THRILLING TALES FROM BEYOND THE ETHER

The Ombudsman
by Steve Poling

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 4
“The Monster Engaged”
by Paul Christian Glenn

Serial: The Adventures of the Sky Pirate
“The Fugue”
by Johne Cook

Serial: Mind Wipe, Chapter 7
“Powers of Darkness”
by Sean T. M. Stiennon

Issue 14 January 15, 2007
“Make a stand...or die trying,” by Paul Molendijk

Pg. 2

Table of Contents
Table of Contents 2 Overlord’s Lair: A Splurge of Serials 3 The Ombudsman by Steve Poling 4 Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 4, The Monster Engaged by Paul Christian Glenn 11 Featured Artist: Paul Molendijk 19 Serial: The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Part 7, The Fugue by Johne Cook 21 Serial: Memory Wipe, Chapter 7, Powers of Darkness by Sean T. M. Stiennon 29 The Jolly RGR 39
Overlords (Founders / 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 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): Scott M. Sandridge, John M. Whalen, David Wilhelms Serial Authors: Sean T. M. Stiennon, Lee S. King, Paul Christian Glenn, Johne Cook Cover Art: “Make a stand...or die trying,” by Paul Molendijk 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 2007 by Double-edged Publishing,   a Memphis, Tennessee-based non-profit publisher.

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Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

Pg. 

Overlord’s Lair:
A Splurge of Serials
his issue is a little different. We have a really different short story by Steve Poling that kept me guessing all the way through. It has the feel of a classic throwback story while presenting a really original spin. This is a different kind of protagonist, a working class hero. This is “The Ombudsman.” Of his story, Steve says that he hoped he retained the Robert W. Service feel. “(This story) runs parallel to a much larger novel that follows the inventor of the FTL hyperdrive and founder of the Sirian Confederacy. In my future history there are three great powers: Terran Empire, Sirian Confederacy, and Camelot, whose Pendragon is a Jim Jones in space. The Terrans are corrupt. The Sirians are sneaky bastards. And Camelot is utterly evil. I have in mind novels describing the rise of each.” An aging member of the Spacers’ Guild signs  on with a star ship and discovers its cargo includes  something  not  listed  on  the  manifest,  but  how  does one file a union grievance from Rigel? We then have an embarrassment of riches, not one, not two, but three serials, of which at least two are flat-out (heh) stellar. First, we have the the fourth episode of the JASPER SQUAD, “The Monster Engaged.” It is Fireflyesque but it is pure JASPER SQUAD. This is a story that starts on the run and ends with a blast. Space gangster Tannen Stamp is on the run with Cadet Rey. Current enemies must work together against old allies, and circumstance makes for the strangest bedfellows of all. But aside from fabricated charges, betrayed alliances, fractured trust, and uneasy cooperation, there lies a hungry evil so implacable and merciless that it will take all their will, wit, and cooperation to stay alive for one more day. With thunder and a shudder, the Jasper lifted,  Ray Gun Revival magazine

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and  Stamp  felt  the  gargantuan  weight  of  the  creature as it struggled to pull him from the rising  ship. He felt the joints of his body strain and crack  as he was stretched between the cuff on his arm  and the monster dangling from his leg.  Rey trained her weapon on the thinly-stretched  tentacle that held him, and she began to fire... Next up is a stand-alone issue of The Adventures of the Sky Pirate by yours-truly. Two years have passed since Cooper Flynn joined the mysterious Friar of Briar Island, a clandestine privateer in the service of the Queen of Haddiron. A shortstaffed crew are undone by poor timing and face a heavily armed Sylvan warship with nothing but the thinnest of cover stories. The situation looks grim until Flynn reveals a trait that will make him legendary, and unleashes the audacity of “The Fugue”. And finally, we present the triumphant continuation a serial by local legend Sean T. M. Stiennon, Memory Wipe, Chapter 7, “Powers of Darkness.” After his powers helped him to injure the son  of Nathan Clane, gaining him a vendetta with the  powerful Clane gang, Takeda visited Dr. Lawrence  Beinnen  for  an  examination.  Beinnen’s  findings  were startling: Takeda has bone structures, glands,  and  vessels  which  no  normal  human  possesses.  Beinnen mentioned his old partner, who seemed  to have some knowledge of such things: Cramer  Orano,  who  has  now  fled  to  the  harsh  colony  world Nihil. Now, as Takeda secures passage to Nihil from  Esheera  Nii,  a  Vitai  Rover,  a  mysterious  assassin  named Lashiir—who has already tried once to kill  Takeda—has found them again, and Brian Vass is  also closing in... This issue is a virtual feast. It’s time to dig in! Johne (Phy) Cook

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

"The Battle for Monday Morning," by Jordan Lapp

Pg. 4

The Ombudsman
by Steve Poling
’m Jim Kesler. Don’t tell me how wonderful it is to be in space; don’t tell me how much fun low-G is; don’t tell me we’re the vanguard of humanity. Now, don’t do those things, and we’ll get along fine.” Jim extended his hand to the kid. “Nice to meet you.” The kid, Bert Mittag, was just off the Copernicus transport and had introduced himself moments before. Jim could see he knew enough to find the Golden Nugget and that he drank dark German beer. The kid was clean-shaven, pink cheeked, idealistic, and a lubber. “Sir? Can I ask you something?” “Since I’m secretary of Spacer’s Guild Local 7, you can ask anything that’s Guild business. Otherwise, it depends on the question.” Jim finished his beer and pushed the empty away. The kid jumped when the robo-server popped out to take it. Business was so light that Sheldon, the bartender, had left the place on automatic. “You don’t know which questions to ask, now do you?” “No, sir.” Bert’s cheeks got red. “If you’re going to be a spacer, you’ve got to quit asking for permission. This ain’t Earth. You have to know up front what you can and can’t do. If a thing needs doing, do it. If you screw up, I just hope it doesn’t kill anyone I care about.” “Well, I...” The kid stopped himself. “Can I buy you a beer?” Jim smiled at the kid for the first time. “That, Bert, is a question you can always ask, but I’ll take a rain check. I just finished one beer and I don’t need another. How about I ask you some questions instead?” Jim didn’t wait for a reply.

“I

“You signed on with anybody yet? Or you trying to decide?” “Sort of. I don’t understand why Samba Ventures is offering twice as much as Haramatsu for the same work.” Jim’s opinion of the kid went up a little. “Good question. Have you looked at their safety record?” “No.” “That’s one thing Earthgov censors can’t suppress. First thing you look at in a contract is safety. Half the companies out here would rather pay a wrongful-death fine than properly maintain equipment that your life depends upon.” “That’s not fair.” “Damn straight. Too many posthumous grievances get filed with the Guild. Look at this.” Jim pulled a display slate from the duffle bag at his feet and turned it to the kid. “These came out of the Pallas Mining Consortium. They’re a death trap run by lubbers. I’ve tried three times to get the Guild to shut them down.” The kid read the summary. “This is criminal.” “Don’t let Earthgov hear you say that. Pallas belongs to Comrade Senator Harriman. I’m taking a chance just filing these complaints with the Earthside morons at Guild headquarters.” Jim took the display slate back and stowed it. “You have to take care of yourself out here. If you’re smart, you’ll tell Damien Haramatsu I said ‘Hi’ when you report for work. But you got to figure out for yourself what’s in your best interest.” Jim caught a flicker at the edge of his vision. Across the Golden Nugget, beside the pinball machine, the Guild job-board had flickered

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

"The Ombudsman," by Steve Poling
indicating a new posting. “Excuse me, Bert.” Jim walked over and called up the most recent entry. He squinted to read the job summary and leaned back from the screen. The years had given him gray hair, a bald spot to comb over and just enough farsightedness to make reading the posting an effort. Bert followed and watched over Jim’s shoulder. “That’s an extrasolar contract.” “I can read, Bert.” “Sorry. How’s General Interplanetary to work for?” he asked. “Tough as nails, but they make payroll, and management is all spacers. Good outfit.” “That’s not what Earthgov says on the vids,” Bert said. Jim had come out to the Belt to get away from Earthgov propaganda. He’d seen the “Special Investigative Report” and it galled him. Jim was proud as hell of old man Miller, who built the huge slow-ships and launched them to Alpha Centauri and Sirius. Back in those days, spacers ran all the companies. “Lubbers make vids smearing the General, but do they do anything about Pallas? No.” Jim snorted. “It isn’t safe. The first hyperdrive ship exploded in a nuclear fireball.” Jim nodded. “You’ve got a point, but don’t confuse Tolerude Scientific with General Interplanetary. It’s one thing to install a hyperdrive in a freighter you’ve won in a bet. It’s another thing to build interstellar ships for two generations.” “I heard that his grandfather—” “Everyone has, kid.” Jim interrupted. “I was in the Copernicus shipyards the week before Endeavour launched for Sirius. I met Erik Tolerude and shook his hand. Ironic that his grandson should invent the hyperdrive.” “They say the grandson was obsessed,” Bert

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said. “He was.” Jim scratched his head. “But I figured young Tolerude for a spacer. Worked with his wife, Tara, on the Big Bopper. If they’d lived, she’d have straightened him out. Look at this.” Jim pointed to the display. “The Sagittarius is a new ship and that’s good. There’s nothing worse than signing on to a worn-out tub. You’ll work twice as hard for half the money under lousy conditions. There’s always the chance a ship won’t come back, but I’d rather ship out on a Zodiac class than anything else flying.” Jim told the Guild computer that he wanted the contract. “That’s all?” “No. Now I wait for a day or so while the Exec of the Sagittarius decides who he wants to hire.” The job-board beeped. “What’s that?” Bert asked. “That’s fast.” Jim whistled. “It’s never that fast.” The display indicated acceptance from no less than Captain Ginger Desai. He smiled. “Twenty years ago, Bert, I had a conversation like this one with a red-headed girl fresh off the Copernicus transport. Cute as a kitten and sharp as a plasmatorch. I hope you do as well, kid.” # Jim reported to the Sagittarius with his gear and ran into Ginger at the airlock. Her red hair hadn’t grayed since he’d seen her last and her green eyes could still look right through you. She stood five feet ten, matching Jim’s height. When she caught sight of him, she smiled broadly. “Jim, you’re a godsend. We’re on a tight schedule and when Hans was arrested—” “Hans MacConnel?” “Yeah, he took a poke at some Earthgov toad. Time’s been good to you, Jim.” “Same with you, Ginger. How’s Glenn and the kids?”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

"The Ombudsman," by Steve Poling
“They’re fine. Let’s chat after we make this delivery—we’ve got to get loaded ASAP.” “What’s the hurry?” “The Amarites are impatient, and we’ve got a contract to exchange trade goods at Rigel.” “Aliens?” “Yeah, Gemini made first contact a few months ago. They’ll trade but they’re sticklers for schedule. We’ve got a consignment of machine tools, life support, and mining equipment. You’re working with Sam Wright. He’s at lock nine. Good to see you, Jim.” Captain Ginger Desai slapped him on the shoulder and ducked into the Sagittarius. Jim followed her until she started climbing into officer country while he descended to the crew’s quarters. He suited up and began loading the Sagittarius’ hold. The crew members were all old-timers like himself. Cargo was held in sealed containers massing several tons apiece. Jim worked the loading dolly whose thrusters overcame the weightless containers’ inertia. The dolly was as new as the ship with only a few scratches in its safety-yellow paint. The controls were the new type with automatic thrust settings that Jim promptly disabled. The hold was a cavernous white-painted expanse with a harsh white light streaming from fixtures thirty feet overhead. Rows and columns were marked on the floor with fixtures to attach the containers by their corners. When stacked the containers would lock together. When he finished, the hold was half-filled with containers stacked floor-to-ceiling. Narrow passages ran between them. The crew hastily buttoned things up and the ship departed for L4 where the rest of the cargo waited in high Earth orbit. Jim strolled into the wardroom, collected a cup of coffee and joined Rob Paulson and Sam Wright,

