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THRILLING TALES FROM BEYOND THE ETHER

“Ghost Ship”
by Robert Mancebo

“Tech Support”
by Tim Baer

Deuces Wild:
“Reluctant Allies, Part Three”
by L. S. King

Issue 05
September 01, 2006
“Terra Nova,”  by  Fernando Rodrigues
 Pg. 

Table of Contents

Overlord’s Lair:
Fainting Femmes and Chrome Corsets, by L. S. King 3
Ghost Ship
by Robert Mancebo 4
Tech Support
by Tim Baer 24
Featured Artist
Fernando Rodrigues 30
Deuces Wild
Reluctant Allies, Part Three, by L. S. King 32
The Jolly RGR 43

Overlords (Founders and Editors): L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn, Johne Cook

Ray Gun Radio: Taylor Kent - founder, director, and producer, all things audio
John “JesusGeek” Wilkerson - RGR Disinformation Specialist

Venerable Staff:
A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor
Mike Loos - Proofreader, Technical Lead – PocketRGR;
Walter Rosenfeld - Proofreader
Matthew McConley - Proofreader
Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand, newshound
L. S. King - copyeditor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, webmistress
Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, editorials, chief, cook, and bottle washer

Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): Taylor Kent, Scott M. Sandridge, David Wilhelms

Serial Authors: Sean T. M. Stiennon, Lee S. King, Paul Christian Glenn, Johne Cook

Cover Art: “Terra Nova,”  by Fernando Rodrigues

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Rev: 20060901g
Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006
 Pg. 

Overlord’s Lair:
Fainting Femmes and Chrome Corsets, by L. S. King

I
’ve always loved science fiction, especially
space opera. And some things you come
to expect in a space opera. Fun, adventure, ray
Amazon dame, able to take on Ming of Mongo
and his hordes single-handedly. The only thing
missing is the big S on her chest, but then,
guns—and unfortunately, stereotypes. Being wouldn’t that clash with the chrome? She’ll
a woman, I’m especially irked by one in par- bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, then
ticular—the female in space opera. Too often brain you with the pan for good measure.
she’s eye-candy, in one form or another. Shall I touch on the Evil Vamp? Hm, let’s
One is the damsel. Usually fainting or say I did, and go on from there. Heh.
screaming. More often these days, I do tend to find
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not totally women who have more depth than the old
against screamers. Why, some of my best stereotypes. Some even manage to be strong,
friends are screamers. Though—I’m not sure intelligent women who are also unafraid of
about fainting. I haven’t asked. Very personal, their femininity. Very nice.
that. But can’t a woman be more than a way At least, I find those in many of the good
to merely heighten tension, or give the hero books I read, and the few movies I see—I
someone to rescue, oh, and let’s not forget be don’t watch many movies, only those recom-
more than eye-candy? I especially love the old mended by friends. A few memorable women
movies where the damsel stands in the corner, that come to mind are Lessa and Menolly,
back of her hand over her mouth, eyes wide, from Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, Cordelia
while the hero fights The Bug-eyed Monsters. and Ekaterin from Lois McMaster Bujold’s
At least grab a chair and try to bash it over the Vorkosigan series, Dr. Nicole des Jardins from
head, woman! Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee’s RAMA
Heinlein had his own twist on this. The series, and hey, of course, the women from
mother or matron who seemed oblivious to Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
reality, and had to be protected. I remember I want to see women who are complex,
lines similar to this: “Son, you shouldn’t talk with diverse strengths and weaknesses, who
about bombs orbiting overhead, you’ve upset aren’t afraid to make tough decisions. Whole
your mother.” Gah!! persons, who make mistakes, laugh, grieve,
And these women are all so virtuous. and despite it all, go on. And who knows?
They’d faint dead away before thinking of A few of them might even scream once in a
stealing that cookie out of the cookie jar. No while.
quirks or foibles. Perfect princesses.
Another stereotype is the chrome-corseted

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Ghost Ship
by Robert Mancebo

along inside, crimp!”

V an Ellian could feel his palms sweating


inside his pressure suit as he reached
for the ancient airlock latch. The sensor scan
Any normal crew would’ve simply had
a robotic maintenance unit search the hulk.
But the crew of the Isis were members of
said that it was not booby-trapped, but you the ruthless ‘Brotherhood of Mortos,’ pro-
could never tell for sure. Men had died for fessional pirates who played with people’s
lesser treasures than the massive derelict he lives the way ordinary people played games.
was boarding. He could hear men laughing and making
“Hurry up, boyo!” the captain’s snarling bets in the background. It was great sport to
voice came over his commlink. “I want a see him sweat. And Van did sweat. Though
search of the ship in right smart time or I’ll let only fifteen, he had already seen men die in
Garret ‘play’ with you for awhile.” salvage operations.
Rotten bugger, Van thought. His face Intrasystem wars had strewn the galaxy
burned in suppressed anger, and he worked with wrecks. Vengeful crews would often
his head back and forth, feeling the tightness booby-trap their crippled ships after a battle
of the explosive slave collar that encircled in hopes that enemies would board.
his neck under the vacuum suit. He’d been “Corridor clear,” he called as he walked
captured in a raid five years before and was down the long, dark channel. His helmet illu-
kept under the pirates’ control by the collar minator showed it to be straight, clean, and
that threatened to blow his head off at the in perfect condition. Golden fretwork and
captain’s slightest whim. geometric patterns sparkled from dim corners
“It’s open.” He pulled the release and heard as the beam swept past. The old derelict
the hiss of equalizing pressure. “Gages read looked more like a palace than a spaceship.
that there’s still atmosphere. No traps so far.” At the corner of his vision, he thought he
“Aye, we can see that on your helmet saw something move. He jerked his head that
camera,” Captain Arool snapped back. “Move direction, but the illuminator swept across

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only the empty corridor. He blinked and chided. “See ghosts? You got the spooks? Ye
moved on. hear that lads? It’s a ghost ship we’ve found
They’d mistaken the huge ship for a out here all in the dark of space!”
massive meteor at first, or a chunk broken “I thought I heard something,” Van replied
off a planetary body. It was covered in refuse crossly over the general laughter. He tapped
and meteoric matter. Obviously some alien his helmet as though the audio system might
synthetic gravity force had collected a shell of be faulty. It was a gesture to gain time while
debris in its centuries of drifting. he continued to look around. He hadn’t heard
“There’s a series of doors on my left,” he as much as felt something behind him.
transmitted as he walked. “They’re not “Garrrh!” the captain snarled. “Scanners
operational. I suppose we’ll have to cut them pick up nothin’! Git goin’, nocky boy!”
open.” “Where?” Van shot back rebelliously. He
“Not if you can get to the engineering wasn’t as easy to bully as when he’d been
compartment,” a different voice came over first captured. Despite their abuse, he was
the speaker. “If there’s any fuel left in the becoming a man.
fissionables magazine, you may be able to “Scan says that you’re on what looks like
get things operational.” Van recognized the the command deck,” Bran’s voice interjected
voice of Bran Lora, the chief Engineer aboard before his captain could take offense at the
the Isis. He was the least despicable of the tone of question. “The bridge should have
pirate crew. “If not I can probably cobble up some sort of markings or a central entrance—
somethin’ that will—” something that shows it’s not just another
“To hell with engineering!” Captain Arool’s room.”
voice countermanded without waiting for “Down the corridor, right turn, then yer
him to finish. “You get to the bridge, boyo. first left,” Captain Arool told him. “Scan says
Bran can mess about with engineering once that room looks like the bridge.”
we know things are safe over there.” Van followed the instructions. He came to
Van felt something move behind him and a wide double door at the end of the corridor.
whirled suddenly. Again the corridor was No sign of lock or manual override showed
empty. But this time the observers noticed upon the surface.
the movement. “How do I open it?”
“Whassamatter,” Captain Arool’s voice “Find a way,” the captain ordered.

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“I’ll go over and—” Bran began to offer but what’s inside.”


his captain cut him off. “Bandy-legged bas—” Van cursed at him in
“No you’ll not! That’s what we’ve sent the a low voice.
Crimp for. I’ll not risk my senior engineer! You “What?” the captain demanded.
open it up, boyo!” “I said, ‘I’ll move faster’!” Van corrected
As Van stood there staring futilely at the quickly, but his dark eyes narrowed in sup-
sealed portal, he suddenly caught a faint pressed anger. He knew from experience
vision of a figure. It was the form of a thin, that no matter how angry he got, there was
pale woman with long white hair that flowed only so far he could push the pirates before
all the way to her knees. Dressed in robes no the repercussions would be degrading and
more substantial than marsh-mist, she drifted painful.
with inhuman grace. The slim figure glided His illuminator swept the wide room. The
past him and placed her right hand upon the smooth, polished deck was inlaid in the center
wall next to the doors. Then she entered the with the pattern of an eight-pointed silver star
room. resting between the horns of a golden crescent
The vision was faint and unreal. Ghostly, moon. A tall chair, suspended by some force
Van would’ve called it. When he looked around counter to the ship’s gravity, floated above
the corridor once again, it was empty. the star. Seated upon it, was a wizened, long-
“Well? Do something!” the captain ordered. limbed man. He seemed asleep but Van knew
Van knew by the tone that no one else had that he must be dead.
seen the vision on their displays. The young man walked around the figure
The young man swallowed hard, walked curiously. He had seen many corpses. It was
tentatively forward, and placed his hand not a human being though. It was too slim
upon the wall where the woman’s had rested. and long. In life it would’ve stood nearly eight
The doors were suddenly gone and darkness feet tall. The corpse was royally wrapped in
poured out the yawning void of the empty flowing clothing of some blue shimmering
room. material and a turban of a white, silk-like
“Good, nothin’ blew up,” the captain substance set with a massive ruby and crested
grumbled from the safety of the other end with a tall, white feather.
of the link. “They always mine the bridge if The ancient man’s eyes were closed as
they’re goin’ to set a trap. Push on now, see though asleep and his withered hands rested

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upon the shining silver sheath of a curved Van looked down at the sword and admired
sword that had rested across his knees for the rubies that encrusted the fittings of its
untold decades. sheath. The hilt was of an ivory-like substance
“Is that a sword?” the captain’s voice whose carvings showed neither age nor chip.
demanded over his audio system. “Oh, I like He pulled the blade partway out of the sheath,
this fellow already!” and saw how the light from his illuminator
Van ignored the chatter and knelt before reflected off the mirror-polished blade.
the ancient figure. He did not know why, but And then he felt something. A shiver went
it seemed as though he stood in the presence up his spine like a trickle of ice water. He felt
of some wise and powerful king from ancient a hand rest upon his shoulder.
times. Van turned his head, hardly daring to, yet
As he reached out to slip the sword from fearing that ignoring the feeling would be
under the dead fingers, he saw her again. worse than acknowledging it. He saw what he
The spectral woman stood behind the ship’s feared; the pale spectral fingers of the robed
former captain. He saw the faint lines of her woman were resting upon his shoulder!
face smile and nod. She placed a caressing The eerie vision lasted only a moment
hand upon the shoulder of the desiccated before the very air around him was filled with
body in an act of tender respect, as though lightning and fire. Pain raked his body, pain
he had been her revered king or lover. as he’d never felt even when the pirates had
“Take it, boy, take it!” Captain Arool’s voice tortured him. It arced through his arms and
ordered when Van hesitated while watching drove through his heart. It raged up his back
the actions of the spectral figure. and into his mind and then, the world around
Van ignored his captain. He knelt motion- him went mercifully black.
less, entranced by the mesmerizing gaze of the #
alien woman. Then, before her watchful eyes,
“And then, most beloved, Khalad the
he slowly, gently, slid the ancient weapon
Mighty stood aboard the great starship, Ja’lal,
from under the withered fingers.
and captured the moon for her sail. With his
The sword came loose without a jerk and
hand in hers, he passed through the vast net
he held it in his hands. As the sword left the
of stars as though he were a man skipping
alien captain’s grasp, the figure of the woman
across a shimmering pond upon polished
faded.

