THRILLING TALES FROM BEYOND THE ETHER

My Name Is Jim by Bill Snodgrass Blight by Lucy Tingle Exclusive Serial - JASPER SQUAD Episode Three: “Into the Labyrinth!” by Paul Christian Glenn Exclusive Serial Deuces Wild: “Boring Ol’ Bertha” by L. S. King

Issue 11 December 01, 2006
“R A G I N G B E A U T Y,”  by  Toni Niskanen

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Table of Contents
Table of Contents 2 My Name Is Jim, by Bill Snodgrass 3 Blight, by Lucy Tingle 9 Featured Artist: Toni Niskanen 16 Exclusive Serial: JASPER SQUAD Episode 3 “Into the Labyrinth!”, by Paul Christian Glenn Exclusive Serial: Deuces Wild “Boring Ol’ Bertha”, by L. S. King 25 The Jolly RGR 33

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Overlords (Founders and Editors): L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn, Johne Cook Venerable Staff: A.M. Stickel - Managing Copyeditor Paul Christian Glenn - PR, sounding board, strong right hand, newshound L. S. King - lord high editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, webmistress Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle washer Slushmasters (Submissions Editors): Taylor Kent, Scott M. Sandridge, David Wilhelms, John M. Whalen Serial Authors: Sean T. M. Stiennon, Lee S. King, Paul Christian Glenn, Johne Cook Cover Art: “R A G I N G B E A U T Y,”  by  Toni Niskanen Without Whom... Bill Snodgrass, site host, Web-Net Solutions, admin, webmaster, database admin, mentor, confidante, liaison – Double-edged Publishing Special Thanks: Ray Gun Revival logo design by Hatchbox Creative Visit us online at http://raygunrevival.com All content copyright 2006 by Double-edged Publishing,   a Memphis, Tennessee-based non-profit publisher.

Rev: 20061201b

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"The Battle for Monday Morning," by Jordan Lapp

Pg. 

My Name Is Jim
by Bill Snodgrass
we first seriously started Back whenthey had forsaying. It was not coming into space the purposes of making money, a Not the least in common is our thoughts that the others are inferior. Back on the Junkyard  Dog, I was the lucky subterraner who got assigned to the exchange program. As apprehensive as I was about the reception I expected, I couldn’t help laughing at some of the things my buddies had planned for the guy coming over from the Rock Jumper. “Hey,” one guy suggested, “let’s get him way down in the back of shaft 23-m and blank the power grid. He’ll have to go battery for lights and by the time he gets to the el’, he’ll be on reserve. It will be a scream!” I was pretty sure the guys on the Rock  Jumper would have their own “scream” waiting for me. Reluctantly, I packed up my things and boarded the shuttle. The  Rock  Jumper is a newer ship than the Junkyard  Dog, but essentially the same in design. The crew lives in the large ring spinning around the central axis. At the top and bottom of the axis are two huge storage bays that dwarf the rest of the ship. Tugs from earth come and swap empties and haul off the full bays. They also offload supplies to the crew rings. The Rock Jumper is equipped with a special portal compatible with the newest robotic tugs. Back on the Junkyard  Dog, we had to use adaptor tunnels on the new tugs to get the supplies sent up from earth. I sometimes wonder what earth looks like and have had thoughts of foregoing the life of deep space. I was born in deep space, like most of the people out here. I was born on Station 3 and have been in deep space all my

unlike what they said about North America back in the day. They called it the “land of opportunity” back then. As for space, they told us it was the “frontier of equal opportunity.” Yeah, right. I guess the stalling of humanity’s tolerance for each other over the beginning of the 21st century led to the need to make such a claim, but here we are, decades past the first economically successful space venture and not much seems to have changed. I should know. Before patching my helmet mic into the transcriber and linking through to this journal to record these thoughts, I suppose I was the latest beneficiary of what the “frontier of equal opportunity” has to offer. Since I am recording this, obviously, I am still alive. For now, anyway. But, the “equal opportunity” treatment I have enjoyed of late bodes no promise for my future. When I came over to the Rock Jumper from my former mining ship, I knew it would be a tough transition. Everyone knows that being a subterraner and being a surfacer is like oil and water. Best not to mix them. But the EEOC officers got the bright idea that something of an exchange program would be good for business. They convinced the heads of the mining company that creating a little harmony between us would be good. After all, we are both miners. They mine on the surface and we go down deep into the asteroids to extract minerals from the core, but otherwise, we have a lot in common.

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"My Name Is Jim" by Bill Snodgrass

Pg. 

thirty-two years. I have thought more than 400 meters below was accomplished by once to make the trip in from the asteroid belt “shooting the wire,” just like back on my old on one of the tugs. I saw one of the passenger ship. The difference, though, is that their wire modules one time and it looked comfortable. ended at a small hut whereas ours shot on It would be nice to see earth someday, I guess. down a tunnel some 75 meters further. It was I hear it’s a hard transition though. Even a little odd to me for the pod to slow down though the spinning ships simulate gravity, before dipping below the surface. It locked they tell me on earth it is different. I doubt, into the catchments routinely, and the door now, that I’ll ever know. opened. I can blame the EEOC office, I guess. I arrived at the Rock  Jumper and found my quarters. The difference between subterraners and surfacers is most clear walking the tubes of a ship, outside the protective radiation suites. My ashen face marked me immediately. On subterraners, our skin is pale and ashen from head to toe. Living inside ships and working in deep holes protects us. Surfacers, however, end up with darkened, leathery faces, products of being on the surface of airless rocks and subjection to various radiations that the suits fail to block. Of course, differences in uniforms easily identify miners from the ship crew, so passing for one of them was out of the question. Seeing my uniform and my pale face marked me as a subterraner, plain and simple. I didn’t mind the stares so much as the sneers. I barely had time to get unpacked and link up my personal data drive to the workstation in my bunk. I’ll admit that I was impressed by the Rock  Jumper’s bunk cubes. Besides the bed, there was a comfortable chair that the workstation console could swing over, if you wanted access to the network while sitting up. I am glad I took time to hook up my drive, or else recording these thoughts would have been impossible. I logged in and looked up the duty roster. I had two hours before I had to report for deployment and I still didn’t have a pressure suit fitted. I rushed down to Provisions and got squared away just in time. Deployment from the ship to the asteroid I was really surprised at how bright things were on the surface. Compared to the tunnels subterraners are used to, or even to the lighted decks of the ship, the surface of the asteroid was extremely bright. The five surfacers with me didn’t seem to notice, so I plodded out after them. I suppose “plodded” is not the right term. To someone used to constant gravity, the way we move on asteroids is pretty odd. Gravity on these rocks is pretty low. We are mining a rock known as 5-526. Since basically every single asteroid being mined commercially falls in the 5th orbit around the sun, we just call it 526. Rock 526 is big by most standards. It actually has enough gravity to hold you down, but you better not move very abruptly. On the shuttle over, I looked it up and found that its escape velocity exceeded what a person was able to achieve. According to the article, it was calculated that even an Olympic jumper would eventually fall back to the surface, given enough time. Yet, moving was pretty dicey, all the same. The risk falls into that “given enough time” clause. Who wants to stumble and end up a few feet off the ground for an hour? Or worse. Rock 526, however, was dense in magnetite (Fe3O4) and ilmenite (FeTiO3), so we were able to use mag-boots. Getting around in them took some getting used to, for me. When you want to move, you have to press the top of your foot against the sensor inside the boot for a fraction of a second before the electro-

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"My Name Is Jim" by Bill Snodgrass
magnet in the sole releases and you can raise your foot. Maybe “plodding” is the right word after all... For me, anyway. Our job was to change out the crusher head on one of the collectors. It was something of a hassle, because they were using a new Davron extractor, but had coupled it to an older Kidron separator, and the interface was just rigged up with what looked to me like random parts. The connections from the separator to the three tanks and the tailings bin were also kind of just hacked together. More than anything, that mismatching and kluging things together led to my present state of peril. Couple bad engineering with the disregard of the surfacers, and it is easy to see why I am in a fix. To their credit, the other five miners treated me civilly enough while things were routine. It was a dull assignment, even though it was my first. “Miner 257,” one of them said to me. Twofifty-seven was my ID. “Secure the titanium tract.” “Roger that,” I replied into my intercom. The mag-boots burn a lot of power, so we were all tethered and the intercom lines made communication clear. Radio was pretty clipped around all the machines and the huge reactor that powered everything, so communications were wire-intercom only. I ratcheted down the door on the tract that led from the separator to the titanium tank, no problem. Standard procedures, all the way, and I had done the same thing a hundred times before. Miner J-92 was shunting off the power from the reactor to the separator when I finished. I’m no chemist, but I know that the separation of the iron, titanium, and oxygen out of the magnetite and ilmenite takes tons of energy, but on a rock like 526, a fission reactor can run wide open and no one worries about pollution, so there was energy

Pg. 
to spare. Anyway, J-92 was just finishing the shunt when I finished securing the tract to the titanium tank. I looked at him and saw his eyes go wide, just before the impact. As he turned toward the rest of us from where he stood, I guess he saw it coming. I did not. I felt it though. A mighty impact across the back of my radiation suit. Hard. Next thing I know, I am sailing through the air, two meters above the surface and a pressurized hose from the oxygen tank is flailing about below me smashing things all over the place. I shot over the heads of the surfacers. Two of them ducked to keep me from slamming into them, but they made no attempt to grab me. They were too busy laughing. There was no way they had caused it, but they were sure enjoying my misfortune. So much for creating harmony. I was really hacked off, and I guess that is why I delayed taking any corrective measures. Plus, taking a hit from the pressure hose was no slight thing either, so I’m sure I was a little stunned. It must have been some hard hit for the oxygen hose to sever my tether. The long and short of it is that, by the time I was thinking straight, I was thirty meters up and a hundred down range. I am pretty sure I had achieved an initial velocity in excess of what an Olympic jumper could manage. I was way past escape velocity for 526. I was what we call “outbound.” That is a nice way of saying “about to die.” That is when I remembered the cable anchor. I knew the magnet was strong and that the cable was long enough, so I fired it. I felt my body nudge away from the planetoid below me in reaction to firing the magnetic anchor. I watched the Kevlar cable play off the

