AOH :: PLANET03.TXT|
Planet Magazine #3
INSIDE THIS FICTION-CENTRIC E-MAG:
Science Fiction by Rick Blackburn, Brian Burt, George
McCann. Fantasy by Romeo Esparrago. Poems by Peter
Alejandro Cortes, Kevin McAuley. Humor by Steve Ross.
WHAT YOU ARE READING:
Planet Magazine is, believe it or not, a free quarterly
(or thirdly) of science fiction, fantasy, horror, poetry,
and humor written by beginning or little-known writers,
whom we hope to encourage in their pursuit of the perfect
story. There could be other reasons, of course,
motivations that are obscure and uncomfortable; instincts
linked perhaps to primal, nonreasoning urges regarding
power and procreation -the very same forces, no doubt,
that brought down the Atlanteans and their alabaster-
towered oceanic empire. And the Dark Gods laffed.
Even so, Planet is nationally distributed in electronic
form (text and DOCmaker versions) via American Online,
CompuServe, AcornBBS, and elsewhere, as well as in
printed form via the editor and his pals. Feel free to
pass this magazine along, in an unaltered state,
electronically or as a printout. We welcome submissions
(see end of document for details), questions, comments:
send them to PlanetMag@aol.com. (Note: To find out what
PLANET isn't, see separate 200-terabyte file available
via the Galactic Data Core [300 baud only, sorry].)
Planet Magazine as a whole, including all text, design,
and illustrations, is copyright (c) 1994 by Andrew G.
McCann. However, all individual stories and poems in this
magazine are copyright (c) 1994 by their respective
authors, who have granted Planet Magazine the right to
use these works for this issue in both electronic and
printed forms. All people and events portrayed in this
magazine are entirely fictitious and bear no resemblance
to actual people or events. This publication has been
registered with the Copyright Office of the U.S. Library
of Congress. You may freely distribute this magazine
electronically on a noncommercial, nonprofit basis to
anyone and/or print one copy for your personal use, but
do not alter or excerpt Planet in any way without direct
permission from the publisher (PlanetMag@aol.com).
Planet Magazine is published by Cranberry Street Press,
Brooklyn, N.Y., Andrew G. McCann, publisher.
EDITORIALS AND LETTERS:
THE "CONTROVERSY" CONTROVERSY
Like other publications that wallow in the very thing
they condemn, we take exception to the unchecked
availability of free electronic magazines that focus on
SF, fantasy, humor, and the like. And it's this very
comment of ours that is part of a larger, recurring
problem in journalism today -all of the so-called
editorialists who have nothing better to do than
manufacture some "controversial" issue when they actually
have, as I just stated, nothing better to do. It's the
proverbial storm in a teacup masquerading as, say, a
nor'easter in a Frost Giant's tankard. (An actual storm
in a teacup, though, would be worth writing about:
lightning like broken toothpicks, clouds like a kitten's
hairballs, rain like a spritz from a bottle of Calvin
Klein's Maternity ["One Spray and You're Pregnant --
for Men or Women"].)
Of course, the most egregious example of journalists who
manufacture opinions are the Noze-Boxians of the Tahbloyd
star system, who, as everyone must know by now,
communicate solely through anti-celebrity gossip on an
all-band telepathic signal. I mean, who appointed these
selfappointed experts? These "exo-journalists" spend
their days pretending to be in a state of high dudgeon
over the activities of whatever actor du jour, solely
because they feel the compulsion to "fill space."
Perhaps these overcommentating windbags believe what they
are doing is all in fun (the editorial "wheeee," as my
young nephew says), or maybe they believe it's all true
and necessary. Whatever the Noze-Boxians' reasons, I say
their sort of activity must stop.
This brings me to the real issue at hand -- I hereby call
upon the combined member-planets of the Galactic Council
to quickly set up a task force to begin looking into
whether or not to recommend considering some sort of non-
binding suggestion to encourage the diminishment of the
aforementioned behavioral manifestations, eventually even
looking into the Noze-Boxian problem, perhaps. As such,
I humbly add that I would be available to chair that
august body and am more than willing to set down the task
force's conclusions in a brief quintilogy of novelized
autobiographies filmed in 4-D VR that I envision
completing by my 65th birthday.
I think I've made my point.
Andrew G. McCann, Editor
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
(Editor's note: Letters will be edited for clarity,
brevity, and because of our deep-seated need to control
the thoughts of others.)
Dear Editor: Really enjoyed this last issue. In
particular, I really liked Brian Burt's "Climbing Jacob's
Ladder" and would like to see more of his work. The
others that stood out were the bizarre little story by
Steve Ross, Cortes' poem with the reincarnation theme,
and Andy McCann's story on Konen's therapy session.
Way to go,
Dear Editor: I thought your first issue was great (the
S.F. on-line magazine I've seen yet). Is issue No. 2
[Editor's note: See "Where to Find This Magazine" in the
Dear Editor: NICE ZINE!
via the Internet
Dear Editor: Great second issue guys! I am still
impressed. I also have a thought on how to improve the
'zine just a bit. (It's free, so I am sure not
complaining, believe me.) From time to time I've seen
programs with bookmark capability. If it's not too tough
to do?... It would sure be a benefit to someone like me
who is too busy to sit down and read the 'zine all the
way through. I put it down and pick it up a week
later... and can't remember which story I left off with.
Anyway, just a thought. Great job!
[Editor's note: This suggestion was passed on to Mark
Wall, author of the DOCmaker software program that Planet
Dear Editor: Brian Burt's "Climbing Jacob's Ladder" was
a really fast-paced story that was disturbingly
realistic. If we don't all want to live in that world,
we'd better start trying to make changes right now. Re
Margaret McCann's "Hints From Hazel," my favorite was
"The neighbor's three rambunctious boys...." I enjoyed
your second issue very much, and am looking forward to
FAKE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Dear Editor: Given Jupiter's enormous mass, I think it's
quite likely that the denizen's of that planet's ancient
and distinguished democracies are quite wide and low in
terms of body type. Thus, it is doubly a tragedy that,
given these individuals' large "areas," so many were no
doubt slaughtered in that terrible, brief reign of
Carmaker-Chevy, the cometary body whose fragments sewed
death and destruction everywhere amongst the Golden-
Espired Cities of the Great Bruised Spot. Now I imagine
that, in the wake of this horror, a tyrant usurper has
gained control of the Jovian Imperial Senate. I ask you,
then, who better than the citizens of the U.S.A. to
contribute cash, via me, to help these suffering Freedom
Fighters of Jupiter in their just cause to topple the
Dictator Or-Tegah (or whatever its name is that's
probably in ruinous power). OK? So send your money via
e-cash to BuyJove@aol.con.
Yours in Galactic Personhood,
Howdy, Kid (shifts stance slightly and squints into the
rising sun; a bead of sweat rolls down furrowed forehead
to drop off left eyebrow; right hand hovers lightly over
holstered pistol; fingers flex once, stop. Far overhead,
a lonesome dove calls for the mate it will never find. A
young boy, standing near the door of McGoon's hardware
store, suddenly crunches down loudly on a mouthful of
Ruffles potato chips.): Didn't mean no harm. Yuh made
yerself real plain.
Ahm jes' talkin' to th' lady. I understand -- she's
with you. I got no problem with that. I'm a happily
relationship-ified man. Now, I'll jes' be movin' along
and gittin' outta yor'n way. No hard feelin's. I
understand. Oh, yeh, 'n' here's muh piece (extends gun
handle-first, but spins it suddenly and shoots, hitting
the Kid squarely in the heart at nearly point-blank range
and killin' him stone-daid). Oh yeh, 'n' there's muh
bullet, too. Har-har.
Backin' slowly away,
Pork City Slim
Esteemed Editor (scattered, throaty chuckles from the
audience): As one of the stage's greatest actors
(sudden, respectful silence), it was most interesting to
receive your rejection letter (abrupt roar of laughter).
I have given some thoughts to your comments (single bark
of mirth from balcony, dropping to sustained titter) on
my autobiography (general applause rises and fades; sole
titterer continues). However, I am angry (body topples
from upper tier; a scream is suddenly cut off). And
don't think for one, bloody minute that I'm enjoying any
of this (tightens tie with a swift jerk; face reddens).
After all (hush settles over audience; faint whimpering
recedes as usher hustles out wounded), WHO ARE YOU?
(Thoughtful, sustained applause, segueing to standing
ovation). Thank you, thank you (roses, handkerchiefs,
book contracts, bratwurst tossed onto stage; curtains
close, house lights go up, and audience departs, with
armed guards emerging from the wings to clear out
M. Point d'Epee
Dear Editor: You might not believe this, but last night
I saw President Clinton in my living room. He just
walked in, stood in front of my red couch from Ikea, and
began discussing his vision for universal healthcare.
After a while, he left. That's it. Anyway, charming as
he is, it was just as well he took off because I wasn't
in the mood for technical details about anything, as I
was in the process of coming down from a two-day binge of
vodka and Despair, the new designer-drug for the mid-90s.
However, I think I did hear our President say something
about retaining funds for low-Earth-orbit detox wards, a
notion that I strongly support.
Hell's Kitchen, New York
My Dear Maharajah: Thank you for the amusing letter
written in the Cockney Style. Your "Leopard" alias seems
most fitting, as it brings to mind our "big cat" hunt of
November last, which, excepting the tragic loss of Fiona
and Crispin in the Vale of Mosquitoes, was absolutely
grin-filled. Your missive also recalls the infamous
Feather Incident back at Eton -- no, but I shan't
embarrass you with the details! With Kindest Wishes for
the Health of You, the Royal Family, and Courtiers,
Junior Lance-Corporal Lancelot Korpirell, Jr., HMRAF
Dear Editor: Thank you for your recent letter and
resume. At this time, we do not have any administrative
positions open in any of our prefectures on Mars or the
Moons of Saturn. For these jobs, in particular, we
prefer to promote from within, as a certain combination
of judgment and diplomacy, tempered by unique experience
(such as the recent, successful repression of the cyborg
revolt at the Titan ammonia mines) is a must.
Nonetheless, with your experience, we encourage you to
apply directly to the Outer Planets Division of United
Galaxy Inc., where we could very well find something
administrative for you in the Division's Planetary
Governing Bureaus. In this way, after a few years of
grit and determination, you might be able to work your
way up to a governorship on the Moons, or perhaps even a
small-town mayoralty on the red planet itself. Good luck
and best wishes.