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who were there already. Like everything else on Sagittarius, the wardroom was shiny stainless steel with only a few smudged handprints on the walls and countertop. The coffee was real spacers’ coffee, strong and black. “Hi, guys. Any grievances the Guild ought to know about?” Paulson gave him a dirty look. “Which Guild? The Earthgov Guild or the Spacers’ Guild?” Jim winced. He didn’t want to think about Earthgov or how it was screwing up the Guild. He wanted to do something about it, but couldn’t see how. “Okay, okay, I’ll take my Guild hat off. I hate Earthgov as much as you do. Tell me about the Amarites.” Rob looked at Sam. The way things got quiet, it seemed they’d rather gripe about Earthgov. Finally, Sam spoke. “We met them at Rigel. Nobody’s allowed near ‘em except the Captain who parlays with their Kotsar. That’s what they call him. They like manufactured goods and pay in fissionables.” “What are they like?” “Who knows? Rob here got a look at one of them in a space suit on the last trip.” “I saw one outside securing a docking collar. The light was bad and it had its visor down,” Rob said, “but I got a look at its face, ugly as a nightmare. Glowing red eyes. The helmet had bumps for three horns and the suit had a spiked tail coming out the back.” “You’re kidding.” “Nope.” A look passed between Sam and Rob that made Jim feel uneasy. Rob started griping about how Earthgov taxed spacers for breathing. Sam pointed out that there were a lot more lubbers to vote for handouts than spacers to vote against taxes. Jim heartily agreed, despite the fact that official Guild policy went the other way. After a few minutes, Jim excused himself and went back

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

"The Ombudsman," by Steve Poling
to his quarters. They were, by Jim’s standards, luxurious. He didn’t have to share a bunk with a guy on a different shift and it was the bottom bunk, to boot. He loved serving on a new ship. His bunk was so comfortable that he fell asleep until they arrived at L4. They met freighter F288  that had just lifted from Earth. It held the rest of the cargo, consisting of more sealed containers. Still a little sleepy from his nap, Jim fell into the routine of loading container after container. Most were dented and scuffed from years of hauling between Earth and the Mars colonies, the Belt, and Jupiter’s moons. He’d checked the manifest beforehand and they all massed within five per cent of each other. He wouldn’t have to change thrust settings between each container, and he didn’t trust the dolly automatics. Like the others, container 32 listed machine tools. Unlike the others, it was brand new with the General Interplanetary rocket-in-orbit logo on the side. He set the dolly thrust output to match its mass. The container lurched forward. This container massed only a tenth of what the manifest said. Glancing at the dolly automatics Jim read a thrust suggestion that was the same fraction. Jim immediately reversed the thrusters and brought the container to a full stop. “Is there a problem, Jim?” Ginger’s voice came over his suit radio. “Uh, no. I overshot thrust. I’ll take this one a little slower if you don’t mind.” “That’s good. Do that.” Slowly, he started the dolly’s thrusters while he refined his mental estimate of the container’s mass. He smoothly brought the container to row three, column nine, floor level of the Sagittarius’ hold. When the last container was loaded, the Sag-

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ittarius disengaged from F288 and made best speed to Sol’s gravity well to transit hyperspace and reemerge within Rigel. The prospect of flying into the sun made him a little uncomfortable. Back in his quarters, Jim lay in his bunk. “Hey, Sam, I got a question.” Sam Wright was in the bunk above him. “Ask, then let me get to sleep.” “What’s hyperspace like?” “Like anything else. You feel disorientation. Don’t eat a lot before transit. Sometimes you’ll feel like you have to puke. Then the ship is someplace else.” “You’re not nervous about flying into the sun?” “Sha gua! Jim, have you become a lubber? The sun-shield is just a fusion bottle turned inside out. Shut up and let me sleep.” It took less than a minute for Sam to start snoring. Jim stared at the bunk above him. He wasn’t tired and the snoring would keep him awake. Container 32 nagged him. The more he thought about it, the more curious and paranoid he became. If they were trading with Jovian separatists, he could understand “mislabeling” a small-arms shipment. But what kind of contraband would aliens want? He was probably nuts. The mass discrepancy was most likely a clerical error. Without turning on a light, he quietly put on his magnaboots and made his way to the rear of the freighter. The cargo hold was pressurized when Jim slipped in. However, the loading lights had been extinguished leaving the only illumination from amber guide-lights set in the floor. It was barely enough to see to get around. And it gave Jim the creeps. While he made his way to container 32, a wave of nausea passed over him. He concluded that Sagittarius had transited to Rigel. He had to move fast to get a peek, then slip back out

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

"The Ombudsman," by Steve Poling
unnoticed. If he saw something dangerous, he’d file a grievance when he got back. Jim keyed the safety override code to open the seal. The front panel slid back, revealing a lighted interior. “Who are you?” A high-pitched voice came from inside. He looked and said, “Uh, I’m Jim. What’s your name?” A little boy sat on a small acceleration couch. He had brown hair, dark eyes and chocolate brown skin. In over twenty years in space he had only met a handful of children, usually passengers going with their parents to the Mars colony—none in the Belt. He couldn’t imagine any innocent explanation. What  could  aliens  want with a human subject? he thought. Slavery, medical experiments, and alien zoological exhibit all came to mind. Redness tinged the edges of Jim’s vision. Worst was the feeling of betrayal: the realization that all the Earthgov propaganda was probably true about General Interplanetary. “I’m Depak. Are you taking me to Daddy?” the boy asked. “I’ll try.” He beckoned to the boy to come with him. Maybe he could hide the kid in his quarters. There were plenty of places to hide on a ship this size. He’d just have to get back there. Then he’d talk to Depak and sort things out. “Stay behind me,” he said. “Yes, sir.” The boy fumbled toward him in zeroG. When he was out of the container, Jim placed the kid’s magnaboots on deck. “Always keep one foot on the deck before you lift the other. The switch to cut the magnets is by your big toe.” The door to the cargo hold opened and two women entered. The first was Ginger with a sidearm on her belt. The second was Olga Miller. So  the  big  Kahuna  is  involved, he thought. The light from the container caught their attention. Jim ducked out of sight. Containers were stacked to the ceiling, leaving

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corridors between them. Jim and the boy fled down one. The corridor ended at the rear of the hold by the space suits’ charging station. The boy could hide in a space suit. Peeking around a corner, Jim saw the two women standing outside container 32, arguing. “It had to be Earthgov,” Ginger said. Jim couldn’t hear Olga’s reply. “Climb in here,” Jim said. Hurrying, he helped the boy get into the smallest suit. Jim wished he had a gun, or some weapon he could use if things came to that. Then he saw the oxygen cylinders. Too many years before on a prospecting ship, the Rock Hound, a newbie, no older than Jim at the time, named Al Mahan, broke the valve off the end of a cylinder. He grabbed the cylinder and that was a mistake. The result was instantaneous and terrifying. The cylinder launched itself across the cargo hold carrying Al with him. The first bounce crushed his chest, killing him. The cylinder caromed three more times around the hold until jamming itself against a dolly. Jim shuddered at the memory of the cylinder spinning inches from his faceplate. He unclamped the cylinders and pulled one free. It floated in front of him while he fished a three-kilogram sledgehammer from the tool crib. The ship shuddered as docking clamps engaged the port transfer lock. A cold chill shook Jim when he realized that something was coming in from outside. He tried to close the helmet on the boy’s suit, but its latch jammed. “Are we going outside to Daddy?” the boy asked. “Shhhh,” Jim whispered. “No, we’re just going to play hide and seek. Squat down and hold still so nobody can see you, Okay?” He struggled with the latch. The sound of footsteps came from someplace near the door, cutting him off. The closest way

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

"The Ombudsman," by Steve Poling
out was the port transfer lock. The latch came free at the moment Ginger stepped around the corner. “Jim, you don’t belong here,” she said. Her pistol was out. “How could you, Ginger?” Jim shouted. “Mr. Kesler, calm down,” Olga said. She had circled around the row of containers from the right. This left Jim facing Ginger and Olga when the port transfer lock cycled. “You’ll never get away with this.” Jim raised the hammer, ready to knock off the valve. He figured the boy, in the space suit would be safe, when the cylinder cut loose. The commotion would get someone’s attention. He knew most of the crew and couldn’t imagine any would be so cold-hearted as to sell a boy to the aliens. All he’d have to do is make enough of a commotion for someone to come looking. The transfer lock opened and a massive spacesuited figure loomed in the hatchway. An appendage from the suit’s rear accommodated a spiked tail. The alien took a step toward him. Jim brandished the hammer. After he struck off the valve, he’d leap out of the way and duck behind a dolly. The figure stopped. Jim made out three glowing red eyes behind its visor. The spacesuit gave off a sulfurous stench. Its tail swished back and forth. Jim waved the hammer menacingly. “Stay back.” The boy raised his head and peeked out of his space suit. “Daddy?” The alien stopped and turned to the women. After Olga nodded, the alien unlatched its helmet, revealing a man with blond hair and blue eyes. “There seems to be a misunderstanding,” he said. “What?” Jim kept the hammer poised to strike the valve.

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“I’m Linus Tolerude and I’ve come for my son, Depak.” Then Jim recognized the face: older than the pictures, leaner, with worry-lines around the eyes. “You’re supposed to be dead,” Jim said. “As far as I’m concerned the more people who think so, the better,” Tolerude chuckled. “Would you please put that down before you hurt someone?” “But the aliens, the Amarites?” “They are as phony as this spiked tail.” It swished back and forth. Jim released the hammer. “Daddy!” The boy wriggled out of the suit and dashed to his father. Tolerude scooped the boy up and hugged him. He listened attentively as the lad described the trip with Aunt Olga and riding inside the container. When he wound down, Tolerude whispered something in his ear, set him down and patted the boy on his head. “Why did you fake your death?” Jim asked. “Are you sure you want to know?” Linus replied. “What happens if I do?” Olga Miller cleared her throat. “He already knows too much.” “I know,” Tolerude said solemnly. “You’re Jim Kesler, the union guy, aren’t you?” Ginger said, “He is.” “Tara knows him,” he touched the earpiece on his headset. “She doesn’t think he’s Earthgov.” Tolerude looked Jim in the eye. “Mr. Kesler, how would you like to be presumed dead and wear a space suit that stinks of rotten eggs with three horns and a spiked tail?” “What do you mean?” “I’m hiring, but I don’t run a union shop. You may not like the fact that all my employees are presumed dead. If you sign on, you’ll be in on the

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start of something big.” arrives in twenty years, I want to have something “Doing what?” ready for him.” “What you’re doing now: loading cargo in the Tolerude turned to Olga. “How do you want to Fat Chance. And I need an ombudsman.” handle PR?” “Hmmm.” Jim weighed the alternatives. “Earthgov will buy a story of hostile aliens Earthgov would only get more intrusive. Con- run amok,” she said. “It’ll fit their propaganda versely, Tolerude was a spacer and he’d be a lot template.” more responsive than Guild headquarters. He # looked at the boy, Depak, who was clinging to his father. Jim liked kids and decided to trust Linus “I’m Secretary Kesler. Don’t tell me the DepartTolerude. Start  of  something  big, he thought. ment of Safety can’t inspect your ship; don’t tell “I take it Tara didn’t die with you when the Fat  me about your connections in the Terran Empire; Chance didn’t explode.” don’t offer me a bribe; don’t tell me how young “She misses our son as much as I do,” Linus nanite rejuve makes me look. Now, don’t do those replied. things and we’ll get along fine.” Jim extended his “Why do you need an ombudsman?” Jim hand. “Nice to meet you again.” asked. The Terran captain had just come into Jim’s “I’m management. But I want someone whose office moments before. The inspection wouldn’t job is to tell me when things are wrong.” find anything. Haramatsu corporate standards “What if things don’t work out?” exceeded Sirian regs. But it was good for Jim’s “I’ll cash you out and you’ll go home. But it will people to be reminded from time to time what be complicated, since Earthgov will think you’re “right” looked like. dead.” Jim watched Captain Mittag’s reaction across Jim felt ashamed at what he had thought the mahogany desk. moments before. He looked over to Ginger. “I’m “You don’t recognize me, do you, Bert?” sorry…” “No. Where’d we meet, sir?” Bert’s cheeks got Tolerude stopped him. “Mr. Kesler, I under- red. stand what you were thinking and I appreciate “We met in a bar named the Golden Nugget you sticking up for my son.” twenty-some years ago. And you offered to buy “What’s the point of this charade?” me a beer. Grab your hat. I know the best bar in “A lot of us don’t like living under Earthgov’s Williamsburg.” thumb. We’re spacers and we’ve started a colony where we can be free from Earthgov. Would you Steve Poling like a while to think over my offer?” Steve  Poling  was  born,  raised  and  lives  in  West  “No need,” Jim said, “I’ll take that job.” Michigan with his wife and two kids. He is a C/C++/ “Good. I’ll buy your contract from Olga and C# poet by day with degrees in Mathematics and  we’ll renegotiate it at Sirius.” Computer Science who writes Subversive Fiction by  “Sirius?” night. Steve has an abiding interest in philosophy  “There’s just a rendezvous beacon here. All and potato cannons. See http://steve.poling.info/  this,” he waved at the containers in the hold, for a longer bio. “goes to the Sirius system. When my grandfather

