his keen, inter- office on the second floor of the casino, where

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 45

It was a western, probably two hundred grabbed an elevator and punched the button for The Nomad men laughed.
hundred years old. She saw a man and a the penthouse. A moment later she swiped the
woman on horseback, riding across the desert card-key over the electronic lock and opened “Sit down first, and I’ll explain,” Morvana
landscape not dissimilar to Tulon. She watched the door to her apartment. She stepped into said. “Okay?”
as they approached an abandoned stage coach the living room and froze. The lights were on. Christy’s lips tightened and she sat down.
relay station. The woman seemed fearful, There were seven people in the room. She saw
unsure. But the man was tall, lean, weathered. the woman, Morvana, and the big man in black “Good,” Morvana said. “No need for us two
He got off his mount and helped the woman to leather. Two other nomads stood around the to fight. Don’t worry about Danny boy. He’s
the ground. She remembered this movie. She’d room. Fred Blosser, the casino manager, sat just a little under the weather from a little too
seen it before, long ago. It was the story of a on a sofa. One of the nomads sat next to him, much drink. Hate to tell you, but your husband
misunderstood man. He’d rescued a woman a laser pistol pointed at his stomach. Harry, has been a bad boy…and a little careless.” She
from Indians and she’d come to think he’d only Fred’s assistant sat on the floor. His hands and reached inside her body shirt and pulled out
done it for the reward being offered. But the feet were duct-taped. a small vial of liquid. “You see this? It’s Devil’s
man was self assured. He never bothered to Breath. It comes from a plant that grows out
explain to anyone the reasons for what he did. Christy saw Dan sitting in a black velvet in the desert where we live. You take a sip and
He knew what his reasons were and that was loveseat. He was duct-taped hand and foot. you sort of trip out, and see things, if you know
enough. There was something wrong with him. His what I mean. Take too much and you start
eyes were wide open in an expression of sheer seeing things you don’t want to see, things you
Seeing the cowboy striding so big across terror. His body wriggled and writhed in a can never get out of your mind…that’ll make
the landscape, how could she help but think of steady snake-like motion, as if he were trying you sorry you ever born. Danny boy, he wanted
Brand. He was a man very much like the man to squirm out of his own skin. His mouth would to come up here with me and have a party. I
in the film—quiet, self-confident, beholding to have released screams of horror, had it not put a few drops of this in his drink. Maybe I put
no one, who didn’t let the opinions of others been taped shut. Christy could hear only faint, in a drop too much. He carried on quite a bit
bother him, and dedicated to a private mission. muffled, agonizing cries. until my boys got him under control. He sort of
That mission had torn them apart. He was
“I’m sorry, Christy,” Fred said. “They jumped went out of his head. Hasn’t come back yet.”
tormented by the fate of his sister. He’d taken
on responsibility for her capture by Nomads me from behind in the men’s room.” “You rotten little—”
and would not let himself rest until he’d found “What’s wrong with Dan?”
out what had happened to her. “Hey, don’t blame me,” Morvana said. “He’s
“Don’t worry about him,” the woman the one wanted to party.”
She’d lied to Dan, and he knew it. There named Morvana said. She had a Ruger Plasma
wasn’t a moment of the day she didn’t think “What is it you want? Money obviously.”
Pistol in her hand and pointed with it to a
about Jack Brand. Tears blurred the images up straight back chair that had been brought from “Obviously. Here’s what it is. You take my
there on the screen and, for a while, she just the dining room and placed in the middle of boys down to the vault, give them what’s in
sat with her eyes closed. the living room floor. “Take a seat,” the woman it, and I’ll give Danny boy this.” She produced
said. another vial. “It’s the antidote. He don’t get
#
it in another half hour, he ain’t never coming
“Tell me what’s the matter with him or I’ll back. Understand?”
It was around one a.m. when she walked take that pistol away from you and make you
back into the casino. Her eyes swept the floor eat it,” Christy said. “You must be crazy, or taken too much of
for Dan but he was nowhere in sight. She

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 46

that stuff yourself, if you think you can pull off The big man in black and a smaller Nomad concrete. There wasn’t much time.
something like this. We’ve got security all over with tattoos all over his face, arms and neck,
the place.” came forward. Christy led them to the door. “I figure that’s about all we’ll be able to
She turned and gave Dan one last look before carry,” Cletus said.
“And what you’re going to do is have your she left. She had the terrible feeling she would
man Fred there call them up here,” Morvana “Reckon you’re right,” Stark said. He looked
never see him again.
said. over at Christy. “See? We ain’t greedy. We’re
even leaving some for you.” He laughed. There
“And then what?” # were only a handful of loose bills scattered
over the interior of the vault.
“You just get them here,” Morvana said. Christy stood at the door of the vault as
“We’ll take care of the rest. And if I were you, Stark and Cletus filled up canvas sacks with “Let’s go.” Stark hauled the canvas bag
I’d do it quick. Danny boy’s running out of greenbacks. The two desert scum chortled like over one shoulder, and held onto it with his
time.” kids under a Christmas tree as they scooped left hand. In his right was a plasma pistol. “You
bound stacks off the vault shelves and stuffed go first.”
Christy looked at Blosser, who sat passively, them into the bags.
waiting for her instructions. She looked at Dan, “What about my husband?”
who now looked deathly pale and sat moaning “Must be two million here,” Cletus, a skinny
continuously. Convulsions wracked his body; dude with a long neck, panted. “When we get to the car, I’ll call and let
beads of sweat poured down his forehead. ‘em know we got the money,” Stark said. “Now
“Just keep pitchin’ the money in,” Stark come on!”
“All right,” Christy said. She nodded at said. He looked up at Christy. “Get inside, away
Blosser. “But if you’re lying about the antidote, from the door,” he said. Christy moved further Christy stepped away from the wall, praying
if my husband isn’t brought back to normal, I into the vault. She didn’t like the way Stark Stark would not see what she had written. She
swear, I’ll kill you.” looked at her. All the way down in the elevator, led them out of the vault and down the long
his eyes kept running up and down her body corridor to the service entrance at the rear
She nodded at Blosser. He reached into his with a hungry look. He’d reached out a finger of the casino. At that hour it was deserted.
pocket, took out a Port-Com, and held it to his and ran it along her bare arm with a leer on his They came to a pair of glass doors and Christy
lips. “All units to the penthouse,” he said. face. She moved along the concrete wall, away swiped her card-key. A dark hover-mobile was
from the vault door. parked in the parking lot right by the door. The
Within minutes the ten security men who two men ran for it as the driver’s door opened.
worked for the casino came into the living room “That’s far enough,” Stark said. Morvana was behind the wheel. She popped
and were systematically disarmed by the three the trunk and got out of the car as Stark and
Nomad males. They were duct-taped and told Christy backed up against the wall with her Cletus threw the sacks into it.
to sit on the floor. hands behind her back. She had a silver dollar
in her right hand that she’d taken from her “How did it go?” she asked.
“You go along with Stark and Cletus now,” pocket while they were coming down in the
Morvana told Christy. “Me and Denver will keep elevator. She didn’t believe the Nomads would “We got it. Let’s get out of here,” Stark
your old man and these others company until leave witnesses behind. If they were going to said.
we hear they got the money. Then I’ll untape kill her, she could at least leave some clue that
Danny boy and give him his medicine. He’ll be “What about Dan?” Christy asked.
could point the police in the right direction. She
good as new.” began scraping the edge of the coin against the “Oh, yeah,” Morvana said. “Don’t worry.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 47

Denver’s up with him. He’s gonna untape him “For fun,” the big man said. wrap up a job he’d taken for the Trans-Exxon
now.” She took a mini-port-com out of her Oil Company, and had stopped for lunch in one
pocket and pressed a number. “Denver,” she Christy started to run, but Stark grabbed of the restaurants still open.
said, looking up the side of the building. “Okay. her, picked her up, and threw her into the
You know what to do.” back seat next to Cletus. Morvana got in the As he absorbed the story being unfolded on
front passenger seat and Stark got behind the screen, Brand had the sensation that the world
Christy looked up at the square of light wheel. had become a tunnel. He was at one end of
that was the penthouse window. There was it and the flat screen with the mannequin-like
sudden movement, two silhouettes momen- Denver came running out the rear entrance female newscaster was at the other. Everything
tarily appeared in the light. Even from twenty and jumped into the back, sandwiching Christy else had vanished from his consciousness.
stories below she could hear Dan screaming. between Cletus and himself.
The tape had been removed from his mouth. “Dan Russell, co-owner of the Milky Way
“That was the wildest thing I ever saw,” Casino in Green River, apparently leaped to
His screams echoed down the walls and around Denver said, laughing hysterically. “I cut that his death or was pushed from his penthouse
the concrete canyon formed by the other tall old boy loose out there on the balcony and apartment during an armed robbery of the
buildings surrounding the casino. Christy could locked the door. You shoulda seen it. He didn’t casino’s vault,” the newscaster said. “The
see only one silhouette in the window now, know where he was. He musta thought he was robbers got away with over 2 million in
flailing around on the balcony, its arms waving a bird or something.” currency. Ten employees were found dead,
about hysterically.
the casino manager is in critical condition with
The hover car was already out of the parking
“What are you doing?” she asked Morvana. serious wounds, and the co-owner of the Milky
lot and heading down Green River Boulevard.
“What about the antidote?” Way, Christy Jones, is missing...”
Christy sat numb between the two Nomads,
Morvana feigned sudden remembrance. who reeked of sweat and God knows what else. Brand didn’t bother to hear the rest. He
“Oops.” She held the bottle of antidote in her Trying not to shake, she laid her head back on was already double-timing it to his Hover-Jeep
hand. “Guess I forgot to leave it with Denver.” the seat and closed her eyes. parked in the lot outside. As he climbed into
the vehicle he pulled a Port-Com out of his
Then Dan’s screams became deafening, Dan. Poor Dan. pocket and dialed a number.
filling Christy’s ears. All at once there were no
silhouettes in the window. Dan’s screaming # He started the Jeep’s engine and said, “Col.
ended with the hideous sound of a body Masterson, please. It’s urgent.” He drove out
crashing down on the parking lot surface. Jack Brand stood in the middle of the Tulon of the lot and pointed the Hover-Jeep toward
Christy saw a shapeless mass flattened on the Central Mall looking up at the big flat screen the Tulon Security Force Base Headquarters.
macadam of the parking lot a few yards away mounted on the wall of an electronics store. “Tom,” he said, when Masterson answered.
and screamed. Morvana pulled a knife from The mall was deserted and half the stores had “Need a favor.”
her belt and moved toward her. Stark grabbed closed down. Tulon’s economy had taken a
her arm. nose dive after the fall-off in oil prices following “Favors are in short supply these days,”
the discovery of Digital Atomic Fuel back on Masterson said.
“Uh-uh,” he said, holding onto her wrist. Earth. But the electronic store was open and
“She comes with us.” He took the knife from “You owe me for the job I did for you last
the flat screen monitor was tuned to GNN, the
her and tucked it in under his own belt. Christmas,” Brand said. “Remember the three
Galactic News Network. Brand had come to wise men?”
Tulon Central from his home in the desert to
“What for?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 48

“What is it?” the perps. Any idea where they are?” “Not much. Desert scum. A woman.
Morvana was the name. Dressed like a black
“Need a Strato-sled. Pronto. Got to get to “That’s all official police information, vulture. A big dude called Stark. Black leather.
Green River in a hurry.” Brand,” Brenda said. “You know how this works. Two others. I forget... They’re into drugs.
I can’t reveal anything that might compromise Maybe lucky for me. They were too stoned
“Figured you’d be calling,” Masterson said. our investigation.” to see I wasn’t dead.” His eyes closed and he
“Just heard the news. Sorry about Christy. started falling asleep.
Never understood what happened between “Sounds like you don’t have a damn thing,”
you two. Wish I could help, but we’re short of Brand said. “What about surveillance videos? “Fred,” Brand said, “where do you think
men and it’s not our jurisdiction. Green River The casino has plenty of cameras.” they went?”
police are handling it.”
“We’re checking that,” the lieutenant “Don’t know,” Blosser said. “Could be
“All I want is the Sled.” said. “So, look, why don’t you go find a hotel anywhere. The cops say these birds got no
somewhere and go relax. Have a drink. Let us record. No way to trace them.”
“I can manage that,” Masterson said. do our jobs.”
“The police down there are reporting it was “What about Christy?”
a gang of Nomads did the job. Now that this “Thanks for your cooperation, Lieutenant,”
world is falling apart, the rats are coming out Brand said and walked out of his office. “She was okay. But that dude, Stark, had
of the woodwork. These particular rats sound eyes for her, Brand.”
a little more sophisticated than usual. Watch #
yourself.” Brand’s face hardened.
Fred Blosser, the Milky Way Casino’s “Jack,” Blosser said. “They gave Dan
# manager, was in intensive care in the Green something they called Devil’s Breath. It put him
River General Hospital. Blosser was an old right out of his head. He was terrified…like he
“Sorry, Brand,” gaunt, hollow-eyed friend of Brand’s. They’d worked together on was seeing his worst nightmares. They didn’t
Detective Lieutenant Brenda said. “I appreciate the Security Force at one time. He’d gotten push him off the balcony. He jumped.”
the offer. I’ve heard of you. You’ve got a great Blosser the job at Christy’s casino. He was
reputation as a law man, but you been retired semi-conscious when Brand came into his Jack had heard of Devil’s Breath, a deadly
couple of years now. Our police force here can room. He’d been shot with a Laser pistol at toxin derived from the Cuernvara plant, the
handle this. We really don’t need an outsider close range. The ray had torn up a lot of his Tulon equivalent of cactus back on Earth.
coming in and complicating things, especially shoulder and upper chest, but somehow had Some of the desert tribes used it in ceremonial
one who’s personally involved.” not done any serious damage to vital organs. magic rituals. A small amount opened certain
He opened his eyes and recognized his visitor. channels in the mind that led to so-called
Brand stood leaning over the lieutenant’s religious experiences. But too much of it would
desk, his lean frame bent taut as he looked “Jack,” he said. kill you.
down at the police officer. He’d covered the
400 miles to Green River in less than two hours “Doctor says you’ll make it, Fred,” Brand “It’s not like the old days, Jack,” Blosser
in the Strato-Sled. He was in no mood to be said. said. “This planet is coming apart. The crazies
trifled with by a local cop. are loose. When this is over, go home, Jack.
“Knew you’d be here.” There’s no life left on Tulon. Go Earthside.”
“All I want is some information,” Brand said. “Anything you can tell me?”
“What leads are you following? Have you ID’d “Fred,” Brand said, “you got your pass key?

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 49

I need to get into the casino. The cops are He couldn’t risk using the elevator, so he and waited. After minute, the cop switched off
closing me out.” climbed twenty flights to the penthouse. He the light and moved back up the hallway.
took a lock pick from the utility belt strapped
“Get my wallet,” Blosser said. “In that around his waist, opened the door, and went Brand heard the elevator open, close, and
drawer.” inside the apartment. He searched every room rise, and then turned his own torch on. He
of the place, hoping to find something that aimed the beam at the place on the concrete
Brand opened the drawer of the nightstand wall that had glinted under the cop’s light. He
would tell him where the Nomads might have
next to the bed. He found the wallet, opened strode over to it and the muscles around his
taken Christy. He tore the cushions off the
it, and found the key card. eyes tightened when he saw what looked like
couches, examined the walls of the rooms, the
mirrors, glass surfaces. He knew Christy. She letters scratched into the concrete. He kept the
“Thanks, Fred,” Brand said.
would not let herself just be taken away like a light on it. They were letters but they didn’t
“Get ‘em, Jack. Get your woman if she’s still sheep. She would have done something to let make any sense. The scratches looked freshly-
alive, and go home.” somebody know where she was being taken. made. He was almost certain Christy had made
She would have left a clue, some kind of hidden them. But what did they say?
Blosser’s eyes fluttered closed and he fell message. After an hour, he gave up.
unconscious. Then he realized the letters had been
He left the penthouse and took the steps scratched on the concrete upside down, the
# down. There was one last chance. He went way someone with her back to the wall would
down to the basement level and found the have to do it. He bent over and read what she’d
vault. The big steel door was open and draped written. “Hawk Mes” That was all it said. But
The Milky Way Casino stood in the dark,
with yellow tape. Brand slid under the tape and it was enough. Good girl, Christy, Brand said
closed down, roped off by yellow police tape.
went inside. He stood silently for a moment, under his breath. She was something.
Two Green River cops guarded the front
entrance and another sat in a police hover-cruis- listening. He wanted to turn on the overhead He saw her as she’d looked that day on the
er in the parking lot at the rear of the building. light so he could examine the inside of the surface of the Inland Sea, a thousand feet above
Brand, dressed in black turtleneck and pants, vault, but wasn’t sure that was a safe thing to the sunken lost city of Nemuria, saw the look
stood in an alley at the far end of the lot. He do. There might be cops inside the building. in her eyes as she stood there in the doorway
raised his arm and looked at his wrist watch’s He grabbed the radium torch hung on his belt of the air/sea plane, while Dan Russell waited
digital timer running down to zero seconds. and swung the beam along the walls, and into for her in his boat. She’d asked him if this was
He’d placed a flash bomb in a trash can across the shelves and drawers where the money had the way he wanted it. And he’d let her go off
the street from the casino’s front entrance. In been kept. with Dan Russell to what he thought would be
five seconds it would detonate: four…three… a better life than he could ever give her. And
He heard a footstep. Snapping off the light
two…one. He heard the distant sound of the now Dan was dead and the woman he loved
he ran back to the open doorway and flattened
explosion on the other side of the building. was in the hands of a pack of filthy Nomads.
himself against the wall next to the door. The
As he anticipated, the lone cop in the footsteps clacked in the hallway and stopped. A He turned off the torch and strode out of
parking lot started his cruiser and swerved bright beam of light stabbed into the darkness. the vault, tearing through the yellow police
wildly out of the parking lot to get around to Brand held his breath and waited, as the beam tape as if it weren’t there.
the front of the building. Brand ran out of the danced, throwing weird shadows around the
alley, and with Blosser’s card key, opened the vault. For a second, Brand saw something
shiny on the wall on the other side when the #
rear door, and went inside.
beam struck it. He fixed the spot in his mind

