THRILLING TALES FROM BEYOND THE ETHER

Flinteye and the Crystal Spear

by Sean T. M. Stiennon by Michael Ehart

The View Through the Shotglass Floor Carbonville, Part Two
A Jack Brand Story
by John M. Whalen

In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three

Serial: Deuces Wild
by L. S. King

Serial: JASPER SQUAD
Chapter 5
by Paul Christian Glenn

Issue 17 March 01, 2007
“Spec Ops,” by Alexander Raul Iglesias

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Table of Contents
Table of Contents 2 Overlord’s Lair 3 Flinteye and the Crystal Spear, by Sean T. M. Stiennon 4 The View from the Shotglass Floor, by Michael Ehart 19 Carbonville, Part Two A Jack Brand Story, by John M. Whalen 22 Featured Artist: Alexander Raul Iglesias 31 Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three by L. S. King 33 Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 5, The Wrong Side of the Law by Paul Christian Glenn 43 The Jolly RGR 50
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: “Spec-Ops,” by Alexander Raul Iglesias 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 17, March 01, 2007

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Overlord’s Lair
ere in the Midwest, March has roared in like Brand drew the Beretta at the same time he dove for a lion—a snowy, rainy, sloppy lion. Ok, bad the floor. The whirling flash of the blade went over metaphor. But if there’s one thing that we all can him as he squeezed the trigger... agree on, it is that there is no better time to grab your Our Featured Artist this issue is Alexander favorite space opera mag and get some reading in. Raul Iglesias, aka Flyingdebris, and he has a vivid RGR Issue 17 is just what you need. style. Check out his deviantArt gallery online: Up-and-coming author Sean T. M. Stiennon kicks http://flyingdebris.deviantart.com/gallery/ this off and spins a classic tale of adventure, greed, L. S. King continues to wind up the action and the power, and battle in Flinteye and the Crystal Spear. tension in her exclusive serial episode, Deuces  Wild,  Jalazar  Flinteye  and  his  ‘bot  partner,  Axten,  are  “In the Lap of the Gods,” Part Three. hired to protect an ancient spear that serves as both  When the roof collapses, who will survive? a  source  of  power  and  a  bone  of  contention  among  Tristan. Where was he? Considering this place, feuding warlords. Slap rather hoped he was dead. One man against all Even good armor didn’t stop plasma. I threw the of Eridani? Not even Tristan could win this one. And rifle away, drew my pistols, and leapt the rest of the the last thing he wanted was for his friend to end up way down the steps to get level with them. I hit the in here trying to rescue him. carpeted floor, let my legs collapse under the shock, NOTE: This episode of Deuces  Wild is not for and rolled with the momentum. I came up firing. children. It’s a rousing good story that doesn’t shirk Violet orbs sprayed towards them. I clipped the corner from appropriate action and an inappropriate abuse of one Yaoshin’s cloak, burning a chunk of the fabric of power. RGR is pleased to publish the story in its off. He kept running. original, sometimes unsettling state. It is a powerful The View Through the Shotglass Floor, by Michael story from an author who has a lot to say. Ehart, goes down like a shot of your favorite adult And finally, RGR is ecstatic to present the fifth beverage: short, fiery, and packs a wallop. episode of the JASPER SQUAD serial story by Paul Everyone  has  at  one  time  or  another  wanted  Christian Glenn. a  “do  over”.  But  what  if  your  second  chance  makes  Lieutenant  Melendez  fights  for  her  life  in  the  things worse than they were already? Would you have  present but can’t escape her past. enough sense to leave bad enough alone? She allowed the Jasper to continue racing an “Get that thing outta my face,” I slurred, and escape course, but she locked the cockpit down and batted it aside. Or tried. Even impaired as I sat facing the fighters as they bore down. The two was, I could see that I had missed it by a mile. foremost fighters fired at her, the bright blue cannon “No, no, man, you don’ unnerstand.” He got all bolts exploding from beneath their cockpits, and earnest, like he does when he is spinning some Melendez leaned on the control rod, idly dodging the particularly inept lie. “This thing will fix it all.” blasts. I snorted. “Melendez!” The captain’s voice roared over the We follow that up with the second part of a story com. “What’s the status?” begun in Issue 16, Carbonville,  Part  Two, by John M. “I think I can take them,” she replied. Whalen Enjoy, and stay warm and dry. If you like what Jack  Brand  struggles  to  survive  among  his  allies,  you read, please consider letting the authors know in much less his enemies, in Carbonville. the RGR forums. They’d appreciate it more than you The smile never left Galt’s eyes as his hand went know. for the Min-Blade. The weapon came out of its sheath, lit up, and started to fly all in one breathless motion.

H

Johne (Phy) Cook

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

"The Battle for Monday Morning," by Jordan Lapp

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Flinteye and the Crystal Spear
by Sean T. M. Stiennon
he spear rested on cushions of red flitter-silk in a case of transparent awxite. It was two meters long with a glow that flickered between bright red and deep orange. The spear was one of the most valuable objects on the planet—and I had been hired to guard it. I looked at it from behind a railing ten feet back, with two rifle-carrying Yaoshin on either side. Axten hung back a few steps, ion rifle cocked over one chromeel shoulder, red photoreceptors staring intently. Lord Jinzi stood next to the spear, one arm extended lovingly over it. The heat sensors on the case were activated, so he didn’t touch it, even though he looked like he sincerely wanted to. Jinzi was very similar to the standard human, but his hair was a shade of blue that was entirely natural for his race and his hands had small black claws. He looked up at me, eyes moving over my gold fur, black vest and pants, and head that combined leonine with canine while replacing the normal eyes with black orbs. “You see it, Flinteye. Amoshi’s Spear. The heart of my power.” I nodded. “Ten thousand SEUs is a lot to spend on a pair of guards for a month. Even for that thing.” Jinzi smiled faintly, more at the spear than at me. “You don’t understand. When my new containment facility is complete, only a few organic guards will be necessary—the rest will be on the shoulders of security ‘bots and automated systems. But, until that time, I cannot allow the spear’s safety to be jeopardized. I have...enemies, ones who want the spear’s prestige for them-

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selves. You see...” he trailed off. “Have I told you this before?” I nodded. “Twice.” The smile vanished. “Oh. My apologies. It is just that...well, I cannot speak of it too much. Such a beautiful thing.” I growled. “How many guards will there be, including Axten and I?” It took him several seconds to look up from the spear and answer my question. “In this room? Three.” “Three? Day and night?” “No, just the night. My Yaoshin warriors will keep watch during the day. But at night...well, I preferred to have mercenaries. Trustworthy ones. You are trustworthy, aren’t you? Your Grid file seemed to say so.” “I wouldn’t tell you otherwise if I wasn’t, would I?” “Hmm...well, I suppose not.” He irritated me already. “Alright. There’s Axten and I. Who’s the third?” “I’ve forgotten his name...but I’m sure he’s good. In fact, he seemed to know you, Flinteye.” I just hoped it wasn’t Dash Prigs. He had tried to put a knife through my ribs when he was drunk last time I had seen him. Good thing he can’t fight drunk. I nodded. “Where is he?” “He was on his way. Ah, here he is now.” I turned to see the tall double doors at the far end of the room open slowly, bending back towards the columned walls. Behind them stood a wiry figure covered entirely in black. A hood covered his face, and a black cloak hung to his

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Flinteye and the Crystal Spear, by Sean T. M. Stiennon
knees. He advanced with a white-armored Yaoshin guard on either side. I recognized him, halfway across the room, when he raised the hood to show a black mask with raised bubbles over the eyes and a small grill over the mouth. I stepped down from the spear’s dais to meet him. His body was wrapped in black, with a leather girdle covering his torso. He was a little shorter than I was, about Axten’s height. “Chass. I didn’t expect to see you here.” He nodded and said, “Jalazar Flinteye.” His voice was so flat it could have belonged to a maintenance ‘bot. “What have you been doing? Gamerl didn’t want you to watch his daughter again, did he?” “Fortunately not.” The first time I had seen Chass, he’d been with me as a bodyguard for a young Alliance lady who had tried to elope with a crime lord on Nalkress, one of the worst gang holes in the galaxy. Chass had earned my respect on that job—he was one of the best marksmen and knife fighters I knew. “Ah, yes, Chass, that was your name,” said Jinzi as we walked up the dais steps together. “Well, I was just explaining your duties to Flinteye...” Chass bowed low—just like I had seen all the Yaoshin do, with hands clasped at the throat. Jinzi returned the gesture nervously. The guards frowned. They were an austere bunch. Axten came up and grabbed one of Chass’ hands, the shook it vigorously and said. “If you’ve got a spare moment, Chass, I’d like to see if you can outshoot me. That chandelier—do you think that you can hit those bulbs?” Jinzi cut in before Chass could answer. “So...as I was saying...you’ll keep watch during the night. It’s...let me see...ten standard hours long during this season. Daylight is about twelve. During that time, you will prevent any beings—except for me—from approaching the spear. Of course...

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guards with a red seal—like these ones—on their shoulder pad are also allowed. They will speak the code word ‘Karokai,’ which means ‘fire-crystal’ in Yaoshiv. That’s what the spear is made of. So... sleeping rolls, food, and latrines will be brought. During the night hours, you may do whatever you like among yourselves as long as you guard the spear attentively. My guards will be outside the doors, but...they don’t like being near the spear at night. There’s a superstition that it’s dangerous at night.” His expression became desperate, and his face glowed warmer in my infrared vision. “Please. You must protect it. There are lords...Lord Mutofi especially...who want it desperately, and know they will not be able to get it after my new facility is built. He might try...well, that’s why I hired you.” I grimaced. I had a feeling this job wasn’t going to be pleasant. Even if there was no attempt at theft, he’d stop by us every hour, shaking from worry and demanding detailed reports. # Our first shift began shortly after he left. He had talked for almost an hour, mostly worrying about various ways thieves could break in. I listened to them all, but counted on Axten to remember them. Each one had seemed more impossible than the last. He finally left, and after some servants installed a portable latrine and set up a food cooler and three sleeping rolls, we were left alone. “Three rolls,” said Axten. “You need two, Jalazar?” I ignored him. Axten shut himself down either standing or hunched against a wall. “Right. What’ve you got, Chass?” I said. “The same as I had last time. Two Ramshell pistols, fifteen chambers each, with ammunition, and my daggers.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Flinteye and the Crystal Spear, by Sean T. M. Stiennon
“I’ve got a repeater rifle, heavy plasma pistols, dagger, Ima-han sword, and grenades.” Axten said, “Ion rifle—a very good one—slug pistol, two blades in my wrists, and a slug gun in the index finger of my right hand. I didn’t bring my sword. Jalazar’s more anachronistic than I am.” “Right,” I said. “We’ll sleep during the day, and then all three stay up through the night. No objections?” Chass didn’t say anything. He simply sat down on the top step of the dais and began to examine one of his pistols. I nodded and started being bored. # I slept six hours—all I needed—when the night ended, and about a half-hour after I woke there was some excitement. “Lord Mutofi is coming!” shrieked Jinzi, spraying me with spit. “Be on your guard—he is a dangerous man. He wants to... steal it. I’m sure of it.” “Then why let him in?” asked Axten. “Because...because any Yaoshin lord has the right to request a viewing of the spear at any time. He will be here in half an hour...so...well, be ready. Twenty guards will be stationed in this room during his visit, but I want you here as well.” Then he left, sweat staining the fabric of his silk robes. “Why is this spear so crucial to his power?” asked Chass. He was moving his glassy daggers from hand to hand in an exercise I couldn’t begin to comprehend. I sat down next to him. “You’re better at this than I am, Axten. Tell him.” “I’ll make it shorter than Jinzi’s story, if you don’t mind.” “Good.” Axten remained standing while he spoke. “Yaos is an Alliance territory, ruled by several lords

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who have been here for about two hundred years. Before that, it was an industrial world controlled by the Yaoshin—a warlike people who did not accept Alliance rulers readily. The turning-point in subjugating them was the capture of the most precious Yaoshin artifact—that spear, the largest chunk of fire crystal ever found. “Yaoshin crystal is unique to this planet. It’s an excellent conductor, and a cut from a crystal blade can cause numbness and even paralysis. But Yaoshin crystal is normally blue. Red fire crystal is immensely valuable even in small quantities. Also, that weapon is said to have belonged to Amoshi, the greatest hero of Yaoshin legend. With its psychological power, the Alliance invaders quickly gained dominance, and two hundred years have cemented their rule. Since the conquest, it’s been a custom of the lords that whoever holds the spear is the ‘first-among-equals,’ and holds the highest place in the Yaos Council. “Of course, it’s always been a tradition that the lords will try to steal the spear from each other, under certain rules. They might have allowed Jinzi to keep the spear for a while, but now that he’s building a specialized containment facility—well, they don’t appreciate that, and some of the lords are on the verge of declaring outright war against him.” “And he hired three guards for this?” said Chass. I shrugged. “It’s hard to find good ones for a reasonable price. He could have gone to a crime hole and rounded up a hundred killers for fifty SEUs each, but they’d probably have ended up getting drunk, chasing after any female they saw, and killing each other.” “So why are you here, Jalazar?” “It looked interesting. And Axten picked it.” Chass nodded with his masked head. “I saw your name on it. If this job turns out like the last one, I don’t think I’ll be bored.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Flinteye and the Crystal Spear, by Sean T. M. Stiennon

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I shook my head. “Not all my jobs get me bullet holes through my lungs.” The monolithic doors at the front of the room crashed open. Jinzi and six Yaoshin guards came in first with a tall man of Jinzi’s race right behind. He had a narrow beard and a flowing mustache which was braided into his sideburns. His blue hair was braided into his beard, which was knotted into the lower reaches of the mustache. It was one of the more absurd styles I had seen, and I had seen a lot. I struggled not to laugh. Chass stood next to the case while Axten and I took positions on either side of the steps. A phalanx of Jinzi’s Yaoshin followed the lords into the room, taking up positions around the hall and the dais. Mutofi seemed to have only three guards—black-robed Yaoshin with sheathed swords and slug rifles over their backs. They advanced slowly up the carpeted path. “Those Yaoshin look different from Jinzi’s,” I said, quietly enough so that only Axten—and maybe Chass—could hear. “Jinzi’s guards are drawn from the natives who have served the Alliances since the conquest. Mutofi prefers rougher beings, recruited from the native strongholds in the mountains.” Before I could ask anything else, Mutofi called out, “So these are your mighty off-world guards, Jinzi? A cat wearing clothes, a ‘bot, and...what is that thing? A leper?” He was at the foot of the steps, a few meters away from me, but I could’ve taken his throat out in a few seconds if the Yaoshin didn’t interfere. Or I could’ve just shot him if they did. I thought Mutofi was going to spit on me as he passed. “I’m no cat,” I growled in his ear, low enough so that Jinzi couldn’t hear me. I made sure Mutofi saw my fangs.