Magneto X. Henchperson, Asst. Director
UGI Personnel Div., Center City, Phobos, Mars M0010 #
NO MAN OF WOMAN BORN
by Brian Burt
Karyl Carson dipped the wings of his solar skimmer and
dropped low over the field of pherns. The photoelectric
plants flashed beneath him like an emerald sea, their
fronds twisting with indiscernible slowness as they
tracked the sun's path across the sky. This field
covered four hundred square kilometers, its intricate
root network supplying power for the surrounding farms
and the capital city of Olygius. He leveled the skimmer
and sighed. So lush. So beautiful. To the west, a stand
of methuselah trees rose above the pherns, one of the few
species native to Verdis that remained untouched by the
bioengineers. Trunks as thick as buildings stretched
gnarled limbs in all directions, dangling leaf-webs to
catch the golden rays of Prometheus. From this distance
the methuselahs looked like an army of giant, hairy
ogres. Some were older than humanity itself. When he
gazed at them, Karyl felt certain that they were the
guardians of Verdis, ready to cast the human invaders
back into space at the slightest offense. If he did not
handle the next few days just right, their wrath would be
He lifted the skimmer's nose to clear the forest and
continued westward toward Olygius, eyes twitching
heavenward. Somewhere far above him, the mothership from
Titan orbited Verdis like a third moon. Its cold shadow
followed him wherever he went. He tried to push his
thoughts beyond the darkness, to enjoy the graceful
cityscape approaching beyond the trees. Olygius grew out
of the fertile soil of the Makarri Plain like a
sculptured oasis, filling him with a pride that
temporarily burned away the shadows. His ancestors had
shaped this place, nurtured the interconnected web of
green towers and living structures that made Verdis
unique in all the galaxy. His great-grandfather, his
grandfather, his father -- all brilliant biochemists,
all wise leaders in their time. Now the mantle of power
passed to him as the only son of Gabriel Carson, a right
of succession guaranteed by planetary charter. A great
honor. A greater burden.
He banked the skimmer toward the city center, landing on
the pad beside the Ministry complex. One of his aides -
- Curry, or Curren, he couldn't remember -- rushed to
help him from the craft, wide-eyed and breathless. "The
Titanians have confirmed the meeting, but for nine
o'clock instead of ten. Minister Bailey says they want to
show us who's in charge."
Karyl nodded. "For once, I agree with him. Let's move,
we don't have much time." The two of them strode briskly
toward the private entrance to the Central Ministry,
stepping through the security membrane without pause.
Karyl winced as the veil of protoplasm recognized his
tissue and oozed around him to permit him entry. Anyone
not authorized would find the membrane as impermeable as
a wall. Safe and reliable, but the gooey stuff still
made his skin crawl. He hurried down the main artery of
the complex after Curren, his footsteps muffled by the
pliant skin of the corridor.
A few minutes later Karyl and his aide passed through a
second security membrane into the Control Center. Karyl
quickly scanned the wall of screens and monitors, a
marvel of bioelectronics. Security Minister Jepson
turned to meet his gaze. "Morning, sir. We received
their transmission about twenty minutes ago. Mallow and
three of his deputies should be shuttling down from the
mothership any time now. It's one mother of a ship, all
right. Twice the volume of our entire complex, five
times the mass. More armaments than a whole squadron of
Star Patrol. Signal beacon identifies it as the C.S.S.
Karyl let out a staccato burst of laughter. "The
Titanic! There are no students of ancient Terran history
on board that ship."
"Excuse me, sir?"
Karyl's grin faded and he shook his head. "Never mind,
Jepson. I can see you flunked history too." He saw the
man's face tighten and instantly regretted the barb. Why
did he bait them? Why did he alienate them all? They
could not always hide the mockery behind their eyes, the
patronizing smirk beneath a smile. Sometimes they did
not even try. A tiny voice echoed in his head, shrill
and chiding. You're a freak, Mr. President. Any man
brought to term in his mother's womb instead of in a
gestator is not fit to lead. Any man who has not been
genetically enhanced must be inferior. In a world of
perfect people, he stood out like a mutant with his
rounded belly, his balding head, his hooked nose. The
eccentric 'back-to-nature' beliefs of his parents made
him an outcast on the planet he commanded, filling him
Karyl abandoned his dark musings and turned to his aide.
"Have Ministers Bailey and McMahon report to my
His own problems would wait. The Titanians certainly
* * *
Karyl slid through the membrane that secured his inner
office, grateful for a moment of privacy. Pacifico lay
curled beside his desk, one orange eye fixed on him. He
bent to pick up his pet glitter-dragon, stroking the
creature's iridescent scales with affection. Nerve toxin
on the scales quickly paralyzed the dragon's predators in
the wild, but it had a delicious soothing effect on
humans. God, how he needed that today! With great
reluctance he released Pacifico and passed into the
Presidential Conference Chamber.
Science Minister McMahon was already seated behind the
long conference table, while Diplomacy Minister Bailey
paced in front of it. Karyl gave Bailey a curt nod and
returned McMahon's smile. Evan McMahon was one of the
few people inside these walls who treated him like an
equal. The young science minister was also a genius with
phytometallics, a fusion of plant chemistry and
metallurgy. Bailey, for all his intransigence, was
breaking new ground in phytopolymers. They were all
scientists by choice, administrators by necessity.
Science had built this world. Karyl always felt far more
comfortable in his private lab than inside the somber
walls of the Ministry. He took a seat beside McMahon,
lowering himself onto the form-fitting petals of the lily
chair. The elegant chairs were McMahon's own creation.
They usually impressed visiting dignitaries, but Karyl
doubted that Aldous Mallow would even notice. He
motioned to Bailey with annoyance. "Sit down, Quentin,
before you bruise the floor."
Bailey glared back, his voice edgy and a touch
condescending. "You might want to do some pacing
yourself, Karyl. This new Premier of Titan is not one
for negotiation. You'll have a much more difficult time
of it than your father did."
Karyl winced. The wound caused by Gabriel Carson's death
was fresh and painful. "You're right. Old Killian was
tough but fair. He wasn't out for conquest. Mallow is a
different breed. My contacts on Arsenia say he's
effectively annexed their planet. They're calling him
the Wolf of the Outer Rim. I wish to god Killian was
Bailey sighed. "I wish to god your father was."
McMahon shook his head in disgust. "You're way out of
Karyl smiled tightly. "Forget it. That's something else
Quentin and I agree on. But right now, the three of us
have to present a united front. If Mallow senses
weakness, he'll chew us up. And Verdis with us."
Karyl's comm badge beeped before either man could answer.
"Mr. President, this is Jepson. The shuttle is down.
Premier Mallow is on his way."
Karyl and his ministers settled into their lily-chairs
and waited in tense silence until a security trooper
appeared outside the entrance to deactivate the membrane.
Aldous Mallow stepped inside, followed by three burly
deputies. The man was even more menacing in person than
on the holovids. Like all Titanians -- descendants of
the first human colonists who had settled Titan centuries
ago -- Mallow had been genetically engineered to endure
the frigid climate of his homeworld. He stood at least
two meters tall, his face buried beneath a shaggy mat of
hair, mustache, and beard. Tufts of body hair curled over
the edges of his purple dress uniform. His smile
unleashed a feral vision of fangs gleaming in a dark
forest. The Premier of Titan looked like a mythical
Terran werewolf frozen halfway through his
Mallow extended a beefy arm, his growl a perfect
complement to his appearance. "President Carson, a
pleasure. My condolences for the loss of your father."
Karyl rose and offered his hand in return, watched it
disappear into Mallow's massive paw. Both parties found
their seats, the Titanians not without trepidation as the
lilies strained to support their bulk. "Thank you,
Premier Mallow. Congratulations on your new office. I
understand your victory was a landslide."
"Yes. The people of Titan need help. I offered it, and
they responded. That is why I am here. In the past we
have relied heavily on food imported from Verdis to
support our growing population. The shipments you send
are much appreciated. But we find ourselves in a crisis
situation. Titan is a cold, harsh planet. The narrow
agricultural belt along our equator cannot support us.
Hydroponics cannot support us. Current imports from
Verdis cannot support us. We need more, and will gladly
pay for it."
Karyl nodded warily. "I see. How much more?"
"To meet our immediate needs, let us say twenty times the
current level of grains and vegetables."
McMahon whistled. "With all due respect, Mister Premier,
you can't be serious."
Mallow's lupine smile faded. "I am very serious.
Children are starving on Titan. It is my duty to feed
Karyl stared at the Premier without blinking. "It is my
duty to feed my own people. Verdis depends on a
delicately balanced network of ecosystems to keep its
biosphere intact. We have limited our population to the
Maximum Planetary Load, per Galactic Commonwealth
directive. When we have crops in excess of that required
to support our population, plus a contingency factor, we
export them to Titan. We will certainly continue to do
so, but we will never be able to supply twenty times our
current exports. Your children are starving, Mr.
Premier, because Titan has allowed its population to
expand well beyond its certified MPL. That is the
problem you must face."
Mallow's face darkened. "Whether we have exceeded some
Commonwealth bureaucrat's arbitrary limit is irrelevant.
My people are dying. We must have food."
"I repeat, we can't give you any more without endangering
our own people. However, we have developed some advanced
agricultural techniques that may prove useful on Titan.
The details of those techniques are freely available via
STARNET for your bioengineers to review. I suggest you
make use of them."
"We have no time to learn techniques. My people need to
eat now, today! I had hoped you would appreciate our
situation. However, if you refuse to compromise, we are
fully prepared to take what we need. The choice is
yours. You can be paid for it, or not."
Karyl stood, propelled to his feet by growing anger. "My
ancestors spent centuries creating Verdis. They wove a
living, breathing technology into this planet. I'm not
about to let Titan's greed strangle it."
Mallow's glare became a snarl. "I won't take insults
from a freak who was carried in his mother's belly. I
bet she squealed like a pig when she squeezed you out!"
Karyl bounded around the table, his fist curving up into
Mallow's shaggy face with a thud. Mallow roared in rage.
Before he could raise his own fists, the petals of the
lilychair clamped his arms against his sides. He
struggled to break free, but the phytometallic tissues of
the chair held him fast. He bellowed useless orders to
his deputies, who were similarly shackled. Karyl cradled
his bloody hand and smiled. "My science minister
designed those chairs well. Struggling will only make
them bind tighter." He pressed his comm badge and a
dozen security troops slipped through the membrane.
"Gentlemen, please escort the Premier and his party back
to their shuttle."
One of the troopers deactivated the chairs to release the
Titanians. Aldous Mallow looked as if he were about to
spontaneously combust. "You sealed your own fate, freak.
Verdis will get nothing from us. Nothing!"
Karyl nodded. "We ask nothing but to be left alone.
Verdis has its own defenses, Mr. Premier. Remember
Mallow stormed out, escorted by Jepson's security team.