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 50

It was midnight when he landed the Strato- for a moment if he should have contacted Lt. something made of metal and cylindrical in
Sled at the edge of a group of foothills located Brenda, and then immediately dismissed the shape out of it. The cylinder was attached to
about 20 miles from Hawk Mesa. He was afraid idea. As a cop, Brenda hadn’t impressed him, a cuirass of molded plastic and a harness. He
to get any closer. The Nomads would have and he knew the reputation of the Green River fitted the molded plastic over his upper torso
lookouts, maybe even surveillance equipment police. Christy had told him long ago that the and strapped the harness tight around his waist
that would detect the Sled’s approach. He town was pretty much wide-open to criminal and underarms. In the front of the cuirass was
opened the Sled’s hatch and jumped out. activity, the cops being paid to look the other a silver-colored dial. He gave it a twist and a
Under a velvet black sky that held thousands way. Calling a bunch of incompetents in on this bright yellow flame shot out of the bottom
of bright stars, he climbed up to the peak of would only have jeopardized Christy’s life. He’d of the cylinder strapped to his back, and blue
one of the hills and raised night vision binocs be better off handling this himself. smoke billowed. Brand felt himself rise up off
to his eyes. the ground.
He didn’t want to think what might be
Hawk Mesa loomed in the starlit distance, happening to Christy this very moment. The Upward he rose, hoping the noise of the
a giant formation of sheer cliffs rising two Nomads were savages. If they were on Devil’s rocket pack wouldn’t be heard at the top of the
hundred feet out of the desert floor. Millions Breath there was no telling what they might be mesa. He ascended the face of the cliff to the
of years of tectonic evolution had forced the capable of. He circled wide around the mesa, top, and then with another slight twist of the
horizontal layers of sandstone and quartzite up keeping close to the hills. He was glad that the control dial, his ascent ended, and he floated
out of the ground. The top of the mesa was gravity cycle’s electro-magnetic engine was momentarily above the mesa. Below he could
nearly flat, although rough, rounded boulders quiet, and wouldn’t draw any attention as he see a big stone house, evidently made out of
and rock jutted up everywhere. Brand saw a got nearer. the very stone that formed the mesa itself. It
point of light at the top, near the middle. He was a large building and there were lights on
breathed a momentary sigh of relief. He’d Moving at ninety miles per hour, the cycle inside. To the left a Strato-Sled was parked on
come to the right place. It was the Nomads’ seemed to float over the desert sand, rising a flat landing area. It must have been the craft
stronghold. He prayed Christy was still alive. and falling over the uneven terrain. Lookouts the Nomads used to make their getaway from
were more likely on the north side, the side Green River. Brand turned the control dial to
He walked back to the Sled, and geared up. facing toward Green River. He drove the cycle the left and let the rocket pack lower him to
He strapped his ever faithful Beretta Electro completely around the mesa, far to the south the landing area.
Pistol to his leg, slung the Ruger 525 Laser and then moved up from the hills to the south
Rifle over one shoulder, and threw on a large side of the imposing sandstone cliffs. He was only five or six feet from the ground
backpack that held something he knew would when he heard a shout. A figure came out of the
be indispensable if he were going to pull this A few moments later he pulled the cycle darkness next to the Strato-Sled and a laven-
off. He took a Honda Gravity-cycle down from into a vertical crevice formed between two der-colored plasma ray shot toward him. Brand
a rack fastened to the Sled’s wall and started large boulders at the base of the mesa and cut turned the control knob and the rocket pack
the motor. He climbed into the saddle as the the engine. He stepped out of the crevice and lifted him, but not rapidly enough. He heard
cycle rose up off the Sled floor and rode it out looked up at the sheer stone cliffs towering up the sizzle and bang of a plasma beam striking
the hatch. against the sparkling stars. Scaling those cliffs the rocket’s metal cover and the impact sent
would be impossible in the time he had. He him spinning through the air. Out of control,
He skirted the edge of the foothills, hoping was glad he’d thought to bring along the object the rocket’s flame sputtered out and Brand
the cycle would be hidden enough in the he’d carried in his back pack. found himself being propelled through the air
shadows to avoid being spotted by any Nomad like a stone. The last thing he remembered was
lookouts. As the mesa drew nearer he wondered He unshouldered the pack and took dropping head first into a nest of boulders near

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 51

the house. He heard a door open, footsteps, Cletus licked his lips and shook his head. “Don’t fight me, pretty man,” the bird said,
and people shouting and then he blacked out. “Uh-uh,” he said. “I wanna see this.” and lowered her beak toward his mouth.

# Brand saw the man’s face suddenly twist Brand tried to cover his lips to keep the
and reshape itself into something resembling beak away. He wanted to vomit. The men in
the face of an ape. The suddenness of the the back of the room laughed. Their laughter
“That’s right, pretty one,” a female voice transformation was frightening. echoed loudly, over and over, repeating and
said, “hold still.” redoubling on itself, until it reached an insane
“All right, sweetie,” the bird of prey said. cacophony.
Brand felt something prick his left arm. He “You can stay for a while.” The woman’s nose
opened his eyes and saw a woman dressed in suddenly became elongated into a razor sharp The vulture-woman came closer. “Who are
black leaning over him. Her weird makeup and beak filled with sharp bristling teeth. Her eyes you? How did you come here?”
spiked black hair made him think at first he narrowed into angry red slits and the fingers on
was looking at some weird bird of prey. He felt The ape-man moved in closer. “I told you.
her hand transformed themselves into yellow
pain in his arm and looked down at it. He saw a He’s the law.”
talons.
hypodermic needle feeding a green liquid into
his arterial vein. A man held his arm pinned to Brand blinked and fell back on the bed. Brand could feel his sanity slipping away. He
the floor. He tried to reach out with his right knew what they had done to him. Blosser had
hand and grab the needle, but couldn’t. “What’s the matter? Things looking a little told him that they’d given Dan Russell Devil’s
strange to you all of a sudden?” Breath, and he’d gone insane. Brand knew that
“Hurry up,” a voice said. “He’s strong.” if he succumbed to the nightmare world that
Brand became aware that a man was holding Brand saw something moving on the floor. the drug had invited him to, it would swallow
his right arm down as well. A sickeningly warm Somehow hundreds of snakes had gotten into him too, and he would never return. Something
sensation rushed into his left arm and began to the room. They slithered and writhed on the in him fought to keep control.
swirl through the rest of his body. floor—a living carpet of reptilian horror. Even
the walls seemed alive and pulsing as though “It’s the drug,” he tried to tell himself.
“All right,” the bird of prey said. “Let him any minute some living monstrosity would “What I’m seeing is not real.”
up, boys.” suddenly detach itself and leap out at him.
The bird of prey moved back away from
The men let go of Brand’s arm and the two “No!” Brand shouted and shrank bank on him, but the ape man moved in and grabbed
of them backed away. Brand tried to sit up. He the bed into a corner. He doubled himself up hold of his shirt, tried to pull him up to a sitting
was dizzy. He was on a bed in a bare room with into a ball and wrapped his arms tightly around position. For a moment Brand saw snakes
stone walls. The bird of prey stood there a few his knees. The world had suddenly become a and maggots oozing out of the ape-man’s eye
feet away, watching him expectantly. Brand nightmare. His mind was paralyzed by the most sockets. He wanted to scream out in mortal
felt a wave of nausea hit his stomach. He sat intense fear he had ever known. He wanted to terror.
up and put his feet on the stone floor. scream but was afraid to.
The ape-man was powerful, terrifying, but
“What did you give me?” he asked. The bird of prey came closer. He put his Brand told himself he wasn’t what he appeared
arms out to fight her off, but his fear had taken to be. It was the drug, and all that he saw, all
“Just a little something to make life more away all his strength. The bird touched him that he felt, was because of what they’d done
interesting,” the bird of prey said. She looked with one of the claws and caressed his cheek. to him. They’d done it to Dan Russell, and
over at Cletus and Denver. “You can go now,” now they were doing it to him. Something hot
she told him.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 52

and more terrifying than fear began to burn a corridor. Half way, she turned through a the neck. She fired a wild shot at the ceiling as
inside him. A low animal like growl rumbled up doorway. she spun. Then she dropped the weapon and
from deep in his chest. It grew in intensity, as clutched at her bleeding throat. A moment
the hot burning rose up from some primeval “Stark,” she screamed. “Stark. Help! Kill later she lay dead in the corner.
center of his being. The Devil’s Breath had him!”
raised monstrous fears, but it had also kindled Brand stood where he was. He watched
Brand turned into the room and saw the as the angel came to him. He felt her wings
something else, a primordial rage—the rage bird-girl backing away from him. On the other envelope him, but even now as his rage
of a jungle animal, that when faced with its side of the room a giant of a man, with the subsided, the cold tendrils of fear rose up
own extinction, knows only one law: the law head and mane of a lion got off a bed on which again for him. He knew he could not hold off
of survival. a pale angel lay. She was beautiful and ravaged. the terrors of Devil’s Breath forever.
Brand reached out and grabbed the Brand knew it was Christy. The Lion-Man
ape-man’s shirt, and with a savage roar jumped dropped a long-bladed knife he’d been holding “Darling,” Christy cried. “Darling.”
off the bed and lifted the man up from the floor to Christy’s throat and pulled a pistol, but
before he could fire, the Brand-beast dove at He held onto her, hoping she would not
like a rag doll. He carried him to the nearest
him, the momentum of his body carrying the transform into something he could not bear to
wall and slammed him into it. The ape-man
two of them to the floor. Brand held the wrist look at…hoping that for the last few moments
crumpled to the floor, half conscious.
of the Lion-Man’s gun hand and kept the gun before he would have to take his own life, he
“What is this?” the bird of prey asked, in a pointed away from his own body. The Lion-Man could know something of the peace the angel
tone of mocking amusement. “He does not act tried to free his other hand from Brand’s grip, could have given him.
like the others. He fights.” but he was too strong. The Devil’s Breath had “It’s no good, Christy,” he said. “I can’t hold
increased his strength tenfold. Slowly, inevita-
The ape-man got to his feet, and he and the on to it much longer.”
bly, Brand turned the laser pistol in toward the
other Nomad moved in. This one had the head Lion-Man’s face. “Wait, love,” Christy said. “Don’t move.”
of a lizard; its tongue flicked out of its mouth,
as it ran to aid the ape man. And then three Stark’s eyes widened as he realized what She let go of him and ran over to Morvana.
savage beasts dove for each other and rolled was happening. He grunted as he tried des- Brand saw her search through her clothes and
across the floor, overturning the bed. They perately to push the gun away. He felt Brand’s then come back holding something in her hand.
punched and tore at each other in a bloody fingers move and close over his trigger finger. It was a small glass vial of green liquid. She took
fury whose savagery could only be found He saw the gun barrel an inch from his left eye. the stopper out of it and laid him down on the
somewhere in a dark twisted equatorial jungle. Brand’s finger squeezed tight over his trigger floor with his head in her lap.
The bird of prey stood watching in fascination finger and there was a bright blast.
and excitement. “Drink this,” she whispered. “I pray to God
Panting with exhaustion, Brand staggered it’s what that monster said it is.”
But soon fascination turned to fear as she to his feet. Morvana stood, still half vulture,
saw her two companions being torn to pieces half-human, but now with a pistol in her hand. Brand felt the liquid pour through his lips,
by the savage beast that snarled and clawed at She raised it to fire, and Brand knew he couldn’t over his tongue, and down his throat. He
them. A minute later, Brand stood over their stop her. Then on the bed, the beautiful white swallowed it as quickly as he could.
silent corpses, and the girl screamed and ran. angel sat up with something in her hand. Her
She ran through the doorway and the Brand- arm flew out and a knife sailed through the #
beast chased after her. He followed her down air. The blade struck the vulture-woman in

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Fear Lies Waiting
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 53

Dawn was breaking grey and purple over John M. Whalen
the desert. Hawks circled and dove around
the cliffs of the mesa. At the top of the mesa,
a woman came out of the stone house and John M. Whalen’s stories have appeared
walked to the landing platform and the Strato-
Sled parked there. She walked past the Sled and in the Flashing Swords E-zine, pulpand-
strode toward the edge of the landing platform dagger.com, and Universe Pathways
and stopped inches away from the edge of magazine. His Jack Brand stories are a
the steep cliff. She watched as the golden sun
brought more color to the desert landscape. staple here at Ray Gun Revival maga-
“It’s beautiful,” she said. The man standing
zine.
next to her put his arm around her.
He didn’t say anything for a moment, just Contact the author here.
watched the new day breaking.
“Blosser told me I should go home,” he
said. “He’s right. Let me take you home, Christy,
back to Earth.”
“What about your sister? Can you live not
knowing what became of her?”
“Some things just have to be endured if
you can’t find a remedy,” Brand said. “I don’t
know where to look anymore. She’s probably
long dead. It’s time I buried her.”
He turned to her and saw the infant sun
sparkling in her green eyes. “Life is for the
living, isn’t it?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Deuces Wild, Fractured Facets, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 54
Deuces Wild, Season Two
Chapter 3: Fractured Facets, Part Four
by L. S. King

S lap lifted his hands, staring at the natives
of Medan; the first ones he’d seen in the
flesh—er, so to speak. With their three legs
disks! A rough shove forced him to keep going.
He looked at Carter again, but the engineer
seemed relatively unconcerned—either that,
“That sounds reasonable.” Tristan inclined
his head and allowed himself to be led into the
ship. As long as the Confeds wanted him alive,
and three arms, they seemed the strangest or he could hide his emotions just as well as he had a chance of turning the tables. The
aliens he’d laid eyes on. Well, at least they Tristan. Medanis liked money and had a wide variety
didn’t have eyestalks and a fluted opening for a of vices—just like humans, but with one dif-
mouth like that one bartender he’d seen in the They approached the dark, hulking building, ference; they could not be bribed once they’d
Rocket Wash Bar—that’d been weird. Not that and Polk stood in front, smirking. “Thought you taken a contract. They considered a contract
their crinkled faces looked at all human, but had me, didn’t you?” His smile slipped, and he a vow—to be honored to the death. Tristan
at least they had apertures in more or less the frowned. “Where is he?” wasn’t sure if he felt that was a virtue or not.
same places as humans for eyes and a mouth. “Where’s who?” Carter asked. He didn’t need all these complications in
The ears, well...nothing that he could see, but
they had to have something for hearing since his life. This is what comes of getting involved
“Dmitri, Gaston—whatever name he’s
they talked. with other people. Too late now—at least, for
using now. Where is he?” now. The fleeting thought of dumping Slap,
He wasn’t sure if their shiny, black bodies Slap grinned, not only at Polk’s dismay, but Carter, Addie, and Giselle when this was over
were an exoskeleton or some sort of armor. at the fact that Tristan seemed to have as many seemed very appealing.
Coarse, dark hair covered their limbs. The two identities as people he knew. Who was he truly
upper arms of each held a particle beam rifle The Medani led him to a cabin, and once he
anyway? “Who knows? He took off when you
aimed at him and Carter. was inside, said, “My employers will be here
went inside the warehouse.” shortly.” He backed out of the door. Tristan
One used his lower, center arm to reach Polk cussed and said to the Medanis, “Take wasn’t always certain of looks on these aliens’
into a pocket. He pulled out a comm device and them inside.” His smirk returned. “I don’t think faces, but he swore the Medani was gloating.
muttered into it. His one buddy jerked the rifle you really have explosives around the building,
slightly in a gesture that unmistakably meant After the door closed and locked, Tristan
but in case you do, I’m sure you’ll tell us before
move it! stared at it for a moment, considering possi-
the timers go off, won’t you?” bilities and options. The most obvious was to
Slap cut his eyes to Carter; the engineer merely leave the room and skulk around to find
appeared resigned. From what little Slap knew # where Addie was—since the Medani hadn’t
of the man’s past, he’d been in lots of bad situ- taken his vest.
ations. Slap hoped they’d get through this one. Tristan eyed the PBG in the Medani guard’s
But then, they had Tristan as their—what did hands. “Cautiously now,” he said in the native’s But he didn’t get the chance. The door slid
Tristan call it?—their hole card. language, “your employers want me alive.” open again, and two Medani entered, PBRs in
their upper hands, followed by two humans—
The Medanis prodded them back toward “Then you will not give me reason to give sidearms holstered, and trailed by three more
the warehouse. Slap stopped—the blast- apology to my employer.” Medani bearing arms.

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Deuces Wild, Fractured Facets, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 55

“So...” The older, heavy-set human wearing captain to Tristan. “Sir, wouldn’t it be best to the native. “Thank you. Where is the girl?”
captain’s tabs swaggered in a slow circle around take him to the brig, where it’s more secure?”
Tristan, looking him up and down. “This is the “She is not here, Mimendi. Not on the
one headquarters is so anxious to capture? “What can he do with all our friends here,” ships.”
Doesn’t look like much to me.” the captain waved his arm, “with their guns
trained on him?” “Now wait a minute!” The captain lunged
“Swain said to not underestimate him, Sir,” forward, but stopped as the Medanis stepped
said the other human, a sandy-haired man with “That’s a very good question.” Tristan between them, weapons trained on him.
lieutenant’s tabs. looked at the Medanis, one by one, hoping he
was reading their expressions correctly. “What “Is she at the warehouse?”
“Since you have me,” Tristan said, “where’s can I do?” He glanced at the floor, then over at “No. I regret we do not know where she
the girl?” the Medani standing directly between him and is.”
the door, one eyebrow quirked. “I couldn’t, for
“Since we have you,” the captain sneered, example, just...” He paused, lifting his shoulders “Is she alive?”
“we have another bargaining chip to get in a slight shrug. “...walk out.”
Donegal back.” The Medani turned to the Confeds. “They
Tristan took an experimental step. One of say so. But they do not honor oaths. She is...
“Since you have me, you don’t need the girl the natives on his left raised his weapon. His your woman?”
to get Donegal back. Why not let her go?” companions made a wave motion with their
third hands as one hissed, “Mimendi,” and Ugh—never! “She is my...guest. I owe her
The captain laughed. “Well, it’s not my he subsided with a gurgling sound indicating to see to her safety.”
choice anyway. I’m just following orders.” He surprise.
pulled out a chair and sat, stretching out his “You are under an oath to protect her,
legs, and crossing his arms over his stomach. The lieutenant’s mouth dropped open, and yes?”
“We just have to wait for word that we have the captain’s feet scuffed under him as he sat
your friend as well, then you’ll both be on your up straight. Both men froze as the Medanis “You could say that.”
way to Homeworld.” swung their rifles to train on them instead of “Then we will try to help, Mimendi. We will
Tristan.
“And the girl?” send to ask among our people, if any know of
As Tristan took another step, the Medani at her.”
“You certainly have a one-track mind.” The the door stepped aside.
captain’s eyes narrowed. “What’s she to you?” “I thank you. Give my respect and honor to
“Now, what’s going on here?” The captain your queen.”
“My responsibility.” stood. “We have a contract!” “Queen?” the captain sputtered as the
“Then perhaps we should keep her as Medani drew his hands inward to his chest—
“Previous contract supersedes this one.
insurance.” their gesture of respect. “What in the hell is
I am full of regret, but we must honor our
oaths,” the Medani said, unlocking the door. going on?”
“You wouldn’t like the premiums.”
He stepped aside, his rifle hanging off his Tristan strode down the hallway, the
More laughter. shoulder. questions and cursing of the disgruntled
The lieutenant’s gaze darted from his Tristan stepped through and turned to face captain fading. He left the ship to find it had
started raining. He stared upward in resigna-