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stepping stones. He was not a kind man, but was a proficient


“He reached out his arms and the galaxy doctor, as many a veteran of bloody battle
bowed before him. He forged an empire of could attest.
a thousand systems. He fought many battles “Near as I can tell, some sort of alien con-
and took his people out to conquer strange traption just about took you apart. You’ve got
new worlds. radiation burns throughout your body. You’re
“And when the time came for him to die—” lucky to be alive. Mostly,” he added. “I don’t
The voice that whispered in the darkness of know what’s kept you alive. The captain thinks
Van’s mind faded away in mid-sentence. it’s me, but it’s not. Alien hardware, you know.
“He sat himself down upon the throne I’m just guessing as much as anything.”
of his Empire—” Van awoke to the sound of “It’s dark—”
his own voice repeating words he had never “No, it ain’t dark. All the lights and power
heard, but with the whispering of a woman’s came on when you picked up that sword.
voice still echoing in his head. “The empire of That’s what set off the bloody booby-trap.
the stars,” he finished in a whisper. That’s why we couldn’t find it ahead of time.
He knew the ship’s name, Ja’lal. Or had it With the power off, there was no way of telling
been a dream? Somehow he wasn’t dead. He what all this ship’s equipment would do.”
tried to sit up but only groaned. Burning pain “Ja’lal,” Van told him. “The ship’s name is
seared through his entire body when he tried Ja’lal.”
to move. It felt as if the fabric of every muscle “And how would you be knowin’ that?”
had been ripped from his bones. “She told me so,” Van whispered. “The
“Lie down, you daft bugger!” a voice woman—”
commanded from the surrounding darkness. “That’s just shock and medication, boy,”
“You’re mostly dead already. Don’t make it Slag told him brusquely. “There are no ghosts
any worse or Captain Arool will likely have us on this ship. You’ll probably see and hear a lot
toss your wilting carcass out into space!” of things before you heal up. You just don’t
“What—what happened?” he whispered. worry about ‘em and go to sleep.”
“Some sort of booby-trap, what else?” He Van heard the sound of the medical terminal
recognized the voice of Doctor Slag. Why a being keyed up as the doctor increased the
doctor would ship with a pirate crew he never level of his medication.
did know, but Slag did his duty well enough. “What happened to the sword, boy?”

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“The sword?” defensively and gave out a strangled noise of


“Aye, the cap’n is in a right state about it. alarm.
He got a peep at it on your helmet monitor, Til raised the muzzle of her weapon
and he’s had us wastin’ half our time here instantly and expelled a breath.
lookin’ for the bloody thing. What did you do “Mister Dallas!” she snapped. “Will you
with it?” get down into the lower holds! I almost shot
“Nothing! I—it was in my hands, and then you!”
the pain hit and I blacked out. You all saw it “But I was sent to warn you, Ensign Delarion.
on the video. I didn’t do anything with it.” They’ve breeched the lower hull and are
“He’s taken the Isis to run down a freighter already into the secured compartments!”
while we sort things out here. I hope you’ve “That’s why the communications band is
got some better answers for him when he full of static!” she snarled.
gets back.” “Yes! Lieutenant Brecker sent me to—”
Van tried to say that there weren’t any The man’s eyes widened in shock, staring at
‘better answers,’ but the medication was something behind her, and Til spun, leading
taking effect and the world drifted back into with her pistol. She was almost fast enough.
darkness. Her weapon was leveled and her finger
# squeezing the trigger when the jolt of paralysis
hit.
Ensign Til Delarion breathed through
She tumbled to the ground as limp as a
gritted teeth. Pistol held high next to her
bundle of boiled noodles. She was still alive,
smooth cheek, back to the corridor wall, she
still conscious, but unable to move.
waited for the sound of steps to betray the
She heard the weapon fire again, and
approach of her enemies. Her nervousness
then the galling laughter of a masculine voice
was a combination of fear, anticipation, and
approaching.
rage. The eighteen-year-old cadet ensign had
“‘Nother two,” the voice said. “Tell Captain
trained for battles, but this was the first one
Arool that the fourth deck is clear.”
she had participated in.
“Aye, that’s the last of them then. We’re
Footsteps! She whirled around the corner
sending a crew to collect ‘em. Just leave the
and leveled her pistol at the location of the
crimps where they fall and move on.”
sound. A gray-haired man lifted his arms
The crimps? she thought. Leave ‘em where

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they fall? They were slavers! Til didn’t know He would be expected to work. And then the
which was worse, to be murdered outright or crew would celebrate.
taken as a slave. Their drunken celebrations were his biggest
The young ensign had a terrible suspicion concern. The pirates of The Brotherhood were
she would wish for a death long before it ever known throughout the galaxy as the dregs of
found her. humanity and had no compunction about
# boldly displaying their perverse appetites.
Van sat up and kicked his feet over the edge
“Feeling half human today?” Doctor Slag
of the unnaturally long bed. The construction
asked as he looked in on Van.
of the ship was a reminder that it was not fab-
“Maybe half,” Van replied, sitting up in
ricated to cater to normal human size. Though
bed.
the entire ship was opulently decorated with
“Any more dreams?”
fretwork and geometric designs, everything
“Not since you increased the medication. I
was just a little large and out of reach.
can hardly stay awake.”
The young man grimaced at the pain when
“Good, because it’s time to be getting’ up,”
he moved, but there was no help for it. He
Slag warned. “The Isis is going to be back in
managed to get dressed in the clothing laid
about an hour and you’ll need to be on your
out for him.
feet when she arrives. You know how the
#
captain’s temper is with layabouts.”
“Yes, Sir.” Van felt his heart sink. He’d been Til Delarion heard the ship-shuddering
in bed for three days and was just beginning clump as the Isis docked with the derelict.
to feel somewhat recovered from his ordeal. She knew she and the other twenty prisoners
When he’d heard that Captain Arool had would be offloading soon. She had already
taken the Isis to run down a merchant ship, mumbled her plan quietly to the rest of the
he’d hoped that the crew of pirates would be captives. Once they were collared, there
gone for a week or more. But then, he’d never would be no chance of an escape. Their best
been very lucky. The most someone could say chance to revolt would be when the pirates
about him was that he was a survivor. tried to move them.
The pirates’ return meant more cargo to She didn’t have much hope of her plan
tally and more miserable slaves to manage. succeeding, but it didn’t matter. Even a slim

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hope was better than none. Young she might they moved, and led with her weapon as she
be, but she was an Alluriean officer. The rounded corners.
last ship’s officer left alive. She had to try When they came to a junction in the
something. corridor, she had everyone sit down to wait
Three of the pirates came to move the while she reconnoitered. A herd of terrified
prisoners. They were all big men dressed in civilians was the last thing she needed with
colorful cast-off clothing, obviously taken in her while scouting.
plunder. They carried ugly-looking dirks in She moved cautiously through the corridors
their belts and stun guns in their hands. for some distance, finding no sign of life in the
They came in swaggering and bullying the huge ship. Then her straining ears picked up
group of captives—and were nearly trampled the low scuff of a shuffling step. She held the
as soon as they had moved them out into the paralyzer ready for a few moments; then, as
hallway. the noise sounded closer, she whirled around
Til took out the first guard with a foot to the corner and thrust the weapon forward to
the groin followed instantly by a sweeping fire.
blow to the neck. The other two were simply It was a misjudgment. The approach-
mobbed by the rest of the captives. Several ing pirate was already rounding the corner.
prisoners were stunned in the process, but His eyes were surprised, but as the weapon
the rest of the mob roared on and beat the leveled, he slapped the muzzle aside, grabbed
men until they no longer moved. it, and yanked it from her hands.
“Leave them,” she ordered when some They were both shocked by the abruptness
of the wide-eyed prisoners began seeing to of the meeting. The disarm was an instinctive
those who’d been stunned. reaction, and showed that he’d been training
“But they’ll need medical attention,” one in hand-to-hand combat.
man complained. She found herself facing a large boy with
“If we win we’ll come back for them,” she close-cut black hair and a medium complex-
snapped. “If we lose—well, it won’t make a ion. He was obviously even younger than she
difference.” was and, instead of reversing the weapon, he
With a knife thrust into her belt and a stun- let it dangle from one hand and held up the
gun held ready, Til led the prisoners down other, open-palmed, toward her.
the corridor. She warned them to silence as She jumped back, pulled the knife from