When he was gone, Karyl sank into a chair. "Evan, get a
medic in here. I think my hand is broken."
Bailey shook his head in disbelief. "Losing your temper
is one thing, Karyl, but you... you had to punch the most
dangerous man in this part of the galaxy."
Karyl studied the red smear on his knuckles. "Mallow
decided to swallow Verdis long before today. And I
needed to draw some blood."
"You drew it, all right. Was it worth a planet?"
Karyl Carson studied his bloody hand. "It might be,
Quentin. We'll see."
* * *
Karyl was working in his private laboratory when the comm
badge beeped. Through a haze of exhaustion he realized
that Prometheus had risen above the tree line, that he
had worked all night. He strained to put authority into
his voice. "What is it?"
McMahon's voice sounded as lifeless as his own. "Karyl,
it's Evan. Mallow hit us this morning -- hard. We
need you at the Ministry."
Karyl's innards burned as if digesting broken glass.
"Did he kill anyone?"
"No human casualties, but... Look, just get here as fast
as you can."
Karyl nearly ran to the skimmer. When he touched down
outside the Ministry complex twenty minutes later,
McMahon and Bailey were there to greet him personally.
The fact that Quentin Bailey seemed too shocked to fire a
verbal salvo told Karyl enough to make his chest hammer
with dread. "What's happened?"
Bailey could only shake his head. McMahon grabbed
Karyl's arm and pulled him toward the entrance. "Wait
until we're inside." Karyl did not even have the energy
to shudder as they squeezed through the gelatinous
membrane and hustled down the corridor into the Control
Center. Security Minister Jepson stood in his usual
place, tight-lipped and somber. "Morning, sir. Come to
survey your handiwork?"
Karyl saw it then, in Jepson's face, in nearly all the
faces. The unspoken accusation. McMahon spared Karyl the
need to answer. "Give him a break, Jepson. He doesn't
know yet. Just put the aerial view on the monitor."
Karyl stood silently, a condemned man awaiting his
execution. The main screen shimmered, coalesced into a
bird's-eye view of an immense crater. As the camera
pulled back, he recognized the surrounding scenery and
McMahon whispered as if at a funeral. "At around eight
o'clock the Titanians obliterated ten square kilometers
of the Galayo Forest. The heart, where the oldest stands
of methuselahs grew. Jepson thinks they used some kind
of antimatter beam. There's nothing left, Karyl. They
even vaporized the first three meters of topsoil."
Karyl's knees nearly buckled beneath the weight of his
despair. "A thousand centuries of living history gone.
Bailey finally managed to find his voice. "You
challenged him to attack, and he did. It looks like he
figured out how to hurt you the most. He sent a
transmission thirty minutes ago to say this was just a
demonstration. If we don't comply with his demands,
he'll start taking out the phern fields next. He'll
Karyl closed his eyes to escape the nightmare image. "I
can't believe it. I can't believe even Mallow could do
Bailey's tone grew shrill. "He might not have if you
hadn't baited him like you bait everyone around here.
Damn it, Karyl, you dared him to do it!"
McMahon's voice rose to meet Bailey's. "You were pretty
invisible during that meeting, Bailey. Didn't have the
guts to say a goddamn thing, but you're the first to
criticize the man who stood up to that hairy bastard."
Karyl struggled through a fog of exhaustion and misery.
"Stop bickering over what's done. Let's decide what to
do next. Jepson, is there any way we can neutralize the
Jepson shook his head. "Whatever it was, the beam left
no trace, no radiation signature. We have nothing to
analyze, so there's no way we can stop it."
"What about the anti-meteor defense net. Could we adapt
that for an offensive strike against their mothership?"
Jepson frowned. "Good idea, but it won't work. The
satellite net is designed to deflect large meteors so
that they pass by Verdis, not to destroy them. The
Titanian ship is made of some alloy we can't identify,
but it's tough and scanner-proof. The worst we could do
is shake them enough to make a few of them spacesick."
Bailey's voice broke the silence, his words edged with
panic. "Look, we're a sovereign planet, a registered
member of the
Galactic Commonwealth. We're entitled to protection!
Why don't we just contact Star Patrol?"
Karyl's laughter came hard and brittle. "We're on the
Outer Rim, Quentin. Thirty thousand light-years from the
galactic center, fifty thousand light-years from Terra.
We're part of the wild frontier. They're not sending
Star Patrol out here unless it's a full-fledged war. If
it comes to that, we'll be gone before they get here.
No, we're on our own."
Bailey could not keep the fear out of his voice. "All
right, Karyl, you tell me. What on Verdis do we do now?"
The chamber suddenly grew as silent as a tomb, disturbed
only by the hum of the bioelectronics. Karyl scanned the
faces, some filled with hope, most with resignation.
Silently he cursed his father for dying. "What we do now
is contact Aldous Mallow on the Titanic. We invite him
to a parley tomorrow morning."
Security Minister Jepson did not flinch. "What do I tell
the Premier, sir?"
"Tell him we want to discuss his terms."
Karyl left the chamber with as much dignity as he could
muster amid the angry buzz of the Security staff. He saw
a new look in the faces now, even in McMahon's. He was
no longer just a freak. He was the freak who had sold
their heritage. With ponderous steps he made his way
back to the skimmer and turned its nose toward home.
There was work to do.
* * *
Aldous Mallow stared across the table with bright,
predatory eyes, as if he had just eaten a fresh kill. Or
was about to. A pair of deputies flanked him, while
McMahon and Bailey sat on either side of Karyl. Mallow's
guttural voice rasped against the walls of the conference
chamber. "So, President Carson, we try again." He bared
his teeth and leaned closer, his words pitched low. "You
have no insults for me now, eh, freak? No fists?"
Karyl swallowed the urge to swing at him. "I just want
to end this little disagreement, negotiate a treaty to
benefit both Titan and Verdis."
Mallow leaned back, smiling magnanimously. "That's what
I've wanted from the start. My deputies and I have
drafted just such an agreement. We are prepared to
establish Verdis as a Titanian protectorate. The Outer
Rim is a dangerous place, far from the security of Star
Patrol. We will furnish a portion of our fleet for a
base on Verdis, to insure your planet's safety. In
exchange, we will accept fifty percent of your
McMahon looked angry and slightly sick. "Half our crops?
What are our people supposed to eat?"
Mallow smirked. "They can eat methuselah mulch for all I
care. You had a chance for a better bargain several days
ago, but you chose to spit in my face. Now your people
suffer the consequences. We can build an operative
orbital base in two standard months. We will, of course,
begin taking our agricultural allotment immediately.
That is our
Karyl tried to keep the tension from his voice. "Fifty
percent would expose Verdis to extreme hardship. Can we
compromise at, say, forty percent?"
"The percentage is not negotiable. If you question it
again, our share will be sixty percent."
Karyl's head drooped and his shoulders sagged, the
picture of a broken man. He hoped Mallow would see it
that way. He turned to Bailey and McMahon, but neither
said a word. There was nothing to say. He turned back
to his hulking adversary. "It will take time to discuss
this with the rest of the Ministry. If you could give us
a few days, we'd be grateful."
Mallow's eyes glowed. "You have until tomorrow. If we
do not hear from you, we will be forced to dissolve your
government." The Titanians stood in one motion. Karyl
rose as well, extending his hand. Mallow smiled
quizzically before taking it, pressing hard enough to
grind the bones to powder. "Until tomorrow." The
Titanians lumbered from the chamber without another word.
McMahon slouched forward, all color draining from his
face. "Well... that's it, Karyl. Verdis is finished."
Karyl smiled a thin, desperate smile. "Not quite yet.
I've just begun a little experiment with our friend the
Bailey shook his head sadly. "This is one you can't
bluff your way out of, Karyl. What can we possibly do?"
"We can wait, gentlemen. And we can hope."
* * *
Karyl Carson was sitting in his office with Pacifico in
his lap when Jepson hailed him. "Sir, we've got a
priority visual transmission from the Titanic. Premier
Mallow demands to speak to you personally."
Karyl gave the glitter-dragon one last stroke for luck
before setting it aside. "I hear you, Jepson. Tell the
Premier I'm on my way."
When he stepped through the membrane into the Command
Center, McMahon and Bailey were already there. He moved
onto the holovid platform and faced the ghostly image of
Aldous Mallow, who looked less than his usual
intimidating self. Mallow slouched in a chair, apparently
unable to stand, and glared at Karyl with tangible
hatred. Karyl noticed the unnatural cant of his head and
felt a rush of triumph. "Mr. Premier, how convenient
that you contacted us. We were just about to transmit
our response to Titan's offer."
Mallow tried to scowl as spittle oozed from the corner of
his mouth. "Carson, what have you done to me and my
"Are your personnel experiencing a slight loss of muscle
control?" He had never seen such a pure embodiment of
rage as Mallow struggled to reply.
"You know what we're experiencing! Half the crew are
completely paralyzed, the rest shuffling or crawling
through their duties. What kind of poison is this,
Karyl shook his head. "I'm afraid your people are
suffering from a virus that affects some of our livestock
populations. It attacks the central nervous system,
gradually disabling neuromuscular control until the
victim is little more than a vegetable. It's harmless to
us, but we suspected it might mix poorly with Titanian
physiology. I'm afraid you and your deputies must have
contracted it when you shuttled down here."
Mallow raised his shaggy head with what looked like
immense effort. "I consider this an act of war. We
could vaporize your cities in a matter of hours."
Karyl nodded, his stomach twisting into tight, hard
knots. "You could. But then you'd be destroying the anti-
viral serum along with us. Without it, the Titanic will
be a ghost ship by the end of the day."
Mallow struggled to sit up, his words slurring into a
barely comprehensible stream. "If you can cure this
accursed sickness, Carson, then this may be your lucky
day. I'd be willing to spare the life of your planet for
the lives of my crew."
"I'm afraid that's not good enough. We've reviewed your
treaty offer and that's not good enough either. We've
drawn up our own agreement whereby Titan guarantees the
sovereignty of Verdis and agrees not to pass within five
light-years of the Prometheus System without the express
invitation of the Verdisian government. It further
stipulates that Titan will furnish Verdis with complete,
detailed specifications for its antimatter beam to
promote mutually beneficial sharing of technology. If
you would just affix your electronic signature to the
treaty and transmit the specs for the antimatter device,
we'll make both available to STARNET. We'll shuttle up a
medical crew to the Titanic immediately afterward."
Mallow's reply dissolved into obscene static. "You
cowardly, blackmailing son of a pig. If I give you the
antimatter beam, it will be one blast at a time!"