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Deuces Wild, Fractured Facets, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 56

tion at the storm clouds, rosy hued in the night “Like I’d care what he’d say. Scum-crawling white. The aliens trained their weapons on the
from the lights of the port and the city. Where lizard.” door.
was Addie? He had a feeling time was running
out for her, and he had run out of places to Polk’s face screwed into a wry, amused Was that one of their explosives? Slap
look. grimace. “You can’t come up with a worse frowned at Carter. The engineer’s expression
epithet than lizard, cowboy?” was a mixture of confusion and concern as
Before he was even out of the shadow of he shook his head. Great. What was going on
the ship, shapes coalesced out of the darkness “Ever see the lizards from Zenos, ya now?
to block his path, weapons raised. honyock?”
Medanis swarmed through the entrance
Tristan sighed. “Er...” Polk blinked. “No.” like strange, three-legged bugs, shouting in
their low-throated, guttural language to their
Slap sniffed, dismissing the ignorant
# companions inside.
gambler. Then he wondered how easily he
could goad Polk. “Think Tristan will be here Then a dark figure stepped through,
The sound of rain on the metal roof of the soon to get us, Carter?” and Slap laughed aloud. Tristan was soaked,
warehouse echoed throughout the building dripping water like a half-drowned cat—and,
as Slap strained against the ropes around his “Likely.” Carter’s eyes twinkled. “With like a wet cat, didn’t look happy.
wrists. The i-beam dug into his back, reminding Addie in tow, too.”
him of the empty sheath—if he lost yet another “Wh-what are you doing here?” Polk
knife... His cheeks ballooning out as he huffed, asked.
Polk looked from one to the other. “You think
Polk noticed his attempts and sauntered you’re so smart? He won’t find her. And if he Tristan marched to the gambler and grabbed
over, chuckling. “Try all you want, cowboy. thinks she’s on one of the ships—he’s walking him by the throat. “Where is she?”
Even if you got loose, these aliens would shoot into a trap.”
you down without any question.” “I don’t—” the rest of his sentence was
Slap’s stomach sank, but he forced a choked into silence. Tristan hauled him nose to
The gambler mopped his face with a hand- smile. “Naw, not likely to work on him. He can nose and snarled, “One more chance. Where
kerchief, frowning. “I don’t get why you’d want outsmart the Confeds every time.” And it’s is she?”
to hang around with that grifter.” He sidled true. He does. He would believe in Tristan this
closer, rose on tiptoe, and hissed, “He’s an time—no more doubts about his friend. “On the ship,” Polk coughed out.
assassin too, but a fumbling one. Can’t get a
job done right.” He stepped back with a smirk. A crash made him start, but it was just “Liar. The Medanis have said she’s not on
“I could tell you stories about him.” thunder. The rain was falling harder now, any of the—”
battering the roof so hard it sounded like hail.
“Like a lizard like you could talk straight for “The midway ship. Tied up in my cabin.”
two sentences?” Slap shot back. Polk shook his head, chuckling. “Not this
time, cowboy.” “I don’t believe you. She would have heard
“Don’t bother,” Carter said, from where me when I came to get you.”
he was tied to another i-beam. “He’s just Another crash came—and Slap jumped
again. Not thunder this time—he twisted to “She’s drugged. She caused too much
trying to goad you, and get you to doubt your
see the double door obliterated into a flaming, trouble a-and made too much noise.”
loyalties.”
gaping hole. Polk shrieked and backed up, face

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Deuces Wild, Fractured Facets, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 57

Tristan’s face contorted into something so situation. Tristan was impressed. The Confed agents
malevolent, it scared Slap. What was it the weren’t doing as well, one still on a cable ladder,
Zendians had said about him? He has much The answer appeared to be at the dome. and the other on a pedestal board. But with
pain, and has nurtured it into black hate for one on each side, they were slowly closing the
At the back door of the dome, two roust-
many. gap. She only had one way to continue: up.
abouts stood cross-armed. Questions were
“Then let’s go get her, shall we?” Tristan shouted in several languages, and the men The agent on the ground spun as the
hissed, then turned to the Medanis. “Loose my responded repeatedly that no one was to be Medanis rushed him. He brought his PBG up
friends, and make sure the building is clear.” let in, and that Zvi wanted everyone to return too late—and fell, lifeless.
to the ships.
“Going to blow it up anyway?” Slap asked. The two up above, naturally, had their
In Russian, Tristan asked, “Where’s Zvi?” weapons holstered so they could pursue their
“I’m not going to let the Confeds take victim. But they could draw the guns at any
another shipment off this planet.” Tristan “Making calls, trying to find someone,” the time. Tristan stared at Addie—even in a stupor
glared at Polk. “They have me irritated now.” one roustabout said. from drugs and being chased by murderers,
“Most likely me. Let me inside.” she was defiant, calling out derogatory names,
# clinging to a truss.
The muscular men didn’t move. Tristan
As they approached the gate of the could have downed them in seconds, but “Brago’s Bands, she’s gonna fall!”
backyard, Tristan could see people milling in deference to Zvi, settled for giving them “Someone has to go up after her.” Tristan
around in the rain. Two young men guarded warning. He switched to Polish. “You let kicked off his shoes and yanked off his socks.
the entrance. They straightened as they recog- me inside now, or you’ll not wake up until He ran out to the ring more or less where Addie
nized Polk—being held securely in Slap’s grip, noon—next week.” was, still on the truss. He gazed for the quickest
and stared openly at Tristan.
The two burly men exchanged glances. This way up, and saw the Web. With a bound, he
“Are you here to keep someone in—or is ridiculous. Tristan tensed to put them out of grabbed the rope and pulled himself upward,
out?” Tristan asked in Russian. his misery, but they stepped aside. He barreled hand over hand.
through with his entourage.
The one on the left blinked stupidly. His #
buddy said, “Uh, Zvi said to let you through.” The slight change in gravity and the cool,
filtered air mixed with the smells of sweat Slap’s mouth dropped open watching his
“And what is the source of all the commotion and of popcorn and greasy food sold by the friend haul himself up.
I see in the backyard?” butchers caused memories to flood over
him even as he took in the scene: Addie had Polk tried—again—to twist out of his grip.
“Some men broke in, and a girl is running somehow climbed into the rigging; two of the He squeezed the sweaty man’s neck tighter.
from them. I’m not sure exactly...” Confeds were climbing after her, while the one “I’m gettin’ tired of that, y’know. You’re stayin’
Tristan wasn’t going to make sense of this on the ground waved his PBG and yelled, “Get with me till Tristan tells me what to do with
at the gate. He pushed through, Carter and her! Get her! She’s climbing to the other side, you.” He paused then added, “You oughta be
Slap—still manhandling Polk, and his Medani you moron!” glad of that, too, cuz right now, I’ve a mind to
guards trailing. He looked around for someone, pull you into pieces.”
Indeed she was—clambering through the
or something, to offer him a clue as to the rigging like a spider in its web. Despite himself, One of the Confeds took a shot at Tristan,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Deuces Wild, Fractured Facets, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 58

but missed—the particle beam hit the dome, mess around him, he wasn’t alive either. That and to—what? One of the pedestal boards
and it shimmered brightly. Tristan spared a seemed to happen quite a bit to Confeds who was his best bet. Then she could climb down a
glance at his attackers and yelled down, “Stop messed with Tristan; Slap wondered if they’d cable ladder. His attempts to stay fit and keep
them! They’ll destabilize the field!” ever take the hint. at least some of his skills honed should serve
him now, but had he done enough to be able
Carter swung around, looking left and right His gaze was drawn upward again. Tristan to bear her weight as well as his own?
at the Medanis. “Stunners! Don’t use PBRs in was almost to Addie, way up high on a fantasti-
here! Take them out with stunners!” cally complex framework of metal beams that He climbed closer and held out a hand.
looked like it held up all the equipment below “Take my hand. I will not let you fall.”
“We do not have stunners,” said the one it with a spider’s web of wires.
who seemed to be in charge. “Many regrets.” “Yes, you will. You hate me.”
Slap glanced around. Well, at least now he
Well, Slap had a weapon that wouldn’t knew where Tristan had learned all his fancy “With reason. But my pride would be more
damage the force-shield dome. He shoved Polk moves. affected by your death. I might be tempted to
at the Medanis. “Hold him for me.” He drew his strangle you once we get to the ground, but
knife, and ran forward, eyeing the two Confeds. # to drop you—that would bespeak failure in an
One was standing on a small platform, aiming area where I once could claim mastery.”
at Tristan. It was more distance than he was Tristan slid along the metalwork, closing “What?”
used to, and upward. He squinted, bit his lip, the gap to where Addie clung to the plasteel.
and threw. The Confed screamed—and fell. “Addie? Addie, just let go and grab onto me.” He took a breath. “Either trust me, or get
Slap didn’t stop to see where his knife down yourself.”
Drugs glazed the girl’s eyes, but she was
struck or if the Confed survived the fall, but ran aware enough of her surroundings to cause She hesitated, her breath coming in little
toward the one on the ladder. It was sort of trouble. “Took your time finding me, you sobs, and wiped her face on the back of her
like a rope ladder, and the Confed was having know.” Her face was wet, but Tristan wouldn’t sleeve. Finally, she extended a shaky hand.
trouble steadying himself and climbing, much bet whether the tears were from fear or frus- That was probably the closest to any truth he’d
less aiming and shooting. Slap grabbed the tration. Either way, they didn’t move him—he’d ever seen from her, a true indication of her
bottom of it and began to yank it back and seen her cry too many times, trying to get her emotional status.
forth. The Confed yelled in surprise and began own way.
cursing him. Encouraged by the response, Slap He grasped her firmly around the wrist and
chuckled and heaved on the ladder as hard as Tristan hissed through his teeth, “Do you pulled her to him, her body sliding toward him
he could. Even if the agent didn’t drop, he was want me to help you down or not?” on the metal bars of the truss, her other hand
too busy hanging on to fire his weapon. grabbing at his arm as she squeaked with fear.
“I can do it myself.”
But drop he did, with a yowling shriek— He twisted to face away from her, pulling
cut off abruptly as he hit the ground. By the This girl was either going to cause his hair her one arm over his shoulder. “Grab me
angle of neck, he was probably dead. His gun to turn grey or else he’d end up pulling it all around the neck, and wrap your legs around
had slipped from his hand at some point. Slap out. He sighed and started to back away from my body. Don’t—choke me,” he gasped as her
retrieved it, checked its safety, and stuck it in her. arms circled his neck. “Not that tight.”
his belt.
“No!” Addie called. “Help me.” “It’s high. I’m afraid.”
He took time now to look over at the other
agent. He’d dropped from much higher up, He looked around to see how best to get He leaned forward in a crawling position,
and by the look of his skull and the bloody her down. She didn’t have training—he’d likely hauling her completely onto his back. “Wrap
have to carry her on his back across the rigging
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Deuces Wild, Fractured Facets, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 59

your legs around me. Hold onto me as tightly Tristan was glad his trousers were of a durable “I’m not afraid!” She hesitated only frac-
as you did the truss.” As the warmth and weight material; they were going to have to bear the tionally before swinging around the cable
of her body settled on him, the memory of a brunt of sliding down the wire. He grabbed the ladder and beginning her downward descent.
similar situation from years ago flashed in his wire and left the security of the truss. Addie Slap stood below, steadying the ladder.
mind. A child had climbed into the rigging as a screamed—right in his ear—and clutched him
dare, and Tristan had gone up to get him down. so spasmodically he thought for a moment Tristan gazed across the dome, taking in all
He had forgotten that—until now. she’d had a convulsion. the achingly familiar sights. He never thought
he’d actually be in a ring again, much less on a
“I’m...trying,” she whimpered, her whole “Be still and be quiet!” he snapped. pedestal board. He looked at the trapeze itself,
body shaking. longing rising in him, but...that was past. A
“We’re going to fall!” lifetime ago. He had no right, nor the time, for
“Just hang on no matter what. Do you even a warm-up swing.
understand? Lean into me, rest on me. Don’t “Only if you behave like an idiot. I told you
pull away or let go.” we had to do this. Just hang onto me—it’s not With a sharp exhale, he grabbed the ladder
far to the pole.” and started down.
Tristan slowly inched his way along the
framework, having to stop when her weight He slid down the wire, hand over hand, her Once at the bottom, he quickly took stock
shifted a bit every so often. “Try to hold still.” tears soaking into his shoulder as she cried. He of the scene. Three bodies littered the ring.
just might strangle her once they got down. Slap and Carter were solicitously hovering over
“I’m trying.” Her hands clutched his shirt- The wire dug deep into his unprotected hands, Addie, who was weeping openly—probably
sleeves in a death grip, and her breathing leaving marks that burned. Rewrapping his legs to increase sympathy. Despite the Medanis
against his neck came in ragged gasps. from the guy wire to the pole wasn’t difficult, guarding the door, one person—no surprise—
and then it was a short slide to the pedestal had managed to talk his way inside: Zvi.
He finally reached a position over the board. “Let go. It’s safe to let go now.”
pedestal board. “Addie, listen to me. I’m going This was worse than his last flight from
to swing around and climb that guy wire a short She didn’t move, and he pulled on her arms. this place. He had to get out of here, before
ways to the crane bar. Then I’ll grab that pole Slowly, she released her legs from his waist and anything—or anyone—could interfere. “Get
and shimmy us down to the pedestal board stood, but grabbed him as she looked around. back to the ship,” he ordered his companions.
below us. Just continue to hold me tightly, all “We’re still in the air!” To the Medanis, he said, “Accompany them.
right?” Make certain they arrive safely.”
“You can climb down that ladder.”
She squeaked again, and asked, “Are you “What about you?” Slap asked.
sure you can do that?” She peeked over the edge. “I can’t.”
“Get Addie to the ship,” he repeated.
“I’m sure. If you just hold on and don’t “Why not? You climbed up.” “Go!”
move. It’s going to feel frightening, because “Climbing up is easy. Down’s not.”
I’m going to have to climb that wire with my Tristan gazed beyond his friend to Zvi.
back down, but I’ll have a firm grip at all times. He was not carrying her down that ladder. Avoidance was impossible now. He met Zvi’s
You must trust me and not move.” “If you’re afraid, I’ll go first.” He emphasized eyes as he purposefully walked toward him.
afraid with a slight sneer, and got the expected
“I–I’ll trust you.” “Tristan?” Slap called. “What about Polk?”
reaction.
As his legs wrapped around the wire, “Cirque justice,” Tristan asked Zvi, “or local

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Deuces Wild, Fractured Facets, Part Four by L. S. King Pg. 60

authorities?” “I never thought you did. Accusations flew, To catch up on previous episodes of
and you left too fast.” The eyes drilled him the adventures of Slap and Tristan, visit:
The old man shook his head. “This time, let again. “Did you think I would not delve for the http://loriendil.com/DW.php
them judge him.” truth for your sake, boy?”
Deuces Wild is dedicated to the memory of
Tristan nodded and said to Slap, “Have the Tristan’s throat threatened to close on him, my best friend; my inspiration for an enduring
Medanis take care of him.” and he had to swallow to make sure his voice friendship...http://loriendil.com/Starsky/
was steady. “Who was it? David?”
The cowboy tipped an imaginary hat with
a grin. Zvi nodded, a small smile playing on his lips.
“Always were a smart one, weren’t you?”
“So...” Zvi leaned on his cane with both
hands. “The girl is safe.” “I’ve had years to play out theories.”
Tristan inclined his head at Addie as Slap Silence hung between them. Finally, Zvi
and Carter escorted her out. “Yes.” He raised broke it. “So you will say good-bye this time?
his chin. “What now?” Perhaps...write? Visit?”
Zvi peered at him critically. “What...what? A laugh puffed from Tristan, almost a sob.
You will just leave now, yes?” He swallowed again. “I, uh...I don’t know.” L. S. King
“You can’t stop me.” Although...could “You...are missed. Still.” Zvi’s knuckles were L.S. began martial arts training over thirty
Tristan bring himself to do anything to Zvi if the white as he gripped the cane, but he said no
man tried? Truth was, Zvi could stop him with a more. years ago, and owned a karate school for
word. From the knowing look on his mentor’s a decade. When on the planet, she lives
face, he knew it too. Tristan was at a loss too. “I...” He cleared in Delaware with her husband, Steve, and
his throat. “I have to go.”
“Is that all you can say...after all these their youngest child. She enjoys garden­
years?” Zvi’s head bowed. When he finally spoke, ing, soap making, reading, and all things
his voice was a whisper. “Go.”
“What else is there?” Myst. She also likes Looney Tunes, the
Tristan started for the entrance, but Zvi’s color purple, and is a Zorro aficionado,
“Indeed.” Zvi bored holes into him with call stopped him. He half turned.
those damnable eyes. “Will you say good-bye which might explain her love for swords
this time?” “You are always welcome, boy. You are still and cloaks.
Cirque.”
“I leave this time just as I did the last. With
a dead body in the ring—worse, three dead Tristan tore out the door before emotions Like Londo Mollari, she wants to know
bodies.” could shame him, grateful for the torrential if the Hokey Pokey is really what it’s all
rain as he raced across the backyard and away
“You didn’t murder Anton.” from his past. about.
Tristan barked a laugh. “I know that. But
I’m surprised you do.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
 Pg. 61
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen
by Johne Cook
The story so far: shoulder. His hands rested on the edge of the Or that was the idea. As the implications of
armrest, his fingers draped lazily—and probably what he saw bloomed in his mind, the pencil
After the miracle with Bola’s Menorran Mer- deliberately—over the edges, a posture of non- dropped out of Chain’s mouth, and he may
cenaries at Roarke’s Island, Mathen Vaneras violence. have gasped.
went on a mission of self-discovery. He met the
Black Widower, head of the Qantiin, and made As Chain registered what he was seeing in The shadowy figure forgotten, Chain
his choice, deciding he would rather be an front of him, the shadowy figure spoke. His quickly dropped the drawings on a table to
active cleric than a Qantiin mole. His decision voice was studiously neutral, neither too deep his left and slapped down the mug, some of
would have far-reaching consequences. nor too distinctive, devoid of both accent and the liquid sloshing over onto the parchments.
identifying clues. “You were born Chance Wilke, He rushed to the new drawings, bending over
but everyone just calls you Chain. Please,” the the workbench and carefully spreading them
stranger said, raising one index finger, “allow out reverently with his hands. His crafts-
Upgrade me to anticipate you—I let myself in. I mean man’s fingers drifted gently over the top

C hain spent all his free time in the room
he called The Workshop in the aft bowels
of the ship where he kept watch over the
you no harm. I know all about your antigrav-
ity technology. I am not here to steal, but to
give. I will tell you neither my name nor how
page, touching down lightly here and there at
key places as if to take in the meaning of the
inscriptions through his fingertips. He flipped
antigrav engine, tinkered with new designs, I got here, but you wouldn’t believe me even through the other sheets with accelerating
and conducted experiments. It was his inner if I did. You will so appreciate what I have for eagerness. Finally, he reverently returned to
sanctum, and the crew treated the room with you that you will gladly cooperate with my one the top page and smoothed the drawings out
a certain degree of skeptical superstition. He, request—which is that you confine yourself to with both hands.
therefore, had the run of the room as master one question of me, and one question only and
then allow me to leave unhindered.” Chain looked over at the silhouetted figure
of the domain that powered the great airship with calculating eyes. Very carefully, he cleared
and kept it aloft. Chain stood there with his mug, his his throat and said, “Is this what I think it is?”
He unlocked the heavy wooden door drawings, and his pencil, and considered his
options. The figure slowly bobbed his head once in
and swung it open. He was careful as he slid acknowledgement.
sideways into the room, a mug of something The figure gestured to the drawings on the
hot in one hand, a barely-corralled collection Chain’s expression, normally staid and pre-
nearby workbench, generously lit by the light
of rolled up drawings under the other arm, and occupied, was childlike with wonder.
streaming in through the window over his
a pencil clamped sideways in his mouth. Once shoulder. “Look these over, if you please, and
in the room, he hooked the door behind him The visitor put his hands on the chair arms
then form your one question for me.”
with his ankle, and pushed it shut. and carefully rose. He strode quietly past Chain.
Chain kept a wary eye on the figure and Chain noticed with a start that the silhouette
Looking up, Chain saw a shadowy figure effect followed the stranger, obscuring the
walked slowly over to the workbench, only
sitting in his favorite chair in the corner of details of his face as he walked, even through
taking his eyes off the shadowy visitor for a
the room, silhouetted by the light streaming the sun was no longer at his back. It was an
quick glance down at was laid out there.
into the room through the window over his effect that was at once disconcerting and

