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Issue 45 July 2008

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Table of Contents
Overlords’ Lair
A 2nd anniversary retrospective, and treats
Table of Contents 9 To Save A Shuttle
Overlords (Founders / Editors): by Andy Heizeler
Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn 16 Fitter
by Richard S. Levine
Venerable Staff: 19 Tenari
A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor by Michael Merriam
Shannon McNear - Lord High Advisor, grammar consultant, listening 27 RGR Reviews
ear/sanity saver for Overlord Lee
Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand
The Balcony Fool Reviews WALL•E,
L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse,
by Paul Christian Glenn
29 Featured Artist: Eduardo Lopez Mustaros
webmistress
33 Calamity’s Child, Chapter Three, Part Two
Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle
Suicide Straight
washer by M. Keaton
Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): 40 Wishbone Pass, A Jack Brand Story
John M. Whalen by John M. Whalen
David Wilhelms 48 Jasper Squad, Episode Ten
Alice M. Roelke The Lieutenant’s Gambit
Scott M. Sandridge
Shari L. Armstrong by Paul Christian Glenn
Jack Willard 54 Deuces Wild, Season Two, Chapter 4
Coffee Break
Serial Authors: by L. S. King
Sean T. M. Stiennon 60 The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter 24
John M. Whalen
M Keaton Representation
Lee S. King by Johne Cook
Paul Christian Glenn 67 Memory Wipe, Chapter 22
Johne Cook Zartsi’s Sword
Cover Art: “Moon Rage” by Eduadro Lopex Mustaros
by Sean T. M. Stiennon
75 The RGR Time Capsule
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Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Overlords’ Lair Pg. 3

Overlords’ Lair
A 2nd anniversary retrospective, and treats

W hat started as a lark two years ago has and you already know about our state-of-
grown into something of substance. the-art covers if our strong showing in this
Ray Gun Revival magazine was featured as last year’s 2007 Preditor’s & Editor’s poll is
Ray Gun Revival wouldn’t be what it is
without you, the reader. I realize there’s not
price tag on this rag, but you’re still giving us
Sci-Fi.com’s Site Of The Week last summer. any indication. your time and attention and feedback, and
We flourished despite being caught up in the you seem to keep coming back. So thanks,
SFWA vs. Scribd flap—RGR was prominently That’s the venerable past. We’ve tried you, and hang on for our best year ever!
mentioned in the post at Boing Boing— some different things, but nothing excites
proving the aphorism that there’s no such me as me as much as what we have
thing as bad PR. Our site went live in planned for the future. In this issue, we A nd now for what you can look forward
to in our anniversary issue.
February of 2006 as we put up forums and begin featuring film reviews from The We start with a short story from Andy
announced the magazine’s go-live date for Balcony Fool. And we’re very pleased to Heizeler, the pen name of a serviceman who
July of 2006. We’ve seen our hits grow from announce the start of a new column with has deployed to Iraq three times and made
1.8 million in 2006 to 4.3 million in 2007. venerable literary reviewer Matthew Scott it back home to his family. He writes about
We have a rough circulation of about 1000 Winslow, known to readers of the now- Dean, the Space Rogue, a colorful character
people who download each issue. And even defunct Deep Magic magazine, as well as a we’ve featured before in Ray Gun Revival
cooler, people still download all of our issues reviewer at Green Man Review. Matt is our magazine. This story is entitled To Save a
every week, with new people downloading new Reviews Editor, or will be until we can Shuttle, by Andy Heizeler.
our very first issues at a consistent clip of 30 think of another title of even more frivolous
new readers each and every week. and pretentious. Of course, Matt’s actually A political leader is about to be executed,
a respected reviewer, so we might have to placing the Galaxy on the brink of war. The
In addition, Ray Gun Revival issues at stick with the vanilla, if descriptive, title. I’d fate of billions rests in hands of criminals,
Scribd.com have been viewed over 100,000 like to see him adopt a moniker with some but to save the Galaxy, first they would
times as we freely share space opera and heft, like the Magnificent Ruler of Reviews have to save a shuttle.
golden age sci-fi with the world. We’ve and Castigator of Dreck, but that’s just me.
interviewed prominet content creators in It’s totally his call. “Hold the bag open and don’t move!”
There, a 3D online virtual world, as well as ordered Henry.
Jewel Staite, Firefly’s Kaylee. In short, things around here are just
swell at the moment, and are about to get, “I’d rather just come in,” said Creon,
I like to think we’ve been leading the y’know, sweller. More swell. revealing his rail pistol.
way with our stellar serial fiction pieces,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Overlords’ Lair Pg. 4

Henry’s heart sank to somewhere the chains of Earth’s gravity. Minutes While on a raid, Captain Kathleen Reed
around his ankles. He had one chance later, I was traveling at near the speed and the crew of the Black Manta find a
to end this. of light as I passed Mars. Five hours later, ship full of children drifting in space and
I nervously neared Sedna—a frozen encounter an enemy from the Captain’s
“Not so fast, McGraw. Hands on top of planetoid from the Oort Cloud, further days as a Naval Officer.
your head, and inside we go,” ordered out than Pluto—reminding me that I
Creon. “Two hostile ships attacked. We
knocked one out, but took some
“Who’s McGraw?” asked Henry. If damage. The other fled. We’ve
he were to die at the hands of a sent a distress call, but long-range
crazy person, he should at least sensors show three more hostiles
know something of their so-called approaching, twenty minutes out.”
reasoning. “May I ask why you’re
doing this?” “Mr. Baldry, take our friend and
meet Janet at the airlock.”
“Would it make you feel better to
know?” asked Creon. “No, Ma’am,” Baldry replied,
stepping up to her.
“I believe it might, yes,” said Henry
defensively. “Roger, I don’t have time to argue
this.”
“We’re saving the Galaxy,” said Creon
with a flashed grin. Featured artist—Eduardo Lopez Mustaros “Captain, the crew needs you to
organize the evacuation.” He smiled
Henry sighed. He had expected was close to the boundary of Earth’s at her. “They need their captain if they’re
something a little better than that. solar system. going to get out of this alive.”
Richard S. Levine is another author we There, at the heliopause, was the place “Roger, whoever stays here—”
know in the pages of RGR. He’s back this where other astronauts had died. It
month with a story called Fitter. was where I was meant to go and “Probably doesn’t make it. But I’ll seal
further. I knew that; my blood said so. the bridge, and once you’ve got most of
Could astronaut Dan Willis succeed at the crew and the kids on the Manta or
Nevertheless, my heart beat faster—
being the first human to leave the solar the engines stop working, I’ll try to join
much faster.
system in seven hundred years, or would you.”
he die trying? RGR veteran Michael Merriam is back
with a story called Tenari. His stories are By now, you know about RGR’s
Fitter silently lifted into space breaking commitment to stellar cover art. We are
always interesting and thought-provoking.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Overlords’ Lair Pg. 5

delighted to announce that our cover art RGR Reviews - The Balcony Fool reviews exclusive serial novels we offer. First up
for this anniversary issue comes from none WALL•E, by Paul Christian Glenn this month is Calamity’s Child Chapter
other than Eduardo Lopez Mustaros, the Three, Part Two: Suicide Straight, by M.
brilliant digital artist who graced Keaton. Ivan and Red Dog find more
our cover for last year’s anniversary than they bargain for when they
issue. Check out our new interview investigate a wrecked ship.
with Ed as we catch up with after a
busy, creative year. Boom, boom, click. Boom, boom, click.
Rattatat-Rattatat. Boom, boom, click.
RGR: Speaking of cool things, your
work, “Prolium,” placed in the Ivan hated drum solos to begin with,
top ten for Artwork at the 2007 but when the performer in question
Preditors & Editors poll. What’s the was a bored Cillian using his own
feedback been like from your fans? chitin and the shuttle’s bulkhead
for a set of drums the situation
rapidly became untenable. “Red,” he
You know I think probably that groaned, throwing an arm across his
piece and feedback plus exposure eyes and trying to ignore the swinging
from it started my current drive of his hammock, “go back to making
to make digital art more than just bombs.”
something I did on my spare time.
I was really surprised to see that “Red Dog is out of parts.” Boom, boom,
piece create such interest and provide click.
After a full year of advance marketing,
such great input for me. Pixar’s new film WALL•E has finally When RGR first started, we had a problem.
I mentioned earlier that RGR now features arrived in theatres. In a summer packed We wanted to publish original serial novels
reviews! Overlord Paul Christian Glenn with must-see releases, the adorable but were faced with a bit of the ‘chicken
was a film buff, writer, producer, and little fella faces stiff competition from and the egg’ conundrum—how would
director before we started the publication, pre-sold blockbusters like Kung Fu we get serial novels without showing
and he’s recently returned to his cinematic Panda and The Dark Knight, as well as people what they were, and what kind
roots with a reviews blog called The an unanticipated political controversy of serial novels we were looking for? So
Balcony Fool. He’s got a lot of Roger Ebert that threatens to hurt its long-term the Overlords each agreed to take a swing
in his writing, which I’ve always liked. He profitability. It’s a lot for one little robot at one “for awhile” until we got this part
always leaves you thinking about more to handle. of the publication off the ground, and
than just what you’re going to see on the Sean T. M. Stiennon agreed to pitch in, as
One of my favorite parts of RGR are the well. That was huge. We made our plans,
big screen.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Overlords’ Lair Pg. 6

screwed up our courage, and started looking for. thugs, had stormed the Rey family
writing. farm and murdered Jenna Rey’s father.
“I asked you where you got it?” he said. Whatever explanation there might be
And calamity befell us almost immediately. for the warrant on Jasper Squad, there
One of our serial authors was hit with “I took it off Jesse Wilkerson’s body after
I shot him. I found him about a month was simply no excuse for such barbarism
wave after wave of hardship, and our and duplicity. She was finished with the
carefully crafted orchestration was in ago down by Shy Man’s Bluff.”
Galactic Patrol Force.
danger of falling apart. The grey eyes narrowed.
What, then, was left for her? One piece
And then, a hero stepped in to save the “Still trading in men’s hides for a living, of unfinished business, that’s what.
day. John M. Whalen submitted a story eh?” he said. Kremm Stathora, the notorious and
through the regular submission process, powerful underworld boss, had taken
and we liked it. But then, if memory “You could say that,” I said. something from her a long time ago. Now,
serves, he said he had another one that it was one of his men who apparently
took place before it, so we held onto it. Speaking of trouble, here’s Paul! His
Jasper Squad series is a personal highlight had information about Jasper Squad’s
(At this point I should stress that he didn’t predicament. She stared out at the
pitch the series to us as a series, and we for me, out where space opera and
cyberpunk meet and mix it up a little. teeming city, her face set like a stone
weren’t savvy enough at that point to as she tried to intuit where Stathora
have accepted one, because we were still There’s nothing neat about this series, and
I like that. It’s rough and tumble and not might be hiding. No longer bound by
making it all up as we went along, but he the GPF code of conduct, Melendez was
kept writing the chapters, and we kept remotely fair, but what fight worth fighting
ever is? determined to take her vengeance. She
publishing them, and before you know it, couldn’t get this close and simply walk
you’ve got a series.) I’ll warn you in advance that the end of away.
So, yeah, he wrote an entire series, and this story... Nevermind—you’ll just have
to find out for yourself! Jasper Squad, L. S. King has been quietly crafting a
we finally present that first story, here at universe of adventure and danger that
the end, the conclusion of one story arc Episode 10: The Lieutenant’s Gambit, by
Paul Christian Glenn you’ll want to revisit over and over. And
in what may be, perhaps, a much larger she adds to the canon with another
series. Thanks, John, for bailing us out, While the captain tries to discover why installment which further expands the
and for giving us a great character to get the Galactic Patrol Force is after them, emotional and logistical struggles of a
to know. Without further ado, RGR is Melendez goes after an old enemy. growing crew of diametrically-opposed
proud to present Wishbone Pass, A Jack opposites. One of the more interesting
Brand Story, by John M. Whalen. There was a part of her that still wanted questions is not whether the crew will
to exoneration, but to what end? It had
A bounty hunter teams up with Jack Brand, survive their enemies, but whether they
been nearly a week since GPF forces,
but both find something they weren’t will survive each other.
working in conjunction with underworld

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Overlords’ Lair Pg. 7

While Tristan runs from his past, Slap in the story. If you haven’t read it yet, do. and stared at the dock. A smile played
makes a surprising discovery. It’s worth it. about the cleric’s mouth.
“So, uh, where are we headed?” Season Three starts with a crew as Bola held the pose until the silence
thoroughly demoralized as they can be, became uncomfortable, coughed,
“Anywhere but here.” Giselle rose except for Bola, who is, well, Bola. I’ve sheathed her dagger, and slumped back
through the clouds. Tristan felt hesitation been saying that the first season was against the crates.
in her just as a warning light flashed on meant to be swashbuckling adventure,
the console. The engines cut off—she the second season featured escalating Finally, we present Sean T. M. Stiennon’s
began to nosedive and a klaxon blatted. steampunk technology, and the final homage to old-school golden age sci-fi.
He could barely hear Slap’s “Brago’s season becomes true space opera. Sean is still a college student but writes as
Bands!” as he tensed, one eye on the if he grew up with the same classic library
display for the automatic engine restart, The final season begins now. that I did. He has the sci-fi sensibilities of
ready to re-sequence it if necessary, a bygone era, and each new chapter is a
while fighting to control their descent. The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Chapter joy to dig into.
24: Representation, by Johne Cook.
The engines restarted themselves and Memory Wipe, Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword,
the klaxon stopped. Tristan frowned, The crew of Alacrity must decide if they by Sean T. M. Stiennon.
leveling the ship off, as Slap asked what have the fortitude to move forward
happened. without their ship. Or their legendary Takeda nears his enemy’s home, while
captain. Esheera and Zartzi gain support. But is it in
“I don’t know.” Tristan tentatively began time?
an ascent again as he hit the comm and Cleric Vaneras looked around at those
asked, “Carter? What did you do to the assembled. “We must be completely She had been lying on the couch for
engines?” clear about this—if we do take the a few minutes, staring up at the dark
Royal Steed, we need to be prepared for ceiling, when a faint hiss reached her
“Checking them now, Captain.” Haddirron to sever all ties with us and ears from the direction of the window.
declare us pirates.” It sounded like wind hissing through a
Again, Tristan felt a slight shudder. The crack...but the windows were several
engines stalled, Giselle plummeted “Done!” said Bola, springing to her feet, hundred feet off the ground and thus
amidst the cacophony of the klaxon and brandishing her dagger and striking a absolutely airtight. She slowly crawled
Slap’s shouts. pose. “Let’s be pirates!” up the back of the couch and poked her
We finished Season Two of The Adventures Mr. Pitt covered his face with his hand. eyes over, feeling the piece teeter under
of the Sky Pirate with a cliffhanger that Mr. Humble loosened the scarf at his her weight.
risked everything in the story, and neck with a finger and looked off into She looked in time to see a slender, silver-
destroyed some of the hallmark figures the distance. Eggplant dropped his head white blade finish cutting a square panel

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Overlords’ Lair Pg. 8

of clear glass out from the rest of the
window. The knife withdrew, vanishing
into the moonlight darkness, and a dark
shape slithered into view, then slipped
through the tiny opening with a lizard’s
silence and speed. Esheera dropped
back behind the couch. She pawed at
her belt, felt the knife Jaggo had given
her—the only weapon she carried.
And of course, we still feature the RGR
Time Capsule so you can remember which
news items were hopping over at the
RGR forums last month. I think those
mental placeholders can be interesting
and helpful as time keeps slippin’ into the
future. Thank you again, gentle reader,
for reading Ray Gun Revival magazine,
and feel free to tell all your friends and
neighbors about us. We don’t make a
dime off this, but it’s never been about
money, but rather about a shared love
of space opera, golden age sci-fi, and a
strong desire not to have our puny planet
vaporized. (Loriendil, I’m looking at you.
Hands off the big red button, missy.)
Come on back next month for another
action-packed issue, and keep your eyes
peeled in the near future for the new
reviews column from Matt Winslow.
Johne Cook
Overlord
Breezeway, WI USA
July, 2008

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
To Save A Shuttle, by Andy Heizeler Pg. 9

To Save A Shuttle
by Andy Heizeler

“A re these capable of penetrating patrol
shuttle armor?” asked Dean, holding up
one of the old style copper-jacketed projec-
scrap yards above this planet had terrible
security. He shifted his stance, which earned
him a slap on his bottom from Captain Sedona,
said Arc, trying not to look worried.
“I have complete faith in the captain’s
tiles. busy tailoring his olive drab uniform. piloting ability, Arc,” said Dean with an air of
loyalty.
“Not a chance,” said Creon. “Quit moving,” she said tersely through a
mouth full of pins. “Are you saying that because I’m in a
“Excellent,” said Dean, tossing it into the position to hurt you right now, or do you really
box with the rest. “Only if you promise to span...Ow!” said mean it?” asked Captain Sedona, placing
Dean. another pin in his pants.
“You‘re not actually serious about getting
that thing flying again, are you?” scoffed Captain Sedona removed the pin she had “Yes,” said Dean with a smirk, earning him
Creon, crossing his massive, augmented arms. ‘misplaced’ in his thigh. another quick poke. Once Cloey finished her
His gaze never left the scorched and abused creation, the only thing left would be a little
craft in the center of the Tachyon Valkyrie’s Dean held still, glowering down at her. cosmetic welding and painting on the Tachyon
spacious cargo bay. The ex-mercenary found Valkyrie.
“I‘m just glad my job involves taking things
it was like looking at an aircar wreck, which apart instead of putting them together,” said Despite having the fate of the galaxy in
wasn’t far off the mark. Creon, admiring the small pile of Composition their hands, and the preliminary stages going
“Shush! You mustn’t offend its spirit,” D explosives at his feet. so well, Dean regretted taking on the mission
said Cloey, running her hands over the once already. Saving a political prisoner from the
“Speaking of which,” said Arc, descending
graceful curves of the elderly attack shuttle. hands of a tyrannical government in the capitol
the stairs into the cargo bay, “I have those
Her lithe form moved with reverence as she city of the second-largest power in the Galaxy
schematics you requested. It would seem the
analyzed the extensive structural work that wasn’t exactly his idea of a paying job. To get
Nueva Angeles blueprint database has nice,
needed to be done. paid, one had to live.
wide-open back door,” he finished, handing
“Yeah, Creon, shush,” said Dean, suppress- Creon a data tab. “You know if this doesn’t work, I’m going to
ing a grin. He had never truly understood kill you, right?” asked the captain with a smile
“What about the radio device?” asked Dean,
spiritual engineering, but accepted that Cloey of her own.
carefully keeping himself still as he spoke.
did. “She’ll be better than new once Cloey
gets done with her,” he said, wondering if he “Never happen, my dear,” said Dean
“Well, if the antenna is aimed properly, it
believed it. sincerely. “We’d probably both be dead long
should keep our friends from transmitting to before you could kill me,” he reflected, earning
anywhere but our receiver while still allowing
Dean had seen Cloey perform miracles a nervous chuckle from Arc, who honestly
them to receive all other transmissions,
before, but that shuttle had over eighty years believed they were all doomed, which was no
hopefully while keeping them from knowing
and obviously one too many battles on her. Of different than most times.
it’s happening. The window of error on aiming
course the price had been right; the orbiting the antenna, however, is exceedingly small,” Cloey returned from her circumnavigation

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
 Pg. 10

of the assault shuttle and placed her hands in Their views held more with the early PHC and It reminded Dean of what historians later
the pockets of her pink coveralls. “All this talk its nearly forgotten doctrine of equality among called World War One, and he hated the
of death,” she chided, “when we’re on the all the non-genetically-augmented people. The stupidity of powder kegs. Despite his regrets
brink of such a beautiful resurrection.” “Some are more equal than others.” routine and his doubts about the mission, he knew that
didn’t wash with everyone, it seemed. Predict- if he could pull the wick on this one, it would
“Should I be afraid or overjoyed?” asked ably, the view held little popularity with the be mightily satisfying.
Dean. self- proclaimed nobility of the inner planets.
Not to mention the money Tim had offered
“Yes,” said Cloey with a cheerful nod, Despite the dangers, the leader of the beat the other job offers by an unreasonably
heading off to retrieve her tools. Reform Party had chosen to meet with the Aris- large margin.
tocrats in the capitol, where she was promptly
# arrested on trumped up charges. Dean “We’ve got movement!” said Arc’s voice
wondered how anyone could have expected over the intercom. Dean rushed over to the
“Tomorrow marks the trial of the Reform anything different. pilot’s chair and checked the screens.
Party’s leader, Madison Eula Reed. Secretary
Apparently she had left instructions with The program Arc had created was nothing
of Justice Michael Miller issued this statement
her followers not to attempt rescue in such short of genius. Dean had known that the
earlier today,” said the announcer before
a case, in order to avoid sparking a civil war PHC would never risk moving Reed in a highly
another, deeper voice came over the speaker.
within the Coalition. visible, multi-vehicle convoy. They weren’t
“Due process will be carried out. The Aristoc- stupid enough to list it in any of their schedule
racy will tolerate nothing less. In the course of Tim, working from within the Greater Star programs, either. Dean had guessed they
this trial, I assure you, the subversive activities Republic’s Secret Service, had assured Dean would use a common patrol shuttle that would
of our nation’s enemies will be exposed.” that civil war was precisely what would happen pick Reed up from Central and bring her to the
Dean switched off the low band radio and the instant the Aristocracy had Reed executed Chamber of Justice discreetly, the night before.
stood, looking pensively through the viewport after her mock trial. After all, that’s how he would have done it
at the planet below. The Light Cruiser orbited were he an aristocratic, tyrannical government
in silent patience, just above the atmosphere, the Officially, due to strained tensions between paranoid about radical populists.
whispering out a neutral transponder code to Coalition, the GSRRepublic
Greater Star and the Pure Human
couldn’t be caught meddling The problem would be picking up a shuttle
the defense grid. in PHC affairs. Which was exactly why Tim had on a course to the Chamber of Justice that
Even on the night side, the planet teemed contacted Dean, his ‘favorite untraceable dis- wasn’t routine. Cracking the Sky Patrol network
with lights. One of the earliest settled worlds posable asset.’ had been the easy part. Creating a scanner
during the expansion, Nueva Angles boasted a program to filter out every shuttle already on
Normally, Dean would have refused, but a scheduled transport route had been a stroke
population of three point five billion people. because civil war would weaken the PHC sig- of brilliance.
According to Tim, who had given Dean the nificantly, the Post Martian Federation would
job, most of those people were content to go take that as an opportunity to support the Still, it was only a guess. If he were wrong
along with the rule of the genetically “pure” development of a ‘legitimate democratic and they used an unmarked civilian transport
Aristocracy. The opposing Reform Party’s power governing body‘ within the PHC. Due to the or other means he hadn’t anticipated, the
base was located on one of the outer planets in complex chain of alliances between the major mission would be scrubbed, along with the
the Pure Human Coalition’s sphere of control. Galactic powers, this would lead to an all out billions who would die in the resulting Galactic
Galactic War for the first time in history. War.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008 
Pg. 11

Suddenly, streaking with the blue icon of said Henry, setting his coffee down carefully into a pair of underwear for you,” said Creon,
salvation, a shuttle with no flight manifest in before walking to the intercom. pleased with himself. He had been waiting to
the database appeared on his screen, heading use that threat for quite some time. It didn’t
straight for the Chamber of Justice from “What do you want?” he asked the hurt that someone had actually done it to him
Central. Dean felt the warm elation of victory stranger. at one point. Thank goodness it had only been
wash over him. a mercenary prank.
“Hey, I found this just sitting out here, I
“That’s our baby, Arc. Notify the captain!” think it’s dangerous!” After relieving the guard of his pulser and
“Show it to me,” said Henry. The man tipped placinghis
using own cuffs on him, Creon started
# the charges on the support beams in
the bag, causing Henry’s blood to freeze. the pattern he had memorized from the sche-
Henry Platt had worked as a night security He had served in the Corps, and knew Com- matics.
guard in the Unbroken Chain for ten years. In position D when he saw it. There was enough “May I ask why you’re doing this?” asked
that time he felt he had seen just about every there to do some serious damage. Worse, the Henry,
crazy thing a man could see through the armor detonator caps were in the blocks! He had to longing.eyeing his coffee on the floor with
glass doors of the entrance. A part of him get those things disarmed, before it was too
enjoyed the irony of witnessing the worst of late. “Would it make you feel better to know?”
humanity from the official monument to “pure asked Creon in return, stringing det-cord like
humanity.” Henry unlocked the doors with expert garland.
speed, trying his hardest not to panic.
Towering twenty stories above him, made “I believe it might, yes,” said Henry defen-
from the finest neocrete, the double-helix “Hold the bag open and don’t move!” sively.
sculpture stood just as stoic and unchanged as ordered Henry, praying to Bast that whatever
it had for the last hundred-eighty-seven years. maniac had the trigger decided to wait. “We’re saving the Galaxy,” said Creon with
a flashed grin.
Oftentimes Henry would set his chair before “I’d rather just come in,” said Creon,
the doors, pour himself a cup of coffee, and revealing his rail pistol. Henry sighed. He had expected something
simply wait for the next beggar or prostitute to a little better than that.
Henry’s heart sank to somewhere around
do something interesting. his ankles. He had one chance to end this.
#
Tonight, an extremely large fellow pounded “Not so fast, McGraw. Hands on top of your
on the glass, looking frantic while nervously head, and inside we go,” ordered Creon. The assault shuttle Eris plunged down
glancing into some sort of handbag. Most through the cloud layer, her drive engines
likely the man had an addiction to something “Who’s McGraw?” asked Henry. If he were purring with delight. Captain Sedona eased
terrible. He might be running from his illicit to die at the hands of a crazy person, he should the control stick back, leveling her out along a
loan officers, or looking to find spiritual at least know something of their so-called smooth curve through the dark skies.
oneness with the double helix, but in any case reasoning, he figured.
he was now blocking the view and wouldn’t “You’re just a darling, aren’t you?” said
stop pounding. “Never mind. The important thing is that Captain Sedona, smiling as she throttled down
if you cooperate, I won’t kill you. If you try
“Hold your equines, I’ll be there in a minute!” anything unwise, I’ll mold one of these bricks the twin RAM/SCRAM variable state thrusters.
It had been years since her days as a test pilot,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008 
Pg. 12

but the love of flying had never left her. A yellow
way to the ball, sending coordinates and trajec- disaster maybe? He doubted it.
light blinked to life on her control panel. tory now,” said Arc. The data-packet-received
light blinked on next to her nav screen. Captain “The Reformists just took out the Chain
“Fox One this is Badger, I’m ready to come Sedona smiled and flipped another switch. and all you can think about is not being able
home,” said Creon’s voice over her radio. to take your nephew there?” said Vence with
The innocuous black shuttle cutting through indignant appall.
The green glowing screen of the cobbled- the sky away from the Unbroken Chain pulled
together nav computer showed her the course back two discreet panels. From the gaps “It’s not the Reform Party. I told them not
to her destination. With only a few barrel rolls extended the aggressive twin barrels of thirty to take any violent action,” said Madison from
for the sheer joy of it, Captain Sedona headed caliber magnetic rail guns. behind the armorplast mesh.
for the Pure Human Coalition’s most popular
tourist attraction. “Now,” she ordered. “Well, either they didn’t listen to you or
they don’t consider killing buildings violent,”
The twenty-story structure loomed ahead Creon nodded and punched the ‘detonate’ chuckled Sevetti.
within moments, and with expert grace the button on his remote.
captain landed the shuttle on the roof and slid “Hold your tongue, criminal,” said Vence
open the side door. “Great art picks up where nature ends,” angrily.
quoted Creon, “Marc Chagall.”
Creon came running up with an out of “I’m not a criminal yet. I’m technically a
shape guard in tow. Several thousand meters behind them, the detained suspect,” she said with a raised chin.
double helix elicited a series of little flashes
“Nice landing, Captain. This is Henry by the before collapsing in a roaring cloud of dust and “I said shut it!” cried Vence.
way. Henry, meet the captain,” he said, taking debris. The symmetrical implosion left not a “Ease off, Corporal—she’s right. Besides,
a seat on the stretch webbing. single casualty, and, as the dust rose into the there’s
air, the sirens of an entire squadron blared to Sevetti,no reason to take this out on her,” said
“Hello, Captain,” said Henry, confused as to life. smiling into the mirror. After his fifth
why he wasn’t dead yet—not that he was com- wife, Sevetti had sworn he’d never fall in love
plaining, he was quite happy about it, in fact. again. After meeting Madison, his world had
# once again been turned upside down. Granted,
“Nice to meet you, Henry. We’ll drop you it was only twenty minutes ago, but he scowled
off safely after we rescue Madison Reed and Captain Sevetti turned up the gain on his at himself for falling for the wrong woman
bring her back to her home planet,” she said, radio with disbelief washing over him. again. After all, how long could their relation-
punching in the command to slam the side ship last when everyone knew the Aristocrats
“I can’t believe those maniacs!” growled were
door shut while kicking the vertical take-off Corporal going to hang her?
Vence, cleaning off the windshield
thrusters into maximum acceleration. where he had spit his coffee. “Proximity alert! We‘ve got some kind of
Henry tried very hard not to loose his “This is just great. I was going to take Billy Corporalcoming
shuttle up on us from our six,” cried
breakfast while thinking his joy at being alive there Vence, hurriedly typing commands
this weekend,” said Sevetti, listening to into his screen with
had been premature. one hand while trying not
the near comatose voice of Dispatch Control to spill his coffee with the other.
The com light blinked to life again. as she ordered more units to the disaster site.
If this couldn’t break that monotone of hers, “Warn them off with the standard…” began
“Fox One, this is Ferret. The lady is on her he wondered what would. A planetary scale Sevetti, cut off by the rapid thumping of