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her belt, and made ready for a lunge. “Hold “You have to be careful who you kill,” a
it!” he called to her. “I’m not—” small voice said behind her. “You never know
She didn’t wait to listen. In a life or death who your friends might be.”
situation, she didn’t plan on being the one to Til whipped around. There, standing with
die. hands upon skirted hips was the picturesque
She leaped in and thrust low. The pirate figure of a small pirate girl. She looked no
swung the paralyzer awkwardly to block the more than nine years old, with a bandanna
blade and stepped backward. Her following of scarlet and a swallow-tailed coat worn
slash raked across the upraised weapon also. over a tight-wasted black dress. Her coat was
He took it in two hands to use defensively as embroidered with gold thread and ran with
he tried to reason with her. “Look I—” She rows of golden buttons. Tumbling black hair
reversed her weapon in a flashing movement, flowed over her shoulders to her waist in the
taking an ice-pick grip, and tried an overhand back.
stab. He raised the paralyzer to block the “His name is Van,” the little pirate girl
blade, and this time brought up a well-trained told her. “And he’s not the one you should
foot to ram deep into her stomach. be worrying about. There’s a group coming
Til doubled up in pain and shock with most from over there.” She pointed down another
of the air knocked out of her. corridor. “They’ll catch you if you don’t hurry
“Now, listen—” the young man panted and up.”
he leaned back against the wall in exhaus- “Who are you?” Til asked.
tion. Doctor Slag’s sleeping medication “I’m the captain’s little sister, miss,” the
hadn’t worn off completely yet and Van was child told her. “Molly, you can call me.”
still having trouble focusing. “I’m not going Til sheathed her knife and looked down at
to—” his words were lost as he wilted down the unconscious boy.
the supporting wall and tumbled to the deck, “What’s wrong with him?”
unconscious. “Oh, he’s still recovering from an accident,
Holding her cramp-spasming stomach, Til that’s all. He’s not in very good condition,
stumbled over to the fallen pirate and put her I’m afraid. He’ll be better soon. He’s just so
knife to his throat. It wasn’t until then that she stubborn! Honestly, I just don’t know what to
noticed the explosive collar and hesitated. do with him.”
“He’s a slave?” she mumbled to herself. Til scooped up the fallen paralyzer and

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headed back toward her waiting people. Her timing was getting better with practice.
Molly followed along. She was positioned perfectly this time. She
“If you’re the captain’s sister,” Til asked as triggered her weapon as fast as she identified
they trotted. “Why are you helping me?” her first target. She fired point-blank into his
“Because Van would want me to,” she chest and the man’s eyes went vacant. The
replied simply. group let out a chorus of yells as the first man
“How could you know that?” fell and Til triggered the weapon over and
“Well, he didn’t shoot you, now did he?” over. She was close, fast, and accurate. Three
she said with a laugh. of the pirates were dropped before any of the
“Look, thanks for the advice,” Til told the others could draw a weapon. She blasted into
child. “I’ve got to go now. I have to stop those those crowded behind them, firing as fast as
men before they find the captives. They’re she could.
not trained to defend themselves so I have to Then suddenly, the fight was over. The
do it for them.” pirates were all down and she was untouched.
“That’s very noble,” Molly said with a nod. She could hardly believe her luck. It took her
“I’m an Alluriean officer. It’s my job.” Til a moment to realize that Molly was gone. Oh
hefted the paralyzer and moved into a position well, there was no reason for her to think that
where she could cover the corridor. the child would’ve hung around anyway. No
“Van was right in not shooting you. I think reason at all.
I like you too.” She grabbed four more paralyzers from
“Thanks,” Til grumbled. “But you’d better the fallen pirates and headed back to further
get out of here before you get caught.” arm her own force.
“Oh, they can’t catch me,” Molly replied She was three steps down the corridor
with a giggle. “But you’d better be careful. when she heard a scrape of metal behind
They’re very mean men. And they’re almost her. She whirled in time to see one of the
here!” fallen pirates rise up on an elbow and level a
Til slowed to a careful walk. She could hear weapon at her. He’d been playing possum! She
numerous people approach around a corner. dropped the armful of scavenged weapons
She decided to stake everything upon surprise. and leveled her paralyzer. The two of them
She dashed forward and leaped around the fired simultaneously and both tumbled to the
corner of the corridor. deck.

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# “I’ve a good mind to half Skitter’s wages for


lettin’ her break loose like he did. He’s lucky
Van awoke to a testing kick to his ribs and
I didn’t half his skull!” The captain tugged
a gruff, “Get up, crimp!”
at his cutlass once again. “What’s my crew
“Whaaa!” he stammered.
comin’ to when unarmed prisoners can slip
“Sleepin’? You worthless spawn of a
out from armed men?” Arool shook his head
cockroach!”
in disgust. “Off with you then, or I’ll put you
His raised eyes came into focus upon the
to work, cracked head or no!”
rage-flushed face of Captain Arool. The pirate
Van staggered off to find the cabin where
captain fingered the hilt of the archaic cutlass
the doctor had taken up residence. No sense
he enjoyed carrying. Van knew the pirate had
irritating the captain’s mediocre humor. He
killed people with that weapon.
certainly wasn’t going to admit he’d just
“No Sir.” He struggled to his feet. “I was
passed out.
ambushed! There are prisoners loose.”
He instinctively cut through the ship by the
“Prisoners loose?” The captain’s voice
most direct route. He moved, not knowing
lowered to a growl. “We’ve got her—and her
how he knew where to go. His feet sent soft,
flock of sheep. Never you worry about that
eerie echoes throughout the vacant corridors
fiery strumpet, boy. She was fixin’ to lead a
of the huge ship.
mutiny! A mutiny of crimps aboard MY prize
He slowed as he came to a junction where
plundered ship!
he heard the noise of work and saw the
“She’s well and handily restrained now,
flashing strobe of a laser cutter. He decided
though. Sneed clipped her with a paralyzer
to investigate further when he identified the
and we’ve got a collar on her scrawny little
voice of Bran Lora, the engineer. Van walked
neck! I’ll deal with her soon enough.”
carefully down the corridor to where the
Van’s stomach sank. He’d hoped the girl
engineer was overseeing an operation to cut
would get away. He didn’t wish the miserable
open a door.
and degrading life of a slave onto anyone.
“Van, what are you doing here, lad?” Bran
“Blind-sided, eh?” Captain Arool gave Van a
asked heartily as he approached.
measuring look. “Well, go and see the doctor
“I was headed for sick bay when I heard
then, boyo. There’ll be a line by now. That
your crew,” Van replied.
little minx did that much damage!
“Ah, bad job, this,” Lora told him with a

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"Ghost Ship," by Robert Mancebo Pg. 15

scowl. “Alien metal. Tough stuff. Lasers aren’t “Molecular reorganization!” Bran exclaimed
cuttin’ it. Didn’t I know it’s impossible, I’d say in awe. “No wonder it’s such a monstrous job.
the beam’s just polishin’ it! I don’t know how I’ll bet it’s been rebuilding itself as we been
we’re going to get through all these doors. cuttin’ it!”
We’re still working on the first one here. My Bran placed his hand over the place Van
lads are disgusted over it, and the cap’n’s had and the door disappeared once again.
chewin’ nails!” “Well, we can tell folks that we’ve ‘seen the
“Have you tried the lock?” Van hazarded. Elephant’ now, lads. Amazing, this is!”
“What lock?” Van suddenly had a sinking feeling in his
“Right side, waist high. That’s how I opened stomach. He was helping the pirates discover
the bridge.” secrets about the Ja’lal. Secrets they would
“Skirf! Hey, Skirf, belay that!” Bran ordered ultimately use to do more damage to the rest
the man with the heavy cutter. The noise and of the people of the galaxy. It would’ve been
flashing ceased. better to somehow blow up the grand old ship
“All right, lad. You got the other one open. than to help the pirates take her and plunder
Show me where.” her technology. Who knew what secrets the
“Right over here.” Van walked forward and old ship held?
placed his right hand over the place he had “We’ve got engineering open, Cap’n,” Bran
when he’d opened the bridge. To everyone’s called into his commlink.
surprise, the door disappeared. “Ah-ha! I knew you could,” came the
“Sink me!” the pirate with the cutter captain’s voice in reply.
growled and threw his dark face shield down “Actually, it was—” Bran said while looking
to bounce off the deck. at Van.
Van stepped back and the hatch reap- Van shook his head frantically. The last
peared. thing he wanted the captain to know was that
“Son-of-a—” one of the other engineering he wasn’t at the sickbay yet.
mates hissed under his breath. “There’s not a “—it was quite a job, sir.” Bran changed
scratch on it!” what he was going to say in mid-sentence.
It was true. When the hatch reappeared it “Better give Mister Bottle a double grog ration
showed no sign of the days of cutting they’d this comin’ week.” He slapped the crewman
been doing. with the laser cutter on the back. “Was him

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"Ghost Ship," by Robert Mancebo Pg. 16

that did the cuttin’.” He never quite knew how he got there, but
He winked at Skirf Bottle, and the engi- Van arrived at the door to the sick bay, and
neering mate flashed a smile in return. the sight of the line of people waiting woke
“Consider it done!” Captain Arool replied. him from his contemplative daze.
“Inform me when you’ve deciphered their “Back of the line, kid!” a fat, surly pirate
technology.” named Gene Paro snapped at him before
“Aye, aye, sir.” Bran killed his commlink and he’d even gotten close enough to join them.
hooked it back onto his belt. “You’d better “Women and children to the rear!”
shove-off now, Lad, before you do us any The other pirates laughed, glad to have
favors that are harder to explain.” someone to insult while they waited. “Then
“Oh, uh, right.” Startled out of his guilty I’ll be in good company,” Van flared back at
contemplation, Van meandered away toward him. His self-recrimination found a chance
sick bay. to vent and some white-hot knot of emotion
He was worried now, worried for the seemed to assert itself over his common
people that these men would prey upon in sense. “Wasn’t it a woman who put you all
the future. They forced upon him shipboard here?”
duties and fighting skills; those things were “Why you smart-mouthed little whelp!”
different. There was no way to refuse. This The pirate’s sneering face went purple and
was something he’d done of his own accord. his mouth pulled back in a snarl that showed
Was he becoming one of them now? He found several missing teeth. “I’ve a good mind to
himself working for them more and more over open your gizzard!”
the years, and didn’t know how to stop. How “Old puff-guts, you can hardly even stand
soon before he would be indoctrinated into up!” Van taunted with a malicious laugh. “I’d
other areas of their filthy business? have to be half dead for a great, greasy, bag
He’d always sworn he would rather die of wind like you to catch!” In truth he was
than become one of them, but would he? It about half dead. At least, he felt like he was.
was a very uncomfortable thought. Van felt But he was mad. Mad at himself for helping
that he had come to some sort of a crossroad. the pirates with the Ja’lal. Mad at what they
He stood at a precipice. He had a decision to would do with the once-mighty ship.
make and it was a choice that might well cost If he’d only kept his mouth shut and just
him his life. left them to fumble through her on their own!