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"My Name Is Jim" by Bill Snodgrass
spool as it raced toward 526, hoping it would find a place stable enough to stop my assent. It hit the surface, but long before I could put tension in the line, the anchor rebounded from the surface attached to a small chunk of rock. Recoiling the anchor would take time and I doubted I’d have enough cable to try again. Now only distant forms, I could see the surfacers still gesturing as if in hysterics at my dilemma. It was disheartening. I guess a dozen seconds passed before I flipped over to radio. Sure enough, I was out of the interference zone. I hailed the ship. “Rock Jumper, Miner 257 here.” “Go 257. Rock Jumper copies.” “An o-hose burst loose and knocked me off rock. Mag-anchor grabbed debris. No catch effected, and I am outbound.” “Copy that 257. We’re reading the o-hose problem on the monitor. Update your status when you fire aerosols.” Silence. So calm was the reply from Rock  Jumper that I was almost reassured. I didn’t bother to mention that I had not fired aerosols since training school. Subterraners don’t even carry them. No wonder I had not thought to use them. I fumbled to assemble the aerosol rig. I figured the handle mechanism out pretty quick and got the crossbar on, no problem. Fitting the aerosol thrusters onto the crossbar turned out to be a little tricky, but I got it right. Flipping my body around in the radiation suit proved problematic. It had been a long time since I had any freefall work, but after a minute, I was lined up with the aerosol rig pointed toward 526 and laid out behind it like Superman. By this time, I guess I was five hundred meters up and no telling how

Pg. 6
far down range from the surfacers. My aim would have to be pretty good, because I only had six aerosols and they had to be used in pairs—one on each end of the crossbar. I checked my alignment once more and engaged the rig. I felt the thrust pulling me, at last staying my assent. Then, unexpected and way too soon, the thrust was gone. So was the crossbar off the top of the aerosol rig. I watched it speed away from me in a dizzying spiral back toward 526, me left holding only the handle piece snapped off half a meter from my hands. “Rock Jumper, Miner 257 here.” “Rock Jumper copies.” “Well, the aerosol rig was defective. The crossbar and half the handle snapped off. I am still stuck out here.” Silence. I am sure the union rep was having a fit on somebody. I am sure he was talking about class action lawsuits against the mining company for cutting corners on safety just to turn a higher profit. The mining company’s people were probably telling him to shut up and let them do their job. Back and forth, no doubt, they argued while I drifted away to eventual doom. Finally, a voice crackled in my helmet. “Two-five-seven, Rock Jumper here. What is your battery status?” I checked my heads up display for the reading. “Looking at two and a half hours.” “Copy that 257. Two point five hours. Stand by.” Stand by? Like I had a choice. Like popping in to the mess hall for coffee or something was an option. Of course I’d stand by. I had half a mind to say something, but bit my tongue. Anyway a different voice was

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"My Name Is Jim" by Bill Snodgrass
speaking. “Two fifty-seven, we’re linking your video recorder.” “Good,” I barked back. “Then you’ll see that your boys down there on the surface could have arrested my outbound.” Silence. I guess they were looking at the video data to see what happened. As if how I ended up five hundred meters above 526 made any difference in getting me down. As if seeing the indifference of the surfacers could somehow alleviate the problem I faced. I stewed on this for a bit before a voice broke the silence. “Miner 257,” he began, but I interrupted. I surprised myself. “My name is Jim,” I declared. “Say again, please. Did not copy.” “I said, ‘My name is Jim,’” I repeated slowly. Silence. “Jim Mullins?” the voice finally replied. “Roger that. My name is Jim Mullins.” Forget company protocol and all that. I was looking at being dead in less than two and a half hours when my batteries ran out. I guess I just didn’t want to die being called by my mining company payroll number. “You’re the subterraner from the Junkyard  Dog, right?”

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I am sure the EEOC officer was taking his turn at having a fit. The union rep probably was able to learn a few tricks from him. I can see him making a huge stink about it all, as his pet project collapsed around him. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ship captain didn’t get a call at that point. Finally a reply. “Copy that, Jim. We copy.” More silence, then a new voice. “Jim, this is Dave Carson here. Look here, we are running around up here like mad, so you just hang on. We have your beacon on screen, so we see you just fine. Captain has called back the shuttle and it is going to go “core melt” to get back here. Meanwhile, we are working out some contingencies.” “Copy that, Dave,” I replied. “Okay, Jim,” Dave added. “Stand by and conserve battery. Turn off the power to your suit actuators and everything you don’t need. Keep the data link up, though ‘cause it carries your beacon and we don’t want to lose that.” “Roger.”
#

That was an hour and a half ago. As far as I can tell, I am no closer to 526 than I was at last transmission. No farther away either, thank God.

Until I started logging these thoughts a few minutes ago, the only sound has been the fan in my helmet coming on every now and then That’s when it started. At that, something to freshen the air. While I have been floating in me snapped. I don’t know what it was, but out here waiting for the shuttle or whatever suddenly, I didn’t really want to be the  sub- “contingencies” the Rock  Jumper can work out, I have had a lot of time to think. terraner any more. “No. I am the man from the Junkyard  Dog. A miner, same as the five men wearing radiation suits down on 526. Just the same.” I thought a little about friends and such, but over and over, my thoughts turned to my situation and the events that led to me being stuck out here. Little by little, I realized

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"My Name Is Jim" by Bill Snodgrass
the five men down there were not solely to blame. Sure, they could have helped me, but I’m not surprised they didn’t. They’re surfacers and I’m a subterraner. I guess I’d even agree that they probably figured I could arrest myself, which I probably could have if my aerosol rig hadn’t been defective. So really, I can’t lay the blame on them alone. No, in the hour and a half being stuck out here, I have come to realize that my situation does not come from the shortsighted prejudice of the five miners back on 526. It is a lot more complicated than that. It is rooted in the soul of our whole society. Like me, stuck here between 526 and nowhere, it seems mankind’s attempt to create harmony between people’s differences has become stuck too. Despite all our intentions, not much has really changed. People still look at things on the surface, and from that, judge others. Are we really so different? Surfacers and subterraners? Are we? Not really. It is such a little thing that sets us apart. To say one is better than the other simply based on the pallor and texture of their face is ridiculous. The truth is, if I stay on the surface for half an earth year, my face will darken and take on a hardened texture too. If I were to go then to a subterraner ship, they would take me for a surfacer. That we would take such a small thing and turn it into such a divider is insane. Take off the radiation suits, strip down to shorts and tee shirts, put a bag over our heads and we are all the same—some dark skinned, some light; some male, some female; some round features, some long. Our blood carries the same DNA. Yet, we look at the skin above our chins and decide one person is better than the other. And which person we deem best depends on whether the texture of their skin matches ours. Here I am, part of the grand mission

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of harmony, adrift between rock 526 and nowhere. I float out here trying to stay calm, hoping that some miracle will occur to prevent my death. As I hope for myself, so too I hope for mankind. Like I said, when you get right down to it, I am little different from the men down there on 526 who are looking up at me. They have mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, as do I. Some have wives and children; some like me, do not. When you get right down to it, we are all humans. We are all people, unique in some ways, but alike in many others. Each with gifts, talents, fears, desires. Each with dreams and aspirations. Men and women, worthy of respect and dignified treatment. And my name is Jim.

Bill Snodgrass
Bill  Snodgrass  began  writing  during  his  high  school  days.  In  the  winter  of  2003,  however,  he  embarked  on  the  journey  of  becoming  a  published  fiction  author.  Bill  writes  fantasy,  science fiction, and other fiction, all grounded  in Christian values and appropriate for readers  of all ages. More  of  Bill’s  writing  can  be  found  at    http://www.billsnodgrass.com.

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"The Second Ascension," by R. Cruz

Pg. 

Blight
by Lucy Tingle
stood Theyway. in the street, facing him. In his The little girl held a huge cat in her arms. She looked up at Vethem and smiled. She said, “I know who you are. You’re a ‘pire.” And she said it with such innocence, as if it were all a game, that Vethem could only gawk. The girl giggled. “Uh-huh! We know.” She petted the cat absently. It was large and orange and it arched its head slightly under her hand, yet never took its eyes off Vethem’s. The cat’s eerie yellow globes, and the girl’s bright innocent blues were too much. He turned away, leapt over a trash can, and ran. He weaved an intricate dance down the alleyways until even he was panting slightly with exertion. “You can’t die, remember? They would just reboot you again. But I’m not here for that. I’m here because I need your help.” He snorted, and for the first time relaxed, dropping into a ragged red leather chair. “I’m too busy hiding to help anyone. Besides, why would a great computer need any help?” “Oh, but I’m not all computer—I really am a little girl. And the cat’s a cat. We have only minimal connections to Computer.” As if in agreement, the cat jumped from her arms with a deceptively small-sounding meow, and walked up to Vethem. It walked around him, sniffing. “Trying to see if I’ve fed?” He backed away, unnerved.

“We won’t turn you in,” she promised. He looked around. He was alone. He shrugged off the eerie sensation of the girl, “DeathPark has enough ‘pires, and we need and pushed a trash can aside from the wall, your help out here. You see, something is revealing an old rusty door. He opened it, and destroying the earth.” stepped in. “How quaint.” The girl was waiting. The girl stomped her foot. “It’s real! Just because it’s slow doesn’t mean it isn’t The cat gave a loud, rumbling purr while she stroked it. They smiled up at him. The girl happening!” said, “You didn’t really think that would work, “If it’s slow, can’t you just—stop it? Kill did you?” whatever’s doing it, or send it away? Why Vethem faced her in the dark apartment, would you need my help? What is this mystebreathing hard, fists clenched. “You’re from rious menace, anyway?” the amusement park, aren’t you? How much  “It’s—invisible. Something invisible is do you want?” slowly destroying the land. It stops things She laughed—a light, silvery sound. “Silly! from growing.” I’m not here for money.” “Growing? You mean like grass?” He’d never seen any grass; in his two and a half Maybe he could fight them. They couldn’t be much stronger than he was, separately. He years of life, he’d never been outside the city limits. But he’d seen pictures. said, “I won’t go back. I’d rather die.”