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008 
Pg. 13

impacts on his hull. that thing was damn good. Sevetti could see the Destroyer Escort
ahead, slowing to match. Behind them, the
“They’re firing on us!” screeched Corporal “Let’s see if you can deal with this,” Sevetti darting bogey kept firing. If the quality of the
Vence in a pitch he would have been ashamed said, jerking his stick back and climbing franti- pilot’s aim or rounds were half as good as his
of, had he been calm enough to hear himself. cally for his shuttle’s flight ceiling. piloting, Sevetti had no doubt he’d have been
The remainder of his coffee hit his pants with
searing agony. To his utter surprise, the attack craft stayed dead already.
right on his tail, slapping rounds into his “Unit 32, this is Nike, synch to zero and pull
“Thank you, Corporal Obvious! Quit playing posterior every few seconds. into our launch bay. I say again: pull into our
with your coffee and call for back-up,” snarled launch bay. The number two bogey is heavily
Sevetti, jerking his control stick wildly to the “Good Bast, what is that thing?” asked armed
Corporal Vance, examining the radar returns at Machand approaching at one-one-zero-three
left and hitting the auxiliary thrusters. four,” said the military commander.
and scanner data. He ran it against the data
“Alright hot shot, let’s dance!” said Sevetti, base. No transponder code, but the profile fit “Roger that, Nike,” said Sevetti, trying his
throwing them into an asymmetrical spin. a military assault shuttle that had been out of hardest not to splatter himself and everyone
service for eighty years! aboard against the hull of the Destroyer
“Dispatch Control, this is Unit 32. We are
under attack. Request back up immediately.” “They’ve got to have some kind of sensor Escort.
said Vence, mopping his soaked pants with the masking,” reported Vence. The attack shuttle broke off at the last
napkins fluttering out of the glove box. minute, trailing black smoke from what had to
“I’m not worried about its scanners. What have been the laser batteries of the Nike.
“Unit 32, all units are currently responding kind of jets is he using? The thing’s got more
to other calls. Please stand by,” said Dispatch hop than my old Strafe-Plane!” said Sevetti, Corporal Vence cheered as they slid into
with all the passion of an ancient computer. recalling his days in the PHC Space Corps. the launch bay of the larger ship.
Sevetti would have bet his life savings that the
woman was a robot, had he not been married “Patrol Unit 32, this is the Home Fleet Madison leaned back, her fleeting hope
to her at one time. He jerked out of the spin Destroyer Escort Nike. We are tracking your of rescue despite the odds crushed with the
and knifed between two buildings. The bogey flight path and are on course to intercept,” said closing of the bay doors.
matched him precisely. a crisp, military voice over the radio.
“What’s going on up there?” asked Madison, #
“Stand by? We’re being fired upon! You know
the importance of our mission, Dispatch!” said trying to keep her heart from exploding.
Captain Sedona broke off the attack as
Corporal Vence, making the biggest mistake “Nothing to worry about, Ma’am. I think the the patrol shuttle neared the Nike. It would
he could have made with Helen. She hated cavalry’s just arrived!” said Sevetti. be insanity for an assault shuttle to stand toe
emotional responses over the radio. to toe with a destroyer escort. Her com light
“Unit 32 this is Nike, we’re tracking a came on.
“Unit 32, please observe proper radio second bogey on intercept to your location. It
protocol,” said Dispatch. If Sevetti didn’t know appears to be a Light Cruiser, possibly pirate or “Fox One, this is Ferret. Get out of there
better he would have said there was an edge of Reformist,” said the military voice again. and rendezvous in five. I say again: rendezvous
annoyance in her voice! It had to be his imagi- in five,” said Arc’s voice with what could have
nation. Besides, he was a little more than dis- “I’ve got Nike’s transponder, Captain. She’s been depression or deep relief.
tracted by the dogfight. Whoever was piloting coming into range now,” said Vence.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008 
Pg. 14

Henry looked over to Creon with sympa- Reed back to her home world and everything Dean raised his glass of champagne.
thetic eyes. will be wrapped up nicely.”
“To a job well done, a Galactic war prevented,
“I’m sorry your mission failed,” he said Captain Sevetti could feel the confusion and a new member of the family,” said Dean
solemnly. Since having it explained to him, racing through him nearly as fast as the sleep proudly.
Henry had actually sympathized with their chemicals. He managed to throw his coffee
cause. wide of his body before he collapsed. Corporal Cloey wiped a tear away and hugged Vence,
Vence wasn’t as lucky. who had decided getting to know the enemy
Creon raised an eyebrow. “Who said was part of his duties while being transported
anything about failed?” Moments later the cargo bay opened home, especially since that traitor Sevetti had
again, admitting Eris. Cloey peeled off her LSO decided to become one of Reed’s bodyguards.
# uniform to reveal her pink coveralls beneath,
running over to check on her baby. “To Eris!” said Captain Sedona, finishing the
toast. Henry raised his cup of coffee with them
The cute blonde Landing Signal Officer
waved the patrol shuttle in, setting her down out,AsArc the captain, Creon and Henry stepped and repeated along with everyone else.
on repulsors at the back of the bay. A stern the cargo came running down the stairs into
“To Eris!”
looking Lieutenant Commander approached Captain!” he gushed.was some beautiful flying,
bay. “That
with two steaming cups of coffee in his hands. Now he felt had seen just about every crazy
His name plate read “Davidson.” Dean let Madison out of the back of the thing a man could see.
Sevetti opened his door and climbed out, stand. shuttle, offering her his hand to help her
patrol
thankful he hadn’t wet himself during the
flight. Vence might have, but the coffee stains “Who are you people?” she asked in
on his uniform obscured the issue. amazement.
“Nice bit of flying there, Captain. Thought “Dean, the space rogue, and the crew of the
you boys could use some joe after all the excite- Tachyon Valkyrie, at your service.”
ment,” said Davidson.
“You guys are a Bastsend. Anything new on #
the situation?” asked Sevetti.
The old fighter launch tube gleamed in
Corporal Vence took the coffee and tried clean perfection for the first time in years. The
hard not to look like an idiot to the blonde LSO collection of spare rations, engine parts, books
making eyes at him. and various random boxes of junk had been
laboriously hauled out. Creon had done most
Both men sipped their coffee while the of the work on the captain’s orders as a means
Lieutenant Commander filled them in. of penance for his disbelief.
“No one was hurt during the implosion, and Square in the center of the polymagnetic
it looks like both you and your prisoner were launch rails sat Eris, the bay lights reflecting off
unharmed. Now all we have to do is get Miss her polished black hull.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008 
Pg. 15

Andy Heizeler stumbling upon downed 1940’s anti-aircraft
artillery training radio-plane drones in the
David Bridgette started writing at the age swamps of Fort Stewart—enjoying the beauty
of ten in 1985 on a Tandy TRS-80 Computer. of our National Park System, debating the
By 1995 he had enough rejection slips to nature of the universe, and reading science
account for the shrinking rainforests. Off and fiction.
on he continued writing in spurts, submitting
randomly but mostly pursuing the art of
daily living (as opposed to the art of daily
starving.)

He joined the Army in 2001 after the terrorist
attacks of 9/11 and has deployed to Iraq a total
of three times. During his third deployment,
at the age of 32, he decided after a near miss
(which is just as safe as a far miss, only more
personal) by a mortar round that it was time
to achieve his dream of being published.

The pen name Andy Heizeler was created as a
conglomeration of the initials of his favorite
authors, under which he created a series of
stories about Dean the Space Rogue. The first
Dean the Space Rogue story to be accepted
will be appearing in the anthology Star
Stepping by Wild Child Press. The second,
but first chronologically, Dean the Space
Rogue, appeared in Ray Gun Revival #40,
with another Galactic Saviors, that is set to
appear in an upcoming issue of Newmyths.
com magazine.

David’s hobbies include amateur drone
hunting with his lovely wife Kit—mostly

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Fitter, by Richard S. Levine Pg. 16

Fitter
by Richard S. Levine

I t was late at night, but I couldn’t sleep. My
reading light was on, and I’d been thinking
about the Galactic Space Administration’s
My grandfather and his ancestors practiced
the old ways. They didn’t expect their mates
to bend and form to their will. My own father
asm for mathematics. I think she stayed up all
night reading every book I had on the subject.
Soon she challenged my own theories on
next mission. I rested on my side to look at my chose a woman who was not his ideal match. prime numbers, and I loved the debate. She
wife. My thoughts turned to her rounded lips He said they fought all the time, but he used to was even becoming the woman my father
and perfectly smooth skin. I stroked her long tell me she was the only woman who mattered. would have wanted me to call my wife.
brunette hair that flowed across her pillow She died in giving birth to me.
towards me. It was time I told her what was But that was many years ago, and I’d grown
on my mind. But I’ve watched the classics. Have you accustomed to Darlene’s ability to fit my needs.
ever seen the movie 10 or The Stepford Wives? I was still thinking about space travel.
I nudged her awake. She yawned and People throughout history have longed for fit-
smiled at me. ters—spouses who change to exactly fit their I looked at Darlene again. She had fallen
needs. back to sleep. My eyes tracked her hair over
I said, “I’ve been asked to go to Alpha her partially bared shoulders. The rest of her
Centauri.” I knew my wife well, but I still No one knows quite when or where the was draped in bed sheets, but I closed my
struggled to tell her the rest. I cleared my first fitters appeared, but many generations of eyes and remembered every soft curve of her
throat. “The mission will take eight years, but men and women have had such ideal mates. naked body. Then I looked upwards towards
no one has survived that trip in over seven Now everyone seems to be a fitter. Try as I her gentle chin and rose red cheeks.
hundred years.” might to fulfill the wishes of my ancestors and
my father, I could not find a woman uniquely She was beautiful by most definitions,
Years ago, space travel was the only thing like my mother; I began to want what everyone but she was much more. She was made for
on my mind but that was before I married the else wants. me. What else would I think of a woman who
perfect woman. I wasn’t sure I really wanted perfectly matched my needs and desires in
to leave Darlene—or leave Earth. So I married the next woman I met. Darlene every way?
wasn’t pretty and she wasn’t smart, but she
She looked straight at me with her deep was to be my perfect bride. I remember the I stared, because I wanted to. As I fell
blue-green eyes and replied. “I know you love first time I told her what my fantasy woman asleep, I rested my sight on her face hoping
space travel. If you want to go, then go. I’ll be would look like. It was on the first night of our that if I looked long enough I’d know the why
here when you get back.” That’s why I loved honeymoon. of her existence.
her so much.
As I spoke her face and body contorted The next morning I called Carl Peterson
I wasn’t the only person very happily though several spasms, but I didn’t sense any at the Galactic Space Administration and
married. Married life was perfect for everyone, pain. She smiled through it all and acted as if said I was ready to go. I really wanted to take
but it wasn’t always that way. I have read of the transition were as natural as a caterpillar Darlene with me, but he said it was a one
other times, long ago when couples divorced morphing into a butterfly. person mission.
as often as they married, argued more often
than not. The next week we discussed my enthusi- #

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Fitter, by Richard S. Levine Pg. 17

I arrived the next day at GSA headquarters, it.”
and Carl didn’t waste any time getting me into
the near light speed (NLS) training bay. “You’re not sure!” Moments later, Fitter exited our solar
system. My muscles tensed. I think my body
The first room I sat in looked like a psycholo- Carl put his cap back on. He had the kind of even trembled, but my blood didn’t boil. My
gist’s office with a few colorful Alpha Centauri look I recognized from old war movies where arms fell to my sides as I relaxed. I knew then
renderings—best guesses, really—on the wall, the captain was sending his lieutenant into a that I’d make it to Alpha Centauri.
a plush couch, a couple of ergonomic chairs, hopeless, but decisive battle. “No, we can’t be
and a metal desk. Carl sat in one of the chairs, sure.” #
while I got comfortable on the couch. At forty five years old, I was still in excellent
shape. I was scared of my blood splattering, Everything I said or wrote on Fitter was
Carl said, “You realize, everyone’s going to
but the lure of space enticed me. I had to go. I immediately sent to Earth, but I knew it would
be eight years older when you get back, but
said, “I guess I have to die sometime.” take a very long time to get there. Communi-
you’ll have aged just a few months.” cating was like using the old Pony Express. A
“Sure, but I’ve got something more It took me a week to go through NLS training person could get lonely.
important to talk about. Why me? I mean, exercises that simulated crossing through the
turbulent zone at the boundary to our solar Fitter glided past Proxima Centauri, a dim
there are younger, better suited astronauts for
system. I named my spaceship Fitter, because red dwarf sun fronting my destination. In that
the trip.”
hopefully my blood was fitter for the trip. dark space where a man has to ask himself
Carl coughed, removed his cap, and if he belongs, time passes slowly. My mind
nervously scratched his short gray hair. He # wandered. Then I saw the shining yellow and
looked less official with his cap off. “You don’t orange twin binary stars, Alpha Centauri A and
have much time for training, so I’ll make my B.
Fitter silently lifted into space breaking the
answer short. You’re the only one with original chains of Earth’s gravity. Minutes later, I was I heard a human female voice. She said, “Is
human DNA.” traveling at near the speed of light as I passed anyone there? We’ve seen something moving
Mars. Five hours later, I nervously neared in our scanners. Is anyone there?”
“What’s that mean?” Sedna—a frozen planetoid from the Oort
“Bart Knuth’s team left Earth over seven Cloud, further out than Pluto—reminding me I couldn’t believe anyone was out there. I
hundred years ago and successfully made it that I was close to the boundary of Earth’s solar nervously answered, “This is Dan Willis from
out of our solar system alive, but they never system. planet Earth. Who is this?”
returned. We’ve still got their blood samples. There, at the heliopause, was the place “Earth, did you say Earth?”
There have been changes since then.” where other astronauts had died. It was where
I was meant to go and further. I knew that; my “Yes. I’m here looking for the descendants
“What kind of changes?”
blood said so. Nevertheless, my heart beat of Bart Knuth’s team.”
“Genetic mutations, we don’t know exactly faster—much faster. “I’m Lisa Knuth! But you couldn’t be from
how it happened. Except for you, every living
The view was a little like being on Earth in Earth.”
person’s blood has the new DNA.” If anyone
else tries to leave our solar system, their blood the middle of an ice storm with flashes of heat “I am.”
literally explodes. We’re hoping you can make lightning everywhere, except that the sky was
mostly black and devoid of clouds.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Fitter, by Richard S. Levine Pg. 18

“Then you’ve got to head back to Earth “Have you ever seen an Alpha?” As I climbed back in bed, Lisa woke up. She
immediately.” said, “Are you thinking of Darlene again?”
“No, they never came back.”
“Why didn’t Bart and his crew return to I can’t lie to Lisa. She won’t let me get away
Earth?” The easy choice was to return to Earth. I with it. I simply replied, “Yes.”
could pick up Lisa and a few passengers before
“The Alphas destroyed Bart’s spaceship I headed back, then we could repopulate the Lisa looked into my eyes, but I felt her
and brought the entire crew here. We live on a Earth with future astronauts. But if the Alphas touch my heart when she said, “Dan. For my
planet which orbits Proxima Centauri.” caught me on the way back—a long trip—it sake, please don’t.”
could still mean the end of everyone on Earth.
“That’s not possible. Humans couldn’t That moment changed me forever. I thought
survive there.” There was an alternate choice. I could of all the times that Darlene fit my needs:
stay with Lisa’s people. But then I’d never see moving to California for my job, choosing not
“The Alphas made it possible, but you can’t Darlene again. to have children, learning mathematics, letting
land here. You have to head back to Earth.” me go into space. Not once did I ask her what
# she wanted, and not once did she ask me for
I liked her voice, pleasant but strong willed. anything. I realized that I never asked myself
I felt attracted to her. “And if I don’t?”
Four years have passed since I made my why I never tried to change to fit her needs.
“Have you ever heard of experiments on decision to stay at Proxima Centauri. My ship I looked back at Lisa, and I said, “I’ll try. I’ll
Earth where scientists tried to kill off a species remains dismantled until we figure out if and try.”
of a pest moth by injecting genetically modified when it’s safe to return to Earth. I live with Lisa
moths into the population?” Knuth, an old fashioned woman—someone of
original DNA like mine.
“That happened a long, long time ago.”
“The Alphas weren’t happy when humans
Last night, I woke in the privacy of our Richard S. Levine
bedroom. I turned my head slowly and stared
showed up at Proxima Centauri. They put us at her. She slept peacefully. I could see the Richard S. Levine’s short stories have
here so we couldn’t tell Earth about them, and appeared in Ray Gun Revival, The Fifth
history of her people in her pale face, strong
then they cloned and placed thousands of cheekbones, dirty blond hair, and large Di, The Martian Wave, and several other
genetically modified humans back on Earth.” nose—perhaps an evolutionary trait. She’s not
online and printed magazines. His science
beautiful by some definitions, and she doesn’t
fiction short story, A Comic on Phobos, was
For seconds I remained silent. I thought change to fit my tastes or needs.
only of modified humans. “Oh hell, your talking nominated for the 2006 James Award. With
about fitters, aren’t you? We just thought it I got up and peered into our scanner in his wife Carrie, he lives happily on the beach
was a form of natural human evolution. I’m the direction of Cassiopeia, near the border in Florida and writes. Now, if only the hurri-
the only one left with original DNA because my with Perseus. There, visible as a bright yellow
father and his ancestors didn’t choose a fitter star—the eighth brightest in our night sky—was canes would go away. To learn more about
as their mate.” Mr. Levine’s writings and his classic video
Earth’s yellow sun.
game, Microsurgeon, please navigate your
“Never mind all of that. The Alphas may wipe For a moment I was reminded of Darlene, browser to http://web.tampabay.rr.com/
out the human race if they find your ship.” and then I looked back and stared at Lisa. I love rlevine6/.
them both.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Tenari, by Michael Merriam Pg. 19

Tenari
by Michael Merriam

T he thing that surprised Captain Kathleen
Reed the most about commanding a
pirate ship was the amount of paperwork it
her chief of gunnery. “Yes, Janet?”
“It’s a trap, Ma’am. That’s a Melpomene
Reed was not worried about her quarry
escaping. Old her ship might be, but there was
no way a freighter would be able to best the
involved. cruiser disguised as a freighter. There’s no Black Manta’s speed and maneuverability.
other explanation.”
She set her data pad on her grey metal “XO, get the boarding party together and
desk and closed her eyes. Pain was starting Captain Reed nodded. Janet Sobrinski down to the airlock, I’ll join you after we’ve
to set in, behind and between them, the kind thought everything was a trap, up to and docked,” Captain Reed ordered. “And Roger,
of pain that only the Master of a marauding including the food served in the mess. The tell everyone we’re going to be extra careful
space vessel knew. Too much paperwork, not annoying thing was, sometimes Janet was over there. They might be smugglers, this far
enough plunder, that was the problem. right. away from normal shipping lanes.”
The ship’s intercom buzzed on her desk. “Orders, Captain?” Baldry asked. Baldry nodded. “Yes, Ma’am,” he said.
She barely recognized the voice over the Reed looked out her window at the Reed turned to her gunner. “Target their
static. She thought it might be her executive freighter. “Fire a laser burst and transmit an engines. Use a missile: I want them to know
officer, and he might have said, “Captain to the order to cut their engines and prepare to be we mean business.”
bridge,” which was reason enough for her to boarded. Tell them if they cooperate, no one
leave the ship’s accounts unfinished. Captain gets hurt.” There was a metallic clank from deep in
Reed stepped from her ready room onto the the ship, and the Black Manta rocked.
bridge of her ship, the Black Manta. “Aye, Ma’am,” Janet said.
“Missile away,” Janet reported.
She looked at her executive officer. Roger Captain Reed felt the low hum of her ship’s
Baldry was well into his sixties. Most thought cannon powering up. The lights on the bridge The warhead on the chemically propelled
him far too old for this life—and he did have dimmed and the ship gave a slight shudder as weapon exploded before impact, sending a
grandchildren back on Pegasus—but she knew the weapon discharged. shock wave filled with shrapnel into the back
Roger Baldry could out-fight anyone on her of the freighter. It was enough to make the old
crew. The engines on the big freighter glowed ship’s engines dim.
white-blue and the ship turned starboard and
“What have we got?” she asked. down. “Helm, take us in.”
“Civilian bulk freighter,” Baldry said. “An “They’re running,” Baldry said. “Yes, Ma’am.”
old Savros, probably a second series model
three.” “So it seems,” Reed sighed. “Match their Captain Reed sat in her chair and grabbed
speed and course. Stay with them, Helm.” the armrests. Roberts, her helmsman, made
She raised an eyebrow. “All the way out the landings hard and noisy to frighten the
here and all alone?” “Aye, Ma’am,” her helmsman said. “They occupants of the ship they were raiding.
won’t get away.” She watched the big Savros freighter fill her
A throat cleared. Captain Reed turned to

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Tenari, by Michael Merriam Pg. 20

window screen. “Go!” she shouted. started up it.
There was a jolt and a series of loud clangs Janet Sobrinski charged into the vessel, “Report!” she barked.
as the Black Manta’s landing gear slammed screaming at the top of her lungs. Behind her a
into the hull of the freighter and gripped it dozen of the crew followed, each brandishing “Captain, there’s...well, I think you’d best
magnetically. There was a second loud thump. their weapons and yelling. see for yourself, Ma’am.”

“Lock and seal,” Roberts said. Baldry snorted and stepped through the “What is it, Jeffers?”
airlock onto the freighter. “Janet likes doing
Reed stood. “Good. Mr. Roberts, you have “Children.”
that entirely too much.”
the bridge. Janet, you’re with me.” The Captain looked up at the sound of her
Reed laughed. “All the youngsters do.”
Captain Reed actually smiled as she rode gunnery officer’s voice. Janet stepped around
the lift to the lower decks. This was exactly what “No sound of gunfire. Maybe this will go off a corner and into the corridor.
she needed to take her mind off her troubles. clean after all.” A brown-haired girl, no more than ten
Two minutes later she was standing among a
“One can hope. So what do we have on the years old, clutched Janet’s hand as if it were
dozen members of her crew, her pistol drawn,
Chief’s wish list this time?” Reed asked. a lifeline. The girl’s face was flush from crying
preparing to board the freighter. and she stood slightly behind Janet, barefoot
“Open it,” Reed commanded. Baldry pulled the pad from the pocket of and shivering in her faded floral dress.
his flight suit. He poked at it a couple of times,
A pair of crew members stepped forward: a shook it, and then slapped its side. The pad “There’s nothing but children on this ship,”
young blonde man carrying a small electronic whined and gurgled and made a noise similar Janet said.
device and a brown-haired woman nearly as to a hissing cat. Captain Reed holstered her weapon. She
old as the captain with a large wrench. The
“Induction couplers and coils. Targeting squatted down and looked at the little girl
young crewman placed his piece of equipment
sensors. Circuit boards of any kind. Soldering and smiled. “Can you tell me where all the
near the joined airlock and started punching
wire. Copper tubing, fresh water, and yeast—” grown-ups are?”
buttons. After a minute the lights on the device
and on the airlock control turned green. “The Tenari took them.”
Reed smiled at the last. “So that’s what he
“Ready, Captain.” plans to do with all that wheat grain he’s been Jeffers snorted. “There’s no such thing
hiding in the engine access tubes.” as Tenari. The shadow-stalkers are a bedtime
Reed looked at the woman and nodded.
“It’s supposed to be a secret.” Baldry paused. story spacers and colonists tell their kids to
The woman jammed the wrench handle “Smithwick will brew up something that won’t scare them into line.”
through the airlock turn-wheel and, with a kill the crew or make them go blind, unlike Kathleen Reed stood and drew her pistol in
grunt, gave it a tug. There was a hiss of air and some other idiots we have aboard.” one swift motion. “No,” she whispered. “The
the woman withdrew the wrench and spun
the airlock mechanism. The hatch opened. The The Captain’s reply was cut off by screaming Tenari are real.”
smell of slightly stale air and food past its prime ahead of them. Drawing her pistol, she set off She made eye contact with Baldry, who
filled their noses, and no one was shooting at a jog toward the voices. She turned a corner swallowed,
and pounded down a metal staircase toward a head. They sweat breaking out on his bald
at them. This came as a pleasant surprise to had met the Tenari, Reed and
Captain Reed. narrow corridor as the young blond technician

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Tenari, by Michael Merriam Pg. 21