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"Ghost Ship," by Robert Mancebo Pg. 17

It might’ve taken them weeks of prying and Officer Van had had the brief fight with. The
cutting to get into each compartment. They girl he’d hoped would escape.
might have even given it all up as too much “What the—” the captain began, but Van
work. He had made it easy on them. He was had no time to explain. With an enraged
a fool. pirate wielding a wicked dirk right behind him,
“I’ll bleed you for that!” The pirate pulled he rushed into the wide room and around to
his dirk and staggered toward Van. the side to get some maneuvering space.
Self-preservation overcame self-recrimi- Completely winded but still game, the
nation. As the man came for him, Van turned pirate stumbled in behind him.
and ran. “Oh, I send you to sick bay and it’s fightin’
The man was slowed by his own injuries. yer after!” Arool snarled at Van. “Well then,
Stunning affected people that way. It was pleasure before business I always say. We’ll
often nearly fatal to anyone in less than leave off the wench’s fate until Mister Paro is
perfect physical condition, and the pirates through with his fun.”
were prone to debauchery and laziness. “Have at it then, Gene Paro.” The captain
Van ran without a plan. He was exhausted, gave his laughing encouragement. “He’s been
but adrenaline pushed him on. He could hear growin’ too big fer his britches lately anyway.
the stumbling of the enraged pirate behind It’s only a matter of time before I has to kill
him. him m’self.”
He came to an open door he recognized Van expected little more from the pirates.
and ran onto the bridge of the Ja’lal. There was no mercy, or kindness, or decency
The room was fully illuminated this time, in them. A man’s standing in the crew was
and gold sparkled off its decorative borders. only what his fighting skills demanded.
The corpse of its former captain had been Van yanked his shirt over his head and
removed and Captain Arool himself sat upon wrapped it around his left arm. He was still
the command seat with his cutlass across his slim and growing, but he’d been working for
knees. the pirates for more than five years. He was
The three men of his bodyguard were strong and showing the beginnings of man-
there. Garret, the most vicious blackguard of sized muscles. If it hadn’t been for the debili-
the crew, and his two cronies, Skip and Mad tating injury from the alien trap, he might
Jack who crowded about the young Alluriean have easily overpowered the pudgy pirate.

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"Ghost Ship," by Robert Mancebo Pg. 18

Paro laughed at the boy’s defense and Garret held onto Van until just before the
came at him with the knife. charging man’s knife was in him before he let
Van took the first slash across his padded him go.
arm and retaliated with a quick jab to the It was too late to run, so Van used his speed
pirate’s nose that brought blood and made and smaller size to his advantage. He dove to
his eyes tear. the floor and the charging pirate tripped over
The group watching heckled and jeered him.
at their injured comrade, hectoring him into The man tumbled, bull-like, into a surprised
several more wild swings before his eyes Garret, and they both spilled over onto the
cleared. deck.
“Gimlet-eyed whip jack!” Van chanced a Van was up instantly and backed away
quick kick to Paro’s groin. “Let’s say hi to your ,panting heavily. The two men untangled amid
gigmabobs!” a flurry of cursing and stood up. The boy was
The man yelled and covered his crotch reeling and ready to pass out.
with his left hand while he hopped in a painful Garret wiped a hand across the bleeding
circle. The rest of the pirates gave out a roar scratch in his side where Paro’s knife had
of sadistic laughter at that. brushed him. His brutal face went pale with
But the quick kick had been painful, not rage. He wasn’t a pudgy gunner or cargo
crippling. Van would have followed it up with monkey. He was a professional murderer, and
a real attack while the pirate tried to recover, he took no slight or insult without dire retri-
but something grabbed him by the neck from bution.
behind before he could. “Now—now—Garret,” Paro stuttered in
It was Garret. panic. “It wasn’t me! You know I wouldn’t do
“Hey, you worthless sack-o-guts,” the no such thing! W-we’re mates, you and me. It
captain’s enforcer called out with a laugh. was the kid. The crimp tripped me!”
“He’s over here!” Garret turned his burning gaze upon Van
Van tried to fight his way free, but the big and drew his own heavy dirk.
guard hung on while Paro wiped the tears “At least give him a knife!” Til demanded of
from his eyes, snuffed at the blood from his Captain Arool, as it was clear that the guard
nose, and straightened himself up painfully. intended to join into the fight.
Then he charged. “Not my knife!” the captain said with a

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"Ghost Ship," by Robert Mancebo Pg. 19

laugh and hefted his cutlass. “You can feel sliding from a metal sheath.
free to give him yours—oh, but then, you As Van drew the shining sword, he felt an
haven’t got one.” His laughter bellowed at his electric thrill course through his body. His
own, sick humor. failing muscles tightened and his mind was
Til felt a heavy object pressed into her snapped from the dizzying grayness of a near-
hand from behind. She chanced a glance at faint, to crystal clarity.
her guards. No one else saw it. All their eyes A leap carried him within range of the
were focused upon the fight that was about captain’s chief murderer. The sword swept
to begin once again. They were ready to see down in a powerful slash that Garret barely
guts spilled. fended off with an experienced twist of his
She looked down to see the smiling face of big knife. But the boy followed the stroke
Molly close behind her, the girl’s big, dark eyes with three more in blinding succession, and
looking up from under her mane of raven hair. the leader of the captain’s bodyguard fell
The little waif gave her a wink and smiled. back with a death scream. Van felt his heart
Til took a breath, lowered her shoulder pumping fire and never slowed his motion.
slightly, and threw the object before anyone A diving thrust ran the tip of the wide blade
could stop her. through Gene Paro’s chest.
“Catch!” she yelled to Van. The object sailed Captain Arool cast aside his surprise and
through the compartment, and he snagged it reacted to the extraordinary reversal of events
from the air before his mind even registered with characteristic violence. He jumped
what it was. out of the command seat of the Ja’lal and
Captain Arool sat up as though he’d been unsheathed his cutlass with a flourish. The
jolted by an electric shock. All the men in the two of them, man and boy, met in a whirling
room looked from Van to Til in amazement. clash of blades that rang deafeningly in the
“You said he could have—” she began. wide room.
“Where did you get that?!” Captain Arool Impossibly, the pirate was pressed to the
bellowed. His rough face colored purple and defensive. Van whirled the sword with an
he looked as though a vein in his temple might eerie skill that was not his own. His power
explode. seemed inspired by the sword itself.
Their attention snapped back to Van when Mad Jack rushed to his captain’s aid, but
they heard the singular sound of a blade knife against sword was a feeble idea, and he

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"Ghost Ship," by Robert Mancebo Pg. 20

received a quick death slash for his trouble. was docked next to them, close enough to
Arool backed away and Van followed, touch. In the midst of their awed wonder, a
pressing forward. The last guard, Skip, shifted child’s voice spoke, magnified to an echoing
position to come around behind Van but roar that filled the great ship’s maze of
made a mistake in disregarding Til. As he corridors, “Batteries are prepared to fire
turned away, the young ensign knocked him broadside. Firing!”
out with a chopping blow to the neck. The image of the Isis was suddenly pierced
“Stay back!” Captain Arool warned in a by beams of what looked like liquid light. Ruth-
desperate tone and held up his commlink. “If lessly punctured in at least a dozen critical
I give a touch to this button, your collar blows places, air, fuel, and ragged flotsam vented
and you’ll be splattered all over this compart- into empty space.
ment!” “My ship!” Arool ghasped in horror. “My
“I...” Van hesitated for only a moment ship—who?”
before he replied through gritted teeth, “don’t “That was me,” a child’s voice said from
care!” behind Van. The small, flamboyant form of
Captain Arool smiled and, for the first time Molly seemed to step from behind a veil of
in five torturous years, Van thought he saw a darkness to stand next to the young man.
glimmer of respect there. “Who’re you?” Captain Arool demanded.
“Ah, I always thought there was just a bit “She’s your sister,” Til said in confusion.
too much spine in you ta make a good slave, “She said—”
boyo. Pity. You would’ve maybe made a good “I said I was the captain’s little sister,” the
pirate someday.” child corrected.
He raised the commlink to push the “Molly?” Van whispered.
detonator but stopped as the air flashed “I am Molly Ja’lal. As each new captain is
around them. chosen, so an icon from his personal memory
The bridge of the Ja’lal came to life. is selected as a physical interface. I am a
Holographic screens shimmered into control interface to the starship Ja’lal. I am
existence. It was as though they were suddenly here to communicate with you, while you
standing in open space with the stars shining stand within me.”
all around them. “Then Van is the captain?” Til asked.
The Isis was there, looking as though she “Van Ellian took up the sword of the

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"Ghost Ship," by Robert Mancebo Pg. 21

captain,” the small figure affirmed with hands head off with a touch ‘o this button! Tell me
upon hips. “The mighty Ja’lal is his and all the why I shouldn’t?”
power of the stars coalesced has been placed “I’m prepared to die, Arool,” Van placed a
into his young hands.” hand upon the shoulder of the small figure
She reached out, and when the child’s that stood next to him. “It would be a pleasure
hand touched his back, Van felt a shifting to take you with me!”
across his bare skin. When he looked down Arool looked into Van’s cold eyes for a long
he found that he was dressed as the dead moment before saying, “Is it to be quarter
captain had been, in shimmering robes and a you’re offerin’ then? Your life for mine?”
white turban. “The first rule of being a pirate,” Van growled
“Once the choice was made, he only had to at the pirate captain. “Neither quarter give
accept it. But I had to make sure he didn’t pass nor grant. You’ve said it to me often enough.
the sword of ownership off to someone else You’re too dangerous to let live.”
before he understood what he was doing.” “Then we’re at som’at of an impasse, boyo,”
“Then nocky boy’s only the captain until I Arool said as he backed toward the door. “I
blow his head off,” Captain Arool laughed and think that it’s time for me to be makin’ use of
waved his commlink. “And pick the sword up an escape pod.”
for meself!” “I’ll leave you and your new friends to
Molly’s small face scowled in a strangely entertain me mates. I trust you’ll be showin’
inhuman manner and Bran Lorca’s panicking ‘em the same courtesy they’ve granted the
image flashed onto one of the bridge screens. pair of you.” His evil laughter roared forth like
“Cap’n! Cap’n! I don’t know what’s happening the bark of a bull mastiff.
but all the engines are going super-critical! I He hesitated in the doorway and waved at
can’t stop ‘em! We’re going to be blown all Van with the commlink. “I’ll register any guns
over space in about one minute.” bearing on me, boyo. If I so much as suspect
“If my captain is murdered, then I shall exact that you’re goin’ to fire on me, I’ll push this
retribution,” Molly warned Arool sternly. “No button and you’ll be splattered all over your
one will ever take this ship by force.” shiny ship here.”
“You’ve destroyed my ship, killed my guards, “Captain Arool?” Molly called with a smile
stole my prize,” Arool snarled at Van. “An’ and a soft voice.
here I’ve in my power to blow your monkey “What?” Arool raised the commlink threat-