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"Blight" by Lucy Tingle
“I mean anything. All the nutrients of the soil leak away, leaving barren desert. Even water vanishes. As far as we can tell, the nutrients and water just cease to exist. The problem started as a small patch in a cornfield; in five years it’s grown to several square miles.” Vethem said, “So?” “Stupid! She stamped her foot in frustration. Humans require plants for food. And what matters to them should matter to you, since they’re your food.” Vethem got angry. “You think that’s all I care about? You think I asked for this life—to live off the blood of real humans, just so they can have a harmless thrill? Then find yourself another ‘pire, because I don’t, and I can’t help you anyway!” The computer-connected girl frowned. “That’s odd, because Fred distinctly saw that you were the one.” “Fred?” “Meow.” The cat looked up. “He’s a cog, of course. A lot of cats are. It’s what makes them seem to have such quick reflexes—what’s kept them alive for centuries. Cats just—know things.” Vethem stared warily at the placid, orange tabby. That must be the reason he’d feared it. There was always a reason. Vethem had long ago learned to listen to his fears, even his “unreasonable” ones. But now he relaxed. If that was why he’d feared the cat—because it knew things—then maybe that was all, and they weren’t trying to trick him. Maybe he could trust them. He sat back. “And this cat—he says I’ll help you?” The little girl nodded solemnly. “Yes. You’ll help us save the world. Come on. We’ll protect you.” She reached up, and took his hand. A full-sized ‘pire trusting himself to the protection of a child and a cat might have looked ludicrous, but Vethem knew the power of the

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computers and those linked with them. And he went.
#

The heliplane settled at the edge of the endless fields, and they disembarked. Vethem was clad carefully—not an inch of his skin showed. The pilot cast him a last, wary glance before taking off. The girl, whose name was Kath, had promised Vethem the man would tell no one, but obviously he still mistrusted living theme park creations. Not that Vethem could have fed on him anyway. For one thing, he was too weak. He hadn’t had a drop to eat in several weeks. As if reading his mind, Kath bared her neck. “Have a bite, if you’re hungry,” she offered. “I wouldn’t miss a mouthful. We aren’t squeamish.” There was that omnipresent computer/ cat/girl “we” again. He shook his head. “I couldn’t. I can only eat from park guests.” She looked appalled. “You mean—a mental block? I’m surprised they’d bother, for a—” She stopped. “No. It’s physical. Blocks could be overcome. They let us have free run of the park without fear of us escaping, because of the entrance shots. Customers get shots that make their blood edible to us, and then they come in and try to kill us. When we’re lucky we get a bite. In case someone loses too much, they keep EMTs and replacement blood on hand. But it’s normal blood, so it’s no good to us. Allergic reaction, you know.” The computer girl stared at him. “Then why did you leave? You’ll starve and—shut down.” “And then they’ll catch me again—I know.” He shrugged. “It’s fruitless, of course. A synthetic vampire can find no permanent death, certainly not with the ever-popular

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"Blight" by Lucy Tingle
stake-through-heart routine. I admit, it’s less painful than beheading, but still, it gets old.” “Don’t the models ever wear out and have to be replaced?” He gave a dry, humorless chuckle. “We’re ‘scarier,’ sewn up and patched and mismatched. There are models there a lot older than I am—ten, twenty years, even. A few manage to kill themselves permanently— electrocutions, grinders. But it’s messy, and painful, and usually they’re stopped before they can finish the job.” “And that’s why you ran away? So you could die painlessly?” “It’s not painless. But—yes. Perhaps. I might find a way to hide my body, keep them from finding me and starting me up again. Or better yet find a supply of edible blood, and actually living! Although I admit, it’s unlikely.” The girl stared at him with pity. Fred turn and stalked off through the cornfield. “Wait for us!” said Kath, running after him. She was such a little, little girl, with curly pink pigtails and a white pinafore that looked like it was straight from the 1950s. She might have been seven. An orphan, perhaps? Vethem dismissed the idea. She had probably been surrendered by her parents, raised by machine, one of the myriad Legal Orphans, or ‘Computer Dependent.’ The unwanted children of the world, accepted gladly by the computer conglomerate, raised and fed and clothed and protected in exchange for being eyes and ears, hands and feet. Lisping toddlers became messengers of mind-staggering computer genius. They walked through the cornfield together, carefully, and Kath explained the situation. “We’re near the middle of the Basin, the largest producer of food on this continent. It’s not the largest in the world, but the food output is, because it has the best manage-

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ment and equipment. The soil is exemplary— a well-balanced, environmentally supported, nearly-organic mixture.” She swept an arm out across the field of knee-high shoots, and continued talking, as if she were a tour guide. “Levitating harvest and weeding machinery keep soil compaction to a minimum. Watcher bots electrically zap harmful insects. Music plays twice a day, and low-waste irrigation brings outputs to a maximum. In short, it’s near-perfect farming, and getting better all the time. The output keeps doubling. Or it did, until five years ago. She hung her head. “Then the blight came. We call it that for lack of a better term. The nutrients and water are drawn from the soil, but we don’t know why. If you’ll look ahead and to your right, you’ll see it.” She stopped, two feet from the parched brown. The cornfield stopped, and desert began, stretching farther than they could see. Angry bursts of breeze turned dust motes into swirling devils. A gust swept towards them. Startled, Vethem jerked backwards. The little girl stood still as it passed her, dusting her shoes. Turning to him, shaking the dust off her dress, she said, “We mist it every day, to keep down the dust, but it doesn’t help very much. The moisture disappears as soon as it hits the surface.” He glanced at the corn plants growing nearest the blight, smaller than their fellows, choked in the coating dust, dry and thirsty as if they’d received no water for weeks. “It evaporates that quickly?” “No. We’ve checked the moisture content of the air. It simply—ceases to exist. As you can see, this bald spot is growing, destroying everything in its path. It now stretches several miles square. It’s growing at an alarming rate. The computer estimates that in ten years the Basin will be consumed.” Vethem knelt and rubbed the dust off a

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"Blight" by Lucy Tingle
corn shoot thoughtfully. “And the combined computer might of the world, in five years, hasn’t thought of a way to stop it?” She shook her head, and ground her toe into the caked earth between the dying corn. “But the cats say you’re the one to stop it.” “And the computer believes the cats?” “Oh yes. They’re rarely wrong.” Vethem snorted. He picked up a handful of dust. A breath of breeze lifted it away, as it drained through his fingers. He watched as it landed on his one-piece suit, dusted his shoes, and made him cough through his breathing mask. “And why do they think I can stop it, when the computer failed?” She shrugged. “Nobody knows. I was wondering, too. Can you do anything special?” He thought back across his short life. His first memory: the sign out front, as they wheeled him in, still too weak to stand. DANGER! EXCITEMENT! flashed the neon in the night. SLAY A REAL VAMPIRE! BUT BE CAREFUL... THEY BITE! He thought: We  do? Then they turned him loose, in his brand-new innocence. He was slain twice and restarted before he found out what it meant, and even then someone had to tell him. He simply hadn’t believed it. Too sensitive to be a ‘pire, too cowardly to fry or grind himself, and too blood-dependent to exist for long on the Outside. He cursed his synthesized body yet again. He said, “No. Nothing.” “Oh.” The girl twisted her toe in the dirt, and squinted into the sunlight. The tour guide persona was gone, and she was just a little girl again. The orange cat gazed up at him, its yellow eyes expectant. He looked away. “Well,” he said. “I do get afraid of things.”

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The little girl squinted at him. “Huh?” “I get afraid, and I know I’m in danger. I’m no cog, but...I guess I know things ahead of time, now and then.” He could always sense the stakers coming for him, sometimes hours ahead of time. First with a jumpy unease, then a jittery inability to stand still. Sometimes he would run out, shouting his presence, just to get it over with. Other times he could prolong it for weeks, putting off the inevitable slaying by staying one step ahead of the tingling, constant fear. Perhaps that was the real reason he’d left. The fear was almost the worst part. The pain, the inhumanity—even being trapped like a rat—paled in comparison. Fear. Pure, raw fear. As far as he could see it had never done him any good. He just got to dread his “death” a little longer, each time. Because there was no stopping it, really. He was always caught, always ‘killed,’ and rebooted. Only next time, he sensed it further ahead. And had even longer to dread it. “Are you afraid now?” asked Kath. He looked inward, tried to examine what he felt. There was the ever-present dull ache of fear, as he anticipated his own starvation. But was there anything else? “I’m sorry. I can’t help you. All I can see is my own death.” The cat blinked slowly, and turned his face away, as though embarrassed for Vethem. The girl sighed. “I guess we don’t need you to predict the other deaths,” she said. “When this farm shuts down, the world’s food supply will be halved. And the blight won’t stop there. In a hundred years, if nothing changes, life on earth will be impossible. Some can emigrate into space colonies, but...” Her voice trailed off. Vethem said, “Have you tried water? Lots of water?” “Of course. It made no difference. After the initial contact it just—left. Wait.” She pressed

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"Blight" by Lucy Tingle
a finger to her ear, listening to the computer whisper to her. “Okay, we’re supposed to go back to headquarters. They’re going to make you immortal.”
#

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Kath and the cat trained on Vethem an intense gaze. “Do you sense anything, now?” “Wait.” He reached into himself and felt for fear. There was nothing. With a rising sense of euphoria, he felt deeper. Again, nothing. For the first time in his life, death didn’t threaten him. No fear. No overwhelming sense of doom that needed to be suppressed just so he could function. He reached further for the emotions he usually cringed from. But he was safe—for years and years. “I don’t believe it!” He jumped to his feet and picked the little girl off the table. “I’m gonna live!” he yelled, whirling her high in the air. “Good!” Kath giggled, and kicked her feet in the air. Jimmy watched them cavort, frowning. Fred the cat gave a condoning smile. “What about the blight?” asked the boy.

“I still don’t understand.” Vethem paced the sterile hospital floor. “Simple enough.” The girl sat on an examining table, kicking her feet in the air. “Computer only had to bribe a few people to get to the formula that makes blood edible to you. Jimmy’s synthesizing it now.” She nodded at the five-year-old in a miniature lab coat. Vethem tried not to smile at his air of importance. The cat, sitting upright on top of a computer terminal, watched all with regal eyes. “Here we go,” said the boy, turning away from the medical equipment. He held up a beaker of glutinous blue liquid. “That’s it? That’s the stuff?”

“Yeah. Now we’ll just mix it with some “Oh yeah.” Vethem set the girl down on the synthetic blood and see if you can drink it. table—standing—and straightened his shirt. Computer prefers it that way. If you have a “Let me think.” If it was going to affect him, it reaction, of course we’ll switch to real blood. would be far in the future. Still, worth checking. Here.” He held up a glass of murky-looking He looked deep inside himself. Nothing. Oh, blood. there it was—far off, a faint, gray cloud of anxiety about the blight someday affecting Vethem took it with trembling hands, and the computers’ resources, and through them, sniffed. His enhanced scent abilities accepted him. It didn’t really tell him anything. it as genuine, and he began to salivate. “This— this is it!” He said, “I’d like to go to the field again. At night.” He drank it in one gulp, and sat down quickly, waiting for headaches and cramping Kath said, “Okay.” pain to take over. So it was that the three of them, cat, ‘pire, They didn’t. He smiled up at the children. and little girl, returned later to the blight. “It worked!” The numbing hunger slid away, The cat trotted silently ahead, pupils wide and he felt his strength beginning to return. to catch the moonlight, ears swiveling at every “Good.” The boy turned back to the sound. The girl, Kath, who now wore jeans equipment. “I’ll order more of this synthe- and a slightly-too-big leather jacket, rode on sized for you. We’ll keep it refrigerated for Vethem’s shoulders. you.” The ‘pire was dressed casually in shorts

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"Blight" by Lucy Tingle
and a sleeveless white tee. He strode calmly, in his element now that it was night. His abnormally pale face seemed to shine with strength, confidence, even happiness. They reached the blighted field and he knelt by its edge again, staring at it thoughtfully. Kath jumped down and ran after Fred, who had begun to leap among the low corn.