He smiled. I really wanted to shoot him. “So this is where you keep the spear, Jinzi,” Mutofi said. “It seems more beautiful every time I see it. Your ownership doesn’t seem to have done it any harm...” I could see Chass gripping his pistols. As far as I could tell, he kept his eyes on Mutofi’s warriors. Their knobbly yellow faces were shadowed by their hoods. I half-drew one of my plasma pistols, silently. I noticed Axten cocking his finger gun. Mutofi reached toward the case. One of the guards blocked him, and Jinzi said, “It’s...well, it’s equipped with heat sensors. Alarms will go off if you touch the case.” Mutofi’s smile broadened. “Ah. One of your modern defenses. I imagine that I’ll be immolated as well.” “No...just alarms.” “Ah, yes. That’s what your guards are for. You, Blackie. Why the mask? Afraid to show us what you look like? Or are you another of cat-boy’s ‘bots?” He turned when he heard the sound I made in the back of my throat. “You—what are you going to do, shoot me? Is that what Jinzi hired you for?” One of Jinzi’s Yaoshin spoke before anything could happen. “Lord Mutofi, do not impugn Lord Jinzi’s honor.” Mutofi’s smile turned to a grin. “Far be it from me to do that. I was merely...ensuring my safety.” He turned to Jinzi. “You are indeed fearful, my lord. Perhaps one with a spine as weak as yours isn’t worthy to hold Amoshi’s blade.” “It’s...mine, Mutofi,” said Jinzi. “You can view it...but you can’t question my ownership.” “Can’t I? Well, then, I’ll be gone.” He turned and strode back towards the door.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Flinteye and the Crystal Spear, by Sean T. M. Stiennon

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His three guards and several of Jinzi’s followed. Jinzi was almost frantic when he turned to us. “You see? You see? He’ll...he’ll try to take it from me! His tribal Yaoshin are...well...very skilled warriors. And thieves.” Jinzi started to descend from the dais, but before he reached the bottom, he said, “It’s daytime now...my Yaoshin will watch the spear. Sleep, play games, eat...whatever you wish, until night. Be alert...kill them, if anyone tries to take it. Alarm buttons are located behind all the pillars... press them, and all my guards will come. Be careful.” # We slept. I got my six hours, Axten shut down for two, and Chass took eight. I didn’t know what Axten did in the hours when I was asleep—when I asked him, he usually said something cryptic. I broke out a pack of cards for the rest of the day, and Chass joined in. The images on them could be modified to represent several of the numerous decks found in the galaxy. Chass knew a few games, Axten knew almost all of them, and I was somewhere in between. We played mostly six-card Sword-Edge, making petty bets with SEU coins. Chass played conservatively, but he often won when he put his money in. I was glad to have the third player, though—it was never very exciting when Axten and I played cards, because it didn’t really matter who kept the money. We cycled through a few other games, talking sometimes, and waited for night. I couldn’t quite tell whether I wanted the spear stolen or not—it would certainly make this job less like sitting around in space. Five minutes before our time came, I glanced up to see the Yaoshin still at their posts—six of

them stationed around the spear, at that hour. We played two more hands. Then, I looked up to see them all dead and bleeding. The spear was gone. Three beings in black cloaks were already halfway across the hall. Two had blue crystal sabers and slug pistols in their hands. The third had the spear. I roared, throwing down my cards, and unslung the repeater rifle from around my shoulders. We were halfway up the steps of the dais, several meters away from the thieves. It didn’t take my partners long to see what I had roared at. Chass’ pistols came out and each fired a shot before I could put my finger around my rifle’s trigger. Chunks of carpet flew where his bullets hit, but he missed the thieves. They scattered. The one with the spear broke for the door, weaving back and forth, and the other two thieves spread out on either side of him. I sprayed bullets at them and was sure that some of my shots hit. The beings kept running. Either they were phantoms or they had good armor. Even good armor didn’t stop plasma. I threw the rifle away, drew my pistols, and leapt the rest of the way down the steps to get level with them. I hit the carpeted floor, let my legs collapse under the shock, and rolled with the momentum. I came up firing. Violet orbs sprayed towards them. I clipped the corner of one Yaoshin’s cloak, burning a chunk of the fabric off. He kept running. “Chass, get the alarm! Axten, on me!” I ran after them, still firing. One dropped with his back blown open, and Axten smashed another’s head with an ion stream. Then the one with the spear tossed it in a glowing arc to a group of three more black-cloaked beings. One of them caught it easily just as I shot the thrower. The new group vanished through the door. I grabbed

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Flinteye and the Crystal Spear, by Sean T. M. Stiennon

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a small plasma grenade in two fingers, primed it with my teeth, and threw it at the doors, trying to get it through before they closed entirely. I missed, but the grenade blasted a hole in the left door. I leapt through it and into the hallway a few seconds later, scraping one shoulder against a shard of wood. Axten followed a moment later. Alarms had sounded, loud and shrill, and beyond them I heard the pounding of Chass’ boots as he ran after us. The corridor contrasted sharply with the spear room—rich, dark wood covered the walls, but the carpet was simple and there were no carvings, gold ornaments, or silk hangings. I looked in each direction. Black figures ran in both directions—I couldn’t tell which group had the spear. “Axten, go left. Keep your comm on. Chass, on me,” I said, and ran to the right. No sign of Jinzi’s guards, although four should have been stationed outside the spear room. Had they been killed too? I didn’t see any bodies. Chass was a better runner than I was, even though his legs were shorter. I had to strain to keep up, and even then he pulled ahead. I shot a few plasma bolts, but the Yaoshin were slippery and far off. Chass conserved his shots until he could hit them. The thieves dodged down a side corridor—the first for twenty meters. The long, empty hallways were part of Jinzi’s security. The thieves wouldn’t have gotten in if the guards had been at their stations—I’d have to beat some discipline into them next time I saw them. I skidded around the corner to find one of the thieves facing me with a blue crystal scimitar held across my path. It looked sharp enough to slice bone, and I knew that cuts from Yaoshin crystal could induce paralysis.

I fired once, but the shot went into the ceiling over his head. Then he lunged, slashing for my neck, and the most I could do was hurl myself against the wall. My arm slammed into the hard wood and erupted with pain. I heard a loud clang and turned to see Chass with both curved daggers out, blocking a downward sweep from the scimitar. I couldn’t shoot—they were too close together, and their black clothing looked similar—so I dropped one pistol, reached over my shoulder, and grabbed the hilt of my Ima-han sword. Ima-han was a sword-fighting discipline that I practiced along with Axten which emphasized bodily movement and used a meter-long, slightly curved slashing blade. I drew it and charged at the Yaoshin’s back. Pale fluorescent lamps lit the corridors at night, and the blade flashed in their light. Chass knocked the scimitar away and whirled his daggers around for an offensive swipe. At the same time, I swung my blade down at the Yaoshin’s head. The scimitar came up to block my sword while the Yaoshin ducked. Chass managed to stop his blades before they gouged my eyes out. The scimitar jerked away from my sword, but I had relaxed pressure on my blade enough not to send it through Chass’ skull. I threw myself against the wall again to avoid another slash. Chass attacked, leaping through the air. He clipped the Yaoshin’s shoulder, drawing a splatter of red that stained the wall. The thief lunged again—right into the path of a plasma ball from my pistol. It went through the left side of his chest, burning a hole as big as my fist. He stumbled forward a couple steps, sword falling from his grip, and died without a sound. I picked up his scimitar. “You want it?” I asked Chass. He shook his head. I looked at it a moment

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

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longer, than said, “I’ll pick it up on the way back. Let’s move.” The other Yaoshin had vanished down a blank corridor that turned off ours at a right angle. There was a fork. “Jalazar,” said Chass, “You have a map of the mansion, correct?” I did. And it would have stayed forgotten if he hadn’t mentioned it. I reached into my vest and hit the power button on my computer. I had the map loaded onto the main screen. I looked at it as we ran. “There should be two Yaoshin stationed at every intersection with a tripod weapon and grenades. There should be remotely operated ceiling cannons activated when the alarm goes off. There should be a horde of guards storming everywhere within two minutes of an alarm!” I searched for an appropriate curse and found one in Blakrack. I almost thought I could see Chass wince behind his mask. We reached the intersection. “Do we split up?” said Chass, glancing in both directions. He took a step forward and barely missed having his mask shattered by a slug that went a centimeter past his eye bubbles. I turned and put three plasma bolts in the direction that it had come from, where I saw three warm blurs in infrared. One of them went down in a flash of heat, and I dodged back behind the corner with Chass an instant behind. “How many of these thieves are there?” I snarled. “And where are Jinzi’s guards?” The two remaining thieves kept firing, pinning us down. “You have infrared in that mask?” I asked. “A little.” “Good.”

I stepped back far enough to see a few of the light panels in the cross-corridor, raised my pistol, and shot them out. A hail of sparks and plastic fell to the floor. I jumped out into the hallway with my pistol pointed straight ahead. I shot both Yaoshin before they could target me in the darkness, using their heat signatures to aim. “Come on,” I said. I started to run forward. Chass reached up, clapped a hand on my shoulder, and said, “Wait. The one with the spear would have gone the other way. The gunmen wanted us to go their way—a deception, you see.” I frowned for a moment, than decided that it was as good a choice as any. I followed him at a jog, looking at my computer. “One more intersection, and then we’re into the mansion’s main wing. There’s a guard barracks just outside the spear sector, but I’m guessing we’ll find it empty.” Chass nodded. “That path Axten took—where does it lead?” I traced the route. “Same place. Hopefully, he’ll have the spear.” “Possibly,” said Chass. “Or one of the Yaoshin might have destroyed him. I’m sure they watched both paths.” I snorted. “Not Axten. I don’t think guns like they’re using could get past his carapace.” “The blades could. Yaoshin crystal is one of the best cutting substances known the galaxy.” I didn’t like to think about that. There were no more surprises until we came to the exit hall, a vast room hung with paintings and gilt ornaments. Pillars of red stone supported its vast roof. The room should have been full of guards, but we just found another black-clad Yaoshin corpse—I recognized an ion wound from

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

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Axten’s rifle in his chest. Ahead, I heard the crackle of the same rifle. Chass put on a new burst of speed and outdistanced me easily, careening towards the entrance to the next room. He went through the door with a pistol in one hand and a black dagger in the other. I followed, ready to shoot anything that wasn’t Axten or Chass. I made out the ‘bot’s silver gleam in a beam of moonlight coming through one of the windows. His rifle was pointed up and firing into the shadowy rafters of the hall. I could see a blur of heat moving away from him. Something faintly red rested in its hands. “Axten!” I shouted. He didn’t look away as he aimed another shot up at the hot form. It was almost out of the room and into the next through an opening that connected the two five meters off the floor. I snapped off a pair of plasma bolts and heard Chass’ pistol fire, but we didn’t do more than damage the woodwork. The Yaoshin thief fled into the next room. “Why did Jinzi feel a need to install catwalks as rafters?” sighed Axten as the three of us ran towards the next room. “I’ve already got a few things to say to him,” I growled. I rammed through the door, nearly wrenching it off its hinges, and saw the Yaoshin thief almost halfway across the room. I fired only to see him easily drift across a gap and onto the parallel rafter. “Jalazar. Throw me,” said Chass, suddenly. It took me a moment to comprehend what he had said, and I wasn’t sure I had heard him right. I turned around, frowning. “You and Axten. Throw me up.”

Axten wrapped his arms around Chass’ waist and lifted. “He’s light, Jalazar. We can do it.” I holstered my pistol and pocketed my computer. “Right. You take his legs.” I moved around to clutch Chass’ shoulders and hooked my hands beneath the joints while Axten gripped his ankles and heaved him off the floor. Axten was right—he couldn’t weigh more than fifty kilos, probably less. “One!” Axten shouted. I matched him. We counted to three swinging Chass between us, and then released after the third backswing. He went straight up, mask shimmering in the moonlight, and caught himself on one of the rafter beams. He was up in another second, slithering like water without gravity. He drew his daggers without a sound and charged after the thief, moving like a hunting arachnid. He stepped so lightly that I couldn’t hear his boots. I saw a flash of white eyes as the fleeing Yaoshin glanced over his shoulder. I was glad Chass was my friend when I saw how fast he moved. The Yaoshin reached the opening to the next room, leaned down, and threw the spear into it. Then he turned, drawing a crystal scimitar, and gripped it in both hands as he waited for Chass. I stopped watching at that point. I didn’t need to say anything for Axten to fall in at my side as I ran. We went over the carpet, dodged around a couple display cases that blocked our path, and crashed through the door with the sound of clashing blades in our ears. The next room was almost exactly the same as the previous one: a broad hall full of display cases. Jinzi kept a whole museum in his mansion—and the whole thing was supposed to be swarming with guards. I looked around for the Yaoshin who

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had caught the spear. There wasn’t any. Amoshi’s Spear lay on the floor. I ran up and grabbed it before another robed thief could get it and held it up to the moonlight. It was just simple red glass—I had gotten a lot of time to study the spear during my first watch, and it hadn’t looked like this. “A fake,” I snarled to Axten as he came up. I struggled with the urge to shout all the worst curses I knew. I touched my finger to the edge of the fake blade. It was sharp enough to kill Chass’ opponent. I turned and went back and threw the door open with one hand. The other hand gripped the spear’s glass shaft. The two still hammered their blades against each other in the rafters. “Chass, bring him down here!” I roared. Chass’ daggers moved fast, but the Yaoshin had better reach and was managing to hold him off. They moved back and forth fast enough that I couldn’t afford to shoot or even throw the spear—I didn’t want Chass dead. Chass dropped onto his back and shot out a booted foot. It caught the Yaoshin on the flat of one heel—hard enough to unbalance him, but not enough to knock him off. Chass slithered to his feet and brought both his daggers down at the Yaoshin’s chest. He blocked, but the force of Chass’ blades knocked him off his feet. The thief fell to the floor with a thud. I leapt at him, holding the spear up to impale him. Axten arrived first. He leapt onto the Yaoshin as he struggled to rise and pinned his arms to the floor. “Wait, Jalazar!” he snapped. I stopped the spear two centimeters above the thief’s throat. “Why?” I growled. “He’ll tell us where they’ve taken the real

spear.” For the first time, I heard the Yaoshin speak. “I will not. I will die first.” “Right. And I’ll kill you,” I snarled at him, then shifted my attention a few centimeters over to Axten. “We already know Mutofi sent them. We can find his mansion easily.” Axten shook his head. “It won’t be at his mansion, and if it is, we won’t know where it is within the building.” “A hidden fortress, then. But you heard him— he won’t tell us anything. Let’s wake Jinzi up, tell him it’s been stolen, and then he’ll take his troops—that cohort of Stellar Navy marines—and wring it out of Mutofi.” “Two problems, Jalazar. First, there are certain traditions associated with the spear—stealing it and possessing it. If Jinzi attempted to take it back by sheer military force, every lord on the planet would combine to destroy him. Parties of thieves—operating under certain rules—are the only method by which the spear can change hands, by common agreement of the Yaoshin lords. There is killing, certainly, but never open war.” “I’ve never been much good at stealing,” I growled. “What’s the other problem?” Axten answered me while Chass slid down to the floor on a pillar. “If we try to go after the spear ourselves, we can’t kill a Yaoshin lord without starting something beyond the politics of the spear. If Jinzi’s hirees—that’s us—assassinated Mutofi, civil war would break out. And I doubt we’d survive long once bounties were put out for us, probably by both sides.” “All right,” I said. “So we can’t go get the spear ourselves, because we don’t know where it is, we can’t grill Mutofi, and we can’t have Jinzi send his