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

"The Second Ascension," by R. Cruz

Pg. 11

JASPER SQUAD, Episode 4
annen Stamp lumbered through the great granite maze on the surface of Wroume, twisting left, then left again, then right, then straight on as fast as he could. Pain from the blast wound in his thigh intensified with every step, but he knew that if he could push through the next few minutes, it would begin to numb. With that thought in mind, he ran even harder. Behind him, he could hear the heavy breath of Rey, the young GPF cadet who was shadowing him. She was injured too, having suffered a nasty knock on the head when the Jasper crash-landed on this rock, and with the blood rushing through her body, he was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to keep up much longer. Another horrific, gargling scream echoed through the stone forest around them. The thing was getting closer, and it had definitely locked on to their scent. Stamp had seen the great worm twice before. It was taller than Stamp himself, and longer than six men laid head-to-toe; it’s black, sinewy skin was wet with mucus, and covered on all sides with thousands of writhing tentacles, which it used to pull itself through the forest. The thing was incredibly fast for its size, its soft body oozing through the stalagmites and stalactites like a demonic snake through tall grass. Stamp had seen the worm get hold of a man. Its tentacles wrapped around his body like living ropes, squeezing his body and pulling him toward the monster’s great, inverted mouth. No sooner had the poor bastard’s feet touched the tight, wrinkled hole, than the giant worm began to pump its body up and down, sucking in it’s prey with sloppy, grotesque gulps and a blood-curdling

T

The Monster Engaged by Paul Christian Glenn

Sci-Fi action sequences Reader discretion is advised squeal of pleasure. Stamp shuddered to think about it, the man’s eyes bulging with terror, his mouth stretched open in a screaming cacophony of pain. It was terrible to behold—Stamp almost regretted sacrificing the guy to save his own skin. He couldn’t do that this time, however. He needed Rey to be alive when he found Captain Spill and the others. He was fairly sure that she had lied to him about the Jasper’s security system, which she said required the Captain’s optic print to initiate launch, but Stamp had other ideas brewing. He had known it was probably a mistake to try to patch things up with Castel Cuttery, but after the violent reception he’d received here, there was now no question that his name was mud in the shock underground. He had dropped one too many shipments, botched one too many jobs, angered one too many bosses. He needed to reestablish himself somewhere, find a new line of work, maybe working as an enforcer for a local crime lord on some backwater planet, somewhere he could lay low for a while. But he had no money, and he had no ship. If he could deliver Rey to Captain Spill, unharmed and untouched, he might be able to convince the captain to let him ride along for a spell. There was, of course, the outside chance that Spill would insist on keeping him under arrest, but right now it seemed that the Jasper Squad had their own trouble with the Galactic Patrol Force, and it would be a while before they would be landing at any GPF outposts. Long enough, maybe, for Stamp to get lost in the meantime.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

Serial, JASPER SQUAD, Episode 4, "The Monster Engaged," by Paul Christian Glenn
“Stamp,” gasped Rey, “I can’t keep up. I... can’t...” “Don’t waste your breath,” he yelled back. “Keep moving!” He took another hard left around a thick, twisted stalagmite and spurred forward, dodging smaller columns of stone before taking two quick rights and doubling back. The key to surviving this was to create as many twists and turns as possible. The worm wouldn’t tire, but it wasn’t intuitive, and it would continue to follow the scent. The more it had to maneuver its massive, globular body, the greater their chances of increasing the distance between it and them. Suddenly, something was wrong. He couldn’t hear Rey’s wheezing breath behind him. He stopped dead in his tracks and spun around. Dammit! She was gone! Before he could even begin to curse, he heard exactly what he expected. A shivering scream and the sound of shooterblasts in short, rapid bursts. I ought to let her die, he thought, even as he raced back toward the sound of fire. Stupid kid.  Within seconds he was upon them—the worm had been closer than he thought. It already had Rey’s legs wrapped up in it’s flailing tentacles, and was pulling her toward its greedy, undulating hole; wet, sucking sounds belched forth from it’s innards, and Stamp could smell it’s sickening sweet breath in the air. Rey was firing worthless shots behind her, mostly missing the monster, but Stamp knew that a single blast wasn’t going to do any good. For all its soft exterior, the great worm could take a hundred blasts and still keep squirming. If it had eyes, he would have aimed for them, but the beast navigated by scent alone. There was nothing for it but to break her free. He rushed toward the thing, firing his shooter at the writhing mass of tentacles that were wrapped around Rey’s legs. One shot after another at the

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same spot, and smoke began to rise from the burning flesh as his shots found their mark. Two of the tentacles dropped free and shriveled up toward the worm’s body, but three more reached forward to take their place. Her eyes wide with fear, Rey reached out toward Stamp, but instead of taking her hand, he swiped her shooter and leapt on top of her, slamming her body against the hard ground and using his weight to counteract the worm’s strength. He dug his heels against the stone floor and pointed both shooters at the creature’s mouth. The sound of everything faded away, and as he stretched both arms forward, the world around him seemed disappear. He saw nothing but the squirming hole in front of him, and heard nothing but the sound of his shooterblasts as he fired, once, twice, fifteen, thirty times. He was vaguely aware that the hole was growing closer, but in his trance he did not falter. He continued to fire, again and again, as if it were nothing more than a game of target. Smoke from the monster’s burning flesh began to cloud his vision. He saw tentacles move to cover the worm’s mouth, and he continued to fire. He felt the pressure against his heels drop away, and he continued to fire. He saw the worm’s body contract, then shrink away from him, and he continued to fire. Suddenly he was aware of his own voice. He was screaming, a deep, throaty, vile sound that shook with bloodlust and fury. He was shaking— no—he was being shaken. He saw the cadet’s face in front of him, and he felt her hands on his shoulders. He was no longer firing his shooters, and he was no longer sitting up. Rey was on top of him. “Stamp!” she shouted. “Be quiet! Get hold of yourself!” He dropped his arms and the sound of his voice faded away. The world came back into focus. He

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

Serial, JASPER SQUAD, Episode 4, "The Monster Engaged," by Paul Christian Glenn
looked up at her, and felt a surge of anger within him. Without thinking, he swung his arm up and struck her square across the jaw, knocking her clear of his body. He leapt to his feet and threw her shooter down at her. “I told you to keep moving,” he shouted. “You want to get killed out here, that’s up to you, but don’t expect me to save your hide again!” She looked up at him, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears. Her face was red and the skin was scraped away where he had hit her. Through gritted teeth she said, “It won’t happen again.” Stamp glowered at her. “It’ll be back,” he said. “It takes more than a couple shots to the face to turn that thing off its dinner. Let’s go.” He turned and stalked off through the stone, trying to collect himself. The blood and adrenaline rushing through his body slowly subsided, and he realized the pain in his thigh was gone. That was something, anyway. A minute later he heard the soft padding of Rey’s boots behind him. “How much time do we have?” she asked. He shrugged. “Who knows? It’ll take a few minutes to lick its wounds, but that sucker heals up quickly, and it’ll be on the prowl again long before our scent disappears.” “How far to Cuttery’s lair?” she asked. “Not far,” he said. “We’ll be there in less than an hour. We’re going in through the rear landing bay, where most of the shock ships out. It’s full of bugships and cargo. Lots of movement, lots of people running around. We should be able to slip in unnoticed if we’re careful, and staying out of sight is a no problem once we’re inside. You trained to hack a network?” “Yes,” she replied. “We all are. As long as it’s not a complex system—” “Ain’t nothin’ about Castel Cuttery that’s complex,” he said. “I’ll get us to a com, you find us the prisoners. At that point, it’s nothing but guts and glory.”

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They moved on in silence after that. Stamp continued to make their trail a twisted system of quick reverses and double-backs. He kept his ears open for the sound of movement behind them, and sniffed the air for telltale whiffs of the creature’s scent. As sunlight began to fail, he saw, at last, the light from a clearing ahead. They were at the edge of Cuttery’s lair. The stalagmites began to thin, and he stopped at the edge of the clearing. A long, gentle, sandy slope stretched out before them, leading down toward the landing bay. Ships were strewn about in the dusk, and beyond them, a giant cave opened into the heart of Cuttery’s operations. Stamp stifled a groan as he sank to the ground. “We’ll wait until nightfall,” he said. “Once the sun goes down, we make our move.” Rey sat down across from him. She didn’t look up but simply nodded her head in silence and exhaled slowly. He observed her quietly. Her stringy blonde hair dangled in loose strands from what had once been a regulation knot at the back of her head. Her sharp features and almond eyes were worn with dirt, sweat, and blood, and her thin lips trembled ever so slightly as she silently contemplated what lay ahead. Sitting there with her back to the stone, he saw her for what she was: a terrified kid. In Stamp’s experience, most cadets weren’t worth a drop their first few months out of Academy, but he guessed none of them had ever had an experience like this during their first forty-eight hours of duty. He had no love for jeepers, but he had to admire her tenacity, and he wondered what kind of girl she was when she wasn’t fighting for her life. Probably cocky and loud-mouthed, like most cadets. They all thought they were going to save the universe from people like him. It usually took a few years for them to realize that the bad guys outnumber the good guys a hundred to one,

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and that law and order were nothing more than grand illusions. This girl, though—she was getting her education early. She nonchalantly brought her hand to her cheek and rubbed it, moving her jaw from side to side, and Stamp suddenly felt shame. It wasn’t a very useful emotion, but he’d never quite been able to lick it. Smacking a girl across the mouth was a reckless thing to do, even if she was GPF. He looked away from her, down toward the landing bay below. “I didn’t mean to hit you earlier,” he mumbled. “I was all worked up. Hand got away from me.” “I can take a hit,” she said flatly. “I’m tougher than you think.” Stamp looked at her and let a grin creep across his face. “I’m figuring that out,” he said. She thrust her chin out and glared back at him. A loud rumble shook the air from above, and Stamp leaned back to see what was coming. Through the tangle of sinewy stone above, he could see flashes of a ship moving overhead, slowly heading for the landing bay. He turned to watch it land, and grimaced as the giant doublecookie floated down to land below them. “It’s the Jasper,” whispered Rey. “Yeah,” grunted Stamp. “Wonder how they fired it up.” He cocked his eyes toward her in a menacing gaze, and watched her eyes as she tried to scramble an explanation together “Maybe they’ve got the captain on board,” she offered. “Or maybe they found a way to—” “Don’t insult me, girl,” he growled. Rey held his gaze for a moment, then dropped her eyes. “I needed your help,” she said simply. “I had to try to save them. The captain wouldn’t have left me here.” Stamp shook his head and sighed. “Captain’s

dirty, kid,” he said. “I tried to tell you before. Don’t put too much faith in him, or you just might find yourself in worse situations than this.” “I don’t believe you,” she said. “I got no reason to make up stories,” said Stamp. “Believe me or not, Muriel Spill’s name is well known in the shock underground. Guy’s been takin’ cuts and turning his head for years. Why do you think he’s still working the field at his age?” “He’s good at what he does.” “He’s hooked on the hush money, that’s why. Any straight cop would’ve retired to a desk job and spent his golden years gettin’ fat, but Spill’s in too deep with the bad guys.” Rey turned her head and looked down toward the Jasper. “It’s none of my business,” she said. “Whatever you’ve heard, he’s the captain of this squad, and it’s my duty to get him out if I can.” Stamp snorted. “Idealistic,” he said. “Good for you, kid. Just remember what I said. Be careful.” He looked down at the Jasper and watched as two of Cuttery’s men emerged from the boarding lift and sauntered toward the interior bay. From the corner of his eye he could see Rey regarding him, weighing his words against whatever game he might be playing. It was hard not to smile. The sun dipped slightly below the horizon, and the shadows around them grew long. “Give it fifteen minutes,” said Stamp. “We’ll shuffle down this hill and head toward the interior bay along the south edge of the clearing.” Rey looked at him suspciously. “You’re coming with me?” she asked. “I said I would,” he replied. “You’ve got your pick of bugships here,” she argued. “Why would you still help me?” Stamp stood up and stretched his legs. “You