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"Ghost Ship," by Robert Mancebo Pg. 22

eningly at her but was suddenly blocked of a long hull of peculiar fashion. It was long
from their view by the door. They could hear and sleek with a raking bow and an arched
his scream of pain on the other side of the superstructure at its stern.
bulkhead. “We look like an ancient Turkish galley—”
His outstretched hand, still holding the she began, and Van laughed.
commlink, fell to the floor of the ship with a “Ja’lal picked up some of Molly’s personal-
disgusting clunk. ity in the transference,” Van explained. “And
“Oh, nothing,” Molly called through the Molly’s favorite stories were from an ancient
door. volume of ‘A Thousand and One Arabian
# Nights.’ The tales fit well with Ja’lal’s own
previous personality.
Til found Van and Molly standing upon
“Now, our first stop will be to drop you and
the bridge of the Ja’lal in light, close conver-
your people off on Alluria.”
sation. She knew that Molly wasn’t actually
“What then?” she asked.
a person, but she almost felt as though she
“Then?” he smiled grimly. “The Pirate
were intruding upon a private conversation.
Brotherhood of Mortos brags of having a
“My people are all quartered or being seen
thousand bases scattered throughout the
to by your doctor, Captain,” she announced.
galaxy. That should keep us busy for a while.”
“The rest of the pirates are secured in the brig
“The navies of eight hundred planets have
as ordered.”
been working for a century to put The Broth-
“Excellent, Ensign,” Van told her. “Then we
erhood out of business, and you think that
will prepare to get underway.” He nodded
you’re going to do it all by yourself?”
to the small figure that stood next to him.
“I have a captive crew who know where
“Molly?”
dozens of those bases are. That will be a
“Aye, Aye, Captain,” the childlike figure
beginning. I will hammer them into a weapon
nodded. “I am cannibalizing collected
to turn against The Brotherhood.”
material now.” Til watched a display of the
“I think you’ve got delusions of grandeur,”
Ja’lal floating in the air before them. All the
the ensign said with a snort.
space debris that had collected around the
“Do I?” the young captain smiled at his own
drifting hulk over the centuries seemed to be
audacity. “Maybe. But you have to under-
sucked into the ship, leaving the clean figure
stand what the Ja’lal is.” He sat down in the

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"Ghost Ship," by Robert Mancebo Pg. 23

captain’s chair and rested the shining sword


of command across his knees. Molly stood
Robert Mancebo
Rob Mancebo was born to American parents on
next to him dutifully, and placed one small the Island of Luzon in 1958. One of six children,
hand upon the edge of the chair. he is of German/Scot-Irish heritage on his
“Within this vessel, what I will becomes mother’s side and Portuguese on his father’s.
reality. The Ja’lal isn’t a ship of ghosts; she’s a
ship of dreams.” Raised in Silicon Valley and educated in the
school of hard knocks, he’s been a soldier, a
Without the need of a command, the stars
classified clerk & courier, a security technician
began to move past them. A solar collector in in an aerospace company, and he is currently
the shape of a great crescent moon appeared relaxing and avoiding corporate pressure
above the ship like a sail shining in the bright as a retail security guard where he can just
summer sun, and the Ja’lal slipped through enjoy wrestling with vandals and shoplifters.
the vast net of stars with no more effort than
He’s been qualified in two combat arms
and one technical specialty in the Army and
a man skipping across a shimmering pond
was a certified military instructor. He’s also
upon polished stepping stones. participated in renaissance re-enacting and
is a long-time collector of archaic weapons.
He’s traveled throughout western America
from British Columbia to Guadalajara, lived in
Germany for three years, toured in Ireland, and
now makes his home in Southern Oregon.

He grew up reading books by E.R.Burroughs,


Robert E. Howard, E.E.Smith, Louie L’Amore,
and J.R.R.Tolkien. As a student of history, he has
no ambition greater than writing entertaining
adventures that may give people a glimpse into
exotic times and places. Now that his children
are grown and he’s away from the corporate
grind he has time to research history, people,
and cultures to give background to his stories.
His site is http://geocities.com/robmancebo/

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"Tech Support," by Tim Baer Pg. 24

Tech Support
by Tim Baer

“T hank you for calling Asah Robotics,


where our ‘bots are made in your
image just as we are made in His. You have
Can you quit being quite so hysterical and at
least tell me what it is?”
“It’s one of your horrible robots.”
reached the technical support division. My “I had gathered that much—but which
name is Nachash and my badge number is type? If I knew that much, perhaps I could
23025. Do you have a technical question?” send out a signal to remotely turn it off.”
“I can’t turn this horrid thing off!” “I don’t know—it was a gift from my wife.
“Okay, perhaps I can help. May I get a It was supposed to help me with my lawn
little information first? If you would give me work. Oh, no—don’t look at me and lick your
your customer ID or the serial number of the metal lips! Oh, man! There goes my shed!”
system we will be working with, I will be able “Ah! One of our Lawn Brethren? Is it
to pull up your configuration and be more green?”
able to help you.” “Sort of. It’s green camouflage. Now it’s
“I don’t have time for this. It won’t turn eating my neighbor’s hedge—wait a minute—
off! It’s already eaten the car! It chased me it just waded through the hedge and started
‘round the yard four times! Now it’s working chewing on his car’s front bumper!”
on my bass boat’s trailer!” “Camouflaged? We do not sell anything
“All right—have you tried hitting the power to the civilian sector that is camouflaged. Are
switch?” you sure?”
“What kind of a moron do you take me for? “What kind of an ignorant question is
Of course I tried the power switch. The stupid that? I’m looking straight at it and it is cam-
thing broke. I pushed it and it kept going on ouflaged. I’m in trouble because my ‘bot is
inside the case. Now it won’t shut off. Oh no! out of control, not because I’m blind! It’s eye-
It’s eating my lawn tractor!” balling me again. I think it knows I’m on the
“Sir, I would like to be able to help you, but phone with you!”
I need to know what it is I am working with. “Calm down, sir. We will figure this out.

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"Tech Support," by Tim Baer Pg. 25

The book of Kohelet, or Ecclesiastes as you “Oh! It’s wandered out into the street and
might know it, chapter seven, verse eight says, knocked over a beer truck! Now it’s eating
‘Better is the end of a thing than its beginning. the trailer!”
The patient in spirit is better than the proud “Excellent! That sounds like a blessing to
in spirit.’ Can you get close enough to it to see me! Can you grab a case or two before any
the placard on the back of its head? If you can, law enforcement officials show up?”
there is a serial number printed on it.” “What? What on earth are you talking
“It bit my watch off when the power switch about? What kind of a comment is that from
broke. I ain’t going anywhere near it—I told a supposedly Christian-owned company? My
you already that it’s chased me around the ‘bot is running amok and you’re making jokes
yard four times. It’s eyeballing me again! Oh, about stealing beer?”
no! There goes the car’s engine. My neigh- “It was just a suggestion. Try not to be such
bor’s going to sue!” a stuffed shirt! Perhaps you could find your
“I am sure he will be understanding. I will original packing slip? In the upper right hand
bet he has had appliances break before.” corner you will find your customer ID and the
“Understand my foot! He took me to court serial number of the ‘bot.”
when my son put a baseball through his “Packing slip? It was in the box.”
upstairs window. Imagine what he’ll do over “Wonderful! Do you still have the box?”
his car!” “Uh, it was in my shed.”
“Calm down. I am sure it is not as bad as all “Oh. Is this the same shed that the ‘bot
that. He will be reasonable. Just have him call already ate?”
our customer support number and we will set “Yes.”
him up with a coupon for our ‘Bot Shop. We “So much for the quick fix, huh? Maybe
have all sorts of goodies in there that will take next time you will have enough brains to keep
his mind off the car. Imagine how tickled he valuable papers in a safer place.”
will be when he finds that he can receive at a “What? How dare you? You’re absolutely
substantial discount a factory reconditioned no help. Give me your supervisor!”
Bible Brethren! It can recite the Word to him “I am sorry, but all the floor supervisors
in fourteen different languages! It also comes are at a going-away luncheon for one of the
in the following versions: KJV, NIV, HNV, other supervisors. Besides, you called me. I
NASB—” am here to help you. Deal with it.”

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


"Tech Support," by Tim Baer Pg. 26

“You are rude and definitely no help at all. how to be a team player. Try it anyway before
There goes the cab of the truck. Give me your you become liable for more damage.”
manager!” “I thought you said he’d be understand-
“Sir, my manager is a very busy woman. ing?”
She cannot come to the phone right now. Do “I thought you said he sued you over a
you have a screwdriver?” broken window?”
“What? First beer and now mixed drinks? “You really are no help at all, are you? All
Get me your manager!” right, I’m approaching it now. No, it sees me!
“No, no, no! A screwdriver! You know! Help! It’s chasing me and—it took the screw-
Straight slot, Phillips—a tool!” driver out of my hand, and it’s eating that!”
“Oh. I don’t know. I kept most of my tools “Hmm. Okay, I guess we will have to try
in the shed. Let me check the junk drawer in something else.”
the kitchen.” “No kidding, you ignorant—”
“Please.” “Now there is no need to resort to name-
“Yes. I’ve got one.” calling, sir. If we cannot keep this call on a
“Good. Go out and jam it all the way in professional level—”
where the power switch used to be.” “Professional? If you’re professional, I’m
“What?” a green-haired design engineer! Get me your
“Sure. Maybe you will hit where the switch manager.”
used to connect to and turn it off.” “I am sorry. She just went to lunch.”
“And maybe I’ll hit the main line coming “I think the whole company is out to lunch.
in from the power supply and fry myself and How did you ever manage to get hired?”
won’t have to worry about being liable for all “Sir, there is no reason to make this
the damage it’s causing.” personal. Do you have another screw-
“Swell! There is the spirit! Mishle, or driver?”
Proverbs, chapter seventeen, verse twenty- “Oh sure—I’m simply made of tools.”
two says, ‘A cheerful heart makes good “I beg your pardon?”
medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the “Forget it. No, I don’t have any more tools.
bones.’” Your stupid ‘bot’s eaten them all.”
“I was being facetious, you idiot!” “Could you drive to your local hardware
“I am beginning to think you need to learn store and purchase another one? They are