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well-placed bites, one tiny scream, and the mouse lay dead. “Eww!” Kath ran up. “Did you have to do that, Fred?” The cat burrowed, digging into the dirt, sending up clouds of dust.

“What’s he doing?” Vethem got up and The girl giggling and the cat leaping came over. The cat looked up at him and sounded faintly in the back of Vethem’s mind. meowed in frustration. He concentrated on the blight. He’d spent the rest of the daylight hours reading about it. The mouse was gone. The soil has absorbed the failed attempts to contain it. Sheets of impenetrable metal had been sunk around “It, too, held nutrients,” murmured and ahead of it, meters deep. It hadn’t even Vethem. slowed the spread. Core samples had been taken, but no trace of the missing water or “But it was alive a second ago!” said Kath. minerals was found. And whatever the cause “And the soil’s not eating any of us!” was, it was near the surface because the water Vethem knelt and plunged his hand deep table was untouched. into the dust. It stirred around, eddying, Would he sense the danger more, here? making him choke. Fear! His hand—it was— Perhaps the physical proximity would help. With a gasp, he pulled it free, and fell back. Maybe he would see more details. He could He stared at it, wide-eyed. usually sense exactly how he would die— which led to a nasty deja-vu sense when it “What?” said Kath. “You look the same to happened. Well, that was over now. me.” But he couldn’t help thinking of his “The skin,” eating hundreds of brother and sister ‘pires, trapped my dead and he gasped. “I could feel it closer.” dying skin cells, coming in the parks. Would they ever be lucky enough to escape, as he had? Even if they couldn’t He hesitated. “I know how to stop it.” sense coming death, they still felt it every He took a deep breath, and stood, brushing day. the dirt from his hands. “And I will, if the He was here now to prevent deaths— computer makes me a promise.” regular human deaths. What could he do for # his people? They weren’t all machine. Human DNA was a part of them, too. He was in a full body suit again when he But what could he do for them? He was watched, because it was daylight when they lucky to be alive himself. dumped the poison. Thousands of liters of toxic waste, mixed with plant fertilizer, were He sighed, and tried to concentrate on his all being dumped because he had said so. fears. Time to do his job. “You’re sure this will work?” said Kath. They There was a slight anxiety nearby, but no stood in the distance, and wore breathing death, and no details. He opened his eyes, masks to keep out the fumes. frustrated—just in time to see a mouse dash frantically onto the desert. The cat streaked Vethem said, “I promise.” after it, pinning it beneath his paws. A few

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

"Blight" by Lucy Tingle
They watched as the dump truck backed up, beeping, and then loosed its load of toxic chemicals. They watched as the liquid disappeared into the soil, not changing the blight. “You better be right,” said Jimmy, who was holding a mask on the distinctly annoyed Fred. “I’m right,” said Vetham. “Didn’t Fred say I would know?” “Rroul!” said Fred, struggling to get away from the mask. “Well—it’s still dumb,” said Jimmy. “And I’m still older than you!” A shout came from the field, the sound of surprise, fear—and joy. “It stopped! Stop dumping!” A pool of toxins had collected, soaking into the dust and wetting it. The dump truck stopped, and everyone ran to the field. The clean-up crew dashed out in their bio uniforms and began scooping up the sludge and bagging it in containers labeled TOXIC. Children, cat, and ‘pire watched. “Now you can start watering it again, and fertilizing, and planting. If more blight spots ever show up, just dump poison on as quickly as you can, as much as you can. But you should be all right now.” He scratched Fred’s ears, then turned, and walked away. “Wait!” Kath ran after him. “Why—how did it work?” Vethem glanced at her through his mask and dark glass face shield. His expression was unreadable. “It’s all about another dimension, of course,” he said. “Somewhere, someone had depleted their own soil, and they decided to steal ours. Or rather, our nutrients and water. They didn’t want people and animals coming through; they fixed it so only dead things—the nutrients—could come through and transfer to their depleted soil. Draining us to replenish them. “Maybe they could only open the doorway a little at first, and then stretch it further, and that’s why the blight spread slowly. Now, I hope, it has slammed shut. If they try to open another one, just catch it while it’s small and
Ray Gun Revival

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dump your worst waste in. Poison the blood.” He turned away again. “Wait! What if they open a big door, and come here, to steal our stuff?” Vethem shrugged. “I sense no danger. You could ask the cats, though. Maybe they can’t open a big enough door to do it. Or maybe they’re afraid. They know we’d fight them, defeat them, and maybe even follow them home. They’ll probably seek some easier place to steal from—perhaps a primitive parallel world, or one with fewer people nearby. But I’ll bet they’re too cowardly to face Earth on our terms.” She caught his sleeve, and stared up into his face. “How come you’re leaving? The computer will still supply you with treated blood—as long as you need it—and keep its deal about feeding the other ‘pires, if they ever get free.” “Good.” Vethem nodded slowly. “But somebody has to go and tell them first.” He turned and walked into the daylight, standing tall. Even though the fear had already started.

Alice M. Roelke
Alice  Roelke’s  writing  credits  include  winning  an  honorable  mention  in  the  Art of Words  competition several years ago, having a story  published on Gate-Way S-F Magazine in 2005,  and  one  on  the  Christian Fandom  website  in  2006,  as  well  as  having  multiple  fiction  and  nonfiction  pieces  published  in  the  Young Salvationist,  the  Salvation  Army’s  youth  print  magazine, since she was eighteen years old.

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Featured Artist: Euka

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Featured Artist:
Toni Niskanen
Name: Toni Niskanen Age: 18 Hobbies: Image editing, art, partying Favorite Artist: Gary Tonge, Dylan Cole When did you start creating art? About two years ago. I knew nothing really about digital art back then but I’ve been self studied and developing good in the process. What media do you work in? I basically use Adobe Photoshop for painting and tweaking my work and I’m planning on buying a Wacom drawing tablet that will hopefully level up my artwork.

Where your work has been featured? The only place I’ve seen my work been featured by someone else has been deviantART for now. Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your works? I have some of my works in http://www.gfxartist.com/ and in a Finnish site, http://www.harhakuva.org/. I have no prints of any work at the moment. I will build a website for my art in the future. How did you become an artist? Good question, I remember running into deviantART for the first time when searching for web graphics. I got interested in art at that very moment. After browsing and gaining inspiration from numerous great artists, I decided to give it a shot. I thought that since space has always fascinated me, it would be a great opportunity to show it through my art. So I began reading and studying different tutorials and methods of how to create space art. What were your early influences? A space artist named Alyn Hunter was my biggest influence. I was always learning from his color-using and techniques. As a matter of fact, my first tutorials were from him.
Ray Gun Revival Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Featured Artist: Toni Niskanen
What are your current influences? I’m always out there trying to watch and learn from different artists. There’s no straight answer to this so I’ll just say: Everything and anything. ;) What inspired the art for the cover? Raging beauty? It began as a training exercise. I created my first gas giant planet, then I painted the star field and tried to blend many different colors. Since it’s really not a complete piece of art, I don’t know how to answer better. But the inspiration behind the gas giant was an artist called Sam Donovan Jones. How would you describe your work? Well, every piece begins with a feeling, so I would describe my artwork as a reminder that no matter how bad you think things are, there’s also beauty.

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Where do you get your inspiration / what inspires you? Life. What have been your greatest successes? My most noticeable work has been “Alone in Paradise.” Have you had any notable failures, and how has that affected your work? If some of my work should “fail” it always pushes me to make things better. What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art? Adobe PhotoShop. What tool / equipment do you wish you had? A drawing tablet. What do you hope to accomplish with your art? As with many artists, I’m trying to inspire people and expand their imaginations.

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Featured Artist: Toni Niskanen

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JASPER SQUAD
Episode : “Into the Labyrinth!” 
  by Paul Christian Glenn
suggest a negotiation with Cuttery. As far as they knew, Cuttery was unaware of their fugitive status. If they could tempt him with an offer of relative immunity, a chance to operate in this sector without GPF harassment, perhaps they could escape this wretched planet with their lives. “It’s not a question of whether Cuttery will kill us,” said the captain. “It’s a question of how and when. He doesn’t seem like a man given to illusions, and I expect he’d see through any bogus offer we tossed his way. No, negotiation is not a viable option.” Despite Lieutenant Melendez’ warning eyes, Jackaby stood to face the captain and press the argument. “With respect, sir, negotiation is the only viable option we have. Even if we figure a way out of this hole, we’d never find our way to the surface before Cuttery and his goons caught up with us.” Without answering, the captain cast an eye up toward the opening of the pit, and Jackaby wondered what he was thinking. # A decrepit lantern posted at the rim cast pale yellow light into the pit, but there was Deep in the bowels of Castel Cuttery’s little to see. It was a good twenty-measure subterranean lair, Cadet Jackaby sat hunched climb to freedom, and the pit’s sandy and angry at the bottom of a rank, clammy pit. stone walls offered no hope of climbing. The air was thin and cold, and in the darkness “The offer wouldn’t have to be bogus,” he could see his breath whirling out in bitter, persisted Jackaby. “My father is a very wispy tendrils. powerful officer. He could pulls strings at Headquarters to get Cuttery whatever he It was less than a day since Cuttery’s men had ripped the blindfold from his eyes wants.” and unceremoniously tossed him into this The captain turned on his heel and glared. dank hole along with Lieutenant Melendez “Look, kid, I know all about your pedigree,” he and Captain Spill, but Jackaby already felt said. “Soon enough, you’re going to figure desperate. With the exception of Cuttery and out that your distinguished surname doesn’t his crew, the entire planet was uninhabited. mean much outside the hallowed halls of Jasper Squad’s only hope for rescue was from the Academy. In the meantime, I’ve got a the very people who had chased them into lost cadet somewhere out there, and with this mess to begin with—the Galactic Patrol her life in the balance, I’m not going to waste Force. Out of the frying pan, into the fire. time playing politics with a gangster. This is It was this reasoning that led Jackaby to going to be a fight. The sooner you get that
Ray Gun Revival Issue 11, December 01, 2006

The Story So Far:   When Galactic Patrol Ship Jasper crashlanded on the barren planet Wroume, the  dangerous prisoner Tannen Stamp made his  escape. Without waiting for backup, Cadet  Jenna Rey abandoned the ship to give chase,  but found herself caught in a deadly crossfire  between Stamp and his old enemy, Castel  Cuttery. Wounded and alone, Rey lost herself  in Wroume’s dangerous “stone forest” and  collapsed, unconscious. Upon waking, she  found herself face-to-face with Stamp, who  informed her that the remaining members  of Jasper Squad had been taken prisoner  by Cuttery. To prevent Stamp from stealing  the Jasper and leaving them all to die, Rey  convinced him that the ship’s security  systems would not allow a takeoff without  Captain Spill at the helm. With no other  options, Stamp reluctantly agreed to help  Rey rescue Jasper Squad from the bowels of  Cuttery’s underground lair...