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 62

thrilling. Deena Prentiss wraps her arms around into Parrot Bay, and another to offload the
herself and stands off to the side, unsure two hundred or so Sylvan sailors held prisoner
The visitor opened the door, turned, and whether to stand or sit, or where. I can hardly
lazily put one index finger to his lips. Then he below deck. They looked ready to fight when
blame her. She still has feelings for Mr. Pitt,
turned and quietly strode through the door, the doors were opened and they ventured up
but finds it hard to forgive the manner of his
carefully closing it behind him. leaving. And then there’s the unasked question to the deck, but they quickly realized their folly
of others of us have feelings for her. Just as when they saw they were surrounded by what
Chain looked at the drawings on the well—those questions remain better unasked, looked like the entire population of the island,
workbench and then at the door. He belatedly or even unconsidered. not to mention Bola’s fearless Menorran mercs,
sprang to the handle and threw the door
open. Lieutenant Gillings is wise enough to stay led by the fiery amazon herself. The Sylvan
out of the way, and engages in quiet conver- sailors were staged in temporary outdoor
The dark passage was empty. holding cages until such time as they could
sation with Mr. Humble. I’d like to know what
Chain closed the door again and returned to they’re talking about, but can guess, and it’s be ferried back to Haddirron City. Ironically,
the workshop. Twenty four hours passed before not worth getting up to confirm. a number of the smaller Sylvan raider ships
he remembered his long-cold beverage. would be pressed into service for just that
And Bola... Without her precious dagger,
she’s strangely like a little girl, frail and fearful. purpose, ferrying the prisoners of war back to
Eggplant hovers near her, and she doesn’t even the mainland.
Brig’d notice he’s there for her. Pity.
Flynn would later think back on that action
They ushered the crew of Alacrity into the The cleric leaned back against the curved with bitter irony.
brig of the strange airship and firmly locked wall of the brig, closed his eyes, and settled
the door. in for the journey back to Haddirron City with Alacrity took on fresh supplies while Tanith
the others to face capital charges of piracy and received some much-needed repairs after the
Cleric Vaneras looked around. So this is treason. He didn’t have his hammock, but it
the brig, he thought. It looked very much like was suitably dark, and one such as him could battle.
the area below-deck on Alacrity where he sleep anywhere.
had his own hammock, except there were no For his part, Captain Flynn found himself in
hammocks down here, and this was not his Things could be worse, he thought. And if front of Parrot Bay’s village board for the second
airship. The cleric’s curiosity prompted him to Flynn ever finds out that I am the one directly time in as many weeks. “Captain MkDougall
see how the others were taking the sudden responsible for our capture by the Haddirron has agreed to remain here until HMS Tanith is
turn of events. Navy, they certainly will be. repaired. It appears that such repairs will only
Flynn paces like a caged cat, and by the take an additional day or two. At such time,
wild look in his eyes, there’s no telling what she will fly north to join us at Yempher.”
he’s thinking. An unpredictable Flynn is a lethal Return to Yempher
Flynn. Mr. Pitt surveys the brig and sits with his “Yempher?” queried Pav Gherkew.
back to a support beam, watching Flynn. It is Things had looked so promising just weeks
interesting that Mr. Pitt knows that even his earlier. Flynn nodded. “We are mounting a bold
formidable strength won’t be a factor in this campaign to take over the port town with its
place, and so conserves his strength. It took a day to get the two Sylvan warships

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 63

infamous cliff-side guns, and use the town as a looked at Flynn with glittering eyes, and he without its head, and Cleric Vaneras was pressed
staging area to start pushing deep into Sylvan gave her a warm smile in return. into service to “do something productive with
territory.” “That’s enough for me,” said the Councilor, it.” His initial protests were flatly disregarded,
and the meeting adjourned. and wisely so, considering the exceptional pot
“Forgive me, but you say ‘we.’ Who is pies that he managed from the chicken, some
‘we’?” That should have been the end of it. dough, some vegetables, and some imagina-
The captain grinned and waved his hand tion. The resulting meal was so well regarded
#
over to Birot of Haw. “The Haw have agreed that the fate of the remaining chickens was
to allow us to fly them there and take and hold soon decided, much to the amusement of Birot
Birot of Haw marshaled his islander
Yempher until we can send reinforcements. of Haw and the delight of the crew at large.
warriors, who assembled at the dock to start
I have word that ships are sailing north from boarding Alacrity. Bola never ‘fessed up to beheading the
Haddirron City even now bound for Roarke’s first chicken, although she was seen cleaning
Island. When they arrive, send them on to “Mr. Pitt, please see to accommodations
her infamous blade for the first time in some
Yempher and we’ll see how far we can push for the Haw,” said Captain Flynn across the
weeks and it wasn’t too hard to put the known
before the winter storms arrive and put an end water to the ship.
sequence of events together.
to aggressive campaigns until spring.”
“Yes, Captain” said Mr. Pitt.
Captain Flynn and Birot of Haw spent a
“One more question. The last time you great deal of time together wandering around
“What about Bola’s mercs?”
were here, you raised questions about the, um, the ship and talking about the plans for the
‘legality’ of your actions for the Crown. Have Flynn said, “I asked Gravin about the action. upcoming invasion.
you thought any further about that issue?” He said his mercs wouldn’t even get up a good
sweat. I gather they know more about the Haw “You and I have a lot in common,” mused
Flynn didn’t dodge the question. “I firmly Birot at one point in time. While he spoke as
than even I do. Bola just shrugged. She’s not
believe my actions will speak for themselves. well as a native Haddirron, he wore the tribal
about to let us have all the glory.”
My fate lies with the forbearance of the queen. loincloth, bare chest, and beaded accoutre-
If she is as just and true as her scribes make her The Haw warriors trotted over to the ship. ments of his tribe.
appear, I will have no worries about my activi- A curious mix of indigenous roots and modern
ties or my decisions. As it is, we have set back education, they were formidable warriors and “We could be brothers, other than the
potent allies.
Sylvan operations in these waters for months color of our skin, our tailor, and our barber,”
and spared the lives of many locals here in the They were also more fun than a barrel of said Flynn, grinning.
islands. That pleases and inspires me.” fexi, which made for an interesting trip north Birot laughed at that before turning serious
to Yempher. Somehow, they had smuggled
“Captain MkDougall? How about you?” again. “Think about it,” he said. “We are both
some chickens onboard and conducted chicken from another place and another time. My
“I remain firm in my convictions,” she said. races up and down the deck, an activity that
“I serve the queen, and I trust this man.” She people are a throwback people, not common in
continued until one of the chickens ended up

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 64

‘modern’ times. You are a throwback character. tion. Finally, he said, “How have the Haw #
You are a quintessential ‘hero.’ You could have survived?”
been a king in older days. You inspire loyalty, It was late afternoon when the lookout
honor, and admiration. You exude regality and “We have been flexible. We kept training cried “land-ho.” Flynn kicked his boots off the
our warriors while learning the language and galley table. “It’s time,” he said. “Thank you,”
fairness.” he said to the cleric, rising, and clapping him
customs of Haddirron. We assisted them while
Flynn smiled and nodded and didn’t protest retaining our own hopes for independence. We on the shoulder. “You are a good man, and I am
proud to serve with you,” he said.
the description. serve the queen while it benefits us, without
the loyalty of our hearts but by the subtlety of “You are not, and I am proud to serve with
Birot continued. “Instead, you are nearly our minds. If the Haw were to take Yempher, you as well,” said the cleric with a wry grin,
an outsider among your own people, caught there is a good chance we could win our rightful wiping his hands on a towel at his waist.
between doing the proper thing and doing the place as stewards of the Independent Islands, The captain chuckled, shook his head, and
right thing. You have a kind of faith, and yet not ruling, but simply living free; neighbors of left the galley on his way topside. “Call ‘all
question the name you put on it. You are tender Haddirron instead of indigenous subjects.” hands on deck,’” Flynn said as he took the deck
and humble when appropriate, and yet one of and headed up front to get a look at Yempher.
the most fearsome and relentless fighters I Flynn gripped the railing until his knuckles
have ever seen. You can be either an educated showed white. “In some ways, you are more He was joined there by Mr. Pitt and Birot.
“We don’t have Tanith here to draw her fire this
man or a savage, depending on the conditions. free than I am.” He stared out across the time,” mused Flynn, “but the Haw look pretty
I have seen you be both within the space of a freedom of the seas, the unfettered expanse of nimble.” He nodded at Birot, who nodded back.
single day, and it was right and appropriate for the airways. “I will think seriously about what “With those emplaced guns and a minimum
you to be so at the time.” you’ve told me, my friend,” he said. of effort, leaving us the process of taking the
docks, and therefore, the village proper.”
Birot stopped and looked at Flynn intently. Birot saw Bola approach. With a wide grin,
“In short, you are the right man for the right he said, “We are also inexplicable!” “Where are you planning to drop them
off?” asked Mr. Pitt. “The cliff-top looks pretty
time. The problem facing you is that you may inviting for an airship.”
be the wrong man for the right monarchy. My That earned a laugh from the captain and a
people learned that the hard way, to their quizzical look from Bola. “I have no idea what “People still aren’t used to thinking in terms
detriment. One can only be free by serving the that means,” she told Birot. of three dimensions where the airships are
concerned. I agree, Mr. Pitt. Let’s drop them
winning sovereign. You have been successful “Exactly,” he said cheerfully, leaving her off there.”
dodging this question so far, but the expansion there to saunter off and join his forces.
of the realm threatens to overwhelm you. “There’s one more thing to consider,”
Maybe it threatens to overwhelm us all.” “I wonder how much trouble I’d be in if I said Birot. “My men are very good at moving
sliced a Haw instead of a Hawsian chicken,” she through the dark.”
Flynn was initially smiling as Birot developed muttered. “What are you suggesting? That we make
his point, but the pleasure gradually slid off his this a nighttime action?”
face until all that remained was grim reflec-

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 65

“It’s possible we could take the village “This is going pretty well, don’t you think?” the rear of the building.
without firing a shot,” said Birot.
Mr. Humble’s face screwed up in a grimace, Flynn walked over to the commander. “It’s
“Hm. After the show we put on last time, but all he said was “Yup.” over,” he said, nodding for his crew to relieve
a quiet, surgical strike in the night would be a the Sylvans of their weapons.
fitting sequel. Any survivors would be rattled She leaned even further forward. “There
even further and the word would spread, will nothing to it—this attack will be a piece of The Sylvan commander said, “Will you
striking fear in the hearts of any Sylvans to pastry!” at least allow me to present you with my
hear the stories. I like it.” weapon?”
He just grimaced harder.
Flynn turned to Birot. “Okay, you have your Bola rolled her eyes melodramatically.
She pressed forward even further. “What’s “That takes forever!”
night attack. Mr. Pitt, please tell Eggplant to the matter, Humble? You look positively pained.
steer well to the east of Yempher and bring her You don’t strike me as the nervous sort before Flynn grinned. “I think not. We’re not taking
back in to the northwest under cover of night. battle.” your ship, just your port. Hand them over and
We’ll come in quiet and slow, like a ghost, and let’s be done with it.”
kill two fexi with one stone, which of course, “I’m not,” he gasped. “Your dagger sheath
means that three will die, as subtle as they is poking me in the ribs!” The Sylvan commander seemed more
think they are.” dejected at the lack of formality than the
Mr. Pitt had to clap his beefy hand across surrender itself. Each saluted the other with
Birot grinned. Bola’s mouth to keep her surprised laughter a minimum of irony. Flynn accepted the com-
from giving them all away, but they were all mander’s sword, symbol of his fidelity in
They let six Haw swing over to the cliff tops grinning, even Pitt himself. captivity. And thus was Yempher defeated
under cover of night and then glided straight
out into the air above the Yempherian harbor, without a shot being fired.
Flynn whispered, “There’s the sign. Let’s
gradually descending to docking altitude, go.”
coming to a halt over Yempher’s own port— #
nearly empty after the last attack from the The two forces met at the Sylvan Head-
Haddirron airships. quarters. Flynn saw Birot of Haw and gestured After securing the HQ and issuing his orders
toward the back of the building. Then he to Birot on how to hold Yempher, Captain Flynn
Flynn’s sailors spread out along the docks pointed to Mr. Pitt and pantomimed something and his crew strode back out into the night. Mr.
and quietly drove inland. The Haw made their with his foot. Mr. Pitt nodded. Humble got Flynn’s attention.
way down the narrow cliff trail and drove in
from the west. As quiet as ghosts, they rounded The big Reacher could be as quiet as a cat “Captain, we have company,” he said. They
up the skeleton crew in the sleeping quarters when he wanted to be. He approached the front looked over to the moonlit bay, where they
and taverns on the island, binding and gagging door, gathered himself, and kicked the bamboo saw another airship silently settling down into
those who cooperated and using their island door open. He stepped into the room. port beside Alacrity.
knives on those who tried to resist.
Flynn strode to the door and saw the Sylvan “Clarissa!” cried Flynn. “Tanith got here
Flynn’s force crouched in the tall grass officers look up from their maps and commu- faster than I expected,” he said, watching the
outside the Sylvan HQ. As they waited for the niqués in surprise. They scrambled toward the shadowy figures of Haddirron crew drop off the
signal from the Haw, Bola crawled forward and rear of the long thatched hut, but that door sides of the ship and land dockside. Lengthen-
leaned against Mr. Humble to whisper to him, flew open as well, and the Haw streamed into ing his stride, he made it down to the dock in

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 66

time to see Clarissa emerge from the shadows. “I have been told you know exactly what good man, Captain. You should be proud.” With
She made a line straight for Flynn. this is all about,” said the taller Navy man. “I that, he surrendered his treasured sword and
am Edmund Gillings, legitimate captain of the sheath, and thus, was Cooper Flynn himself
“‘Captain!’” she said, and Flynn heard the Royal Steed, and loyal servant to Her Majesty.” defeated without a shot being fired. This being
chill in her voice. the second surprise, bloodless attack of the
Flynn didn’t like the tone of that, but kept night within the span of an hour did not escape
That’s when the officers of the Haddirron his anger under control...barely. Flynn.
Navy stepped out of the shadows behind her
with hands on their swords. A handsome, Captain Gillings continued, his words busi- Bola will hate being separated from her
efficient officer brushed past her to face Flynn nesslike. “My orders are to return you, the mercs, thought Flynn, and two big Marines
with his sword drawn and pointing straight at HMS Majeste, and your crew to the palace stepped up behind Flynn. He stepped forward
Flynn. at Haddirron City to stand before the queen and they followed.
herself and make an explanation for yourself.”
“Cooper Flynn, I hereby arrest you in the Clarissa stepped right in front of Flynn,
name Queen Roberta of Haddirron for crimes Flynn’s spinning mind returned to Birot. He arrested his progress. She glared up at Flynn
against the Crown,” he said. unhooked his sword but held it as he spoke. and crossed her arms. He met her gaze evenly.
“I will remand myself to your custody, but my
# crew and I know nothing of this. They shall be “You lied,” she said, her voice hot and loud
treated as innocents. Also, Birot of Haw and his in the little clearing.
There was a quick stir behind him. Without warriors must remain here with the approval
of the crown until such time as Her Majesty Flynn almost thought he felt the big Marines
looking, Flynn barked “Bola, no! It’s okay.”
has heard their report and their requests.” behind him flinch, although he admitted to
“C’mon, Flynn,” she said, emerging from himself it could have been his imagination.
the dark and brandishing a number of her toys. Captain Gillings said, “I am under no com- Flynn leaned toward her and spoke in a low,
“There’s only ten of them,” she said, as more pulsion to do anything other than return you gentle voice. “You might want to be sure about
men emerged from the shadows. “Twenty of and those who flew with you to the throne that before you jump to any conclusions,” he
them,” she amended. Men kept streaming room, Captain Flynn. However, it is my pleasure said.
into the clearing until Flynn’s sailors were sur- to do as you suggest until such time as the
queen herself determines the fate of those She hauled off and slapped him square
rounded. “Well, numbers don’t matter when
who have been affected by your actions.” across the side of his face with a full, flat hand,
you have a knife as big as mine,” she said with the crack echoing loudly in the little clearing.
a toothy grin and drew her fighting dagger with Still withholding his sword, Flynn said, All conversation stopped, and all eyes turned
exaggerated care. “Gillings, huh? I have the pleasure to have toward Flynn.
Flynn finally looked back at her, his black mentored a Gillings. Any relation?”
Flynn made a show of slowly checking
eyes boiling. “Bola, please, stand down. Let’s The captain cocked his head slightly. “He is his jaw. He half turned his head back to his
see where this is going.” He could have sworn my younger brother, and I thank you for your captors. “One of you gentlemen want to lead
that her eyes were glowing. It’s probably the tutelage. I merely hope you have not ruined his the way?”
torchlight, he thought. career rather than advanced it.”
One of them pushed Flynn awkwardly in
Flynn turned back to the officer. “You have Cooper faked a genuine smile and dashed the back. “You go first,” he said.
the advantage over me, Ven. What is your off the most casual of salutes. “He is a very
name, and what is this all about?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 67