Baldry, back when they were both commis- ering, washed out illumination. “No one can help him now,” Reed said. “We
sioned officers in the Colonial Defense Forces trust to speed. Don’t worry about noise, we
and the Black Manta a fast attack interceptor. Captain Reed gripped her weapon tighter want to draw them away from Janet.”
They had done battle with the Tenari in the one and licked her lips. Her crew had gathered
encounter between the two species, and knew around her, surrounding the gaggle of dirty Baldry nodded. “I’ll lead.”
the myth for its ugly reality. and underfed children.
Reed gave him the go-ahead and the older
“How many kids aboard the ship?” Reed “Baldry and Jeffers come with me to the man set out down the dim-lit corridor, Reed
asked. bridge. Janet, take the others. Round up in the middle of the formation, with Jeffers
the children and get them to engineering. bringing up the rear.
“At least fifty.” Barricade yourselves in and set up a defensive
perimeter.” “How far to the bridge?” Reed gasped out
“The adults loaded us all on the ship and we between breaths. She was not familiar with
ran, but they found us,” the girl whispered in a She turned to the brown-haired woman many of the older ships still in service.
tiny voice. with the wrench. “Tilly, you’re the closest thing
to an engineer we have. I’m counting on you “It should be just another twenty yards or
“Captain?” Baldry asked. to get this ship moving. We need power and so, then up two levels. Shouldn’t—”
“Round the children up and transfer them propulsion, and we need it yesterday.” “Drop!” Reed yelled, raising her pistol.
to the Manta. We get them safe and we run. Janet nodded and turned to the rest of the Baldry dived toward the deck and twisted,
Keep the crew in teams of three or—” crew. “You heard the captain! Form a circle bringing his own weapon into play.
“Ma’am!” a voice cracked and hissed into got morethe
around young’uns and stay sharp. Who’s It shimmered from the darkness, a long,
lights? Get them out! Move, people!” sinuous
her ear. “We have incoming ships! Two minutes With a sloppy salute, shadow, six-limbed, the barest hint of
Sobrinski took point of her wedge-shaped
to intercept!” head on a long neck.
little party, and the whole mess moved out.
“Seal the airlock and undock!” she shouted Reed watched them for a moment before the Reed fired wildly as the thing moved along
into her comm-link. Her ship was helpless turning ceiling. The pistol roared and echoed in the
to the two men with her. “Let’s go.”
attached to the hull of the freighter. enclosed space, bullets rang off the steel walls.
“Captain? What’s the plan?” Jeffers asked. Jeffers ducked as Reed fired over his head. As
“Ma’am?” Robert’s voice crackled. quickly as the creature appeared, it was gone.
“Draw the enemy off. Try to gain control of
“That’s an order, Mister Roberts. Undock And so was Jeffers.
and send a priority distress call on all military the ship at the bridge,” Baldry answered. He
looked at the younger man. “You ready for
channels.” Katherine Reed stared into the darkness
some up close action?” that had seemed to consume the man. Just like
There was gunfire, a sound like ripping cloth, Jeffers nodded his head, his face pale in that, silent as the grave, one of her crew was
and a man’s short scream echoed down the Baldry’s no more. “Jeffers!” she called.
emergency light.
corridor. The lights on the freighter flickered
and died as the wail of terrified children filled They moved around a gentle curve in the “He’s gone,” Baldry said, grabbing her arm.
the air. The comm-link in her ear went silent. corridor and found the first casualty. Baldry “We have to get to the bridge. Captain!” Baldry
Baldry and Janet produced emergency lights knelt next to the body. “Levy, God help him.” barked in his best parade ground voice when
from their belts, filling the corridor with flick- she failed to move.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Tenari, by Michael Merriam Pg. 22

Reed jerked her arm out of Baldry’s grip up and the navigation station was giving off a The young woman gave each of the adults a
and pushed a fresh magazine into her pistol. gentle beep. quick look. “Who are you?” she demanded.
“Lead on, Mr. Baldry.”
“There’s emergency power,” Baldry said, Reed decided on honesty. “We’re the ones
Reed kept glancing over her shoulder, flipping some of the switches. The lights on who disabled your ship. I’m Katherine Reed,
looking for any sign of the Tenari. She had the bridge flared to life. Reed holstered her captain of the Black Manta.”
remembered how hard they were to fight, but weapon and stepped up to the helm and navi-
having one of her crew snatched away while gation controls. The girl frowned. “You’re a pirate?”
only a handful of feet from her...
“Can you get me internal sensors?” she “Yes, but we’re not going to harm you. We
She was so busy watching behind, that she asked. don’t rob children. You got a name?”
ran into Baldry when he stopped at the ladder
“There aren’t any, but I can get the comm “Mira. Mira Morgan. So you shot us?”
leading up to the bridge.
working.” “I didn’t know it was a ship full of kids
Baldry pointed his weapon upward. The
Reed glanced out the window. Large pieces running from the Tenari.”
light he carried shone silver against the
polished steel of the tube. “They could be in of wreckage floated past. “Roger?” she called. “How did you avoid getting snatched?”
there, waiting for us. It’s what I’d do.” Baldry asked, stepping back to the communi-
Baldry looked up. “Not ours.”
cations panel. “You look old enough for them
Reed peered over his shoulder up the tube. “Looks like Roberts gave them a good to take.”
“Is there any other way up?” she asked. beating. I hope he got away.”
“I managed to hide.”
“Yes, but this is the most direct route.” Neither needed to say what they thought:
they were trapped, surrounded, and all alone. “Are you the oldest one left?” Reed asked.
“Let’s go.”
The soft rustle of movement reached her ears. Mira nodded. “When the proximity alarm
Baldry holstered his weapon and started Reed turned and drew her pistol. To her left, went off, we thought they had come back. The
climbing, scrambling up the ladder with the Baldry had done the same. He pointed at an radio’s out, and I can barely fly the ship in a
grace of a monkey, despite his advanced years. access panel under the damage control station. straight course.”
Reed nodded.
Reed gave the corridor a last glance and then “I’ve got Janet on the comm,” Baldry said.
followed until Baldry called a stop. Reed looked Reed reached down with one hand and
back down the dark tube, one hand holding a snapped the panel open. Baldry reached “Sobrinski: report!”
ladder rung, the other aiming her pistol into inside and yanked out the occupant. The small,
the darkness. Above her, Baldry worked the twisting mass pulled away from Baldry’s grip “We’ve gotten to the engines. Tilly says she
hatch, his light rod gripped between his teeth. and backed away from the two pirates. can get you about one-quarter speed in maybe
It unlocked with a clang. Baldry pushed the five minutes. Captain, I lost a couple of crew
hatch open and scrambled over the edge, Reed It was a young woman. Her brown hair was along the way. Travers and Burke are gone.”
hard on his heels. She closed the hatch and ratty, her clothes wrinkled and torn. Like the
spun the locking mechanism. Crouching, she other children, she looked underfed. Reed grimaced. “Yeah, we lost Jeffers.”
gazed around the bridge. The captain held up her hands. “Easy girl. “Captain,” Janet’s voice sounded strained,
Several of the control consoles were lit We’re not going to harm you.” “these creatures, how do we fight them if they

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Tenari, by Michael Merriam Pg. 23

get inside?” “Reed to Manta: report, Mr. Roberts.” Ma’am.”
“The best thing to do is set up a hail of “Two hostile ships attacked. We knocked Reed punched in the course and gave the
bullets.” one out, but took some damage. The other old freighter all the power it had. They started
fled. We’ve sent a distress call, but long-range a slow turn and acceleration.
“I’ve got sensors,” Baldry said. “There’s a sensors show three more hostiles approaching,
ship approaching.” twenty minutes out.” “Mr. Baldry, take our friend and meet Janet
at the airlock.”
“Ours or theirs?” Reed asked as Mira started “Very well, Mr. Roberts. Sit tight and wait
to shiver and whimper. for orders.” She turned to Baldry. The XO was “No, Ma’am,” Baldry replied, stepping up to
frowning. her.
“Ours. We’ll have to wait until she docks
and use your radio.” “We might be able to evacuate everyone “Roger, I don’t have time to argue this.”
in that time if everything goes smoothly,” he
Reed looked to her long-time friend and “Captain, the crew needs you to organize
said.
executive officer. “Recommendations?” the evacuation.” He smiled at her. “They need
Reed nodded in agreement. It was time to their captain if they’re going to get out of this
“Go back to the original plan. Get the kids modify the plan. “Janet, how close were you to alive.”
on the Manta and run like the devil’s on our having the engines running?”
heels.” “Roger, whoever stays here—”
“Tilly says any second.”
Reed agreed. Speed was their best bet. She “Probably doesn’t make it. But I’ll seal the
looked at the girl. “That’s my ship coming in. “Get them running and then head for the bridge, and once you’ve got most of the crew
Once she lands, we’re going to make a run for airlock on the run.” and the kids on the Manta or the engines stop
the airlock. I want you to stay between me and working, I’ll try to join you.”
Mr. Baldry. We’ll get you to safety.” “Captain,” another female voice broke in,
“I’ll need to baby-sit the engines if you want Reed turned on the comm. “Janet, tell Tilly
Mira nodded her understanding. them to keep running.” it’s her choice if she wants to volunteer to stay,
but the rest of you need to move out.”
Reed tapped the ship’s internal communi- Reed growled. “How long will they work on
cation control. “Janet, are you all right down their own?” Reed relinquished her chair to Baldry and
there?” grabbed Mira by the upper arm. “Come on.”
“A couple of minutes at most,” Tilly said.
“We’re still here, Captain.” She stepped to the floor hatch, spun the
“What are you thinking?” Baldry asked. lock, lifted the hatch, and pointed her pistol
“Roberts is bringing the Manta. As soon as into the dark. Nothing rose up to attack them.
he lands, I’ll give you the all-clear. I want you to Reed settled into the helm chair. She
move your group to the airlock.” touched the controls on her headset. “If we She looked back to Baldry. “Roger—”
start moving away, even at a limp, we could
Janet chuckled. “And we just got settled buy ourselves a little extra time. Mr. Roberts, “It’s been a right pleasure serving with you
in.” give me a heading away from our friends.” for the last twenty years, Kathleen Reed. Now,
get ‘em to safety, Captain.”
The hull reverberated as the ships docked. “Make your heading two-one-eight,
Reed opened a channel on her personal radio. Reed swallowed. “Good luck,” she said

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Tenari, by Michael Merriam Pg. 24

and started down the ladder. She heard Mira knees, bleeding from her shoulder and face. comm panel.
climbing down above her and the sound of the She stumbled forward, moving to where she
hatch closing. They both hit the bottom deck hoped her gunnery officer was evacuating the “Help me over there,” she said to Mira,
within seconds. Reed looked at the ragged, rest of the crew off the ship. who was still supporting her weight. The two
teenaged girl. women hobbled to the unit.
A light touch on her arm made her jerk
“If you think you see anything, scream and away and raise her pistol. Mira jumped back, “Roger?”
point.” shrieking. “We’re accelerating,” came the static-rid-
The girl nodded, her eyes wide with fright. “Sorry,” Reed gasped, leaning against the dled reply. “I can get us a couple more minutes
wall. She felt the young woman move toward at this pace.”
As they approached the soft curve where her, settling under Reed’s good arm and taking
Reed’s party was attacked previously, they her weight. “Roger, you and Tilly need to come on.
heard distant sounds of shouts and weapons We’re out of time!”
firing. Reed quickened her pace, dragging Mira The two limped down the corridor to the “Yes, Ma’am.”
along toward the apex of the curve. airlock. They found most of the Manta’s crew
forming a defensive perimeter around the “You too, Captain,” Janet said. “I’ll take care
It rushed toward them. The Tenari’s narrow, airlock as Janet and the others ushered the last of this.”
furred face on its wedge-shaped head looked of the children on to the pirate vessel.
surprised in the dim light. There was a dark Reed nodded in agreement. She was
fluid running down the front of its clothing and “Janet?” Reed called out. starting to get dizzy from blood loss, and she
into the fur along its slim frame. It bunched its
“Captain,” the woman said. “We had a would not be doing her crew any good if she
four back legs and leapt at her, extending the was passed out on the deck. She let Mira help
dagger-like blades it wore on its hands. visitor on the way that slowed us up. We’ll her all the way to the bridge. Reed settled in
need a couple of minutes.” the command chair.
Reed stepped into the middle of the
corridor and fired at it, getting off three rounds Reed nodded. “Finish up here. Baldry’s still “Mr. Grisham?” she said.
before it slammed into her body. She jabbed on the bridge trying to buy us some time.”
her weapon into its furred belly and fired again, The young man turned in the helmsman
“Tilly’s down in the engine room as well.”
even as it stabbed her in the shoulder. chair. “Hostiles will be here in two minutes.
a younger voice said. She turned Commander Sobrinski reports that all
Reed pulled the trigger on her pistol a fifth to “Captain,”
face her helmsman, who was standing the children and crew are aboard except
time as the Tenari withdrew its blades and guard in the airlock. “We’ve got four raiders on Commander Baldry and Ms. Horn.”
slashed her across the face, opening a cut on intercept.”
her cheek. The creature pulled itself up, trying Captain Reed sighed. She couldn’t wait any
to disengage. She grabbed its clothing, holding “How long until they get here, Mr. longer for Baldry or Tilly. They were on their
it fast and fired into its chest again. Roberts?” own.
The alien gave a low whine, and slumped “Five minutes at most.” “Mr. Grisham, secure the airlock and begin
back down onto her, dead. the launch sequence.”
The freighter shuddered and a low hum
Reed pushed the body off and rose to her started up. Reed looked around the area for a “Yes, Ma’am.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Tenari, by Michael Merriam Pg. 25

She felt someone press a bandage onto her “We’re hit!” Janet cried over the alarms. Reed sighed and blinked back nausea and
shoulder. Reed looked to find Mira, who had “Near the engines.” lightheadedness. “No. I think they just want to
pulled the first-aid kit from the wall. be sure of their shot.”
“Damage?” Reed called.
Janet Sobrinski dashed onto the bridge, Reed watched quietly as the two alien
followed closely by Roberts and the rest of “We’re losing power.” vessels closed the distance. “It’s been a pleasure
her bridge crew. Roberts slipped into the chair to serve with all of you,” she said calmly to her
“Captain!” Roberts said.
Grisham vacated. bridge crew.
Reed looked out the window to see three
“The kids are in the hold,” Janet said. “The of the large, predatory-looking ships closing on “Likewise, Ma’am,” Janet said. Her weapons
Tenari are thirty-seconds out.” station was dark and smoldering.
her damaged craft.
“Ready for launch,” Roberts reported. “Look!” Mira yelled, pointing at the edge of
“Missiles!” the window.
“Get us free, Mr. Roberts.” “We’re out,” Janet replied. The old Savros freighter, her fusion engines
Reed held the arms of her chair as her ship burning bright white, slammed into smaller
“Laser cannon, Mr. Roberts.”
shuddered and powered up, pulling away from Tenari ships. The first of the crafts disintegrat-
the freighter. The cannon fired; its deep hum and ed on impact. The second Tenari vessel started
discharge left the bridge nearly dark. The beam to turn away, but the lumbering freighter’s
“Janet?” Reed asked. caught one of the hostiles, slicing it in half. crumpled bow caught it as well, sending it
“Laser cannon powered and ready. Missiles Debris tumbled through space. The remaining spinning as all three ships broke apart in space
loaded.” Tenari ships fired their slow moving-missiles at from the force of the collision.
the wounded Manta.
“Mr. Roberts, turn us toward the enemy. “Goddamn it, Baldry,” Reed whispered,
Janet, fire a full spread. Given ‘em a punch in “Evasive maneuvers! Engage counter-mea- trying not to cry. “You crazy old bastard.” Reed
the nose.” sures!” slumped back in her chair and closed her eyes.
Her adrenaline crashed, and the blood loss
A series of deep thuds sounded in the ship, Reed felt her ship turn as she heard the soft finally overwhelmed her. She blacked out.
and four missiles raced toward the Tenari. clang of the chaff-launcher engaging. One of the
missiles exploded harmlessly to starboard. The #
Reed decided it would be enough to cover other passed over the Manta and detonated,
their retreat. “Turn about. Best speed toward setting off a fresh round of fires and alarms. The commander of the destroyer that
the nearest friendly warship or outpost.” I’m The ship decelerated and the hum in the deck answered
plating stopped. The Black Manta was dead in ic when hetheir distress call had been apologet-
sorry, she thought to her crew still on the took her and the crew into custody.
freighter. space. Reed looked out the window. The man had smiled sadly and pointed out that,
The Manta shuddered and rocked, its lights The two remaining Tenari vessels had despite the circumstances, there was still a
dimming. Sparks flew from several control formed up together and were closing on them. warrant for their arrest.
stations, and anyone not sitting or holding tight
“Are they going to board us?” Roberts asked Reed smiled at the memory even as she
to something was thrown to the floor.
from his useless helm controls. looked around the bridge of her new ship. She
ran her hand over the damage control console.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Tenari, by Michael Merriam Pg. 26

It was clean and shiny. “Commander Roberts?” she said. Michael Merriam
“Admiral Weston on the comm!” Janet “We have permission to depart the system,”
Sobrinski called out. her executive officer reported.
Michael Merriam has sold short fantasy
Reed turned and looked at her view screen. “Lieutenant-Commander Sobrinski?” and science fiction to a variety of magazines,
An older man looked back at her, seated behind including Andromeda Spaceways Inflight
his desk in his office back on the space station “The crew is at action stations.”
they had just departed. Magazine, Beyond Centauri, and Deep
Reed smiled. It was time to pay back the Magic. He is also a two-time semi-finalist
“Ready to go into harm’s way, Captain?” he Tenari for Baldry, Tilly, the rest of the Manta’s in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of The Future
asked. lost crew from both battles, and the colonists
they had taken. contest. Michael participates in the Online
Reed nodded. She liked her Fleet Admiral Writers Workshop and is an assistant
well enough; had known him during her first “Very well. Lieutenant Grisham, take us to organizer of the Twin Cities Speculative
tour out of the Academy, when he was the Tenari space.” Fiction Network.
Executive Officer on the battle-cruiser Nairobi. “Aye, Captain.”
http://home.mn.rr.com/mmerriam/
“Yes, sir. The Black Manta and crew are The Black Manta leapt forward.
ready for action.”
The Colonial High Command had decided it
could not allow the only commander to ever
fight the Tenari twice to sit out the coming
conflict. They had offered her and her crew a
blanket pardon. In exchange they would accept
commissions and a posting on the Tenari
border, raiding and gathering intelligence. Or
they could be tried for piracy. It was an easy
choice.
The Admiral frowned at her. “Find out what
you can as quickly as possible, Captain. We
need facts about the Tenari, not space-tales.
Good luck to all of you.”
Reed nodded. “Yes, sir,” she said. The
Admiral nodded and signed off.
Captain Kathleen Reed settled in her com-
fortable new command chair and punched
up her orders on the data pad resting on the
chair’s arm.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
The Balcony Fool Reviews WALL*E, by Paul Christian Glenn Pg. 27
RGR Reviews
The Balcony Fool Reviews WALL•E
by Paul Christian Glenn

A fter a full year of advance marketing,
Pixar’s new film WALL•E has finally
arrived in theatres. In
days compacting and stacking the junk
humans left on Earth when they rocketed
tending. At that point, her directive kicks
in, and she zooms back to into space, with
WALL•E in tow. They arrive
a summer packed with at a giant spaceship, which
must-see releases, the contains the last remnants
adorable little fella faces stiff of the human race, who
competition from pre-sold have cultivated an impres-
blockbusters like Kung Fu sively sedentary lifestyle
Panda and The Dark Knight, and become bloated,
as well as an unantici- soulless automatons.
pated political controversy
that threatens to hurt its The rest of the film
long-term profitability. It’s follows the two robots as
a lot for one little robot to EVE attempts to fulfill her
handle. directive, and misguided
forces try to stop her.
But how is the film? Meanwhile, WALL•E tags
along, wanting nothing
Glorious, but not flawless. more from this adventure
We’ve been conditioned to than to hold hands with his
expect perfection from Pixar, new love.
but while previous outings
like Toy Story, Finding Nemo What’s delightful about
and The Incredibles never hit all this is that although
a wrong note, they were also there are contemporary
much safer films. WALL•E themes at play (consum-
reaches further than its pre- erism, environmentalism,
decessors, and though it stumbles a bit in away centuries ago. One day, a sexy little techno-dependency), they’re all incidental
the second act, it’s far more ambitious, far probe named EVE appears from the sky, to WALL•E’s story, which is a charmingly
more beautiful, and far more admirable as scanning Earth’s landscape for signs of uncomplicated chronicle of first love. His
a piece. vegetation, which would indicate a livable feelings for EVE are simple: he wants to
environment for humans. WALL•E falls in talk to her, to impress her, to keep her in
The story follows WALL•E, the last love with EVE and takes her to his home, his life, whatever the cost. In the first act,
remaining robot on earth. He spends his where she discovers a tiny plant he’s been he abandons his own directive (his very

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
The Balcony Fool Reviews WALL*E, by Paul Christian Glenn Pg. 28

reason for existence) to follow her. In the
third act, he gives everything to help her
far. What burns me up, however, is that the
issue has become so politicized that we can
Paul Christian Glenn
fulfill her directive. It’s the way we all feel no longer make harmless statements such
the first time we fall head over heels. as “plants are essential for life on earth,” Paul Christian Glenn is an Overlord (co-
or “we probably shouldn’t cover our planet founder and editor) of Ray Gun Revival
It’s the second act that’s a little off-key, with garbage,” without stirring the ire of magazine, and has been writing for as long
as the supplemental themes briefly threaten certain factions. as he can remember.
to overwhelm the primary story. I believe
the tale would have been more effective if WALL•E takes no stance on greenhouse It should be noted, however, that he has a
the humans (and their weaknesses) were gases, global warming, or endangered notoriously short memory.
left mostly off-screen, lying inert in glass species. It simply posits a future where
tubes or something, kept comfortable and the world has been made uninhabitable
alive by the technology they’ve created, by reckless pollution. That’s not an impos-
but sleeping their lives away. Themati- sible or even controversial concept. If you
cally, it would have worked, and it would keep dumping garbage on the living room
have meshed better with the first act’s floor, eventually your house will become
somewhat eerie tone. In the end, however, unlivable. That’s a fact, not a debatable
director Andrew Stanton brings the robots’ proposition. So what if a science-fiction
plight back into focus, and the resolution is film wants to imagine a future where such
pure fairy-tale perfection. a thing has happened?
There are so many poignant touches The brouhaha over this makes me crazy.
in the film, from WALL•E’s love of campy It’s shameful that a sweet, touching film
musicals, to his childlike fascination with like this can be swept into a political debate,
random objects, to the gorgeous, dream- simply because it has the gall to say “let’s
like “dance” among the stars (my favorite take care of the world we live in.” Has that
sequence). The writers may have fumbled basic, non-partisan principle really become
a bit in the middle, but the chances they controversial? Really?
took ultimately pay off. Even with its imper-
fections, WALL•E is Pixar’s masterpiece.
Finally, a word about the “controversy”
surrounding the movie. After discussing
the film with several friends, I was flab-
bergasted by their conclusion that the film
is “preachy.” I understand both sides of the
environmental issue, and realize that some
folks take their green passion a little too

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Featured Artist: Eduardo Lopez Mustaros Pg. 29

Featured Artist
Eduardo Lopez Mustaros
Name:
Eduardo Lopez Mustaros
Country of Residence:
Mexico
So, what have you been up to since you were featured on the RGR anniversary cover last July? Any cool
things happening for you?
Well digital-art-related, I have studied Dylan Cole and Dusso, and I am trying to apply this knowledge to my
artwork. Although I feel I am currently experimenting a breakthrough in my digital art, great part of it has been
because of the feedback I am getting from top-rated artists over at Luminarium, a very hard to get in top rated
new concept of art group, which in its newly born state has already been compared to depthCORE. Mostly, I
try to keep learning all the time, participating in challenging projects continuing in my path to make digital art
my main source of
living.
Speaking of cool
things, your work,
“Prolium,” placed
in the top ten for
Artwork at the 2007
Preditors & Editors
poll. What’s the
feedback been like
from your fans?
You know I think
probably that piece
and feedback plus
exposure from it
started my current
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Featured Artist: Eduardo Lopez Mustaros Pg. 30

drive to make digital art more
than just something I did on my
spare time. I was really surprised
to see that piece create such
interest and provide such great
input for me.

If I remember right, you said last
year that your work was featured
exclusively at deviantART. Have
you expanded your horizons
since then? Are your works
available on other sites?
I have always had my site for my
graphic design business, www.
lileddesign.com/upload, but now
that site has been merged with
my digital artwork, and seems to
be doing fine. Of course, I have
also updated and kept track of my
gallery over at Renderosity, which
was overhauled and seems to be going in the right direction for an art community; in general, it has a totally
different age group member base.
It appears that you’re constantly trying new things, spreading your artistic wings. What’s the most exciting
breakthrough you’ve had this year?
This year has been crazy, so much stuff going on I made some incursions into pure digital paint, abstracts,
surrealism, but the best thing going on for me right now its the quality of my matte techniques, which also
have provided abilities to refine my other pieces, and finally getting close to the level of quality that I want to
reach.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Featured Artist: Eduardo Lopez Mustaros Pg. 31

Have you gotten any cool new tools this past year (hardware or software)?
I am enjoying very much my return to the MAC :)
If you had one tip for a new digital artist, what would it be?
Practice and feedback, good hard critique is gold.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your legions of fans at Ray Gun Revival
magazine?
Well I am so glad this magazine is doing such a great job continuing its efforts to
produce and promote great content and give artists a hand along the way. It’s all
about the people that enjoy our visions—a big cheer for all!