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 3: "Into the Labyrinth!" by Paul Christian Glenn
through your head, the better your chances of surviving.” Jackaby glared. “Yes, sir,” he enunciated. Boiling, he stepped back and sunk down against the wall. Before they’d blasted off from the academic training station, Jackaby had heard about Captain Spill’s reputation as a thundering roughneck, but he never imagined this thick-skulled shooterhead would get him killed on his first field mission. After two insufferable years of patronizing the pathetic petty officers at the Academy, he had simply been anxious to complete his first field mission and graduate to the Officer’s Training Fleet where he belonged. Somehow, that relatively simple mission had spun into a meteoric mess, and now this filthy field grunt seemed determined to make it a bloodbath as well. Suddenly, it seemed very clear why this crusty blunder head had never earned anything beyond a captain’s badge. A shadow fell over them, and Jackaby looked up to see Cuttery’s sinewy silhouette looming above them. His long, greasy hair dangled forward as he peered down at the prisoners. “Somebody down there call me a gangster?” he demanded in a low, wheezing voice. Jackaby stood slowly and moved toward the captain and the lieutenant, both of whom had positioned themselves in the center the pit. “That’s quite a notion,” mused Cuttery, “but I don’t really fit the bill. I’m just an independent distributor whose goods happen to be of an illicit nature. Now, if I was a gangster, I’d have bosses to answer to. They’d be lookin’ over my shoulder, tellin’ me who to deal with, and—worst of all—reachin’ their fat little hands into my purse. It’s no way to live.” Cuttery shuffled forward, revealing for the first time a rugged wooden cane upon which he had been leaning. He placed both hands on the knob and leaned forward. “No, I built this humble enterprise all on my own. We’re in a sparsely populated sector of the galaxy, and this secluded rock makes

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a nice little base of operations. I got a whole world all to myself—can you imagine such a thing?” With another step forward, Cuttery placed the tip of his cane at the edge of the pit. With a dramatic wheeze, he stretched his legs and stood tall. The lantern light lit his face with a ghostly glow, and from below he looked every bit a depraved demon. His clothes were ragged and stained with the filth or earth and water. His thin, twisted frame was adorned with strange bracelets and necklaces, fashioned from irregular bits of wood and what looked like bone. Jackaby suppressed a shudder. “A whole world all to myself,” repeated Cuttery. “You know what that makes me, don’t you?” He let the rhetorical question hang for several seconds. “It makes me God here. You, on the other hand…“ With a seething kick, he sent a cloud of pebbles and dust billowing down into the pit. “You’re nothing. Not even jeepers anymore, as I understand it, and if the GPF doesn’t want you—well, I guess that leaves you at God’s mercy.” Jackaby could not stand the captain’s stubborn silence any longer. “The GPF does  want us back,” he shouted, pushing himself in front of the others. “I can see that you get whatever—” His words were choked off as Lieutenant Melendez caught him by the shoulder, grabbed his uniform, and jerked him backward, landing him hard on the cold stone floor. His neck snapped back and he clenched his eyes shut. When he opened them again, the lieutenant’s index finger was an inch from his face. “Not another word, Cadet,” she said quietly. Jackaby stared at her defiantly while numbness gave way to throbbing pain at the back of his neck. In his raging mind, he saw images of the lieutenant being stripped of her rank, humiliated by her superiors for this abuse. He took a small comfort in the notion that, within a few short years, he would be in a position to make that happen. “That didn’t take long,” said Cuttery. “Most

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Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 3: "Into the Labyrinth!" by Paul Christian Glenn

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people I throw in the pit don’t turn on each As he reached the top, Captain Spill other for a day or two. Then again, our usual grabbed his forearm and pulled him up. guests aren’t GPF traitors.” Jackaby stood and muttered, “Nice boots. Not Jackaby saw the captain make a subtle exactly standard iss—” signal with his fingers, and the lieutenant took The captain grabbed the front of Jackaby’s a sudden step back. There was a small but uniform and pulled him close. “You’re scared blinding explosion from beneath the captain’s out of your skull,” he said, “I understand that. feet, and sand sprayed into Jackaby’s eyes. He But I will not tolerate further insubordination. reeled, covering his face with his arms, and Clear?” scrambled to his feet to see the captain flying “Yes, sir,” said Jackaby, glowering. headlong through the air, white-hot flames “Daddy can’t get you out of this one,” said shooting from the bottom of his feet. the captain, releaseing him. “You’re going to Cuttery reacted an instant too late. By the have to trust me whether you like it or not.” time his hand reached his shooter, the captain Lieutenant Melendez appeared and quickly was upon him, grabbing him by the hair and pulled the ladder up behind her. Turning to yanking him forward into the pit. Jackaby scrambled out of the way as Cuttery landed survey their surroundings, Jackaby whistled with a crack. Lieutenant Melendez sprang softly. It was difficult to see clearly by the forward shoved her heel against Cuttery’s lantern light, but the circular cavern that engulfed them was at least three-hundred throat. measures in diameter, and filled with “The captain and I shop at the same boot hundreds of large wooden crates, all stacked store,” she said, “so keep quiet or you’ll get a in haphazard fashion. face full of fire.” Cuttery gritted his teeth and “Shock?” asked Jackaby. hissed at her, but didn’t raise his voice. The captain nodded. “Probably a million “Cadet,” said the lieutenant, “get his credits’ worth,” he said. “Quite an operation weapons.” here for an ‘independent contractor.’ Cuttery Jackaby stepped over and pulled the heavy must be supplying every junkie in the sector.” weapon from Cuttery’s hip. He cast open Jackaby opened his mouth to ask how Cuttery’s jacket and discovered a compact such an organization had flourished without shooter strapped to the inside. notice, but Lieutenant Melendez interrupted. Cuttery’s eyes glinted with madness or “Quiet,” she said. “Someone’s coming.” adrenaline, and he flashed a wicked grin at Jackaby listened and heard the hum of a Jackaby. “This is my world, little man,” he vehicle coming toward the cavern. Unforturasped. “We’ll see how far you get.” nately, there were several tunnels leading in, Training the smaller weapon on Cuttery, and it was impossible to tell which direction Jackaby stepped back, stood up, and handed the sound was coming from. the heavy shooter to Lieutenant Melendez. “Hide,” whispered Spill. He heard a dull thump behind him and turned to see a rugged rope ladder dangling from Following his superiors’ leads, Jackaby above. scurried into the darkness and took position “You go first,” said the lieutenant. “I’ll behind a towering stack of crates. If he happened to be discovered, Jackaby surmised follow.” it would be easy enough to get lost in the conJackaby grabbed the rope and started voluted maze of crates surrounding him. Less climbing. He burned with resentment. They simple would be escaping from the cavern still had to find a way out of this underground itself. It would take less than two of Cuttery’s complex, and there could be no negotiating goons to adequately guard each exit. If they now. This could only end badly. were discovered, it would be over in a matter

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Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 3: "Into the Labyrinth!" by Paul Christian Glenn

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of minutes. ercraft, and Jackaby ran after them. Captain Spill took the driver’s seat, and the lieutenant Peering around the edge of the crate, Jackaby watched a small, circular hover- took the back seat, leaving the passenger’s craft appear from one of the tunnels on the seat for Jackaby. opposite side of the cavern. The two men He leapt into the craft and hunkered down riding the craft were engaged in an animated in the seat, his shooter drawn and ready for argument as they breezed toward the center action. Beside him, Captain Spill punched the clearing and floated to a halt not ten measures control buttons, apparently at random, until from the prison pit. the propulsion system hummed to life. “I don’t care who said it,” shouted the dark, “You might want to strap in, Cadet,” said long-haired driver as the two men climbed the lieutenant, patting him on the shoulder. out of the craft. “I seen the broadcast and “The captain’s driving history is… colorful.” there ain’t no reward.” Jackaby looked at the captain, who The other man, a short, round fellow with shrugged off the comment. “Just never got the a doughy face, pulled a crowbar from his back hang of these damn floaters. Making them do pocket and stalked toward the nearest crate. what you want is something of an art.” He jammed the crowbar into the crate and Jackaby looked nervously at Lieutenant popped the top. “Of course they ain’t gonna Melendez. “Why don’t you drive, then?” broadcast a reward,” he retorted. “You gotta She heaved her heavy shooter up on to the know how to play it. If the uppity-ups are desperate enough to admit they lost a shipful rear deck of the hovercraft and knocked the of turncoats, you can bet these renegade firepower lever up to the maximum setting. “Do I look like an artist to you?” jeepers are worth a little something.” With that, the hovercraft lurched sideways, Just then, Cuttery’s voice echoed up from the pit and bounced off the cavern walls. and Jackaby tumbled against the sidewall. What he said was unintelligible, but it got the Another lurch, then the craft spun back desired result. The two men dropped their toward the tunnel from which it had originally emerged. debate and rushed to the pit. “Hang tight,” said Captain Spill, and they “Cuttery?” called the long-haired man. shot forward at a speed that was neither safe Before any answer could come, two shots nor even. simultaneously blasted over Jackaby’s head, Jackaby leaned back in his seat and braced and the two henchmen sprawled forward, one foot against the dashboard as they sped disappearing into the darkness of the pit. Jackaby twisted around to see the captain through the dark, winding cave. The craft whined unnervingly as it swerved back and and the lieutenant lowering their weapons. forth, swinging so close to the tunnel walls From the sound, Jackaby knew they hadn’t that Jackaby was sure the craft would be fired full-powered killing blasts. “Think those smashed into shards at any second. guys are wearing coms?” he asked. Not wishing to incite the captain’s ire any “We don’t have time to find out,” replied further than he already had, he suppressed the captain. “Those shots must have echoed his urge to scream, and instead simply asked, throughout half the complex. We make our “Why this way?” move now and hope for the best.” The captain responded without turning his Lieutenant Melendez raised an eyebrow head. “Those men came down to the cavern at the captain. “The floater?” she asked. for merchandise, so I’m guessing they came “The floater,” the captain agreed, his face from a loading bay. If I’m right, that’ll be our cracked by the faintest hint of a smile. way out.” With that, they took off toward the hov“And if you’re wrong?” asked Jackaby.