Karyl forced a grim smile, fighting to conceal his
terror. What if I've misjudged this maniac? What if his
temper is stronger than his instinct for survival? He
ignored the shrieking anarchy in his mind -- it was too
late for second thoughts. "That's your choice, Mr.
Premier. Feel free to discuss it with your deputies.
But I'd suggest you do it quickly. In a few hours, I
doubt that any of you will be capable of transmitting a
Karyl could only stand there as the seconds stretched,
staring into Mallow's rabid eyes. He saw the accusing
ghosts of his own people reflected in their fevered
light. Dear God, he's crazy. He'd rather die than lose.
Karyl felt his own sanity eroding in the silence. When
Mallow finally spoke, it took Karyl several seconds to
comprehend the words. "We accept your terms. I
underestimated you, freak. I won't do it again."
As the image of Aldous Mallow vanished, the Command
Center erupted into bedlam. All around Karyl people
cheered and clapped. Evan McMahon nearly shook his arm
off, and old Quentin Bailey actually hugged him. Tears
of relief welled in Karyl's eyes.
It was Bailey who first regained the power of speech.
"Brilliant, Karyl. Brilliant! How did you do it?"
"It didn't take a genius to figure out that Mallow would
come after us sooner or later. For the past several
months I've been studying Titanian medical records on
STARNET, looking for a weakness in their structure, a way
to exploit it without harming us. Pacifico gave me the
answer. Glitterdragon toxin soothes us, but with some
adaptation it can be made to identify and attack Titanian
neural tissues. I was fairly sure it would work, but I
needed a test. That first meeting, when I so
diplomatically slugged the bastard, I drew enough blood
for analysis. After a few trials I refined the chemistry
as much as I could and spliced it into a quickacting
retrovirus. I made sure my skin was coated with enough
of the stuff to guarantee Mallow would be infected during
that last meeting. Like us, the Titanians have been
enhancing fetal genetic structure for generations.
They've produced a planet of near-duplicates with very
little genetic differentiation. That made it easy to
come up with a plague that would affect virtually all of
Bailey blanched. "My god... the same thing could be done
Karyl did not say a word. There was no need. He saw
something new behind the eyes of the men and women in the
Control Center. The voice in his head no longer taunted
him. We understand now, we who are so alike, so perfect.
The same thing could be done to us... but not to you.
McMahon grinned and patted him on the back. "You've
given us something else to discuss when this is over. I
think it's time you had some company."
After an hour of hugs and handshakes, Karyl excused
himself to the privacy of his office. He stroked
Pacifico and let waves of tranquillity wash away the
terror of the past few days. For the first time, he was
truly the President of Verdis. For the first time, he
did not feel alone inside these walls. For the first
time, he fully appreciated why his mother had borne him
the way she had. So did others in the Ministry. Things
would change on Verdis. There would be more human
variety, good and bad. Evolution instead of stagnation.
There would also be changes on Titan. Designing a virus
to attack the Titanians had been difficult. Creating an
antivirus to cure all but one of them had been nearly
impossible. But he had done it. The crewmen aboard the
Titanic would respond well to the serum, but their
commander would grow sicker and sicker. Aldous Mallow
was already a dead man. He was just too dangerous to be
Karyl could only pray that the next Premier of Titan
would be more benign. If not, Karyl would arrange to
And Karyl Carson would be sure to shake his hand. #
Story copyright (c) 1994 Brian Burt.
(Editor's Note: This story has appeared in AOL's Fiction
Prologue to "The Star Nomad Chronicles"
(Vol. II, Part II -- "Tales of Casa Alto")
by Rick Blackburn
Casa Alto, 70 Ophiuchi
After the interceptors had gone overhead, the
neighborhood children had waited excitedly for more
thrilling sights. But when half an hour had passed with
no further action, while the children talked excitedly
about the possibility of invasion, Bobby, David, and
several of the neighborhood kids had gone to the mini-
park at the end of the cul-de-sac court where they lived
and began a spirited game of kickball. It was said that
kids on ancient Terra, since before the advent of space
flight, had also played this game. It always gave David
a sense of awe, thinking of those dozens of generations
of kids playing kickball since the dawn of time.
When the Vipers had again flashed overhead at supersonic
speed, everyone had stopped playing for a moment to look
up. Their view of the Starport was obscured by distance
and a glade of trees, but when the "Wodin's Beard" blew
up, it was heard all over the city.
By the time they got into the street, there was an
enormous cloud of dense, black smoke towering into the
sky. As the kids watched, the cloud was shot through
several times by hints of red and orange flame. From a
long way off came the warble of fire sirens.
"David," one of the older kids said, "You're an expert,
your dad works at the Starport. What do you think it
"I don't know," he said slowly. "Maybe a CRASH!" he said
The last crash at the Starport had happened several years
ago, when an ill pilot had lost control of a giant
freighter during landing. It had plowed into one of the
large monohydrozine storage tanks at the edge of the
Starport. It had caused a fire that had raged for
several days before being brought under control by the
Fire Department. The possibility of a crash at the
Starport caused much excited conversation.
Janice Everett, 29, long brown hair and hazel eyes,
pulled the family jetcar up to the curb and leaned out
the window to yell at her son in the park. "DAVID!" she
shouted, a little exasperated because David was being
stubborn and pretending not to hear her calling him.
"DAVID!" she shouted louder. Thankfully, one of his
playmates nudged him and pointed at her. David came
running up to the jetcar.
"Come on, David. Get in."
"Aww, but Mommy, we...."
"David," his mother said, in the tone of voice that said
she was cross and in no mood to argue. "I'm not going to
tell you again."
"Aww," David whined, but turned to wave good-bye to his
playmates, unaware of the fact that this might be the
last time he saw them alive, and climbed into the jetcar
next to his mother.
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"To your father's office," Janice said, trying to remain
calm. Eric had sounded grim as he'd outlined what the
Saurian Admiral had said, and now she was frightened for
her child's life.
"Leave everything that isn't already in the car," Eric
had told her, "and you and David get to the Starport at
once. There's still a chance that I can get us safely
offworld and out of this mess."
"The Starport?" David asked excitedly. This wasn't so
bad after all, he thought, considering the extra status
he would have in the gang by being able to report on
whatever had happened at the Starport, first-hand.
The Terran Imperial Marines at the Starport gate
recognized the car and came to present arms in salute.
They both grinned despite the seriousness of the
situation as the Port Captain's small son returned their
salute. At that point, neither of them were aware of the
death sentence hanging over all the children of Tarsus.
David jumped out of the jet car before Janice had
completed the landing cycle, while the skids were still
six inches off the ground. She wished that David had not
seen his father do the same thing countless times,
leaving the car on auto to complete the landing cycle.
Janice mistrusted automated equipment of all kinds and
insisted on retaining manual control of the jetcar at all
Thankfully, Eric was waiting for them outside the Port
Captain's bungalow, and David streaked up to him, yelling
at the top of his lungs, "Daddy, daddy!"
Eric effortlessly scooped up in one arm the twenty-seven
kilograms of affectionately squirming little boy. "Hiya,
Brat!" He said, grinning down at his young son.
"Can I go if you have to go up an inspect a starship?"
David asked eagerly.
"Yes, I promise. You and Mommy are going with me
everywhere I go now," he said.
David was puzzled, the words sounded great and promised
great things in the future, but there was an undercurrent
of tension in his father's voice that David was not used
to. For a moment it bothered him, but then he happily put
it out of his mind as he walked into the office and
realized that there were other kids here today.
He recognized several of the other kids; there was
Christopher and Laura Random, age eight and eleven --
the son and daughter of his father's chief lieutenant.
Christopher and David delighted in teasing Laura, who was
just beginning to discover boys in a whole new way.
Laura, although she dearly loved her little brother (and
could stand David -- the little snot) considered both
younger boys to be almost unbearable pains in the behind.
As far as Laura was concerned, the single most important
person in the room was twelve-year-old Michael Bryhers -
- much cuter than her last boyfriend. Taller than
average for his height, Michael had chocolate brown hair
and green eyes. Laura thought he was the most delicious-
looking boy she'd ever seen.
Michael, searching the faces in the room was glad to see
his friend, Tyrone Sanders -- and a little distressed
to see Laura Random. He knew that Laura had the hots for
him and she had already let it be known at school that
she would very much like to go steady. For three days
the youngster had been trying to duck her -- it wasn't
that she was unattractive (just the opposite, in fact)
but he simply was not ready to get that serious with any
girl yet. With Tyrone here, he'd have an excuse to
pester his friend's dad in the control tiers....
It was less than a half hour later that the adults, by
unanimous vote, decided that the children should play
outside in the small, grass-filled park area across the
access road from the Port Captain's complex.
With a mixture of joy (because they would be outside) and
sadness (because they might miss something), the children
went outside. Soon a vigorous game of chase was under
way. As the sun began to inch toward the horizon, the
children were glad to see that their parents had
apparently forgotten about the time and had not called
them in. By mutual agreement among the two dozen
children, no one found it necessary to remind the adults
of the time and the impending sunset.
The swollen, blood-red disk of the sun was just touching
the horizon when the attack came.
Inside, Eric Everett swore and reached for the comm-web
as he watched the Distant Air Warning Radar, which
electronically patrolled the air space around the
capitol. On it, a squadron of Planetary Assault Cruisers
could be seen, streaking toward the city from out of the
west. They were accompanied by hundreds of Viper
interceptors. On the commweb the face of Major
McKinnison, the Marine Detachment Commander appeared.
"Mac," he said to the Marine Major, "It's started. Get
those 40mm ack-acks limbered up."
"Aye, Aye Sir. The ack-acks are manned and ready. We'll
knock down as many of those slimy lizards as we can."
"Spaceman's Luck, Major."
"And to you sir." The comm-web screen went dark.
Outside, the children looked up as a half dozen Vipers
roared overhead, shot straight up, and did a bloom over
their heads. The younger children "oooed" and "aaahhhed"
as the spectacular sight unfolded. The older children
looked at each other with a premonition of danger.
The Vipers began their strafing runs, firing at
everything on the ground. Sun-bright flashed intensely;
pure red, green, and yellow-white crisscrossed the sky as
the Vipers fired on ground targets and the Marine ack-ack
batteries returned fire.
David stood, his mouth open. For a moment he didn't
understand what was happening. Then a pulsar beam struck
a warehouse across the wide access street from where the
children were playing. The building exploded into a red
orange fireball with a deafening report.