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see me as a criminal,” he said, “and that’s fair. I am. But let me tell you the difference between me and some twisted jackass like Castel Cuttery. Guy like that—he’s got no character. Maybe I make my livin’ on the wrong side of the law, but my word is good.” He pulled his shooter from his belt, dropped the photon clip, and checked the firing level. “Come to think of it,” he said, “that’s a difference between you and I, as well.” He paused for a second and sniffed the air— but it was too late. The rank aroma of the giant worm surrounded them, and then the monster was there, oozing through a wide arch behind them, its grasping tentacles reaching toward them, its thick, gargling moan wailing heinously. Stamp grabbed Rey by the arm and pulled her toward him. There was nowhere to go but down. They would be seen by Cuttery’s men, but Stamp had no choice. With Rey in tow, he leapt backwards, and then they were spinning wildly down the stony decline. Incredibly, the worm emerged from the cover of the stone forest and slithered down after them, driven, perhaps, by rage more than hunger now. Still sliding, Stamp pointed his shooter and pulled the trigger twice to no effect. The photon clip! He must have dropped it when he reached for Rey. For her part, Rey was firing at least, but her shots were flying wide, and the creature was undeterred. Gaining momentum, it closed the distance between them as they reached the bottom of the slope. Stamp leapt to his feet and hollered for Rey to follow him. He ran with abandon straight toward the interior bay. He’d decided he would rather take his chances with Cuttery’s men than face that thing again. He reached the first pass of ships and turned to

see Rey right on his heels. Good girl. The sound of shooterblasts echoed throughout the bay, which he hoped meant that Cuttery’s men had seen the worm and were focusing their attention on it. That would provide enough diversion for him and Rey to slip inside and get themselves good and lost in the caves. They passed beneath the Jasper and wound their way around two small cargo ships. When they had nearly reached the opening of the great cavern that served as an interior bay, he suddenly heard Rey shout behind him. “Stop!” He stopped short and spun around to see her pointing. “It’s the captain! They’re making a break for it!” He followed her finger and saw Captain Spill and his two squad members racing toward the Jasper. Shooter blasts streaked through the air around them as they scrambled between the landing gear of various ships. “Rey!” screamed the captain, “We’re getting out of here! Move!” As the words escaped his mouth, he and his team reached the Jasper’s boarding lift and disappeared inside. Stamp felt her tiny hand tug on his arm. “Come on,” she shouted. Cuttery’s men were swarming out of the interior bay now, their weapons drawn but their fire subdued. They didn’t want to damage their own ships with wild, careless fire. Stamp turned and followed Rey toward the Jasper’s boarding lift. As they approached, he saw, to his horror, that the filthy, giant worm was snaking directly toward them from the other side of the ship. There was no telling whether they could reach the lift before the creature cut them off. The angry shouts behind him turned to

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Serial, JASPER SQUAD, Episode 4, "The Monster Engaged," by Paul Christian Glenn

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horrified screams as Cuttery’s men finally saw the beast, and the air was suddenly full of uninhibited fire. They were only a few measures from the lift, and Stamp heard the Jasper roar to life. Rey handed him her shooter and he fired at the thing, only a few paces away now, as she punched in the boarding code. The lift opened and she leapt inside. He turned away from the monster to follow her in, but suddenly his body jerked backwards, and he felt intense burning pressure as a long tentacle wrapped itself around his leg. He thrust his elbows out to leverage himself against either side of the lift, and screamed as his leg felt like it was being pulled from his body. He heard a voice shouting down from above, “Rey! Are you in?” “Go!” she shouted back. She produced a pair of handcuffs and latched one cuff around his forearm, the other through the grated floor of the lift. She then grabbed the shooter from Stamp’s hand and dropped to one knee. With thunder and a shudder, the Jasper lifted, and Stamp felt the gargantuan weight of the creature as it struggled to pull him from the rising ship. He felt the joints of his body strain and crack as he was stretched between the cuff on his arm and the monster dangling from his leg. Rey trained her weapon on the thinlystretched tentacle that held him, and she began to fire. One blast after another, each finding its mark, until at last he felt the tentacle fly loose. He heard a sickening thud as the creature landed on the ground below. Rey grabbed his free arm and heaved him up into the lift. The door slid shut, and Stamp felt his stomach drop as the lift ascended up into the boarding chamber in the belly of the ship.

Rey knelt down over him and unlocked the cuff from his arm. “Can you walk on that leg?” she asked. “I don’t know,” he muttered. “Probably not.” They reached the boarding chamber, and the door slid open to reveal Captain Spill and Lieutenant Melendez waiting for them. The captain reached down and helped Rey to her feet. “You all in order?” he asked. “Yes, sir,” she replied. “Good,” said the captain. “Now, what’s he doing on this ship?” Rey stiffened at the question. “I couldn’t just leave him, sir.” “You could have and you should have, Cadet,” said Spill. “Do I need to remind you that this piece of filth hijacked my ship yesterday? And if it weren’t for a couple of lucky breaks, all four of us would be dead or worse right now, thanks to him?” “I was trying to rescue the squad, sir,” she replied. “He helped me find the docking bay, and...” The captain glared at her. “And?” She looked down at Stamp. “And he saved my life.” Spill looked down at Stamp, contempt emanating from his eyes. Stamp stared back at him, neither pleading nor demanding—just waiting for a decision. “Let’s take this up to the deck,” he said. “Lieutenant, help the cadet carry that lump upstairs, and keep his hands where you can see them.” # Ten minutes later, Stamp was sitting at the conference table in the center of the ship’s deck. The captain had called the entire squad to the

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meeting, and they were waiting now on Cadet you’re on the run, and I know you don’t know Jackaby, who was bringing the cockpit around to why.” dock. “That’ll clear up soon enough,” said Spill. Stamp considered his options. He knew Spill “Maybe it will and maybe it won’t,” said Stamp. would prefer to see him dead—the captain had “But until it does, you’ll need to lay low. A group already tried to kill him once, back on Candlevar— of tight-ass jeepers like you couldn’t be more but the crew wouldn’t stand by and let that conspicuous if you tried, but I know safe places. I happen. It was possible that they would insist know people who can get information.” on keeping him prisoner until they sorted out He watched as the captain considered this. their own situation, but that would be one extra “And what do you get out of it?” asked Spill. worry they didn’t need. What Stamp needed was “A ride,” answered Stamp. “Nothing more. leverage, something he could barter with, and he I don’t know if you noticed back there, but had an idea about that. I’ve made some enemies myself. Between the With a hiss and a click, he heard the cockpit botched job on Candlevar and this little tussle lock into place. The access port slid open, and the with Cuttery, there’ll be folks looking for me. It’ll young cadet called Jackaby stepped up onto the be a while before I feel comfortable settlin’ down deck. somewhere. I need to be on the move—just like “Status?” asked the captain. you.” “We’re flying with all systems intact, sir,” Captain Spill leaned back in his chair. In a splitreplied Jackaby. “No sign of pursuit from Cuttery. second, he made his decision. “You’ll remain a I’ve set our course for Camber System.” detainee of this ship,” he said. “Once we’ve got “Good,” said Spill. “Now, we’ve got some dead our trouble sorted out, if you’ve proven yourself weight to deal with.” He leaned forward and useful, we just might look the other way while looked at Stamp. “Tannen Stamp, criminal mas- you slip off down some dark alley. But if you give termind. You could have taken any one of those me a minute’s worth of trouble, you’re going to bugships back on Wroume, but you chose to jail like the scumbag you are.” saddle us with your unwelcome presence instead. Stamp smiled inside, but he kept his expresWhy?” sion grim. “Fair enough,” he replied. “Rey was holdin’ the door for me,” replied “Settled,” said Spill. Then he turned to the Stamp with the most obnoxious smirk he could other members of his squad. “No one on this muster. “I thought it’d be rude to just walk on squad is to be alone with Stamp, not ever. Don’t by.” turn your back on him, and don’t listen to his lies. “Let me make this clear to you,” said Spill. “I’ve He may be useful at the moment, but he’s not to got no reservation about burning a clean hole be trusted. through your thick head, so let’s speak plainly. “Now, everybody’s got a job to do. Lieutenant, Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t drop take the helm. Rey, get this deck in respectable you out into the black.” order. Jackaby, you come with me. We’re taking “Because I can help you,” said Stamp. “I know Stamp down below so he can undo whatever he

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did to our nav system.” Without a word, the squad stood and dispersed. Captain Spill approached Stamp and whispered in his ear, “I’m watching you.” Stamp looked back at him and grinned. “That’s probably a good idea, Captain.” He followed the captain and the cadet to the stairwell. As he walked, he looked up and caught Rey’s eye. She nodded at him and smiled. “Captain,” called Melendez from the cockpit. “We’ve got more trouble.” Spill threw his arms in the air and turned to her. “In the name of Pavalova, what is it now?” Melendez’ face appeared in the cockpit access port. “GPF, sir. And it’s no chance meeting—four fighter ships locked on to our coordinates.” “How did they find us so—” The captain’s words were cut short as a laser blast rocked the ship. His hands still bound, Stamp stumbled backwards and fell on the deck. “Lieutenant,” said the captain. “Engage these suckers.” “Sir, there are four of them.” “You heard me, Melendez,” shouted Spill. “I said engage!”

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.

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Featured Artist:
Paul Molendijk
Name: Paul Molendijk Age: 39 Hobbies: Movies, sci-fi, and fantasy art. Favorite Book / Author: Used to read a lot of Jack Vance, Philip K. Dick, and more like those a long time ago. I should pick it up again. Favorite books would be Jack Vance’s The Demon Princes and Herbert’s Dune series. Favorite Artist: When it comes to classic fantasy art, Frank Frazetta is my all-time favorite. But I like the dark feeling of Brom and the wonderfully detailed paintings of Melanie Delon very much as well. When did you start creating art? I think like every artist, I started drawing as a kid. But growing up and as a young adult other matters became more important. But a little over a year ago it started “itching” and I picked it up again. What media do you work in? The thing that got me really starting again was the discovery of painting in Photoshop. Together with a graphical tablet and another great program, Artrage, I make all my work, although some pieces start as a doodle on paper. Where your work has been featured? So far only on the DVD that comes with the magazine ImagineFX. And a few t-shirts for myself :) Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your works? To view on my website, http://www.pan-o-rama.co.nr or http://panlannen.deviantart.com/. To buy, they’ll have to contact me. What were your early influences? Early influences were comics. I think the tales of “Storm” were the very first ones. What are your current influences? I try to learn from all the art I see. What inspired the art for the cover? I think I had a sort of War of the Worlds - The Omega Man idea in my mind.
Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 14, January 15, 2007

Featured Artist: Paul Molendijk
How would you describe your work? Sci-fi and fantasy art. Where do you get your inspiration / what inspires you? All kinds. Art on the internet, movies, manga/anime, people that I see during the day or magazines. Have you had any notable failures, and how has failure affected your work? Yes, I have. Lots. It depends on how bad I think it is. I could just leave it as it is or correct it a bit. If the failure is too big in my eyes I get rid of the whole piece all together, and feel uninspired for about a week.

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What have been your greatest successes? How has success impacted you / your work? It’s funny how that works. It’s the opposite of what happens when failing. When people show interest in your work, all of a sudden you have all these ideas and things tend to work out quicker and better then. What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art? The best thing I have and what keeps me going is my graphical tablet. What do you hope to accomplish with your art? I want to create art that make me feel proud and is appreciated by others.