I don’t blame you, thought Flynn. “Captain Flynn looked around. “One of us in here Bola said, “I don’t get it. Your words were
MkDougall,” Flynn said, mock-bowing, “until certainly did, but it wasn’t me.” He stopped in so true.”
we meet again.” And then he brushed past her front of the cleric and turned to face the crew.
and walked down the path to the docks and the “And when I find out who it is...” The cleric said, “I cheated. They may have
waiting airships, his nimble mind struck dumb been true words, but they weren’t mine. I have
by the sudden turn of events, and the uneasy “Don’t bother,” Flynn heard from behind books on the subject, and an excellent memory.
feeling that someone had sold him out. him, and he turned to face the cleric. “It was I combined the craft of a thespian and the
me.” wisdom of a theologian. Only the swordplay
# and the behind-the-scenes machinations were
Flynn sagged visibly and slumped heavily actually mine.”
on top of a barrel.
Back in the hold of the airship, things no Bola leaned over. Flynn said, “Vaneras
longer looked so promising. “Now he stops pacing,” said Mr. Pitt softly. here pretended to be a preacher, when his
real skill was with a sword and with intrigue.”
Flynn couldn’t stay still, Bola’s hand wouldn’t # Flynn looked at the cleric. “He’s saying he was
leave the lonely sheath that usually held her equally good at stabbing you in the front or in
precious fighting dagger, and cleric Vaneras So much for trust, thought Flynn. So much the back.”
had his head back like he was thinking. for anything remotely involved with Cyl. I don’t
believe in him, and still he betrays me. The hold was quiet save for the creaking
From his place learning against the post, of the ship in the breezes that propelled them
Mr. Pitt rumbled to Flynn, “You’re pacing.” “Of all the people...” said Flynn. He sighed toward Haddirron City. Then the cleric started
deeply and crossed his arms. “Very well, let’s to chuckle. “‘In the front or in the back.’ That’s
Flynn said, “I think better on my feet.” have it. What reason could you possibly have very good, Captain. I will remember that.”
Chain was poring over some drawings in a for turning us in?” He flashed a grim smile. “I remember every-
place where a stray ray of light shone through thing.”
The cleric stayed where he was, resting his
a crack. back against the curved hull of the airship. “The Vaneras cleared his voice and resumed a
Flynn noticed Deena observing him. “Isn’t short version is that I haven’t always been a storyteller’s tone. “Something happened to me
anyone going to ask what’s going on?” cleric. When I was coerced into service aboard at the battle for Roarke’s Island. I pretended
Alacrity, I wasn’t a cleric. It was a role I played to pray as was appropriate to my role. But
Mr. Humble spoke from where he sat that masked a deeper, darker calling.” something funny happened on the way to the
cross-legged on the floor of the hold. “Would altar, as they say. My prayers were answered.
it matter?” Bola said, “You were a politician?” And therein lays the grease. I saw a glimpse of
a better life, a purer existence, a nobler calling.
Lieutenant Gillings said, “I’ll bite. Captain, Everyone laughed except Flynn and the And I liked it.” He sighed. “I experienced what I
do you know what’s going on?” cleric, although the latter smiled gently. can only call a crisis of identity.”
“Perhaps not that bad. I was Qantiin in deep
“No,” said Flynn, distracted. “No, I don’t.” cover.” Deena nodded slightly from where she sat
in the back of the hold, where only the cleric
Bola said, “Clarissa seemed to think you The gasp that erupted in the hold was could see.
knew this was coming.” instantaneous and impressive.
“I conjured a reason to contact the local

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 68

order of Qantiin to find out what was going on “‘For good,’” snorted Bola. “I like that.” The once we’re there, you’re going to kill the
in the islands, and, for lack of a better expres- rest in the hold were astonished. imposter?”
sion, to find myself, to discover who I was. In an
event that was either the greatest coincidence Lieutenant Gillings asked, “How did you do “No,” said the cleric. “My assassination days
or the justification of a fledgling faith, when that?” are over. I am a genuine cleric in the service of
I contacted the ‘local’ Qantiin installation, I Cyl, for better or worse. We will have to find
The cleric smiled gently. “I cooked for another way for justice to be done, and for evil
discovered that I’d stumbled onto the hidden them.” to be vanquished.”
Qantiin field headquarters, and met the head
assassin and his small staff, the dreaded Black A deeply uncomfortable lull settled over Bola nodded. “And what about you, Flynn?
Widower.” the room, and then Flynn started laughing, Are you agreeable to this now that you know
slowly at first, and then building. “You have to about it?”
Bola whistled, low and amazed. “He’s a very admit, that’s pretty funny,” he said.
bad man. You don’t want to cross that one.” All eyes turned to the captain, who was
The cleric said, “I told Flynn all this when I studiously studying his boot, arms still crossed.
Vaneras nodded. “I’d heard many stories returned, everything but the final piece about There passed a long, nervous moment in
of him, myself, from those in the position to the plot. I thought that he would never willingly silence.
know, and none of them good. But as long as travel to Haddirron City, even if the entire land
I was there, I asked him my questions, and I itself was in peril.” He looked evenly at Flynn. And then Flynn looked up at the cleric from
cooked for him, and he told me something “Or was I wrong.” under his eyebrows. And then he smiled. It was
that rattled my composure. He told me about not a good smile.
a plot so subtle and so sinister that it threatens Flynn rotated his head, cracking his neck.
Haddirron itself, and the entire world with its Finally, he said, “I would not have willingly
implications. He told me about a half-crazy #
directed us to go to Haddirron City.”
queen, a Qantiin mole as her advisor at the
highest level, and a plan to depose her and “No matter the stakes?” The atmosphere in the hold changed. Bola
assume control of the throne without so much looked up from staring at her empty scabbard.
as single drop of blood, a bloodless coup. Of “No matter the stakes.” “Huh? What just happened?”
course, the queen would be committed to an The cleric nodded. “So for the sake of Gillings leaned over. “Bola, I think it means
asylum, and many innocents would die later the nation, I committed a final sin, a sin of our dear captain has himself A Plan.”
at the swords and ships of Haddirron’s own omission.” Vaneras saw Bola. “I didn’t tell
military, but that’s later. I determined then Mr. Humble nudged the sailor next to him
Flynn quite everything I knew. While in the
and there that I was done with the Qantiin, awake. “You’re going to want to hear this.”
lion’s den meeting with the Black Widower,
but there was one last assassination I had to after I’d poisoned him but before he knew it, I
fulfill before I started my new life as a genuine Mr. Pitt said, “Here we go again.”
persuaded him to send a messenger bird to his
cleric.” mole telling him where to find the captain and Flynn said, “Where’s Chain?”
He looked around at those in the hold with Alacrity. I betrayed us to have the enemy bring
him. “I assassinated the head assassin, and us before him himself. We need to face him, Chain spoke up from his drawings. “Over
all those who served him in his secret island and now he’s drawing us in on his own volition, here. If you’re done scheming, you’re going to
den, and then I walked away from that life for not knowing that he’s playing into my hands.” want to see this.”
good.” Bola said, “That’s pretty good. And then, They all gathered around. Flynn looked at

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 69

the first sheet and did a double-take, leaning in Gillings chuckled. “I think he has a different would they go? They were hundreds of feet in
to look closer at the drawings. “Is this...” plan.” the air out over the ocean. The captain grudg-
ingly agreed.
“Yes. It’s a blade-driven propulsion system “What?”
for an airship.” Mr. Pitt and Lieutenant Gillings went first.
Eggplant said, “There is a plan, and there They spent fifteen minutes walking around
“Chain, you’re a genius!” is A Plan.” followed by two guards. The others were cycled
up for their strolls until everyone but Flynn had
Chain took off his small round glasses and Bola slumped down again. “My head hurts gotten some air. Chain limped around claiming
cleaned them with the fabric of his shirt. “Yes, I with all this planning. I miss my dagger.” that a barrel had broken his leg, and he wore a
am,” he agreed, “but I didn’t design this.”
Flynn patted her shoulder. “Hang in there. wood splint contraption to keep his leg straight,
The hold got very quiet. Flynn said, “Where, Things are coming together.” so he mostly walked to the nearest railing and
uh, did you get these drawings?” looked out over the ocean when it was his turn
Bola muttered, “But is it things, or is it to be on deck.
Chain put his glasses back on. “I couldn’t Things? I’m so confused.”
say. They came to me in a most unusual way. It went that way for a week. After a few
But we were clearly meant to have this tech- Flynn walked over to Vaneras. “You really days, the strolling couples were allowed more
nology, and it will clearly change...well, every- think you can get Chain off the airship and leeway without a constant guard standing right
thing.” to a place where he can work in peace and over their shoulders.
develop clandestine airship technology with
Flynn slammed the barrel the drawings all the resources he requires without capture On the eighth day, they were passing over
were on, throwing dust into the air to dance or prying eyes?” a port town when they acted. Bola and Chain
lazily in the narrow stream of light. “If only took the deck, Chain walking over to the rail
we’d had time to develop this! Think what an “I’m counting on it. And your old friends as was his wont, Bola flirting with the nearest
armada of these airships could do! We could are going to help us.” passing guard.
move around the world in weeks instead of “Really? Who did you have in mind?” “Aren’t you a strong one? If only you were
months!” a little taller...”
“I think it’s time Chain took a tour of Briar
Vaneras said, “If only you had a chance Island.” And so it went. As the last guard approached
to escape, to make your way to a safe haven and it was nearly time for them to go below,
where you could develop this into a working
# Bola stepped in front of the shorter man. “I
technology in relative peace.” can’t take it anymore,” she said, and she kissed
Flynn turned to look at the cleric. “You have The execution of the plan—as opposed to him, bending him over backward.
an idea?” The Plan—turned out to be relatively simple. Of course, it took him by surprise, but not
The cleric asked to speak to Captain Gillings,
The cleric grinned. “It’s worse than that. I nearly so much as when she suggested they
and was allowed the privilege based on his
have a plan of my own.” could repair behind the nearest stack of crates
reputation as a man of faith. Vaneras entreated for a few minutes. She took his hand and he
Gillings to allow the prisoners—other than
Bola sat up and slapped her leg. “I get it! looked around. No one was looking, and they
Flynn—up on deck in groups of two to get a
He has A Plan!” stole away.
little sun and to stretch their legs. Where

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 70

She returned to Chain a few moments later snapped. The cleric said he’d seen it coming but he just stood there, waiting, watching the
bearing a skypack. She tossed it to Chain and but was helpless to intervene. He assured the throne.
he quickly donned the vest. Chain took off his captain he would personally notify the captain
glasses and secured them inside the vest. if he noticed any other signs of depression, and “Go,” said a guard, gruffly.
that was that.
“Are you sure you’ll be able to see when to “When I’m bid,” Flynn said quietly, watching
activate the pack,” she asked. her, the queen.

“I’m farsighted,” he said. “I’ll be fine.” In the Court of the Crimson Queen Haddirron’s monarch was almost as tall
as Flynn, slender, with angular cheeks and
He sat backward on the rail and swung his Weeks later, when the airship Royal Steed silvered hair that looked to be hers and not a
good leg out over the edge, resting his splinted set down in Monarch’s Harbor, the captive wig. She wore it down in a casual cut, simple
leg on the rail. She checked the rope at his crew was shackled and led into barred wagons but elegant. Practical. No-nonsense. She sat up
ankle keeping the drawings secure under his and taken to the castle. Flynn heard Captain straight on the throne, and her diamond tiara
breeches leg and then patted his leg. “You’re Gillings order the crew be taken to a minimum- rested comfortably on her head, keeping her
ready,” she said. “Happy inventing.” security holding room while he was taken away silvery bangs out of her face. A large firehound
to a more secure private room to await an reclined at her feet, its massive head resting on
Chain kicked off into the air and vanished audience with the queen. the queen’s robe-covered feet. Flynn knew the
out of sight. Bola leaned back against the railing speed and ferocity of an untrained firehound.
and flirted with the next passing guard. She He did not have long to wait. He was given This one’s eyes followed Flynn closely, but she
waited another five minutes and then returned clean clothes and instructed to make himself made not so much as a twitch in his direction.
to her guard. She bent over him, giving him a presentable before going before the queen.
nice view of her cleavage, and patted his cheek Flynn fought to keep a smile off his face.
until he came to. Looking down at him, she Flynn washed his black hair, dried it with He’d thought about this moment for decades.
said, “Are you well? There’s a man overboard. a clean towel, and bound it behind his neck What does one say to a monarch?
We have to raise the alarm!” with a string. He trimmed his facial hair into a
goatee and a rakish thin mustache. He dressed He knew she was watching his attitude,
She helped the fuzzy-headed guard to his in a plain white bloused shirt, cleaned his soft how he handled himself. He resolved to bend
feet, and he did all the work for her. leather boots, and declared himself ready. everything he could to his advantage. As usual
as I can be in this most unusual situation, he
“Alarm, alarm! Man overboard!” Then he was marched through the castle thought.
for an audience before the queen in court.
A crowd gathered, and she spun a nice There was a scuffle and a tumult down at
story—how Chain had cracked the guard Flynn was escorted down the long, colon- the entrance which was followed by the sound
over the head, stolen his skypack, and leapt naded hallway, his boot steps echoing harshly of two falling bodies hitting the floor. Cooper
overboard. on the impeccably tiled floor, failing to excite looked back. Mr. Pitt and Bola stood over two
the attention of even one of the guards who fallen guards, and the rest of the crew filled in
Captain Gillings asked the cleric about stood at relaxed attention in front of every behind them. Flynn fought to control a grin.
Chain’s mental state and was perhaps unsur- other column, pikes in front of them. The rococo
prised to learn that Chain was a little unsteady gates for the throne room swung slowly open As one, the Haddirron palace guards came
and hadn’t taken well to captivity, falling deeper and Cooper stood there, arms shackled behind to attention, their heels clicking together, their
and deeper unto depression until he finally him. The guards started prodding him to enter pikes being brought forcefully to their chests,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 71

ringing in unison off their armored breast- you do us the honor of introducing yourself,” belongs to Her Majesty, but she is under my
plates, the noise a thunderous din in that hall. he said. charge. Her name is HMS Alacrity.”
“We’re coming in,” Bola asserted, for all Flynn looked at the queen. She watched The chamberlain nodded somewhere off to
intents and purposes blissfully oblivious to him patiently from glittering, intelligent eyes, the side. “I am pleased to see you believe she
all the guards standing motionless in the hall. but said nothing. Then—and only then—Flynn belongs to Her Majesty. Considering that you
“We’re here with our captain. Stand aside— took two paces forward. “I am Captain Cooper stole her from her mooring and sailed away
we’re coming through.” Flynn, from Lowell’s Island originally, by way of with her, one might be confused as to your
Patience Bay, Briar Island, and most recently willingness to agree with us as to her rightful
After a brief impasse, the queen nodded Parrot Bay at Roarke’s Island.” ownership. Fortunately, we have a witness
once, almost imperceptibly, to her chamber- here to settle the matter.”
lain, who spoke clearly. The chamberlain said, “Those are all islands
within Haddirronian waters. Do you consider Flynn knew who was coming, nor was he
“Allow them,” he said, the edict echoing yourself a citizen of Haddirron?” wrong.
down the long hall until it carried the very
weight of regal authority. That edict was imme- Flynn said, “The peoples of those islands The small, weasel-faced man dressed in
diately followed by the sound of the pikes are an independent-minded lot, as am I, but, rich clothes stepped forward. The chamberlain
being returned to the relaxed position and the yes, I consider myself first and foremost a said, “State your name for the record.”
guards returning to parade rest again. citizen of Haddirron.”
The witness’ shrill voice echoed in the
To Flynn, it was clear that everything, no “You call yourself ‘captain,’ and yet you chamber. “I am Weldon Dananstrogh, Her
matter how small, was magnified in that hall. did not finish your commission at the naval Majesty’s Auditor.”
academy.”
# Toxeau said, “Ven Auditor, your report if
“A captain is a leader of a sailing vessel, and you please.”
as such is not restricted to only naval vessels.
Once everybody trundled up and were Dananstrogh spoke. “I was notified that
I am a captain, and have been so since I was
directed to stand off in a corner with a line of one of her Majesty’s ships was being retrofit-
sixteen. First, on my own boat, the Lone Wolf,
pikemen between them and the throne, things ted in the shipyards at the naval academy, but
then on various tramp merchant vessels on the
stared in earnest. I did not have a record of the authorization
seas. I have been a privateer for Her Majesty,
and currently serve as an airship captain in the for the work. I traveled to the shipyard and
The chamberlain consulted a stack of scrolls
service of Her Majesty in the fight again Sylvan uncovered a mystery that grew progressively
and parchments on a podium. He was a thin
interlopers,” Flynn said, bowing. bigger. I learned that Chance Wilke was serving
man with a small nose and calculating eyes. as Inventor-Contractor on the job as an agent
“I am Blenton Toxeau, Her Majesty’s cham- “Let us address that. How did you happen to for Cooper Flynn, and tracked both of them
berlain. We have been looking forward to this come into possession of Her Majesty’s Airship, down in their warehouse workshop. I learned
audience for some time,” he said. He voice was HMS Majeste?” fascinating things, but none more fascinating
deep for his frame, and carried easily across than the rationale for the approval to pay for
wide spaces. But Flynn immediately knew this “Alacrity,” said Bola. Flynn was amused retrofitting the ship.”
was not the sort of man who spoke just to as the entire crew hurried to shush her up.
enjoy the sound of his own voice. This one was Bola versus everyone else, thought Flynn. That Toxeau said, “And what was this
dangerous. “For the sake of novelty, why don’t sounds about right. Flynn said, “This airship rationale?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 72