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marines. We won’t get paid, and we’ll probably make him fairly angry. I can have the Flint Shard airborne in a half hour. How about you, Chass?” “My ship is fueled and ready to launch. But it won’t be necessary.” “Why not?” “Because Jinzi has modern tracking systems installed in his mansion. I believe the thieves arrived in a cloaked vehicle, coming over the outer defenses of the mansion. If we access the records, guessing when the true spear left the mansion, than we may be able to pick up traces of the thieving vehicle. We’ll know where the spear is, and we can go get it, hopefully without harming Mutofi.” I nodded. “The system would run without guards. And the ground level shield is automated at night, isn’t it? Only Jinzi has the password. Vanished guards couldn’t stop that either. Axten, tie this one up and knock him out. Then let’s find the scanner controls.” # An hour later, the three of us soared above the ridges beyond Jinzi’s mansion complex in a hovercar, following a map Chass had sketched out of the path to a small stronghold Mutofi apparently kept nearby, hidden by trees in a cavernous valley. I slipped fresh charges into my pistols and asked, “How many soldiers do you think he has there? Too many for us to kill?” “We won’t need to kill all of them,” said Axten. “Just the ones between us and the spear.” “What else would they be guarding besides the spear?” “If they’re too many, Jalazar, we can go back, get our ships, and be in space before Jinzi notices

anything is missing.” “Maybe not. He might decide to check on us in the middle of the night. And I don’t want to abandon a job.” Axten didn’t say anything. The stronghold was invisible beneath the trees, but an energy trace from Jinzi’s tracking systems led right to it. The trace was so faint that it might have been mistaken for a hot gust of wind by another observer, but Axten had picked it out and tracked it to its destination. We set the hovercar down a kilometer away and walked through the trees. It was a warm night, but not hot enough for infrared to be much use. I was almost as crippled in the darkness as an average human. Chass wasn’t an average human—he found a path through the dark foliage that I probably couldn’t have seen even with floodlights scattered around. Axten and I followed, listening for guards. I drew one pistol and kept my finger on the trigger. The building itself was unadorned: concrete with occasional windows of what looked like reinforced glass. A pair of gun emplacements protruded from turrets on the roof, but neither one was manned. A hovercar garage opened onto a second-floor terrace. The ground-level doors were steel, with a series of old-fashioned padlocks holding them shut. Axten and Chass spent a minute debating how to break them before I raised my pistol and shot them all. “Effective,” said Axten, pushing the doors open. Beyond was a dark corridor that trailed off into blackness. It was at least seven meters long, lit only by moonlight, with another steel door at the end. This one was unlocked. Axten pushed it open and went in while I followed with Chass just

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behind. The lights went on suddenly, blinding me. I snarled and threw my hands over my eyes, including the one that held the pistol. That was a bad idea. The next thing I felt was powerful hands tearing it from my grip and removing the other one from its holster before grabbing my arms and holding them tight against my sides. They also took the ten-shot pistol I kept in my vest and my grenades. I growled and tried to tear away, snapping at a dark shape with my fangs, as my captors slipped a pair of cuffs around my hands. One of them punched me in the gut, hard, and I went down on my chest. There was minimal carpeting to cushion my head as it hit the floor. I snarled wordlessly and flopped over onto my back, then felt someone put a heavy, booted foot on my chest. “So, these are Jinzi’s mighty off-worlders? Titans to defend his prize from any attack?” The voice sounded familiar. Mutofi. I lifted my head, still blinking against the light, and tried to see around the boot on my chest. He stood about five meters in front of me, dressed in a loose robe of red satin. A Yaoshin warrior stood at his side, holding the real spear, its shaft and blade pulsing with an inner glow. Two white-armored guards—both humans—pointed rifles at us, and two Yaoshin were on top of each of us. The room itself was a rich sitting chamber, with gilded wooden chairs and flowing wall hangings. I watched as Mutofi sauntered over to a lacquered drink cabinet, opened the doors, and selected a bottle. “This is Hikija brandy from the southern deserts of the Shithor continent. A rich liquor, and one of the strongest available in this sector of the galaxy. Very expensive. But, of course, I shall be able to afford it more often with

the power that comes from the spear.” He took out a glass and poured himself three centimeters worth of deep gold liquid. He took a sip, winced, and set the glass down with a clank. “Don’t make us watch you drink,” I said. “Just kill us.” He took another sip. “Ah, yes, I was considering that. But then I decided it would create bad feeling. Oh, admittedly, you killed a few of my clansmen, but I removed a group of Jinzi’s troops in return. A most successful heist, wouldn’t you say, Shiro?” The Yaoshin holding the spear nodded. “Indeed.” I snorted. “There wasn’t much against you. Jinzi’s guards were all hiding somewhere. Probably drinking in the barracks. It was just the three of us and a few around the spear case.” That seemed to jolt Mutofi. His glass came down on his little table hard enough to send droplets of brandy flying. “What? Jinzi’s guards, not at their posts? You must be lying. They might have been superstitious about the spear, but I’ve rarely encountered a more disciplined body of men.” “They were gone.” Mutofi’s frown deepened. “Is this true, Shiro?” Shiro didn’t answer—instead, as I watched, he lifted the spear and rammed it through the left side of Mutofi’s chest. The crystal blade slid out, and the lord dropped. His two gun-toting guards went down to broad slashes of the orange crystal before they could squeeze their triggers. Blood sprayed. Then I heard another sound—that of a Yaoshin crashing to the carpeted floor a couple meters to my left. I heard Chass’ daggers come hissing out

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of their sheathes—apparently, his guards hadn’t but all but the most loyal—those Jinzi allowed thought to remove them. In fact, my Ima-han to guard the spear itself—left their posts on the sword was still sheathed on my back. night of the raid. They too want Yaos to be free.” I swung my legs around and hit the guard who I reached up and gripped my sword’s hilt. had his boot on my chest. He fell, and I jumped “We’ve been hired to keep the spear from being up to my feet. A pistol almost deafened me by stolen.” going off centimeters from my ear hole. I turned Shiro nodded. “I’m aware of that. I am sorry and slammed my manacled hands into the other it’s necessary, but I must kill you.” Yaoshin’s head. He dropped his pistol, going to his There was a torch burning in a pedestal a knees. He held the pistol up to defend himself and few feet away from Mutofi’s corpse. It was gas I smashed it aside with my manacles. A third blow, powered, but the flame flickered high. Shiro and he dropped with his head gushing blood. stretched out the spear and slowly began to feed I turned to see Axten removing his wrist blades it through the flames. from the corpse of his second guard. His first was “Perhaps you have wondered why it is called already dead. I guessed Chass had accomplished ‘fire crystal.’ The substance is rare, and there are something similar. His daggers cut through the few who know its properties.” manacles binding my hands. The spear caught fire as if it had been soaked “Hmm. You are skilled warriors indeed,” said in oil—but the flame that covered it seemed the one holding the spear—Shiro. “It is little amplified. It burned a hot white that hurt my surprise to me that you were able to kill so many eyes. Shiro’s hands gripped it easily. I noticed that of my warriors. But more will be here in an hour— he wore heavy gloves. a full company of clansmen to take the spear to I drew my sword. The blade flashed in the its place of safe-keeping.” firelight. I looked down at Mutofi’s corpse, then up “Your guns have been taken. Now you must at the Yaoshin. “Why did you kill him? He’s your fight me as true warriors. Now Amoshi’s Spear master, isn’t he?” must lift in the cause of Yaos’ people,” said Shiro, Shiro smiled. “No. I served him only to serve raising the burning weapon. my people. For two hundred years, the men of Then he attacked, swinging the spear back the stars have held dominion over us. But soon, and lunging straight at me. I held my sword up that will end. The ancient clans of Yaos—and, to block as the spear moved in a flaming arc. through them, the common people—will rise The impact almost broke my sword and my arm. to overthrow the Alliance lords, fighting with Sparks scorched my fur with tiny spots of heat. I their own weapons. Amoshi’s Spear will rally the leapt back, and he followed, charging again. people. It was the symbol of Yaoshin freedom, Chass came in from my left, daggers whirling. long ago, before it became a token of power Both of them clashed against the haft of the spear among the greedy lords. Now it will lead them as Shiro blocked smoothly. Then he swung the in revolution. Even Jinzi’s guards—traitors—had blade around at Chass’ neck. My friend dodged divided loyalties. They would not help us openly, back, and I charged in, thrusting for Shiro’s neck.

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He bent just out of my reach and drove a gloved fist into my stomach. I staggered back. Axten and Chass attacked simultaneously from both sides, but Shiro blocked attacks from both of them and retreated. As he did, quick slashes from the flaming spear head destroyed the rifles once carried by Mutofi’s guards. No chance of using those now. Then he brought the spear up to point above his head, brushing the room’s ceiling, and brought it down quickly in an arc aimed at me. A ball of flame detached itself from the head and flew at me. I barely had time to dodge. It landed in the carpet and lit a fire there. Shiro came forward again, moving the spear point in slow circles. I saw Chass and Axten on either side of me—Axten had his wrist blades extended, hands folded back, and Chass held his glassy black daggers in a combat stance. “Think we can kill him?” I asked them. “Do it first. Then think about it,” said Axten. Suddenly, Shiro lunged forward and threw the spear out in a flying thrust, during which he kept only one hand on the shaft. The spear point almost skewered my throat, but I managed to slap it away with my sword. It went wide towards Chass, and Axten lunged in while Shiro was open. The Yaoshin dropped to the floor, under Axten’s wrist blades, and swept his spear along the carpeting in a strike at Axten’s and my feet. I stumbled backward, but Axten leapt over the stroke and came at Shiro with both his wrist blades thrust out to stab. Chass rushed in from the other side, but Shiro rolled, taking the spear with him, and came to his feet two meters away. The spear crashed down on a small table, missing Axten, and shattered it into flaming shards of wood. Some of them hit the carpet. I couldn’t

spare the time to stomp them out—we’d have to fight in the flames. I moved back into the fight, adjusting my grip. My ankle flared with pain, twisted. Shiro and Chass traded blows, sending up sparks where their weapons hit—but where was Axten? I saw him on the ground with a scorching slash in his waist. It hadn’t hit anything critical, but it had damaged his leg motors. “Kill him for me, Jalazar!” he shouted, clashing his wrist blades together fiercely. Axten could be bloodthirsty. Then, before I could charge again, Chass took a slash on his left forearm. He didn’t make a sound—just held off Shiro’s spear with the dagger in his right hand while somehow using his left to tear the flaming piece of cloth from his arm. The wound had been cauterized, but red crystal seemed to have the same paralytic properties as blue. Already, I could see Chass beginning to stiffen in his motions, although the wound didn’t stop him from using his arm. Several fires had erupted on the carpet, and flame was crawling up one of the wall hangings. It was getting dangerous in here, and Shiro was a better fighter than all three of us together. I could have turned and run out the way I had come— maybe dragging Axten with me—but I would never have had peace if I had left Chass behind. I needed to help him, but if I did, I had a feeling I would get that spear through my ribs. Then I noticed Mutofi’s brandy, still resting on the little table with a wet drinking glass next to it. The bottle was almost full. I glanced up at the spear, wrapped in white fire, then back down at the bottle. It didn’t take me long to make the connection. I picked up the bottle—it was open—and waited for the right moment. It came when Shiro made a wide swing

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at Chass, driving my friend back and leaving the Yaoshin open. I threw the bottle, hard and fast. Dark glass glittered in the firelight. Shiro saw it in time to block, but it moved too fast for him to see what it was. It shattered against the shaft of his spear, and the brandy caught fire as it emerged from the broken bottle. Glass shards and gobbets of flaming liquor riddled Shiro’s torso, arms, and face. Now, for first time, he screamed. The spear left his hands as he began slapping at himself, but that only spread the flame and drove the glass deeper. Shiro dropped, howling, and started to roll on the floor, but a sheet of alcohol fire had already spread over much of his clothing. I winced at the sounds he made and looked away. It took him a long time to die. When the screaming stopped, I looked back to see his corpse covered in flame and slowly burning into ash. Then I heard Chass at my side. “Flinteye, let’s go!” I nodded and said, “Axten.” I sheathed my sword, put my arms under his shoulders, and hauled him up. Axten clamped an arm around my neck. “Good one, Jalazar. I thought you would drink it instead.” I ignored him and hauled him towards the door, having to go around patches of fire. Chass pushed the doors open and held them for Axten and I. I burnt my feet once on the way out, but then I was into the hallway. I dropped Axten there. “Take him,” I told Chass. “I’ve got to get the spear.” I ran back into the room, jumping over a small column of flames. Heat roasted my fur. The spear, still burning, lay where it had fallen next to Shiro’s corpse. How was I going to pick that thing up? “Jalazar! Get out here!” shouted Axten.

I took off my vest. I could cover my hands with it long enough to get the spear outside. I had started to move forward when I heard a crack overhead. A shower of masonry and wood crashed down from the ceiling. I jumped back. Dust and smoke forced themselves into my throat, and I retched. A mound of flaming rubble separated me from the spear, possibly burying it, and the flames were growing with every second. I turned ran back through the flames, singeing my feet and fur on hot rubble. I got out, through the doors, and into the night beyond with Chass dragging Axten at my side. # From the safety of the hovercar, we watched Mutofi’s fortress burn with Amoshi’s Spear somewhere inside it. I didn’t think it would be damaged—it had been burning for quite a while in Shiro’s hands, and Yaoshin crystal was notoriously strong. “What now, Jalazar?” said Axten, sitting against the railing of the car. I thought about it for a minute. “I think it would be best if we got back to our ships and got out of the system, fast. Jinzi won’t be pleased that we let his spear leave the mansion, and I don’t think I want to stay around when Mutofi’s death is discovered. We were in the area, and we’re the only ones who survived, so the lords would probably blame it on us.” Chass nodded. “As I said, my ship is ready to fly.” “So is the Flint Shard. Let’s get moving, then— if the guards are still gone, there’ll be nothing between us and the ships. Good to see you, Chass—I hope our next job together is more successful.”

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“Then what should we do about the spear?” asked Chass, sitting down at the hovercar controls. “Nothing. This job is over. And you remember who’s going to be coming here first? Shiro’s Yaoshin natives. I almost wish we didn’t have to kill him. He seemed like a good being.” Chass nodded. “A fine warrior, at least. This world will come to war, I expect. The natives will take the spear, and with it they will rally the Yaoshin. The Stellar Navy will not intervene if enough of them rise against the lords.” “Maybe. But I’m just a mercenary. This is beyond me now. I hate to abandon a job, but I did stop that particular set of thieves—that’s good enough for me.” Axten said, “I agree, Jalazar, so let’s get moving. I don’t like being lame. I’ve got parts aboard the Shard, but I’ll need you to install them. I don’t usually like to operate on myself.” Chass powered up the car and we flew off into the night, with the stars of Yaos glimmering overhead and the light of the burning fortress behind.