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Featured Artist: Eduardo Lopez Mustaros Pg. 32

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part Two: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 33
Calamity’s Child
Chapter Three, Part Two: Suicide Straight
by M. Keaton

Part Two “Probably just another rock,” Ivan replied. kilotons mass. Assuming I’m getting anything
like accurate readings, that’d put her in the
B oom, boom, click. Boom, boom, click. Rat-
tatat-Rattatat. Boom, boom, click.
Max grunted. “Yeah, well, maybe not.
Return spectrum is diffused worse than usual
but it lines up as a lot of metal and carbon. I’ll
heavy escort range.”
“House said the Hecate was a light
Ivan hated drum solos to begin with, but nudge us over that way, just in case—Whoa!” cruiser.”
when the performer in question was a bored
Cillian using his own chitin and the shuttle’s “What’ve you got?” Ivan asked, falling out Max shrugged a shoulder. “Close enough.
bulkhead for a set of drums the situation of his hammock and heading forward. I’d say you’ve got a match. I mean, what’re the
rapidly became untenable. “Red,” he groaned, odds of another ship like this just floating?”
throwing an arm across his eyes and trying to “As weak as the lidar signal was, this should
ignore the swinging of his hammock, “go back have been on the other side of the system,” Ivan frowned. “What’re the odds of this
to making bombs.” Max said. “But, ah, there are other reasons for ship just floating? Doesn’t make sense for a
a signal to be weak.” ship like this to be abandoned period. Assuming
“Red Dog is out of parts.” Boom, boom, it’s abandoned. Can you get me any better
click. Ivan stepped into the cockpit, Red Dog readings?”
close behind, to see a black teardrop fill the
“Well stop that or I’ll shoot you in your viewscreen. It was almost invisible in the void, “If I get closer, maybe. But if that thing’s
sleep!” its matte finish apparent more for the hole point defense systems are still active—”
in the stars it created than any light reflected
Go to the Hecate’s last known position, from its surface. “We’re right on top of it,” Ivan “Then it would have blasted its own escape
program a search-and-rescue grid into the said softly. pods. When they launch, PD shuts down.”
shuttle autopilot, decide how long you want
to search, then sit back and wait. That had “No lidar signal because it doesn’t reflect,” “Yeah, in theory,” Max groused.
been Beta Max’s suggestion and, at the time, it Max explained. “And it’s not just whatever it’s As they drew closer, the illusion of a
seemed like a good one. When they set out, a covered in, either. Look at the shape. If we perfect glistening smooth teardrop gave way
week seemed a reasonable amount of time for hadn’t come on it from the side, I’d have never to engineering reality. ECM pods and point
the search. After twelve hours sealed in a tin picked it up at all.” defense turrets bubbled the surface next to
can with a hyperactive alien, Ivan revised his
“Is it the Hecate?” spread spindle fingers of sensor arrays. A line
decision down to three days. At just over sixty- of empty sockets, like a cob of stripped corn,
seven hours, even that seemed too long. “Can’t tell for certain. It’s not broadcasting ran the length of the ship where emergency
“Don’t make me come back there,” joked any kind of IFF, and I don’t see any external escape pods had once clung.
Max from the pilot’s chair. “You might want to markings. It’s a definitely a stealth ship though.”
Max leaned over his sensor readouts. “About “No active scans, no SOS beacons,” Max
come have a look, though. Believe it or not,
seven-hundred meters long, one-seven-five noted. “Fusion-fission plant is still on line. No
I’ve got something on lidar.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part Two: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 34

hull breach. Guys, it looks like the lights are on but we’re only in a shuttle. I should be able to Ivan eased open a door and panned his gun
and nobody’s home.” squeeze in.” across the hallways beyond. “Max, can you get
me some kind of map to the bridge?”
“Red Dog does not believe in ghost ships.” “Do it,” Ivan instructed. “Saddle up, Red.
The Cillian spoke for the first time since entering Time to earn your keep.” “Technically, no. What I can do is tell you
the cockpit. how most ships are laid out and the way this
# one ought to be. Hopefully, that’ll get you close
“Me neither,” Ivan said. “There’s something enough.” Max paused and static washed Ivan’s
wrong about all this.” ear. “Hookay, you went in through a mainte-
They left their suits in the lockers by the
airlock; the Hecate maintained its internal nance docking bay. That ought to put you in
“I thought this was what we were supposed
atmosphere. One more unnerving item in a engineering. Looks like the reactors proper are
to find. What’s the problem?” Max asked.
growing list. behind you, deeper in the ship. What you want
“We were supposed to find nothing, or to do is head inward until you hit the spine and
maybe a ruptured hull,” explained Ivan. “My “Not only do we have pressure,” he told follow it forward. That’s, ahh, straight ahead
money was on nothing. I figured the officers Max, speaking into his headset, “but it seems about fifty meters and hang a left. That help
staged a false alarm to empty the ship, then fresh. This ship is fully functional. Even the any?”
sold it to someone else.” back-up lighting is still on.”
“Some.”
“Casey,” Red Dog rasped. “I don’t like it either,” Max replied from
inside the shuttle. “Hurry up and find whatever “If the ship is on emergency lighting, you
“That was my guess. Think about it, Max. it is you’re looking for and let’s go. I’m sitting can kind of follow the lights. Usually they’re
Even a wrecked ship doesn’t stay abandoned here with the motor running.” designed to be brighter on main passages. The
long—scavengers, junkers, whoever. There are main passage to the bridge ought to be pretty
people who make their living recovering scrap. “Roger that. Red, how’s your comm?” well lit.”
This ship should have been salvaged a long “Redundant,” buzzed the alien. “Red Dog is “Got it.” Ivan opened a door, surveyed an
time ago.” standing next to Ivan.” empty room, moved down the hallway.
“Unless there is reason,” added the alien. Max chuckled. “I read him. The way this Red Dog’s shotgun roared and Ivan aged a
Ivan nodded. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” ship is built, I don’t know how deep you can go decade in a heartbeat.
without me losing the signal, so keep checking
“We could go back and tell House we found in.” “Snake,” clattered the alien as Ivan sprinted
it. Have him send some muscle in to check it toward him.
out,” Max suggested. “I don’t plan on staying long.” Ivan drew
his .45 custom, glanced back at Red Dog, and “What’s going on?” Max demanded on the
“We are the muscle. Can you get Red and started down the shadowed passage. The headset over Ivan’s angry cursing.
me in there? Maybe through where one of the crimson glow of the ship’s emergency lights “Red’s bored and killing furniture. And if he
escape pods was?” lent the Cillian’s exoskeleton a menacing halo. does it again I’m going to break his arms!”
Red Dog carried a pair of bullpup shotguns, one
“Hang on.” Max studied his board. “It’s got in each of his upper arms with a stick bomb in “Too quiet,” complained the Cillian,
a docking bay on the narrow end. It’s small, both of the lower two. The alien never lacked pumping the forearm of his shotgun.
probably used it just for probes and tenders, for firepower.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part Two: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 35

“Let’s keep it that way,” Ivan growled. Ivan grimaced. “Once they figure out they Something like a fleshy tube bulged beneath
“Come on.” He eased around a corner, revolver can’t get Max, they’re going to double back for one arm and a bruise-purple membrane sack
extended. The passage beyond was brighter, us. I still don’t like it. This is an awfully com- hunched on its back.
marginally. “Max, I’m turning and heading up plicated trap on the chance someone would
ship.” stumble into it, but it’s better than a ghost As Ivan watched it tear loose a chuck of its
ship. Let’s move.” victim and stuffed it between the bony plates.
“Roger that. Did you and Red split up?” Like a bird swallowing a lizard, it extended its
“Wait,” rattled Red Dog. “Ivan look.” He neck, gulping at the air, and Ivan could see the
Ivan glanced back, saw the alien crowding motioned with his shotgun into one of the lump of flesh move down its neck, through the
behind him. “Negative on that. Why?” rooms he had forced open. The floor was piled tube, into the sack.
knee deep in furry gray-white lozenges.
“I’ve got a motion signal headed back The creature’s head and torso exploded
toward the shuttle.” Max swore abruptly. “I “Bones?” Ivan knelt. Each pellet appeared into a shower of ichor and the roar of Red
hate these sensors! Ivan, I just got four more. to be splintered sticks of chalk bound in hair. Dog’s shotgun echoed through the passage.
Two are heading for the airlock and it looks like The nearest, barely six inches long, crumbled at Yellow blood splattered the walls and the smell
the others are moving through maintenance his touch. He sniffed the white powder left on of sulfur filled the air. “Tourist,” the Cillian
shafts.” his fingers—no odor. He swept a hand through buzzed, moving past Ivan and the creature
the mass, raising a cloud of dust. The largest of without a pause.
“Go back?” Red Dog asked, slamming open the fragments was less than a foot in length,
the nearby doors. Ivan shivered and ran after him. “What the
the smallest barely an inch. None were wider
than his thumb. “Any guesses?” hell was that?”
Ivan hesitated, shook his head. “Whoever
they are, they’re between us and the shuttle. Red Dog made a sound that did not translate.
Red Dog swiveled his triangular head from
Max, this looks like an ambush. Bug out.” “Human name is Eaters. Made by Blank for war,
side to side. “Maybe. Bad thing.”
not real like Cillians.” They turned a corner, hit
“I’ll lose contact with you as soon as I’m on “No kidding. Let’s move.” He started to jog a dead-end, doubled back.
the other side of the hull.” up the passageway, then stopped abruptly.
“Why Eaters?”
“I know. Get out of here and back to the Ivan’s first impression was of a malnour-
Orion. Come back with more guns.” “Is obvious. Are made to eat. Always hungry.
ished toad. It squatted on thick, muscled legs,
long thin arms reaching down to the floor If nothing else to eat, eat each other. Shove in
“What about you and Red?”
between its knees, to the frothing, bloody food, grind in mouth. Hump on back is craw.
“We go forward. Take the deck, seal it, and remains of another of the creatures. Its torso Digest most, spit back out rest.”
wait for you to get back.” was a convex pit that swept back from its “That’s what was in that room? Their—
shoulders and distended hips, the entire body
“Roger that,” Max stopped, then added, their leavings?”
covered in slick violet skin that sweated oil.
“sorry about this, man.” The arms and legs ended in three fingered “Yes.” Red Dog stopped, pushing his lower
hands. The vertical ridge of bone that served shotgun toward Ivan. “Ivan will need bigger
“Sooner you leave, the sooner you get as a head squeezed two bulging pupil-less eyes gun.”
back,” Ivan snapped. “Red, look sharp.” on either side above a pair of horizontal ridged
“Always do.” plates. The edges of its bones pushed through “Keep it. I’ll get by.” They passed an open
the flesh of the rasping mouth-like white lips. hallway, a low scraping sound coming from

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part Two: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 36

it. When they passed, the scrapping became “Gathering for rush,” Red Dog agreed. at bay.
louder. Then, above the rasping, Ivan heard “Soon. Ivan and Red Dog probably die.”
the patter of hands, like a room full of children “Last two,” he said at last.
applauding softly. “Red, we need somewhere “You’re an optimist.” Ivan stood. “We get
to the bridge, kill all the Eaters there, seal it, “Save them. We’ve got to be almost there.”
to put our backs against. They’re coming after
and wait for back-up. That’s the plan. Which Ivan wished he were as sure as he sounded.
us.”
way?” “Red Dog has made decision. Red Dog will
“Red Dog does not see good spot. Will
Red Dog waved his upper cilia in what not die.”
fight here.” He wheeled abruptly, tossing one
of his stick bombs down the passage the way passed for a shrug. “Red Dog thought Ivan “How nice for you. Why?”
they had come. Ivan dropped, slid partway knew.”
under Red Dog’s sea of legs. Fine hair-like cilia An Eater launched itself at Ivan’s head from
“Oh for—”
drifted across his skin like spider webs and he a vent above him. Red Dog blew it out of the air,
scrambled out from under the big alien. An They came in a wave—leaping, running, showering Ivan in jaundice and lard. “Kylee.”
explosion scorched the air and Red Dog threw sliding in their own filth—a solid wall of bone
another bomb. Ivan slicked goo off his face. “Right. Stay
and talon. Red Dog fired both shotguns and sharp, they’re getting braver.”
flipped a pair of stick bombs into the mob. Ivan
“How do you know so much about them?” emptied the .45 without aiming; there was no “Red Dog wonder how Eaters get on human
Ivan asked, straightening alongside Red Dog. need. The Cillian’s grenades exploded, knocking ship.”
“When Blank attacked Cillian world, Blank them both off their feet, singeing hair and cilia.
used Eaters. Eaters still on world. Eaters come Flame-shrouded Eaters danced forward, their “Been thinking about that.” Ivan moved
in dark, take unguarded grubs. Red Dog hates. own body oil turning them into living torches forward slowly, sliding his feet, gun braced in
All Cillians hate.” He paused to pull two more before they collapsed. The Eaters behind the front of him. “When I talked to Fixer, he said
bombs free of their bandolier. “Hate almost as front line broke and ran as Red Dog clubbed they met a ship at Farhold, took on cargo.”
much as human.” the survivors to death with the gun butts.
“Ivan thinks fool humans were shipping—” a
“Gee, Red, if I didn’t know better, I’d say “Fire spooked ‘em,” Ivan shouted, ears shotgun blast interrupted his words, “shipping
you’re scared.” ringing from the close concussions. The Eaters?”
passage reeked of grease fire and heavy smoke
“Eaters not human,” replied Red Dog stung his eyes. “I do, but they’d have had to come off of a
grimly. He waited, listening. “Dead now, maybe Cillian world. Right?”
survivors eat each other.” They ran again. A “Eaters learn quick.”
“Blank used Eaters on all worlds for all
switchback and two more dead ends—the Ivan reloaded. wars.”
grinding of bone lips and patter of oily black
hands was ever-present, always just out of They walked back to the main corridor, wary Ivan snapped a shot at a shadow. It
sight but growing steadily louder. of ambush. Ivan did not see any Eaters, but slumped over and he moved forward. “So any
every shadow seemed to be alive with grinding quarantined world.” He fired, missed, fired
At the next dead end Ivan paused to catch and the slap of buttered palms. As they went, again. After so long in the ruby twilight, he was
his breath, hands on his knees, panting. “They Red Dog threw a stick bomb down every red- getting good at telling Eater from dark spot.
learn quick,” he said. rimmed crossway to keep the gathering horde
“Ivan thinks Casey is smuggling to quaran-

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part Two: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 37

tine worlds?” the blaze, black silhouettes, living candles, light flashed off ripping knives slick with yellow.
spinning, stumbling, falling forward as they With a bellow, Red Dog threw himself sideways
“Again,” Ivan growled. “Whatever he’s died. Ivan fired deliberately, both hands on the into the wall, and Eaters popped like over-ripe
doing this time, it’s got to be big.” He froze. .45, dropping those that came the closest. The fruit, caught in the impact.
“Red, we’ve got a problem.” hammer fell on an empty chamber. He did not
try to reload, flipped the entire cylinder out, As Ivan stumbled over bodies to reach him,
“Eaters learn quick.” Red Dog fell forward, his front legs knocked
let it fall, replaced it with another preloaded.
The fire burned longer than it should have, back by a suicidal Eater. Another leapt forward,
The emergency lights ahead of them had
feeding off the slick emulsions of the Eaters’ clawing at the Cillian’s eyes, only to find itself
been smashed; the corridor was a tunnel of
skins. Smoke turned the air in front of him as torn in half as the alien scissored his mandibles
night.
black as the passage behind. through its flesh like water. Red Dog regained
“Red Dog will go first.” his footing, shook himself. Some of the Eaters
He fired the gun twice more, shifting to were knocked loose, but most kept their grips.
Ivan opened his mouth to argue, closed a one-handed stance. With his free hand he Fatigue was taking a toll and the Eaters showed
it again. The slap of palms behind them had pulled the sonic from his waistband, used it on no signs of retreating, no matter how many
become a drum roll and the entire ship seems the closer ones, crippling instead of killing as died.
to groan with the agonizing sound of bone its vibrations snapped bones and caused mem-
on bone. “I need a bigger gun,” he growled. branous craws to rupture. Mad with slaughter, “This is going to hurt!” Ivan shouted and
“Get ready, they’re going to hit us from either the Eaters began to fall upon their own injured, fired the sonic, playing it back and forth across
side.” and Ivan backed away. When the hammer fell the Eaters like a fire hose, ignoring the crackle
on empty again, he turned and ran after Red of splitting chitin on the Cillian underneath.
“Take bombs,” Red Dog instructed. “Ivan Dog. Red Dog howled, lashing out at the Eaters he
holds here. Red Dog goes forward.” could reach with berserk fury. Not satisfied
In the blackness, the shotguns spit tongues with just killing them, he ripped them apart,
Ivan accepted the last two explosives. of fire like twin dragons, carving a path of brute tearing them into smaller and smaller pieces.
“Yeah, well, I’d tell you to be careful if I gave kinetic force with a rain of metal too powerful
a damn.” to avoid. While it lasted, Red Dog moved Ivan dropped the sonic and tried futilely to
through the Eaters like a scythe until his guns, help the injured alien carry part of his battered
The Cillian drew two curved knives from two ton bulk. The stock of a shotgun swung
too, ran empty. Ivan could not see, could only
his harness with his lowest pair of hands and inches from his nose and Red Dog jerked
make out the barest of rough outlines, but he
turned to face the darkness. The forearms of toward him, mandibles scything the air.
followed the sounds of battle forward, down a
both shotguns pumped loudly, cutting through path paved with bodies toward the thump and
the drone of the Eaters. “Kiss Red Dog!” “You got them!” Ivan shouted. “You got
snap and gush of a one Cillian army. them! It’s me! Ivan!”
Ivan sent the stick bombs spinning down Then they were through, into the light again.
the passageway, one after the other. They The Cillian turned away from him and
Eaters draped Red Dog, their mouths clamped
were clumsy, off-handed throws but he did lurched down the corridor. Ivan recovered his
to the edge of chitin plates, talons locked on
not need accuracy; the Eaters were already sonic projector, fumbled with numb fingers
legs, trying to bring the juggernaut down by
swarming. Behind him a shotgun bellowed. to reload the .45. He followed Red Dog at a
sheer weight of numbers. He held the shotguns
The bombs blew, scattering Eaters like chaff in healthy distance, walking backward, covering
by the barrels, swinging them like clubs, shat-
the wind, filling the corridor with fire. Flaming their retreat. Of the Eaters, a handful of the
tering bodies with each blow. The renewed
dervishes leapt over one another through truly brave or truly stupid remained, attacking

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part Two: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 38

the pair individually, suicidally, until they were pretty ship you got for me.” “Tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll walk you
safely sealed behind the bulkhead of the ship’s through it. What you do is, you seal the bridge
bridge. “Thought you were retired, Rain.” then override all the airlocks. That’ll depres-
surize the ship; ought to kill about anything
“Sure enough was, bon ami. But then I
# that can’t breath vacuum.”
heard your souls crying out across the void
justa begging for salvation and I just had to “Eaters will die,” rumbled Red Dog.
The Hecate’s bridge was designed for a come running.”
five man crew. After an hour of waiting in a Rainmaker grinned again. “The big hoss
strained silence punctuated by the shriek of Ivan smiled and shook his head; the other talks. I couldn’t remember.” Red Dog ignored
claws against the metal bulkhead, even two man’s energy was infectious. “How’d you plan the comment, continued mulching the remains
occupants seemed crowded. on getting me and Red out of here?” of the chair’s padding. “Fair enough,” continued
Rainmaker, unconcerned, “ I know better than
After fumbling his way through the ships “Put me on the visual, boy. I feel like to get between a man and his chaw.”
sensors and communications system, Ivan sank I’m talking to the wall.” Ivan stared at the
into one of the padded seats and floated on the controls, tried a few that looked familiar. The “What if it doesn’t work?” Ivan asked.
edge of an uneasy sleep. Red Dog staggered main viewscreen flickered to life, Rainmaker’s
into a corner. The Cillian stood immobile for grinning face in the bottom third. In contrast “Hard to believe, but I didn’t live this long
several minutes, then began to rip apart the to his voice, the aging Creole was small, barely on my looks alone.” The pilot continued to grin
nearest chair, shoving the stuffing into his maw. five-foot-eight in his boots. Caught outside in a but the humor left his eyes. “I brought along
He chewed until the material degenerated into drenching rain, he might tip the scales at 120 a few younger fellows just in case. No way I’m
a sticky mass of pulp and saliva. Spitting it pounds. His hair had gone completely to gray leaving a ship this pretty behind. Settle in boys.
onto his carapace, he rubbed it into the cracks, since Ivan had seen him last. “That’s better,” Rain’ll get you home.”
already mulching another mouthful. Rainmaker said, waving at the screen. Beta
Max ducked into the picture and waved as well. #
A proximity alert chirped. Ivan ignored it, “Makes me warm inside to see you both got all
continued staring blearily at the back of his your fingers and toes still. Now tell old Rain, The man called House stood alone in
hands. why’s it going to be hard to get y’all out?” the center of the Orion’s new CIC, his hands
“Heya! Tall, dark, and stealthy, y’all read clasped behind his back, eyes gazing sightlessly
Ivan raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Didn’t
me? The Rain, has come. The Rain has come.” forward. He was often alone.
Max tell you?”
The intership transmission boomed through Everyone haa skill, something they did
the overhead speakers. The voice was deep The gray head bobbed. “Sure, sure. You got better than anyone else, a gift that made them
and robust with just a hint of scratching at the some kind of foreign critters infesting the ship. unique—he believed this unswervingly. He
edge. I figured y’all’d have hit the mutiny button by knew that his own gift lay, not in business or
now.”
Ivan sighed and forced himself to his feet. commerce, but in seeing. He was content to let
Two weary steps took him to the communica- “I barely got this far, Rain,” Ivan said in others do their jobs; House was not a jealous
tions panel. “We read you.” exasperation. “What’re you talking about?” man, not even an overly selfish one. Let other
people pilot and program and fight, let them
“Well try not to sound so excited, Mister Brick colored lips closed over yellowed teeth master the one hundred and one skills in the
Crazy Ivan Steponovich. Whoo-hee, that’s one as Rainmaker rocked on his heels in thought. universe, and he was the happier for them. He

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Calamity’s Child,
Chapter Three, Part Two: Suicide Straight, by M. Keaton Pg. 39

needed them and was not ashamed to admit until the entire fabric unraveled. He sighed and walked slowly from the
it. Because his job was to see—to see what had chamber, into another sleepless night.
been, what was, and predict what would be. The two routes were effectively on opposite
He saw the pattern and the big picture; it was sides of the frontier, too far apart to be the
his gift and his duty. And if he should turn a tidy same people. Except he was certain that they
profit and live comfortably as a consequence, were.
so be it. Too many coincidences, the same names
But the pattern he saw emerging, had seen cropping up too often. Maybe different ships,
maybe different leaders, and maybe the right
emerging over the past year, was maddeningly
incomplete and deeply disturbing. hand was not told what the left was doing, M Keaton
but definitely the same organization, the same
House leaned forward, resting his hands boss. And all roads led to Edgar Casey. Growing up in a family with a history
on the broad railing surrounding the command of military service, M. Keaton cut his
chair, a heavy onyx ring hitting metal with an He squeezed the railing until his knuckles linguistic and philosophical teeth on
audible clink. turned white, forcing his mind into slow, the bones of his elders through games
methodic channels. It was like trying to bridle
The girl Kylee was with Pharaoh. The a river. of strategy and debates at the dinner
terrible two had delivered the Hecate to table. He began his writing career
Rainmaker with only minimal difficulties; by Why hit the Farnham route so often that over 20 years ago as a newspaper rat
virtue of wearing his skeleton on the outside, Earth Defense puts almost its entire contingent in Springdale, Arkansas, U.S.A. before
the millipede had not even been seriously for the frontier out to find you? Only one reason pursuing formal studies in chemistry,
injured. At least, nothing he would not recover that made sense: to do something somewhere mathematics, and medieval literature
from, and a few weeks in medical would serve else without getting caught by ErDef. at John Brown University. A student
to keep the alien and Pell out of his hair. Con- If the Farnham route was a decoy, why of politics, military history, forteana,
struction had finished on schedule and the and game design, his renaissance
hit Farhold at all? A necessary evil to support
Orion was a verifiable wolf in sheep’s clothing, education inspired the short television
another operation, something close.
including a few Earth tech additions he should series: These Teeth Are Real (TTAR).
not have been able to get his hands on. Assuming Steponovich was right, why try
to steal the Hecate? It was an operation thatHis literary “mentors” are as diverse
Still something nagged him. And because it would have cost a fortune with a horrible risk/
as his experiences. Most powerfully,
bothered him, he pondered it, turning things reward ratio. So you only do it if you have to.
the author has been affected by the
over and over in his mind like a tumbler striving Then what kind of operation would require
to polish a rock to a gem. It was his job. that kind of tonnage? works and writers of the “ancient”
world, including the Bible, Socrates,
Raiders were hitting the run from Third And why were there Eaters on the Hecate? and (more modern) Machiavelli, Tsun
Earth to Farnham like harvesters in a field and
just as effective. But they were also sporadi- Tsu, Tacitus, and Von Clauswitz. (This
House was not a demonstrative man in horribly long list only scratches the
cally striking between Farhold and Nevrio. And private. For the benefit of an employee he surface; M. Keaton reads at a rate of
on the latter, they made sure to cover their could throw a fit with the best of them, but
tracks and leave no one alive. Except for Kylee; alone, he was restrained. over two books per week in addition
that was the mistake, the thread he could pick to his writing.)

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Wishbone Pass
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 40
Wishbone Pass
A Jack Brand Story
by John M. Whalen
“I s that her?”
I handed the picture across the table. It
either on their way back to Earth or on their
way to their old job sites to wrap things up
just before the Big Shutdown. I’d heard Brand
to Earth. You still interested in finding her?”
“Where is she?”
was an old digital snapshot taken with the kind was packed up and ready to return Earthside
of camera they don’t even make anymore. It “Still offering a reward?”
himself. Word was he and the notorious, but
showed three men and an old woman—scruffy definitely good-looking, Christy Jones were “Twenty thousand Tulo-creds,” he said,
looking Tulon Nomads. There was another going home to tie the knot. He’d about given without even batting an eyelash. I’d heard he
woman in the picture. Younger, nice looking up ever finding his sister. I was lucky to catch had a pretty sizable bank account after he’d
with blonde hair and light blue eyes. She wore him before he left. He set the picture down on rescued the daughter of one of Virtual Fuel’s
a Tulon Security Force uniform that had seen the table. CEO’s from another pack of desert scum a year
better days. or two ago. “Half now and half when I find
“I asked you where you got it?” he said.
“This picture must be at least seven years them.”
old,” the man on the other side of the table “I took it off Jesse Wilkerson’s body after I “There’s bounty on the two men and the
said. shot him. I found him about a month ago down old lady. That’s mine.”
by Shy Man’s Bluff.”
He hadn’t changed much since the last “Naturally,” he said, with a slight curl of his
time I’d seen him. He was in his mid-forties, The grey eyes narrowed. lip.
but looked older than that. He’d always looked
older than he was. There were lines and creases “Still trading in men’s hides for a living, “A man’s got to make a living,” I told him.
in his face that probably came from living out eh?” he said. I could see his opinion of me hadn’t changed
in the desert so long. But the streaks of grey since the last time we met. “We got a deal?”
“You could say that,” I said. “You could say
in his hair and the hollow look in his deep set a lot of things. The thing is, I know where the
eyes came from something else—from things I “Alright, Cody,” he said. “But before we get
people in this photo are. That’s Jesse, with his
probably didn’t want to know about. He wore a started, there’s something you better under-
arm around the girl. The other three are his
light blue tunic, dark grey pants, and knee-high stand. I haven’t forgotten what happened two
brothers and his ma. If that’s your sister, and
Krylor boots. Strapped to his leg under the years ago over in Traymore Canyon. To my way
she’s still with them, I can take you to ‘em.”
table was a Beretta Electro-Pistol. An older of thinking, there’s no excuse for a man like
model than the one I wore. “Where?” you.”
“Where’d you get it?” he asked. “Most men would have stopped looking “I ain’t so crazy about you, neither, Brand.
long time ago,” I said, ignoring his question for But that’s no reason we can’t do business, is
“It’s her, then?” I asked. “That your sister in it?”
the moment. “Been seven years since she got
the photograph, Brand?” took, isn’t it? Tulon’s a mighty big planet, with “Two years ago I was stuck five miles from
We were sitting in the Tulon Transport lots of places to hide in. Just sheer luck I found nowhere with a busted Hover-Jeep. I’d been
Center Café. The place was busy, mostly with Wilkerson, when you couldn’t. I heard you tracking the Gilchrist boys for days. You came
former Trans-Exxon Oil employees, who were about given up on her and was heading back along and just passed right by. Left me there

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Wishbone Pass
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 41

and went on alone. You wanted the bounty # ment sent out their exploration teams and
Trans-Exxon posted on the Gilchrists. I followed started drilling. The settlers tried to stop them,
on foot and when I got to where you caught up I looked through the windshield of Brand’s but the law was against them. They got pushed
with them, I found you with three dead men.” Hover-Jeep at the sand stretching out all around back into the wilderness and over the next
us, moving under us. The speedometer said we hundred years the poor bastards turned into
“They didn’t want to come peaceful.” were doing a hundred. The jagged formations degenerate savages. Now they live out here in
of the Blue River Escarpment loomed over on caves and huts or trailers, when they can get
“I saw the bodies. Two of them were shot
the right horizon, and the thought came to one. People call them Tulon Nomads, like they
in the back. You dry-gulched them.”
me that the jagged rock of the escarpment was born here. Like they weren’t even human
“And you tried to get me brought up on wasn’t much harder than the man sitting next Earth people. And I suppose really they ain’t
charges,” I said. “Turned out the joke was on to me behind the wheel. He had a reputation. any more.
you. Nobody cared what happened to the Gil- As former Trans-Exxon’s Chief of Security, and
later an officer in the Tulon Security Force he “Meanwhile Tulon became a boom planet
christs. I collected fifteen thousand on them.
was what amounted to the law on Tulon. He’d for the oil companies and those who worked
What do you care about scum like the Gil-
killed quite a few men in his time. More than for them. They made a killing—the big oil exec-
christs? They would have done the same to me
me even. utives, the engineers, the drillers, the riggers.
or to you, if they’d got the chance.” Even security guys, like you, Brand. Then the
“It’s all the same to you, isn’t it? As long as Which was what made it peculiar, the way he final joke. Somebody back on Earth invents Dig-
you get your money.” disliked me so much. Hell, we were in the same ital-Atomic power—Virtual Fuel—and nobody
business. Only difference was he had a badge. needs oil anymore. Suddenly Tulon ain’t worth
“Ain’t that what it’s all about?” I looked through the driver’s side window, out a damn to anybody. The oil companies went
past his chiseled profile, and I could see a line bust, and now they’re shutting Tulon down
He didn’t say anything right back, just of abandoned oil derricks standing out there and letting everything and everybody on it go
looked at me, quiet. like lonely black skeletons on the hot sand. to rot.”
“You say you can lead me to the Wilker- “Funny thing, ain’t it,” I said, trying to make “They call that progress,” Brand said.
sons,” he said finally, “and maybe they still have some conversation. “I mean, the way life is.
Terry, or know where she is. For Terry’s sake, I’ll Take this godforsaken planet, for example. Two I had to laugh.
throw in with you. But you hear me good. We hundred years ago a bunch of settlers came out
do things my way. You try anything, anything at “You are a droll son of a bitch, Brand, I’ll
here from Earth to get away from the terrorist give you that,” I said.
all, I’ll kill you. Is that understood?” shit-storm. Survivalists, religious freaks, envi-
“You just say it right out, don’t you?” I said. ronmentalists, draft dodgers. They brought He didn’t say anything else. Just kept
“I like that. I like knowing where I stand with a along as much of Earth as they could to help looking out through the dirty windshield. We
man. Sure. I understand.” build their settlements. Had it pretty good drove on. Wishbone Pass was still a half day’s
for about fifty years. And what happened? ride away.
“Where are they?” he asked. Somebody found out this planet is loaded with
oil. And if there was one thing Earth needed to #
“Out by Wishbone Pass.” keep the war machine going it was that black
crude. About an hour later, Brand stopped the
“Let’s go,” he said.
“So the big oil companies and the govern- Jeep for a piss break and to get some water.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Wishbone Pass
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 42