Another Viper roared overhead, strafing the ground. One
of the hyper-laser blasts struck Laura full on as she
attempted to shield Christopher -- both children
vanished in a puff of ionized gasses. An instant later,
another laser beam struck the building where David's
mother and father were. With a loud crack and a huge
gout of brick-red flame, the building fell into a pile of
"Nnooohh..." David shouted, and ran toward the debris of
the Port Captain's office. A cloud of choking smoke
nearly smothered him as he desperately tried to dig
through the rubble with his bare hands. Crying bitterly,
he finally uncovered a hand sticking out of the rubble.
The signet ring he recognized as his father's.
Gradually, David managed to uncover most of his father's
upper body -- the man's legs were still pinned under a
huge steel joist beam.
Eric was semiconscious as he lay trapped in the rubble of
what had been the seat of Star Nomad power on the planet
-the Port Captain's office. David was shocked at the
weakness of his father's grip as the man took his son's
"David," he croaked, and suddenly blood began to trickle
out of the corners of his mouth and from his ears. "You
have to listen carefully to me, I don't think there's
much time left."
"Don't talk, Daddy. You're hurt. I'll try to get you
out. I -- I haven't been able to find Mommy yet...."
"David," Eric said softly. "You remember I told you this
morning that you might be called upon to be brave --
braver than any nine-year-old should have to be -- this
is that time."
David began to cry softly.
"Mommy is dead," Eric said bluntly, "And I'm dying.
There is nothing that you or anyone else can do about
that now...." Eric paused to pant and try to clear his
Outside, the attack was still going on. Michael Bryhers,
the only other survivor of the group of care-free kids
who had played together a short half hour ago, staggered
into the ruined building, and automatically began to work
at helping David dig Eric free.
"David, I'm dying, and the next few days are going to be
very hard for you -- but always remember that you are a
Star Nomad. Someday this will all be over and the Star
Nomads will return. YOU must go to Valhalla, and stand
before the Eagle Clan. I am sorry that I will not be
there on your thirteenth birthday to see you participate
in the TEST, which will be your passport to Nomad
citizenship." Eric took the heavy gold signet ring from
his finger and handed it to David. "Always safeguard
this," the Nomad said. "It is the symbol of your
birthright ... and your proof of right, should any
challenge your right to stand before the Eagle and take
David's sobs had turned to sniffles, but the boy managed
to say, "I promise, Daddy."
Eric used the last of his life force to turn to Michael.
"I'm sorry about your parents," he said. "You and David
must watch over each other ... Spaceman's Luck...."
And with those words, Eric Everett, Lord Commodore of the
Fleet, Knight of the Realm, and small boy's hero,
departed from this corporeal, three-dimensional existence
and entered infinity. Deep star probe had always been
Eric's favorite assignment.
Michael looked at the man and knew that he was dead.
Poor David, he thought. His own relationship with his
father had been strained at best, and now the 12-year-old
found that he could not cry over the loss of his parents.
David had buried his face against his father's chest and
was weeping uncontrollably now. Awkwardly, Michael tried
to pull the younger boy away.
"No! NO!" the nine-year-old cried.
Finally, Michael managed to pull David away. "You heard
what your father said," Michael tried to scold him. "I'm
suppose to watch out for you now ... you're gonna be like
my little brother now...."
He could do worse for a brother, Michael reflected. He'd
always liked David because he wasn't a showoff or a
crybaby ... like most kids his age.
"Yeah," David said, sniffing and wiping his nose on the
sleeve of his shirt. "I -- I guess you're right.
Where are we gonna go?" He looked up at Michael. David
was an only child, and the idea of having an older
brother was a new and exciting concept. David comforted
himself partially by observing that Michael looked a bit
like what he imagined his father might have when he was a
KKAAHHH BOOOMMM OMMM! OOMM!
The shock wave of exploding mono-hydrozine washed over
them with a painful pressure on their ears.
"Come on," Michael said, heading straight for the jetcar
park. "The Starport is going to be a major target for
They reached the jetcar park. It had not taken a direct
hit, but the debris of several buildings close by had
piled up in the park. Brushing shards of blasted,
blackened permaplast off a sleek sports car that still
looked in good shape, the two boys climbed in.
"I've always wanted to drive one of these," Michael said
with authentic enthusiasm. Michael fired up the ignition
cycle, and the jet car rose into the air. He nosed it
out onto the vast expanse of Starport Avenue and headed
east, opening the throttle wide. The boy kept the car
low to the ground to provide the worst possible target
for the prowling Vipers. The jet car howled up the avenue
at 300 kilometers per hour, half a meter above the high-
The air overhead suddenly flashed, and then a flickering
yellow-gray replaced the deep indigo of the Tarsan
twilight as the city's defense screens were switched on.
Immediately, it came under bombardment from the alien
fleet. A severalsquare-kilometer patch of the screen
shifted up the spectrum from yellow to green and finally
to blue-white as a volley of photon torpedoes smashed
into the screen, detonating against the intense counter-
energy field generated by the city's defense.
The Vipers who had been caught inside the screen were, of
course, living on borrowed time. One by one, that time
ran out as the city's ack-ack cannons caught them or they
ran out of fuel. The Saurian pilots knew this and were
attempting to cause the maximum amount of damage.
The PAC's had landed and disgorged hundreds of troops and
armored vehicles that were even now being engaged by the
Armed Forces of the planet Tarsus. Luckily for the boys,
the Saurian main attack had centered on the power-
generator complex, far to the southwest of the city's
center, where the Starport was located. As they drove
through the sixkilometer-wide expanse of Grand Central
Park, they could see the flashes of high-energy weapons
exchanging fire to the south.
Michael breathed easier when they had crossed the open
expanse of the port. The smoking corpses of several
dozen vehicles marked where others had not been so lucky.
It would have been easy for a Saurian fighter to swoop
down on them. Here among the skyscrapers that lined
Starport Avenue, the
boy felt more secure -- less chance of a successful
staffing run in here.
Neither Michael nor David were aware of the Viper coming
up from behind, traveling faster than sound. Suddenly,
it was upon them and firing.
The pulsar cannons fired on the Saurian Viper. There was
fire and smoke everywhere as the street around them burst
into a preview of hell with a sharp
The jet car turned over. David was thrown clear as the
car skidded into the safety rail on the side of the
street. Michael managed to pry himself out of the
wreckage and ran toward David. The jetcar burst into
flame with a dull
The concussion of the explosion threw Michael to the
ground, almost on top of David.
"You okay?" The older boy asked.
David struggled to get to his feet. His left arm,
shoulder, and hip were badly bruised, and it hurt to
breathe or to move his left arm. His favorite playsuit,
faded blue cotton/nylon weave with one of his father's
old unit patches sewn on the sleeve, had a long rip up
the left outside seam, and was torn in other places and
streaked with sweat, blood, and soot.
"I'm okay," David said, and went over to stand beside
Michael to watch the wreckage of the jetcar burn.
Michael's clothes were no more than tattered rags now,
and he shivered as an especially cool breeze warned of
the near-freezing temperatures of midnight in Casa Alto.
As the two youngsters stumbled down the street, their
muscles loosened and it became easier to move.
"You live close to here, don't you, David?" Michael
"Yeah, we'd better get to my house, or we'll freeze out
here. I live about a kilometer down this way and a couple
of blocks over." David indicated a direction.
"Okay, let's go. There doesn't seem to be any smoke over
there -- maybe everything'll be okay."
A half hour later, the boys arrived in David's
neighborhood. All the trees in the park were shattered
like they'd been hit by a tornado. All the houses were
rubble, and some were still burning. The street lights
were out. What light there was came from the stars and
the half-lit bulk of the planet Awesome, now two-thirds
set in the west. There was no sound except for the far-
off barking of a dog and the howling of the wind. The
two boys felt very alone and stood close to each other
with their arms around each other for mutual warmth and
compassion. They turned up the driveway to what had been
David's home. Two walls and a corner portion of the roof
were still standing intact -- the corner where David's
room had been. Slowly and carefully they picked their
way through the rubble and entered what was left of his
room. By some miracle the power was still on.
"Tom Zimmerman, who used to live next door, was about
your size," David said. "Maybe you can find some of his
"Okay, I'll go look." Michael said, and quiet as a
shadow slipped out of the ruined house.
David stripped out of his dirty clothes and reluctantly
threw his favorite play suit in the corner. The autowash
was still operational, and the youngster stepped into it
and let its soothing warm water and ultrasonic sound wash
over him. The autowash's medicomp scanned his body and
injected the proper antibiotics into the spray to deal
with David's cuts and bruises.
Five minutes later, as he stepped out of the unit,
Michael was stripping. He'd found a playsuit and thermal
jacket that fitted him.
"I thought you'd never get out of there!" Michael chided
the younger boy good-naturedly, and brushed past him on
his way to the healing spray of the autowash.
While Michael was in the autowash, David found one of his
playsuits and a thermal jacket he'd need for tonight and
shivering in the 20 C cold -- he hurriedly got dressed.
When Michael was out of the autowash and dressed, the two
boys filled their pockets with the emergency ration
sticks his father had kept for emergencies.
"Ever tasted these things?" Michael asked.
"Yeah. The rice and chicken isn't too bad, but the rest
of the flavors are yucky!"
"Okay. But they do have everything your body needs to
stay healthy and to keep you alive, so we'd better take
them. Who knows how long it'll be before this whole
thing is over with."
"I guess you're right," David said as they stood in the
middle of the street, looking back toward Starport
Avenue. "But I still think they're yucky!"
Overhead, the defense screen was illuminated occasionally
by the blasts of detonating photon torpedoes, but it
looked as though the bombardment had slackened a little
over the past few hours.
"Well, let's try to find another jetcar," Michael said.
"Maybe my neighborhood is in better shape."
"Okay," David said, falling in behind his 'big brother.'
He almost stumbled over something in the dark, and he
bent over to see what it was. It was a chunk of
nondescript metal -- he couldn't tell if it had once
been a cherished toy, a favorite tool or just an empty
container that had been blasted and fused together into a
lump by the fury of nuclear fires unleashed by the
invaders. He dropped it and gave it a kick. With an
unreal, tinny scratchy noise it clattered down the
"Who's there?" a small voice whispered out of the dark to
Surprised, but pleased to find someone else alive, the
two boys immediately yelled back: "David ... David
Everett, and a friend, Michael Bryhers. Who are you?
Where are you?"
"David?" the voice seemed unsure of itself, and then
suddenly Bobby Starkie was running toward them.
"David!" he shouted, "it really is you!" The two young
friends were happy to see each other -- each had come
to the conclusion that they would never see each other
"Who's this?" Bobby asked, pointing at Michael.
"Oh, that's my friend, Michael. His father works at the
Starport with my father."
"We heard on the Tri-Dee that the Starport had been
destroyed," Bobby said, "and I was afraid you were dead."