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 3: "Into the Labyrinth!" by Paul Christian Glenn
“I prefer not to be wrong, if it’s all the sa—” With a slam and a screech, the hovercraft banged against the stone tunnel wall, sending a wild shower of sparks up into the air. The craft spun a quarter-turn but continued flying in the right direction, and Jackaby saw nothing but the blurred tunnel wall as Captain Spill fought to right their direction. Another crunch, this time from behind as they hit the opposite wall, and the craft careened completely out of control. Jackaby’s head swam as they spun in breakneck circles. The propulsion system sputtered beneath them, and he felt his stomach drop as the craft finally came crashing down. With thunderous alarm, they skidded across the tunnel floor before smashing into the wall, and the impact sent Jackaby sprawling clear of the vehicle. For a strange moment, he was airborne, then, the second time in less than an hour, his body slammed against the cold, unforgiving stone. He rolled twice, and leapt to his feet, fueled by anger. The captain and the lieutenant were both climbing from the still-shuddering wreck, and he stalked toward them. “You could have killed us,” he nearly shouted. Captain Spill was bending his limbs, checking for injuries. “Melendez told you to strap in,” he said. “Next time, listen.” Jackaby’s temper was beyond restraint. “I don’t—” “Argue later,” interrupted the captain. “Someone’s coming up behind us.” Without another word, the captain and the lieutenant took off at a full run. Jackaby hesitated for a second, then heard the distinct sounds of pursuit echoing up from the tunnel behind him. He took a sharp breath, snatched his shooter from the wreckage, and sprinted off after the others. He was running in near blindness now, without the benefit of the hovercraft’s headlamps. The tunnel itself was nothing more than a naturally winding cave, and the ground beneath him was at turns slippery

Pg. 22

and smooth, then rugged and uneven. He followed the sound of the captain’s boots in front of him and kept his arms raised to avoid smacking into any potential low-hanging stalagmite. The shouting voices behind him grew steadily louder, and then he was sure he heard the mechanical sound of a vehicle. This  is  madness, he thought. We  have  no  idea  where  we’re  going,  and  we’ll  never  outrun them. Cuttery probably has every thug  on the planet combing these tunnels. Then, slowly, he began to see the silhouette of Lieutenant Melendez running in front of him. The darkness was gradually giving way to dusty light. In another few seconds, it was undeniable—they were running toward sunlight. The captain stopped short. Jackaby and the lieutenant nearly bowled into him as they tripped to a halt. The tunnel had abruptly opened up into an enormous cavern, twenty times the size of the storage area where they had been imprisoned. Before them was a steep drop, but to their right, a long slope followed the cavern wall, leading down to the floor below. There, four small bugships and two cargo class carriers were locked down and waiting for freight. The far end of the cavern opened wide into glorious daylight. The captain had been right—this was a loading bay. From their high vantage point, they had an overview of the bay, but it was impossible to know how many enemies were crawling around down there, obscured by maintenance machinery, mechanics’ stations and towering crates of shock. It would not be a simple thing to skulk down and steal themselves an escape ship. They would have to make it to the far end of the bay without being seen, then sneak aboard a ship that had a clear path to freedom. As he contemplated their situation, Jackaby suddenly remembered that they were being chased. The pursuers’ voices were now clearly audible, and growing louder with every second. “Captain,” he said. “They’re almost on top

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 3: "Into the Labyrinth!" by Paul Christian Glenn

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of us.” “I’m not ‘suggesting’ anything,” replied the captain. “There,” said the captain, pointing at a small, darkened control booth. It wasn’t far, “But it’s suicide!” said Jackaby. “It was only maybe twenty paces from where they stood, blind stupid luck that got us this far!” but first they would have to negotiate the “No,” said the captain, “it was me.” sharp decline that led down to the cavern With his adrenaline subsiding, Jackaby floor. Jackaby thought it looked tricky but felt a nasty panic welling inside. “We stand a manageable. The captain and the lieutenant obviously felt the same, because they both better chance of saving Rey if we come back sprang forward and began sliding down the with help,” he argued. slippery rock. “There is no help, Cadet!” spat the captain. “The GPF tried to kill us, remember? For With little time to reflect, Jackaby leapt after them, surfing the sandy surface, gaining whatever reason, they want us dead, and unwanted momentum as he barreled we’re going to have to save our own skins downward. A second before he would have until we figure out why. hit the floor, he pushed himself outward “Now, Melendez and I are going out there and sailed through the air. With an ungainly to see if we can glean anything,” he continued wobble he managed to land on his feet. When calmly. “Whoever was chasing us in that he looked up, the captain and the lieuten- tunnel will be giving their story to the bay ant were already dashing toward the control crew, and I want to hear it. booth, and he scampered after them. “Cadet, use the com to see if you can The booth was just that—a small enclosure scramble their signals. The less communicacontaining two chairs, a communications tion they’ve got in these tunnels, the better it panel, and a window facing out toward the will be for us. Melendez and I won’t go far, but bay. It was one of several that Jackaby had if anyone comes into this booth, don’t think seen scattered throughout the cavern, most twice—you shoot ‘em.” He looked at both of likely for the bay chief and maintenance crew them. “All clear?” to communicate with the rest of the complex. “Yes, sir,” said Lieutenant Melendez. Jackaby dove inside and Captain Spill pulled Jackaby simply nodded. the door shut behind him. The three of them huddled near the floor to avoid being spotted Without another word, the captain and through the window, and in the contained the lieutenant cracked the door and slunk out room their panting breath sounded loud in of the control booth. Jackaby sat seething for Jackaby’s ears. a moment, his mind racing with the madness A moment later they heard shouting of the situation. The captain was clearly out outside as their pursuers called down to of his mind. Whatever bureaucratic snafu had whomever was milling around the loading caused this mess, it could surely be cleaned up with… a simple call. bay. He was sitting beneath a communication “We don’t have much time,” whispered panel! Lieutenant Melendez. “What’s our move?” He sprang to his feet and peered out the “There was a four-man bugship near the window. The men who had been chasing them opening,” said Jackaby. “I think we can make were coming down the slope on the opposite it if we move along the north wall.” side of the cavern. and Captain Spill shot him a puzzled look. ant Melendez were Captain Spillsight. Lieutennowhere in “We’re not leaving,” he said. “We have to find Without a second thought, he activated out if they’ve got Rey.” the com and punched in the contact code Jackaby was stunned. “You’re not suggest- he had memorized when he was just a boy. ing we go back,” he sputtered.

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 3: "Into the Labyrinth!" by Paul Christian Glenn
Seconds later, the screen in front of him flared to life, and he saw the weary, familiar face of his father looking back at him. “Corel!” said the commander. “Son, where are you?” “Father,” breathed Jackaby. “I don’t know what’s going on. I…did you see the broadcast?” “I saw it.” “What’s going on? Why—” “I don’t know, son,” said the Commander, “but we’ll straighten it out. I know you haven’t done anything wrong.” “They tried to blow us into the vacuum,” said Jackaby. “We’re not safe at HQ.” The elder Jackaby leaned forward and sighed deeply. “I don’t know about the rest of your squad,” he said. “but you’re my son. I can get you home safely, and I can get you reinstated, but we must move quickly. Tell me where you are.” For the briefest moment, Cadet Jackaby felt a twinge of uncertainty. I don’t know about the rest of your squad… He looked into his father’s eyes and realized he had no choice. Captain Spill’s fears aside, there was only one way out of this situation. “We’re being held by a shock dealer called Cuttery,” he said, finally. “We’re on the planet Wroume.”

Pg. 2

Paul Christian Glenn
Paul Christian Glenn is an Overlord (Co-founder  and Editor) of Ray Gun Revival magazine, and has  been writing for as long as he can remember.  It should be noted, however, that he has a  notoriously short memory.

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

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Deuces Wild “Boring Ol’ Bertha” 
  by L. S. King
ristan left the bridge, glad one more jump would get them out of Confed space. He’d had enough of them. This was tricky territory though, near the border. Dangerous. Freebooters often lurked, waiting for hapless, helpless ships. Not that the Giselle was as helpless as she appeared, but the old cargo ship wasn’t up to Tristan’s standards and that made him feel defensive. And Tristan did not like a defensive position. He preferred being on the offensive. He also did not like boredom and that was one thing he had plenty of right now. Slap suffered seriously from the malady, and not quietly. The cowboy found pleasure in irritating Tristan—had from the beginning. It spoke volumes that Tristan was bored enough to look forward to it. Well, for now, he’d alleviate the tedium by working out, then perhaps surprise Slap by cooking for once. # Slap continued pounding the bag while he sneaked peeks at Tristan working on what he called aerial rings, his black hair damp, hanging on his forehead. This was the only time he wasn’t perfectly groomed. His friend’s well-defined muscles strained as he assumed various positions and held them. He might be a bit on the short side and lean, but the man was no weakling. Watching Tristan stretch and warm up before a workout made Slap wince, especially those splits. Ouch. This had been the longest without a stop at a station or planet. To keep busy, Slap sweated his guts out exercising in the cargo bay, cooked, played games with Tristan, and read manuals about the ship. He cleaned, checked various systems, and could now handle communicaRay Gun Revival

T

tions quite well, if he said so himself. But still, he felt closed in, and if he didn’t get out of ol’ Bertha soon, he’d go loco. Slap toweled off and left to get a shower— he couldn’t wait to get to a planet and have a real shower not a sonic one. He’d have to fix some grub in an hour or two. Tristan never cooked for himself and rarely said anything about Slap’s cooking except to grumble about the clean up they’d have if their gravity failed, but he never passed up a fresh meal for packaged food. And shared meals often led to time spent playing a game of chess or cards. Not that Tristan talked much, but at least Slap wasn’t alone. Just for fun, he had considered not talking to Tristan to see how long his friend would go without speaking, but he already knew from the short time they’d been together that Tristan preferred solitude and would bask in the silence. Slap would easily lose that game. Besides, it was more enjoyable irritating the quiet man and watching his subtle changes of expression. The thinned lips and even-morestony-than-usual face and when really aggravated, flared nostrils. Slap finished the shower and lay back on the bed with a sigh. He awoke from an unintentional, boredominduced nap. With a groan, he rose and pulled on his jeans and a shirt. Delicious odors drew his nose—and the rest of him— toward the galley. He stopped, shocked, in the doorway. Tristan cooking? He sauntered around the island to the counter where his friend was working and peered at the plate of...something. They looked like flapjacks but almost thin as paper. A bowl sat next to them. Slap started to unlatch the lid but Tristan slapped at his hand with a spoon. Slap hid a grin.