The auditor said, “They said Her Majesty Flynn was greatly amused by it all. “Produce your document,” she said.
approved the construction herself, by proxy.”
Toxeau turned to Flynn and said, “You have Flynn reached into his pocket and produced
A collective gasp filled the hall. That’s when heard the auditor’s report. What have you to the document that had carried so much weight
Flynn noticed the elevated balcony galleries on say for yourself?” in the early going of his career aboard Alacrity.
both sides of the grand hall, and that the place He unrolled it and held it up.
had gradually filled. He was irrationally proud Flynn said, “It is true there was a theft, but
of that. it was not by me. The real thief is Auditor Dan- The Queen’s Writ.
anstrogh. The ship was built using technology
“By proxy? We’ll get back to that in a in my sole possession, and using tacit approval She looked at it and then looked at Flynn.
moment.” The chamberlain continued. “And of the Crown. When we went to collect our Then she lifted her index finger in the ‘come
then what did you do?” vessel, she had been removed without our hither’ gesture.
authorization. We found her the following
“When construction was complete and The chamberlain stepped forward and
morning, and we reclaimed a vessel under my
the ship was ready for its maiden voyage with reached out for it, but Flynn jerked it away.
stewardship.”
the new airship technology, I had it moved to They both stopped, frozen in place, as she lifted
the docks to bring back here to present to Her The chamberlain slammed his podium. the index finger on her right hand. It was a tiny
Majesty.” “This is incredible! By what right do you make movement but the message was clear—“No,
these claims?” not you. Flynn will bring it here to me.”
“And then what happened?”
“How Alacrity came into my stewardship is The chamberlain bowed and stepped back,
The auditor turned and faced the queen. easily explained. I used this,” said Flynn, and his face carefully controlled.
“And then this prototype airship was stolen started to try to untie the sash tied at his waist
right out from under the watch at dawn on the Squaring his shoulders, Flynn approached
with his manacled hands.
day she was due to depart for Haddirron City.” the queen of Haddirron and knelt in front of
Two guards sprang forward and drove him her with head bowed, the Writ outstretched in
There was another gasp from the gallery. to his knees, pressing his back so his face was front of him like a supplication, hoping against
near the floor. hope that the firehound at her feet was very
The chamberlain said, “Were the thieves well trained.
identified?” The queen spoke for the first time, her
steely voice crackling with authority. “Release #
The auditor said, “They were, Ven Cham- him,” said the queen.
berlain. And they are all here in this hall today
before you.” The auditor wound up his arm and His face was mere inches from the fire-
Startled, the guards holding his elbows
pointed theatrically toward Flynn. “And they hound’s great head, but the beast didn’t
released him and stepped forward to loose
were led by that man.” so much as quiver. Flynn could feel her eyes
the metal binding his wrists behind his back, watching him very carefully, however, and he
the chains clanking loudly in the hall and then
Toxeau said, “Thank you, auditor. You may was likewise careful to not so much as twitch.
falling to the floor with resounding metallic
stand down.” crash. Besides, he had bigger things on his mind.
Dananstrogh bowed his head to the side, a “Rise,” she said. After everything he’d been through, and
greasy smile on his weasel-like face.
for as long as he’d had it, Flynn hated to give
Flynn stood.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 73

up the Writ, even if it was the queen herself. than this. This is the only document of this Tuy was the queen’s chamberlain, second-
However, if surrendering the parchment specific sort that I have seen. It is, indeed, a in-command of all Haddirron? Flynn felt a little
meant keeping his ship and crew and spiting Queen’s Writ, but which queen? This is not ill. He might still be alive if he hadn’t resigned
the Qantiin chamberlain, it was a bargain of a my signet, and the seal does not belong to my his post and gone looking for Flynn. And when
trade, and one he gave up willingly. mother, nor my mother’s mother. I’m surprised Tuy left, a mole Qantiin took his place? Flynn
that no one has thought to investigate that thought that seemed a little convenient. There
Flynn felt rather than saw the Writ leave before now. was more here than met the eye. Perhaps he
his hands as the queen took it. owed the cleric an apology after all.
“This writ goes back to the beginning of
Flynn took one step, rising, and then the Empire and was thought lost in the sack of The queen said, “And did Ven Meklanek
another, until he had returned to his position, New Londen in the early days of lawlessness teach you while at Patience Bay?”
if not his place. Out of the corner of his eye, and need.
he thought he saw a collection of pikemen and “Yes, Your Majesty. He taught me much.”
archers relax. Not to worry lads, he thought. If “This writ has a history. It is passed down
I ever attack the monarchy, you’ll know it. Let’s from generation to generation from a special She looked thoughtful. “Ven Meklanek was
hope it never comes to that. group of people loyal to a specific creed. Are my man, and he was secretly a member of
you aware of this creed?” those who held the queen’s creed. Consider-
Flynn watched as the queen read the ing your actions and your loyalty to the crown
parchment once, and then again, and then laid Flynn bowed his head. “I’m afraid not, Your and to Haddirron despite not having my official
the priceless parchment in her lap. Majesty. My father left the writ and another imprimatur, it sounds to me as if you’ve been
document for me at the Abbey where I grew adhering to his creed without officially knowing
“Cooper Flynn,” she said quietly. “I hear up, but never spoke of it when I was young. It of its existence.”
what is being said of you in the streets and took a man from your court to alert me that
islands all across Haddirron. How you fight for the document even existed.” Flynn shrugged. “I am not a holy man,
our country against the encroaching hordes, Your Majesty, however, I do have values. My
winning as often with the prowess of your “From my court, you say?” allegiance just seemed right to me.” As he said
nimble head as with your amazing sword. I it, Flynn’s memory flitted back to his orphaned
have heard of rescued slowboys, of a career as Flynn nodded. “He seemed important to upbringing at the Abbey. He’d chafed at the
a privateer with another old pirate I know well, me, but he never identified what his role was, time, but the further removed he was from
of how you gained entry to my naval academy, nor why he sacrificed his personal desires and that distant island and those painful years, the
and how you distinguished yourself there. I’ve ultimately his life to track me down.” more impressed he was with the very abbot
heard of black blots, cliffside adventures, and he’d given so much trouble growing up. Flynn
“What as the name of this man?”
hijinks of all stripes. I’ve been amazed at the resolved to thank the abbot in person if he
tales of turning back a rogue pirate fleet nearly “His name was Tuy Meklanek, your ever got the chance.
single-handed, and won a rare commendation Majesty.”
for your valor. I also heard of your expulsion “And these values, you have sacrificed to
from that same academy. Your life and exploits A gasp echoed through the hall. keep them?”
are obscured by the tall tales that run rampant
“Van Meklanek was my chamberlain before “Yes, Your Majesty. I have risked my life, my
through the outer isles and your motivations
Ven Toxeau assumed the position twelve years future, and my love to protect those values,
are shrouded in mystery.
ago.” even going so far as to kill or die to protect
“And yet, nothing is more amazing to me them.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 74

The Crimson Queen pointed at her cham- # forward to lay her hand gently on his shoulder.
berlain. “Bring his officers forward and then bar “None of us are perfect. I don’t need you to be
the Ornate Gate on your way out,” she said to Seated in a much more informal and com- perfect—Cyl is perfect. I need you to be striving.
her nearest guard. Mr. Pitt and his loyal friends fortable room off the Throne Room, the little The moment you stop pressing forward for the
stepped forward. The chamberlain nodded group listened enrapt while Queen Roberta right is the moment you die, the moment we
soberly and gently guided a guard away from spoke. all die a little bit. Nice firm shoulder.”
the throne. Suddenly, the queen clarified:
“Chamberlain Toxeau, now that Captain Flynn’s “There was a time when the country was Nice what? thought Flynn. “What would
crew is here, you are released.” just a collection of old ideals and half-remem- you have me do now?”
bered memories. The sitting leader was as
The chamberlain’s face displayed irritation often corrupt as righteous. My great-great- “The Sylvans were pressing forward against
and shock. “But, your Highness...” great-great grandmother recognized that there the Menorran utopia. You single-handedly put
was a need for men of action, men of honor, a stop to that. Instead, they are now pressing
The queen’s rang out. “They stay, you go.” men of integrity; men who would challenge forward against Haddirron interests. Thanks
the crown in the process of defending it. These for that,” she said mock-sarcastically. “But you
“My Queen, this is most irregular,” the were right to do so—we have the army, cavalry,
chamberlain sputtered, but the large guard men would not serve the country as much as
serving the greater good. In truth, they served and navy to rise to this occasion. A conquered
put one burly hand on his arm and guided him Menorra is an imperiled Haddirron. This way,
out to the outer court. He tried to hide his Cyl, and in so doing, the country that eventually
became Haddirron. This remarkable document Menorran technology does not enter into the
smile, but it was clear he was vastly enjoying fray, and we are free to continue to reason with
his task. goes back a long way and was an honorable if
secretive service. They were true knights who them and conduct black market trade for the
served not in flashy suits of armor, but behind components we need to improve our burgeon-
The queen rose and walked around behind
the scenes, bringing light and right to all the ing technology.”
the throne, through an intricately carved wood
doorway, her firehound padding along behind islands and the countries that surrounded Flynn’s eyebrows furrowed and he cocked
her. them. Gradually, all the knights defected or his head to the side in thought. Is that
died, all but one.” where...
They all filed through the door, which Mr.
Pitt drew closed behind him. She fixed Flynn with a gleaming eye. “I am “Oh, yes,” she said gleefully, clapping her
encouraged that there is yet one who serves hands together like a little girl. “I know all about
The queen gestured with her hand and they the greater good.” that. Where do you think the airship technol-
all reclined on various ornate pillows scattered
“I am not worthy,” he began, but she ogy came from originally?” She chuckled
throughout the room.
shushed him. merrily. “I need to tinkle.” The firehound at her
“Now we may speak freely,” she said. feet stirred for the first time.
“Drink, anyone?” “Oh, of course you’re not. I’ll tell you a
secret,” she said with a huge smile. “I’m not Flynn noticed, having kept a close eye on
The astonished crew glanced wordlessly worthy either. Cleric?” the trained killer.
at each other and Bola lifted her hand. “Over
“Worm-food, Your Majesty,” he confirmed, “I will, too, after I have more of this fine
here—I’m parched,” she said, while the others
smiling. wine,” chortled Bola.
stared.
“It’s ‘Roberta’ in here,” she said, leaning The queen said, “What, dear?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 75

Flynn and Mr. Pitt looked at each other. Flynn whispered, “I think it’s coming to me muttered under his breath. He turned and
now. I think we should bow and scrape and back bellowed to the room, “It’s the Riven!”
The queen looked back to Flynn. “My out of here as quickly as we can.” He pointed
question for you is what you intend to do to the firehound, who was now pacing back Flynn felt a bump against his leg and looked
next. You have been something of an unof- and forth in front of the queen, and pushing down. The firehound’s head was by his knee,
ficial privateer for the Crown. I’m thinking of the queen’s hand with her muzzle. and she was looking out the door at the same
formalizing that. It would make it easier to get thing he was. Her entire body rumbled with
you supplies, at any rate, although you don’t “We can’t,” Vaneras hissed. “I still haven’t her growling.
seem to have had any problems with that Writ dealt with the chamberlain.”
in your possession.” The queen belched gustily, Good dog, thought Flynn, and he patted
and Bola followed suit, delighted. “We may not have time,” said Flynn, her flank absently. He saw the chamberlain out
standing and backing toward the door. by the throne and sprang out of the doorway.
The firehound rose to her feet and looked “Toxeau! See to the queen! Get her out of
like she wanted to pace. “Dear boy,” said the queen, “what do here!”
you think you’re doing? You’re not going
Flynn wanted to scramble back but kept anywhere!” The Qantiin mole spun and glared at Flynn
his composure. However, his mind was racing, with unconcealed hatred. Then his mental
trying to put his finger on what was playing The firehound’s ears laid back on her head, gears kicked in and he nodded. “We’re not
out right in front of his disbelieving eyes. Was and she growled. done,” he said.
there a film over the queen’s intelligent eyes, And that’s when they heard the dim crash Flynn said, “We can kill each other later if
or was it just a trick of his mind? of metal and the sound of echoed combat in we survive. Deal?”
Roberta said, “I like you, Flynn, I really do. the long hall outside the door of the queen’s
That boy’s been an embarrassment to this antechamber. The chamberlain nodded and ran back to
throne for years. Time to nip that in the bud. see to the queen.
Nice parcel, though. What?” Flynn spun around, looking for attendants.
Hatred “Sword!” he yelled, and the queen nodded
The queen looked over to Clarissa and
executed an over-elaborate stage wink. “Yes, once, brusquely, to the guards who had run to
Mr. Pitt said, “You don’t suppose...”
child, I sympathize with your hopes and feel attend to her.
your very appropriate desires in my own loins, Flynn said, “Don’t even think it,” but he “Give them their arms, quickly!” she
but the monarchy needs you to continue to sprinted to the door and looked. There in front commanded.
serve, to lead. You may follow your heart of them, the palace guards were staggered
quickly enough if our rogue here manages down the center of the long hall, weapons at Flynn looked back at her. Her eyes were
to steal the conflict and bring peace back to the ready, clogging the passage. They were clear again, sharp. “Your Majesty, I will serve
Menda. Excellent presentation. That trap is being picked up and tossed to each side like you with my sword, and with my life. Please
baited. Lucky mouse.” rag dolls as what appeared to be an invisible don’t hold it against me.”
hand worked its way forward through their
Clarissa nodded her head, while Flynn midst. The cacophony was impressive. “Go, dear boy,” she said, sadly. “Do what
blinked. Cleric Vaneras put his hand on Flynn’s you must. Just don’t lose your vision!”
shoulder. “Don’t worry,” he whispered. “It’ll Then Flynn saw him, the being he’d first
come to you eventually.” known as “Mr. Krewes.” “Oh, dear Cyl,” he Interesting turn of phrase, Flynn thought,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 76

and sketched a quick bow to her. # would normally be irritated by losing ground,
the Riven wasn’t a normal foe and this wasn’t
“Close and bar this door behind us and The Riven turned to face Flynn. Over his a normal fight.
protect the queen,” he commanded. shoulder, Flynn saw the queen stick her head
out behind the throne and then step out. “You’re awfully slow for a machine,” he said,
Mr. Pitt said, “Do you know what you’re managing a solid cut toward his head, taking
doing?” She caught his eye and waved at him, as if
waving goodbye, then she raised her fist in a an inch of hair, which seemed incongruous on
signature gesture he dimly remembered from his head anyway, considering his mechanical
Flynn said, “We have to draw it off away
somewhere... nature.
from here.”
...and then the Riven was on him with a “Back!” Flynn thundered, taking a quick
Bola got her dagger back and was practi-
vengeance, leaving the remaining palace guards dart toward the Riven’s eye, but he wasn’t
cally glowing. “Do you have a plan?”
looking somewhat relieved. Flynn remembered talking to the Riven, he was sending a message
Flynn shook his head. “No time. All I have how fast and how strong the Riven was, but to Bola, who seemed to want to draw the
is an impulse.” he had forgotten the absolute savagery of his Riven toward her, which would be bad. In the
strokes, the clinical precision of his moves. meantime, Flynn noticed that Mr. Pitt and the
Bola said, “What—” but Flynn sprang others had vanished.
into action before she could finish asking her “C’mon, you big tin can, is that all you’ve
question. He ducked behind the columns and got?” The Riven lunged and swiped, and then
down the right wall. He popped back into view Flynn was too busy to think after nearly
behind the Riven. Worse yet, the Riven was wearing body having the sword ripped out of his hand. Flynn
armor of some sort, transforming himself into managed to jerk backward with all his strength
“Mr. Krewes,” he bellowed, striking a pose. a veritable human machine, heartless and and dexterity, ripping the sword free with a
“We meet again.” soulless and utterly lacking in pity. metallic screech and the showering of sparks,
but he recognized he was continually underes-
The Riven stopped and turned, fixing Flynn Cyl, he’s fast! Flynn let a smile play about timating just how fast the Riven was.
with a steely gaze. His head swiveled left to his lips to show he wasn’t afraid. There was no
peer down at the throne room and then right time to think, so he tucked his mind away and Flynn swung a vicious stroke that clanged
to Flynn. just flowed with the battle. off the Riven’s shoulder, and then he turned
and sprinted for the entrance. He turned, as
“Come now, you are clearly implacable. Flynn had the taste of a plan, which if undecided, and noticed the Riven stalking
How can you leave a mission incomplete? involved drawing him out of the long hall toward him with great determination. He drew
You followed me this far, come and meet your without actually dying in the process; he had a sword of his own and nearly skewered Flynn
doom! I started the battle on the ship, let us to draw the Riven away from the queen, even while he was deciding where to go.
finish it!” With that, Flynn flipped his leather if it meant his life.
harness over his head and drew his sword, the That was close, thought Flynn. Too close.
electric spark and sizzle filling the echoing air. Flynn’s sword strokes were glancing off
both the Riven’s arms, shedding sparks as he That’s when he saw what he was looking
The Riven hesitated. “Finish it!” roared fought. Keep coming after me, you single-mind- for.
Flynn, brandishing his weapon, the corridor ed rustbucket! Flynn was backing up the entire
empty behind him. time, hacking, slashing, his nimble electrified Flynn closed with the Riven and had a
sword searching for an opening. Where he quick exchange, sparks flying, and then broke

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 77

and sprinted toward the nearby dock. He ran combat. into the water after her dagger.
through an open-air market, then skidded to
a stop, backtracking enough to grab a heavy # “Probably saved her life,” mused Flynn, who
winter cloak. “I need this in service of the then turned his head and yelled, “Incoming!”
Crown,” Flynn said, and then danced away as Flynn started reeling in the mooring rope,
Down on the dock, it was battle royale. Bola
the Riven stalked up behind him and dropped a hoping against hope his plan would work.
had her sword and her precious dagger, and
sword through the table-top, splitting it in half had mounted a swirling, spinning dual-blade The Riven looked up at the rising airship.
with one powerful stroke. attack that was a sight to see. Her red hair was Quicker than thought, the Riven lunged at the
flashing in the sun, and she was howling like mooring rope, snaring it with one monstrous
It was a vacant Alacrity, and it appeared some sort of warrior princess. paw, and started climbing up the line toward
that Mr. Pitt and Mr. Humble were untying
her moorings while Cleric Vaneras reasoned the airship, the rope creaking and shaking with
Flynn could guess what had happened—
with a single guard there on the dock, and the effort.
the Riven had reached for the mooring line
then produced a hidden dagger and holding but Bola joined the fray, doing what she did Flynn whirled. “Now!” he yelled. “Crank
the guard at bay. “It’s for your own good, my best, and she was fearsome. She was actually it all the way up and get out of there,” then
son,” he said, and nodded his head at Flynn pushing the Riven back with the ferocity of her started to shrug into the heavy cloak, making
as he scrambled past. Vaneras may have been attack, her doubles blades raking off the Riven’s sure he could get at the skypack’s breastplate
smiling. forearms in a relentless staccato cadence— activator at his chest.
ching-chang-ching-chang. Sparks flew as she
Flynn caught up to Mr. Pitt and Mr. Humble forced the Riven back on his heels, teetering at The Riven put one big paw on the corner
on a dead run just as they finished untying the the edge of the dock. She knocked the sword of the deck and then another on the top of the
airship. “I have an idea. Mr. Pitt, take her up and out of his grasp and her dagger scraped along rail. His head came over the rail just as Flynn’s
out and hold at twenty feet. Leave one mooring his forearm, hit his head with a sound like a boots connected with his head, rocking the
line dangling. Step lively, here it comes!” gong, and took his ear off. Riven back solidly. Flynn fell heavily to the deck.
Within moments, Alacrity had lifted up The Riven shook it off and clambered onboard,
The Riven made the first sound that Flynn lurching forward after Flynn, who rolled away
out of the water and was floating just above had ever heard, a roar. She changed her tactic and hopped lightly to his feet.
the water. Flynn was onboard getting into a for the briefest moment to wind up and deliver
skypack. He yelled over to the wheelhouse. her finishing stroke, a massive deathstroke. Flynn noted movement out of the corner of
“When I give the word, this is what I want you his eye, and saw Lieutenant Gillings pop out of
to do,” and he spelled out his plan. Mr. Pitt And that was her undoing. the hold. Flynn resolved to ask him how he’d
made to protest but Flynn cut him short. “We gotten onboard. Gillings caught Flynn’s eye,
only have one chance to kill this monstrosity, It would have been fatal against any human rotated his finger twice to signify everything
and—” opponent, but the Riven wasn’t human, and was fired up, and then jogged over and hopped
recovered in that brief window of respite. It
He was cut off by a distinctive shriek and up on the railing. He composed himself, and
leaned forward, got its balance, and backhand-
the sound of intense battle down on the dock. dove off into the water—on the port side,
ed Bola’s nearest blade, knocking her precious
“No!” he yelled, but it was too late. He stuck Flynn noted—with all the form and grace of a
dagger out away and into the water.
his head over the edge and saw what he did professional diver.
not want to see. Bola didn’t even hesitate. She immediately Flynn sprinted the short distance to the
dropped her sword and dove headlong down
Bola had finally engaged the Riven in wheelhouse and jammed the lever all the way