By silent agreement no one mentioned missing parents. As
they talked, four other children silently came up to
stand around the two newcomers.
"I thought that all you guys were dead also, when we came
and saw all the houses blown up."
Of the two dozen children in David and Bobby's playgroup,
only six, including David and Bobby, had survived the
initial attack. The oldest of the surviving children was
elevenyear-old Debby Carson. She and Michael immediately
took joint command of the small detachment of children.
Debby's nine-year-old brother, Daniel, and ten-year-old
Marcia Valdez rounded out the survivor's band.
Of all the little girls in the neighborhood, David was
glad that Marcia was still alive, because he liked her
the best. She was slim and athletic, with brown hair and
jade-green eyes. Although she was still too young to
have lost her "little-boy" build, except for an almost
imperceptible beginning of a bust-line, David thought she
was perfect. Although older than David, Marcia also liked
him, and on two occasions had allowed the nine-year-old
to think that he had 'stolen' kisses from her, and once
had surprised the younger boy by passionately kissing
back. They had also played 'doctor,' taking turns as the
physician examining each other's body.
"It's getting cold," Michael said. "I think we'd better
find a jetcar and start looking for someplace with four
walls and a roof to sleep in tonight. We might try my
neighborhood, it's further from the Starport on the north
side ... most of the fighting seemed to be to the south.
Maybe my neighborhood is in better shape."
"Yeah, I agree," Debby said. "But first we should have
some supper. I've got a fire going and some hot dogs
roasting that Bobby found. It might be awhile before we
get to have anything again."
For a brief happy moment, they were able to shut out the
sight of the blasted buildings and destroyed environment;
the stench of cordite and tylium fumes; the chaos of
battle around them. They pretended that they were on a
camping trip all by themselves. They cuddled together
under a large bedspread and some blankets, and watched
the distorted glory of the galactic hub regions through
the defense screen rising over the tops of the ghostly
silent buildings around them, while they ate their hot
dogs and planned for a drastically altered future amid
the blasted ruins of civilization.
[Editor's note: "The Bombardment" is the second
installment of a tale of invasion that began in Planet
Magazine No. 2. The following two sections are a Glossary
and Appendixes for the story.]
* * *
THE BOMBARDMENT - Glossary
1) CLASS M PLANET As the human race expanded into
the local stellar neighborhood right after the discovery
of the Stutter Warp Drive in 2014, many different classes
of planetary bodies were discovered. In 2030, the Solar
Alliance Exploration Directorate issued a classification
scheme in which Class M was Terra-norm. The criteria for
a Class M planet is mass = 1.15 to 0.85, radius 1.4 to
0.75, oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere with a surface air
pressure of 1100 mb to 950 mb, abundant hydrosphere
covering at least 35 pct. of the planet, surface
temperature range = -30B C to +30B C.
2) TARSUS The only Class M planet in the 70 Ophiuchi
star system. Tarsus is identical to the earth in mass,
radius, surface gravity, atmosphere, and hydrosphere.
Tarsus is remarkable only because it does not orbit 70
Ophiuchi directly, but the star's brown dwarf companion
(at 1.65 AU from the primary), and it does not receive as
much energy input from 70 Ophiuchi as Terra does from
Sol. The climate on most of the land area of Tarsus is
semi-arctic, only because the brown dwarf, Awesome, is
close enough to Tarsus to supply the energy deficit by
direct infra-red radiation and tidal heating. Because of
the intense tidal heating, Tarsus is very techtonically
3) 70 OPHIUCHI 17.1 light years away, this was one of
the first star systems settled by humans from Terra (c.
2057). It is a double star, the primary being a KO dwarf,
and its companion, separated by 38 AUs, is a faint M6
dwarf. From Terra, these stars appear to be magnitude
6.0, barely at the edge of visibility.
4) AMERICAN ARM At the dawn of the Stellar Age, when
only the Stutter Warp was available to humanity, this
peculiarities mandated an exploration pattern of leaping
from one star to the next in a branching fashion.
Although the discoveries of the Hyperwave Warp and
Transwarp Drives eliminated these restrictions, several
dozen worlds were already inhabited and three major
exploration "arms" (the American, the French, and the
Chinese) already were firmly established in a trade-route
configuration. Because of this, the archaic "American
Arm" is still used to describe the "path" of explored and
inhabited planets from Sol to Mu Hercules.
5) ION GUN (CANNON) A particle-beam weapon employing a
dual-particle beam array. The inner, or core, beam is
composed of positively charged ions -- normally iron
nuclei; while the outer (or "coaxial beam") is composed
of neutral particles. The neutral particles interfere
with most designs of ship's defensive shields, while the
inner beam of charged particles is normally of sufficient
energy to produce total destruction of most targets with
a single shot. (Author's note: Think of the Battlestar
Galactica two-part episode titled "Gun on Ice Planet
6) PLANETARY DEFENSE SCREENS Most civilized worlds
have some form of planetary defense network. Among the
best (and most expensive) are Defense Screens. These are
multi-layered force-fields similar to a starship's combat
shields. But unlike a starship, which has a limited
amount of power available to pump into its shields, the
Planetary Defense Screens are powered off the planet's
primary power distribution net. Thus they are thousands
of times more potent (and harder to break through) than a
starship's shields. Defense Screens are incompatible
with matter, and any material object coming into contact
with them is instantly vaporized. On Tarsus, a PDS was
deemed to be too expensive, but a smaller version WAS
installed in the capital city, Casa Alto.
7) ORBIT GUARD Performs the same function for a planet
as the Coast Guard does for the United States.
8) JET CAR A combination of a jet and a car, just like
its name says. It is basically the same size and shape
as any 20th Century American car, except it has a more
complex wheel-skid arrangement for landings. It depends
upon the use of electro-gravitic fields for lift and a
rather conventional turbojet engine for thrust. It can
operate at altitudes from inches off the ground to about
6,000 meters, with "normal" jetcar corridors in metro
areas like Casa Alto being 10 to 20 meters for east-west
traffic and 40-50 meters altitude for north-south
traffic. The turbojet engine in a stock jet car can
accelerate at about 6 gees and reaches its maximum
(controlled by a governor) velocity of 0.95 Mach in about
20 seconds. Although it is illegal, the power
plant/propulsion package on most jetcars can be "souped
9) COMM-WEB A communications device combining video-
phone, computer, fax, and locator file in one piece of
equipment about the size and shape of a standard phone
(albeit with a three- to seven-inch LCD video screen
10) AUTOVON (network) A dedicated sub-space
communications network reserved for the military. It can
be used both for official traffic and for "personal"
messages to help boost morale on isolated military bases
or starships on patrol.
11) The TEST The coming of age ritual that Nomads go
through as they leave childhood behind and embark on
their adult lives. The TEST is a psychological, mental,
physical, and psychic experience, which has its closest
analog in some of the Amerind tribes of the West and
South West. In these tribes a boy who wished to become a
man purified his spirit by fasting for a period and then
was left in the wilderness to experience a "vision." In
the Nomad version, sensitive psionic amplifiers and
sentient computers are used to delve into the TESTee's
unconscious and create a "vision." The results of each
TEST are confidential, unless the TESTee chooses to
reveal the details. It is a draining experience, both
physically and mentally, and only by the possession of a
superior mind can one "pass" the TEST. The age at which
an individual takes the TEST varies greatly, with girls
tending to qualify in the pre-screening a little earlier
than boys (as with puberty). The average for girls is
12, while for boys it is 14. A person who does not pass
the TEST on the first try can try again, as many times as
he can pass the pre-screen qualifications. Those who are
unable to pass the pre-screen qualifications never take
the TEST and hence are never full citizens. Although the
Government attempts to squelch discrimination against
those who are unable to pass the TEST, those people have
a status similar to the victims of mental retardation in
the mid-20th century on Terra.
12) VIPER An interplanetary interceptor carried on a
mothership, similar to the way fighters are carried on
aircraft carriers. These are single-seat fighters,
mounting two pulsed phaser cannons and capable of
carrying external ordnance such as rocket bombs and
guided missiles. The Viper's home environment is the
vacuum of deep space, where it can accelerate at up to 12
gravities with combat thrusters and achieve relative
velocities in excess of 1,500 km sec-1. Vipers can also
operate in planetary atmospheres, where they can attain
speeds in excess of Mach 3.
13) PHASER A class of energy weapon widely used in the
United Federation of Planets. It can be as small as a
book of matches or as large as a conventional artillery
piece. PHASER stands for PHased Array laSER. Its
operational beam consists of two components, a visible
beam of charged particles which gives the phaser its
characteristic cyan-blue beam and an X-ray laser
component which does the actual damage to the target.
Phaser energy can either shock into unconsciousness,
thermally fry, or disintegrate a material target,
depending upon the power level and frequency of the X-ray
laser. At maximum output, the phaser generates a beam of
closely focused X-rays with a wavelength of 175 e; while
in the stun setting, the X-ray laser portion of the beam
is disabled and only the particle beam is used, producing
a taser-like electric shock to any organic material.
14) TRI-D (Tri-dee) The 24 Century descendent of TV,
it is used both as a three-dimensional form of recreation
and as a method of displaying data in military, business,
or commercial applications. The display unit is usually
a globe-shaped unit from 10 centimeters to 3 meters in
diameter, but it can be displayed with semi-3D from a
flat LCD display.
15) SAURIAN A reptilian race of 45 Delta Aquillae,
sometimes also referred to as "Dracs." They are the
technical and military equal of the Terran Empire, and
some say the philosophical betters because of their
complex and logically grounded philosophical work. The
United Federation fought a war with the Saurians in the
22nd Century, and after nearly a decade of undecisive
battle a peace treaty was finally signed. The Dracs have
been staunch supporters of the Federation's ideals since
then, but have remained the commercial and economic
rivals of the Terrans in several sectors of the
Federation, especially in the Federation Outer
Territories. It is unknown why they choose to align
themselves with the self-styled King of Perseus.
16) TARMARAK The Tarmarak tree is native to the home
world of the Pentapods (DM+43B 1953); it is tough, nearly
indestructible, and is used in the Pentapod "organic"
starships as the outer hull and for radiation shielding.
It is a tenacious plant and can survive in a wide variety
of environments, from glacial to subtropical. Because of
its hardiness and extreme utility, it is the "cash" crop
of more than one frontier planet.