I unstrapped the Velcro holster and left my think working for an oil company that raped this Brand tossed the water in his cup aside and
Beretta on the front seat. As I walked around planet and then left it to die is doing something got up from where he was sitting.
the Jeep, I could feel the hot Tulon sun frying better with your life than what I do?”
me like an egg in a skillet. Brand poured some “That’s about the way it happened,” he
water into a couple of tin cups from a ten gallon “At least I work within the law,” he said. said, walking toward the rear of the Hover-
can in the back of the Jeep. He gave me one, “You and your kind make up your own rules as Jeep.
and I leaned against the side of the vehicle, you go along.”
“Now let me ask you a question,” I said.
and took a couple of small sips. Brand sat down “You’ve killed as many men as I have. “Wouldn’t you and your sister have been a lot
on the sand, in the shade of a big grey rock, Wearing that badge doesn’t make them any better off, if you’d just shot them scumbags
adjusting the holster on his leg. I wondered if less dead.” down at first sight?”
he ever took it off. After a while, he looked up
at me with a curious look on his face. “Maybe not. But I never killed a man unless “The way you would have?” he asked,
there was no other way. You can believe that.” putting the tin cup away in the back of the
“What made you turn to bounty hunting, vehicle.
Cody?” he asked. “Shoot first before they shoot you. That’s
what I believe. Maybe if you did too, what “It’s been a long seven years, Brand,” I said.
“Don’t rightly know,” I said, surprised he’d happened to your sister never would have “Hate to think what might have happened to
asked. “Always been a fair hand with a gun. happened. Ever think about that?” your sister in all that time. The Wilkerson’s are
Sort of just fell into it.” nothing more than animals. I wouldn’t want to
“What’s that?” I could tell I struck a nerve. think what that bunch might have done to her.
“There’s other ways to make a living.”
You find her, you might not even recognize her
“Let me run it by you, Brand,” I said. “I heard
“Yeah,” I said. “But most of them require now.”
the whole story. Your sister was a member of
work.” your security team. One of your best agents. He walked towards me quickly, his face
“That’s the trouble with your generation,” The Wilkerson gang held up a Trans-Exxon taut.
he said. “You think work’s a dirty word.” payroll and you and her and two others lit out
after them. You trapped them over by Digger’s “And all because you had to play it by
“Depends.” Crater. Thought you had them in a box. But the—”
instead of blasting them to hell, you gave them
“On what?” a chance to surrender. They pretended to give A gnarled fist flew up at me but I was ready
up, but when you moved in on them, they for it. I blocked it but before I could do anything
“On who you’re working for. Working for he clipped me hard on the chin with his other
pulled a switcheroo. One of them had stayed
yourself’s one thing. But working for somebody fist and the back of my head slammed down
hid behind a rock and started shooting, and
else—doing all the dirty work while they get on the sizzling hot hood of the Hover-Jeep. I
the others all pulled out guns they’d hidden on
rich. That’s not my idea of being smart.” looked up at him through a flurry of stars. I was
themselves, and all hell broke loose. You got
shot and left for dead. When you came to you sorry I’d left my pistol inside the Jeep.
“Every man works for himself,” he said.
“It’s what you do to earn your livelihood that found the two men you’d brought with you “We got another couple hours to Wishbone
matters.” dead. Your sister was gone. The Wilkersons Pass,” he said, holding me down. “I’d as soon
took her and the payroll. And she’s still missing not hear another word out of you until we get
“Is that right?” I said, kind of riled. “What seven years later.” there.”
make you talk so damn high and mighty? You

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Wishbone Pass
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 43

“Seven years, Brand,” I said. I should have lay your hands on me that way again I just rock and saw him. He was a big, fat guy with
shut up, but his self-righteous attitude had set might forget about that money.” long dirty hair, a big nose, and small pig’s eyes.
me off. “You must have a lot of guilt in you. He had an old Enfield rifle in his hands. A .30
Only reason a man spends that long looking for # caliber bolt action job. I’d only ever seen one
somebody that’s probably already dead.” once in a museum. He bolted another round
The rusted out trailer looked like it into the chamber.
He raised his fist to hit me again, but I shot hadn’t been moved in a long time. It was late
my left out hard and connected with his jaw. He “You,” he said to Brand. “Turn around real
afternoon, and the heat had been building up
fell back and I dove on top of him and pushed slow.”
all day. The trailer shimmered like a mirage
down on the hot sand. With one knee on his in the heat waves. A beat up Land Rover was Brand turned. The big man came up to him
chest, I reached down to my boot and pulled parked next to it. Brand had parked his Hover- and tore the Beretta out of his holster and
the switchblade I always kept there. The blade Jeep behind some tall rocks and we’d climbed tucked it into the top of his pants. He patted
flashed in the sun as I brought it up against the up on top to look the camp over. We’d made Brand down and took his wallet. Blood was
side of his neck. I might have sliced his jugular the rest of the trip without saying a word to dripping from my hand, while he frisked me.
at that moment, if I hadn’t felt the barrel of his each other. We didn’t much like having to work
Beretta pressed up under my chin. We stayed together, but we knew we needed each other, A voice called up from down below.
like that for a moment, each of us just a twitch at least for the time being.
away from death. I looked down at him and “What’s going on?”
saw cold fury burning in his eyes. His finger The camp sat behind the rocks, off to the
was tense on the trigger. side of a pass that led to the mountain country. “We got us some visitors,” our captor
They called it Wishbone Pass because of the shouted. “Told you I’d heard somebody
“If I were you, I’d put that sticker away,” he coming.”
rock formation built up around it that looked
said. like a turkey’s wishbone stuck into the ground He motioned with the barrel of the rifle.
“You gonna kill me, Brand? You’ll never find with the stem end sticking up into the sky.
your sister.” “Come on, let’s go down and meet the
There was an old woman sitting at a fire family.”
“I know the way to Wishbone Pass.” stirring something in a pot. A man sat in the
open doorway of the trailer, drinking a can of We slid, jumped, and fell off the rocks until
“But you don’t know exactly where they Miller Synth-Brew. They both looked raggedy we dropped down into the camp. The whole
are. And you might need my help. There’s two and dirty, the way most of the Tulons do. time the fat guy kept us covered from behind,
of ‘em and a crazy old lady.” and the guy in the camp kept us covered from
“I only see one man down there,” I said. below with an old Colt .45 revolver—another
“Get that knife away from my throat.” “Other could be in the trailer.” relic.
“No intention of killing you.” I moved the “And then again, maybe not,” a voice behind “Hold it right there,” he said, waving the
blade away from his neck and rolled off him. He us said, and I felt my insides freeze up. pistol. He was smaller than the other guy, with
stood up and put the pistol back in its holster.
I spun around, grabbing my pistol. I just short legs and long arms like a monkey. “Sit
“I kill you now,” I said, brushing sand off barely cleared the holster when a blast went down.”
my jeans, “I’d never collect that other five off and pain shattered my right hand. The pistol We sat down on the sand. The old woman
thousand. But I’ll tell you one thing. You ever fell to the ground busted. I fell back on the came up and stared at me and Brand like we

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Wishbone Pass
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 44

was specimens in a zoo. She was wrapped up Something dropped out of Brand’s wallet “We heard Jesse was dead,” she said. “But
in a kind of kimono made out of some coarse- and fluttered to the sand. My heart started to you ain’t the one killed him. They said it was a
looking cotton material. Her stringy white hair flutter some too. It was the picture I’d given bounty hunter by the name of Cody.”
twisted around her head like a bunch of dead him.
weeds. Her face was puffy and wrinkled. It had She turned to me.
seen too much sun and drunk too much Synth- The fat one stooped down and picked it up.
When his tiny little eyes fell on who was in the “That you?”
whiskey.
picture they seemed to get even smaller, like “I bet it is, Ma,” Jebediah said. “Shoot him.
“Who’s these, Jebediah?” she asked. little silver BB pellets. Shoot ‘em both You don’t, I will.”
The fat one jumped down off the rock and “Look at this.” He passed it to Ezekiel, and “Reckon,” she said, and lifted the Enfield
walked toward us. My hand had gone numb then moved in on Brand. up to her check and aimed it at my face. I
now, and a puddle of blood was forming on the
“Where’d you get that pitcher?” thought it was all over right there, but then a
sand. I held the hand up to slow the flow of door slammed loud behind her. I looked past
blood. I kept seeing flashes of white. Brand looked up at him and didn’t say her and saw a little boy coming out of the rust-
“Here, Ma,” Jebediah said. “Keep ‘em anything, Jebediah swung a huge fist. I saw pocked trailer. He was about six years old and
covered.” blood gush out of Brand’s mouth as he sprawled just as dirty and scruffy as the rest of them. He
on his back. He made a move like he was going was dressed in tore up denim coveralls and no
He handed her the Enfield. to get up, but the old lady pointed the rifle at shirt or shoes. A typical Nomad mongrel.
him.
“Let’s see who they is,” he said, and started “Hey, Jesse Junior,” Jebediah said. “Come
going through our wallets. “Don’t try it,” she snarled. on over here. I want you to see something.”
He got to mine first. “Why it’s us!” Ezekiel said, looking at the The kid had blonde hair and light blue eyes
picture in his hand. “Look Ma. It’s us and ol’ and he had a scowl on his face, sort of like the
“Nothing in here but money,” he said and Terry and Jesse. How about that?” old lady’s. He strode over to us from the trailer.
took out my folding money and stuffed into his I looked over at Brand. He sat there with his
jeans. The old lady looked at the photo and her eyes locked on the boy.
brow puckered in a big frown. She raised the
He threw my wallet away and tried Brand’s rifle and put the muzzle up against Brand’s “What you want, Uncle Jeb?” the boy asked
next. He pulled out some of Brand’s cards, and chest. when he got over to where we were.
let out a low whistle.
“My boy asked you a question, Mr. Brand,” “You see that man there?” Jebediah said,
“Well, I’ll be.” she said. “Where’d you get that picture?” pointing at me. “That’s the man killed your
pa.”
“What, Jebediah?” the skinny one asked. I held my breath, afraid he’d tell her I’d
given it to him. The boy didn’t say anything right away. He
“This’ here’s Jack Brand, Ezekiel. Jack Brand just stood there looking at me, his face turning
hisself.” “Where’s the girl in that picture?” was all red.
he said.
Ezekiel’s eyes widened and he suddenly “You killed my pa?” he asked finally.
turned pale. She looked at him suspiciously.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Wishbone Pass
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 45

“He killed him,” Jebediah said. “He killed any choice. Then the quiet was broken by the “Ma!” Jebediah turned.
him sure as I’m standin’ here.” sound of Brand’s voice.
Brand dove for him, grabbing his Beretta.
“Why?” the boy asked. “Why’d you kill “What’s wrong, fat man?” he said. “Got to He turned it into the fat man’s stomach. A blue
him?” get a boy to do your killing for you?” flash went off. Jebediah dropped with a black
hole burnt into his gut. The gun I’d kicked out of
“Ezekiel,” Jebediah said. “Give Jesse Junior Jebediah took the Beretta out of his the kid’s hand had fallen a few feet away from
that Colt.” waistband and pointed it at Brand me. I wanted to go for it, but the shape I was
in, I couldn’t move. Ezekiel grabbed it instead.
“Huh?” Ezekiel said. “Shut up!” He turned and fired a round at Brand. Brand
“Go on,” Jebediah said. “Jesse Junior, you He turned to the boy. jerked back, raising his Beretta. A blue pulse of
wanna avenge your pa?” electricity zapped through the air. Ezekiel flew
“Go ahead, Jesse Junior,” he said. “You want back with a yell, a big black hole smoking in the
The boy blinked. to avenge your father, don’t you? Go on.” front of his chest.
“You wanna get even for your pa, don’t Jesse Junior’s face seemed to fill up with I tried to get to my feet, but all I could
you? You want that, don’t you, boy?” a grim determination, as his fingers tightened do was sit there holding my head. Hot blood
around the trigger even tighter. He wasn’t too dripped through my fingers. I looked through
Ezekiel grinned and handed the nickel-plat- sure about what he was doing. He took a step a red haze and saw three dead bodies lying
ed revolver over to the boy. The Colt was too or two closer to me. He got so close. If he’d around me and Brand standing there holding
big for him, but he took it in his both hands. gotten a little closer I might could have grabbed his Beretta in one hand. Blood was oozing out
the gun out of his hand. But he stopped a little his left thigh. I didn’t see the kid grab the Colt.
“That’s right, boy,” Jebediah said. “You too far away.
know what to do. Just like I showed you.” “Hold it right there, mister,” the boy said.
What happened next takes longer to tell He had the gun aimed point blank at Brand.
His two little thumbs cocked the hammer than it took to happen. I could see there wasn’t
back. He never took his eyes off me for a Brand still had the Electro Pistol, but he
anything going to stop the boy from pulling
minute. held it down by his thigh. He stood still as a
that trigger. I took the only chance I had. I
kicked out with the toe of my boot, and hit the statue, looking at the boy quietly. He didn’t
“Just squeeze easy on the trigger,” the fat
barrel of the gun and sent the gun flying out of make a move.
man said. “Just like that time I let you shoot
that Rackwaller that was poachin’ from our his hands and into the air. It went off, firing up “Shoot him, Brand,” I croaked at him. “You
vegetable patch down over by the Escarpment. into the blue sky. Brand started for Jebediah. got a gun. What are you waiting for? Shoot the
Just real easy.” But the fat man pointed the Beretta and held little bastard.”
him back. The old lady raised the Enfield at me.
The kid wrapped the index and middle With my good hand, I reached in my boot, and Brand still didn’t move.
fingers of both hands around the trigger and pulled the switch blade. I threw it and the knife
started to squeeze. The old lady kept me flashed in the air and the blade disappeared “If you don’t kill that kid,” I hollered, “we’re
covered with the Enfield. It was so quiet I could in the old lady’s freckled forehead. The Enfield both dead. Don’t be stupid.”
hear my heart thumping in my chest. I could went off as she fell back with a yell and there
sense that the boy didn’t really know if he was hot, burning pain on the side of my head. Brand kept his eyes locked on the boy.
wanted to kill me. But they weren’t giving him Then, without saying anything, he tossed the

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Wishbone Pass
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 46

Beretta away. As I watched the gun fall on the There was a hushed silence for a moment. So, that’s how my bounty hunting days
sand, I was suddenly madder at him than I’d I saw something pass over Brand’s face, but he ended. Brand patched me up best he could.
ever been at anybody before in my life. shook it off quickly. The bullet from the old lady’s rifle had only
tore up the scalp on the side of my head, and
“You don’t want to kill me, boy,” he said “How’d you know about that song?” the Brand was able to get the bleeding to stop. He
quietly. boy asked. “She sang it all the time.” got us back to Transport Central where we got
the medical attention we needed. They did the
Jesse Junior didn’t move, he just stood “She ever tell you about me? She ever tell best they could but I never got the real use of
there with the gun aimed at Brand. you some day I’d come for you and her and my gun hand back.
take you two back where you belong. She ever
“I’m going to kill you, mister,” the boy said. tell you about a place called Utah, back on From what the boy told him, he was able
“I’m going to kill both of you.” earth. Where there’s a ranch with lots of land to find his sister’s grave a few days later, and
and horses and cattle, green hills and tall blue the four of them—him, the boy, Christy Jones
“You don’t want to do that,” Brand said, mountains.” and the remains of his long lost sister—headed
gentle-like. “Let me ask you something. Do you
remember your mama?” back to Earth. The boy and Christy live with
The weight of the gun was making the boy’s him now on that ranch he’d told the kid about.
hands shake.
Jesse Jr. squinted one eye but didn’t say It had been in the family for years, long before
anything. “Uncle Jack?” all the crazy business with oil and the Terror
War started.
“Her name was Theresa,” Brand said. “That’s right, boy. I’m your Uncle Jack.”
“Wasn’t it? Or maybe you heard her called But before they left Tulon, the three of
Terry. Did you ever know her, boy?” The boy didn’t know what to do. them came to see me at the rehab center,
where I was convalescing. I was surprised to
“Mama?” “She used to tell me,” he said. “She used see them, when they walked into the room.
to tell me every night before I went to sleep, But one thing, sure. I never saw three people
“She had yellow hair and light colored eyes, someday you’d come.” who looked more like they belonged together
just like yours. She used to like to sing a lot. She as much as they did. There was something in
liked that Mockingbird Song.” “I’m here now, boy,” Brand said. the air around them. A feeling.
The boy blinked. The kid let the gun drop from his fingers After he introduced them, Christy and the
and fall into the dust. He stood there looking
“How’d you know that?” boy went out to the day room to wait and
like he might cry as Brand limped over to him. Brand sat down in a chair next to my bed.
The lawman went down on one knee and put
“Where is she, boy?” his arms around the kid. “I wanted to see you before I go,” he said.
Jesse Junior looked at him curiously over There was something different about him now.
That’s the last thing I remember before
the long barrel of the .45. Almost didn’t look as old as he did before. “I
I passed out from too much loss of blood— once told you I don’t care for a man who makes
“Dead.” Brand kneeling there holding the boy close to his living the way you do. I still don’t. But the
him. strange thing is, turns out I’m beholding to
“How?” you. If it hadn’t been for you, I’d never found
# out what happened to Terry or known about
“Fever. Last year over by the Escarpment.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Wishbone Pass
, A Jack Brand Story by John M. Whalen Pg. 47

my nephew. And if you hadn’t pulled that John M. Whalen
switchblade out of your boot we’d probably
both be dead. It’s a peculiar situation. Anyway,
I wanted you to know I’m grateful.” John M. Whalen’s stories have appeared
“When that boy pulled the gun on you,” I in the Flashing Swords E-zine, pulpand-
said, “if it had been me, I’d have shot him. But dagger.com, and Universe Pathways
the way it turned out, that would have been a
big mistake. Maybe we both learned something magazine. His Jack Brand stories are a
out there.” staple here at Ray Gun Revival maga-
Brand nodded. He got up from the chair, zine.
reached inside his jacket and took out an
envelope.
Contact the author here.
“This is for you,” he said, putting it on
the table next to the bed. “It’s the bounty
money, the 10 thousand I owe you and a little
something extra. You won’t be much doing
much shooting with that hand. This will help
you get a new start. You’ll have to try making a
living some other way now.”
“Your way?” I asked.
“You could do worse,” he said.
A few minutes later he said good bye and
he and the woman and the boy lit out for
Transport Center. They were catching the noon
shuttle back to Earth. It was quiet and peaceful
that afternoon in my room there at the rehab
center. I heard a fly buzzing around in the
sunlight coming through the window as, I lay
there thinking it all over.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008 
Pg. 48
Jasper Squad
Episode Ten: The Lieutenant’s Gambit
by Paul Christian Glenn

T o most people, Telhallin was simply the
capital of Tarpius II. It was a bustling sprawl,
populated by the varied citizenry one would
She then started over, this time as an agent
of law and order. It was an unlikely resurrection,
but those who doubted her sincerity or ability
hiding. No longer bound by the GPF code of
conduct, Melendez was determined to take
her vengeance. She couldn’t get this close and
expect to find in a cosmopolitan marketplace. were quickly silenced as she rose through the simply walk away.
Overworked mining families. Corporate barons. ranks of the Galactic Patrol Force to become
Local merchants. Bawdy entertainers. Drunken a fierce and respected Field Lieutenant. Now, Captain Spill had sensibly intended to leave
travelers. They all filled the streets, jostling one that life, too, was ended. Melendez back on Cassion before coming here,
another, squinting forward. but after the battle and the death of Father
She stood now in the window of a darkened Rey, Spill hadn’t the resolve to fight her on the
To galactic historians, Telhallin was a hotel room, looking down over the sloping city. issue. She had promised to behave herself, to
sociological oddity, a city that shouldn’t exist. She considered her new place in the galaxy, remain holed up in her hotel room while the
Improbably built upon a massive, labyrinthine neither criminal (for she had done nothing rest of the squad investigated the situation.
boardwalk system, protruding from the slopes wrong), nor citizen in good standing. She was
of an active volcano, the long-standing mining a free agent now, bound only by her loyalty to There was a knock on the door, and a
municipality was utterly uninhabitable by rea- Jasper Squad. second later, light spilled into the room. The
sonable standards. The air was hot and tasted captain stood silhouetted in the doorway, his
of ash, poisoned by molten lava that descended There was a part of her that still wanted head cocked at an inquisitive angle.
in creeping rivers beneath the boardwalks. to exoneration, but to what end? It had been
nearly a week since GPF forces, working in con- “You okay?” he asked.
During peak seasons, fringe sectors of the city
were routinely overwhelmed and destroyed by junction with underworld thugs, had stormed “I’m bored,” she replied.
violent eruptions from the mountaintop. Yet, the Rey family farm and murdered Jenna Rey’s
despite these vexations, the economy thrived, father. Whatever explanation there might “Given our recent track record, I’m inclined
buoyed by lucrative tryxanta mines that be for the warrant on Jasper Squad, there to be glad about that.”
burrowed deep into the heart of the mountain, was simply no excuse for such barbarism and
and by never-ending waves of curious tourists duplicity. She was finished with the Galactic “You heard from Stathora’s men yet?”
intrigued by the novelty of “Hell City.” Patrol Force.
“Yeah. Somebody’s on their way to meet
To Janet Melendez, Telhallin was a new What, then, was left for her? One piece us.”
beginning. Her third beginning, actually. She of unfinished business, that’s what. Kremm
Stathora, the notorious and powerful under- She nodded. Hopefully the squad would
began life as a reckless criminal, grifting,
world boss, had taken something from her leave before her visitors arrived. She didn’t
smuggling, killing when necessary. She was
a long time ago. Now, it was one of his men need the two parties crossing paths in the
young, brash, and full of hubris, and believed
who apparently had information about lobby downstairs.
the galaxy was hers for the taking. That life,
perhaps inevitably, came to an abrupt and Jasper Squad’s predicament. She stared out “How’s Rey?” she asked.
bloody end. at the teeming city, her face set like a stone
as she tried to intuit where Stathora might be “Still not speaking. It’s beginning to bother

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Jasper Squad, Episode Ten: The Lieutenant’s Gambit, by Paul Christian Glenn Pg. 49

me. I understand grief, but—“ “No, after you talk to Stathora’s man and Spill shrugged. “Depends on what he
find out what’s going on—what will you do knows, doesn’t it?”
“No, you don’t,” interrupted Melendez. then?”
“Does it?”
Spill looked like he might protest, but Spill looked over his shoulder, then stepped
then simply shrugged. “Fine—but I do grasp into the room and closed the door behind him. “Don’t play games with me, Melendez.”
the basic concept. At any rate, I’m starting to The room fell dark but for the soft red lights of
wonder if I can trust her in a scrape.” She walked back over to the window and
the city filtering in through the window. stared out at Telhallin once again. The entire
Melendez snorted. “That kid’s proven her “What will I do?” he asked. “Is this no city emanated red light, partially from “Hell
hide very well through all this,” she said. “Ten longer a we situation?” City” themed light displays, but mostly from
times better than most graduating cadets the natural incandescence bubbling below the
would have. What more do you want?” “This hasn’t been a we situation since you boardwalks.
shut me out of the dealings, Captain.”
“I want to know that this loss hasn’t affected “You said yourself that the GPF doesn’t
her mettle.” “I haven’t shut you out of the dealings,” want to negotiate with us. It seems likely, in
protested Spill. “Whatever’s happened, you’re fact, that they don’t even want us brought in.
“Oh, it has. Count on it,” said Melendez. still the Lieutenant of this squad, and as a strat- We’ve had three encounters since that warrant
“You’ll probably find her faster at the trigger egist, you know as well as I do that you don’t went out, and every time, they tried to take
and colder at the kill. She strikes me as the belong in this meeting. If Stathora showed us out. If they haven’t tried to arrest us yet,
sort of kid who can use this kind of thing to her up—“ they’re not looking to, plain and simple.” She
advantage.” turned to face him. “So what difference does
“You wouldn’t trust me?” this meeting make? Why are you bothering?”
Spill sighed. “Not sure I find a lot of comfort
in that.” Spill took a step forward in the darkness and A long, slow rumble echoed down from the
opened his hands in supplication. “I wouldn’t top of the mountain, and a splash of yellow-
“If you were looking for comfort, Captain, trust anyone to stand in a room with the same red light washed in through the window to
you knocked on the wrong door.” person who murdered their one and only. Hell, illuminate the room, and she saw the captain
I’m half-liable to kill the bastard myself, and I leaning against the door, his head tilted back,
“Well, it was you, the mute, the fop, or never even knew...” his eyes closed in an unguarded moment of
the thug. I rolled the dice, and you came up
lucky.” fatigue. He sighed.
“Rand.”
The captain seemed in good spirits. If things “I don’t know. Maybe the orders are coming
“Right. Rand.” Spill shuffled his feet in the
went smoothly tonight, he would have some down from a dirty officer, someone who made
dark. “The point is, this meeting has to go
inkling as to why the GPF was hunting them a mistake and sees us as a potential threat. If
off without incident. We’ve got trouble from
down. As far as Melendez was concerned, it no we could expose that person...” He trailed off,
enough quarters already. We don’t need to
longer mattered. and she realized he hadn’t actually thought
be looking over our shoulders for the likes of about it. The captain was living this situation
Kremm Stathora.”
“What will you do?” she asked. as he always did, moment to moment.
“I’ve already heard this speech,” said
“I don’t know. Find her a shrink?” “If this is the work of one dirty cop, they’re
Melendez. “So answer the question. What will taking an awful chance aren’t they? Involving
you do after you talk to Stathora’s man?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Jasper Squad, Episode Ten: The Lieutenant’s Gambit, by Paul Christian Glenn Pg. 50

a lot of other officers and hoping nobody asks Melendez nodded, and the captain closed Chevereth, with her long blonde locks and lithe
too many questions.” the door, leaving her standing in the dark with frame, was prettier than Melendez remem-
Stamp. bered.
This time it was Spill’s turn to laugh. “You’re
a jeeper, Lieutenant,” he said bitterly. “You “You got something against lights?” asked They had arrived just minutes ago, and
know how it works. You do what you’re told. Stamp as he settled into a plush chair beside had already cleaned out a tray of complimen-
Nobody digs.” the bed. “Or are you trying to set a romantic tary snacks from the courtesy table in front of
sort of mood for me?” them. As the glass lift descended toward them,
She nodded. Melendez scanned the lobby for anyone suspi-
Melendez ignored the comment. “What’s cious. She wanted to make sure her contacts
“All I know is that I’m responsible for this going on with you and the captain?” she hadn’t been followed.
squad,” said Spill. “I can’t just give up. Those asked.
two cadets are counting on me to make this “Those your people?” asked Stamp,
right, even if you’re not.” “Well, you know how it is,” said Stamp. nodding down at the scruffy pair. Melendez
“Two men get lonely out in the big black. Rey’s didn’t bother to answer, as it seemed like a
There was a soft knock at the door, and Spill a little young for me, and—no offense—you redundant question. In these swanky sur-
turned to crack it open. Stamp poked his head kinda come off like a cold fish, so— roundings, the two petty thieves were as con-
in. “They’re downstairs,” he said simply. spicuous as humanly possible.
“You know what I mean,” she interrupted.
Spill looked back at Melendez. “Ever since Cassion it’s been different. You’re The lift came to rest at the ground level,
not at each other’s throats.” and the doors slid apart silently. Melendez
“Go do your thing,” she said. “I’ll keep my
fingers crossed.” and Stamp stepped into the lobby and casually
Even in the relative darkness, she could see approached the waiting pair. Chevereth noticed
Stamp’s grin. “The captain and I have come
Spill straightened up and opened the door them first.
to an understanding,” he said. “Who knows,
wide. “Stamp’s going to stay with you,” he we might even become buddies. Maybe he’ll “By all the gods of a thousand worlds,” she
said. name his next kid after me.” exclaimed. “Janet Melendez! Look at you!”
Melendez went tense. “Why?” she asked. “You and I are going to have to come an Bollo, sloppily attired and rotund as ever,
“I got a bad reputation with bad guys, understanding as well,” she said quietly. “I looked up and grinned through a mouthful of
remember?” said Stamp. “That’s why I’m don’t have much time to explain, so drop the fish and crackers. “I told ya, Chev,” he mumbled,
gracing you all with my personable company.” routine and listen.” crumbs fluttering from his lips. He winked at
Melendez and waved his hand at the bright,
Melendez hadn’t thought of that. Of course Stamp chuckled. “Somehow I knew this expansive lobby. “You’ve sure moved up in the
Stamp would be here when her visitors arrived. wasn’t going to be a quiet night in.” world, girl.”
She couldn’t let the captain see her hesitation.
“Of course,” she said. # Melendez smiled, but didn’t take a seat.
“No time for pleasantries,” she said. “Let’s
Stamp sauntered into the room and Spill Bollo and Chevereth were lounging on walk.”
stepped out into the hall. “Keep your com an oversized sofa in the lobby like a couple
active,” he said. “I’ll call you as soon as we get of indulgent tourists. Bollo, dark and sloppily Bollo and Chevereth made no protest, but
out.” attired, was more rotund than ever, while simply stood and followed their old friend