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Featured Artist: Paul Molendijk

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The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Part 7
The Fugue
  by Johne Cook
The story thus far: Flynn has made peace with the Friar and his crew  and has started to learn the life of a privateer. understand each other.” “At least somebody does,” muttered Dete. Flynn grinned widely, and then grew serious. “I’m curious about something in my possession, ooper Flynn and the Friar stood on the helm and I don’t know what to make of it.” deck aboard the Venture, the elevated The Friar listened carefully. “What is the stern where the helm wheel was mounted, giving nature of this mystery object?” them a great view of the ship and the horizon Flynn stroked his jaw, thinking, and bobbed around them. The former stood at the wheel and his head in sudden decision. “Bring another the latter scanned the horizon observing a black helmsman up here and I’ll show you right now.” albatross through his telescope, and whistling. The Friar spoke. “Call for the First Mate,” he The wind blew through Flynn’s hair, long, and said. black and flying free. “You know, after all those Dete stopped his scrubbing and leaned on his years growing up on a remote chunk of rock, I knees. He looked around as the two gentlemen love the freedom here on this ship,” said Flynn. “I stood there, studiously silent. He sighed theatrican’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.” cally. “I’ll do it,” he grumbled. The Friar winked at The Friar grunted knowingly, glancing over at Flynn, who grinned broadly. Dete stood, cracking his young friend. “You’re taller and tanner than his back, and went to the rail overlooking the ever. One of the benefits of being on a privateer- deck below. “Crewmaster,” he yelled. ing ship is the convenient lack of uniforms. What Brandeye looked up from where he superare you now, nineteen? In the two years since vised the shuffling of some crates, his cotton eye you came aboard, you’ve won over the crew bright in the mid-day sun. “Yes?” and distinguished yourself as a capable leader in “Cap’n wants the First Mate.” action.” “Aye,” he said, and reached into his shirt, Flynn looked over at his mentor. “I’m touched,” pulling forth a silver whistle. He piped off a he said dryly. distinctive pattern and went back to what he The Friar lowered his looking glass. “What can was doing. Within minutes, Walenda Darden I say? I am given to inconvenient immoral lapses.” appeared from below-decks, tying her hair back He smiled and resumed his perpetual scanning. with some twine and straightening the only truly Dete, the head deckhand, stopped scrubbing the regulation uniform on the entire ship. Brandeye deck with his pumice stone and scratched his sketched a salute to her and nodded up to the head, unaware that the two were observing him. helm. “The Friar asked for you,” he said. Flynn’s eyebrow twitched and an odd look She executed a crisp salute in return. “Thank passed over his face. “I, also, have a weakness you, Crewmaster Brandeye,” she said formally, for moral rectitude,” said Flynn carefully. and took the steps two at a time on her way to The Friar laughed vigorously. “Excellent! We the helm. She stopped, braced, saluted. “First

C

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Part 7, "The Fugue," by Johne Cook
Mate Darden reporting as ordered,” Dete complained, and then turned and stalked back over to his bucket, talking to himself under his breath. Still standing at attention, Darden glanced quickly over at the Friar out of the corner of her eye and restated Dete’s declaration. “First Mate Darden reporting… as ordered. Sir.” The Friar chuckled, sketched a casual return salute. “Walenda, take the helm for a spell, won’t you?” “Sir! Yes, Sir!” The Friar tapped Dete lightly on the shoulder with the looking glass. “Here, Dete, take a breather and look through this for awhile. Let’s find out what your eagle-eyes can see.” Dete stretched, sketched a salute, and rose with an eager twinkle in his eye, gratefully accepting the telescope. “Thank ya, Captain, Sir.” Darden braced and saluted again, and Flynn stepped back from the wheel with a flourish. She stepped forward and bowed from the waist, and assumed her post, crisp and ramrod-stiff and official. Flynn looked at the Friar. “After you,” he said, and they wandered back toward the Captain’s cabin. # “What I’m about to show you is an utter mystery to me, not just what it all says, but what it all means.” Flynn removed the sash around his waist and untied three leather straps, revealing a secret inner pouch. He withdrew the oil-skin packet and withdrew a small rolled parchment with writing on both sides. He spread it out on the table and looked at the Friar seated across from him. “This is it,” he said. “This is the legacy from my father that Tuy Meklanek died to bring to me.” He turned it around and slid it toward the Friar.

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“This first side looks like a formula, but what it reveals is beyond me.” There was an image of what looked like a stump or a log over a ship’s dock. “The way it’s drawn is strange,” mused the Friar. “It’s not flying, like a bird, and it’s not drawn resting on the dock. It’s deliberately drawn above the dock.” “It’s not hanging suspended from something, nor held elevated in place.” Flynn said, “If anything, it looks like it’s…” Their eyes met. “…floating in mid-air,” finished the Friar. The creaking of the ship echoed loudly in the sudden silence. The Friar leaned back. “If you ever get to the main island, I’ll have to have you look up a young associate of mine, somebody with a great knowledge of things scientific and mechanical. He can build anything if you give him enough resources and challenge him a little. I wager he could tell you what the formula is for.” Flynn turned the parchment over. “This other side just contains a bunch of fancy script.” He started reading it aloud. “ ‘By order of the Queen, the bearer of this writ shall be accorded all rights and resources afforded to the Monarchy in perpetuity until...” The Friar made a convulsive sound and Flynn trailed off. “What?” “May I?” Flynn had only seen the Friar this serious on one occasion, and it involved the Briar Throne. The moment felt like history in the making. Flynn nodded and carefully handed over the parchment. The Friar looked first at one side and then the other. Then he pulled the lamp over and held the parchment up in front of the lamp. A shadow of the emblem of the Haddiron monarchy shone down on the tabletop. Flynn didn’t know what to make of it, but the Friar’s

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Part 7, "The Fugue," by Johne Cook
wide-eyed expression suggested that he did. The captain quickly gave the parchment to Flynn. The Friar dropped his voice. “Hide that immediately and be extremely careful whom you show that to. What you hold in your hands is unique, and vanished generations ago, presumably lost. The hidden watermark establishes it as genuine.” Flynn cocked his head. “A genuine what, though?” “What you hold there is legendary, the only one of its kind, a document of unbelievable importance, giving the bearer not just manifold wealth, but real power within the realm. Until now, I thought it was just a myth to give people hope and something to strive for.” “What is it?” The Friar bent closer to Flynn and spoke in a voice so low that Flynn himself could barely hear. “It is a prize awarded to the crown’s champion and his heirs after an invasion was beaten back almost single-handedly generations ago, the longlost Queen’s Writ of Haddiron. It is a promissory note, a blank cheque drawn on the combined coffers of the Haddiron treasury. Not only that, it gives the bearer unparallel authority, second only to the queen herself.” The Friar leaned back, his eyes wide. “Considering the ramifications of the two sides of that parchment, I’m not sure which side is more valuable” With the realization of what he had, Flynn’s expression rose, and then fell. “So I should keep quiet about these, then,” he said more brightly than he felt, and carefully put the parchments back in the oil-skin, and replaced the packet in his sash. He found it suddenly a little hard to breathe and his imagination whirled in every direction.

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#

“Sails, ho!” bellowed Dete from above and Brandeye piped. The Friar looked at Flynn. “We’ll talk more about this later, hookah?” Flynn nodded, still a little stunned. The Friar quickly strode out of the cabin. Flynn carefully readjusted his sash and followed after the Friar, stopping just short of running into a mountain of a man in the narrow corridor. “Pardon me…” Flynn’s cheerful resolve gave way when the huge, scarred face turned to regard him. Awful recognition settled like a lump into Flynn’s throat. Degore scowled down at Flynn, and the events of two years ago appeared afresh in his head. Their encounter in a local tavern on Parrot Bay had been brief, memorable, and had given Flynn nightmares for months afterward. There had been no words exchanged, just a fist the size of a melon smashing into Flynn’s face and knocking him cold with one brutal blow. After joining the Friar’s crew, Flynn had avoided Degore ever since. That wasn’t as hard as it sounds because Degore was frequently away as a regular on crews taking prizes back to port for sale to Haddiron or ransom back to Sylva. When Degore was onboard the Venture, Flynn kept his distance and his head, remembering their last brief but energetic encounter. Until now. Flynn braced himself for another beating. If  I’m going through this again, I’ll take it like a man.    Time to stop running.  Then, as an afterthought, I  hope he doesn’t break my face. Moving deliberately, Degore slowly braced, his back straight and his eyes snapping front in the dark, narrow corridor. “Sir,” he rumbled without a hint of inflection. Flynn couldn’t have been more stunned. “As you were, Mister Degore,” he said, his voice hardly cracking at all, sketching the briefest of salutes in return.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Part 7, "The Fugue," by Johne Cook
Degore leaned back against the corridor wall and swept his massive left hand across his body in a mock bow. “After you,” he said. “Sir.” Flynn relaxed and started to reach up to pat Degore’s shoulder, panicked and thought better of it mid-pat, and flexed his fingers self-consciously in front of his face. “Thanks,” he said, dropping his arm to his side in defeat, and carefully squeezed past. Well,  what  do  you  know?, he thought.    I  managed not to soil myself.  This day might not  be a total bust after all. Up top, Dete held out the telescope, but the Friar ignored it for the moment and said “Where away?” “Sylvan merchant two points to port bow,” said Dete crisply. “Is she alone?” “YesSir. I don’t see anything else out there at present.” “Very good, Dete. Walenda, bring us in port abaft, if you please,” said the Friar gesturing to the right rear of the ship. He turned to Flynn. “What kept you?” “I ran into an old friend,” said Flynn, grinning. The Friar nodded, trying to keep a straight face. Only then did he accept the telescope from Dete. He found the ship in his view and nodded his confirmation of Dete’s find. “Bring out the hay!” “Hay?” “I’m fine - how are you,” asked the Friar, who then laughed at his own pun. “Bring out the crucible!” he bellowed. He turned to Flynn. “Time to go barefoot,” he said with a wicked smile. # There was an excellent reason that The Venture was able to get close to Sylvan ships—she was not only of Sylvan design, she was smaller and faster than a warship, but longer, and holding more guns than a simple merchant ship. She was

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more than capable and was helmed by a crafty and experienced leader. She was, however, at the moment emitting a great deal of smoke, and her deck appeared to be completely devoid of activity. The Sylvan merchant started with flags, but there was nobody there to respond to them, so they approached closer until they pulled alongside to starboard and the captain could hail the smoking ship. “Ahoy!” There was no answer, so the captain tried again. “Ahoy! Ahoy the burning ship!” A single weathered figure appeared at the rail of the burning ship. “Thank Raj, I’m saved!” “What happened here?” “The Friar of Briar Island and his crew took over our ship and started this fire, leaving me on deck all alone. Things were looking pretty bleak. I have no interest in riding this ship straight down to meet the seaghoul!” “I’m Captain Skone of the Kendersken,” he said as the two ships bumped against each other and members of the Sylvan crew leapt over to lash the two ships together. “I’ve heard of this Friar pirate before. How long has he been gone?” “About half an hour, I’d say. Can somebody help me put out the fire?” Captain Skone directed his men forward with a wave of his arm to where the smoke was billowing up from the deck and turned to talk to Dete. Dete smiled suddenly and put his index finger up to his lips in the universal “shh” gesture. The captain heard his men exclaim. “What? The fire is contained in a kind of saucer. The ship’s not burning at all, just a bunch of hay.” The captain whirled to look at Dete. Dete had stepped back 20 paces and was joined by a silent crowd of barefooted, competent-looking crew. They had swords and black powder pistols in their sashes, but most stood there with their arms

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Part 7, "The Fugue," by Johne Cook
crossed. For his part, Dete smiled and bowed theatrically. A figure dressed in a purple coat and breeches with a large black leather belt and brilliant gold buckle stepped silently forward—he was also barefoot. “Captain, I am the Friar of Briar Island,” he said in a low voice. He removed his outlandish tricorner hat with huge plume and bowed. “It is my honor to inform you that your vessel has been commandeered by the Scourge of the Volcanal.” Standing to the right of the Friar, Flynn grinned at the impulsive title, all the while watching the Sylvan Captain. Captain Skone took a convulsive breath as if to yell, and Flynn softly cleared his throat. A large and very wicked knife appeared in the Friar’s hand and the Friar quickly stepped forward, his voice dropping an octave as he spoke. “Captain, you strike me as a decent and moral man, a real leader of men. As you value the lives of your crew, I suggest you stay your alarm.” Captain Skone paused, and that was enough time for the Friar’s men to filter in behind the Sylvan sailors. “…and it’s done,” said the Friar, grinning again. “As you were, captain. Feel free to inform your crew at your leisure, Sir.” Shooting the Friar an unfathomable look, Captain Skone inhaled and raised his voice. “Listen up! If you value your lives, please drop your weapons and assemble in front of me here. We are now the guests of the Friar and his…crew.” And that was pretty much it. # Flynn helped douse the fire, occasionally splashing the deckboys as he did, a practice that grew into something close to a pick-up water fight. Others carefully herded the Sylvan crew below into the hold of the Kendersken, locking the hatch behind them. Then the Friar held an impromptu meeting on deck with the crew.