17) CROM The male half of the neo-pagan dual-deity
Crom/Mitra. After the Interregnum and the fall of the
Theocracy on Earth, billions of people turned their backs
on Christianity, believing it to be "demon-inspired" with
its puritanical credo of "If it gives pleasure, it MUST
be sinful." The worship of Crom/Mitra is the primary
religion on the Nomads' home worlds, and since it has
many of the same tenets as Christianity, it was eagerly
accepted as a replacement for the discredited Christian
religion. It should be noted that although the term
"Christian" is used here, it should rightfully be
restricted to the fundamentalist, evangelical "Believe MY
way or I'll KILL ya!" type of Christian. That kind of
"Christian" will be in for a terrible shock when Judgment
18) MONO HYDROZINE Mono Hydrozine is an inflammable
liquid used in rocket propulsion. Mixed with liquid
oxygen, this artificially created fuel yields a specific
impulse of over 9,000 seconds, thus rivaling the fission
nuclear rocket but without the radioactive contamination
problems associated with fission drives.
19) LABYRINTH The Labyrinth which surrounds Casa
Alto's Starport is among the oldest parts of the city.
The streets here are narrow and mostly wind back upon
themselves or lead to cul-de-sacs. The Labyrinth from
the air resembles a giant maze (thus the name) and is
primarily composed of warehouses and light industry with
low-income housing and skid row hotels. Deals are
negotiated here to import hundreds of tons of exotic
drugs, or to export prostitute/slaves of all ages -along
with the more mundane legal import/export business found
around any starport.
20) TERRAN IMPERIAL MARINES The Marines trace their
origin to a number of pre-space Terran military
organizations, including The United States Marine Corps,
the United States Army, the Red Army, the British Army of
the Rhine, the French Foreign Legion, and so on. The
Imperial Marines are divided into two major commands, the
Fleet Marines, which are directly attached to Star Fleet
ships and serve as security personnel and weapons
specialists/gunners, and the Line Marines, who inherit
all the dirty little jobs of war. They get very little
glory and a lot of slogging through alien mud fields
under fire or attacking armored bunkers on some frozen
asteroid in full vacuum armor. The Line Marines also
pull Starport Security. Under the Charter of the UFP,
starports are interstellar ports of call, they serve a
specific planet, but like an embassy, the planet's
jurisdiction ends at the starport's gates. Inside a
starport's perimeter, Imperial Law exists, and is
summarily enforced by the Marines. An attack on a
starport is an attack on the Federation and is severely
21) ACK-ACKs (40mm) A medium anti-aircraft phaser
cannon, with a 40mm diameter bore. The most common
arrangements are in batteries of two (pom-pom guns) or in
fours (Quad-40s). They are meant to be used as point
defense guns from zero to 20 kilometer ranges. They can
be either visually aimed by a gunner or connected to a
computerized Target Tracking Array. They are rated as 60%
lethal to air targets in their zone of conflict (0-20 km
radius; 0-30,000 meter altitude).
22) PERMAPLAST A building material of the 24th
Century. It is stored as a powdery substance like normal
plaster. When it is to be used, it is mixed with water
and a fixative and then sprayed onto a wire or wooden
mold. When it dries (in 1 to 6 hours, depending on the
overall size of the structure) it is the consistency and
density of obsidian. It is widely used on the Frontier
to build "temporary" buildings that are expected to
remain temporary for centuries.
23) PHOTON TORPEDOES A photon Torpedo is a starship's
main offensive weapon. Basically a tiny bit of
antimatter which is compressed into a cigar-shaped
projectile by graviticmagnetic force fields. These force
fields keep the antimatter from detonating until they
have reached the indicated target. Once there, the force
field dissolves and the anti-matter (normally in the 1 to
10 gram range) causes an explosion equal to a 20 to 200
kiloton nuclear device. Other devices, dubbed "Planet
busters" may have as much as a ton (106 grams) of
antimatter and produce a blast equivalent to a 200
megaton nuclear device.
24) GRAND CENTRAL PARK Casa Alto was laid out in
accordance with the Sierra Club Urban planning program
developed in the mid-1990s by the ecological group on
Earth called the Sierra Club. Its basic tenet was to
"split up" vast megalopolises into numerous suburban
centers, each connected by wide belts of natural growth
and land. Thus on Tarsus, contractors must leave 5
square kilometers of "park" land for each square
25) AUTOWASH The autowash is a combination shower
unit. It sprays half water and half ultrasonic sound. In
most models, a computerized auto-med facility also does a
medical scan of the person and adds water-soluble
antibiotics, vitamins, etc., to the water spray to be
directly absorbed into the body while one washes.
* * *
THE BOMBARDMENT - Appendixes
WARP GATES Warp gates are essentially bi-stable worm
holes, artificially created by an as-yet unknown alien
intelligence between six and a half and seven million
years ago. The first warp gate was discovered in close
orbit around the KO orange giant star Arcturus in 2043,
and a year later a second warp gate was discovered in
orbit around Cappella. The warp gates connect two points
in three-dimensional space and have the effect of
allowing the traveler to instantly travel between the two
points without actually traveling through the space
between the points.
The warp gates are the product of unknown alien
technology. Although the effect is easy enough to
understand (and use), the exact method of achieving this
effect has so far eluded the brightest minds in the
Federation. The warp gate seems to be related to the
transporter system in wide use through out the Federation
and known space, but whereas the warp gate causes a
physical overlap of two spatial frames, allowing an
individual to disappear from one and instantly reappear
at the other; the transporter is limited in both the
range of propagation and the time such a frame overlap
can be held.
The transition from one side of the warp gate to the
other is instantaneous, there is no apparent "time lag"
through the warp gate. Warp gates are stable; a trip
through them always deposits the traveler in the same
spatial frame. The warp gates are bi-directionally
stable: that is, flight through the warp gate in one
direction results in destination A, while reversing the
flight brings one back to the point of origin. Thus the
warp gates can be looked at as a string of beads, or as
"stations" on an interstellar monorail network.
So far, all of the discovered warp gates have been found
in orbit around massive stars or black holes. One theory
of operation suggests that the warp gates use the
gravitational energy of the parent object to generate the
stable worm hole. Although all warp gates are identical
in structure and physical dimensions, there appear to be
two separate "types" of warp gates. The first type
offers a choice of two directions for travel, and tends
to be located around "normal" giant stars. A second type
is located around higher-mass stars and black holes.
These gates allow the selection of four destinations.
All of the warp gates so far discovered are identical in
dimension and composition. The warp gates are doughnut
constructions of meteoric iron and stone with alien
crystal "components" sunk into the structure. The warp
gates are exactly 113.787 kilometers in diameter and
0.939 kilometers "thick." The center hole measures
39.323 kilometers in radius.
Actual transition through the warp gate involves passing
through the exact center of the gate at zero velocity
relative to the motion of the warp gate in orbit. If a
functional stutter warp drive passes through a warp gate,
this results in a nuclear explosion; while ships
employing active hyperwave drive units have never been
seen again. Type I warp gates, like the one in orbit
around Arcturus, have two entrance vectors, identified as
RED and GREEN, that are totally reciprocal. Type II warp
gates around very massive stars or black holes have four
entrance vectors, the normal RED and GREEN, and a second
set of reciprocal vectors, designated BLUE and YELLOW.
So far, no Federation warp gate has opened on to
territory served by warp gates accessed by any of the
known alien races, and it is theorized that they never
will, being closed systems unto themselves. Most warp
gates tend to cover more than 1,000 light years, and so
far as anyone can tell, there is no limit in sight to the
network of warp gate stations. Currently, the Federation
routinely makes use of a network of seventy-four warp
gates. The furthest single warp gate shift is between
the Cygnus X-1 black hole and the 1E2344 + 18 quasar
science station, 16.3 billion light years away.
What about the race who built these wonderful objects?
So far, even less is known of them. From radiological
dating it is possible to say that all the known warp
gates were built during a half-million year period
between 6.5 and 7 million years ago. Of the builders
themselves there is no evidence. Although it is believed
that the warp gates were designed to have living beings
in supervisory positions, much like the telepaths of ITT
are acting today, there have been no finds of other
artifacts or records of the enigmatic builders.
The best that can be said about them is that the warp
gate builders appear to have been contemporaries of the
First-Wave activities of another vanished race, the
Preservers, who are responsible for the propagation of so
many humanoid life forms in this sector of the galaxy.
Although it is tempting to identify the warp gates as
Perserver artifacts, much more is known of the Preservers
than of the race that built the warp gates. It may be
that the Preservers constructed the network of warp gates
throughout space and time; however, there is currently no
concrete evidence of that.
(Related topics: Preservers, Pre-Galactic Races, Arch of
Time, The City on the Edge of Forever, Prof. Alexander H.
Pickering [20th Century scientist - anomaly].)
STAR NOMADS, ORIGINS OF There exists no firm
documentation of the origins of the human race that we
now call the Star Nomads. There are, however, abundant
references to them in the mythology of several dozen
alien races, beginning around 30,000 years ago. The
following then is an amalgamation of dozens of myths,
legends, and oral traditions from races scattered halfway
across the galaxy.
A long time ago, so long in fact that no one knows for
sure how long ago it was, there was a world of human
beings who learned the secrets of faster-than-light
propulsion. Shortly after this milestone, the First Wave
Expansion took place. It is commonly accepted that the
dating system of the First Age was based upon the death
of a great martyred religious or political leader, later
believed by many to be the incarnate representative of
God. An alternate but sizable minority view claims that
the First Age dating system was based upon the first
successful release of nuclear energy. Whichever system
is used, it is certain that the First Age began more than
30,000 years ago. The First Age is today considered a
Golden Age of learning and exploration for the
inhabitants of Dariahbar.
The First Wave Expansion This was a nearly random
explosion in all directions from the mother world. The
exploration ships were quickly followed by colony ships,
which within a span of a few thousand years spread the
human race across three million worlds in a sphere with a
radius of about 1,250 parsecs. Some of these colonies
prospered and grew wealthy, others did not, and some
failed altogether. Although the speed of the expansion
slowed, it never stopped. In advance of the political
hegemony of the Imperium, Free Traders made tenuous
finger and toe holds through the terrifying distances of
the galaxy. Months or years might pass between landings
on an Imperial world. Their ships were often nothing
more than patchwork quilts of repairs and improvisations,
but these Free Traders were in a real sense the ones who
tied the human worlds of the galaxy together into a
single political entity, the Imperium.
Near the end of the First Wave Expansion, the Imperium,
welded together from the old warring factions of the
human race and the other intelligent species encountered
in man's centuries of space exploration, became the
diadem in the crown of human/humanoid civilization. The
Imperium brought culture and prosperity to all the star
nations. But the expansion of the frontier had been much
too fast -- the frontiers were expanding exponentially.