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 78

to the top. I’ve always wanted to do that, he “Evil shall not prevail?” said Flynn, keeping belly of the ship.
thought. an eye on the downed Riven. “Really?”
Flynn faced the Riven and backed away as
He stepped out of the wheelhouse and Vaneras said, “It was all I could think of at the Riven steadily approached. “Answer me
pulled the locked door closed behind him. the time.” something. Why are you so determined to kill
Flynn turned around and faced the Riven. a queen you’ve never met?”
Flynn said, “I think you really hurt him. Is
# that a crucifix?” asked Flynn, conversationally, “Because you’re so determined to defend
keeping an eye on the Riven. a queen you’ve never met,” said the Riven
calmly.”And because I hate you with an
The Riven stood there at the railing looking “No,” replied the cleric, equally as calm. “Is unquenchable fire, and desire you to suffer as
at Flynn. that important?” I have suffered.”
And then it spoke. “There’s nowhere else “Not as long as it’s sharp,” said Flynn, Flynn sensed the mast behind him. He
to run,” he said in what was a surprisingly grinning. “Uh oh.” thought about ducking behind the mast to try
normal, educated voice, all the creepier for its to get his sword back. “Your suffering is self-
normalcy. The Riven clawed the weapon out with inflicted. I am not responsible for that.”
a roar and hurled it back at the Cleric, who
It was the flattest, most clinical statement received it, hard, in a flurry of his cloak and “I never said you were. I needed a quarry,
Flynn had ever heard, and his skin crawled. then staggered over to the rail, tripping over and you’re the only one to try to be worthy of
“I don’t have to run,” said Flynn, amiably, “... the edge of it, quickly disappearing from view. my hate.”
when I can fly,” and it was true, the ship was
picking up altitude faster and faster, like an Flynn ferociously attacked the Riven again Flynn felt the mast at his back with his
arrow released into the sky. from the front, glancing blows off both mailed hand, never taking his eyes off the Riven. “That
palms and forearms as the Riven regained his makes no sense.”
Flynn lunged forward with his sword but feet and reached forward for him with both
was easily rebuffed and forced backward again arms, again forcing Flynn to retreat. “Hate doesn’t have to make sense,” said
in quick shower of sparks. the Riven. “Enough banter,” he said. He
Then the Riven lunged forward and ripped flipped Flynn’s sword in the air, caught the hilt
“Now it is just the two of us,” said the Riven, the sword from Flynn’s hand. He rammed the palm-up, and threw the sword at Flynn, really
who advanced methodically as he rounded the hilt hard against the side of Flynn’s temple, leaning into the stroke.
corner of the wheelhouse after the backpedal- knocking him head over heels away from the
ing Flynn. wheelhouse and onto the open deck toward The sword, still sparking, sliced through
the bow of the ship. Flynn’s upper left shoulder like a knife through
“Evil shall not prevail!” thundered Cleric butter, pinning him to the foremast with a
Vaneras, who appeared out of the wheelhouse Flynn tried to clear his head, tried to get his heavy thunk.
and buried an ornate blade to the hilt in the arms around the sudden reversal of fortune.
Riven’s upper back. Flynn screamed. He’d never felt pain like
And then he noticed something. The coast that in his life and the overwhelming horror of
The glancing blow took its toll, for blood was quickly falling away behind them, and the the situation slammed him as hard as the blow
exploded out of the Riven’s mouth, and he fell air was beginning to get thin and cold as the itself.
to his knees for the first time in Flynn’s experi- ship kept rocketing into the air. Flynn thought
ence. he started to feel a thrumming vibration in the And then he started to laugh. Got my

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 79

sword back, you bastard. I think I’m losing my “I forgive you,” said Flynn. button and ricocheted away, but the other two
mind. So this is what it’s like. Flynn realized struck Flynn’s skypack, hard.
dimly that he was howling while laughing, the The Riven said, “What?”
agony arguing with his sense of the absurd. Flynn put one hand on each of the steel
Flynn spat blood on the deck and looked throwing stars and bellowed as he yanked
They never show this in the stage dramas. So up at the beast through weary eyes. “You can’t them out and dropped to the deck. He noted
much for truth in the arts. help yourself. You are what you were made to with alarm that his skypack sparked once and
Flynn gritted his teeth and looked at the be. You are your master’s tool. I forgive you.” started bleeding a drizzle of thick, viscous liquid
Riven. “Now...what?” And then Flynn looked up and smiled. from one of the puncture holes. 
The monstrous human approached Flynn The Riven roared and raised the sword back He saw the Riven reaching into its vest
until he looked down at him, nose-to-nose, up behind his head for the killing stroke. again.  Flynn growled in pure, animal defiance. 
bare inches apart. It is now or never.
Flynn rolled forward and sprang up at the
“You die,” the Riven said, quietly, flatly. Riven, slapping the skypack activator on his Flynn roared and lurched to his feet,
chest with his right hand. The skypack drove dripping drops of red and green fluid onto
Not so fast, thought Flynn, the pain Flynn up into the Riven’s throat under his jaw. the deck of his precious, doomed airship.  He
battering Flynn’s mind. I know something you bent and retrieved the Riven’s sword. The deck
don’t. “Then... what?” said Flynn, groaning The effect was explosive.  Flynn’s good rumbled beneath him, and his exhaled breath
with the effort. shoulder snapped the Riven’s head back, and frosted out in front of him like a cloud, like a
despite his mass, Flynn’s skypack lifted the ghost, like a soul. Flynn grasped the sword’s
That seemed to stop the Riven where Riven six feet up off the deck. The Riven fell hilt upside down with the blade pointing down
nothing else had. He stepped back and crossed backward, crashing heavily to the deck, his at the deck, raised the blade above his head,
his heavy arms and thought for a moment, sword slamming against the deck and spinning ignoring the extreme pain he felt. Roaring with
processing the concept. “Then I’ll take your away. pain and desperation, Flynn brought the sword
head and go visit the queen,” he said, and the
Flynn felt like both shoulders were now down with everything he had, slicing through
statement rang in Flynn’s ears, taunting him in
ruined, but was able to slap the button on his the Riven’s throat just under his Founder’s
his helplessness.
chest. He gasped as he crumpled to the deck. Apple, spewing blood on his hands and pinning
“If you want my head,” murmured Flynn Fighting off the waves of pain, Flynn staggered the Riven to the deck of Alacrity with his own
doggedly, “come and get it.” to one knee. sword.

“Very well.” Without ado, the Riven stepped The Riven struggled to rise, but his heavy The Riven convulsed and thrashed like an
forward and plucked the sword blade out of metal skeleton made that difficult. out-of-control machine, whipping wildly from
the mast, dropping Flynn to his knees on the side to side and clawing at the sword, tossing
deck, provoking another scream. Flynn straightened his back, grimacing in Flynn out of the way like a rag doll.
agony.
Through the haze of pain and the waves of Flynn landed on his bruised right shoulder
agony, one thought presented itself to Flynn The Riven reached inside its large, leather with a howl, and he rolled onto his back to
through his knees, through his palms. The vest.  With a vicious backhand, he threw three lessen the pain.
thrumming was heavy now. She’s given me all spinning metal objects at Flynn’s chest.
The deck shuddered beneath him now with
she’s got, he thought. Now it’s my turn. One of the objects hit the skypack activator a wicked vibration. Flynn gasped and rolled

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 23, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, by Johne Cook Pg. 80

to his knee. The light coming out of the hold toward him and he let go of the frame to grab stretched out his arms and gave himself over
was now a full-on glow. Flynn staggered to his it as it went by. to the full sensation of that great moment,
feet, picked up his sword, deactivated it, and both the pleasure and the pain, and steeled
painfully sheathed it. “Well,” he said. He had one hand on the leather skypack himself for the long, cold plunge back down to
when Alacrity lurched and fell away.  Flynn was the waiting world below.
The Riven ceased his thrashing and fixed scrabbling for a better purchase on the skypack
him with one black eye that seemed to bore when, one hundred  yards away from him,
into him. Alacrity’s hold exploded in the largest fireball
Flynn had ever seen, and he lost his purchase End of Season Two
“Your hatred will be the death of you,” on the squirrelly skypack and it slipped out of
Flynn grated huskily, breathing heavily. his grasping hands.
“Your malfunctioning levitation harness will Bellowing his rage,  Flynn slapped des-
be yours,” said the Riven with a grim smile. perately at the malfunctioning skypack on his
chest, only reinforcing the pain and the futility
The deck started bouncing under Flynn’s of his actions in the process, as he watched
feet. The Riven started a dry, rasping laugh that Alacrity drop away from him right in front of
chilled Flynn to the bone. Stay tuned for
his eyes, her flames trailing behind her like the
Flynn said, “I wouldn’t be so sure about cape of a fire-orange phoenix. Season Three of
that.  I have a spare skypack waiting for me in The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
And then, as he watched the fiery death-
the wheelhouse.  For you, however, the weight plunge of his once-elegant airship, he became
of your evil will bury you here and now.  It is strangely calm and he gradually stopped
true,” Flynn said, grinning painfully.  “Evil shall beating at his chest.
not prevail,” he said, conversationally. “At least
not on my ship.” It is only right that the captain goes down
with his ship, he thought.  The queen is safe,
The Riven grabbed the double-edged blade the cleric will take care of the Qantiin mole,
of its sword in its great palms, and roared in and the airships will take the fight to Sylva.  My
desperation as the thrumming from below got time here is done.
louder.
He knew a great moment when he felt it,
Flynn started running for the wheel-
house, although it was more of a desperate and there would never be another moment
like this one.  As he fell, he thought of his life,
Johne Cook
shamble.   An explosion deep in the bowls Sandle dying at the hands of the Qantiin, the
of the ship knocked him off his feet and the Johne is a technical writer, help author,
Friar of Briar Island, his career as a privateer,
ship listed hard to port.  Flynn lunged and helping Mr. Pitt gain entrance to the academy, creative writer, and editor.
just managed to grab the door frame with his Alacrity, Clarissa.
right hand.  Alacrity leaned further to port
and the rolled up charts and small navigators This is the way it had to be. He likes prog rock, space opera, film noir,
implements started to pummel Flynn in the and the Green Bay Packers.
face.  The skypack on the ledge started sliding And then Cooper Flynn, the Sky Pirate,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 21, Vulture's Prize, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 81
Memory Wipe
Chapter 21, Vulture’s Prize
by Sean T. M. Stiennon

T he train wheels grinding along the bare
steel track formed a constant background
noise as Takeda crouched in darkness. He kept
Rose became pale red, and over the course
of a half hour, pale red flushed crimson. Lances
of color spread across the black sky, penetrating
train.

#
one hand on his water bottle, as if it would between clusters of stars. It was more sunlight
vanish without his touch, and waited until he than Takeda had seen for nearly a month, and They arrived many hours later, near Cault-
could barely stand the thirst before he allowed his eyes devoured every photon. hor’s noon. The sun had heated every panel
himself a drink. Endless hours rolled past and crate of the train car into a frying pan, and
without any way to keep the time—Caulthor’s He felt a thrill run through his body as the Takeda’s water jug was long since empty, his
night lasted seventy hours, and they had left first hint of glowing flame broke over the jagged tongue clinging to the dry ridges of his mouth
the station early. The train stopped occasion- rocks of the horizon. He had almost forgotten and gums that felt as if they had rotted and
ally, and Takeda heard voices, the sounds of what a sun looked like, and Caulthor’s burned died. The light which had been a blessing was
machinery, crates being loaded and unloaded. bright orange even at its lowest point. Streams now torture. Takeda thought he finally under-
He hid behind a crate in case someone entered of gleaming light poured across the ash-gray stood what life on Caulthor was like.
his car. stone of the desert, like gold rushing into a
thousand scorched crucibles. Takeda pressed The door opened abruptly, and wind
The car was ventilated only by slit windows his eyes closer to the slit, feeling steel digging mingled with flecks of ash blasted in—cooler
high up on the walls, and Takeda barely into his brow. The light stung drops of water than the air in the car, but still hellishly warm.
noticed the first light of dawn. He realized only from the corners of his eyes. He felt like a blind Takeda jumped, muscles tensed, but David’s
gradually that he could see the outlines of dark man who had been miraculously healed at high head peered in, his braid a little less neat and
crates around him, see his own arms, even noon on a summer day. his beard a little longer than when Takeda had
make out variations in shade from his clothing last seen him. “You alive?” he asked.
to his bare flesh. Light brighter than starlight The sun rose over the course of what must
was growing. He stood, stretching stiff legs and have been an hour or more. It was smaller Takeda nodded, too thirsty to speak.
arms, and clambered onto a stack of crates. than Nihil’s but brighter, showing hints of “Worse for you,” David grunted, pushing the
It put him just high enough to press his eyes intense white in its corona as its upper edge door open a little wider. “Get out quick, now,
against a window-slit, facing the pale light. rolled higher. Its light struck motes of gleaming before someone notices.”
dust and rock grit on the desert floor. He saw
The train rolled through an endless expanse other details: tiny plants growing in patches of Takeda stood with an effort, burning his
of open rock, shallow stone dishes alternating shadow, dark shapes that looked like arachnoid hands against the car wall he used for support.
with curled spurs of dark stone, visible from creatures clinging to the gray rock. David clapped an arm around his shoulders
the stars they blocked out. But Takeda saw, to help him walk as he staggered out into the
to his right, a patch of black sky flushing deep Thirst at last summoned Takeda back to the outside air, leaving his empty water bottle
blue, with a hint of lighter shades at its base. dusty floor of the train car. He sat with his back behind. The platform was rough-hewn stone,
He watched hungrily as minutes ticked past to the wall opposite the rising sun, staring at not concrete, and Takeda coughed as ash hit
and dark blue became sky blue with hints of the light slanting down while he drank warm his dry throat.
rose red. The brilliant stars around that hemi- water. After perhaps another hour, he fell into
sphere of light dimmed gradually. his first truly deep sleep since boarding the Silvery domes lay scattered across a desert

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 21, Vulture's Prize, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 82

of ash-gray sand streaked with lines of deep underneath his flesh. Takeda noticed that his left arm was painfully
black. The largest one was probably a quar- burnt. He wore a broad-brimmed hat now to
ter-mile in diameter, connected to the train They started along the pathway towards keep the sun off his forehead, but sweat ran in
platform, the other domes, and the visible the dome with a cluster of other workers, all streams down his face.
mineshafts by raised roadways. The sky above of them sweating and panting in the scorching
it all was a pale, dusty blue, lit by a burning sunlight. Waves of heat rolled off the sand and He handed Takeda a pair of heavy water
white sun—except in the south. There, black blasts of hot wind carried fragments of ash bottles. Takeda took them and slipped them
clouds obscured vast swatches of the sky, and around Takeda and the others. Flecks of sand into the crude harness made from plastic-fiber
Takeda could see cone-shaped mountains stung his face, and every step was an effort. The blankets he had looped around his chest and
looming against the horizon. path ascended gradually, and Takeda kept his sides. That made four with the pair Takeda had
eyes downcast, turned away from the painful snuck out of his assigned quarters, and he had
David saw where he was looking and brightness of the sun. He felt as if his brain was drunk as much as he could before leaving. He
grunted. “Next seventy miles are the hardest. being cooked like an egg in a pan. also had three packets of nutrient-rich food.
I told you volcanic activity is a problem in the
iron mines here...well, it gets worse farther “We’ll get food and water at the dome He had missed his assigned work shift while
south. Ash storms are regular business.” before being assigned,” David said, leaning he rested on his bunk, and they were already
close to Takeda’s ear so the others couldn’t searching for him. There was little time for
Takeda pointed to his throat and coughed hear him. “Weeds out incoming workers who goodbyes.
dryly, wincing from the pain. David pushed got too sick to walk on the train. Question,
a plastic bottle to his lips and poured warm, Takeda. Can you fly? I mean, long distances?” “Are they going to punish you for coming
stale water into Takeda’s mouth. He swallowed out here?” he asked David.
heavily and drained the bottle in a few gulps. Takeda nodded. “Yes, although I’m not sure
exactly how far.” The miner shrugged. “Cut rations at best, a
David pulled him forward. “Come on. Try to whipping at worst. Shouldn’t be too bad—a lot
look like a worker, tired and cranky from being “Some of the Hands can. But not most of of new transfers go a bit crazy with the change
cooked in a metal box for a night and half a the ones who do everyday guard duty. If you of scenery.”
day. Shouldn’t be too hard.” need to, fly for your life—don’t worry about
me.” “I’m sorry.”
A handful of workers in ragged clothes
much like David’s trickled out of a couple cars David smiled thinly, crinkling the deep
“Better be quiet,” Takeda said. “They could
down the platform from Takeda, while others ridges in his darkened skin. “No apologies. I
hear us if they tried.”
with gravity claws labored to unload crates won’t last long in these mines anyway. I just
from several cars. Takeda saw a handful of They made the rest of the journey up to hope you succeed, my friend. I can’t really
clean-shaven men with rigid haircuts and loose the dome in silence. imagine life without the Lord, but it can’t be
red clothing—all of them young and fit. Hands, much worse.”
he guessed, directing the work with bellowing #
voices. Takeda stepped back from him and glanced
towards the south. The black clouds covering
“Don’t make eye contact and you’ll be The sun was sinking lower in the afternoon the sky seemed to have grown since he had
fine,” David muttered as he and Takeda passed sky, beginning its long descent, when David bid last seen them, hours earlier, and he could
by one who towered over both of them. The farewell to Takeda on the sands just south of see peaks belching fresh columns of ash and
only weapons he had were the ones buried the main living dome. David had already worked smoke into the sky. The stretches of desert he
his first shift in the Caulthor iron mines, and

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Chapter 21, Vulture's Prize, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 83

had seen on the train journey had patches of wake. The silver surface of the dome stretched parts it would have taken three strong Rovers
vegetation and signs of animal life, but this one beneath him, reflecting the sunlight back with to heft. He seemed to sleep even less than she
was a barren wasteland that seemed to reject painful intensity. He could hear the sounds did, catching only a few minutes between the
all life. of machinery in the mine shafts, see workers tasks she assigned him. Sometimes he argued,
trudging between domes and into the mines, or asked questions about how the navigation
Seventy miles due south he would find see dust-devils of gray sand swirling on the system was built, or swore in thick Lithrallian.
Tong’s base—and there, hopefully, he would ground. But he never complained.
also find Sherri.
He rotated in the air, turning towards the Even with his help, the work would have
He reached for the long-dormant muscles south. Flecks of ash brushed against his cheeks taken much longer if not for five Suto war-
coiled around his spine and pulled them in a and he slowly accelerated into the volcanic riors—including Ratch—who helped for hours
way he knew largely by instinct. The flesh just wasteland, clutching his water bottles with at a time, searching through the massive heaps
below his shoulder blades split open and a pair his hands while his hoverjets tilted his body of parts and raw materials in the Enclave’s
of conical hoverjets unfolded from their locked forward. The pain in his bones intensified and scrapyard to find the pieces necessary to
positions around his spine. A web of sharp, the noise from his jets grew from a gentle hum assemble a functioning starship. They located
stinging pain spread through Takeda’s back and to a roar. cables, bulkheads, navigation modules, sensor
ribs as the jets locked into position. parts, valves, thrust components, maneuvering
The pale blue sky quickly faded to black as jets, and—of course—the literally hundreds of
David’s eyes opened wide. “You really Takeda soared into the volcanic waste. components, many of them delicate, needed to
weren’t lying, earlier,” he said, softly. “I don’t patch together a working interstellar engine.
think even most of the Hands have those.” #
Esheera had borrowed Rover texts, many
Takeda winced as he twisted his muscles in
For nearly four weeks, Esheera had barely of them written in obscure Vitai languages
a way that felt deeply uncomfortable and sent
slept, working around the chronometer with no non-Rover could read, but even so her
fresh jolts of pain running through his bones.
only brief rests when her brain and muscles knowledge and creativity were stretched to
“I’m not sure how far they’ll carry me.”
wouldn’t allow her to work any longer. She their limits. Defunct parts cobbled from ancient
“Well, good luck to you. If by some miracle cleared her mind of anything except the engines were combined with more sensitive
it works out...come look for me, all right? I’ll scream of cut and bent and riveted metal, components harvested from parts of engines
share my ration if I’m still alive.” the crackling hiss of her welder, the smells of built in the last couple decades. She stayed
oil and engine fluid and silver star-drive fuel. up late hours examining every component,
Takeda smiled. “Thank you, David. I hope Her hands developed calluses from hammer, pipeline, and tube that would become part of
I’ll be able to take you up on that.” power driver, laser saw, plasma welder, and the life support system. She found a new air
the dozen or so other tools she worked with scrubber delivered to her when she woke up
Muscles wrenched and the hoverjets once—and used it after removing the poison
hour after hour. She drank constantly as sweat
activated, humming as they lifted him off the gas modules the giver had installed.
dripped from her braids, and her clothes
ground. Takeda had flown with Zartsi and became soaked with grease stains that would
Esheera clinging to his shoulders—a few bottles She ended up with a craft significantly
never come out.
of water and some food would be no burden. smaller than her Ixlu Seer, its bulkheads patched
Zartsi worked at her side, his green scales together from dozens of sources. There was
He rose quickly, shooting a hundred feet the cockpit, a tiny lounge too low for Zartsi to
absorbing sparks as he held metal underneath
above the sand and blasting David with his stand upright, a minimal hold, and a lavatory/
her welder, his arms lifting enormous engine