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Jasper Squad, Episode Ten: The Lieutenant’s Gambit, by Paul Christian Glenn Pg. 51

outside. The air instantly burned Melendez’ “Is it money?” interjected Stamp.
eyes, and the burnt taste in her mouth made
her spit. Without saying a word, they followed “No, I’m afraid it’s a little bigger than that. “Don’t worry, Chev,” said Melendez. “You
the snaking boardwalk toward a steep flight Kremm Stathora has digs here, yes?” know me well enough to know that your names
of ramshackle stairs that led out of the hotel will never come up.”
Chevereth’s eyes widened, and she nodded
district and up to the next city plane. slightly. Chevereth nodded weakly.
Stamp had apparently never been to “I need to get inside.” “You’re going to need gear,” said Bollo, his
Hell City, as he kept pausing to lean over the mind apparently made up. He began walking,
wooden rail and peer down at the swirling lava “Why?” asked Chevereth. The tone of her and everyone followed.
below. “Damndest thing...” he muttered. voice had gone from exuberant to hesitant.
The path they followed was circuitous, up
Once they climbed the stairs, Melendez “It’s a long story,” replied Melendez. “I have several more planes, moving ever closer to the
finally stopped. She looked at Bollo and business inside, and I need to do it quickly and mountaintop. Their destination proved to be a
Chevereth and smiled apologetically. “Sorry to quietly.” small, well-trimmed flat crammed in amongst
be nothing but business,” she said. “It’s good several less-impressive homes at the end of a
to see you both. I trust you’re doing well?” Bollo whistled softly. “Getting inside is dead-end boardwalk.
no trouble,” he said. “Stathora does a lot of
“Better than ever, baby,” squealed business here, and there’s plenty of traffic “We have a beautiful view out back,”
Chevereth. “I got on at the mine a couple years to get lost in. It’s getting out—with your skin boasted Chevereth. “A clear shot straight up to
ago, and Bollo’s got himself a little gambling intact—that might prove troublesome.” hot-top.”
racket of his own now.”
“If you can get us in, we’ll worry about Melendez was sweating profusely as they
“It’s nothin’ fancy,” protested Bollo, “but it getting out,” said Melendez. From the corner entered, and Chevereth offered her a glass
brings in enough to keep us one step ahead.” of her eye, she caught Stamp looking at her of cold water, which she accepted with much
askance. She looked back at him and shrugged. gratitude.
“Don’t be modest,” argued Chevereth. She “I didn’t think you’d mind,” she said.
winked at Melendez. “He’s got ten men working From a deep storage cabinet, Bollo
for him now, and a safe room over Pith’s Tavern Stamp shook his head in disbelief, but made produced two black full-body uniform that
to do business.” no argument. appeared to be stitched with some kind of
“Impressive,” said Stamp. “Need any leathered armor. “These will protect you from
“How much time do you have,” asked Bollo,
muscle?” the goo,” he said, handing them to Melendez
his thick brow furrowed. and Stamp. “You’ll feel the heat of course, and
Bollo eyed the giant, then smiled. “Maybe,” “Couple hours, maybe.” it will slow you down some, but you can’t go
he said. “You’ve got experience, I take it?” under without ‘em.”
Chevereth looked over her shoulder, then
Melendez didn’t have time for this. “Later,” stepped close to Melendez. “Janet, you’re not “Under?” asked Stamp incredulously. “You
she said abruptly. “I told you on the com that I going to do anything stupid, are you?” she mean...”
needed a favor. It’s a big one, and I haven’t got whispered.
much time.” “It’s the only way to get in unnoticed,”
“Haven’t we already established that?” shrugged Bollo. “There’s plenty of traffic
“Anything you need, honey,” said Chevereth. beneath the boardwalks. Still, the cops don’t

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Jasper Squad, Episode Ten: The Lieutenant’s Gambit, by Paul Christian Glenn Pg. 52

bother to drop. It’s too much trouble.” no reason you can’t slide most of the way. of the ladder and splash into the fiery goo, so
Once you hit the goo, start moving north until despite the increasing burn, she tightened her
“There’s a way into Stathora’s digs?” asked you reach city hall. It’s about the only building grip around the ladder and began to slow her
Melendez as she stepped into uniform and around here with a steel foundation dug down descent.
began pulling it up over her shoulders. into the rock. Go around it and head west.
You’ll see the mines off to the south, all lit up, When her feet finally fell free of the frame,
“More than one,” said Bollo. “And it ain’t she grasped the rungs tightly with her fists,
but nobody will see you as long as you keep
exactly a secret either. Stathora uses ‘em for and dropped down the final increments in the
to the north. When the goo starts to thin,
his own purposes, but his men don’t bother to traditional manner. Thankfully, her feet hit the
start looking for the cave. You shouldn’t have
guard the entrances, because, well...” lava before her fingers reached the final rung,
much trouble as long as you’ve kept a straight
course. Once you’re inside the cave, just follow and she was able to lower herself slowly in.
“Nobody would be dumb enough to sneak
in?” offered Stamp. the floor until you find the ladder.” The thick, bubbling lava wasn’t quite waste
Chevereth put both her hands on Melendez’ deep, and with her legs burning, she took a few
“Let’s just say it’s not an ongoing concern,”
arm. “Be careful, baby,” she said firmly. “Lead exploratory steps. It was like wading through
said Bollo.
with your ears when you get inside. I know mud. The air she sucked in through her helmet
Within minutes Melendez and Stamp had you’ve never been one for flight over fight, but felt like fire in her lungs.
strapped, zipped, and locked themselves into once they know you’re there, you’ll never get A moment later, Stamp appeared from
the protective uniforms. The bulk certainly out.” the darkness above, and she could see him
limited movement, but Melendez wasn’t unac-
Melendez smiled, then leaned forward and grimacing as he lowered himself into the goo.
customed to protective gear.
kissed Chevereth on the cheek. “Don’t lose any He turned to face her and mouthed the words
Stamp, on the other hand, looked almost sleep over us, Chev.” “you owe me” from behind the glass. Melendez
silly stuffed into the undersized uniform. nodded, hoping it was just a figure of speech.
The piece hadn’t been constructed for such With that, Bollo handed them each a pro-
tective helmet with oxygen filters built into Without delay, they set off north. Even
a massive frame, and he would have more
the rounded glass faces. Melendez pulled the from this distance, the foundation of city hall
trouble moving than she. She knew his leg had
helmet over her head, twisted the seal, and was clearly visible as a massive black blot in
been healing well, but wondered if the intense
lowered legs into the hole. With a quick shove the distance.
heat would agitate the wound and slow him
down. She hoped not, but there was nothing forward, she dropped into the darkness and As she trudged along, Melendez thought
to be done about it at this point. grasped the uppermost rung of the ladder. about what lay ahead. Despite the blistering
Bollo wasn’t exaggerating when he said it sensation below her belt, and despite the fact
“How do we get there?” she asked. would be hot. Even through her thick, spongy that her chance of success here was laughably
gloves, the burn was practically unbearable.
Chevereth pushed aside the dining table, small, she felt confident about her decision.
Without wasting a moment, she wrapped her
grabbed a latch in the floor, and opened a trap She would get inside, find Stathora, and after
legs around the ladder’s frame and began to
door. Shadowy red light and dry heat blasted the captain had gathered whatever informa-
slide.
up from the hole, and Stamp scowled. A steel tion he needed, she would settle her score
ladder was bolted to the underside of the Despite the glowing lava below, it was with the boss.
floor, descending into the dark like a stairway difficult to gauge how fast or far she was They rounded the foundation of city hall,
to hell. dropping. The light was fluid, dominated by and soon enough the distant lights of the
weaving shadows, and the layers of molten
“It’s about thirty measures down,” said tryxanta mines revealed themselves to the
rock below played tricks with her eyes. The
Bollo. “The ladder’s gonna be hot, but there’s south. Melendez considered the life of the
last thing she wanted was to slide of the end
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Jasper Squad, Episode Ten: The Lieutenant’s Gambit, by Paul Christian Glenn Pg. 53

miners, and wondered how they could stand would have to stall them with talk until finding headed. This was, in fact, the craziest thing she
it, day after day. Sure, the money was good, an advantage. For the first time, the complete had ever done, and there was something exhil-
but what sort of life was it, slogging away in insanity of this plan settled in on her, and she arating about it. It had been years since she
the boiling heart of the mountain, breathing looked down toward Stamp, who was hanging felt the thrill of complete mental abandon.
this poison? from the ladder just below. From the look on
his face, the he had already come to terms She placed one hand on her shooter and
They continued walking at an incline, and with the insanity. stepped into the doorway. She squinted in the
soon the lava level began to drop, first past light, but as her eyes adjusted, all giddiness
their knees, then to their calves. They had to She took a deep breath, then slowly pressed evaporated.
be getting close. Finally, Stamp tapped her on upward. The trap door gave way, and she poked
the shoulder and pointed forward. There, just her head up into the room above. A quick scan Before her stood Kremm Stathora, flanked
ahead, she saw a thin trickle of lava spilling out proved that the room, thankfully, was indeed on either side by armed goons. Stathora waited
from a black hole in the side of the mountain. empty. Wasting no more time, she lumbered a moment to savor the situation, then grinned
The entrance. up, and Stamp quickly followed. maliciously.

At long last, they stepped up out of the The room was small and circular, with a “It’s about time you got here,” he purred. “I
burning river and into the cave. The lava here low ceiling. The only light came from an open was beginning to wonder if you got lost.”
was not deep enough to clear the soles of their doorway that apparently led out into a greater
boots, and before moving on, they basked for hall. She quickly released the seal from her
a moment in the relief. Stamp leaned back helmet and twisted it off, exulting in the rush
against the jagged cave wall and massaged his of cooler air that filled her lungs.
wounded leg, but he didn’t complain aloud. At
least he wasn’t a whiner. Without speaking, they quickly stripped
themselves of their protective attire and threw NEXT EPISODE: Revelations and Ruin!
She let him finish, then motioned forward, the uniforms in bundled heaps behind the
and they advanced into the darkness. The light trap door. Melendez checked the charge on
from the lava wasn’t enough to light their way, her shooter, then shoved it back into her belt,
so it was a matter of feeling their way along the leaving the holster clasp open.
walls, until eventually she bumped inelegantly Paul Christian Glenn
into a steel ladder hanging from the ceiling. Stamp peered dubiously at the doorway.
“Now what?” he asked.
She looked at Stamp, who managed the Paul Christian Glenn is an Overlord (co-
approximation of a shrug, then pulled herself The ridiculousness of their position caused founder and editor) of Ray Gun Revival
up and began to climb. her to grin in spite of herself. With exaggerated magazine, and has been writing for as
nonchalance, she shrugged and pointed at the long as he can remember.
It was a longer ascent than she imagined, door.
and when her head finally tapped the ceiling
above, she paused. There was no way of “Yeah,” muttered Stamp. “This is gonna go It should be noted, however, that he has a
knowing what lay on the other side of the top well.” notoriously short memory.
side. Her shooter, of course, was nestled in its Melendez suppressed an uncharacteristic
holster on the inside of her protective suit. giggle, and wondered if she was becoming light-
If there were guards on the other side, she

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008 
Pg. 54
Deuces Wild, Season Two
Chapter 4: Coffee Break
by L. S. King

T wo Medanis waited for Tristan outside the
midway. One curled his arms in to his chest
respectfully. “May we carry further word to
“We’re all here, Captain,” came Carter’s
voice over the ship’s comm.
“Anywhere but here.” Giselle rose through
the clouds. Tristan felt hesitation in her just
as a warning light flashed on the console. The
the Queen, Mimendi?” “Strap in,” he answered. “We’re leaving.” engines cut off—she began to nosedive and
a klaxon blatted. He could barely hear Slap’s
“She might wish to have her people look into The door to the bridge opened and Addie “Brago’s Bands!” as he tensed, one eye on the
the corporation that rented that warehouse barreled in. “Tristan! Is that how you learned display for the automatic engine restart, ready
we blew up tonight. It’s a front for the Confed- all your fancy tricks? Were you in the circus? to re-sequence it if necessary, while fighting to
eration smuggling arms and supplies for their Did you grow up there? Is that where your control their descent.
war.” family is? Who are these aliens that helped
you out? They let you order them around like The engines restarted themselves and the
“We will tell her.” you were the boss—of course, you’re always klaxon stopped. Tristan frowned, leveling the
bossy, so—” ship off, as Slap asked what happened.
“Is there more?” asked the other one.
Last straw broken, Tristan rose and turned “I don’t know.” Tristan tentatively began
Tristan stopped for a moment and glared at in one smooth motion, but before he could an ascent again as he hit the comm and asked,
him. “Only what I could say directly.” He blew grab her throat, Carter seized her arm, his blue “Carter? What did you do to the engines?”
out a breath. “Tell her...I am at her service, as eyes round. “Addie, come on, you need to rest
always.” and recover—” “Checking them now, Captain.”
“I will tell her, Mimendi.” “But I want to know—” Again, Tristan felt a slight shudder. The
engines stalled, Giselle plummeted amidst the
The two natives escorted him to the port Slap lifted her at the waist and set her cacophony of the klaxon and Slap’s shouts.
and through customs without being searched. outside the door as he said, “Get out, girl, Again, the engines restarted.
They then left him, murmuring respectful before you end up shoved out an air lock.” He
thanks and good-byes. He had never imagined banged the lock as the door slid shut. “Sorry.” Teeth gritted, Tristan growled into the
his ‘position’ here could have advantageous comm, “Carter...?”
results. The strange turnings of fate... Tristan slipped back into the chair without
an answer and opened the comm to request “Um. It looks like the APE inlets are jamming
He arrived at the ship before his compan- permission for departure. open.”
ions and began his pre-flight check. At least
with Carter aboard, the ship should be ready Slap said nothing as he sat in the other “Why?”
to go. Ah, no—not with Carter’s penchant for chair—which was as amazing as it was appre-
taking equipment apart to ‘improve’ it. He ciated. As the ship gained altitude, the cowboy “Uh...we’ll have to land for me to fix my
double-checked all systems were online and cleared his throat. modifications.”
functioning normally.
“So, uh, where are we headed?” Tristan didn’t answer—couldn’t; his jaw
was clenched too tightly. He wasn’t going back

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Deuces Wild, Season Two, Chapter 4: Coffee Break, by L. S. King Pg. 55

to the city of Caldar, that was certain. He took “Please!” the lounge and changed his mind; with Addie
several slow breaths, thinking; this planet had there, Tristan was not likely to stay defused
few space ports... Addie made a face, but surprisingly, sighed long. Fortunately, the girl sat at a table, saying
and nodded. As she turned toward the galley, nothing, twisting her hands.
Another place come to mind. He wasn’t Slap hoped she knew how to make coffee. No
thrilled with the option, but had little choice. time for that worry though; he had to get to Tristan strode to the galley and returned
Finally, he said, “There’s a port city nearer the Tristan. with a cup of coffee. He sipped it as he sat and
equator. We’ll land there.” shot back up with a grimace. Slap couldn’t hear
He almost tripped getting down the ladder what Tristan muttered under his breath as he
# and ran aft to find Tristan standing over a prone returned to the galley and didn’t need to, his
Carter—but it wasn’t from a physical attack; tone and manner said it all.
the engineer was fiddling with something or
After they landed, Slap followed as Tristan other inside a panel. Slap followed Addie following Tristan.
shot off the bridge. He swore he could almost
see the smoke pouring out of his friend’s ears. Tristan’s verbal attack, however, was blis- “What’s wrong with the coffee?” she asked
tering, made worse—and more frightening— as Tristan lifted the pot.
Addie tumbled out of her cabin, face white. by the fact he kept his voice low and deep,
“What happened? Did we almost crash?” Tristan’s lips pulled back from his teeth, but
rather than yelling. Carter’s meek replies and
apologies seemed to go unheard. Slap caught his eye and gave him ‘calm down’
“Get back in your cabin,” Tristan ordered. look. He snatched a clean cup and poured some
“You aren’t my boss, you can’t—” Finally, Slap pulled on Tristan’s shoulder. of the dark liquid into it. “Try it.”
“Uh, Tristan? C’mon. Let him work.”
Tristan whirled and grabbed her arm. Slap “I don’t drink—”
stuck a hand in between them. “Hey, Tristan, Predictably, Tristan twisted out of his
grasp—and that broke his barrage. He snapped “Try it.”
ease up. She had to be scared spitless when we
started falling.” a final, “Get it fixed,” spun, and stormed off. Her back was ramrod straight, but his glare
Slap again trailed him as he climbed the slowly wilted her. She took the cup from him,
His lip curling in a snarl, Tristan shoved her
ladder. “Want some coffee?” he asked, nodding blew on it for a few seconds, sipped—and
backwards. He dove for the nearby ladder, and
at the rec lounge. gagged. “Ew! How can you drink this stuff?”
Addie started after him. Slap caught her around
the waist. “Oh, no, no, girl. Not smart.” “No one could. But made properly, even
Tristan stood, unmoving. At one time,
Slap would have thought his friend’s face was you might like it.”
“But—”
expressionless. Now, he could see Tristan strug- Tristan dumped the pot out and began
“Look, he ain’t in no mood for any gling to control his emotions through such afresh. Slap crossed his arms and leaned on
nonsense. Leave him be.” He put a finger over slight movements as the flicker of an eyebrow, the counter. At least Tristan was using his
her lips, then thought twice and pulled it away, the slight thinning of his lips, and twitch of his energy constructively, and for once, Addie
not knowing if the wildcat would bite. “Do jaw muscles. wasn’t interfering—she actually seemed to
something useful—go make some coffee or
With an audible, disdainful sniff, Tristan be listening as Tristan explained the process,
something, all right?”
walked to the lounge. Slap let his breath out, emphasizing the ‘over extracted’ part. To Slap’s
“But—” thankful his friend was defused. He entered relief, Tristan didn’t go into a lecture about
roasting beans and about the flavor of ones

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Deuces Wild, Season Two, Chapter 4: Coffee Break, by L. S. King Pg. 56

grown on different worlds, descended from # “A game of chess?”
Old Earth varieties.
Slap leaned against a bulkhead, watching “No.”
The galley was quiet as the coffee brewed— Carter mutter to himself while working. It was
all eyes on the water in the vacuum pot as it “How about—”
great entertainment.
went up clear and came down black. When it “No!”
was finished, Tristan poured a cup and handed Tristan strode up, looking like a thunder-
it to Addie. She hesitated, wrinkling her nose, cloud. “Are we ready to leave yet?” Slap pursed his lips as Tristan entered his
and tentatively sipped. cabin. The door slid shut, and he stood there,
“Uh, no, Captain.” The engineer held up a feeling helpless.
“Not bad, I guess.” small gadget. “This plasma injector is defective.
That’s what caused the problem. Sorry.” Addie peeked out from the galley. “He’s
As Slap got his own cup, he said, “Some really pissy, isn’t he?”
folks take it with sugar and milk. Or cream.” “I don’t want ‘sorry,’ I want ‘fixed.’”
“You oughta learn to talk more like a lady.”
“I know that.” “I’m on it, Captain. Off to pick one up.” With
a nervous smile, Carter hurried off. “Why?”
“So fix it up and try it. Not everyone drinks
it black like Tristan.” As Tristan started up the ladder, Slap called, “Little girl...” Slap riffled his hair in exas-
“Take it easy on Carter.” peration. “If you don’t know, there ain’t no use
“I don’t always drink it black. Sometimes I telling you.” He headed back down to the hold.
like café au lait.” His friend whirled sideways, hanging onto a Maybe a workout would help his frustrations.
rung with one hand. “He could have killed us.”
“What’s that?” Addie asked, peering
through her curls. “That ain’t what’s bothering you.” #
“Another time.” Tristan walked out, drink in “And what is?” Tristan spat. Slap shuffled to the galley, yawning and
hand. sniffing. Tristan must be up; he could smell the
Slap raised his eyebrows; this was the coffee. He stopped in the doorway, squinted,
“Boy,” Addie said, staring at the door. “He’s perfect opening, but not the perfect time. He and stifled a groan. “Hey there,” he muttered
a funny one.” wasn’t really sure there would ever be a time, to Addie.
actually. Tristan was like a locked safe with
“Not really. Not when you know him. And the combination lost. “You really want me to “Hi. I made coffee. Will you try it? I think
thanks for not riling him up just now.” say?” even he will like it. I hope so.”
“He was almost nice to me,” she Tristan met his gaze with a scowl. “No.” He Ha! Careful, little girl. “Why do you care?”
murmured. continued up the ladder.
She crossed her arms with a pout. “Because
A glimmer of realization sparked in Slap as Slap followed him up. “Want some he thinks I can’t do anything.”
he wondered why she’d care. “You were almost coffee?”
nice to him. See how that works?” Slap barked a laugh. “So, that’s what it
“No.” takes to get you off your a—um, yeah, gimme
Addie stuck her tongue out, and Slap a cup.”
grinned.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Deuces Wild, Season Two, Chapter 4: Coffee Break, by L. S. King Pg. 57

He sipped it cautiously. Not bad. Pretty “Yum.” Slap rose to get his share from the “Again? You know...it goes back to what my
good, in fact. He slurped and smacked his lips. galley. Addie followed. “You know what he’s Pa used to say. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”
“Good stuff. Nice work, little girl.” trying to tell me?”
Tristan snorted. “Carter’s motto seems
“Don’t call me that!” “Don’t care.” to be, ‘if it isn’t broke, it isn’t fixed enough.’
Anyway, the delay will give you time to add
He refilled his cup. “Don’t act like a kid “He’s trying to tell me there was a type of some exotic fruits and vegetables to the
then.” coffee back on Old Earth that came from cat galley.”
poop.”
“I don’t.” “Ha! Not much, considering what we sold
Tristan did have a dry sense of humor. Slap our cargo for, and that we left without any to
“Yeah. Sure.” He headed back to his cabin. wasn’t certain if he thought his friend was sell.”
trying to job the girl or not. “Well, we got data
“I don’t!” terminals. Look it up. Prove him wrong.” “We might pick up something at this port.
Slap’s door shut, cutting off her protesta- Do some checking.”
“I might just do that.”
tions. “Yeah, I will.” Slap sighed. “How long till we
“And ya know, if you find out you’re right, leave?”
He emerged a little later, washed and you might just laugh about his cat-poop coffee
shaved, ready for the day. Tristan was up story, instead of crowing about it.” “Probably another day. Ask Carter.”
now—he could tell by the wonderful aromas
assailing his stomach. Addie sat perched on a Addie glowered. “Why?” Addie strolled up and gave Tristan a
chair in the galley, watching silently as Tristan once-over with a disgusted look. “Why do you
cooked. Slap did not comment on the miracle “Don’t you want him to like you?” do that?”
of the two being in the same room without
sparks a-flying; he didn’t want to jinx it. He Her glower turned indignant. “Why would Tristan’s open face—well, open for him at
poured another cup of coffee and entered the I want that?” least—closed up and he glared at Addie. “Do
lounge. Carter sat in the corner at a comm what?”
Slap just smiled.
terminal, cup in hand, reading something on
the display. “All that exercise you do. It makes you all
# sweaty and stinky.”
He wasn’t surprised when he heard Addie’s
voice rise in temper. “You think I’m stupid? Like Slap started down the ladder to the hold Slap stuck his hands in back pockets. “You
I’d believe a story like that.” and caught himself—just who he was looking should be grateful. If he wasn’t able to do all
for. Tristan climbed the rungs, perspiring, yet that stuff, how would you have gotten down
“I don’t care if you believe it or not.” Tristan still looking like he wanted to punch some- from the top of that dome?”
carried a plate into the lounge. Addie trailed thing—or someone.
him, huffing like a bellows. Addie shrugged. Slap twisted slightly,
“We ready to go yet?” Slap asked. swinging his arm forward and nudging her
“So what’s for breakfast?” Slap asked. with his elbow; now was the perfect time. He’d
“Not quite. Carter says he needs to do more nagged, but she had yet to say anything.
“Omelet.” work on the APE inlet actuators—among other
things.” She shuffled her feet. “Uh. Yeah. Um, I,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Deuces Wild, Season Two, Chapter 4: Coffee Break, by L. S. King Pg. 58

uh...” She squinted up at Slap then at the floor, that?” “You told Addie you wouldn’t cook for
avoiding Tristan’s eye. “Thanks for that.” She her. She bawled in my ears the second I came
bolted down the corridor, like a rabbit in a near “Leeks.” aboard about how you were trying to starve
miss at being someone’s supper. her.”
“That’s a funny name. What sort of meat
Slap suppressed a chuckle, but at the is that?” “I merely said I didn’t cook for her. If she
bemused expression on Tristan’s face, couldn’t doesn’t like my culinary choices, she can stay
“Something native. Slap says it ‘tastes like
help but grin. “Well, I’m gonna go see about away while I’m eating, not reject a dish she
chicken.’”
cargo, I guess.” hasn’t even tried.”
Addie leaned over and sniffed. “I don’t
Tristan walked off muttering about a Slap sighed. “You really don’t like her, do
think I want to try any.”
shower. At least his buddy was getting a little you?”
less volatile, but Slap would bet he was going “I didn’t cook for you.”
to be testy for quite some time. “Why should I? She assumes everything is
She straightened with an indignant “Oh!” done for her, no thought to others. She never
# and stormed out. asks, she takes.”