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: Deuces Wild, "Boring Ol' Bertha," by L. S. King
Tristan moved a pot off the induction hob to a cool spot and stirred. Red broth with lumps of some sort of vegetables he guessed—er, hoped. Soup? Slap sniffed appreciatively. “Gotta be a first time for everything, I always say. What about open containers and what-would-happen-if we-lose-our-artificial-G?”

Pg. 26

touch biologicals.” Tristan turned to meet Slap’s gaze, his teeth flashing in a smile. “I have, though, stolen and destroyed both.” “Is that what Lyssel was doing? Selling bioweapons? Is that what you stole?” “The first time, yes. And I destroyed them in space, where it was safe.” His black eyes bored into Slap’s. “Don’t try to attribute any virtue to that, or me. I was merely trying to irritate Lyssel’s buyers.”

“You aren’t the only one who can cook. I just haven’t bothered in a long time.” Tristan’s gaze cut to Slap with a small, ironic smile. Slap bit the inside of his cheek to keep from “Gravity, you know.” He dipped the spoon and tasted the broth. “You aren’t the only one who saying anything. No baiting. No baiting... gets bored on these long jaunts. And with my Tristan continued, “was possessions all ashes on Zenos, I don’t have for“The second run,”armament, just to put a all the standard my library. I have to recoup my losses to not dent in his business for awhile.” He shrugged. only replace that, but get back into business.” “But they got me back, destroying my ship.” Slap hitched a hip up to sit on the edge of “I’d say you got the last word, with Lyssel the counter. “And what is your business?” blown to bits.” Tristan quirked an eyebrow as a reply while “Even so, it be long before the he stirred something in a bowl. He poured it Mordas are backwon’t strength. And finding in full into the pot, and the red broth turned pink. us is probably one of their highest priorities.” “Surviving.” “Yeah...” Slap rubbed his chin, considering. Now thinking of Slap frowned and rubbed his neck, adventure. “So was as good a time as any to open the subject. who do youtheir most recent mercenaries to think hired those “So how does smuggling fit into survival?” kidnap you?” Both Tristan’s eyebrows rose slightly. Ha! Tristan put the rolled-up flapjacks A hit. Tristan hadn’t known he knew about plate, clicked the cover into place, and on a took that. them to a table in the adjoining rec lounge. “It’s lucrative.” His eyes flicked to Slap “I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit. And as he pulled the plate of pathetic pancakes I’ve about decided it must have been the toward himself and took the lid off the bowl. Confeds.” It was filled with some creamy-looking glop. Slap’s mouth dropped “The Confeds? “Another moral judgment?” He filled one of Why inna world would open.do that? They they the flapjacks with the creamy stuff and rolled were the ones who rescued us, remember?” it up. “Indeed. fit. They don’t rescue Slap hesitated. “I guess that would depend people. NotBut it doesn’t Their local constabuthat bunch. on what you’re smuggling.” lary might, if not overworked and not paid off. But those men were Confederation Security. “Isn’t the fact it’s illegal enough to pass judgment?” Tristan’s sarcastic tone made Slap Their...secret police, you might say. They spewant to grin, but he had serious questions, so cialize in espionage.” Slap followed his friend back into the galley and watched as Tristan now wasn’t a good time to bait his friend. filled two bowls with the reddish soup and “Illegal and immoral ain’t always the same fit the lids on. “They had tried to recruit me thing. I want no part of”—Slap’s lip curled— for a job and I said no. I think they thought I ”bio-weapons, or things like that.” might change my mind out of gratitude.” He returned to the rec lounge and put the bowls “I have, at times, run weapons, but I won’t into lock-spots on the table.
Ray Gun Revival Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: Deuces Wild, "Boring Ol' Bertha," by L. S. King
Slap sat down with a snort and removed the lid from his bowl. “Well, why not? You were grateful when we met.” “That wasn’t gratitude. That was a life debt. You risked your life to help me. I couldn’t leave you to be killed.” “You have some strange ideas, you know that?” Tristan shrugged, opened a napkin, and placed it in his lap. Slap blew on the soup and took a taste. “Hey, this isn’t bad. What’s it called?” “Borscht.” “Well, that tells me a lot.” “Beet soup.” Tristan lifted his shoulders a bit. “It also has cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes in it.” Slap nodded and chewed a large mouthful. Very different from any soup he’d had, but tasty. “So,” he asked, after swallowing. “Is that the only reason you think the Confeds did it?”

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my vest while I was about it, too. But most of my toys are best found outside the Confederation.” He gestured at Slap’s chest. “We’ll need to get you a new knife.” “Yeah, hey, since the Confeds arrested the mercs, why didn’t they give us back our stuff?” “’Confiscated for evidence.’” Slap grimaced. “Evidence of what? The mercs were the bad guys.” “The Confeds weren’t about to give me back my little specialty gadgets, or your knife. Dangerous, old-fashioned weapon. A stunner they might have returned.” He paused, his eyes narrowing. “Might.” “Very different from the way things are run back home,” Slap muttered. “The Three Systems don’t have a government, not as such, you know. They started with guilds, merchants, and you Separatists. But the mobs took over, corrupting everything. The Mordas consolidated the underground factions, and the wealthy, for all their classbased arrogance, are in bed with them. Your people, until recently, had been left alone. They were considered backcountry hicks, not worth bothering.”

“No. I know of quite a few people after me, and none want me ‘dead or alive.’ One or two might want me alive, like the Eridani emperor, but most want me dead and would pay handSlap nodded. The Separatists ran somely for proof of the deed done. And think own affairs—until Lyssel got land greedy. their Slap about this, we were stunned in the middle of wondered how many other ranches had fallen a busy street, in the daytime. Not subtle. You to the Mordas now. Or had Lyssel’s death probably aren’t aware of the way the Confeds stalled their expansion? rule, but anyone planning a kidnapping would likely want to be very discreet. The Confeds Tristan swirled his spoon in the soup and don’t like any disorder they haven’t created captured several little chunks of vegetable. or don’t control. And that was as subtle as a “But back to our current problem, from the nuclear going off. Besides, they hid a tracker limited facts I have, Confed Sec is the only on the ship.” thing that makes sense. I don’t insist I’m right, just my best working theory.” “How’d you know?” “Is Tristan looked at him as if he were stupid. out ofthat why you’ve been busting tail to get their space?” “I did a sweep.” Tristan soup, chewed, “No, I know, I mean how did you know to wiped his took a spoon ofdidn’t even pickand mouth. “Yes. I up think of that?” cargo. No stops except for fuel. I want to get “I’m paranoid, haven’t you figured that out of Confederation territory—and far from out? Procuring a sweeper wasn’t easy, either.” Eridani too.” His eyes glinted. “Not exactly a stock item. I Slap could understand that. He applied replaced one essential item that had been in
Ray Gun Revival Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: Deuces Wild, "Boring Ol' Bertha," by L. S. King
himself to the soup, and helped himself to a second bowlful. Tristan, as usual when Slap wasn’t prying conversation out of him, remained quiet as he ate. “So what are those?” Slap asked, pointing at the rolled-up flapjacks. Tristan stared at the plate but he seemed far away, like he was remembering, and a slight smile flickered on his face. “Depends on who you ask. Blinis, crepes...” Tristan’s voice took on a strange accent on that last word. The same as it did when he muttered to himself in whatever-language-itwas when he was really angry or upset. Slap doubted he could come close to saying that word like Tristan did. “What was the word? Bli-blinis?” “Yes.” Tristan’s eyes crinkled at him. “Blinis would be fine.” He pushed the plate at Slap. “Try one.” Slap did. The sweet, creamy filling oozed out as he bit, and he moaned in appreciation. “This is good stuff,” he said, his mouth full. Tristan’s smile twitched wider for a moment. “We can play chess, if you want, when we’re through.” Slap felt a slight rush as he nodded. Why he liked the stupid game, he couldn’t say except he’d gotten good enough to make his friend frown and sigh in irritation, and for Tristan, that was about the same as anyone else throwing a royal fit. His best had only been a stalemate, and he’d’ve thought his buddy would’ve gotten angry, but he’d had a proud gleam in his eye. He didn’t think he’d ever figure Tristan out. Dinner over, the two cleaned up in the galley. As Slap wiped off the counters, Tristan said, “If you’ll finish up in here, I’ll get the chess board.” “Got it.” Slap tossed the cloth into the sonic scrubber chute and looked around. All clean. He eye the pot of borscht and unlatched the lid to take a sniff. Hmm, good stuff all right.
Ray Gun Revival

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He’d not put it away yet; it would make a good snack later. He set the lid back on and went back to the rec lounge. Slap sat and they settled in to play. They studied the board, and Slap found his mind wandering again to his companion. Who was this man anyway? He could be so many things. He could fight like a tornado, charm lizards out of their hides, outthink bad guys, pilot ships, buy and sell cargo like a merchant... Slap made his move. “Tristan?” After a delay he got a quiet, “Hmm?” “You’ve...” How could he put it? “I’ve seen you do lots of things...and I was just wondering...” Tristan took his rook. Slap stared. He hadn’t seen that. “You were saying?” Slap blinked. “I was wondering what you are.” Tristan didn’t look up and didn’t change expression. Should Slap explain what he meant? But how, without sounding even more like an idiot? In the ensuing silence, Slap wondered if Tristan would even answer. His friend cleared his throat and said, “I’m a survivor.” Slap sighed and concentrated on strategy. He moved his knight. “Check.” Tristan lifted his eyebrows slightly, then his eyes crinkled in a smile. Slap grinned in return and decided to try again. “So if you like surviving so much, why do you get involved in things that make that so chancy, like taking on the Mordas?” Tristan didn’t answer. He took Slap’s knight. Good, good, maybe he was actually falling for the gambit. Slap made his move and waited. “Because I can. Because I’m good at it,” Tristan said. Slap frowned and struggled to regain the thread of conversation. “But why dangerous
Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: Deuces Wild, "Boring Ol' Bertha," by L. S. King
things?” “The challenge.” Tristan moved a pawn, and Slap stopped his mouth from falling open. Dang, he hadn’t— A loud, blatting sound jarred his thoughts. Slap jumped up, his leg banging the table. Like all the furniture aboard, it was clamped and didn’t move. “What inna world is that?” he asked, his heart pounding. Tristan glanced over the game with an irritated look and stood with a sigh. “We’re being attacked.” “What!” Slap ran out, and forward to the bridge. He could read most of the telemetry now, but had no idea what to do. Gah, that helpless feeling was like a burr under his saddle! Tristan sauntered in, glanced at the displays, and sat down. “Huh. Freebooters.” “Freebooters? Why aren’t you worried?” “Who says I’m not? But let’s worry about things in order. Remember Lyssel’s refit of this ship? Those turrets are doing their job. That’s a Scorpion Quick Strike Frigate. Our cannons have taken out three of their fighters. If we get the fourth—” The lights went out and, with a gut-churning jolt, Slap’s weight disappeared, and he began floating. “Hmm.” Tristan’s voice was irritatingly calm. “Guess the fourth got us first. EMP torpedo.”