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  200 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 View from the Shotglass Floor
by Michael Ehart
all deliverables were complete and signed off on. ou see, I’ve got this thing, here, this Not that this was all that much of a contract. gadget.” Andresen leaned over, almost WymTech had wanted a new way to calibrate their fell, caught himself, all in the slow motion of the remote systems without using any form of transpracticed drunk. His breath was five-ninths alcohol, mission that could be tampered with. Andy had strong enough to render drunk a roomful of nuns. come up with some sort of quantum time-piece Fortunately, there were no nuns in the bar with that used Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty us, just the two of us and the Cyber-Tender 3000. to locate a precise moment in time independent I was having trouble focusing. Andresen kept doing of the physical location of each system node. Or that annoying thing he does when I am drunk, something like that. As I said, I’m the salesman, making his face zoom in and out like a bad holo not the techno-mage. screen. Making it even more difficult to focus was “Back to the dole,” I muttered. “No more highthe object he kept waving in my face. It looked end booze, no more high-end nosh.” like the remote control to an old-fashioned holo “No, no!” Andy insisted. “I can fix it. I can.” projector, a melted-candy bar shape of silver and “Right.” I waved to the Cyber-Tender. It was black plastic, with rows of buttons embedded in near midnight, and I wanted to get a couple more its ergonomically dull surface. drinks before the bank shut me down. “Maker’s “Get that thing outta my face,” I slurred, and Manhattan. Two of ‘em.” batted it aside. Or tried. Even impaired as I “No, really,” Andy insisted. “All I gotta do is was, I could see that I had missed it by a mile. push this button here…” He prodded unevenly “No, no, man, you don’ unnerstand.” He got all at the device in front of him. It made random earnest, like he does when he is spinning some beeps, and flashes, but other than changing the particularly inept lie. “This thing will fix it all.” Cyber-Tender’s face holo from male to female, I snorted. “The only thing that will fix everything and shutting off the sports channel projecis a brain transplant, a time machine, and another tion behind the bar, it seemed to do nothing. drink. Face it, Andy ol’ son, you have well and “Andy, old pocket, all you have to do is poke truly blew it. Blowed it. Bl… screwed things up.” a few buttons in your head, and see if you can Our first contract in over three years, and Andy punch up someone a little less neanderthalish.” had managed to offend the client so thoroughly that Even through the massive haze of high-quality no amount of apology would fix it. The stupid thing whiskey hastily downed, I could see this hurt. His was he wasn’t even supposed to talk to the client. face stiffened, and he slowly set the small device He was the techno-wizard. I was the salesman. down on the bar, straightened his cravat to a less than His genius, dubious as it was, most certainly did plumb angle, stood up, and walked out of the bar. not extend to the so-called soft skills. He was a For a moment I considered letting him go. But techno-troll, best locked in a basement lab until we have been best friends since junior high, and

“Y

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graduated from college in the same class of 2009. And it really wasn’t his fault he had no social skills. Some people are just made that way. Lita at WymTech had been correct to be offended when he had questioned her sexual orientation, but poor Andy just seemed to be a product of another century when it came to personal relations. Some century buried in the deep stone age. I started after him, but remembered the prototype he had been waving in my face. I scooped it up from where it rested in a pool of spilt beer on the bar. It was damp, and a strange smell was starting to come from the joint between the top and bottom halves of the device. I turned it over, and attempted to brush the liquid from its surface with the sleeve of my tunic as I moved to the door. I never got there. # The room spun back down into focus. Over Andy’s shoulder I could see the rapidly approaching form of WymTech’s CEO, Lita Goldperson. Was this some kind of flashback from hell? In just about ten seconds, Andy was about to throw away the only paying gig I had been able to hustle up for us in almost three years, by implying that the reason Ms. Goldperson didn’t understand what he was telling her was that she was a woman, and if she needed help, maybe her husband could explain. And he would do it in all kindness and sincerity, which would just infuriate her even more. I reached for Andy’s shoulder, missed, tried again. “Andy!” I shouted, far too loud for the hallway we were in. He turned around, surprised. “Jake, are you drunk?” Unusually perceptive of him, and as always, poorly timed. “Never mind,” I whispered. Drunk as I was, I

knew it was still too loud, but I kept on, anyway. “I just need to tell you not to tell Goldperson that she is stupid.” I smiled over his shoulder at her. Andy looked puzzled. “I didn’t say Goldperson is stupid. Did I? I mean, you just did but I didn’t.” I waved the tips of my fingers at the now glowering CEO. “No, no. You didn’t. I just wanted to keep you from telling her, that’s all.” Goldperson sniffed the air, nodded, and thumbed her facephone. “Security,” she snapped. # Okay, I thought. Third time’s a charm. I’ll just try to pull him into an office, and explain there. I punched the buttons and the room spun counter drunk-ways. I came to an uneasy rest in the same hallway. For a moment I suffered a moment of panic, thinking I hadn’t gone back enough, but then I heard the sound of Andy’s oversized boots clunking down the hall. I turned, lunged, grabbed him by the lapels, and dragged him into the nearest office. “Wha…” Andy grunted, and slapped my hands away. “Jake, are you crazy?” “Andy, old banana, jus’ lissen up. In about ten seconds, ol’ lady Goldperson’s about to stomp down that hall…” “Jake…” “Shutup. You are gonna imply that she is too stupid to unnerstand your new doohickey because she is a woman, and suggest that she ask her husband explain it to her.” “But Jake, she doesn’t even have a husband. I mean, who would want to marry that? She is uglier than nine sows.” “Damnit, Andy, Shuddup!” “Yes, Andy,” Goldperson said coldly from the

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

The View from the Shotglass Floor, by Michael Ehart

Pg. 21

door behind me. “Do shut up.” I turned to watch as she thumbed her facephone. “Security,” she snapped. # I punched more buttons. Nothing happened. The smell from the remote was stronger, and now was accompanied by wisps of dark smoke. Punch, punch, punch. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I kept punching as they escorted us out and flung our equipment and papers into the street behind us. Andy kept looking at me like I had grown two extra heads. We gathered everything into a heap, and called a cab. “What now?” Andy was genuinely puzzled. Always before it had been him who got us fired. I sighed, and looked down at the now still and silent remote. “Now?” I tossed its lifeless plastic corpse into the gutter. It made a nice snap-crunch sound under the tires of the arriving cab. “Old peach, there is only one thing for us now. Now we get drunk.”

Michael  Ehart  has  been  writing  for  over  30  years and has been published over 300 times in  newspapers, magazines and e-zines. His story  It’s a Living  was  selected  for  the  Imaginary Word Recommended List for  December  2005,  and  his  story  Voice of the Spoiler  was  a Preditors and Editors Readers Poll Top Ten  Finisher for best sf/fantasy short story of 2005.  Its sequel The Servant of the Manthycore was  a Top Ten Finisher for 2006.  He  is  married  to  one  of  the  most  beautiful  women in the world and would offer “pistols for  two, coffee for one” to anyone who disagrees,  but  pesky  laws  get  in  the  way  and  so  offers  instead  to  naysayers  a  referral  to  a  good  optometrist. You can find out more about what he is up to at    http://mehart.blogspot.com 

Michael Ehart

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

"The Second Ascension," by R. Cruz

Pg. 22

Carbonville, Part Two
A Jack Brand Story
e went back out on the street, wondering if his long search for his sister and her abductor were about to end. He’d covered a lot of places on Tulon looking for them. From desert to jungle, and so far, until now, he hadn’t even had a decent lead. He hoped Terry was still alive. At least he thought he hoped so. After seeing the evidence of Wilkerson’s brutality toward Sari, perhaps he was better off thinking she was dead. He heard shouting ahead on his left. A man came running out of the doorway of a tattoo parlor. He was in such a mad panic he crashed headlong into Brand, nearly knocking him off his feet. Brand caught the man and tried to hold him up, but the fellow went down on his knees, his hands folded together in supplication. “Please, help me,” the man said, pleading desperately. “He’s crazy. He’s going to kill me. Help me!” The man looked back over his shoulder. Brand looked past him and, to his surprise, saw Galt striding toward them. His shiny blue skin reflected the neon all around him. The Ray-Blade was in hand. “No! Stop him!” the kneeling man begged, as people on the street stopped to watch what was going on. “So, it’s you,” the Tarnisian said when he saw Brand. His face was split with a toothy grin. But the grin vanished when he looked down at the man from the tattoo parlor. “Don’t bother my friend,” he said. “He won’t help you.” “Please, mister. Don’t let him kill me.” “What’s this all about?” Brand asked.

H

by John M. Whalen
“A matter of some back taxes,” Galt said. He waved the sword over the kneeling man’s head. “I suggest you hand over what you owe right now, if you want to live.” He grabbed the man by the hair and tore him away from Brand. The blubbering man flew down on his back looking up at the Tarnisian with tears in his eyes. “Hold on a minute,” Brand said. Galt held up his free hand. “Don’t interfere,” he said. “This doesn’t concern you.” He moved the pulsating Ray-Blade to within an inch of the man’s face. “Are you going to pay?” “All right,” the man said. He reached inside his robe and pulled out a coin purse. He opened it and took out some money. “Here,” he said, putting it in Galt’s hand. “And tell that pig Silo Jarth I hope he rots in Gorogian Hell someday.” “Maybe you’d like to come with me and tell him yourself,” Galt said. The man’s eyes bulged, and he tried to slither on his back away from Galt. “I didn’t think so,” Galt said. He dropped the coins the man had given him into a pocket. “Go on. Get out of here.” Galt deactivated his Ray-Blade, laughing at the fleeing tattoo artist, and sauntered over to Brand. “I heard you were looking for work,” Brand said. “But I never figured you for a tax collector.” “You’ve got to start somewhere.” “You really working for Silo Jarth?” They started walking along the sidewalk. “That’s right. I found out the four men I killed last night saving your life worked for him. So I

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Carbonville, Part Two, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen
went over to his casino and told him he oughta hire me, since he was suddenly short of hands.” “Pretty bold move. Or just crazy.” “He thought so too, and told one of his flunkies to throw me out. I messed him up pretty good, right in front of him. Silo Jarth looked at me without saying anything for a minute, and then he just started laughing. I laughed too, and he said I was hired. He figured he needed a man like me. This was my first job for him. It’s only tax collecting, but I plan to move up in his organization.” “I’m sorry to hear that,” Brand said. “I just met Jarth. He’s the kind of scum I wouldn’t scrape off my shoe.” “He’s treating me okay. What business do you have with Jarth?” “It’s a personal matter.” “Oh,” the Tarnisian said, shrugging his shoulders. “How are you feeling? I’m surprise to see you up so soon.” “The marvels of modern medicine and DNA technology,” Brand said. “I want to thank you for what you did last night. There aren’t many men who would step into a dark alley against those odds. If there’s any way I can repay you—if you need money, I can—” “I told you, I’ve got a job,” Galt said. “But thanks anyway.” He stared at Brand with a wide, toothy grin on his face. “Well, how about at least letting me buy you a drink?” “Sure. I’d like that.” # The bar was nearly empty. Only a few early afternoon drinkers sat at the tables, ignoring the bored-looking Gorog female dancing naked in the cage hanging from the ceiling. Brand and Galt sat at the bar. Brand lifted his glass of Synth-whiskey and clinked it against the one in Galt’s hand. “Thanks, again,” Brand said.

Pg. 2

“Don’t mention it,” Galt said, that ever-present grin on his blue face. They tossed the drinks down. Brand felt the synthetic whiskey going down his throat and waited for the familiar warmth to spread in his stomach. But there was nothing. “They don’t even have real whiskey in this town,” he said. “Hard to get these days,” Galt said, wiping his chin. “Mind if I ask a personal question?” “Go ahead.” “I noticed you wearing that Beretta low on your leg last night,” the Tarnisian said. “The doctor told me you were a Security Force cop. You any good with that pistol?” “A fair hand.” “You saw me take that Eluvian. You think you could take me in a draw down?” “I’d hate to try.” “Me, too.” “Mind if I ask you a personal question?” Brand said. “How come you use that Ray-Blade. Even on Tarnis that kind of weaponry went out decades ago. No one uses them except—” “That’s right. The Kalus still use them, what’s left of them.” “You’re a Kalu?” “Was. I found out there wasn’t much profit in belonging to a dying breed of spiritual warriors. I only went through the training because my old man thought the discipline would help. I was something of a problem child. I did bad things. Messed up a kid at school. Set a couple fires. Killed my old man’s pet lemsa. My folks tried to straighten me out, but it was no use. The harder they tried, the worse I got. They didn’t understand. So they sent me to the Kalu monastery.” “What happened?” Brand saw a strange, weird light shining in the Tarnisian’s eyes. “I went there when I was twelve. I learned how

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Carbonville, Part Two, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen
use the Blade quick. Came natural. But the head master said he didn’t think I was any good at all. Said I had skill, but there was something in me that made me unfit to carry a blade. He wanted me to leave the monastery. He was a smart old man. He saw what my parents never could see: I’m just plain rotten inside. I was fifteen. When he said that something snapped. I told him I was better with the blade than he was. I showed him. I killed him. That was ten years ago. I’ve been on the move, from planet to planet, ever since. I’ve left quite a few dead men along the trail.” “The way you tell it,” Brand said, “you sound like a pretty bad guy.” “I am,” Galt said. “Believe it.” “Then why did you come to the aid of a defenseless man last night? Isn’t that a little out of character?” “Is it? Maybe I just smelled blood. Maybe I just wanted to kill somebody.” “That’s a hell of a reason.” Galt stared at his empty glass on the bar. “You ever hear the story of the cricket-fly and the Scorpio-pede? You know, the one where the dumb cricket trusts the ‘pede when he says he won’t sting him while he carries him on his back across the river? And the ‘pede stings him and when the fly asks why, he says, ‘Its just my nature. I can’t help it.’” Galt got up from the stool and grinned. “That’s me,” he said. “Your friendly neighborhood Scorpio-pede. It’s my nature. I just can’t help it.” Brand studied the strange grinning expression on Galt’s face. “You’re a mighty peculiar talker, Galt. Maybe you are what you say you are. I don’t know. I do know that running with somebody like Jarth is only going to lead to a bad end. You better reconsider. At any rate, whatever you are, whatever your reasons were for helping me, I’m obliged.

Pg. 2

Maybe I can do you a favor some day.” Galt held out his hand. “Let’s shake on it,” he said, still grinning. # There were at least two hundred people on the crowded dance floor of The Frosted Monkey. Young bodies, alien and human, gyrated in the strobe light to the rhythm of a live synthesizer band performing on a bandstand elevated some ten feet above the floor. Three-dimensional neon holograms—geometrical shapes and designs in vivid colors—flashed along the black walls and ceiling in unison with the steady, pulsating beat. The deep notes of the electronic bass vibrated Brand’s solar plexus as he made his way around the periphery of the crowd. The club was the kind of place he generally avoided. The smell of dozens of perfumes, mixed with sweat and the sickly sweet odor of hemp and Synth-booze made his nostrils flare. Tables and booths lined the side walls. He swept them for Sari. He saw no sign of her, then a hand grabbed his arm. “Did you bring it?” the girl asked, pulling him toward the dance floor. When they were near the middle of the floor, she put her arms around his waist and looked up at him with soft brown eyes. Her dark hair fell softly on bare shoulders, and the black dress she wore, revealed every curve of her body. “I’ve got it,” Brand said, putting his arms on her hips. “Let’s see it.” Brand pulled a leather pouch out of his pants pocket. “Open it.” “Here?” “They’re all stoned,” she said. “They won’t notice.” Brand opened it and shook out a couple of the coins. “Good,” she said, and he slipped the money

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Carbonville, Part Two, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen
back into the sack and tied it up again. “There’s a pocket on my left hip. Drop it in there.” “Tell me where Wilkerson is first.” “The money first.” He lowered his right hand along her hip, felt the edge of the pocket, and dropped the sack in it. “All right,” she said. “I don’t know why you want him, but when you find that son of a bitch, promise me you’ll hurt him. You’ll hurt him bad. I want him to pay for what he did to me.” “Just tell me where he is.” “He’s—” The girl sighed and suddenly went limp in his arms. Something sticky covered his fingers as they felt the handle of a knife protruding from her back. He held her up and looked around. A dark figure wearing a black hat moved away in the pulsating strobe light, pushing dancers aside. Brand lowered the girl to the floor, and a woman nearby let out a gasp. A man asked, “What’s going on?” Brand pushed his way through the dancers in pursuit of the retreating assassin. The killer shoved away dancers near the edge of the dance floor and ran through the tables for the exit. Brand ran in his wake, the crowd parting to make way for him. People sitting at a table jumped up, startled, as the killer grabbed the end of the table and pushed it in Brand’s way. Brand’s long legs crashed into the table and he fell on the floor. He looked up and saw the killer running out the exit. “Stop him,” someone on the dance floor shouted. He pointed at Brand. “Stop that man. He’s killed a girl.” The crowd gawked at him as he got to his feet, and some of the people at the tables stood up and tried to block his way. Brand ran toward them, stiff-arming one of the men, who fell on the floor. He ran around a railing that rimmed the seating area and bolted out the exit. The processed air outside was cool after the musky heat of the

Pg. 25

dance club. The triple moons of Tulon shone down on Carbonville through the glass and steel dome covering the town. The street was empty, and for a moment, he thought he’d lost his prey. A shadow moved, and he saw the man running. He took off after him. The dark figure turned at an alley, and Brand followed. He skidded to a stop at the entrance. It was dark, and he couldn’t see anyone. He moved into the interior of the alley slowly, his senses alert for the slightest sight or sound that might indicate someone’s presence. A heavy weight dropped suddenly on his shoulders, pushing him down on the alley floor. Brand rolled as he fell and saw the wide brim of a black hat above him. He grabbed the head under the hat and, rolling, forced his attacker over on his side. The man got to his feet and started to run. Brand ran a few steps and made a leaping tackle, his arms locked around the man’s waist. They fell to the ground. Brand climbed on top of him, hit him square on the jaw, and tore the hat off. “Galt!” Brand dropped the hat on the alley floor. “You learn how to climb walls in that Kalu monastery?” “That and a few other things.” Brand could see the perpetual grin on the Tarnisian’s face, his teeth gleaming in the moonlight. “Get up,” Brand said. “That girl was about to tell me something I needed to hear. I oughta—” “Maybe you should. You’ll never get a better chance.” “You could have killed me easy when I came into this alley. Why didn’t you?” “Seemed like a shame to kill you after going to the trouble of saving your life last night. Besides, I like you, Brand. You’re kind of an outsider, like me. We’re two of a kind. Jarth wanted me to kill you too. I was going to tell him you got away from me.” “He wouldn’t have liked that.”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Carbonville, Part Two, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen
“Maybe not,” Galt shrugged. “If you’re smart, you’ll quit Jarth. Now that the girl’s dead, I’m going after him. He’s going down, and anyone who stands with him goes down too. I should take you in for murder. But Jarth would probably have you out of jail in five minutes. After tonight, I’ll consider my debt to you paid in full. If you try to stand between me and Jarth, I’ll have to kill you.” The smile disappeared from Galt’s face. “I’d hate to see you try,” he said. “If you want to do me one last favor,” Brand said. “If you go back, tell Jarth you got both of us. Let him think I’m dead.” “That won’t work. He’d know by tomorrow I was lying.” “All I need is tonight.” Galt frowned. “Don’t try it, Brand,” the Tarnisian said. “I like you, but I got a good thing going here. And when it comes down to looking out for my own interests, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill you either.” “I’d hate to see you try.” # “Jarth must know where the man I’m after is hiding,” Brand said. He looked across the hotel room at Raymond Targo. Jana Reynolds sat on the loveseat next to him. Targo was a stocky, man with dark curly hair, a prominent brow, and a deadly serious expression on his face. “The girl Sari didn’t think so. But I think she was wrong. He’s trying to protect Wilkerson. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have sent someone to kill her.” “So you’ll help us?” Targo said. “Your plan might work,” Brand said. “But if it doesn’t a lot of innocent people will die.” “It’s the only way,” Targo said. “We’ve been working on it for months. Is there anyway you can use your contacts on the Tulon Security Force to get us some unofficial backup?”