With a slight smile, Tristan began to eat. “And you ask first? I don’t notice you caring
“What are you doing?” asked Addie from about other people’s feelings.”
somewhere in the galley behind Tristan.
# “That’s different.”
He didn’t turn, just continued slicing the
tomato. “What does it look like?” Could he Slap moseyed into the lounge with a wry “How?”
have no peace anywhere? His mind gave him expression. Tristan nodded at the platter in
none, even in his sleep. It would be a long time invitation. Tristan gave Slap a cold look and put down
before Zvi and memories from his childhood his coffee. “I’m aware of my antisocial ways.
didn’t haunt him daily. But this girl had been “Thanks. I ate in town. But I’ll have She’s not aware other people exist except to
even more of a thorn since her rescue. Every coffee.” fulfill her wants.”
time he turned around, there she was. His only Slap poured a cup and sat down across “So it would be all right if she realized how
solace was his cabin, and that got old. from Tristan. “Do you enjoy setting her off?” badly she treated people?”
“I didn’t know you cooked. Slap usually Tristan took his time swallowing, and took Tristan shot daggers at Slap, which didn’t
does.” Addie sidled to the counter, staying at a sip of coffee. “She presumes too much.” seem to daunt the cowboy. His eyes shone
the far end. clear blue, questioning without fear, and with a
“’Too much’ describes quite a bit about her. touch of amusement. Not deigning to answer,
Tristan ignored her. But you seem to enjoy putting burrs under her Tristan picked up his cup, and a grin slid onto
“I, um, I looked up that cat-poop story you saddle.” Slap’s face.
told me. I guess it was true.” Tristan didn’t answer. “Did you get cargo?”
Without answering, he took the bowl of “So...” The cowboy leaned back, pursing his “Yep. But we have to corral off the back of
salad and the main dish to the lounge, and lips. “You tryin’ to starve Addie?” the hold...” Slap paused. “It’s a passel of pigs.”
Addie followed. She never took a hint. He sat
and spread the napkin in his lap. Tristan snorted. “I’m not stopping her from Tristan slammed his cup on the table.
eating.” “What!”
Pointing to the plate, she asked, “What’s
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Deuces Wild, Season Two, Chapter 4: Coffee Break, by L. S. King Pg. 59

Slap burst out laughing. “Got you! Oh, the To catch up on previous episodes of
look on your face!” the adventures of Slap and Tristan, visit:
http://loriendil.com/DW.php
Tristan glared at the cowboy, contemplat-
ing whether to knock him out of the chair. Deuces Wild is dedicated to the memory of
Finally, with gritted teeth, he asked, “What is my best friend; my inspiration for an enduring
the cargo?” friendship...http://loriendil.com/Starsky/
Still chuckling, Slap said, “Supplies for
settlers on Ragesh III.”
“That planet is in a disputed area, and the
Confeds have had it blockaded.”
“Which is why they need supplies.”
“Did you hear me? We’ll have to run a
blockade.”
Slap shrugged. “Rumor is, they’re low on
manpower due to the war. Besides, I figured L. S. King
you’d enjoy the challenge.” L.S. began martial arts training over thirty
With a sigh, Tristan pondered whether years ago, and owned a karate school for
letting Slap handle cargo had been a wise a decade. When on the planet, she lives
decision after all. in Delaware with her husband, Steve, and
their youngest child. She enjoys garden­
ing, soap making, reading, and all things
Myst. She also likes Looney Tunes, the
color purple, and is a Zorro aficionado,
which might explain her love for swords
and cloaks.

Like Londo Mollari, she wants to know
if the Hokey Pokey is really what it’s all
about.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
 Pg. 60
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
Chapter 24, Representation
by Johne Cook
Welcome to the final season of yet. “You see anything?” hull made its brief transaction with the surface
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate of the water, and then the remains of the
“Not yet.” world’s first, and most famous, airship slipped
The story so far: below the surface, leaving only steam, waves,
“How long as it been?” and debris behind to show the location of her
In the first season, orphaned Cooper Flynn
“Maybe thirty minutes.” final resting place.
crossed the Qantiin assassins’ guild and went
on the run for his life. He met the Friar of Briar The cleric said, “That would be the ship.”
“Wait, is that something?”
Island and learned the way of the privateer. Then
he scammed his way into the Naval Academy, “It looks like fire.” Mr. Pitt said, “There’s no sign of the captain.”
met the man who would be his lifelong friend Maybe he’s slipping altitude in his skypack. Oh
and right hand man, and distinguished himself Mr. Pitt and the cleric looked at each other please oh please oh please...
by repelling a pirate invasion. and then squinted up in to the twilight.
Bola cocked her head to the right and
And then his cunning ways caught up to him. A wet hand reached over the edge of the slapped her left temple with the flat of her
dock by the ladder and slapped a one-of-a-kind hand. “Yet?”
Season Two ended the same way. Some people dagger down onto the dock. A soaking wet
never learn. Bola climbed up and shook the water out of Mr. Pitt looked at her. “What?”
her hair. She brandished her dagger in her right She repeated the process to the other side.
hand. “I found it!” she crowed. “There’s no sign of the captain yet?”
C ooper Flynn decided there was a fine line
between falling and swooping, and then he
blacked out.
The giant first mate paid her no mind. “It’s
fire, alright.” Mr. Pitt fixed her with an inscrutable look
and stared again out at the scene. The cleric
Bola walked over. “You see Alacrity? Is the gently said, “Bola, there’s no sign of the captain
# captain with her?” at all.”

Still searching the sky, the cleric said, “I She cracked her neck and sheathed her
Cleric Vaneras and Mr. Pitt stood on the
certainly hope not.” precious dagger. “Bonny good! Maybe he’ll
dock, hands over their eyes, searching the skies. turn up, then,” and walked off, leaving the cleric
The cleric was wet but otherwise unharmed. The fiery wreckage got larger and larger, and the first officer to stare at each other, and
Mr. Pitt was pensive and stoic. and they could now hear the distant sound of then at the retreating Amazon.
In other words, he looked like he usually wind-whipped flames.
Mr. Pitt said, “You think there’s any...”
did. However, in the privacy of his head, his Bola said, “What’s that?”
thoughts were raging, what am I going to do, “I don’t know,” said the cleric. “It all depends
what am I going to do? Please survive. Please The fiery hulk crashed with a mighty splash on the skypack, and I don’t see anything else in
don’t die. I stood by you—who will stand by out into the bay, and a host of smaller debris the air except the gulls and the albatross.”
me? And why should they? You can’t die, not rained down after it. The barely-recognizable

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 24, Representation, by Johne Cook Pg. 61

Mr. Pitt fixed the cleric with a look. “You’re ocean, where she sank amid steam and falling around his waist, and she stood with him by
supposed to have faith, right?” debris. There has been no sign of Flynn.” his side. He faced the crew, and his mind was
racing. He remembered the cleric’s example,
It was the cleric’s turn to be pensive and Mr. Humble said, “With Flynn missing, who and decided on his course of action right then
stoic. Wordlessly, he put his hand back up and represents us now?” and there. “What would Flynn do? What would
kept searching the sky. Flynn do?”
The cleric looked thoughtful.
Mr. Pitt said nothing more, but felt his It was the right question. Bola bounded to
respect for the cleric grow—no platitudes, Lieutenant Gillings said, “Mr. Pitt is second her feet. “I know! He’d steal an airship!” She
no sermonizing, no posturing, just standing in command.” looked across the bay at the Royal Steed. “And
alongside and watching the same skies that he I know just the one.”
Mr. Humble said, “Very well, Mr. Pitt, what
did. Mr. Pitt grunted in approval and returned should we do now?”
his attention to the sky looking for any sign of Mr. Pitt grinned somewhere deep inside
their missing captain. Mr. Pitt wanted to shake his head and say himself where the others couldn’t see. You
what would Flynn do, but that’s not what a know, Bola’s right. That’s just what Flynn would
# leader would do, and the crew needed a leader do. He looked down at Deena in gratitude. She
right now. raised her chin, her eyes sparkling with joy and
The crew straggled in from the palace and unshed tears, and they kissed.
assembled at the dock. Mr. Pitt thought they The silence weighed like a blanket over the
crew, and went from awkward to painful. Mr. Mr. Humble said, “We can’t!”
looked the way he felt, poured out, bedraggled,
out of fuel, numb. Fear weighs on the crew Pitt’s mind was frozen by unexpressed grief Bola whirled on him. “Why not?”
like a yoke, and I’ve got my own additional and fear.
burdens on top of that. Likely they have their Vaneras said, “Alacrity was ours, Flynn was
And then he felt a hand touch his shoulder
own burdens as well, but Flynn somehow made just taking her back. What you suggest is pure,
and smelled lavender.
them all the more bearable with his infectious unadulterated piracy.”
attitude and fiery leadership. Well, no sense Deena.
ducking the bad news. Deena Prentiss said, “If what the queen
She whispered into his ear, her breath said is true, she’s giving Flynn the freedom to
Mr. Pitt nodded to the cleric, who stood warm on his temple like a kiss. “You can do keep doing what he was doing, fighting the
and spoke. “Here’s what we know—the Riven this, Horatio. Go with your training. Go with Sylvans by any means at his disposal. By that
intended to kill the queen, and was well on your heart. The crew needs you now. Not logic, taking a ship wouldn’t technically be the
its way to do just that. Captain Flynn got its Flynn. You.” same as stealing one.”
attention and drew it back to Alacrity. Bola
engaged it at the dock long enough for Flynn to Something broke loose inside him, Vaneras said, “That’s a point for the bar-
make preparation onboard. We got her up and something he’d been carrying for so long, and risters to argue while we rot in jail cells if
into the air, and provoked the Riven to climb the shackles fell away from his heart, from his caught. The first thing to consider is that she
up and join him. Once aboard, Flynn pegged mind. He reached across his chest and covered gave Flynn that freedom, and Flynn is not here
the altitude lever on the theory that the her tiny hand with his, and just that quickly, he at the moment. The second is that we don’t
antigrav engine would overheat and explode, could see clearly. know if we will ever see him again, and we
and that’s what happened. Mr. Pitt and I saw need to decide if we can make the justification
her fall burning from the sky and crash into the Mr. Pitt stood and Deena’s arm went that what she intended for him, she likewise

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 24, Representation, by Johne Cook Pg. 62

intended for his crew.” He looked around at your choice. What do you think?” and beside them, the crew roared in approval.
those assembled. “We must be completely
clear about this—if we do take the Royal Steed, Mr. Pitt had a stunned look on his face. He #
we need to be prepared for Haddirron to sever looked down at Deena, and she nodded. He
all ties with us and declare us pirates.” looked back to the crew. “We represent the Bola raised her mug. “Here we are, a year
islands,” he said, softly. later, and preparing to steal another airship.
“Done!” said Bola, springing to her feet,
Lieutenant Gillings spoke. “I think he’d love Here’s to piracy.”
brandishing her dagger and striking a pose.
“Let’s be pirates!” it.” The cleric raised his mug as well. “Here’s to
Deena said, “Agreed!” principled piracy.”
Mr. Pitt covered his face with his hand.
Mr. Humble loosened the scarf at his neck Bola shrugged and clicked mugs with him.
Eggplant nodded. “Eggplant thinks so,
with a finger and looked off into the distance. too.”
Eggplant dropped his head and stared at the “Only this time, it’s not lightly crewed, they
dock. A smile played about the cleric’s mouth. Mr. Humble said, “Gillings is right. I agree.” have to be guarding against something like
this, and we don’t have Flynn.”
Bola held the pose until the silence became The cleric looked at Mr. Pitt and raised his
uncomfortable, coughed, sheathed her dagger, brow. Bola said, “But we do have the cleric. That
and slumped back against the crates. must count for something.”
Mr. Pitt rumbled, “It does sound like Flynn,”
Mr. Pitt said, “Cleric?” and Deena squeezed tighter to him. She tugged The cleric bowed from his chair and then
on Mr. Pitt’s arm and he cocked his head so she pushed away from the table. “I would love
Vaneras stood. “This is a serious subject to stay and help you plan this out, however, I
could whisper into his ear. “That was well done,
that would change our lives irrevocably. I‘ve have a second chance at the conversation that
Horatio. I’m looking forward to acquiring the
been thinking about all this, and I think it’s not brought us all here in the first place, and I owe
new airship. I have something I want to show
as much about who represents us as whom we it to Flynn to make sure I see it through. With
you in your cabin.”
represent.” any luck, I’ll be back by morning.”
Her eyes were impish and hungry, and in
The crew was silent, mulling that over. Mr. Pitt said, “Cleric, I know what you go
that moment, Mr. Pitt felt like he could fight
all three countries himself. He turned to Bola. to do, but I must be frank—we may not still be
“I have spoken with Flynn about this very
“Bola, would you care to say again it for all of here by morning. Whatever we do, we should
possibility. He spoke passionately about uniting
us?” do quickly while the court is still recovering
the independent isles as their own entity. Right from the appearance of the Riven. Tonight may
now, they’re uneasy fringe members of the “Really?” be our best, only practical chance to pull this
Haddirron territories, but they chafe under off and meet up with Chain and the Friar of
Haddirronic taxes without strong representa- “Please.” Briar Island.”
tion in court. We’d have the Haw, we’d be doing
the islands a service, giving them a chance to Bola bounded to her feet, beaming, and Deena asked, “Mathen, do you have a plan
fight for their freedom, but we’d be painting struck her pose for the second time. “Let’s be on how to get in and see the Chamberlain?”
the largest possible target on ourselves.” pirates!”
The cleric drained his mug and set it down.
He looked around at those assembled. “It’s Mr. Pitt gathered Deena up in ferocious kiss, “My plan is simplicity itself. I’m going to go

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 24, Representation, by Johne Cook Pg. 63

back to the palace and ask for him.” on the floor level. Vaneras pushed back his He mock-bowed from where he sat. “Right
hood to expose his face and approached the now I’m thinking of a way to get the crew of
“Do you think he’ll see you?” two guards there. They were like peas in a pod, the Royal Steed to decamp voluntarily.”
eyes front, so he spoke to them both. “I have
The cleric stood and pulled his cloak tight Mr. Humble said, “Do you have any
an appointment with the chamberlain.”
around him. “I have a Blamoonian Mist right ideas?”
here that says he’ll see me,” he said with a grim The one on the left deigned to look at him.
smile, and he strode out the door. “Now?” “One, yes, but I’m wondering whether to
share it or not. I trust my elder brother, Captain
Bola said, “Right where? What was that all Vaneras said, “Our appointment was Gillings will be most vexed.”
about?” scheduled before the attack, but I think it is
important enough to meet anyway—it is a Mr. Humble said, “Only if it works.”
Mr. Pitt looked thoughtful. “It’s a Qantiin matter of national security.”
thing.” Gillings said, “I’ll tell you what—I’ll share
The guard said, “Whom shall I announce?” my idea with you, and if you find any merit to
“I thought he was done with all that.” it, you can act on it yourself, thus absolving
Vaneras said, “Tell him it’s about the myself of any guilt or recriminations.”
“He is,” said Mr. Pitt, and put his arm around Blamoonian Mist.”
a visibly shaken Deena. Bola frowned. “Does it really work that
The guard looked at him. “The what?” way?”
#
Vaneras patted him on the shoulder. “Just Mr. Pitt snorted. “No.”
The columns along the Haddirron palace’s tell him the cleric is here—he’ll receive me.”
Gillings smiled impishly. “Very well, here
Great Hall were magnificent. They were also a
# is the idea. What do we know? We know that
great help to people skulking into the court. most of the crew is already off the airship, and
The entrance to the hall itself was packed are over at the palace, preventing the Riven
Gillings was smoking a pipe after dinner,
with guards, soldiers, sailors, and common from returning. In theory, all we’d need to do is
the smell of cherry tobacco wafting through
merchants, essentially presenting a mass of set fire to the adjoining warehouse and watch
the tavern like a comfortable wraith.
people so great that presumably even the Riven them leave the ship of their own accord, as
must take a moment of pause before attempt- With her head resting against Mr. Pitt’s that’s where their goods are kept when they
ing a repeat assault on the queen. Which was, shoulder, Deena said, “I didn’t know you are in port. They will want to protect that space.
of course, laughable, but the cleric wasn’t smoked a pipe.” However, if we do this right, it won’t matter
going to stop and enlighten everyone. He had because we’ll have the airship and while they
an appointment with the chamberlain. He was The young lieutenant laughed shyly. “I will have protected their warehouse, they will
just another cloaked commoner, and he kept find that it helps me look older than I am, and have given us an opportunity to take the ship.”
to the shadows. In preventing one intruder, therefore wiser. I fancy it helps me to think. He looked around the table. It should work. In
they allowed another. Also, it gives people something to look at other theory.”
than me, which lets me look at them.”
Queen Roberta was still on her throne on Mr. Humble said, “I like it. I was prepared to
her dais, the firehound at her feet, and the “You’re a thoughtful person. You must mount some kind of foolhardy frontal attack.”
chamberlain sat in a chair to her right down smoke a great deal,” she said, smiling.
“That was my idea, too,” said Bola, eyeing

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 24, Representation, by Johne Cook Pg. 64

Gillings’ pipe. “Chamberlain Toxeau.” Qantiin?”
Mr. Pitt said, “Mr. Gillings, I take it you have They bowed to the queen and retired back “You can show me the vial you use to
a match.” to a different room adjacent to the throne poison the queen,” said Vaneras. “I have need
room. Vaneras noted that her eyes were glassy of a traceless drug to perform my final assign-
“Yes, I do.” again, and while the firehound followed him ment to the Qantiin before I retire.”
with her eyes, Roberta herself was oblivious.
“Would you be so good to demonstrate “Retire? You don’t just retire from the
Vaneras wondered how many events in the
your idea? The rest hide in the shadows until Qantiin.”
court she observed without actually seeing.
they disembark, and then pull the gangplank
and take her up.” “The Black Widower said you’d be coming. “So the vial exists. May I have it, please?”
Welcome.”
Deena said, “What about the cleric?” Chamberlain Toxeau smiled his dead smile
“Captain Flynn would send his regards if he and opened his desk drawer. “How did you
“We’ll wait until the wee hours and try it know?”
weren’t, in fact, dead. However, he did manage
then. If he hasn’t shown up, he’ll have to make to take the Riven with him.”
his own way to meet up at Briar Island.” “Everyone has their specialties. Mine is
“He took the mechanical assassin on a contagions, toxins, venoms, and cooking.”
Gillings tapped out his pipe, blew through ride?”
it to clear the passage, and tucked it into his “Cooking? Ah, yes! Very good.” Toxeau
waistcoat. “Very well, I’m ready to try this. “Alacrity was vacant at port, and he traded handed over the vial. “And who is your final
Theoretically.” his airship and his life to protect Her Majesty.” target?”

# “Sit. Would you like a drink?” “Myself,” said Vaneras, pulling the cork
with his teeth and quickly raising the vial to his
Vaneras and looked around the room. There mouth.
The guard returned to the cleric. “The was an austere desk and even more austere
chamberlain will see you. Are you in any way chair. He took the drink, sat on the other side #
armed?” of the desk, and crossed his leg.
Vaneras opened his cloak and held up his They waited as long as they dared, and then
“So Flynn is finally dead?”
arms to be patted down. “Only with the good Lieutenant Gillings slipped into the warehouse
sense Cyl gave me.” “So it appears. His body has not yet been and started splashing a particularly noxious
recovered, but if he had a skypack, he would liquid onto the walls.
The guard stopped and looked at him. have long since descended. No, I think he
Vaneras chuckled and said, “No, I am not “You missed a spot.”
perished in the flame with the Riven, an
armed.” ironic bit of heroism for one who was set on Gillings started and nearly dropped his
The guard stepped back and motioned for overthrowing the throne. Who would have bucket. “Bola,” he hissed. “What are you doing
Vaneras to pass through. expected nobility from a pirate?” here?”
The chamberlain rose. “I was expecting The chamberlain’s dark eyes glittered in “Providing some cover so you can, you
your captain, not Blamoonian Mist. It is very the lamp light. “Indeed. Well, what may I do know.”
good to see you, ‘Cleric’ Vaneras. ” He smiled. for the man who delivered Cooper Flynn to the

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 24, Representation, by Johne Cook Pg. 65

Gillings returned to his work. “There’s drop of this on the queen’s crown to introduce Then he rushed to the door and threw it
nobody here but me. Us.” dementia over time. However, an entire bottle open. “Guard! The chamberlain’s heart has
ingested directly down the throat has much stopped!
“If Flynn really doesn’t come back, you are more direct results.” Vaneras tossed the empty
the next logical choice for captain,” she said, bottle aside with a little clinking sound and #
“and I intend to protect you.” poured the wine directly into the chamberlain’s
mouth, pinching his nostrils shut and laying on Bola hissed. “Gillings. There’s the signal.”
Gillings shot her a puzzled look. “Thank his chest to keep his prey down. The chamber-
you? We already covered this—Mr. Pitt is next lain tried to buck but was bent far over the desk Gillings lit his match, thought for a
in line.” and couldn’t get position. He fought to spit but moment, and snuffed it out again. “What was
“Well, I just wanted to make sure...” choked down the wine and poison as he tried the signal?”
to breathe. He finally drew a deep, shuddering
Gillings stopped. “This isn’t about the pipe, breath, and Vaneras released his nose. Bola said, “Mr. Pitt twirled his pointer finger
is it?” in the air twice. Why?”
“Why?” gasped the chamberlain.
She snorted. “No, of course not. Of course Gillings hid a grin. “Just being careful. When
not.” “I’d tell you to ask your mentor Tuy I light this, slide out the door, and I’ll be right
Meklanek that question, but you will undoubt- behind you.” He lit another match and tossed it
Gillings smiled. “If we successfully take edly not see him in your afterlife. He trained against a side wall in the back of the warehouse.
the Royal Steed, I’ll give you this one and get you and trusted you, but when he left on The fumes lit immediately, and flames started
another one at Briar Island.” mission of mercy, you ordered the hit on him building at the corner of the wall. Gillings and
that started this whole chain of events and, Bola slipped out the front door and closed it
“Really?” indirectly, created Cooper Flynn.” behind them, walking casually over to the
shadows.
“Absolutely! Just let me know when Mr. Pitt Toxeau’s eyes were already fluttering. “The
signals and I’ll light this off.” Black Widower will...” “It’s started. Shouldn’t be long now.”
After that, Bola stood very careful watch “The Black Widower is dead, killed by my Mr. Pitt whispered, “Keep an eye on the
indeed. own tea,” said Vaneras grimly. ship. When it’s empty enough, walk up the
plank like you belong there and prepare to take
# “Tea? Ah, yes! Very goo...” The chamber- off.”
lain’s head flopped to the side, and he died.
“No!” Toxeau shot out of his chair and dove “What happens if the cleric doesn’t get
Vaneras went to the drawer and pulled out back in time?”
across the desk, reaching desperately for the a parchment. He dipped the quill in the ink well
vial. With the chamberlain off balance, Vaneras and scratched out a note explaining who the “He’ll get back in time.” The flames were
grabbed his outstretched arm and twisted him chamberlain had been, and what he had done, already licking around the edges of the door.
over, slamming him onto his back on the desk. and how to possibly help the queen to restore “Make ready.”
He slid his thumb away from the mouth of the her mind, if it were not already too late. He left
vial and jammed the bottle into the chamber- The windows started blowing out from the
it unsigned, folded the parchment, and put it
lain’s open mouth. back to the front, and the warehouse was soon
in the chamberlain’s inside vest pocket.
engulfed in flame.
“You know,” said Vaneras, “it only takes a

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
, Chapter 24, Representation, by Johne Cook Pg. 66

A night watchman on the airship raised the bucket, and saluted. “The warehouse is shattered on the hard metal floor below.
alarm. “Fire! Fire in the warehouse! All hands a’fire, Ven, and we’re throwing water on the
on deck!” dragon.” “So,” said the shadowed visitor. “You
remember.”
A sleepy figure stumbled up out from “Well, throw faster, man! It’s getting away
below-deck. “Jasper. That’s maybe ten of us.” from you!”
“Well, get the ten and start throwing water “Yes, Ven!” The lookout tossed another
on that blaze. The captain will have my neck if salute and turned to see the Royal Steed clear
we don’t make the attempt!” the surface, water sheeting off the hull.
End of Chapter 24
Before long, a motley crew of half-dressed “Who told you to gawk?” roared the figure.
sailors and one officer had run down the “Fight that fire!” And when the lookout turned Johne Cook
gangplank and were organizing a bucket his back, cleric Vaneras grabbed the retreating
brigade to fight the blaze. rope and was lifted smoothly into the night Johne is a technical writer, help author,
sky.
Mr. Pitt gestured for Mr. Humble to go over creative writer, and editor.
to the vessel. Humble rose out of the shadow #
and trotted up the plank. He saw a straggler He likes prog rock, space opera, film noir,
pulling his boots on. “Get over there before it The black haired man yawned and and the Green Bay Packers.
burns to the ground, and your career with it!” stretched, and his eyes fluttered open. He was
Mr. Humble took a quick walk around- sitting upright. He noticed a man sitting in a
deck and waved once. As one, the crew rose chair in the corner of the room, his face hidden
out of shadow and trotted onboard, Mr. Pitt in shadow.
drawing the gang plank after him and tossing The visitor spoke. “There is water on the
it off to the side. Silhouetted crew ran for and night stand to your left.”
aft and started casting off while Mr. Pitt and
Bola and the rest went below. They returned The black haired man looked to his left and
minutes later with three more gagged sailors saw a pottery pitcher and mug. He leaned over
and casually tossed them off into the water on and poured water into the mug and drank. He
the starboard side. took a deep gulp and sighed. He drank more
and wiped his mouth with his sleeved forearm.
Eggplant brought the Royal Steed up out With the mug in his left hand, he started to
of the water smoothly, and Mr. Pitt threw one return it to the night stand.
line over onto the dock.
“Do you know who you are?”
A cloaked figure strode quickly into the
light. “What’s the meaning of all this?” he The black haired man considered. “I am
barked. Cooper Flynn, captain of...”
The lookout stopped, dropped an empty The mug slipped from his fingers and

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 67
Memory Wipe
Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword
by Sean T. M. Stiennon