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“Well done, everyone. The only thing better than a bloody successful ambush is a bloodless one, and you carried it off by the numbers. We need to get this prize staffed and on its way. Where’s Pate?” A lanky sailor with a glass eye waved his hand from the middle of the group. “Here, Sir.” “You get to stay here this time around. However, you’re next when we take another prize.” Pate waved again, smiling. “Where’s First Mate Darden?” “Here, Sir.” “We’ll escort you and the Kendersken back to the Dragon’s Maw, get you outfitted with a proper crew, and offload the prisoners. Following that, you will proceed on to our contact at Bitten Bay. You can deposit the funds in our account there and then continue on to the Naval Academy for further training and an eventual commission if you so deSire.” “Yes, Sir!” she said, eyes glittering proudly. “Mister Flynn. You’re in charge of the mop detail. Let’s get that deck clean enough to eat off of.” Flynn grinned and overturned his bucket on the head of the nearest deckboy so he wore it like a helm. “Yes, Sire!” he shouted boisterously, running away at the head of a pack of laughing boys. Twenty minutes later, the mopping detail well underway, Flynn was taking two mops down below when he saw Darden steal back behind the stairs going up to the helm deck in the shadow of the mess. She held a messenger bird carefully in her hands. Flynn hung back in the shadows and then saw the bird go up and flap away. She straightened her uniform and strode forward. Flynn’s brow furrowed. He turned and was about to go below when, for the second time that day, the cry went up.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Part 7, "The Fugue," by Johne Cook
# “Sails, ho!” Flynn dropped the mops and took the stairs two at a time. “Where?” “Behind us on the horizon!” Flynn took the offered looking glass and got a good look at the vessel before the Friar came up behind him. Wordless, Flynn handed off the looking glass to the Friar and looked at the Kendersken  still moored off the Venture’s starboard side. Darden ran to her railing and looked up at the Venture. “Captain?” she asked. “Cast off,” yelled the Friar. “We’ll take whoever’s left and go meet them. Break out the muskets!” Flynn looked back at the ship on the horizon and considered the size of the remaining skeleton crew compared to a ship that was at least as big as the Venture. He looked down at the deck where a frightened deckboy was paralyzed, unsure where to go. He was sopping wet and covered with ash from cleaning the fire crucible. The effect was inspirational. “Captain,” said Flynn, “I have an idea.” Flynn sketched it out: the size of the incoming ship, the size of the remaining crew, the slow speed of the debarking merchant prize, the resources at their disposal. When he finished, the Friar looked at Flynn with fresh appraisal. “You know, that just might work.” He turned and addressed Brandeye. “Bring the flags.” Then he returned his attention to Flynn. “Break out the launch and assemble your crew.” “I’ll take the deckboys,” said Flynn. The Friar’s eyebrows furrowed. “I’ll explain later!” promised Flynn, and if the Friar entertained any doubt on that score, he kept it off his face. “Let’s go,” roared the Friar. “We haven’t much time!” #

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“Put your back into it, lads!” encouraged Flynn, rowing along with the sopping, sooty deckboys. “The sooner we reach the Sylvans, the sooner we can hit ‘em with the fugue!” “What’s a fugue,” asked Nickardy. “You don’t want to know,” intoned Falt with more knowledge than he actually had. Flynn just smiled as he rowed and winked at Nickardy, his black eyes twinkling. Twenty minutes of hard rowing took them far enough out to hail the incoming Sylvan warship. Flynn signaled the deckboys to stop rowing, turned, and stood easily in the rocking longboat. He picked up the cloth and started waving it. “You there, what are you doing?” “Hookah, my fellow Sylvans. We have come to warn you away from our ship, the Skenderden.” “Is that a quarantine flag? What is it, the plague?” Flynn dropped the flag to his side as if wearied. “Worse! It’s the fugue! Very contagious, and extremely deadly.” “The fugue? I’m not familiar with it.” “Oh, yes, it’s quite disturbing. It affects those at the opposite end of age—the older you are, the more susceptible, and the younger you are, the more impervious…for a time. My crew here is immune to its ravages, so far any way, but after we divert you away from our ill fortune, we will return to sail our ship to a quarantined port to wait out the illness and see how many graves we will have to dig.” “What happens to the afflicted? How does it manifest? Might we have something on board to treat this malady? “It begins as the water in your body starts oozing out of every pore. First, you’re drenched, and then you dry out until you start to spit up ash with great raspy heaving coughs. Your bones

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Part 7, "The Fugue," by Johne Cook
become brittle, your skin flakes off, and you finally blow clean away on the wind. The only cure is a fortnight on nothing but rum and citrus. Those infected are extremely contagious until the fugue-fever passes. We beg you, turn back lest your crew, too, become victims of the fugue!” The captain looked dubious, but one long look at the ashen, dripping boys was enough to make his decision. “Yes, thank you for the warning. May Raj bless and heal you.” He waved and turned to his First. “Change course and make for the Volcanal.” The quarantine flag dropped out of Flynn’s trembling fingers, and he waved bravely to the Sylvan warship. “Extremely deadly?” whispered Qent. “Worst kind,” replied Flynn. He spoke a low word and they brought the launch around to head back to the Venture. The last thing he heard was “Break out the rum and citrus for all hands.” “I love this job,” said Flynn to his grinning mates, taking an oar. # “You can take the Quarantine flag down,” said Flynn climbing back aboard the Venture. “They bought it.” “Make way for the Maw,” yelled the Friar, and then fell in walking with Flynn. “Bought what, exactly?” “I told him the Venture was quarantined with the fugue, an illness that affects older people.” The Friar stopped in mock outrage. “Who are you calling ‘older people’?!” Flynn cocked his head, a coy mannerism. “You know – people older than myself! I told them the fugue was a wasting disease that manifested as water leaking from all pores…” “So, sweating.” “…along with ashen features.”

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The Friar regarded Flynn with newfound appreciation. “You used dirty, sweaty deckboys as proof of a fabricated illness?!” Flynn smiled widely. The Friar nodded once. “You, Sir, are a steelyeyed liar, and I salute you.” He removed his fancy hat and bowed deeply. “By the way,” said Flynn, “we should break out some rum and citrus when we return to the Maw.” “Oh? Why’s that?” “No reason,” said Flynn, his black eyes twinkling. # After cleaning up, Flynn joined the Friar in the captain’s cabin. “We do have something important to talk about. I told you that I thought I could find the spy in the crowd. I’ve found him, only ‘he’ is a ‘she’.” The Friar leaned forward. “Who is she?” “First Officer Walenda Darden. After you gave her command of the prize ship and handed her a grant to the Haddiron Naval Academy, she stole away and flew a black messenger bird. Cyl only knows where she kept it hidden.” The Friar frowned deeply. “You’re sure?” “I saw her with my own eyes while the crew was distracted. I don’t know if there’s any way to keep an eye on her from contacts at the Academy, but it would be good to find out who her contacts are and what her intentions are regarding you, the Maw, and the Venture. The Friar leaned back in the high-backed chair that he had bolted to the wooden floor. He dug around in his waistcoat and pulled out a pipe, some wood matches, and a tin of tobacco. He prepared and lit the pipe, and smoked in silence, the cherry smell filling the cabin with a homey scent. He nodded once and leaned forward. He pointed the stem of the pipe at Flynn.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, Part 7, "The Fugue," by Johne Cook

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“You have matured and grown while here on the Venture. You are a natural leader, and are somewhat wasted here. You can accomplish some things without education, but can accomplish so much more with a proper schooling.” He held his hand up to forestall protest. “What you need is a commission to the Academy. I can’t grant that to you, but I can provide the funding. If you can find a way to enter the Academy, I’ll pay your way if you return here to us when you’re finished with your schooling.” Flynn sat on the Friar’s hammock, stunned. “What are you saying?” The Friar grinned. “It takes a spy to catch a spy. I want you to follow Darden and uncover her role. Infiltrate the Academy, find out what she knows, who her contacts are, and if Briar Island has been compromised. Get close to her and find out what she knows. Stop her if you can, kill her if you must, then return here when you’re ready.” “That could take four years!” “Then four years it is – we survived without you before now. This is an advanced assignment that I wouldn’t think of giving to anybody with less ability to think on their feet.” Flynn stared at the floor and pushed back and forth in the hammock in nervous energy. “But the privateers of Briar Island are the only family I have, and the Venture my only home!” “All the more reason to leave now, so you can protect those you love and care for. Will you do it?” Flynn remained looking at the floor. “I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be right now than here.” He raised his head and looked the Friar in the eye.

“I’ll do it,” he said.

Johne Cook
Johne Cook is an Overlord (Co-founder and Editor)  of Ray Gun Revival magazine. Johne is a Technical Writer and a long-time space  opera fan.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007

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Memory Wipe
Chapter 7 - “Powers of Darkness” 
  by Sean T. M. Stiennon
n the deepest chamber of his lair, Lashiir sat upon a silk cushion and stared into the darkness. The blackness was complete–when he had been preparing his home, he had carefully made sure that no speck of sun or fire light could find its way into this chamber. There was nothing in it aside from his cushion, which had been here so long he had forgotten its color. Even his eyes could see nothing but blackness, complete and crushing. Yet this darkness was nothing compared the great Darkness beyond all light. Lashiir sat in silence, emptying his mind and letting darkness fill his hearts and his soul. There was nothing but this–not really. Light was mere illusion, a passing thing of this world. This was the wisdom of the Clordites, and the only thing Lashiir’s people worshiped. This room was his shrine, an assassin’s deepest sanctum. He released his breath, letting it pass out of his beak with a gentle fluting noise. Someday his soul too would be extinguished in the great Darkness. But he would send many others to her before that happened. Takeda Croster would be among them. He was no ordinary human–that much was obvious. Blades did not sprout from the arms of any human Lashiir had ever encountered. But another being interested him even more: The Lithrallian. His name was still unknown to Lashiir, but the strength in his eyes, the speed in his arms, and his resilience to the wounds Lashiir had dealt him had all been impressive. The Lithrallian was skilled, not just with guns, but also Issue 14, January 15, 2007

The Story so Far: Three  years  ago,  Takeda  Croster  woke  up  in  the  city  of  Greendome  on  the colony world of Belar with no memories, no  connections,  and  no  possessions  aside  from  the  clothes  he  was  wearing  and  an  Imperial  citizenship card with his name on it.  He worked at the  Silver Sun casino, ignored by most, until one night  when he began to manifest superhuman powers  in  a  fight  against  two  corrupt  cops:  enhanced  senses,  great  strength,  lightning  fast  reactions.    He seriously injured both cops.  Strange dreams  and  a  feeling  of  great  exhaustion  followed  the  encounter. Takeda has left Belar, fleeing from the corrupt  police  official,  Captain  Brian  Vass.    His  only  companion  is  a  mysterious  Lithrallian  hunter  named  Zartsi,  who  saved  his  life  in  the  jungles.    Together,  the  two  of  them  hijacked  a  ship  and  landed  on  the  planet  Freedan,  in  a  rainy  industrial city called Freesail. After his powers helped him to injure the son  of Nathan Clane, gaining him a vendetta with the  powerful Clane gang, Takeda visited Dr. Lawrence  Beinnen  for  an  examination.    Beinnen’s  findings  were startling: Takeda has bone structures, glands,  and  vessels  which  no  normal  human  possesses.    Beinnen mentioned his old partner, who seemed  to have some knowledge of such things: Cramer  Orano,  who  has  now  fled  to  the  harsh  colony  world Nihil. Now, as Takeda secures passage to Nihil from  Esheera Nii, a Vitai Rover, a mysterious assassin  named Lashiir–who has already tried once to kill  Takeda–has found them again, and Brian Vass is  also closing in.... Ray Gun Revival magazine