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"Tech Support," by Tim Baer Pg. 27

cheap.” “No, I have no time for enterta—er, I mean


“So are your ‘bots. And no I can’t. It ate my I will watch it on the news tonight. Do you
car, remember?” have a rifle?”
“Ah, right. What about borrowing a neigh- “In the shed.”
bor’s?” “Eaten?”
“It ate his car, too, you moron!” “Bingo.”
“No, borrow his screwdriver—and mind “Another quick fix bites the dust. Never
that name-calling!” fear, we will figure it out.”
“After my ‘bot ate his car? Figure the “Before or after I get arrested for destruc-
odds!” tion of public and private property?”
“Well sir, I cannot help you if you are not “I am sorry?”
willing to follow my simple directions. Thank “Yes, you are.”
you for calling Asah Robotics and—” “I do not follow you.”
“Not willing? You simple schmuck! You’re “Of course not. What would you like me to
stupid ‘bot is eating everything I could use to try next?”
follow your worthless directions!” “Well, I still have no information to look
“Sir, I have tried to be patient with you, but up. Could you give me your name?”
if you cannot keep this call on a professional “Now that the local news team is on the
and civil level, I will have to release the call.” scene, you can call me Mud.”
“Fine. What do you want me to do now?” “Is that your first or last name?”
“I would like you to—what was that “Yes.”
explosion?” “I am very sorry, but that is not populating
“Your ‘bot just ate part of a power line in my database screen. Can you give me more
tower. That was the sound of the transformer to go on?”
falling onto the fuel tanks of the remains of “I’d like to give you a piece of my mind.”
the beer truck. Next question?” “What good would that do? Yours seems
“Is the fire spreading?” to be deficient. I have a perfectly good mind
“Yes, it just caught a day-care center on of my own.”
fire. I suppose you would like me to describe “That remains to be proven. My name is
the children running out of the building Frank James.”
screaming in terror?” “I have twelve of those. What state are

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


"Tech Support," by Tim Baer Pg. 28

you in?” “Okay, I am re-sending the signal. What is


“Chaos.” it doing now?”
“I beg your pardon?” “It’s taking the rifles away from the
“Connecticut.” guardsmen and eating them—whoa!”
“Old Wethersfield?” “What?”
“Yes.” “One of the rifle rounds just went off and
“Ah! I have your account here now. Oh dear. barely missed my ear.”
You have one of our ‘bots that was slated for “Did you duck?”
recall. It seems there is an issue pertaining to “No. I stood here and took the bullet. Of
their programming.” course I ducked!”
“No! Y’think?” “Sir, there is no need to get snide.”
“I beg your pardon?” “Oh I am truly sorry for it.”
“I can see that it has an issue. It also has a “Do I detect sarcasm?”
taste for metal.” “I doubt it.”
“Yes. It seems their programming was “I do not follow you.”
set up for recycling metals instead of lawn “Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”
refuse.” “Sir...”
“I never would have noticed. The National “Just send the code again.”
Guard is on the scene now. Whoops—there “Okay. Now what is it doing?”
goes their half-track.” “It’s smoking one of their bazookas.”
“Oh dear. I wonder what it will go for “It is what?”
next?” “It took a bazooka away from one of the
“The mind boggles.” guardsmen, stuck one end in its mouth and lit
“I bet! Well, I have its code now. I am the other end. Wow! What an explosion!”
sending out the shut-off signal now. There!” “Is it still going?”
“Way to go. Now it’s moving faster.” “Yes, but it seems to be rather disappoint-
“It is? I must have hit the wrong key.” ed with the quality of the smoke.”
“Oh, now there’s a surprise, you stupid—” “It will get over it.”
“Sir, do not make me warn you about your “I’m sure. It’s chewing on the air filter from
incessant need for name-calling again!” the Guard’s Humvee. I think it believes it’s an
“Oh, perish the thought!” after-dinner mint.”

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


"Tech Support," by Tim Baer Pg. 29

“You are putting me on.” “Well I’ll be dipped! It did!”


“I only wish I was. Try that code again?” “Grand! Let me give you the event number
“Done. Did it work?” for this call. If you have any more problems
“It seems to have—no, wait. It’s just sitting dealing with anything we have discussed
down and—I don’t believe it!” during this call, just call us back and give this
“What?” number to the next tech. They will be able to
“It’s snoring!” pull up the screen with my notes and continue
“Well, after all it’s eaten, you would want troubleshooting where I left off. That number
to take a little siesta too, yes?” is 3901875.”
“Oh, sure. Why not?” “Okay, I have it. Now what do I do with him
“I certainly would! Okay, I am sending the in the meantime?”
code again.” “I am sorry, but this number is for technical
“Nothing happened.” questions only. That is a ‘how-to’ question.
“How can you be sure? Is it off, or is it still Our number for tutorials is in your paperwork
sleeping?” that came with the ‘bot. It is a 900 number
“Hear the snoring?” that carries a nominal fee.”
“Oh, is that what that is? I thought it was “Now wait just a skinny minute!”
static on the line. I am sending the signal “Sir, I would like to wish you a good day and
again.” once again thank you for calling Asah Technical
“It won’t work.” Support.” Click. The line went dead as a long
“How do you know? I am the tech. I will metallic finger stabbed the release button.
make the decisions here!”
“Just thinking back along your track record
thus far. What about a self-destruct signal?” Tim Baer
“It uses the ‘bot’s internal fuel core to do
Tim is a freelance author with several
that. Do you truly want to be that close to a stories published in various electronic
ten-kiloton atomic explosion?” magazines on the internet. When he is
“Okay, I’ll take your advice on this one. Try not busy pounding out more stories on his
the off signal again.” laptop, he is kept occupied taking care of
“Okay. Sent it. Hey! The static cleared up. his cats, the dogs, his wife and kids, and
serving the Lord—not quite in that order,
Did it work?”

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


 Pg. 30

Featured Artist
Fernando Rodrigues
Fernando Rodrigues, aka =Burning-Liquid

Fernando is an up-and-coming artist and college student


from The Netherlands, and has been a frequent contrib-
utor over at deviantART since early 2004.

• Interests:
Music, Space, Astronomy, Science
• Favourite movies:
Stargate 8 and LOTR Trilogy
• Favourite genre of music:
Trance, Techno, Hardstyle, Progressive, Happy
Hardcore, Hardtrance
• Favourite artist:
DJ Shog, Dean / Mario lopez, The Prophet
• Favourite style or digital art:
Sci-Fi SpaceScapes
• Tools of the Trade:
PS CS2 and Terragen - some 3D modeling here and there

Fernando has had a hand in a variety of projects, including various map and theme packs and has even
been collaborating on the art for a sci-fi book that’s still in the development phase. The details are
sketchy at this time but the idea sounds really cool.

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


 Pg. 31

Fernando’s page closes with a quote


from Albert Einstein:

“I want to know how God created this


world. I am not intrested in this or
that phenomenon. I want to know His
thoughts, the rest are details.”

Visit Fernando’s gallery at deviantART here:


http://burning-liquid.deviantart.com/gallery/
Thanks, Fernando, for allowing us to showcase some of
your work at Ray Gun Revival!

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


 Pg. 32

Deuces Wild
Reluctant Allies, Part Three 
by L. S. King

The story so far... junk?”


Slap and Tristan inadvertently became allies “Because someone’s high moral stand
against a common enemy, the mobster against stealing left me few alternatives.
Lyssel. After blowing up Lyssel’s warehouse— Stealing from a dead man didn’t offend your
with him inside—they hustled to find a way sensibilities too much.” Tristan shot a cutting
off-world. When we left them, they had just glare at Slap for a second before returning
taken off from the planet in a cargo ship his gaze to the controls.
belonging to the late mob-boss himself. The ship rocked and shuddered, flinging
Slap sideways. He grabbed the sides of the

“O ccupants of the freighter Manta,


this is spaceport security. You have
pirated that ship. Return to the spaceport.
chair. “Hey, they’re shooting at us!”
“Remarkably perceptive.” Tristan peered
at one of the read-outs. “The turrets are
This is your only warning.” operational. But there seem to be blind
Slap gripped the armrests even tighter, spots.”
his eyes widening. “Brago’s Bands! What Two ships slid past their bow. Slap gasped.
now? Freighters don’t have weaponry.” “They’re cutting us off! We gotta get outta
“Only defensive turrets. And they are” here!”
—Tristan’s lips thinned as his hands flew “I’m trying.”
over the panel—“engaged. Unless you The ships now before them turned. A
have something against protecting yourself red light on the panel drew Slap’s attention.
against your planet’s space patrol.” “Incoming! I sure hope those turrets are
Slap snorted. “You do know that most of working!” Slap leaned forward as he figured
the cops are on the Mordas’ payroll?” out the screen in front of him. “We have four
“I always assume such things. Makes life behind, plus these two in front! Can’t we go
much simpler. My current worry is outrun- faster?”
ning them. I wish we had a better ship.” “You want to get out and push?” Tristan
“Well, why did you take this piece of snapped.

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Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 33

Slap ground his teeth. He knew he sounded here he was.


like an idiot but he was helpless, no more He wished he could see behind, see the
than useless cargo. He knew how to fight planet. He closed his eyes for a moment in
on land—barehanded or with weapons. But remembrance. Pale hair and blue eyes, a smile
being in space, on a ship with nothingness that could melt hearts—oh, sweet Shallah.
outside and no way to combat, he felt out of Tiny arms waving above a happy baby face—
control, almost hysterical. If only he could do little Evan, so innocent, given no chance. A
something! long, grey visage emanating patience and
A bright flash directly ahead made Slap wisdom—good-bye Ol’ Pa. He swallowed
wince. “What was that?” hard and opened his eyes to see stars swirl
Tristan chuckled softly. “So. The turrets then settle into place.
aren’t just defensive—they’re offensive as “What happened?”
well. Look at the display.” “We jumped. I need to change the registry
Slap glanced down. Two ships remained before we do anything else.”
behind, and only one in front. He looked out “So we’re safe?”
the port again. Another explosion made him “For now.” Tristan didn’t look up as he
shut his eyes. “Brago’s Bands! Lyssel knows worked.
how to refit a ship!” With a nod, Slap unstrapped. “I’m going to
“Indeed. I noticed when we came aboard the galley. Want me to bring you something
that this thing has two capacitors for the jump to eat?”
engine, not one. And it’s not the old-style “No. But getting acquainted with this ship
heavy fusion reactor, but antimatter.” is a good idea. Take the gun and be alert in
Slap laughed. “Not your typical cargo case we were wrong about being alone.”
ship.” Slap grabbed the weapon and his pack and
“No.” Tristan sat up a bit straighter. “Hold headed out the door.
on, we’re at a Lagrange point. I’m going to The Manta, only needing a handful to man
engage the jump engine.” her, had merely one deck for the crew. Slap
This was it! Slap was leaving his home. He began checking the crew quarters and heads
had never wanted more than his family, his on the exterior wall, trying to tread softly
homestead. Others had looked up at the sky, on the metal floor plates so his boots didn’t
watched the ships roar up into the atmo- give a hollow thunk with each step. He left
sphere, and longed to leave, but not Slap. Yet his pack in the starboard cabin next to the