Pg. 2

“Forget going to the Force for help,” Brand said. “They know what’s going on here, but since it doesn’t have impact on Tulon’s oil business they couldn’t care less. We’ll have to go it alone. Are you sure your people can take the power plant?” “Positive. There aren’t many guards there. Jarth would never think somebody would do something that desperate. My men will shut the power down at two a.m. Without electricity, this place comes to a dead stop. Nothing works, not even the sky-doors in the dome. The temperature outside the dome even at night is about a hundred degrees. It won’t take long for Carbonville to start feeling the heat. There’s a lot of carbon dioxide in this city. The air will go bad fast. There’ll be panic within an hour after the shutdown. That’ll give us the diversion we need. Jarth will send men to the power plant, leaving his penthouse fortress less protected than normal. There’ll be a fight, but it’s the best chance we’ll ever have.” “What about all the other people in Carbonville?” “If we act fast, nobody in the city’ll be hurt. Some will panic, but in an hour or two we should either have Jarth, or we’ll all be dead. We’ll turn the power back on when it’s over.” “All right,” Brand said. “Call your men.” Targo pulled a mini-phone out of his pocket and punched a number. “Zero hour at two a.m.,” was all he said. # Carbonville went dark as planned at two a.m. The street lights winked out first, and the traffic lights. The few cars on the street sat for a while, the drivers wondering what was happening. The casinos and hotels were next. The lights, the music, the holographic gambling machines all went out. The emergency lights came on, and the casino security men helped people to the exits. Paper receipts were given for winnings that were owed

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Carbonville, Part Two, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen
but couldn’t be paid until the computers came back on. Homes and apartments blacked out. Some people woke up in their beds wondering what had happened. Others slept through the night and never knew history was changing in Carbonville. By two fifteen a.m., the temperature all over the city already hit the mid-nineties. Standing in the alley next to The Green Dragon, Brand felt his clothing sticking to him. It was eerily quiet. He’d noticed when the power went off how still everything seemed. When the air filtration system had been working there had been a low background hum from the powerful generators controlling the air system of the city. It was noticeable now by its absence. Raymond Targo stood behind him in the shadow of the alley. Jana Reynolds stood next to him. She, Brand, Targo, and the fifteen men behind him were dressed in black with black ski masks. They stood ready, armed with laser blasters, electron guns, plasma rifles, and shock grenades. Brand had his plasma rifle in his hands, and the Beretta Electro-Pistol strapped to his thigh. “Remember,” Brand whispered to Targo. “I want Jarth alive.” “We’ll do our best to see he isn’t among the dead,” Targo said. Brand raised his hand and gave the signal. The band of armed vigilantes poured out of the alley, snaked around the corner of the building, and charged the glass doors of the casino. Brand fired the rifle, and the doors shattered. As they ran into the first floor gambling room, dark figures ran toward them from behind the gambling tables and slot machines. Laser fire tore through the semi-darkness. Brand fired back, and one of the guards fell across a roulette wheel. A vigilante on Brand’s left fell, crashing into a mirrored pillar that shattered as he went to the floor.

Pg. 27

The vigilantes took cover behind the tables. A blistering hail of laser fire poured down on them. Emboldened by the vigilantes’ sudden halt, the guards, about a half dozen of them, crepttoward them, shouting and firing steadily. Targo, on Brand’s right, stood up and lobbed a shock grenade. It landed in the midst of the charging guards. Bright tendrils of electricity surrounded the men, and they stood, suddenly paralyzed, their guns useless. Their feet bolted to the floor, their bodies shook and trembled as they were electrocuted. The energy in the grenade dissipated and the lightning went out. Six men fell to the floor dead. “Let’s go,” Targo shouted. Brand followed him as they ran for the slot machines. More fire came from behind the slots. The vigilantes gave no quarter. They ran straight for the casino guards, firing their weapons, and screaming like banshees. Arms were severed, heads exploded, and legs shattered on both sides as the battle raged. Brand saw Jana Reynolds firing her laser pistol with cool precision and saw a guard fly back onto the carpet, his chest smoking. When the battle was over, no more guards were left on the first floor. Targo knelt down next to one of the dead ones and searched his pockets. “We’ll need this,” he said, waving an elevator key card. The others ran to join him. Brand saw that now there were only ten men. Five had been left on the killing floor. “The elevator to Jarth’s penthouse is the only one still operating,” Targo said. “He’s got a separate portable generator that cuts on in power outages.” “If we all go up in one car we’ll be sitting ducks,” Brand said. “Where’s the stairway?” “End of the corridor.” “Give me two men and ten minutes to get up there. We’ll get their attention and then you

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Carbonville, Part Two, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen
come up.” Targo called two names, and the men stepped forward. Brand and Targo checked their watches. It was 2:25 a.m. “Two thirty five, we move in,” Targo said. Brand ran down the corridor with two men armed with laser guns on his heels. He stopped at the door to the stairway and listened for a second. It was quiet. He pushed the door open with the butt of his plasma rifle and stepped into the grey-painted stairwell. The others followed closely. Their running footsteps echoed loudly in the hollow stairwell as they ran up the first seven flights without encountering resistance. Brand put his foot on the first step of the eighth flight, and a laser beam cracked the concrete next to his shoe. He dove onto the stairs, twisting his body so he landed on his back. He looked up at the green head of the Kazuli guard glaring down over the railing two floors above. Brand’s rifle barked out two shots. The guard screamed and pitched over the railing, landing with a thump on the concrete of the ninth floor landing. Brand jumped to his feet. One of the men with him ran past him, taking the lead. Brand followed in second place. They got to the fifteenth floor and started up to the sixteenth when the door to the outside corridor opened behind them. Two Kazulis jumped in blasting. The man below Brand fell, a burning hole torn through his abdomen and back. Brand fired the plasma rifle and the first Kazuli dropped. The second stood behind firing up at them. Laser beams cracked loudly in the stairwell and Brand smelled burning concrete. The man above Brand on the stairs shot the Kazuli in the knee. The lizard man went down, and Brand blasted him in the chest. “Come on,” he shouted, running ahead of the other man. They got to the penthouse door and Brand halted, listening. He glanced at his watch. 2:34.

Pg. 2

He eased the door open. They were at the back of Silo Jarth’s jungle. It was dark and strange and eerily quiet. All of the jungle birds and monkeys were mute. In a low crouch, Brand crept toward a Lotus-palm a few feet away. The psuedo-rainforest lay darkly ahead, and then something flashed. The man behind Brand yelled and fell. Brand dove behind the palm tree, firing back at the flash. A laser beam flew over him, a Kazuli groaned, and Brand heard him fall. Firing began from behind several palm trees about twenty feet into the jungle. Brand returned fire. The enemy fire was so intense, the best he could do was remain behind cover and fire to keep their attention until reinforcements arrived. A veritable hail storm of plasma and laser fire came down on him. Where was Targo? “Let’s go,” Brand heard one of the Kazuli say. He heard the sound of men advancing toward them. Brand peered around the tree trunk and fired, knocking one of the Kazuli down. The firing grew even more intense, and Brand saw the silhouettes of at least ten lizard men moving toward him. There was an explosion behind them, and bright light flashed behind the black trees. The Kazulis turned and dove for cover. Brand heard rifle and pistol fire coming from the direction of the elevator. Targo shouted orders. The Kazulis began firing nonstop at the reinforcements. Targo and his men returned the fire, tossing an occasional shock grenade at the penthouse defenders. Brand moved in closer and fired at the backs of the Kazulis, keeping them pinned down. Satisfied that the battle was going well, Brand moved through the jungle and found the path he had taken earlier that day. He pushed through the palm leaves, and elephant ear plants. Now the frightened screeches of birds and monkeys rose shrilly above the sound of gunfire. Brand looked

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Carbonville, Part Two, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen
up and saw jungle birds flying madly around the roof of the penthouse. He stepped over the body of a dead vigilante lying at the edge of the pool where Jarth had bathed with Sari and the blonde. The path wound past the pool, through more trees to a steel door surrounded by plaster and stucco made to look like the walls of a cave. Galt stood in front of the door. He was dressed as he had been earlier, in black, but without the hat. The Ray-Blade buzzed in his hand. Brand pulled off his ski mask, and the two men faced off, looking almost like reflections of each other. “I thought I told you to get out of here,” Brand said. Galt shrugged. “Now why would I do that?” he said. “Where’s Jarth?” “Up on the roof. He’s got a Strato-Sled ready to take him out of here.” Brand started to move. “Hold it,” Galt said. “Can’t let you go up there. Man gave me a ton of money to stop you.” “You can’t spend it if you’re dead.” “If I’m dead, it won’t matter. Besides, I’m not doing it for the money.” “Why then?” He grinned, shut the Ray-Blade off, and tossed it aside. His hand dropped next to the Min-Blade sheathed on his leg. “I’ve been wondering ever since last night in the alley,” Galt said. “Who’s faster? Me with the Min-blade, or you with that Beretta?” “I don’t want to kill you, Galt,” Brand said. “Don’t make me do it.” “Looks like you’ll have to try. There’s no other way.” Brand saw that look in Galt’s eyes. The same look he had last night in the alley just before he drew on the Hansor with the plasma automatic. His head was cocked to one side, and his eyes

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held that curious, blank, child-like stare. Brand threw the Plasma rifle away. He kept focused on Galt’s eyes, yet his peripheral vision took in every twitch of Galt’s fingers. He knew how fast Galt was. Damn! he thought. He was going to have to kill a man who had saved his life a little over twenty-four hours ago. If he could. The Tarnesian was fast. Very fast. The flashing of laser fire from the jungle behind Brand reflected off the alien’s blue reptilian skin, as he stood there, his lips parted in that perpetual, wide, toothy grin. He stood relaxed, his arms low, his fingers twitching. The smile never left Galt’s eyes as his hand went for the Min-Blade. The weapon came out of its sheath, lit up, and started to fly all in one breathless motion. Brand drew the Beretta at the same time he dove for the floor. The whirling flash of the blade went over him as he squeezed the trigger, and the blue beam of light from his gun hit Galt in the solar plexus. The Tarnesian flew backwards, his legs making a V in the air. He landed on the floor and didn’t move. Brand ran to him. The former Kalu acolyte stared up at him glassy-eyed and the grin came back to his face. “Slick move,” he said. “I didn’t figure you for that.” “You should have left when I told you,” Brand said, kneeling down beside him. “Why’d you have to draw on me?” “Like I said. Just your plain old neighborhood Scorpio-Pede. It’s my nature. I can’t help—” His body went limp and his head rolled to the side. Brand knelt there for a moment looking down at him. “That’s a hell of a reason.” He stood up. The sounds of the battle were dying down. Raymond Targo seemed to be getting things under control. Except for one thing. Brand ran for the steel door Galt had guarded. He fired a

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Carbonville, Part Two, A Jack Brand story, by John M. Whalen
shot at the lock, and it swung open. He climbed a flight of stairs, where he heard the muffled sound of a Strato-Sled preparing for take-off. He got to the top step and found a glass door. Through the glass he saw the winking lights of the Sled as it began to lift off. He opened the door and ran out on the roof. He fired a shot, but a gunman in the door of the Sled fired back at him with a plasma rifle. The shot tore a hole in the roof at his feet. By then the Sled was out of pistol range. Brand watched the receding lights of the air ship that carried away the only man who might have helped him find Terry. The Sled, smoke trailing out of its exhausts, rose higher and higher until it seemed nearly to touch the dome covering the city. Since the city had no power, the mechanisms to open the skyway doors were not working. Brand watched as twin lasers fired out of the sled’s nose. Glass shattered, and steel burnt and bent. The entire dome quivered for a few seconds, and Brand wondered if it would hold. A few more panels of glass fell from their titanium encasements and crashed into the streets and on some of the roofs. But the dome stopped shaking. Brand watched as the Strato-Sled shot through the gaping hole it had blasted in the dome. The stairway door opened and Jana Reynolds walked up to him, looking up at the sky. “I wonder where he’ll go.” “I don’t know,” Brand said. “But I don’t think you’ve seen the last of him.” Jana said, “But for now, at least, Carbonville can live in peace.” Brand watched as, down below, the lights of the city started to come back on under the first faint grey light of dawn. In a few hours, the streets would be filled with people. The shops and stores would open. The casinos and hotels would pick up business as usual, and the people of Carbonville would go back to the aimless distractions that made up their lives. He looked up at the big

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hole in the shattered sky dome. “That can be repaired,” she said. “If I were you, I’d take the whole thing down,” Brand said. “Let Carbonville breathe some fresh air.”

John M. Whalen
John M. Whalen’s stories have appeared in the  Flashing Swords  E-zine,  pulpanddagger.com,  and  Universe Pathways  magazine.    Contact  the author here.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Featured Artist: Euka

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Featured Artist:
Alexander Raul Iglesias
Name: Alexander Raul Iglesias Age: 22 Hobbies: Gaming, Art, Exercise, Technology. Favorite Book / Author: Glimmer Rats, Dan Abnett. Favorite Artist: Mark Harrison. When did you start creating art? 4 years old. What media do you work in? Digital. Where has your work has been featured? deviantArt.com. Where should someone go if they wanted to view / buy some of your works? Email me at
Flyingdebrisguy@yahoo.com

How did you become an artist? I suck at everything else. ;) What were your early influences? Battletech, D&D, and Interstate 76. What are your current influences? Military tech, Keith Thompson, and computer games. What inspired the art for the cover? Halo, Battlefield 2, and Battletech.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Featured Artist: Alexander Raul Iglesias

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How would you describe your work? Grounded in reality. Where do you get your inspiration / what inspires you? The Internet. Have you had any notable failures, and how has failure affected your work? None that I can think of just yet. What have been your greatest successes? How has success impacted you / your work? Nothing either. What are your favorite tools / equipment for producing your art? Wacom tablet and Photoshop. What tool / equipment do you wish you had? A bigger tablet. What do you hope to accomplish with your art? Fill a certain niche within sci-fi.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Featured Artist: Alexander Raul Iglesias

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Deuces Wild
In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three
  by L. S. King
When we last left our heroes, Slap had been  captured  by  the  Eridani.  Tristan  refused  to  cooperate with the Confederation attack in return  for their help in retrieving the cowboy. He took off  to  rescue  Slap  himself,  along  with  the  engineer  Carter.