I

Serial: Memory Wipe, "Powers of Darkness," by Sean T. M. Stiennon
with the twin daggers he wielded. He had been well-trained–had trained himself, perhaps. The daggers in particular were remarkable. They had stopped Tsiika’s edge without taking a nick. Lashiir knew a good deal about the warriors of Lithrall–he had studied their armies, their weapons, their tactics. Many Lithrallians had ivory knives. Few had ones of such quality. Even fewer had a matched pair of such blades. Lithrallian barons generally carried blades made from hardened strome, often richly inlaid with gold and jewels. Ivory daggers were kept for their wall displays. Lashiir dimly remember ed that the Serpent Fangs–the personal bodyguard of the king–always carried a blade marked with their oath of loyalty. Still, he doubted that this Lithrallian was among them–his knives had been marked with a complex pattern, but it had not been any Lithrallian script Lashiir recognized. An interesting puzzle. Perhaps an examination of the warrior’s corpse would yield more information–or perhaps not. Perhaps his identity would remain forever a mystery, lost to memory. Swallowed by Darkness. A gentle chime drifted through the blackness. One of Lashiir’s men thought whatever message he carried was important enough to interrupt his master’s contemplation. Lashiir rose from his cushion, turned, and found the door blindly. He knew the distance exactly, and found the latch without difficulty. The passage outside was black as well–a kind of airlock, to prevent any light from finding its way into the shrine. Lashiir shut the door behind him, then opened a second door and stepped out into the lamplight of his personal chambers. Cushions littered the floor, along with a bottle of pale violet liquor, a few books written in Clordash, and other minor articles. No being ever entered this chamber besides him–not even his closest servants. Another door took him into a third room, the concrete of its ceiling hollowed out into a dome. It was split in half by a red curtain, and the floor Ray Gun Revival magazine

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was covered by a rug woven with patterns from his home. The other side of this curtain was the closest any being ever came to his sanctum. Lanternlight showed him a man standing on the other side of it. “What is it?” Lashiir asked, speaking through his translator. “Thomas calls from the free port,” Jedias said. “He’s found Croster and the Lithrallian.” Lashiir sighed slowly, enjoying the feel of air fluting through the passages of his beak. He reached his claws up and raised the hood of his robe. The fabric was soft against his black exoskeleton. “This news pleases you, master?” “It does.” Jedias feared the consequences of summoning his master from contemplation. The penalties ranged from a simple beating to having one’s tongue ripped out, hamstrings slit, eyes gouged, and then being left in an alley for the streets to claim. Lashiir stepped out from behind the curtain. “John.” “He’ll live, master, but his left arm won’t ever be as good as it was, and the damage to his torso will take weeks to heal.” “Thomas?” “Waiting near the free port.” “Get Huo. Join me on ground level in three minutes.” “Yes, master.” “Have net launchers and scoped carbines.” “Yes, master.” Lashiir nodded, and Jedias proceeded him out of the room, breaking into a run as soon as his back turned to Lashiir. The Clordite sighed again, slowly. There was one chore for him to complete before going to take his prey. Roger Clane was still his guest, being tended to by Lashiir’s surgeon. He was injured badly. But, unlike John, he would accompany Lashiir this time. Lashiir had told his father that Roger would remain part of the hunt for Croster. The Issue 14, January 15, 2007

Serial: Memory Wipe, "Powers of Darkness," by Sean T. M. Stiennon
boy was an imbecile, but Lashiir liked to think that it gave the hunt a fresh aspect of challenge. He stepped out into the passageway, dropping one hand to rest on Tsiika’s hilt. This time, a bullet might be good enough for Croster. But Tsiika and no other weapon would send the Lithrallian to Darkness. # One hour. Thinking about it a few minutes later, Takeda had to thank God that Esheera’s ship had been so close to being ready. It could have been days. He knew just enough about starships to know that their mechanisms were delicate, and a thousand things could go wrong during lift-off, travel, landing, even re-fueling. Hundreds of critical parts kept the thing going, and a single malfunction could sabotage the whole craft. One hour was nothing. But it might be enough time for him to die. He tapped the Vitai on the shoulder as she peered into a hatch on the ship’s painted underside, holding a wrench in one hand and some kind of pressure gauge in the other. She turned to him, earrings, bracelets, and beaded locks of dark hair jangling. The enormous nostrils of her pig-nose flared. “What’s up?” she croaked, fluttering her wing-flaps. “Can we arrange for you to pick us up? I mean, bring the ship to meet us elsewhere?” She tilted her head and narrowed her black eyes. “Now that’s a funny thing to say. You guys must live fast lives.” Her jovial tone took some of the bite from her words. Takeda shook his head. “It’s not that. We just need to be somewhere else for a few minutes. I guess we could come back here, but it would be easier if you picked us up.” He hated to lie–or at least tell a half-truth–but he had a nagging suspicion that, if Esheera knew that a Clordite assassin was coming to kill both of them, she wouldn’t be so eager to give them passage. Ray Gun Revival magazine

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Esheera crossed her arms over the knitted sweater that covered her chest. The wing-flaps extending from wrists to hips folded neatly. “Where were you thinking? The cops might put their coffee down if they hear about a Rover ship roasting pedestrians.” “Any suggestions?” She tilted her head again. “So you don’t know where you’re going?” “No, no...but we don’t know the city very well. We just want to grab a few supplies.” “Somehow,” Esheera said, “I don’t think you’re giving Esh the whole truth. But sure. The Seer’s a better ship than she looks–she won’t have trouble.” Esheera pointed her arm to the west. “Twenty minutes walk that way there’s an abandoned building, first floor painted white, five stories tall. I’ll pick you up on the roof–I won’t land, though, so if you’re not there, you lose.” “All right.” She pulled a battered, round watch from some pocket and looked at it. “Let’s say seventy minutes. Good enough for you?” Takeda nodded and walked away while Esheera turned back to her ship. Zartsi was waiting a few feet away. “She agrees?” the Lithrallian asked. “She didn’t seem happy about it, but she’ll pick us up.” Takeda gave Zartsi the building’s description. The Lithrallian nodded. “Then we move.” Takeda took a last glance around the port, full of battered old ships and with exotic wares and even more exotic captains laid out in front of them. He couldn’t see any sign of Lashiir’s man–pale-skinned and clothed in deep black–but he wondered if the man was still watching them from the shadows, tracking their movements even as he called Lashiir. They left the free port out the back entrance and stepped onto a street outside a factory that belched smoke into the relatively clear sky. A few people–two working men and an older woman– leaned against the building’s brick wall, smoking. Issue 14, January 15, 2007

Serial: Memory Wipe, "Powers of Darkness," by Sean T. M. Stiennon
They stared at Zartsi for a few seconds, then returned their attention to languid conversation. Takeda broke into a loping run as soon as he was out of the port. Zartsi matched him stride for stride. # The streets that snaked among the factories were empty of all except a few beggars, an occasional worker out for a smoke or a piss, and puddles of water left over from last night’s rainfall. Takeda and Zartsi moved quickly, alternating between a fast walk and a ground-covering dash. Takeda couldn’t see anyone following them, although he looked back and around frequently, but he still wanted to get as far from the port as quickly as possible. He couldn’t face Lashiir again. Not if he wanted to live. They turned a corner and saw the building Esheera had described–probably an old office building, too worn out to use, not even worth the trouble of demolition. A few broken panes of glass still filled the windows, and the white paint that formed a band around the first floor was peeling off. Takeda pointed it out, Zartsi acknowledged with a nod, and they ran past. There would be time to loop back. They stopped to rest for a moment outside the chain-link fence of a factory yard filled with piles of pipes, crates of parts, and massive spools of wire and cord. The fence was made from strome with razor-wire unrolled across the top, and there a guard stood on duty who glared at them suspiciously and took the safety off his rifle. That removed the possibility of hiding in a pipe until pick-up time. “Should we keep moving?” Takeda asked, panting. He strained for his powers as he had once back on Belar, and found he could summon some of his enhanced senses, but decided to preserve his strength until he needed it. It was possible he would be able to get off-planet without using his powers. Without having nightmares–fierce Ray Gun Revival magazine

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nightmares that grew worse and more exhausting every time. His powers scared him, in a way, and using them still exhausted him once the fight was over or the enemy evaded. “Better not to risk staying still,” Zartsi hissed. “Risks death with him.” Takeda thought of the coldness in Lashiir’s eyes and the metallic rasp of his voice as he spoke through the translator. He shuddered even in the warm sunlight. They ran on. # Lashiir hated the free port: Nothing but a muddy patch of ground covered with ships worth only scrap. The beings populating it wore motley clothing that would shame the lowest untouchable in the Dark Sphere. He watched it from across the street, concealed in the shadows of an alleyway. Jedias waited just behind, concealing an automatic carbine underneath his cape. Huo crouched a few feet further back. His net launcher would look particularly suspicious. Then Roger Clane was slumped against one brick wall, moaning as he clutched his wounded shoulder. He wore the usually preposterous array of clothing and weapons, including a pulser thrust openly through his belt. Lashiir started to step out into the street. He rarely ventured out during daylight, and although he enjoyed the warmth, the rays of the sun were too bright for his eyes. Warm shadows were his element, not streets flooded with stark golden light. Then he heard a tiny sound, accompanied by a smell he had memorized years ago. “Thomas,” he hissed. “You have news?” The black-clad man dropped down from a window ledge above him, falling into a crouch as he struck the paved alley floor. “Wasn’t I quiet enough?” “You did well,” Lashiir answered. “But you will never do well enough to surprise me. Do not imagine otherwise.” Issue 14, January 15, 2007

Serial: Memory Wipe, "Powers of Darkness," by Sean T. M. Stiennon
“Apologies, master.” “Where are they?” “They moved off northwest, running.” Lashiir leaned slightly closer to Thomas. “And you did not follow?” “I didn’t think it necessary. I attached a listening device to the man’s collar. His pilot told him that he would be picked up at a nearby building.” Thomas described it, and Lashiir nodded slightly. “Good.” “I’ve kept listening. They’re going to be there in fifty minutes.” “More than enough time. Go there and wait.” Lashiir dismissed Thomas with a wave of one talon, then turned to look back at Roger. “Shit,” the young man whimpered. “Why don’t you just let me get back home? I’m hurt bad, and I never want to see those bastards again.” “You wouldn’t wish to disobey your father’s orders?” Lashiir answered, a hint of a laugh in his voice. “Just let me go, you psycho! I don’t care about him. He can’t do worse to me than that guy did.” Earlier, while resting in contemplation of Darkness, Lashiir had asked himself why he continued to involve Roger, and had settled on two answers. First, it was good business to fulfill whatever conditions an employer demanded. Second, he took some joy in demonstrating to Nathan Clane how weak his son was. Lashiir rested one of his talons on Roger’s other shoulder and applied gentle pressure. Even that was enough to dig his claws into the young man’s jacket. A little more, and they would penetrate it and enter flesh. “Come now,” Lashiir whispered. “I will not order again.” Roger hesitated. Lashiir punched a claw through his jacket and shirt, digging it just past his skin. Roger yelped. Such methods of coercion were crude, but sometimes necessary. He tore the claw out and stepped away. His ears told him Roger stood, snarling obscenities, Ray Gun Revival magazine

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and clapped a hand onto the grip of his pulser. “Before you aimed your weapon,” Lashiir said, “I would have Tsiika beneath your skin.” Roger heard the truth in his words. He wasn’t precisely a coward, but his bravado did not extend to suicide. His hand fell away from his gun. Lashiir stepped out into the street. # Five minutes before the time Esheera had named, Takeda and Zartsi approached the building. The sun had passed its noon zenith and was beginning its slow descent. With any luck that sun would be behind them before Freesail saw it set. Takeda checked his pistol. The safety was off. “No one’s trailing us?” “I see none,” Zartsi answered, unslinging his rifle. “Doesn’t mean anything.” “I guess not.” Takeda drew upon his powers–on whatever it was in his brain that activated the organs, the glands, the vessels that were unique to his body. He smelled smoke on the breeze, rust, sweat and hot metal from a nearby factory. Also dust. His hearing picked up wind and the clank of machinery, even the shouts of a foreman and the merchants back at the free port. Even his enhanced sight showed him nothing but darkness beyond the building’s shattered windows. “Let’s go,” he said. Logically, there was no way Lashiir could have known about this building, even if he had come immediately after his man had reported Takeda’s whereabouts. Esheera hadn’t struck him as a woman to be late–he should be safe. But he couldn’t forget those dull red eyes, and the two hearts he could hear pounding beneath the black armor of the Clordite’s chest. He had his gun in his hand as he stepped through the door of the building: a dark antechamber, long cleared of any furnishings. A Issue 14, January 15, 2007