Pg. 2

bulkheads as the sound reverberated through the ship. Clang! # “Right on time,” Tristan mused, his mind racing. Defensive strategies weren’t his strong suit. But how to make this offensive? With Slap’s life to worry about, not just his own, he couldn’t take the daring chances he’d like. “Huh?” “Standard procedure,” Tristan said, “as we just heard and felt, is for the frigate to grapple us. Then they initiate their boarding strategy. Ships like this are helpless for about an hour, so they likely won’t hurry. Psychological edge, make their victims squirm, waiting for the unknown.” “So what do we do?” Slap’s hands scrabbled the air to find something to hold on to. Tristan grabbed him and hauled him toward the chair. “Strap in for the moment.” “Strap in? Those are freebooters out there! We gotta do something!” “Not yet.” “Whaddaya mean, ‘not yet’? We can’t just sit here and—” “Yes, we can. I have to think before we act, and we have some time yet. So strap in.” Awkwardly and with a few gulps, Slap tried to maneuver his body into the seat. “But we’re dead in the water, er, space. What can we do? How do we get our power back on? Isn’t our computer fried from the EMP?”

Slap held down his hysteria with the same Tristan stared over at him in the dim light. determination he was trying to hold down his “The computer’s optical. That’s standard.” He meal. Zero-G didn’t agree with his stomach. frowned. “How old were the ones you used He gave a slight audible gulp. on Zenos anyway?” “Don’t you dare,” Tristan ordered. “I’m not Slap shrugged, fumbling with the straps. going to deal with that floating around.” “We didn’t use much electronic equipment. Slap gulped again. He could just make out Breaks down. I had a small com for some his friend in the dim glow of the emergency personal stuff, but it quit working not long after lights embedded in the bulkheads. Ma died.” His eyes scanning the bulkheads as if freebooters were going to blast through. Clang! Slap started, looking around at the “How long till they board us?”
Ray Gun Revival Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: Deuces Wild, "Boring Ol' Bertha," by L. S. King
“That will take some time. They have to match and seal airlocks before they break through and board. They might go through the hull—this ship is so old, they may not want to salvage it. However...” He paused, trying to think like a pirate. “They do know Giselle  has some updated systems, like the turrets—which shouldn’t have been able to take out their fighters so quickly, so if they’re smart, they’d want to keep her intact as much as possible.” “But what about us? We are going to fight, aren’t we?” “Better than the alternative. But we don’t know yet which airlock they’ll use. Chances are they’ll use a stun grenade when they enter, saves lives on both sides that way.” “So they can sell their victims to pressgangs?” “If their victims are lucky.” Tristan clenched his jaw; he shouldn’t have said that. No need to have Slap worry even more. “But we’ll deal them a few surprises.”

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the chair, his mind whirling with possibilities, plans. A seed of hope grew. “Does that...how much edge can that give us?” Tristan frowned. “It should give us the element of surprise. From what I’m seeing, my best guess is that our power will be back on within five minutes.” “And then?” “Once the computer comes online, it will start allocating power to critical systems, beginning with life support. If I can access it quickly enough, I can program the turrets as highest priority. When they realize we’re not ‘dead in the water,’ they’ll launch more fighters. Our biggest problem is going to be more EMP torpedoes.” “Yeah. If the turrets didn’t stop the last torpedo, they probably won’t stop the next one.”

Tristan pursed his lips, shaking his head. “No, I think we have a better chance this time around. Their fighters are docked and “How so?” the frigate’s defenses are laser turrets. They Yes, Master  of  Ingenuity, how? Defensive. depend on their fighters for offense. Since we What—hide in the dark, avoid the stun took out three, that leaves nine, unless they grenade, fight the armored freebooters as were already under complement.” they swarm over the ship. Faugh! If he could “Us against nine fighters?” Slap’s voice only take the fight to the enemy. Strike first. cracked. “How can ol’ Bertha’s turrets take on Hard enough to finish it... the frigate’s lasers and all their fighters?” “Dammit, Tristan, don’t leave me in the Couldn’t the cowboy at least use the ship’s dark! Tell me what you’re planning!” proper name? “The lasers are comparative Tristan let his breath out loudly. “If only pea-shooters to Giselle’s”—he emphasized we could attack, instead of having to—” He the name—”turrets. And don’t forget the stopped; the ship’s status panel was glowing upgraded armor she has.” pale yellow. What? How could the grid be “But the fighters—” showing signs of a power-up? “We have military turrets, with a military “What’s wrong?” Slap asked. tracking system. I doubt if their fighters are “Hold on.” The glow increased. Tristan’s used to that sort of...aggressive assault. mind reviewed the ship’s specs. Only one Anyway, once Giselle begins attacking, it will thing made sense. “Lyssel, you sneaky...” He take a full two minutes to launch the fighters, barked a short laugh. “Nothing is listed in one at a time. The cannons will be targeting specs, but I would bet Giselle’s anti-matter the ships as they launch, as well as pounding reactor is shielded against power loss and is on the frigate. We do have a chance.” Tristan recharging the power grid. I don’t know how leaned back in the chair. “I know it’s difficult, long it will take though.” Tristan sat back in but all we can do is wait.”
Ray Gun Revival Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: Deuces Wild, "Boring Ol' Bertha," by L. S. King
Tristan tried make himself appear comfortable, to ease the cowboy’s fears. But his mind raced—scheming, worrying, thinking of contingency plans for a dozen variations on Things That Might Go Wrong. Offensive. He needed to make an offensive strike... In the silence, Slap chewed his nails. A slight whoosh indicated air circulating as the lights slowly brightened. Down began to feel like down. Tristan dove forward to access the computer. Come on—hurry— override—reset... He straightened. “Turrets have priority.” He glanced at Slap, allowing himself a slight smile. “Things should begin to be complicated for our friends.” The cowboy nodded, rubbing his stomach in relief, his face fading from green to pale. His eyes flicked between the telemetry displays and the external monitors. A shudder shook Giselle. And another. “The cannons are targeting our conjoined assailants,” Tristan said, a quiet glee rushing through him. “They must be scrambling to ungrapple and get clear so their fighters can launch.” The ship trembled again. Tristan continued his running commentary, knowing Slap couldn’t read the displays very well yet. “Ship away.” He leaned over the console. “Bet it’s taking a pounding from the cannons,” Slap muttered. “Definitely. First fighter launched. Turrets targeting...” Tristan stared intently at the frigate’s image, turning the map grid to show an alternate angle, waiting for just the right distance. “Come on... A little farther away... I’ll show you offensive fighting, you—” “What are you doing?” “I’m going to use the turrets to take out their launch bay.” Slap chuckled. “Can you train a monitor on it? I’d like to see the mess a cannon would make.” “You require such simple pleasures.” Tristan
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fingers moved with easy practice over the controls. “Monitor three...and... Now.” A fighter spewed out of the frigate. Behind it, the launch bay erupted in a bright explosion. Slap whooped and Tristan almost joined him. “Ha! Hey, that Scorpion doesn’t look in too good a condition. For an old cargo ship, this thing packs a wallop—whoa! Is that frigate going to make it?” Tristan shrugged. “She’s taken some heavy damage. They’re backing off fast. Only that one fighter left. Now if only the cannons can take it out before it launches another EMP torpedo.” A tiny flash lit on a telemetry display. Slap pointed at it. “I think that means it’s over.” Tristan saw the dot approaching from where the fighter had been. “Not quite.” Darkness and weightlessness hit. Slap groaned. “Aw, shoot.” # “Well, I hope we don’t have that sort of fun too often.” Slap said, unstrapping as the lights came up. “What, I would have thought you’d prefer something to break up the boredom,” Tristan said with a slight smile. Slap snorted. “Well, right now, I think I want a snack.” Tristan joined Slap heading to the galley, his mind pondering Giselle. She had some possibilities. He suppressed a chuckle at the thought of an old, Canary-class cargo ship defeating a Scorpion QSF. Not bad. I  might  keep you for awhile, old girl. The cowboy stopped dead as the door slid open, and his mouth dropped open. Tristan glanced beyond him into the galley. Pinkishred globs and splashes stuck to bulkheads,
Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Serial: Deuces Wild, "Boring Ol' Bertha," by L. S. King
appliances—Tristan doubted any surface had escaped. He glared up at his companion. “I hope you know who’s cleaning this up.” Slap rubbed a finger under his nose in resignation.

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...stay tuned as Deuces Wild continues next month... To catch up on previous episodes of the adventures of Slap and Tristan, visit:
http://loriendil.com/DW.php

She  began  martial  arts  training  over  thirty  years  ago,  and  owned  a  karate  school  for  a  decade. A mother and grandmother who lives  in Delaware with her husband, Steve, and their  youngest child, she also enjoys gardening, soap  making,  and  reading.  She  has  homeschooled  her  children  for  over  fifteen  years,  and  maintains  two  homeschooling  websites.  She  also  likes  Looney  Tunes,  the  color  purple,  and  is  a  Zorro aficionado, which might explain her love  for swords and cloaks.

L. S. King
A  science  fiction  fan  since  childhood  —  reading Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Dick, Bradley, Pohl,  Vonnegut, Anthony and many others – L.S. King  has been writing stories since her youth. Now,  with  all  but  one  of  her  children  grown,  she  is  writing  full-time.  For  the  last  four  years,  she  has worked on developing a sword-and-planet  series tentatively called The Ancients. The first  book is finished, and she has completed a rough  draft of several more novels as well.  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 Gun Revival.

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006

Jolly RGR

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The Jolly RGR
Up next for Ray Gun Revival, Issue 12

The Price of Conquest by Mik Wilkens Freedom is all Kressa Bryant has ever wanted. When she’s given her own starship, it  seems the answer to all her dreams. But the ship has a mind of its own and comes  with a price she may not be able to pay. Featured Artist Serial: The Adventures of the Sky Pirate The conclusion of The Friar of Briar Island by Johne Cook The Friar has made a stunning revelation.  What Cooper Flynn does next will change  the course of his life forever. Serial: Memory Wipe Exclusive Serial by Sean T. M. Stiennon Chapter 6: A Rover’s Price

Ray Gun Revival

Issue 11, December 01, 2006