Caution: Some adventure violence WARNING: One scene of strong implied personal violence.

Tristan blew out a sharp exhale, almost a laugh, and ran his hands through his hair. “You’re right. After we dock to refuel, I’ll try to take a nap.” #

Slap’s legs shook as he set one foot in front of the other. If he fell, they might drag him again. ristan paced the hall between the bridge Lack of food, and water, had weakened him, and and the galley. Fifteen minutes until with this planet’s hell-hot heat, he felt ready to the capacitor charged for another jump. He’d pass out. discussed their entry to the planet with Carter, Blood ran down his arms, chest, and back, memorized the floor plans of the emperor’s from the tight-fitting stone stock encompassing palace, and studied the topography of the area his wrists and neck. The inside of the enclosures they were going to land in until he knew it blind. had been deliberately chiseled to grind and gnaw Nothing left to do. into flesh. To take the pressure off his raw neck, Except wait. he had to lift the heavy stock-bar with his arms, He’d chafed on their fuel stops, and they’d have scouring the skin off his wrists. to make one more before arriving at Eridani. The heat of the bare ground had blistered Carter came up the ladder and watched him his feet as he was led through the city to the for a moment. “Captain, you really need to sleep. palace. His pain, and dread of what was to come, You can’t pilot this gal through that last jump into overshadowed any embarrassment at being the atmosphere like you are.” paraded naked through the streets. The natives Tristan bit back a snarl. He knew the engineer pointed at him and chattered in their tongue, or was right, but sleep did not come easily. hissed. Some spat on him. A few threw stones. “Three more jumps, Sir, and we stop for anti “Barbarian!” several shouted. again. Refueling will take hours. It would be a The outer guard walls of the palace loomed. perfect time for you to rest.” Should he want to get to end of this trip? The “I have to oversee that. It’s a touchy business.” little Tristan had told him made him fear the end “Sir, that’s one thing I can do and know I do it as much as the journey. right. I know it’s hard for you to delegate, but you The palace looked like an old castle: outer walls need to be in top form, to get us to the surface with towers, a fortified gatehouse, a courtyard, alive. I admit I don’t think you care if I make it, or even crenellations on the tops of the walls, but even if you make it, but your buddy’s only chance the doors opened by modern magic. The air conof rescue is you, so think of him.” ditioning struck him, and he shivered as he was

T

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three, by L. S. King
shoved and prodded through hallways. At least the place had lifts. He could not have managed stairs. Finally guards shoved him into a dim, dank chamber, filled with overpowering organic smells. He retched, but not having eaten since... whenever he’d been captured, and being given little water, he had nothing to disgorge. Still his stomach heaved violently as they hauled him to a wall, and chained his feet to the floor. The door slammed. Slap fell against the rough stone, not caring that the rock sliced his back as he slid to the floor. He could not lie down; the stock would not let him. But at least he could lean back a bit and rest, after a fashion. Slowly, he became aware of his surroundings. The shadows that hid most of the chamber in darkness became sharper. Small sections of wall divided the room into cell areas. He heard raspy breathing but because of the partitions could see no others. A gurgling wail rose, then fell into weeping, followed by silence. Tristan. Where was he? Considering this place, Slap rather hoped he was dead. One man against all of Eridani? Not even Tristan could win this one. And the last thing he wanted was for his friend to end up in here trying to rescue him. # Tristan was a good pilot; he had learned under intensive tutelage and gotten his master rating— albeit under a name he hadn’t used in years. But was he good enough? They’d soon find out. First test: get them through the wormhole fast enough that it didn’t collapse on them, and slow enough that they didn’t disintegrate upon slamming into the atmosphere once through. From the time they jumped in, which would inadvertently create an electromagnetic pulse, they’d have about five minutes to hide the ship before the power grid would come back online,

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allowing in-planet defenses to target them. The resulting ion storm should help block them from orbitals. He hoped. With only five minutes, they were going to jump in near the capital, where Tristan bet, hoped, prayed Slap was being kept. Cavern systems pocked the desert planet, and many of the inhabitants lived in them. However, one not too distant from the city was considered taboo. From all the information Tristan could find, the superstitious natives avoided it, claiming it was home to their dead ancestors and gods. Perfect. Getting from their jumping-in point to the cavern—that was going to be sticky. They would need almost a vertical descent. He took a breath and rubbed his palms on his thighs. Now or never. “Ready for the final jump. Engaging first capacitor.” “Wormhole forming,” Carter replied in a shaky voice. “Engines idling down,” Tristan murmured. “Now entering wormhole.” Disorientation flowed over Tristan; tingling flowed through him, his skin feeling inside out. He cleared his throat. “Engaging second capacitor.” Carter’s distorted voice floated to him. “The negative energy field is steady, keeping the wormhole from collapsing on us, but it’s overheating the core faster than I expected.” Tristan growled invectives and gripped the controls to pitch the ship as they emerged. They were low in the ionosphere—not good. Their speed was above Mach six. Almost too slow for the wormhole but way too much speed for this old freighter at this altitude. So  much  for  my  piloting skills. Several warning klaxons blatted, bombarding Tristan’s ears. “Slow the ship!” Carter shouted. “The field is dissipating quicker than I—”

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three, by L. S. King
“Shut those damned alarms off.” Tristan’s lips peeled back and his knuckles whitened as he banked the shuddering ship left. Giselle creaked and groaned around him as they began a controlled—semi-controlled—spiral. “What are you doing?” Carter called, his voice breaking. “Trying to burn off speed and not overshoot our landing zone.” Tristan slammed forward against the restraints; the last of the field was gone. Giselle’s groaning rose to a scream, and the controls barely responded. Like flying a brick! The vessel felt like she was ripping apart. “We’re still too hot!” “Speed brakes.” “We might burn them off.” “Use them!” Amid the cacophony of what seemed like the ship nearly self-destructing, Tristan could feel and hear—barely—the rhythmic thunking of the wings automatically extending. “With this pitch, will we lose the wings?” “Don’t know. Get her below Mach three and we shouldn’t melt the hull.” By all means, let’s not melt the hull. “Do you have a death wish?” Tristan growled through gritted teeth. Carter laughed, manic and shrill. Not reassuring. Carter’s voice pierced the air in staccato tremor, in synch with the freighter’s quaking. “I’m showing we caused an EMP just like I thought we would—didn’t affect us because we were inside the field at the time, and the ionosphere cascade is beautiful. And—sand! There’s a sandstorm below. But the wings could shear off in this turbulence! I can override atmospheric wing control—retract them.” “Don’t you dare! I need them.” Carter quieted a moment then chuckled nervously. “At least all this atmospheric disrup-

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tion should cover us from the orbitals and any ships trying to track us.” “I have to fly this barge through ‘all this atmospheric disruption’ to find that cavern, you know. Assuming she doesn’t tear apart first.” And that was still likely. This wasn’t flying, more like hurtling through the air and not hitting the ground. Yet. Terra was getting firma fast. Too fast. “Temperature?” “Below melting point.” Just in time, Tristan pulled out of the spiral; Carter wheezed an audible sigh. “Sir, you’re sure that cavern is a safe place to hide the ship?” “No. But it’s a better bet than anywhere else near the city. These people—” Tristan stopped to concentrate on plowing the ship through heavy turbulence. As they dropped through the troposphere, he watched his heading, ground track, altitude, and airspeed closely. If this old freighter did survive, she’d need major work. Concentrate  on  the  immediate. He zeroed in on the coordinates for the cavern. How could he slow and hope to navigate her into the tight cleft in the rocks without any visual reference cues and with the wind shear? This was impossible. Why had he even considered it? To break pattern. Istvan had to know his usual style, and this front door battering wasn’t his way. He decelerated Giselle, trying to hold her steady as he closed in on his target. She lumbered, not as responsive as usual. “What’s that ahead?” Carter asked, squinting at the read-outs. “Our destination. Hold on.” “Are you sure you can fly this ship into that small opening?” Tristan barked a laugh despite himself. “After all this, now you’re worried?” Carter didn’t answer.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three, by L. S. King
The sand still whirled around the ship, obscuring everything. His eyes riveted on the instrumentation. The cavern’s aperture seemed too small. Tightening his grip, Tristan slowed even more. # Slap roused slightly from the dazed state he supposed could be called dozing when he heard a scraping sound from the door. A boy, skinny, dressed only with wrappings around his loins, padded to him, bearing what looked for all the world like a water bottle with a straw in it. Keeping his distance as much as possible, the boy stretched his arms so the straw could reach Slap’s lips. Thirst overcame any suspicions,and Slap took a several deep gulps. The water was cool flowing through his mouth and down his throat. His stomach knotted in rocks as the water hit, and his body jerked in an uncontrollable spasm. The boy pulled the bottle away and stood, staring at him with a mixture of curiosity and revulsion. “Th-thanks,” Slap murmured. The boy’s lip curled, but he held the bottle out once more. Without hesitation, Slap drank. After a few more gulps, the boy stepped back. Slap muttered his thanks again, but the boy only hissed, “Barbarian,” and ran out. Some time later, the dim lights—wherever they were hidden, recessed somewhere in the ceiling—blinked out. The complete darkness stilled all noise in the chamber until one thin voice began its piteous wail again. The door slammed open, and guards entered, guns in one hand, hand lamps in the other. Without a word, they unshackled Slap’s legs and hauled him to his feet. A confused walk in the dark, and being hauled painfully up stairs, took Slap at last to a wide archway. He was dragged inside to some sort of large chamber. Incense hung heavy in the air. Hands roughly encased his

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calves into some sort of upright, manacled braces in the floor. He would be unable to sit. A bright light, held by an unseen person, flashed in his face, making him squint. “So this is our bait, is it?” a sneering voice asked. The light, closer now, blinded him as the voice whispered. “You work well, Bait. Your friend has arrived on the planet, if the disruption to our power is any indication. But he shall find he is overmatched this time. We are ready.” Tristan? Here? No! Slap wanted to cry, but no tears formed. “We shall keep him here,” the voice said in an authoritative tone. “He might amuse Us.” A faint hum began and the air moved—circulation. Lights started to glow. Whatever Tristan had done to their power, it was back on already. Slap was reminded of the time that frigate attacked, its fighters sending an EM pulse to disable ol’ Bertha. The power had been restored in a similar way. The lights brightened, and Slap could see a slender man with dark features, large, square jaw, and silk robes standing before him. His grin was so predatory and gloating that Slap shivered. Tristan, he shouted in his mind, wishing telepathy worked. Stay away. Stay away! # “Partially retract the wings, or we won’t make it.” Carter complied silently, and Tristan clenched his teeth as the ship maneuvered on thrusters through the narrow confines of the tunnel. The passage widened into a large cavern, just as the maps posited. And it appeared uninhabited. Perfect. He deployed the struts, and let the freighter down as softly as he could. Barely a bump. The least he could do for the old girl who got them through alive. Carter heaved a sigh of relief and almost

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three, by L. S. King
clawed out of the restraints. Tristan followed him to the lower deck, flicked on the external lights, and let down the starboard cargo hatch. Carter ran out, fell to the ground, and began to sob quietly. Tristan wasn’t going to ask if he had that reaction in general to flying or only to Tristan’s piloting. He descended the ramp, glad to see that at least some of the lights still worked, and turned to see what he had done to his ship. The radiator heat sinks glowed orange, and waves of heat rose from the engines. The hull had patches and streaks of charring, and the speed brakes were burned nubs. The plinking and thunking of cooling metal proclaimed the freighter’s quiet disapproval of what she had endured. He rubbed his forehead. “It worked!” Tristan spun to see Carter capering and cackling. “It worked! It worked! It worked! It worked! Yes!” A shriek of stressed metal made Tristan pivot in time to see the aft starboard landing strut slowly collapsing. Giselle groaned as she tilted and settled into a sullen, temperamental pose. Sorry. Sorry, old girl. Carter walked up next to Tristan, blinking. “Mostly.” “I take it you’ll be fixing things while I’m trying to find Slap.” “Well, I won’t be fixing that strut. That’s for sure.” Carter scratched his head. “No way to lift the ship.” “Think of Archimedes.” “Too bad he isn’t here,” Carter said with an edgy laugh. “Well,” Tristan paused and shook his head at the damage, “since I can’t leave until the storm lets up, we might as well see what repairs we can do.” #

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Slap’s body trembled with pain and fatigue. The leg braces kept him upright, yet he was to the point of crumbling beneath the weight of the stone stock still around his arms and neck. He would soon topple over, and when that happened, he knew his legs would break. The emperor sat upon his throne, eating dainties off a tray held by a servant, not even glancing at the “bait” he wanted to keep here for amusement. Strange music that sounded rather like cats killing flutes played softly, and despite the ventilation, so much incense burned that the air was slightly hazy. “Ahh, Vasso,” a feminine voice called. Slap didn’t even look up at whoever had come in. The marbled floor had his full attention—as in not fallen onto it and snapping his legs in half. “Oh, this is not acceptable,” the woman went on. “He’s mine, and you said you wouldn’t harm him.” “I said I would not kill or inflict permanent damage on your toy. But until I have his friend, he is mine.” “That’s not fair.” Slap blinked, glancing up at the dark, slender woman. It was the princess, Nadi, the one he‘d rescued. He dropped his chin to rest on the stock; his muscles ached too much to even hold his head up. The two continued arguing. “Release him to me!” “You watch your place, sister.” “You promised! And I want him!” “Do you want him in pieces?” the emperor growled. “It seems that’s what you have in mind already. At least don’t break him. I want him for a bodyguard. Imagine such a tall barbarian for a bodyguard!” “You think you can tame him?” “Like a wild stallion.” Like hell, thought Slap.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three, by L. S. King

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Emperor Istvan laughed, long and low. “This I would like to see.” A silence fell. A pair of guards came over and began to fiddle with the stock. After they removed it, he leaned forward, resting his hands on his knees, taking gasping breaths. A guard pushed his shoulders back. He flailed his arms, trying to keep from falling, but in vain. He expected a sick crack of pain in his lower legs but landed on a stool. He shuddered in relief and stared with detachment at his bloody wrists. Nadi swished over in her long robes. She took his chin in her hand and lifted his head. Her smile reminded Slap of a feral cat. “Tend him,” she called over her shoulder and pranced away, like a child happily anticipating promised candy. A man, a servant, he supposed by his plain clothes, came over and began to wash Slap’s wounds. Not gently, but not overly rough. Slap tried not to wince. After his injuries were cared for and he was given broth, guards manacled his wrists to a wide wooden beam connected by a cable to a pulley system. When that was done, his legs were removed from the leg braces, and the stool taken away. He could be lifted off the ground to dangle helplessly, forced to stand, or allowed to lie down. For the moment, he sat, trying to ignore the metal already cutting into his flayed flesh, and the cold of the marble floor against his bare skin. Despite his pain and exhaustion, Slap looked around. Huge cushions littered the floor near the dais, and gold gleamed from the pillars along the walls and the cornices. Statues sat on pedestals at the edges of the room with smoke rising from the incense burner set before each one. Stands of graduated shelves held candles. Wooden panels like brightly painted picture boards lined the

walls. Faux torches lit the room. Guards, dressed in silk vests and pantaloons tied around the waist with wide sashes, stood on either side of the dais, and the archway as well. They wore scimitars, but also carried a shock baton, and a needlegun. Particle beam rifles were slung over their shoulders. A groove running through the frame of the archway and the threshold told of a hidden door that could slide out to seal the room. The wall between the archway and the dais sported a computer console. Braces and manacles spouted from the floor near Slap, and another beam hung from the ceiling next to his. What did it say about the ruler of this planet that he had devices for restraint, even torture, in an audience chamber? What had Tristan once said? The best thing that could happen to Eridani would be for the royal palace to be blown up with the emperor and his whole family inside. Slap now understood. Nadi re-entered the chamber, her dark eyes gloating. As Slap was forced to lie on his back, he felt somehow the princess was more threat to him than her brother could ever be. He was right. I  only  love  Shallah.  I  only  love  my  wife.  Slap repeated the thought over and over, humiliation and loathing filling him not only at what was done to him, but in the emperor’s audience chamber, in front of all present. He tried staring at the eyehook attaching the pulley to the ceiling as a focus, but the princess leaned over him with a predatory smile, blocking his view. He squeezed his eyes shut, but tears still ran down his cheeks and into his hair. Finally, Nadi rose. And Slap continued to sob, his soul shattered.