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Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 34

head and across from the galley. Nothing like you’re the cook. Get out.”
convenience. The ship had six cabins for crew Slap backed up, his gun trained on her,
and two heads total. Four ladders led below, as she crawled out and stood. He stepped
one fore and aft on both port and starboard sideways to the wall and keyed the comm.
sides. “Hey, Tristan, I found someone. An engineer.”
When he had come full-circle to the bridge, “Space him.”
he checked the interior rooms—the captain’s The woman gasped, and her lower lip
cabin right across the hall, behind the bridge, trembled. She looked ready to drop to her
a room that looked like a combination dining knees.
area and lounge, with doors that opened to Slap sighed. “Uh, I don’t know that I could
the starboard and port sides of the hall. Lastly, do that. But anyway, it’s a her.”
the galley—his ultimate destination. His “Even worse. Space her.”
stomach rumbled in anticipation. “I ain’t gonna space no woman!”
He opened the door and felt for the lights. “Then I will. Where are you?”
They came on and he blinked. He walked “The galley.”
across to doors he suspected were storage “Be right there.”
cabinets and opened them. Empty. He went “Now wait—Tristan? Tris? Awww.” Slap
over to the next doors—empty as well. Uh oh. keyed off the comm and glared at the woman
He snatched another door open, then another. for complicating things.
Shelf after empty shelf. A lower cabinet She burst into tears.
revealed bowls and utensils. He went to the Great.
corner closet, but a scraping sound made him Slap wasn’t going to let his guard down,
pause, his stomach lurching. He pulled out tears or not, but he couldn’t believe this
the gun. A rat. Has to be a rat. Those critters woman was Mordas. She seemed too vulner-
find their way everywhere. But he hefted the able.
weapon before yanking open the door. Tristan soon entered, his own weapon
A woman huddled inside, eyes wide, and drawn, and she backed against the wall,
curly hair falling around her face. “Don’t hurt whimpering.
me.” Slap held out his arm to ward off his dark
“Who are you?” companion. “I won’t let you space her.”
“I’m an engineer.” She sniffled and wiped Tristan narrowed his eyes at her, then gave
her nose. “Who are you?” Slap a disgusted look. “Her sex makes her
“An engineer, huh? I was hoping you’d say no less dangerous. Probably more so. And if

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Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 35

she is an engineer, locking her up is taking a Slap clenched his teeth and hissed, “I don’t
chance. Who knows what mischief she could care who she is. I won’t space anybody!”
devise.” “You’re going to get us killed with this
Could Tristan really mean to just kill her in attitude!”
cold blood? “But, you can’t just space her!” “I mean it!”
“Why not? She’s Mordas. She’d space us if Tristan’s nostrils flared, and his eyes bored
she could.” with black ice into Slap’s. Finally he muttered
“I’m not!” The woman pushed her curly to himself and said, “We can’t leave her here.
hair out of her face. “I’m not Mordas. Honest, Pick her up.”
I’m not! I’m just an engineer.” Slap hesitated. He wasn’t about to cart her
Tristan’s lip curled. “Working at night?” away to space her. But Tristan was right; they
“They said they wanted the ship readied as couldn’t just let her be. He started to put the
soon as possible.” gun in his waistband, then thought better of
“I saw no tools or evidence of work being the idea—if she woke up, the weapon would
done in engineering, or anywhere else on the be within grabbing range. He held the butt
ship. And why didn’t the Mordas use their end toward Tristan. After the dark man took
own engineers? And what rate of pay does it, Slap leaned over and picked the woman
your union recommend for such unusual up. She didn’t weigh much, but from the kick
hours, hein?” she threw, she must know how to fight. Well,
The woman stared at Tristan, mouth open. not against Tristan. Remembering how they
He took a step closer, teeth gritted. “Who met, he knew that his companion could take
are you really?” on several men at once and come out on top.
Slap held his breath. Tristan’s voice had She hadn’t had a chance.
grown cold and hard, sending shivers up But what would Tristan do with her? He
Slap’s spine. Who was this guy? followed along until Tristan started down the
With a snarl, the woman spun, one foot ladder to the hold.
hooking at Tristan. He blocked. His fist shot “You gotta be kidding!”
out so quickly that all Slap could see was the “Pass her down then.”
result—the woman on the floor, unconscious. Slap shook his head. He didn’t trust Tristan.
Slap whistled through his teeth. With a sigh, he shifted her weight and tossed
“Pick her up.” her over his shoulder. He made his way down,
“I won’t space her.” feeling for each rung with his feet, and letting
“She’s Mordas.” go with his one free hand to grab at the next

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Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 36

crosspiece. Once at the bottom, he turned to Leaning back, Tristan said over his shoulder,
his buddy. “What now?” “If you see a flashing sign for a quick-stop way
“We’ll stow her as cargo.” station on an asteroid, let me know.”
“Why not just lock her in a cabin?” The chair spun, snapping Tristan around to
“She might find a way out. But since this face the cowboy. Slap’s face snarled close to
isn’t an ordinary cargo ship, the hold has his. “Stop treating me like an idiot. I’m outta
some special, hidden compartments that can my home pasture, and I know it, but I ain’t
be locked down.” stupid! I think I asked a fair question. Where
“She’ll smother if she’s sealed in!” can we get fuel?”
“We can regulate air supply.” Tristan nearly retaliated but held himself
“And what about food and water?” Slap in check. The cowboy had a point. But
blinked, remembering. “Oh, forget about the Tristan’s temper tended to be proportionate
food. We don’t have any.” to his stress level. And being saddled with this
“We don’t have much fuel either. We have sidekick definitely had spiked the latter. He
to find a place to refuel and restock. And soon. inclined his head in acquiescence.
We can dump her when we do.” Slap slowly straightened.
# “Let me check our position and see what
might be nearby.” Tristan hesitated, adding,
“But who is she?” Slap dogged Tristan’s
“Nearby being relative. Keeping this ship
heels all the way to the bridge. “I mean, if she
operational until we can refuel might mean
were a guard, she’d have a gun, right?”
limiting power.”
“I don’t care if she’s the captain, the
“Wouldn’t it be a good idea to do that now?
captain’s mistress, part of a cleaning crew, or
Just in case?”
the mascot. She’s Mordas.” Tristan keyed the
“Can’t hurt.” Tristan pointed at the other
lock and entered the bridge. He sat, his eyes
chair. Might as well teach the man something
scanning the read-outs.
so he could earn his keep. “You can pull up
“But we can’t—”
the power read-outs and see where we can
“Look,” Tristan twisted to look up at the
conserve. But don’t cut power to anything
tall irritant. “I have more important things to
without asking, it might have repercussions
worry about. Like getting fuel.”
you don’t realize.”
Slap nodded. “And food.”
Slap sat with a grateful look, glancing over
Tristan turned back to the controls, not
the board. “How do I access ‘em?”
deigning to answer.
Tristan bit back a smart reply. Instead he
“Where can we get fuel and supplies?”
Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006
Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 37

tried a small smile. “I bet you can figure it soon.


out.” “So what is it we need? The hydrogen or
Slap looked surprised, then snorted and anti-hy?”
pored over the board. Good deed for the “Hydrogen. The anti-hy is only available at
decade done, Tristan turned his attention deep space depots, for obvious reasons. They
to the nav display. There had to be some had filled up before landing.”
place near—a colony, base, mining operation, “I don’t get it. Why didn’t they have the
something. He checked the distance of the hydrogen tanked up?”
choices the computer presented. Not good. “Same reason the galley isn’t stocked. They
The blessed quiet broke when Slap shouted, weren’t planning to go anywhere, so they
“Ha! Got it!” didn’t have the ship ready.”
Tristan closed his eyes for a moment, before “Great. Do you usually run into this problem
resuming his search for something close and when stealing a ship?”
workable. Tristan glared. “I’m not in the habit
“You know, it looks like we could cut of stealing ships.” Often. “We were a bit
most power to this deck. The rooms are all pressed for time and limited in choices, if
empty.” A low rumble made Tristan look over. you remember.” Tristan let his breath out in
Slap glanced down toward his stomach and a sharp exhale. “If I keep this ship for any
shrugged with a sheepish grin. “Even the length of time, I’ll have to outfit this tub with
galley isn’t being used.” a hydrogen scoop.”
“Makes sense. I’m sure you’ll want to keep “What’s that?”
power to that aft compartment where the “Just what it sounds like. A large portion of
stowaway is.” solar wind that flows out from a star is pure
Slap shot him a dirty look, and nodded at hydrogen plasma. If we had a scoop, we’d not
Tristan’s board. “Find anything yet?” have to worry about running short of fuel.
“Our choices are spare. And dicey. I’d But Lyssel must only have used this ship for
suggest we shut down anything we can.” specific, short trips.”
Tristan didn’t mention spacing the woman “So do we have any other alternatives?
again although that would save energy. Slap I mean, is hydrogen all you can use for the
didn’t understand the danger they were in, matter?”
and had enough morals to get them killed. He “Anything that can be turned into a gas
had to find a place to leave the cowboy. And can be used, if the ratio of matter and anti-