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Chapter 21, Vulture's Prize, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 84

shower unit that felt more like a cocoon than decreased the chance she would ever see accelerate towards interstellar speeds.
anything else. Garbage disposal was limited to Takeda again.
the airlock. One of the Suto warriors contrib- For now, she could almost forget her
uted a barrel of red paint. Another gave her a The ship lifted off, if not smoothly, at obligation to the Suto clan. Bureaucrats had
revolving minigun which she successfully linked least without blowing up. The massive airlock her ship, her freedom, her birthright. Now it
to a switch on her main piloting stick. opening onto the scrapyard cycled, and within only remained to use it for Takeda’s sake and,
ten minutes vacuum touched her Prize for the perhaps, the sake of the entire human Empire.
At last, it sat completed on the stone floor, first time. No sucking sound—good. The hull,
scrap and waste scattered around it. Four at least, was sound. #
crude wings, straight like knife-blades, spread
from the body, studded with maneuvering jets, She could hear Zartsi praying to the Eternal The seat of provincial government was
sensor packets, and atmospheric flaps. The Light as she accelerated away from the Suto located on an island in Sirena’s southern hemi-
exhaust ports of the engines extended out in enclave. She whispered an imprecation to the sphere, most of its surface covered by the
back, and the cockpit occupied a bulbous nose kind stars herself. Stars gleamed outside the gleaming city known simply as Prime. Green
at the vessel’s front. It was like a blanket sewn thick plastic panels of her canopy, and reflected leisure parks covered acres between gleaming
by a blind old Vitai with shaking fingers, its light from Coalsmoke’s surface filtered across skyscrapers, and expensive resorts dotted the
stitching crude and its parts mismatching, and her face. She accelerated slowly, letting her island’s coastline. An entire district of the city
yet it had a beauty only Esheera could see. hands get a feel for the controls, making small was devoted to administration, the Canghi
adjustments to her course. She flew for perhaps branch of the Imperial Navy, embassies for
She called it the Sasti ni Vurrezk—a name an hour, and the Prize didn’t disappoint her. It each planet and colony, and the offices of the
that would roughly translate in Imperish to lacked the smooth flight of the Seer—and every Imperial government. Hotels, restaurants, and
Vulture’s Prize. other ship she had piloted—but it worked, the expensive shops catered to visiting bureau-
engine forces and the stresses of flight didn’t
There was only room for the pilot in her crats and officials in residence, along with their
tear it apart, and it accelerated with accept-
cockpit, and Esheera squeezed herself into the families.
able rapidity.
thinly padded cradle and ran her hands over All of this meant that Esheera and Zartsi
the controls. Many levers were rods of bare She pulled her navigational controls out could barely afford a few nights’ docking space
steel or scraps of old tools, hastily machined from under one of her control banks and for the Prize, with a little money borrowed from
into the proper shapes, and she had used an old keyed in the trajectory she had calculated the the Suto, and spent their first night sleeping
mercury thermometer for one heat monitor. night before: a course that would bring her under a bridge in one of the city’s expansive
But they felt oddly familiar, spread all around to the Canghi province capital of Sirena. The parks. Esheera slept long and soundly for the
her and built somewhat to her preferences— pieced-together computer system took several first time she could remember—the park,
like a true Rover ship. minutes to absorb the data, but the display the city, the whole world was a temperate
was relatively clear, and it seemed to have
She primed the engines, listening to the paradise after Nihil, the slums of Coalsmoke,
found a route which wouldn’t put her through
ship’s frame moan as force was placed on it and the hard stone floors of the Suto enclave’s
the heart of a star.
for the first time. It was foolishness to fly a scrapyard.
ship without testing it first—but she had gone Her hands flew over the controls, activat- In the morning, she and Zartsi walked to the
over every part herself, checked every system ing the interstellar drive and placing the Prize Governor’s Palace, located in the heart of the
a dozen times against her diagrams. And she on the appropriate trajectory. She could feel city. Zartsi wore his battered leather armor, his
had no time to spare. Every day that passed the ship groaning beneath her as it began to daggers worn openly at his sides, and Esheera

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wore the only change of clothes she had of precedence below it. Individual planetary Men and women paused to gape at Zartsi
acquired at the enclave: a pale gray sweater, a banners hung from spikes studded across the as the Lithrallian strode boldly up the steps,
belt of synthetic silk, and black work trousers. buildings’ dozens of levels. No acknowledg- ignoring all of them. His armor was covered
She had only a handful of earrings, necklaces, ments of the many Rover clans with footholds in grease stains, sand burns, scrapes, and one
and bracelets, many of them painted steel. in and around Canghi worlds were included— large cut across the chest. He whipped his tail
but Esheera had expected none. back and forth aggressively and clutched his
“We’re making them gape,” Zartsi hissed, dagger hilts, head held high, walking like a
flicking his tail towards the neatly dressed A sweeping marble staircase covered in a prince. Esheera couldn’t help but smile as she
bureaucrats flowing past them on the sidewalk. red velvet carpet led up to enormous double trailed in his wake, like a subservient retainer.
“Lithrallian cannot be so rare sight.” doors plated with gold, thrown open to admit
a trickle of functionaries. Six armed guards in Two of the guards moved to intercept
“Maybe not, but I’d bet Vitai are,” she said. red scale armor flanked the doorway, three him, lowering the barrels of their rifles a few
“I’m a little surprised we haven’t been arrested on each side, clutching advanced pulser rifles inches. “What’s your business here?” one of
yet.” with swords slung across their backs and con- them asked, in Imperish tinged with an accent
spicuous gold shock gauntlets armoring their Esheera didn’t recognize.
She was also surprised any dock manager knuckles. Their eyes were hidden behind
had sold her space for the Prize—the hovercars “I request audience with Governor Yamada,”
helmets. Other security personnel in simple
hissed past them and the occasional ship roaring Zartsi said, tone authoritative.
black uniforms preformed weapons checks on
past overhead were sleek, gleaming constructs those entering the building.
purchased at great expense from the finest “His Lordship is not at your call,” the guard
factories and shipyards in the province. Esheera “You lead from here,” Esheera said. “You’re answered. “You may submit a request, petition,
had lived her life on the outskirts of the Empire, our star act.” or letter through the Central Communications
on backwater worlds and Rover colonies and office.”
ships. This land of gleaming towers, expensive Zartsi nodded, his eyes narrowed. “I don’t
clothing, and ostentatious wealth was foreign know how strong security is for governor.” Esheera watched Zartsi’s lips curl up in a
to her, and only Zartsi’s presence kept her from feral smile. “You misunderstand. I am Prince-
feeling completely isolated. “Assassins would be much less conspicuous Heir Zartsi Asik Hsonra, Second-Son of Serpent
than the pair of us, wouldn’t they?” Esheera King, and I demand audience with governor in
But then, he was a prince of the City of said, smiling. name of my father Krotaz and the Council of
Golden Ascension. He must feel as if he had Red Tails.”
returned home “True enough. And if this fails...there is also
embassy.” The guards were still for a moment, staring
The Governor’s Palace stood out even at him through slits in their face masks. Then
among the silver skyscrapers clustered around “Why didn’t we go there in the first place?” one of them laughed softly. “I’ve heard a lot of
it, like a diamond among topazes. Four glass Esheera asked as Zartsi began to ascend the good stories in my time, but yours is one of the
spires stabbed towards the heavens, each one steps. better ones. All right. So how does the Prince
flying a different banner: The Imperial Tri- of the Kingdom end up here, wearing that, with
“Ambassador is nearly powerless…probably
Dragon, the personal arms of Emperor Shingen just a dirty Vitai woman as his companion?”
has never seen governor in his life,” Zartsi
V, the Canghi banner, and the Red Heron of answered. “Canghi does not border kingdom. Esheera felt a flash of anger, but Rovers
Sirena. The Tri-Dragon was given the highest When Serpent King has business with governor, had been learning how to shed such comments
place, easily reaching above every other he sends envoy with chain of authority.” since Shingen III had destroyed their home
building, and the others took various levels

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world. Esheera waited, silently, letting Zartsi anything.” the Serpent King’s court.
handle the situation.
# An aide had placed a single chair in front
The other guard nudged his companion’s of the Governor’s seat. Zartsi took it, then
shoulder. “We’re not here for discussions. Lith- turned imperiously towards the aide and said,
Three hours and a rapid progression up the
rallian, present proof of your claim, or get the “Another chair.”
chain of command later, Zartsi and Esheera
hell out of my sight.” were led into the audience hall of Governor The man obeyed, and Esheera sat grate-
Zartsi drew his daggers with a flourish and Akira Yamada, accompanied by a guard of fully. She had spent most of the day on her
held them in front of his chest in a way which twenty red-armored soldiers. Esheera hadn’t feet, hanging behind Zartsi as he convinced
made it difficult for either guard to level his yet been able to tell whether they were there various diplomats that he was, in fact, the heir
rifle. Zartsi smiled. “Patterns on these blades to honor Zartsi or to protect Yamada. to throne of the second most powerful govern-
unique to me. No Lithrallian but me would ment in the known universe.
Pillars of golden marble stretched from
carry.” floor to ceiling in a double colonnade along “First, if you’ll tolerate my inquisitiveness, I
“I have no way of knowing that’s true. Even both sides of the hall. Frescos in a style Esheera have a question,” Governor Yamada said. “Will
if it was I couldn’t confirm it,” one of the guard’s didn’t recognize covered the vaulted domes of you hear it?”
said, flicking his glance over Zartsi’s shoulder. the ceiling, depicting what she assumed were
Esheera followed his eyes to see another guard critical moment’s in the Empire’s history: an Esheera was slightly surprised by his tone
moving into position behind them, rifle leveled emperor suited up in power armor crushing of deference—but then, in theory, Zartsi held
to shoot if they tried to break into the building. the life out of a tattooed Lithrallian, a group a higher rank than provincial governor. Zartsi
She tensed to shove Zartsi out of the line of of stern-faced men signing a document as flicked his tail. “Ask.”
fire. the sun rose over a desert of stone spires, an
image of tube-shaped ships launching from “You’ve been missing from your father’s
“You must have Lithrallian expert on staff,” the green-and-blue orb of Earth. A carpet court for nearly a decade. You are still acknowl-
Zartsi said. “Pattern would be known to him.” with a checkerboard pattern of the provincial edged by the kingdom as its heir, but we have
colors of red and silver bridged a floor of red no reports of any contact with you since the
The second guard cleared his throat, eying granite. Yamada sat in a chair carved from a third year of Shingen V, shortly after your elder
the knives cautiously. “We probably do, but I’m single block of gray wood, his cloak arranged brother’s death. There have been rumors—if
still not sure its worth his trouble.” in elaborate folds around him. He was an older you’ll pardon my spreading them—that you’ve
man who—to Esheera’s eyes—didn’t look been in exile.”
“I have come to warn Governor Yamada the least bit Japanese. His gray hair fell to his
against threat to Empire, Canghi province espe- Zartsi’s head inclined slightly, his exterior
shoulders.
cially. Is Lithral expert too busy to confirm this? composed—but Esheera thought she could
I do not see many Lithrallians,” Zartsi hissed. “Come forward, Zartsi Asik Hsonra,” Yamada see fresh tension in his expression and poise.
said, his voice echoing in the vast chamber. “Rumors are true.”
The second guard—Esheera guessed he
ranked slightly higher—seemed to think it over A series of aides with knowledge of Lith- “Do you retain political power?”
for a few long seconds. Then he stepped back. rallian culture had confirmed his identity
“All right. I’ll send someone up, and you two “As much as I choose to. Exile is
after studying, photographing, and testing
will wait out here. If he wants to come down voluntary.”
his daggers, as well as checking his physical
and talk to you he can, but I won’t guarantee description against decade-old reports from “I see. Your father would confirm this?”

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Memory Wipe
Chapter 21, Vulture's Prize, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 87

“He would. But we have not spoken since Yamada seemed to decide. He raised his Sean T. M. Stiennon
I left.” voice and rattled off a few sentences in a Sean is an author of fantasy and science fic-
language that sounded like Gold Chinese to tion novels and short stories, with many pub-
“I see. My aides have informed me that Esheera—she had heard that the officials and
you’ve...come to inform me of a serious danger lications under his belt. His first short story
lords of the Empire used it among themselves. collection, Six with Flinteye, was recently
to the Empire. I assume this is not a threat from One of the officials standing ready in the left
the Kingdom.” released from Silver Lake Publishing, and he
colonnade objected. A lengthy exchange went won 2nd place in both the 2004 SFReader.
on between the two, at the end of which the com Short Story Contest and the Storn Cook
Zartsi’s tail curled slightly with anger, but official bowed and helped clear the room of Razor-Edged Fiction Contest with his stories
he successfully kept it off his face. Esheera every man except six guards. Four of them “Asp” and “The Sultan’s Well,” respective-
was surprised to find that she felt proud of took a position near the Governor’s chair; the ly. “The Sultan’s Well” has been published
the Lithrallian. “No. But before I tell you, clear others flanked Zartsi and Esheera. in the anthology Sages and Swords. Sean’s
room of all except us, and ensure that it is not
monitored.” “Now,” Yamada said, leaning forward and short story “Flinteye’s Duel” was published
resting his chin on his clasped hands. “Tell me in Ray Gun Revival, Issue 01, and “Flinteye’s
Yamada smiled coldly. “I don’t wish to Sabotage” was published in Issue 35.
what you’ve found out.”
sound suspicious, but this begins to sound like
an assassination attempt.” Sean’s work tends to contain lots of action and
adventure, but he often includes elements of
Zartsi waved a claw. “If nervous, keep few tragedy and loss alongside roaring bat-
guards, but only those you know by name and tles. A lot of his work centers around con-
face and trust absolutely.” tinuing characters, the most prominent
Next Month... of whom is Jalazar Flinteye (Six with Flin-
“I trust all my men absolutely, Prince-Heir Chapter 22: “Zartsi’s Sword”
Hsonra.” teye). He also writes tales of Shabak of
Talon Point (“Death Marks,” in issue #9 of
“Some more than other.” Amazing Journeys Magazine), Blademas-
ter (“Asp,” 2nd place winner in the 2004
Yamada considered that, hands clasped on SFReader.com Contest), and others who
his lap. “Why?” have yet to see publication.
“Because enemy agents may be placed Sean loves to read fantasy and science fic-
here.” tion alongside some history, mysteries, and
He didn’t ask why he should trust Zartsi. historical novels. His favorites in-
The Lithrallian’s station as Prince-Heir made his clude Declare by Tim Powers,
word as good as a six-foot stack of reports. It the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn
suddenly struck Esheera how strange her place trilogy by Tad Williams, Stephen Lawhead’s
here was. If, as a pup, she had told her mother Song of Albion trilogy, and King Solomon’s
that one day she would be the only companion Mines by H. Rider Haggard. He has reviewed
to the Serpent King’s son in a council with books for Deep Magic: The E-zine of High
the governor of the second largest Imperial Fantasy and Science Fiction, and currently
province, she would have laughed. reviews books at SFReader.com.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008
 Pg. 88
The RGR Time Capsule
May 2008
Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
RGR Date: May 14, 2008 batch of newbies, an NBC insider insists
New Galaxy Quest news that’s definitely not the case. Yes, the show
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1927 is introducing some new faces next season,
Yes, really. but the primary focus, my source maintains,
will remain “on the core characters from the
http://io9.com/390487/scott-lobdell-tells- pilot.”
io9-the-fates-of-the-galaxy-quest-crew RGR Date: May 20, 2008
Columbia Pictures to adapt new Flash Gordon film
Q: Does the comic take place right after the
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1938
movie ended?
http://tinyurl.com/58a9pv
The comic book opens with the final scene
from the movie when they are showing the Columbia Pictures may be rocketing a redo-
title sequence for the new Galaxy Quest se- update of “Flash Gordon,” and is in early
ries. The idea is that the actors are watching talks to acquire the film rights for a big-
a screening for the new show, hoping it will screen adaptation that Breck Eisner would
get picked up and they can all have their old direct and Neal Moritz would produce. Eisner
jobs back. But during this process a few ter- would also exec produce.
rible things start to happen in space and the
government asks the crew to pilot their ship “Flash” was originally a science fiction news-
out to space and check it out. As we know paper comic strip drawn by Alex Raymond in
from the movie the ship was made based the 1930s and was created to compete with
on the actors movements and actions so no another sci-fi strip, “Buck Rogers.” The strip
one else can work it. The government has no was first adapted to the screen via Buster
choice but to send the cast up in space. Crabbe serials and made into a lavish 1980
film starring Sam Jones but remembered
RGR Date: May 09, 2008 more for its Queen score. More recently, it
Bruce Boxleitner to join the cast of Heroes was a Sci Fi Channel miniseries that was seen
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1883 a critical and ratings failure.

http://tinyurl.com/5hgco6 Storywise, Flash was a sports player who
reconceived, and now all I know for sure is travels to the planet Mongo with his lady
Bruce Boxleitner, who played Scarecrow to that he’ll be sharing scenes with a female love, Dale Arden, and the mad scientist Dr.
Sabrina Duncan’s Mrs. King in the mid-80s, series regular. Hans Zarkov. There, they discover a world
has snagged a top-secret recurring role that ruled by Ming the Merciless and meet
was originally going to be modeled after Sen. By the way, although it may seem like He- strange inhabitants such as the Hawkmen
John McCain. The character has since been roes is getting ready to force-feed us another and the Sharkmen.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 44, June 2008

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