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Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three, by L. S. King

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# Tristan glanced up at the pale engineer and the forlorn-looking ship, nodded, and charged for the exit of the cavern. Two days, two  foul  days they had been delayed, for the sandstorms to subside. Their arrival had caused the initial storm, but he didn’t know if the progression of them was something natural or an aftereffect. He almost foamed at the mouth at the wait, and Carter had slunk around, avoiding Tristan for almost the whole last day. A soft blush across the dark sky announced dawn. The trek to the nearest road wasn’t too distant, and the capital not far beyond that. He should arrive in the city by midday. # The thrill of challenge surged in Tristan’s heart as he slid easily past the guards with the others bringing wares into the palace courtyard. The inspection was thorough, but Tristan was just what he seemed, a poor laborer in rough-woven clothes delivering baskets of ripe fruit for his merchant master, smuggling nothing, concealing nothing. He straightened after depositing his offering in the kitchen, and began to follow the other menials out. In the press, he bumped against a guard and bowed low with murmured apologies. The guard would soon find he was without both the shock baton and the master key that should be hanging from his side. The guards were less attentive of leaving laborers than of arriving ones. With an easy grace he slipped from shadow to shadow until he found a side door in an alcove. The master key did its job and he was inside, in an empty antechamber. Perfect. He took off his upper clothing and ripped the

shirt into strips. He donned the loose tunic again, and was now a lowly drudge, carrying cleaning cloths. The card hung inside his pants and the baton under the rags. He found a bucket and spigot to fill it with water. Now he was in business. He descended the nearby stairs to the dungeons without passing a soul. The guards didn’t bat an eye as he bowed, showing his cleaning supplies, and he passed on. # A scuffle as two guards dragged in a victim didn’t interest Slap except that it would take attention off him for the first time in the forever he had been here. Nadi left him on the cold stone. At the edge of his vision he could see her settle onto a cushion with a cat-that-ate-the-canary look on her face. He stared at the cracks radiating from the eyehook in the ceiling, numbly wishing he hadn’t tried to help her. He should have let those thugs beat, perhaps kill, her. He wished he were dead. If only he’d died with his family. The man shouted vehemently, and although Slap didn’t understand the native Eridani language, he knew the poor slob was cussing out the emperor. Probably get his tongue cut out  for his trouble. Slap wondered what the guy had done. Istvan laughed. He walked over to Slap and bent over, leering down. “Our guest cannot understand you, Kebba. Speak so he can know your plight.” Stepping back to the wall, the emperor lifted a lever, and the manacle beam began to rise. The pain in his bloody wrists kept Slap from letting himself be hauled upright. He scrambled to get his feet under him. The beam stopped at shoulder height.

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Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three, by L. S. King

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He and Kebba stared at each other. The man’s face had been disfigured some time ago, his nose and ears gone, but the wounds had healed. Like Slap, he’d been stripped of any clothes; old whip scars marred his body. His hands were cuffed together in front of him. “Go on. Tell this barbarian.” “I care nothing for barbarians,” Kebba said in a thick accent. “Only for killing you. You are no god. You are murderer. You took my wife. Made me watch while you tortured and killed her. Then did this to me. And you think I will be a good slave, go away, and be frightened into silence about what I know? I have told others what you are. And I will kill you!” His voice rose and he screamed. “I will kill you!” Slap’s insides curdled. In his mind he heard the screams of his wife and cries of his baby trapped in the burning house while he lay helpless on the ground, battered, back broken, unable to stop the murderers. His agony rose, threatening to choke him. Istvan grinned into Slap’s face and waved his fingers in the air. A guard gut-punched Kebba, doubling him over. The emperor waited until his victim straightened, his eyes gleaming with insane glee. In an almost bored voice, he ordered, “Debone him.” Kebba screamed as the two guards began dragging him toward the archway. Incomprehension gave way to sickening realization. The choking in Slap’s gullet boiled into rage. He dove at Istvan, and actually managed to grab the shoulder of his robe, but the material slipped through his fingers. The fleeting expression of fear as the emperor jumped back with a cry tossed fuel on Slap’s burning heart. Feeling like a chained dog, Slap threw himself

forward in futile fury, cursing Istvan with every foul word he knew. He couldn’t reach the madman, but he couldn’t stop trying either—his soul wouldn’t let him. Istvan stayed just beyond Slap’s reach, laughing quietly. Taunting him. With a growl, Slap lunged again and—something broke loose. Istvan’s eyes widened; he gasped, leaping backwards. They both looked up. The eyehook hung askew. A snarl escaped Slap, and he dove again at his prey. A cascade of rubble fell as the pulley broke free. Slap landed on top of the emperor and cursed that his hands weren’t free to choke the life out of the monster. He smashed his forehead into Istvan’s face. Royal blood spurted from his nose— red, like everyone else’s. “Don’t shoot!” Nadi screamed. “I want him alive!” Guards pulled him to his feet. Unholy joy coursed through Slap. He used the long wooden beam as a weapon, swinging it wildly, knocking the guards about like rag dolls. “Don’t shoot!” Nadi yelled again and called something in her language. The emperor struggled to his feet, holding his nose, and shouting in Eridani. The guards stood, frozen, uncertainty on their faces. Nadi ran for the archway. Slap would die in a few seconds when the guards made up their minds who to listen to, but he was going to take out as many as he could. He dove at the ones who ran toward him from the dais. He hit them like a battering ram, bowling them down. Every moment Slap expected to feel fiery pain explode his back or head, but he kept on, determined to fight to the end. A PB rifle fired, and again. Wild laughter

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three, by L. S. King

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echoed in the room along with agonized screams. Slap twisted around to see Kebba shooting guards, his face glowing with fierce delight. Brago’s Bands! How did he get hold of a weapon? No time to ask. He turned to find another target for his beam and saw the source of the screams—Istvan convulsing on the floor, minus his legs. Huh. Good. His mother would have chided him, telling him to have pity, and find forgiveness. So would Shallah. But Slap couldn’t. He didn’t want to try. Let the murdering lizard get some payback. He spun to survey the room. The guards were all down, the archway sealed. Nadi huddled near the door, eyes wide. Istvan continued to shriek as Slap’s and Kebba’s eyes met. The man grinned. “I said I would kill him,” he said over the dying wails of the emperor. Slap managed a shaky sigh. “So you did.” “You—you were like a, a god.” He nodded at the ceiling. “You broke free.” Slap swayed. Blood dripped freely down his arms. Hoping he didn’t pass out, he walked toward the dais. The cushions looked so soft. He sat with a moan. “No man—” Istvan half-hissed, half-sobbed, “is...is a god—but me.” He grabbed his wrist, his fingers fumbling at a small instrument there. He spoke into it, in his native language, and laughed. The lights dimmed. Nadi screamed and ran to her brother. She grabbed his arm, and spoke into the device. Twice. She pounded on his chest, yelling something. The emperor sneered and his face went blank. Nadi shot up, eyes wild. “We will die! The palace. He has spoken destruction. To prove he is a god.” “Then we die!” Kebba raised the rifle and fired. Disbelief shone on Nadi’s face, and she fell in a

heap. Slap stared at her crumpled, burned body for a moment, wanting to feel...relief, fulfilled revenge—something. But he only felt empty. Her death didn’t restore the honor to his soul. An earthquake-type rumble shook the room. Slap met Kebba’s eyes and saw his own desperation reflected. # Tristan dragged the unconscious guard into the room and locked the door. He sat at the computer station and, using the guard’s code card, began trying to find Slap. He stared the display in disbelief. Nothing. Not possible. A code word? Knight perhaps. He entered it. Again nothing. A red light blinked at the bottom of the display, and Tristan’s stomach tightened. Had he tripped some alarm in the system? His hands flew over the console. No, something was wrong with the entire computer system of the palace. What in the name of Dallor’s moons was going on? A trembling rumble began, and he jumped up. An explosion somewhere nearby shook the room and a wall bulged. Tristan leaped to the door. It took two swipes to get the door unlocked. He ran into the hallway. About twenty feet to his right— the way out—stones blocked the way. Another boom sounded above and rubble fell, pelting his body. Tristan tried to protect his head with arms as he swung around, thinking and trying not to panic. A third explosion knocked him off his feet. Rock fell around him, battering him, pinning him.

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: Deuces Wild, In the Lap of the Gods, Part Three, by L. S. King

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Stay tuned as Deuces Wild continues next month with part four of: “In the Lap of the Gods” To catch up on previous episodes of the adventures of Slap and Tristan, visit: http://loriendil.com/DW.php

L. S. King
A science fiction fan since childhood, L.S. King  has been writing stories since her youth. Now,  with  all  but  one  of  her  children  grown,  she  is  writing  full-time.  She  has  developed  a  swordand-planet  series  tentatively  called  The Ancients.  The  first  book  is  finished,  and  she  has  completed rough drafts of several more novels  as well.  She serves on the editorial staff of The Sword Review,  is  also  their  Columns  Editor,  and  writes  a  column  for  that  magazine  entitled  “Writer’s Cramps”  as  well.  She  is  also  one  of  the  Overlords,  a  founding  editor,  here  at    Ray Gun Revival. She  began  martial  arts  training  over  thirty  years ago, and owned a karate school for a decade. When on the planet, she lives in Delaware  with  her  husband,  Steve,  and  their  youngest  child. She enjoys gardening, soap making, and  reading. She also likes Looney Tunes, the color  purple, and is a Zorro aficionado, which might  explain her love for swords and cloaks.

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JASPER SQUAD
Episode 5: The Wrong Side of the Law
by Paul Christian Glenn
ith a swift click, Lieutenant Melendez in the dropspace over Kennecal City.” flipped the release switch and heard “They’ll be locked on to our signature by then,”  the hydraulic hiss of the latch. The Jasper’s said Melendez.  cockpit swung free from its locked position and “No  they  won’t,”  said  Rand.  “Watch  this.”  He  rotated around the perimeter of the ship’s upper dropped  to  the  floor  and  wriggled  beneath  her  disc. She watched the stars flash past in a blur, chair, through her legs, and up under the control  and tempered her momentum as the pursuant console. fighters came into view. “What  the  hell  are  you  doing?”  She  looked  There were four GPF Raiders, single-pilot down to see him smiling up at her, that crooked,  assault ships tricked out with heavy cannons, mischievous grin that he got when he was up to  rapid-fire wing shooters, and modified thrusters. no good. There was, she noted, no attending detainee “Nice view,” he said, winking. “Maybe I’ll ride  ship. down here from now on.” Melendez felt certain that the Jasper’s She  kicked  him  in  his  side,  and  he  winced  prototype engine could outrun them, even with dramatically.  “They’ll  be  in  range  any  the navsys on the blink, but Captain Spill was second,”  she  said.  “What  are  you  doing?”  apparently sick of running, and he wanted a “Crossin’ the nav output signal with our external  fight. com receivers, then—ow—” A tiny shower of blue  She allowed the Jasper to continue racing an sparks sprayed down into his eyes. “...then routing  escape course, but she locked the cockpit down it back through the sig generator.” and sat facing the fighters as they bore down. “That’s  gonna  garble  my  nav,  isn’t  it?”  she  The two foremost fighters fired at her, the bright sighed.  The  incoming  Raiders  were  visual  now,  blue cannon bolts exploding from beneath their little spots of dangerous light, growing brighter.  cockpits, and Melendez leaned on the control “Yep,” said Rand, sliding out from underneath  rod, idly dodging the blasts. her. “But it won’t be the first time you’ve brought  “Melendez!” The captain’s voice roared over us  into  port  without  a  nav.”  As  he  said  it,  the  the com. “What’s the status?” lights  on  the  console  flickered  out,  and  she  was  “I think I can take them,” she replied. flying by eyesight. Not such a big deal once they  hit atmo, but out here in the black, it was easy to  Rand  leaned  over  her  shoulder,  his  long  jaw  get disoriented without the nav. jutted forward in a grim grin. “I don’t think you  Rand  stood  up  and  put  his  hands  on  her  have to,” he replied. “We’re only a few leagues out  shoulders, looking out at the approaching raiders.  from  Tantrias  IV.  If  you  can  keep  us  from  gettin’  He leaned down and kissed her neck, then bit it  tagged for the next ten minutes, we can lose ‘em  playfully. “I love this little ship with all my heart,” 

W

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 5, The Wrong Side of the Law, by Paul Christian Glenn
he  said.  “Don’t  let  ‘er  get  blowed  up.”  With  a  squeeze, he ducked out of the cockpit to run down  and secure the cargo for landing. One day, she thought, I’m going to get a real  job,  where  I  don’t  have  to  fly  by  the  ring  of  my  neck every day. Captain Spill was talking to her through the com. “Lieutenant, we’re trying to fix the nav down here and everything just went kablooey. Can you see anything?” She turned her head as a tiny shower of blue sparks sprayed down toward her face, then quickly finished the wiring and pulled herself out from under the console. She jumped up, switched the piloting system over to manual, and grabbed the control rods as they extended from the console. She tapped the intercom. “I’m scrambling the sig,” she said, landing back in the pilot’s seat. “We’re just a few minutes over Drinias Pel. Tell the cadets to secure the deck for landing.” “Dammit, Lieutenant,” rasped Spill, “I said we’re not running away! If the GPF isn’t willing to talk...” “I will not fire on friendly craft, Sir,” she said quietly. “Friendly?” asked the Captain. “Was that a friendly cannon blast I heard fly past a minute ago?” “It was a warning shot,” she lied. “They’re not going to blow us into black. We’re all jeepers here.” “Bring the cockpit around,” said Spill. “I’m coming up.” She reversed the thrusters and, after a sharp, gut-dropping loop, the ship sped forward, straight toward the raiders. They saw her coming in fast and all four ships  began to fire. With practiced precision, she anticipated the impact point of each blast as it hurtled 

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toward them, and lightly pulled the control rods  back  and  forth,  up  and  down,  neatly  avoiding  every intended missile. Within seconds she was upon them, and she  feigned  a  drop.  The  raiders  dipped  their  noses,  and she pulled hard on the rods, cutting sharply  up and above them. As she swept overhead, she  dropped  four  grav-bombs  from  the  beneath  the  ship, and seconds later she felt the impact of two  raiders exploding in the vacuum behind her. Her  mind  went  dark  as  she  shut  out  any  thought  of  the two GPF officers who’d just disintegrated. She  knocked the thrusters up to maximum speed and  dipped the nose of the ship. There, below her, was  Tantrias IV, and even from this distance she could  see the glow of Kennecal City. “I  told  you  we  didn’t  need  to  engage,”  said  Rand, over the com. “Couldn’t evade four raiders all the way down,”  she replied. “Too risky.” “Four’s doable,” said Rand. “Two’s better.” “You’re going to Cruist when you die,” he said.  “You know that, right?” “Good thing,” she said with a smile. “You’ll need  someone to keep you company down there.” The explosions had bought her a few seconds  of  precious  lead  time.  Without  the  navsys,  she  couldn’t  see  behind  her—this  little  bugship  wasn’t  fitted  with  a  visual  monitor  system—but  she knew the two remaining fighters must have  regrouped by now. They were faster than she was,  but she would gain another few seconds of lead  when  they  hit  atmo,  because  the  raiders’  armor  wasn’t  compatible  with  quick-entry  heat  shields.  They would have to slow down, and by the time  they regained their advantage, she would be well  lost within the busy dropspace above Kennecal. Two more lives had bought her another day of  freedom.  How  many  lives...she  put  it  out  of  her  mind. No point in thinking about it. Some people 