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Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 38

matter is adjusted. But other than the ship’s stuck with us.”
atmosphere, we don’t have much available. Tristan looked the cowboy over as if seeing
And I don’t want to give up breathing just yet. him for the first time. Was there more to the
Now if you don’t mind, I’m trying to calculate man than met the eye? Blue eyes sparkled as
which is our best destination.” if Slap knew he held a winning hand. What
“Um, wouldn’t that be the one that’s the heck. Let the kid try.
closest?” “We have just enough charge in the one
This is why I prefer solitude. Tristan took a capacitor to make a short jump. From there,
deep breath. “Not necessarily. The closest is we’ll be near enough to the colony to do a
a low-tech colony, agricultural. They have a quick burn on the plasma drive and drift in.
reputation for not liking visitors. The next is a That saves just enough fuel that we should
military installation.” be able to safely land. So that puts our ETA at
“Agricultural, huh? Just farming, or do they five hours.”
have ranches too?” Slap nodded, frowning. “What about the
Oh, what an easy solution if he could just woman?”
dump the cowboy on those people! But no. “Let’s worry about fuel before we worry
He shook his head. “You can’t just land and about her. If I were you, I’d take care of any
ask for a homestead. They have about a year’s personal needs now. Once we’re drifting,
worth of red tape to get approved. They’re we’ll need to be strapped in. I have to cut
Separatists.” inertial dampeners, or we’ll lose too much
Slap sniffed. “So were my folks. But it velocity. And if you’re a praying man, pray.
didn’t stop others from trying to horn in on Because we’re vulnerable the whole time
them. You think they’d help if I gave them we’re adrift.”
some pretty patter?” #
Tristan whirled around in the chair and
Tristan closed his eyes. He hadn’t slept
stared at the cowboy. “You don’t seem to be
yet since meeting his new companion. No
a very smooth talker.”
wonder he felt so testy. He could doze for a
“Yeah, not like you. But I know these type
few hours and might as well, since he couldn’t
of folk.” Slap scratched his chin and grinned.
do anything until they reached the colony. He
“I can talk their language.”
let himself fade into blessed oblivion—
“If they don’t help us, we’re stuck.”
Tp tp tp t-t-t-tap. Tp tp tp tp t-t-t-tap. Tap.
Slap chortled. “If they don’t help us, they’re
Tristan’s eyes shot open, and he glared at

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Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 39

the cowboy’s fingers drumming on the arm of no record of cargo due, Giselle.”
the chair. “Do you have to do that?” “Yeah. I know. I’m sort of in a bind. I just
“Hm? Sorry. I’m bored.” Slap subsided, need fuel and supplies. I can pay.”
sighing, then sat up straight with a gasp. “We don’t do much off-world trade, and
“Say—what about the woman?” we don’t like outsiders.”
“What about her?” “I hear ya. My folks were Separatists too.”
“We didn’t warn her. What if she gets “Were? You’re not?”
hurt?” “Were meaning they’re dead. And I was
“That’s her tough luck. If she stays still, and turned off my homestead. Guy who sold me
nothing hits us, she’ll be fine.” this ship cheated me on top of it. That’s why I
“But—” need supplies.”
“It’s moot. We can’t go warn her now.” “You were cheated, yet you have money?”
Slap leaned back. Tristan closed his eyes “I hired on a captain, seeing as I don’t know
again. much about ships.” Slap cut his eyes over to
“So where are we going after we get Tristan. “He has a little stake he’ll give, seeing
fuel?” as his belly is as empty as mine, and he’s as
Tristan blinked. “Look, I’d like to rest a bit stuck in space as me if we don’t get some
before we reach the planet. Do you mind?” fuel.”
“Huh? Sure. No problem.” “And you’re really a Separatist?”
Slap hummed to himself, and Tristan “I had a great spread. Third generation.
gritted his teeth. Only four and a half hours Fertile land, lots of cattle, and some pretty
more. mustangs too. I lost it all.” Slap’s voice caught,
# and he continued on in a softer voice. “I lost
my family.”
“What’s the new name of this bucket?”
Silence. Tristan held his breath. The cowboy
“Giselle.”
had to be convincing; he was telling the truth.
“What’s that?” Slap asked, wrinkling his
But would these people believe him?
nose.
“Switch on your viewer.”
“A name. Now go ahead and call.”
Slap did, and a man’s weathered face
“Um.” The cowboy keyed the comm. “Cargo
peered through the monitor.
ship Giselle calling Voolmurra Colony. Request
“Young one, aren’t you? But your face is
permission to land.”
tan, not pale like a spacer.” The man hesitated
After a wait the answer came: “We have

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 40

then asked, “You aren’t looking for a new from, or if they demand cash, I have enough
stake here?” stellars to buy whatever we need. They’ll
“Naw. No offense, but I wanna get farther probably hike the price, and I don’t know
out. Know what I mean? The Dusties are all how much dickering you can do—they know
over this sector.” we have no choice.”
Tristan frowned for a moment then realized Slap stood and crossed his arms. “I was
that Dusties was a slang term for Industrial- bargaining horseflesh and selling cattle for
ists. A term to note and remember. my father when I wasn’t but two spits tall. I’ll
“Yeah. Hold on.” The Separatist looked get what we need.”
down for a moment and sighed. “Permission #
granted. The beacon will guide your ship to
Slap shook his head, trying not to sweat.
its dock. But only you are allowed off the ship.
“I’d have expected those prices for deuterium,
Your captain will have to stay aboard.”
not hydrogen. I can’t spend that much on fuel.
“No problem. Thanks.”
We need food, or we ain’t going nowhere.”
After transmission ended, Slap slumped
“That’s my best deal, son.” The man said,
back in the chair, letting his breath out with
leaning back on his desk. “Take it or leave it.”
a loud whoof.
Slap let his shoulders slump and scratched
Tristan silently agreed. And he had to admit,
his cheek. “Then I guess I’ll be seeing about
the kid did a great job. Now if those Separat-
hiring on somewhere. My captain won’t be
ists just didn’t change their minds.
happy, but if it’s a choice of sitting on a ship
He leaned forward and passed an e-pad
and starving, I’m sure he’ll work to earn extra
to the cowboy. “Here. I anticipated they
so we can buy what we need. How long do
wouldn’t let me aground. I made a list of
you think it would take for us to earn the
what we need. And don’t let them try to trick
difference between what I’ve got and what
you into deuterium—we need cheap. I’m not
you’re asking?”
worried about a more efficient energy yield.”
The man straightened. “You serious?”
Slap nodded, reading the e-pad.
“Dead serious. I told you. I was cheated
Tristan tapped the cowboy’s arm to make
when I bought that bucket. I wouldn’t have
sure he had his attention before continuing.
this much to spend if my captain hadn’t had
“Now, they may not take the quel from your
some stake put away. I’ll be back.” Slap turned
planet or credchits. Ask, but be prepared if
and put his hand on the door. “Some time.”
they say no. I have an account they can pull
“Wait.”

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 41

Slap hesitated, and slowly turned, keeping port authorities as a stowaway.”


his expression sorrowful. Would the threat She lifted her chin while rubbing her arm.
of outsiders stuck here outweigh this guy’s “Who do you think they’ll believe?”
greed? Tristan gave her a cold smile. “I know whose
The man rubbed his neck. “If I cut the price story they’ll buy. So it’s your choice.”
much lower, I’ll take a loss.” The woman bit her lip, doubt on her face.
“I understand. I just can’t pay. Thanks She stood and sidled past him, eye on the gun,
anyway.” Slap opened the door. then ran across the cargo deck and down the
The man groaned. “All right. But it’s got to hatch.
be cash up front.” Tristan sighed in relief. Now, where was
Slap squinted, hunching his shoulders. “All that cowboy? He secured the bay and headed
I’ve got in cash is quel. My captain has some up to the bridge. He opened the door and
stellars. Are they all right?” stopped. Slap sat, chewing and gulping.
“Yeah, I’ll take both. Quel is as good as “Hey, Tristan, lookee what I got!”
stellars, being so close to the Three Systems.” Tristan slid into his chair, and secured
# himself. “Don’t tell me you bought something
that wasn’t on the list.”
The dock hands left, and Tristan checked
“Strawberries!” Slap grinned and held up
the cargo one more time. All the supplies
the box. “Not many cuz they go bad fast.”
were aboard. Everything was going well. Only
“Why in the world did you buy fruit?”
one problem remained. Gun in hand, he went
“When was the last time you had real
to the compartment where the woman was
strawberries?”
and unlocked the door.
“I can’t remember. What did you spend?”
She sat huddled in the corner, arms around
“Altogether? About one hundred less
her knees. Blinking, she covered her eyes
stellars than you expected.”
against the light. Then she began cursing.
Tristan stared. The cowboy might just come
“Softly, softly.” Tristan backed away from
in handy. He nodded. “I’ve taken care of our
the opening. “You can leave.”
other problem.”
“What? You lock me in the dark and leave
Slap scowled then his eyebrows lifted.
me forever, then I get bounced around and
“The woman? What did you do to her?”
bruised—”
Tristan shrugged. “I let her go.”
“You’re lucky that’s all that happened. I
“You what?” Slap’s eyes bugged out.
said you can go. Or I can turn you over to the

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 42

“Why?”
“I told her she could be turned over to the
L.S. King
authorities as a stowaway—and who would
A science fiction fan since childhood — read-
they believe, us or her—or she could make ing Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Dick, Bradley,
a break for it. She took off.” Tristan paused a Pohl, Vonnegut, Anthony and many others
moment as he scanned the read-outs. “Too – L.S. King has been writing stories since her
youth. Now, with all but one of her children
bad we can’t stay and find out how she likes
grown, she is writing full-time. For the last
being stranded on a Separatist planet.” four years, she has worked on developing a
“But, what if she tells them she’s Mordas? sword-and-planet series tentatively called The
That we stole the ship?” Ancients. The first book is finished, and she
has completed a rough draft of several more
Tristan smiled. “Doesn’t matter. We’re
novels as well.
leaving. Strap in.”
She serves on the editorial staff of The Sword
Review, is also their Columns Editor, and
writes a column for that magazine entitled
“Writer’s Cramps” as well. She is also one of
the Overlords, a founding editor, here at Ray
In the next episode, Gun Revival.
“Deuces Wild: Knight Errant”
She began martial arts training over thirty
Tristan stared at the body on the floor, years ago, and owned a karate school for a
throat crushed, then saw the other crumpled decade. A mother and grandmother who lives
in Delaware with her husband, Steve, and
on the bed, head down, neck at an impossible their youngest child, she also enjoys garden-
angle. ing, soap making, and reading. She has home-
Hadley crept closer, peered in, and hissed. schooled her children for over fifteen years,
“What happened?” and maintains two homeschooling websites.
She also likes Looney Tunes, the color purple,
“Get lost, Hadley. Find a hole and pull the and is a Zorro aficionado, which might explain
dirt in on top of you.” her love of swords and cloaks.
“The ones who did this are that bad?”
“Just go. Now.”
Istvan was known to reward a job well
done with a knife in the back. Those who failed
while in his service bought it much slower.
Not good.

Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006


Deuces Wild serial, by L. S. King Pg. 43
The Jolly RGR

Up next for Ray Gun Revival, a special Bonus issue!
If you want to think of it as ‘a very special RGR,’ that’s your right, obviously, but you have clearly
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Overlord’s Lair Editorial: Firefly and RGR

Serial: Jasper Squad, “Into the Labyrinth”


Exclusive Serial by Paul Christian Glenn

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Ray Gun Revival Issue 05, September 01, 2006

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