Serial: Memory Wipe, "Powers of Darkness," by Sean T. M. Stiennon
carpet of dust muffled his footsteps. Faded text on a door to his left read: “Stairs”. Takeda opened the door. Zartsi went through with his rifle. For a moment, Takeda thought how silly they looked, like kids playing commando. He followed the Lithrallian, covering the stairs. Nothing but blackness, although his eyes were good enough to see through it. His ears heard only their footfalls and a few vermin which had worked their way into the walls. The stairs came to an end at the third floor. Zartsi opened the door while Takeda went through, back hunched and gun clasped in both hands. Shafts of sunlight penetrated a haze of dust, giving Takeda enough light to see broken plastic and particleboard desks scattered across a room that took up half of the floor, like shattered rocks on a desolate plain. He stepped forward, tracking his eyes across the room, and Zartsi followed. If there was any breathing, it was muffled by the wind in the street. He increased his pace, crossing to a doorway on the other side of the room. The stairs had to continue somewhere. Then, for an instant, he heard the throb of two hearts. Not two men. Two hearts, beating sideby-side in the same chest. Lashiir’s hearts. Takeda spun and fired two rounds at the shadow rising from twenty feet away. As if awakened by the gunfire, other heartbeats fell on Takeda’s ears. Zartsi roared. # The bullet struck concrete just above Lashiir’s shoulder. It didn’t slow him for an instant. His left talon came up from his belt with three throwing blades, each one coated with the venom of the Lithrallian redwhip, which he launched at Croster. His right hand drew Tsiika from her scabbard with a gentle hum of music. He wasn’t surprised to see Croster leap away from every one of his missiles–he knew the man Ray Gun Revival magazine

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was no ordinary human. That was why he had spent enough time in meditation to all but silence his hearts, and ordered his men–Thomas and Huo–to do the same. Lashiir bounded onto a desk and launched himself into the air, bringing Tsiika to the Master Wasp stance as he flew. The Lithrallian fired at Thomas, across the room, but with no effect. Lashiir’s blade swept towards his spine. “Zartsi!” the human shouted, firing again. Huo aimed his weapon from the far side of the room and fired it with a dull thwump. From the corner of his eye, Lashiir saw a dark net explode from it’s capsule, stretching like smoke to engulf its target. The Lithrallian pivoted on his heel, swinging the butt of his rifle up to meet Lashiir’s beak. Tsiika struck it with a sound like a temple gong. Wood cracked and the stock shattered as Lashiir’s talons struck concrete. He sent Tsiika up for the Lithrallian’s ribcage. It struck a curved ivory blade. The other dagger came raking at Lashiir’s eyes. Darkness’ Breath, the Lithrallian was fast– perhaps faster than any being Lashiir had fought since leaved the Dark Sphere. But he could see bandages binding the wounds he had given the Lithrallian last night. Now was the time for death. He wouldn’t even have to call upon Tsiika’s song. # Takeda heard propellent ignite and the thwump of the gun firing, just as he heard the beating hearts of two men in the darkness and the gentle noise of something flying towards him, but he couldn’t tear his attention away from Zartsi and the shadowy mantle descending on him. He watched as a gleaming sword shattered the Lithrallian’s rifle stock. Then a force like a moving wall slammed into his side, knocking him down instantly. He tried Issue 14, January 15, 2007

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to move his arms, to bring his gun to bear on the Clordite, but found them tangled in something that felt like cobwebs spun from steel. His body smacked against the concrete. The scent of dust invaded his nostrils. His hyper-acute senses told him that a gun was about to fire–fully automatic, something told him. They’d shoot him like bagged game. He rolled towards the gun. Bullets raked the concrete. Somewhere music was playing and two paired hearts were beating faster. He tried to stretch his arms, break the net holding him with sheer strength, but the slick fibers only stretched and contracted tighter than they had been. He had managed to keep his grip on the pistol, but couldn’t aim it. A blade. He needed a blade. And he knew there was one in his arm. He tried to remember that length of gleaming material, halfway between bone and metal, visualize it. Flesh split on his right forearm, and he felt tension ease all around him as one of the ropes holding him snapped. He raked his arm, slashing wildly. Together his strength and the blade in his arm–both arms–were enough. The steel-hard fibers tore apart. A gun barrel swung down to aim at him. He snapped his own pistol into both hands and pulled the trigger twice. Both rounds found a home in the assassin’s brain. The man’s corpse fell back. Takeda swung his pistol towards the other one–towards his beating heart and wet breath– but the man had already taken cover. Takeda didn’t waste his ammunition. He glanced back. Zartsi’s ivory daggers and the assassin’s dark sword wove a pattern in the dusty air that even Takeda’s eyes could barely follow. Zartsi fought with tight slashes and precise thrusts, keeping his blades close to his body except when

parrying a wide slash from Lashiir. “Zartsi!” he shouted. He waited for an instant when Zartsi didn’t block his path, then emptied his magazine at Lashiir, hammering out the bullets as fast as the gun’s firing mechanism would work. The assassin dodged back for an instant. Zartsi broke away. Takeda saw fresh blood pouring from a wound on his cheek, a half-inch away from his eye. They reached the door a half-second before the assassin. The dark-tinted metal of his sword erupted a full foot out of it just as they swung it closed. Takeda clamped his hand onto the doorjamb and reached for his power. Blue energy came crackling out of his hand, hot enough to fuse the door shut. The assassin wrenched his sword free and fluted a sound high enough to hurt Takeda’s ears. The door on the next floor up swung open. Two more beating hearts came through it. Takeda dropped the clip out of his gun and rammed another one in. A black-clad shape came down the steps with a carbine cradled to his armpit–but his eyes weren’t adjusted to the near-total darkness. Takeda put a single bullet through his heart, and the man toppled forward and skidded to a halt on the third floor landing, leaving a trail of blood. A red pulser beam blasted chunks of red-hot concrete out of the stairwell wall. The scarlet light helped show Takeda the familiar, cruel face of Roger Clane. He aimed. Zartsi struck first. One of the Lithrallian’s ivory blades spun through the darkness and hit pointfirst in the bulge of black leather covering Clane’s belly. The young man screamed, firing his pulser again. The beam raked the bottom of the stairs above him, showering hot dust onto the steps.

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Takeda and Zartsi both ran up the stairs as fast–faster–than they have ever run before. Zartsi jerked his dagger free in passing, drawing a fresh moan from Clane as they left him for a third time. Takeda heard a ship’s engine burning. # To all appearances, Tsiika’s hilt was nothing more than bare metal, wrapped in the scales of the saalo worm. She was a fine blade, an example of the best swordcraft to be found on any world, but she did not appear to be anything more, even with the harmonics which gave her music. But she had her own song. Lashiir twisted a knob on the weapon’s pommel, its face etched with the saalo worm’s image, and suddenly the blade began to quiver gently, just enough to hide her sharp lines from sight. A gentle hum filled Lashiir’s ears, too high-pitched for human hearing. Roger Clane had asked if sonic blades could be made as large as a sword. He had asked rightly. The sonic blade sliced easily through the door’s fused lock, and a kick from Lashiir’s talon sent it flying open. He could still hear their footsteps on the stairwell. He followed and Tsiika sang. # The sunlight on the rooftop was painfully bright to Takeda’s eyes after the darkness of the building. He took a moment to adjust and let the sharpness of his vision fade just slightly. He noticed that his sleeves were torn and that the blades had receded into his arms, leaving faint seams. He reached back and poured crackling energy into the door, fusing it behind them. Zartsi kept

his blades in his hands. “Where is Rover?” he snarled. Takeda pointed. “There!” The Ixlu Seer soared towards them. A quadrant of wings swept out from the ship’s sides, and iridescent light flowed from the engine banks attached to every one. The ship was painted a red just a couple shades brighter than the color of Esheera’s skin, with other patterns done in deep blue, bright yellow, green, and white. The ship swept above the building and fired its engines in reverse, bringing it to a halt in the air above the building as lifts on the craft’s underside kept it aloft. A hatch opened in the ship’s belly and Esheera’s wrinkled face looked out. “Good to see you boys on time!” she shouted, throwing out a rope ladder. “Come aboard!” Then Takeda saw her puckered mouth drop its smile. She had noticed the blood pouring over Zartsi’s cheek. Two hearts hammering like drums. Takeda put bullets into the air just as the door fell off its hinges. Lashiir’s appearance was no less terrifying in daylight–the sun hardly seemed to touch the complete black of his carapace. Lashiir slid around every bullet like a shadow dancing in firelight. One hand wielded his sword, it’s edge oddly blurred. His other hand pulled something brighter from within his cloak–a gun, probably human manufactured. Takeda tried to dodge as the assassin pulled the trigger. His shoulder erupted, and he could smell his own blood. Somewhere Zartsi roared, and Esheera bellowed something from above, audible over the thrumm of the Seer’s engines. Another bullet cracked. Takeda stayed on his feet, somehow, but couldn’t move his right arm. Heat and the stench of burning fuel filled his

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senses. Takeda saw bright orange flame sweep across his vision, heard it crackle, heard wind hiss in Lashiir’s beak. Zartsi shouted something–he heard the sounds, but his brain couldn’t interpret the words. Too much pain. A strong arm wrapped around his chest. More bullets fired, and there was another burst of flame. Takeda saw a blade flash just a half-inch away from his face. His feet left the ground. He struggled, but then heard Esheera’s voice in his ear: “Relax, you landtrash! I’ve got you.” He realized that he was on the ladder, swaying in the wind as Esheera and Zartsi hauled him up. Within seconds he was lying on the deck of the Ixlu Seer as Zartsi cut the ladder away and Esheera ran for the cockpit. # Lashiir ran his pointed tongue over his arm where fire from the Rover’s weapon had scorched him. Again, he had been careless, and such carelessness bordered on unforgivable. His bullet had only wounded the human–not blasted open his skull, as Lashiir had intended. And the Rover had moved quickly. And, again, he had been hideously overconfident. He didn’t believe Tsiika’s song could slice Gorgossish ivory, but it would have given him a considerable advantage in those few seconds of battle. The Lithrallian was too formidable for anything but his greatest skill. Now he sat in darkness–imperfect darkness– with Thomas perched a few steps further down and Roger Clane cursing and bleeding at his side. Thomas was wisely silent. Clane wouldn’t shut his wet mouth. He considered what he would do now. They had left the domain he had carved for himself, aboard a ship bound for the stars. Lashiir knew he couldn’t let them escape–that would be too

great an indignity. He knew that he could never rest again, never feel the softness of cushions and the bite of liquor, until he had torn the lives from both of them–by whatever means he could. He had a ship. Even the millions of miles of black space could not keep him from them. With the help of his men, it wouldn’t be hard to find out where they had gone. Maybe Thomas knew. There was only one thing left to be resolved. “Roger,” he hissed. “Come closer. I wish to speak with you.” The human cursed and slumped a few inches closer to where Lashiir sat. “You know what, you damn bird? I don’t care. I don’t care about you or any of this shit! Just send me back to my father.” “As you wish,” Lashiir hissed. Tsiika cried out as Lashiir pulled her from her scabbard, and from there it was an instant before she tasted Clane’s flesh and blood. His head thumped down the steps, cleanly severed, it’s golden hair soaked red. Thomas caught it as it passed him. The body slumped down. “Leave the body,” Lashiir said. “Bag the head and have it delivered to Nathan Clane’s headquarters. “Yes, master.” Lashiir fluted gently. His years on Freedan had been good ones–Tsiika had drunk well, and some of his kills had even provided some challenge. Between kills, his lair had been comfortable, his servants well trained. But the time had come to seek greater prey. And, if Nathan Clane sought vengeance against him, it would only make life more interesting–and give him more light to extinguish in the sea of Darkness.

Next month: Chapter 8...The Price Paid

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

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The Jolly RGR
Up next for Ray Gun Revival, Issue 15

When we pick the stories for the next issue, we look at the best available candidates. We went through our slushpile and, lo-and-behold, the top stories for the next issue are from the same authors who were published in the last issue. This is a credit to those authors and a challenge to prospective authors. Enjashek by Mik Wilkens When xenobiologist Rella Abris is hired to study the enjashek of Dion 3, she discovers  far more than she bargained for.  The Time of Your Life by Richard S. Levine Palmer Hodo was in jail on Mars with no way out until the game came along.  If he  won, he’d live a comfortable life on Europa.   If he lost, he’d be dead. Featured Artist Serial: Deuces Wild, #8 In the Lap of the Gods, part Two by L. S. King When we last left our heroes, they had landed on a planet to have work done on the  ship. Slap went missing, taken by the Confeds. However, the Eridani kidnapped him  from them. Tristan must now decide if he will trust the Confeds to help him get Slap  back.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 14, January 15, 2007