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 5, The Wrong Side of the Law, by Paul Christian Glenn
were lucky, some weren’t, that’s all. Captain Spill was raging. “I said bring the cockpit around, Lieutenant, and I wasn’t asking! You can’t evade four flickin’ raiders all the way down.” She suspected he was right, but they were about to hit atmo, and if she could make it that far, the air would be filled with thousands of sigs in which to get good and lost. The com shuddered with sharp crashing sounds, and in her mind she could see Captain Spill on the other end, smashing his fist against the speaker in frustration. She bit her lip to suppress a smile. Four bolts of cannon fire lit up the cockpit with blue fire as they passed overhead, and she realized the raiders were already closer than she thought. Time to see what this prototype ship can do, she thought. Leaving the thrusters at maximum press, she hit the latch release. She didn’t need to use the slider—the Jasper’s forward motion force sent the loose cockpit swinging in a sickeningly fast arc around the perimeter of the ship; in two seconds she was on the opposite side, facing the pursuing raiders. With the latch still loose she began to swing the ship to and fro, hoping to frustrate the raiders’ weapons locks. With each motion, the cockpit slid back and forth, and she fired the Jasper’s light cockpit cannons over the enemy’s cockpits, just enough deterrent to keep them from concentrating on firing their own cannons. The gambit worked. Because she was firing from the cockpit instead of the main cannons mounted on the ship’s hood, her fire came from the opposite direction from which the ship was swinging. The incongruence bought her nearly a full minute as the raiders scrambled to reassess their attack pattern and reform. They realigned, creating a “U” formation

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around the Jasper, and Melendez realized she wouldn’t be able to defend herself from both sides at once. She dropped the Jasper hard and low, trying to buy a second in which to think, but instead of following her, the raiders began to recede, as if she was suddenly outrunning them. It took her a second to realize why, and when she did, she nearly panicked. The raiders were slowing for atmospheric entry, while she was flying blind and backwards— at maximum speed. Gritting her teeth and swearing under her breath, she slammed the cockpit slider hard left and swung herself around to face the looming planet. Temp indicators began to flash, and for the third time in two days, the Jasper’s ear-piercing alarms began to screech. “Lieutenant,” barked the Captain, “what the—” She switched off the intercom and pulled back on the thrusters. It was a dangerously fast deceleration, and the ship began to shudder, but she was able to pull up and ride along the outer edge of the atmosphere for a few seconds before finally dropping through. White fire lit up the cockpit, and she felt the heat even through the protected glass, and the ship shook violently. Just as it seemed they would fly apart, the sound and fury vanished, and she was bathed in the soft light of a foggy green sky over Drinias Pel. The serenity was short-lived, however, as a massive freighter appeared suddenly in her peripheral vision, then pulled up sharply with a thunderous roar, barely avoiding a midair collision. If the com hadn’t been switched off, she was certain a string of obscenities would be rattling through. The fog cleared as she continued the descent, and a hundred thousand buzzing crafts appeared below. Melendez had never been to Drinias Pel,

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 5, The Wrong Side of the Law, by Paul Christian Glenn
but it looked like an unregulated airspace, which meant flying without the navsys would be particularly sticky. She had no idea where the raiders were at this point, but she knew they wouldn’t fire into a crowded airspace, so without hesitation she plunged down into the chaos. Bugships and freighters and transport hurtled around them in all directions, and she felt comfortable in the pandemonium. After the quiet isolation of Wroume, it was good to be back on a civilized planet. Hovering above the city, she spotted the aerial satellites of several spaceports, and turned in the direction of the biggest one. More activity would mean less people paying attention. With a sigh, she switched the com back on and waited for her castigation from the captain. “Use a generic undercover docking code,” he said simply. “And take us to a tuning bay. After that entry, I want the ship analyzed.” “Yes, Sir,” she replied. “I’m coming around.”

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of paranoia hovering once again. She had done it more times than she could count, but that was in another life. In the last few years, she had grown comfortable with the confidence that legitimacy brings. It felt good to know that she was on the right side of the law, that whatever danger lay in wait, she was one of the good guys. Now that confidence was gone, and the old, familiar jitters were creeping back. She realized she had her hand on her shooter.

“Look like you could use a drink,” croaked the  ancient barkeep, looking up at them from a pair  of  platform  shoes  that  still  didn’t  lift  him  more  than a head’s measure above the bar. “We had a rough entry,” said Rand. “Two bouts  of sour and spice.” The  little  man  pulled  the  bouts  and  handed  them up to the bar. Melendez took the oversized  mug  in  her  hands  and  sipped.  The  burning  spice  felt  good  on  her  throat,  and  the  sour,  she  knew, would feel good on her mind within a few  # minutes. Within fifteen minutes, they had docked the “You  know  anybody  called  Stathora?”  asked  Jasper, arranged for an integrity analysis and Rand  casually.  “We’re  supposed  to  meet  him  were standing in the crowded terminal. Captain here.” Spill had not spoken a word to Melendez since The barkeep took a filthy wet rag in his little  she’d appeared on the ship’s deck, and she knew hands  and  began  studiously  wiping  the  bar.  he was waiting for a moment to get her alone. “Sounds familiar,” he said. “Think he might come  She would have felt better if he had chewed her in from time to time. You here on business?” out immediately. When Spill was silent, it meant “That we are,” said Rand coolly. “Any idea how  he was trying to temper himself. Unfortunately, I might get in touch with him.” she knew, he wasn’t very good at it. “I  stay  out  of  it,”  said  the  little  man.  “I  got  a  “Let’s find a bar,” said Spill. “Stamp, stay business to run here, and I don’t need trouble.” close, or I’ll drop you in front of the whole damn spaceport.” “We’re not looking for trouble, I assure you,” With that, he stalked off. Stamp, Jackaby, said Spill. “Just a place to flop for the night with and Rey followed, and Melendez brought up no questions asked.” the rear, keeping an eye open for anyone who The woman behind the bar smiled knowingly might recognize the group. It felt strange to walk at Melendez, and winked at the captain. “No disthrough a crowded spaceport with the spectre respect meant, Officer,” she said politely. “It’s just

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 5, The Wrong Side of the Law, by Paul Christian Glenn
that we get our share of ruffians here, being so close to the port. If you have an official stamp, I can get you a discount for the night.” The Captain leaned forward and lowered his voice. “That won’t be necessary. This is a quiet operation, if you understand me. Just get me a room key and tell me what time your shift ends.” The bartender didn’t blush, but turned her mouth down to hide a flattered smile. She reached under the bar and slid a keycard across the bar. “I’ll have a drink or two here before I leave,” she said. “Around ten.” Melendez watched the captain screw his eyes up in approximation of a wink, and she rolled her eyes. The most charming thing about Spill was his complete and utter lack of genuine charm. The Captain turned around to survey the bar and took a swig of his drink. Rey and Stamp sat at a small table nearby trying to look inconspicuous, and Jackaby stood at a public com tapping speedily at the keys. “What the hell...” muttered Spill. “Jackaby!” Jackaby jumped, flipped the com off and walked toward them. “Who were you talking to?” demanded Spill. “Uh, no one,” said Jackaby. “I was calling up a map of the city.” “Won’t need it,” interjected Stamp. “I know people here.” Spill handed the keycard to Jackaby. “Get upstairs and keep to yourselves. We’ll be up in a few minutes.” The two cadets led Stamp to a narrow staircase on the other side of the bar and disappeared. Melendez turned to the Captain. “Don’t know if I like leaving a couple cadets alone with that one,” she said. Spill ignored her comment and got straight to the point he had been avoiding. “You’re not to sit in that pilot’s seat again, Lieutenant.” “I got us in safely,” she replied.

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“Yeah, and the GPF knows we’re here, somewhere. If you’d taken out those raiders, we’d be—” Melendez interrupted with a fiery whisper. “With respect, Sir, you need to get something straight. If we are still GPF officers, then we do not fire on our own. If we are not GPF officers, then we’re just a band of renegades with a stolen ship, and that means I don’t take orders from you. You can’t have it both ways.” Spill narrowed his eyes. “Apparently you can.” “I’ve worked hard to get where I am,” said Melendez, “and I’m not going to give it up that easily. I don’t know why the GPF wants us dead, but I know that if we kill another officer, there’s no coming back, no straightening it out. You may be a burned out old man, but I’ve got a little fire left in my engine, and I plan to keep flying for a long time. Sir.” Spill swigged his drink and breathed in through gritted teeth to cool the burn. “I know where you’ve been, Janet, and I know you don’t want to go back, but you know as well as I do, you could have gotten us killed out there. Maybe you don’t give a damn about a burned out old man like me, but we’re carrying two kids on that ship. Kids. Think about that next time you decide to gamble with everyone’s lives.” “I’m don’t want to gamble,” she said. “We need  to  play  this  one  safe.  If  he  reneges  on  the  price,  don’t argue. He doesn’t know the hardware’s hot,  and the sooner we get it off our ship, the better.” “I’m cool as a calamweed, baby,” winked Rand.  He dropped his mug on the bar and slid toward  her. She felt the heat radiating from his skin as he  leaned close, and she shivered as he slid his arm  around her midsection. They had been running for  weeks, and it had been a long time since they’d  had  time  for  personal  recreation.  Rand  put  his  lips to her ear and whispered, “After the exchange, 

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 5, The Wrong Side of the Law, by Paul Christian Glenn
let’s get a room and stay for a few days. I’ll—” “Everybody  out!”  called  the  barkeep  as  he  emerged  from  a  dark  room  behind  the  bar.  Without a word of protest, the bar’s sparse population  stood  and  ambled  out  through  the  only  apparent exit. The barkeep adjusted his oversized  glasses and said, “He’s coming down. Keep it civil,  and keep it quick. I got a business to run.” Melendez nodded, then turned to see Stathora  emerge from a dark, narrow stairway at the far  end of the room. He was a tall, intimidating figure,  built  like  a  freighter  and  bald  as  a  moon.  He  smiled an empty smile and held open his empty  hands as he walked toward them. Melendez had  never met the man in person, but she’d seen him  on com, and was shocked that he was even more  imposing in person. “You come alone?” asked Rand, surprised. “We  have  civil  business,”  replied  Stathora.  “I  see no reason to bring goons.” “You’re my kind of businessman,” grinned Rand.  “The little man here wants us to keep it quick, so  I’m gonna lay it out. We’ve got eight crates of 65Es, sittin’ in the belly of our little ship, all tricked  out with launchers. No chargers, just the shooters.  All unregistered, all clean.” “Very  good  news,”  replied  Stathora.  “You  are  in bay twelve, yes? The rough-looking bugship?” “She’s a freighter,” protested Rand, “Just not a  very big one, that’s all.” “She’ll be useful,” said Stathora. “Have  you  got  a  new  job  lined  up?”  asked  Melendez. “Nothing  specific,”  replied  Stathora,  “but  my  men are claiming your ship from my friends at the  port right now. After we’ve unloaded the cargo, I  imagine I’ll tear her apart and sell the parts. I’ve  got a good trade in ‘used’ hardware.” “What is this?” asked Rand. “Change  of  plan,”  relied  Stathora.  “Instead  of  paying  you  for  the  shooters,  I’m  taking  your  ship,  keeping  the  money,  and  offering  you  both  positions in my organization.” Ray Gun Revival magazine

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“Not  interested,”  said  Melendez,  placing  her  hand on her shooter. “We work freelance.” “And you’re not taking our ship,” added Rand.  Stathora  continued  to  smile  his  empty  smile,  but his glare hardened. “I am, indeed, taking the  ship. You can accept my generous offer, or you can  scrap for yourselves on the streets here. It makes  little difference to me.” “Listen, pal—” Melendez  saw  the  instant  that  changed  her  life  before  she  heard  it.  The  back  of  Rand’s  head  popped  open  and  dark  red  blood  shot  out  of  his  mouth  in  a  great,  gushing  fountain.  The  blast  echoed  through  the  empty  bar,  and  she  screamed. His body seemed to fall in slow motion, and in  that instant she saw everything that brought him  them  here.  Escaping  the  dirty  streets  of  Punet,  eloping at the age of 15, winning the money for  their  first  freighter  in  a  rigged  card  game  on  Yoma,  meeting  the  ugly  old  woman  who  gave  them  their  first  job,  laughing  drunk  after  their  first dangerous scrape...she saw it all as his body  sailed forward. She finally heard the blast as his  limp frame slammed against the concrete floor. She  turned  to  see  the  aged  little  barkeep  holding  a  shooter  in  his  hand,  a  65-E  just  like  the ones she’d brought here. She reached for her  shooter and then realized it was on the floor. She  had already dropped it. “I  haven’t  the  patience  to  argue,”  sniffed  Stathora. “What do you say, little lady?” Before  she  had  breath  to  speak,  the  front  door of the bar exploded and the room was full  of jeepers, armed to the teeth and screaming at  them all to get on the floor. She stood, frozen, her  eyes locked on the unnatural form of Rand’s convulsing body. She felt the rough hands of the jeepers on her  body, forcing her to the floor beside him. She saw  his  eyes,  wide  with  surprise,  and  she  screamed  again.

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Serial: JASPER SQUAD, Episode 5, The Wrong Side of the Law, by Paul Christian Glenn
The bartender was screaming, shrinking in fear behind the bar, and pathetically holding a mug over her face for protection. Melendez looked down at the terrified woman over the barrel of her shooter. “Janet!” shouted Spill. “Put it down! What the hell are you doing?” In her mind, she saw the raiders flying straight toward her. The pilots. The Academy. The blood trickling from Rand’s nostrils. She saw her Officer ID Number: 03317717. The face of Kremm Stathora as she testified against him. Rand’s pupils, dilated wide. “I love this little ship with all my heart...” The images swam together and she felt dizzy. She felt the captain’s rough hands on her arm as he wrenched the shooter free from her hand. She closed her eyes, and her mind went dark as she blocked out the thoughts, the images, the memories. When she opened them again, she saw the captain apologizing to the shaken bartender. Melendez walked toward the exit. She heard Captain Spill calling her name, but she kept walking. “Janet!” She walked through the exit and blinked in the sunlight. The busy push of people on the street knocked her back and forth as she stood, motionless. Seconds later, Captain Spill appeared in front of her. “What’s going on,” he demanded. She ignored him and started walking toward the spaceport. “Where are you going?” called Spill. “I’m going to turn myself in,” she said.

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

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007

Jolly RGR

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The Jolly RGR
Up next for Ray Gun Revival, Issue 18

Saving Beta by Robert Mancebo Faced with lying allies, friendly primitives, mass murder, impending planetary  destruction, and a very pretty girl, things are about to become very personal for the  Star-transport Cambridge’s security officer. Eye of Nukulo by S. T. Fortsner When night falls and hunter becomes prey, who will come to the rescue? John Brenter  is soon to find out, as he faces the most challenging hunt of his life, surrounded by  half-understood aliens. Serial: The Adventures of the Sky Pirate Chapter 9, Finding Chain by Johne Cook Flynn and Mr. Pitt begin their first year at the Haddirron Naval Academy, discover the  merits of demerits, and set about finding Chain. Featured Artist Serial: Memory Wipe, Chapter 9 Orbit Over Nothing by Sean T. M. Stiennon

Ray Gun Revival magazine

Issue 17, March 01, 2007