E sheera woke with a sneeze, loud enough to
echo in the vaulted ceiling of her bedroom.
She sat up quickly, her eyes filled with hot
would require a long period of consultation
at the Dragon Court. The Emperor might even
choose to negotiate with Tong personally.
and longer legged than Esheera.
She staggered over to one anyway, a tall
tears, and extricated her arms from the soft, couch that might give her some distance from
tissue-thin sheets entrapping them. She pulled Esheera sneezed again, and she gasped as a the noxious carpeting. The piece’s back, facing
up a fold of those sheets to wipe her nose. whip of pain lashed up her nasal passages. The the west windows, was so high that it rose well
carpet—thicker than a ramback’s skull—was above Esheera’s head, making her feel even
She had been fine all day previously, even drenched in some perfume to which she was smaller than usual.
as hours dragged on and she and Zartsi poured obviously allergic. Possibly the sheets too.
out everything they knew to Yamada, various The odor filled the room, halfway between Takeda might be locked in some dark torture
officials, military officers, and members of the rotten flowers and over-spiced tubers, making room, at the mercy of drills and blades and
Imperial nobility. Their reactions had ranged anything more than a fitful doze impossible. racks and neuronic breakers. He might already
through astonishment to laughter, incredulity She coughed, holding her throat with one hand be dead. And there was nothing she could do
through anger. But Zartsi’s identity as Prince- and her aching ribs with the other. Damn the to help him except wait while Yamada and
Heir had made his reports impossible to ignore palace and its staff to the Hot Nothing. the others talked. Even without the carpet’s
or dismiss—and, to Esheera’s surprise, not allergens, that would have been enough to keep
one of the men they talked to reacted with She rolled up out of bed, kicking the sheets her restless. She had busted her ass building a
indignation to his accusations against Tong. His and thick blanket away for good. The air of the whole ship from spare parts—faster than she
reputation was already fairly low among the bedroom was cool—the only feature of the would have thought possible—and now that
top officials of the Canghi government. There place she enjoyed. She lowered her feet onto she had reached her destination, there was
were already rumors that he supported pirate the soft carpet, gasping and coughing at the nothing to do but sit and wait.
activity just within the borders of the Vodrune fresh burst of perfume it triggered, and eased
onto her feet. The door was only a few paces She had been lying on the couch for a few
province.
away. She swung it open and stepped out into minutes, staring up at the dark ceiling, when a
Now, Zartsi and Esheera had been given the lounge. faint hiss reached her ears from the direction
opulent quarters on the upper floors of the of the window. It sounded like wind hissing
governor’s palace and were left to sleep while Light from two of the planet’s three moons through a crack...but the windows were several
Yamada and his government discussed and entered the room through the sheet of glass hundred feet off the ground and thus abso-
debated through the night. Tong might not be covering the suite’s entire west side. Dim glow lutely airtight. She slowly crawled up the back
well-liked, but their story was both fantastic panels, hidden behind a strip of plastic molding, of the couch and poked her eyes over, feeling
and nearly impossible to verify. There would filled the east side with an eerie glow, seemingly the piece teeter under her weight.
be days more, if not weeks, of deliberation, illuminating the path between Zartsi’s room
and the master washroom. Various pieces of She looked in time to see a slender, silver-
discussion, planning, investigation. Even if
furniture—most of which looked like esoteric white blade finish cutting a square panel of
they did decide to dispatch a task force, any
art pieces—were scattered around the room, clear glass out from the rest of the window. The
such action would require the explicit approval
designed for the comfort of beings much larger knife withdrew, vanishing into the moonlight
of the Emperor himself—which would, itself,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 68

darkness, and a dark shape slithered into view, in a wave and she exploded in a sneeze that Esheera coughed twice, clutching her chest.
then slipped through the tiny opening with a filled the suite. When she opened her eyes, “Are you allergic too?”
lizard’s silence and speed. Esheera dropped fighting back tears, the assassin had closed
back behind the couch. She pawed at her half the distance between them in a lunge, His smile was barely visible in the darkness.
belt, felt the knife Jaggo had given her—the his hands smoldering with blue energy. She “I think problem is unique to you. I was writing
only weapon she carried. A frontal attack rolled frantically, her nose and eyes burning message.”
would probably earn her a bullet through her and watering, and smelled burnt fabric as the “What kind of message?”
forehead. assassin blasted open the couch behind her.
“You will see. In meantime,” Zartsi said,
So she waited, breathing slowly as if she She came up in a crouch, gasping for breath, standing up with a dripping dagger in each
were sleeping, and plugged her nose with feeling as if she wanted to clear her nose out hand, “I will get corpse removers and request
two fingers to stifle a growing sneeze. The with the business end of a chainblade. She autopsy. I think this will bolster our case.”
intruder moved with silent precision, spidering could do nothing more than dodge clumsily
forward on hands and knees. She heard his as a bolt of electric force licked the carpeting Esheera nodded, stifling a fresh sneeze—
hands brush on thick carpeting just behind her between her legs. A blast of smoke and heat once she started, it was difficult to stop. “I’ll do
head. Another sneeze threatened to explode choked Esheera’s throat. She saw the assassin it,” she hissed, standing up. “I’m not spending
out from her. She eased one hand down to descending on her, both his arms spread to kill, another minute here.”
her side, letting her fingers brush the carved too fast for her to have any chance of dodging.
wooden handle of her knife. He was a lean, powerful man with death in his She unlocked the door and opened it onto a
eyes. brightly lit hallway, thankfully floored in some
The man crept directly towards the door dark, faintly green-tinted wood rather than
leading to Zartsi’s bedroom. Esheera watched Zartsi hit him mid-air with a hiss of rage thick carpet. She breathed in several lungfuls
him through eyes opened to slits, trying to fake and a flash of ivory blades. The iron-musk of of clean air before setting off to locate one of
sleep. There were a dozen reasons someone blood mingled with the other odors washing the night guards. Belatedly, she slipped her
might want to assassinate the oldest remaining over Esheera. Blue energy flashed once more knife back into its sheath.
son of the Serpent King, and Zartsi had been as Zartsi and his would-be assassin rolled over
a fool to refuse the bodyguards Yamada had on the floor. Zartsi’s roar shook the apartment, She had almost died, true—but they were
offered. and his blades flashed once more. The intruder both alive, and the presence of a corpse
had little time for anything besides a dying that possessed the enhancements they had
The assassin reached for Zartsi’s door groan described to Yamada would provide indisput-
and found it locked. A moment passed. Then able proof, especially if it came from a man
blue light flashed in the moon-lit darkness, Esheera broke the silence with another deep in the provincial government. The assas-
accompanied by a sharp electric crackling, and painful sneeze. Zartsi’s piercing blue eyes sination attempt might be enough to speed
the tang of burnt metal assaulted Esheera’s rotated towards her. “Not injured, Rover?” he up the governor’s deliberations and get a task
nostrils. She decided she couldn’t wait until hissed. force deployed to Vodrune Province.
longer and drew her knife as she dropped onto
the carpet. She shook her head, wiping her nose on Still, Esheera was becoming increasingly
one sleeve. “No. You were fast.” certain that no intervention would come fast
The puff of perfume that welled up around enough to keep Takeda from vanishing into
her feet was too much. It hit her nasal passages He twitched his tail once. “I did not sleep. Tong’s jaws.
And I do not keep weapons far.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 69

# fresher mineshafts to the north. Takeda located gripping his forehead. Energy burst out of
a low, expansive storage dome tinged red Takeda’s flesh like steam from a burst pipe. The
From the outside, Tong’s fortress looked by the dim sunlight which had an enormous man didn’t have time to scream as his head
like any of the other volcanic mountains cooling unit hooked up on one slope. Takeda exploded.
scattered across the desert. A small settle- burned through the warehouse’s lock with
ment with a handful of small domes, storage a bolt of energy and pulled the door up just Takeda stared at his hand, wet with the
buildings, and mine shafts hid like an insect far enough to slip inside. Dim, yellow-filtered man’s sweat, at the corpse, at the blood painted
colony in the black mountain’s shadow. A black lights flickered on with his motion. He found on the floor. For the first time since Nihil, he
desert stretched for miles in every direction food in the form of tasteless ration packets had killed. It scared him how he had done it
and flecks of smoldering red ash drifted on the without trouble, but had to hunt a little longer without hesitation, how natural it had felt, how
hot wind. The sky was blotted out completely before he found a tank that sloshed slightly easy. The man was Tong’s—a bioengineered
by masses of roiling black and gray ash clouds. when he used his enhanced strength to tip it. soldier charged with the virtual enslavement
They moved constantly, stirred by currents of He ate and drank like a rodent in the darkness, of Caulthor’s people. But the sight of his corpse
hot wind and fresh upwellings from a thousand until his stomach couldn’t fit any more without still made Takeda’s guts clinch tight.
volcanic openings across the pole desert. It exploding. This man wouldn’t be the last. Takeda
almost made them seem alive. grabbed his feet and dragged him back into
Hot wind blasted into the warehouse’s
Takeda’s long flight had left his skin scorched interior as the outside door rattled open. the shadows, hiding his body behind a stack
by hot upcurrents. Some of it was already Takeda crouched in the shadows, hands curling of ration cases. Then he kicked sand over the
beginning to heal, thanks to nanomachines in like claws, his senses flashing into life. A single trail of blood and worse things the body had
his bloodstream, but the pain remained, and glance was enough to tell him who had entered: left behind. It wouldn’t keep the corpse hidden
his stomach ached like he hadn’t fed it anything a lone man dressed in loose red clothing, a once someone started looking for him, but it
for years. His throat felt as if it had hardened silver badge embossed with gold gleaming on might give Takeda a few more minutes. He
like poured concrete. He needed food, and one shoulder. A Hand. remembered Belar’s port, when Zartsi had
water even more—both limited commodities killed a police officer and concealed his body
on Caulthor. He seemed to detect something in the in an alley. It had disturbed Takeda at the time.
darkness—or maybe he had just seen the fried Perhaps now he understood the necessity. Or
He ran towards the settlement with lock. His footsteps rang like drumbeats as he perhaps he had just been hardened to blood
enhanced speed, sweat running down his stepped forward. Takeda had been through and death.
bare chest. Little sprays of ash went up with too much to be afraid. He could feel energy
every stride. Hopefully no one was keeping pulsating through his body, down his arms, All in, he thought, his mind going back to
too close an eye on the desert. He doubted pooling in his hands, as if the bland food he the gambling tables of the Silver Sun as he crept
he could pass for one of Caulthor’s native life had crammed down were gasoline poured on through the settlement and began his ascent
forms, enormous arachnids or centipedes that a fire. of the enormous volcanic mountain that Jezai
looked as if they had gone through a garbage Tong called home.
compactor. Takeda rolled out into the open and kicked
off the ground, launching himself towards #
Takeda arrived in the middle of a workshift, the Hand. The man reacted with superhuman
with the settlement apparently deserted as speed, but was still too slow—Takeda’s curled The autopsy began before Sirena’s sun
raw, grinding sounds crawled up from the hand snatched his head out of the air, fingers showed itself over the horizon, with a team

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 70

made up of some of the best surgeons in the Yamada smoothed out his shoulder- matters into an act of war. I must, however,
province. They cut the would-be assassin apart length silver hair with one hand as he said, “A convince others,” he said, waving to the
with grim efficiency, examining each organ, malachite spear, with the Emperor’s personal assembled councillors.
scanning samples of each body fluid, and cata- seals etched into its surface. They are issued at
loguing anything the least bit unusual. It was the start of any war and broken at its closing, Esheera decided it would be better to
like a gruesome starship diagnostic. with certain terms etched into the blade. More keep her mouth shut as Yamada activated
than one war has been prevented simply by the room’s audio system and addressed the
The body had been identified as belonging presenting the Lance to one’s antagonist, then assembled nobles for the first time. Many of
to the personal secretary of the Freesail repre- entering negotiations.” them had already received some briefing, but
sentative. He had accompanied his employer this was the first time they had heard it from
to hundreds of provincial council sessions and “But that could take...weeks, months. Even the Governor’s lips. He introduced Zartsi, who
private meetings in the past five years, taking Imperia’s fastest couriers would take days to stood, bowed, said a few words, and assured
notes and occasionally running errands for the get here. And I’ve heard horror stories about them that his identity had been verified to the
representative. Zartsi’s lips peeled back in a the Billion-Man Bureaucracy.” governor’s satisfaction.
snarl when he heard the news. Yamada didn’t
look particularly pleased either, to Esheera’s Yamada smiled, with a hint of warmth Then Yamada stood and came forward
eyes, as they sat together in a council chamber despite the exhaustion plain in his face. “I to the center of the conference chamber: A
with several planetary representatives, military know better than anyone. But these proce- disk of white marble laced with crimson and
officers, and members of the nobility. Secretar- dures must be followed. The Emperor requires bordered in pure gold. Representatives from
ies and aides had been banned. it even for putting down rebellions. To depose every planet of the Canghi province sat around
a provincial ruler, particularly one with as many him in tiers of dark wood. Several seats that
“So for the past five years, all our delib- privileges as Tong has been granted...His Excel- were usually occupied by secretaries, body-
erations, decisions, and secrets have been lency Shingen will not wish to act rashly. It’s guards, and other officials were now empty.
channeled to Jezai Tong, possibly a traitor to possible he will send his own agents to investi- Men in white uniforms with fiery red chevrons
the Imperial Throne,” Yamada stated, just loud gate Tong, and the Heaven Fleet may even take were scattered around the room as well: Naval
enough for Zartsi and Esheera to hear as he sat matters into its own hands if your accusations admirals and ground commanders.
beside them. are substantiated.”
Yamada spoke in Gold Chinese, the official
“Possibly?” Zartsi hissed. “What more needed to convince you?” language of Imperial business. Esheera barely
Zartsi hissed. He still wore his leather armor— understood three words of it, and judging
“Possibly,” Yamada announced, decisively. cleaned somewhat during the night—but from Zartsi’s expression, he didn’t understand
“Until we’ve formally presented our findings to Esheera had to admit to herself that he carried much more. One of the councillors—Esheera
the Imperial Court and requested that a Dragon his body like a prince, spine rigid and head thought he was from New Ulster—stood up
Lance be issued.” thrown back. Time hadn’t killed all his habits. and launched into something that sounded like
an objection. Yamada answered in a few words
“Dragon Lance?” Esheera asked. They “In all honesty, nothing,” Yamada said. and snapped his fingers to activate a holo-pro-
seemed to tolerate an occasional question “I’ve long suspected Tong was up to no good... jector, its image hovering in the air like some
from her—Yamada had introduced her to the your report ties together several other pieces electronic phantom.
council as the Prince-Heir’s bodyguard. She of information I’ve acquired. The presence of
almost felt flattered. bio-engineered assassins in my court pushes Esheera felt her lack of sleep more than

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 71

ever as Yamada began to run autopsy footage Esheera smiled as she observed the stir reflected up onto his face from the marble
from last night’s assassin. She fought down a that caused. One of the admirals—a paunchy disc. “More cannot hurt.”
surge of bile and spent the rest of the presen- man with a thick, limp mustache—sounded as
tation with her eyes shut and her chin pressed if he wasn’t sure whether to cough or laugh. Esheera smiled as she watched Yamada step
down against her chest. Yamada spared no Yamada’s jaw tightened almost imperceptibly. back into the circle, trying to usher Zartsi back
details, although he had to use Imperish words “Prince-Heir Hsonra,” he said, flatly, “you can’t to his seat without breaching protocol. Zartsi
to supplement Gold Chinese’s lack of technical expect me to allow a fully armed Lithrallian let himself be herded, and he returned to his
vocabulary. What she heard reminded her of battle group to enter Imperial space during seat at Esheera’s side while Yamada addressed
Takeda’s description of his own body: organs peacetime.” the council in Gold Chinese.
and glands no ordinary human should have,
“Will not be peacetime long. I received “Can you really do that?” she asked, softly.
foreign objects in his bloodstream, mysterious
veins lacing his muscles. answer just before meeting. My father will “What?” Zartsi hissed, one sapphire eye
send three Burning-Light class frigates and rolling towards her.
She nearly fell asleep as a back-and-forth accompanying support craft and marine forces
dialogue in Gold Chinese went on between to aid action against Vodrune Province as soon “Call in favors like that.”
Yamada and his councillors. She caught two as you deliver appropriate notifications to
names—Tong and Zartsi—and not much else. planets along shortest space-route.” He nodded heavily. “Exile is voluntary. You
Then she was rattled awake by the sound of know this.”
Zartsi’s voice near her left ear. “Governor Zartsi spread his hands, his eyes flicking
Yamada,” the Lithrallian barked loud enough among the military officers in the hall. “If you “So it’s over?”
for his voice to carry throughout the hall. “May fight, Kingdom forces will fight alongside. Let
this sway decision however it can.” “No,” Zartsi hissed. “Not yet. Not until
I mention thing that may sway decision?” blood of Tong and enhanced warriors washes
Yamada bowed slightly. In theory, Zartsi Esheera tried to keep any evidence of her away crime. I told my father battle wing will
had a rank matching that of Emperor Shingen’s surprise from bleeding into her expression, in help me atone. So he sends them.”
three sons. He stepped off the marble disk and case one or two of the councillors happened
to glance her way. This she hadn’t predicted. “I’m impressed, Zartsi. Most people in your
ushered Zartsi forward with a gesture. The
Zartsi had been exiled from his home for over situation might settle for keeping Takeda alive
Lithrallian moved to the exact center of the
a decade, and although she had known he still so long, and helping unveil a plot against the
room, spread his claws, and let his arms hang
possessed power of rank...she wouldn’t have Empire.”
at his sides. His gaze went nowhere in particu-
lar, roaming the upper reaches of the council dreamed he would use it before he considered The Lithrallian shut his eyes regretfully.
chamber. his atonement completed. “Perhaps. But even with this, it is not fast
One of the admirals tapped his audio system enough to save Takeda. He is probably already
“Last night,” he said, voice carrying easily,
on and said, “With all respect, Prince-Heir, the dead.”
“I sent message to my father, Serpent King,
using set of private codes to confirm identity. Vodrune Province is poorly armed and consists His words tore open a hollow in Esheera’s
I made request: that he dispatch battle wing primarily of the Caulthor system. I doubt our heart that even her days and nights of back-
of Kingdom Fleet to aid strike against Vodrune forces would have trouble bringing Count Tong breaking work on the Vulture’s Prize hadn’t
Province.” to his knees.” been able to fill. She hadn’t known Takeda
Zartsi’s fangs flashed in the bright light for long, true—but she had been with him

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 72

through a lifetime’s worth of danger on Nihil, The door grated open to reveal seven friendly.
and for a while on Coalsmoke he had begun Lithrallians crowded into the hallway, with a
to feel like family. Now he had vanished into confused band of human guards in Canghi red- The floor practically shook as the other Lith-
the dark smoke that seemed to swirl around and-silver visible just behind them. The first rallians poured into the room. Esheera counted
Tong’s domain. When Esheera was honest with Lithrallian bounded into the room and promptly six. They wore strome breastplates with scales
herself, she would be surprised to ever see him hurled himself on the carpet at Zartsi’s feet, of the same metal covering their shoulders,
again, alive or dead. his red cape fluttering to the ground around arms, and forelegs. Gold filigree wound across
him. He was thinner than Zartsi, his arms less every piece in slender coils. A single plate of
The Gold Chinese of the governor and his developed, his eyes sunk deeper into their metal curved up their neck, split into a fork
council blurred into an endless procession of sockets, and the ridges on his head were accen- around their headridges, and then ended in
unintelligible syllables, without meaning or tuated by a plain band of silver. He hissed a few knob of gold situated directly in front of their
purpose to her ears, nothing but clamor to words in Lithrallic—Esheera caught Zartsi’s full eyes. Each one carried an automatic rifle over
delay any action that might save Takeda from a name and title, nothing more. his shoulder, what looked like a high-grade
painful death. pulser side-arm, and a heavy, curved fighting
Zartsi scrambled to his feet, looking as blade in a decorated leather scabbard.
# if he had been ambushed by a pack of dirt
tigers. His mouth opened, tongue fumbling for “Bodyguard,” Chaqi said, before Zartsi
words, and a halting response emerged in the could do more than open his mouth. “Serpent
An investigation into staff throughout the
same language—probably a ritual acceptance, King could not allow son to be guest without.
governor’s palace revealed three more men
because he switched to Imperish as he bent There was...attempt at kill, yes?”
and one women bearing the marks of Tong’s
enhancement process. They were confined to help the other Lithrallian up. “Chaqi,” he Zartsi nodded. Esheera recognized signs of
under heavy guard, and although none of them hissed, “I did not deserve that.” anger—a tightening of muscles, a narrowing of
confessed anything during interrogation, inves- eyes. “I did not request this,” he hissed.
Chaqi smiled. When he spoke, his Imperish
tigation into their backgrounds revealed trails was thickly accented, its S’s drawn out into
leading back to the Vodrune province. Yamada “You requested battle wing, Assutsin-Zhi,
more noticeable hissing sounds. “Everyone has
composed a letter to the Emperor, laying including four hundred marine warriors. Six is
forgiven you but you, Assutsin-Zhi.”
out his accusations, evidence, and marked not so much. And have this.”
with the seals of nearly every representative “Atonement is incomplete,” Zartsi answered,
and military official on his high council. Less Chaqi reached down to his belt and
his tone barring further argument. He stepped
than three days after Zartsi and Esheera had unhooked the objected hanging there. He
back, giving Esheera a clear line of sight to the
arrived, the matter was passed on to Imperia flipped it out onto both hands and extended it
newcomer Chaqi, and said, “Esheera Nii, friend
by encrypted hyperspace message. to Zartsi, letting the room’s blue-tinted lights
and loyal companion.” play along a white ivory scabbard, carved with
Three days after that, Esheera was sitting For an instant she worried that Chaqi would breath-taking intricacy. A haft wrapped with
with Zartsi in their new quarters—free of prostrate himself for her, too. Instead, he freshly oiled black leather and a blood-red
perfumes, thank the kind stars—and trying bowed respectfully and said, “Friend of Zartsi stone wrapped in its pommel emerged from
to work her way through a book on Imperial Hsik is friend of Chaqi Tsul.” the scabbard’s throat. Esheera heard Zartsi’s
politics when the door chimed. “Enter,” Zartsi gasp of astonishment.
said. Esheera executed her own bow. “Kind stars
watch over you,” she answered, trying to sound “Your father thought you should have,”

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 73

Chaqi said, stepping forward to place the he barked. walked to his side, and reached up to grasp his
weapon just below Zartsi’s snout. “He had the shoulder.
Weapon Master polish, sharpen, and rewrap “We’re going to war against Count Tong.
for you overnight.” From what I gather about Caulthor, unless we “Zartsi,” she said, making her voice warm
want to bombard the planet and kill half its as if she were speaking to a pup with night-
Zartsi’s eyes widened as he reached out— civilians, there’s going to be ground action. Lead mares, “you’ve completed your exile. Now the
almost tentatively—and brushed the hilt with from the front in that action, with that sword time has come to complete your atonement.
limp fingers. Then his hands came alive, the at your side, and in this old Rover’s opinion, I don’t worship your Sun, but I don’t see any
left taking the scabbard while his right gripped you’ll have more than made amends.” reason why you shouldn’t atone as you killed:
the hilt. He drew the sword in a single jerk of as a Prince of the Kingdom, with this sword
motion. Chaqi’s eyes widened in surprise. “She against your leg.”
know?”
The blade was pure white ivory, light shining Zartsi’s eyes opened and met hers as she
flawlessly along its glass-smooth surface, nearly Zartsi’s neck moved his skull in a mechani- said, “Come on, friend. Let’s go and kick Tong’s
the length of Zartsi’s extended arm. Each edge cal nod. “Yes. She knows I have done murder skinny ass for what he did to our friend.”
was faintly concave at the base, widening to before Eternal Sun. She knows I slit throat with
slight convexity mid-length and narrowing to a dagger. She knows I kill...Resti.” The Lithrallian’s lips spread in a reflexive
wicked point. A geometric pattern wound along smile. “I like way you talk, Rover.”
Zartsi sucked in air, steeling himself for his
the blade’s narrow flat, doubling as a blood next words. “Resti, brother, soul be warm in He gripped the scabbard, holding it up to
grove. Zartsi’s wrists turned, his shoulders Eternal Light.” the light once again. He barked something
rotated, moving the blade in smooth arcs. Both in Lithrallic, eyes fixed upwards as if seeing
of his blue eyes admired the flow of light across Esheera remembered everything that Zartsi straight through the ceiling to the sun and stars
its facets. Esheera felt a smile come to her lips had told her that first day on the Ixlu Seer, when beyond. Perhaps even the gigantic golden sun
as she appreciated the blade’s beauty herself. she had demanded the Rover’s price of him. around with his homeworld orbited. Then he
How he had killed his younger brother in a rage, thrust the sword through his belt.
“Ussadriz Na-zha,” Zartsi whispered, voice how he had howled as his kin’s blood stained
barely louder than a breath. “Winter’s Edge.” the polished floor at his feet, how he had fled “When Yamada gets Lance from Emperor,”
Chaqi smiled with obvious satisfaction. “If the kingdom in exile, with nothing except his he hissed, “and fleet launches, sword will be
there will be war, right you should carry.” blood-stained daggers to bear testimony to his ready.”
royal blood.
Zartsi’s eyes slowly traveled between the
blade and the Lithrallian courtier. He slipped Chaqi bowed before him. “Your father
the weapon back into its scabbard without forgives and gives request. If humans request,
looking, crossguard clicking softly as it mated battle wing will aid them—and you—in killing
once more with the sheath’s throat. “I cannot Tong. Threat to Empire and Kingdom. It will
accept. It is too pure for bloody hands.” be great good, Zartsi Hsik. Good enough for Next month...Chapter 23: Liun
lighting darkness of rulmaga. Murder.”
Esheera shook her head, exasperated,
and spoke without standing, “Zartsi, take the Zartsi’s eyes closed and air hissed between
sword.” his teeth. His chest rose and fell rapidly—
Esheera knew he was fighting to control his
He whirled on her, eyes flashing. “Not yet!” breathing, to slow a pounding heart. She stood,

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
Memory Wipe
Chapter 22, Zartsi’s Sword, by Sean T. M. Stiennon Pg. 74

Sean T. M. Stiennon
Sean is an author of fantasy and science fic-
tion novels and short stories, with many pub-
lications under his belt. His first short story
collection, Six with Flinteye, was recently
released from Silver Lake Publishing, and he
won 2nd place in both the 2004 SFReader.
com Short Story Contest and the Storn Cook
Razor-Edged Fiction Contest with his stories
“Asp” and “The Sultan’s Well,” respective-
ly. “The Sultan’s Well” has been published
in the anthology Sages and Swords. Sean’s
short story “Flinteye’s Duel” was published
in Ray Gun Revival, Issue 01, and “Flinteye’s
Sabotage” was published in Issue 35.
Sean’s work tends to contain lots of action and
adventure, but he often includes elements of
tragedy and loss alongside roaring bat-
tles. A lot of his work centers around con-
tinuing characters, the most prominent
of whom is Jalazar Flinteye (Six with Flin-
teye). He also writes tales of Shabak of
Talon Point (“Death Marks,” in issue #9 of
Amazing Journeys Magazine), Blademas-
ter (“Asp,” 2nd place winner in the 2004
SFReader.com Contest), and others who
have yet to see publication.
Sean loves to read fantasy and science fic-
tion alongside some history, mysteries, and
historical novels. His favorites in-
clude Declare by Tim Powers,
the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn
trilogy by Tad Williams, Stephen Lawhead’s
Song of Albion trilogy, and King Solomon’s
Mines by H. Rider Haggard. He has reviewed
books for Deep Magic: The E-zine of High
Fantasy and Science Fiction, and currently
reviews books at SFReader.com.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008
 Pg. 75
The RGR Time Capsule
June 2008
Sci-Fi news from the Ray Gun Revival forums
RGR Date: June 05, 2008 RGR Date: June 13, 2008
Why sci-fi authors sell their works to Hollywood Shepard Book’s secrets revealed
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1964 http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.
php?t=1980
But the good news for science fiction writ-
ers is that there’s a lovely way for them to The long-awaited Firefly/Serenity spin-off
make money from filmmakers, even if their comic focusing on the origin of Shepherd
books never reach the silver screen. They’re Book is coming soon at last. And the good
called options, and they work like this: A film news is creator Joss Whedon will be on-
producer pays a novelist a bit of money for board as a co-writer of the three-issue
the right to try to make one of their novels series, according to editor Scott Allie. As we
into a film. This option is for a set period of reported before, it includes how Shepherd
time (generally a year or two), after which Book found God in a bowl of soup, and took
the filmmaker either renews the option for his name from a man he killed. Best news of
additional money, or drops it. If the option all? There may be a comic focusing on rug-
is dropped, the writer can sell the option to ged mercenary Jayne Cobb soon as well.
another filmmaker for another bit of money.
If the novel is perennially popular, a writer RGR Date: June 16, 2008
can keep selling the option for years. Indi- Rob’t Downey, Jr. to star in Cowboys and Aliens
vidual options are generally not huge sums http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.
of money, but add it up over time and you php?t=1985
have a nice pot o’ cash -- all without a single
frame being shot. Cowboys & Aliens derives from a graphic
novel written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew
RGR Date: June 08, 2008 Foley from an original idea by Rosenberg.
List of Sci-Fi MacGuffins The story centers on an Old West battle
http://raygunrevival.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=1966 between the Apache and western settlers,
Looking for stuff gives people in sci-fi some- including a former Union Army gunslinger
thing to do. A plot device is called a MacGuf- named Zeke Jackson (Downey), which is
fin when the reason for the quest is not the interrupted by a spaceship crashing into the
point, the people doing the questing is. It prairie near Silver City, Ariz.
just gives people a reason to get out of the Classic MacGuffin movie that never explains
what the MacGuffin is, which makes it the The story draws a parallel between the
house.
perfect MacGuffin. American imperialist drive to conquer the
9. What’s in the trunk “savage” Indians with its advanced technolo-
It’s best summed up in the movie this way: gy and the aliens’ assault on Earthlings, who
Repo Man “You don’t wanna look in there.” must join together to survive the invaders’
attack.

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 45, July 2008

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