Each year, thousands of new worlds were discovered and
hundreds were colonized by the older, more technically
advanced worlds of the Imperium. Civilization had reached
the point where communication and trade routes were
stretched beyond the maximum and were collapsing. The
frontier "burst like a soap bubble," leaving the inner
core of civilized worlds totally isolated from the worlds
of the still-expanding frontier.
The Dark Ages Slowly, but unavoidably, the Frontier
began to slip behind the core worlds in living standards,
technology, and economies. Even the civilized worlds of
the Frontier, established long enough to provide an
industrial base, began to slide backwards because of the
isolation, and they gradually lost contact with the rest
of the civilized galaxy. The Free Traders were able to
keep a few tens of thousands of worlds from total
isolation, but the sheer magnitude of the problems
associated with interstellar logistics and the
bureaucracy necessary to administer the Imperium began to
add to the drag on civilization and hasten the coming of
what so many scholars dreaded, the fall of the Imperium.
Hundreds of independent star kingdoms began to rise and
declare their independence from the Iridium Throne as the
Imperial nobility began to think of themselves less as
vassals of an Emperor on far off Dariahbar, and more as
the local royalty. At first, these successions and
rebellions were dealt with militarily and brutally, but
more and more worlds began to slip away from the
centralized authority of the Imperium; and there were
limits to what even the Imperial Armada could do to
prevent brushfire rebellions and the less spectacular,
but more efficient, bureaucratic malaise. Without anyone
actually realizing it, the Dark Ages descended upon the
Imperium. The dark ages lasted approximately 3,000 years
and extended from 4050 to 7200, as annotated by the local
Colonization of Caesius During this period, a small
colony fleet set out searching for a new home with 25,000
people and their plants and animals. Their origin is
unknown, but many traditions place the origins as one of
the outer core worlds that had been settled from
Dariahbar a thousand years earlier. After pushing far
past the ten established boundaries between the Imperium
and unexplored space, they came to a small golden sun far
to the rimward edge of the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way.
This star, along with a dozen others, were "hidden" in a
dense dust cloud covering a sphere two parsecs in radius.
Historians have speculated that perhaps this particular
colony was not "approved" by the Imperium, because the
choice of location seems to have been selected for
maximum concealment: Far beyond where another colony
ship would have stopped and at a star in the center of a
nebula which cut its photographic magnitude by a factor
Circling this golden star was a beautiful, blue water
world, which the colonists named Caesius. It was a rich
world in both natural resources and climate; civilization
quickly took hold, and life for the new colony was
Some 9,000 years passed, and the expanding Imperium found
Caesius. It had become the seat of a small stellar
republic covering about half of the available Terra-norm
worlds of the Nebula, with a population of approximately
24 billion. The Imperium, dimly remembered from old
records, songs, poems, and myths of the Before Time, was
welcomed by the Caesians. Unfortunately, the Imperium had
mutated from the benevolent instrument of galactic
culture and civilization into a vast, decadent, corrupt,
and evil empire supported only by the might of its armed
forces. The Imperium now held a million slave worlds in
thrall by the force of arms. The Imperial nobility was
always on the lookout for more worlds to conquer, more
slaves, and more raw materials and natural resources to
feed its vast war machine.
The Imperium's Reemergence The squadron of the
Imperium's Armada that finally discovered Caesius was
commanded by Archbishop Jeremy Hicks, who was a devout
fundamentalist. The Rt. Rev. Minister believed that his
"mission" (ordained by God himself) was to violently
convert all the savage races of the Galaxy to the One
True Religion. The religion of Caesius was branded neo-
paganism by the Archbishop and spelled doom for the
establishment of peaceful relations between the Imperium
The military commander of the squadron of six warships
was Commodore Sir Cybeer Mjarkyn-ahkbarr (literally:
Cybeer, the fist of God), an ambitious man who dreamed of
high political office and the almost unlimited power that
came with it. Cybeer saw in the Caesian Republic the
chance to vault into the ranks of the political elite as
the governor-general of the newly discovered and
"pacified" region that now lay before him.
The Caesians, who had over 9,000 years of peace and
prosperity and respect for the individual, were appalled
by the Imperium's demand for tribute in the form of gold,
radioactives, dylithium, and slave children. The demand
was immediately rejected by the Caesian Legislature and
the worlds of the Republic reluctantly began to prepare
for war. In a savage, month-long battle, fought entirely
within the home nebula, the Caesian Star Fleet crushed
the Imperium's forces, mostly by sheer weight of numbers.
A few stragglers aboard a heavily damaged cruiser were
allowed to flee into hyperspace, and the Archbishop and
the Commodore were able to escape the total decimation of
their joint command.
A Brief Victory The Caesians knew that they were in for
a real fight now. It was expected that the crippled
cruiser would flee at the maximum velocity its damaged
warp generators would allow to their command base to tell
of the disastrous defeat -- a defeat inflicted upon the
Imperium's squadron by a miserable backwater world out
beyond nowhere. Caesian scientists and engineers began to
analyze the wreckage of the other Armada units that had
been salvaged from the battle ground. The enormity of
the technological gap between the Imperium and the
Republic became all too apparent as research continued at
a frantic pace. A crash program of research and
development was launched to narrow the gap in weapons
The Imperium was at that time ruled by the mad Emperor
Fedak XXIII, who took the defeat of this squadron as a
personal insult. In one of his more lucid moments, he
ordered the Caesian Republic totally destroyed and its
population either killed or enslaved. A huge battle
fleet was assembled from all the vast forces of the
Imperium's space military and placed under command of
Admiral Kyle (the Butcher) Bolasko, who had recently
returned from the Deryennie Wars, where he had
distinguished himself by ordering the massacre of 15
million inhabitants of one of the smaller Deryennie
The Imperium Returns The battle fleet set out for
Caesius in 15802 and immediately and without preamble
attacked the outermost world of the Caesian Republic.
Lyric, the attacked world (and the vast majority of the
other outlying planets had been evacuated immediately
after the original defeat of the Imperium, five years
earlier) fell in less than a week, its defenders pausing
only long enough to complete the boobytraps and destroy
all things that might have proved useful to the invading
Imperials. The Republic's defense strategy revolved
around the three main worlds of the Republic: Caesius,
Topaz, and Sylph. These three worlds, protected from
attack by a variation of a starship's defensive screens
and armed with giant particle-beam cannons powered by the
planet's power grid, were virtually impervious to attack.
However, Admiral Balasko was not a man to easily give up
on a problem, and he immediately laid siege to the
remaining worlds of the Republic. For five years the
Imperium besieged the three worlds of the Caesian
Republic. Then in 15807, Imperial agents managed to
bribe a traitor in the defense screen controller station
of Topaz. The energy screen that had protected the
planet was lowered, and Topaz was bombed into submission
by high-yield neutron bombs within a month of the initial
penetration of its shields.
This defeat demoralized the two remaining worlds because
it was unknown that the Imperium had found (and later
executed) a traitor in the Republic's Defense Forces.
The republic instead thought that some way had been found
to neutralize the energy screens. The Legislature of
Caesius attempted to negotiate with the Admiral. Balasko
made a show of being willing to talk and only after his
forces had landed on both Caesius and Sylph did he renege
on this original agreement and restart the attack on the
Republic. The remainder of the war went very quickly,
and always in favor of the Imperium's superior technology
and weapons. Within a year, both planets had been
totally subjugated. Fewer that ten percent of the
original population had managed to survive the war with
the Imperium, and now only one in ten or twelve would
survive the wrath of Fedak the Mad. Extermination camps
were set up all over the two worlds, and only those with
useful technical skills, and pre-pubescent children old
enough to walk, were spared.
Those who did survive were taken on board slave ships and
transported to the Imperial Prison World of Haydes. True
to its name, Haydes was a hell world of nearly unbearable
thin, nearly unbreathable air choked with noxious gasses
in sub-lethal doses and a gravitational field 1.85 times
a powerful as Caesius. About 100 million men, women,
and children were dumped into the concentration camps of
Haydes to work the dylithium and radioactives mines, of
which the planet had many.
Exposed to cosmic Beritol rays, gamma and X-rays from the
mines, and other radiation and chemical pollutants, the
population soon began to shrink. For forty years the
slaves worked in the mines, and their numbers and their
fertility declined drastically, to the point that by
15878 only 2.3 million remained.
Rebellion on Haydes During this time, Fedak the Mad was
involved in a civil war with his half-cousin, Marlyn the
Usurper. A slave rebellion broke out on Haydes. The
Emperor, occupied with his half-cousin thousands of light
years away, was unable to reinforce the guard garrison on
Haydes. The rebellion was short and had a surprising
True, the Guards had energy weapons and powered combat
suits, and were backed up by combat vehicles including
light tanks. And the slaves had only their own bodies and
improvised weapons crudely constructed from mining
equipment -- but the slaves had one other thing. They
had been forced to live primitive lives, exposed to all
that the hell world could throw at them, and so had
adapted to this environment -whereas the Imperium's
troops had not. When the vehicles broke down, or were
caught in ingenious traps, and when the powerpacks of
weapons and powered armor ran out, the Imperials were
trapped and slaughtered by vengeful slaves.
The Great Exodus After the guard garrison had been
slaughtered, the one- time slaves bargained with the
forces of Marlyn the Usurper and traded the metals-rich
hell world for starships. The survivors of the Caesian
Republic, along with the other assorted undesirables who
had been on Haydes, again fled across the stellar
frontier and into unexplored territory. Instead of
continuing up the star-rich Perseus Arm, the ragtag
fugitive fleet turned to the 5,000-lightyear-wide gap
between the Perseus arm and the Cygnus Arm. This later
became known as the Great Exodus. Still fearing pursuit
by the Imperium, the commanders of the fleet set their
navicomps to select a random course that would carry them
deep into the unexplored reaches of the Cygnus arm.
Finally, after traveling spinward another 25,000 light
years, the hunt for a suitable world began, not so much
because the fugitives felt safe now, but because more and
more of the decrepit starships were reverting back to
their natural state: rust.
Because of the long exposure to high levels of ionizing
radiation both on Haydes and on the relatively unshielded
rust buckets that had carried them across the void, the
birth rate had dropped to such an alarmingly low level
that biological extinction was a real threat. A crash
program of biological research began. It used most of
the store of technological equipment available to the new
Of the live births, less than half were healthy, viable
human children. There were 10 still-births of monstrous
mutations to every normal birth. At the verge of racial
extinction, biologists managed to stabilize the
population by 16393 at the dangerously low level of
Within a few centuries, the little bits of technology
that the colonists had managed to salvage from their
ships had run down or disintegrated. The colony quickly
reverted to a wood-and-bone-tool Neolithic level. By
17650 (about 10,000 BC Terrestrial Standard) the gene
pool that today's Star Nomads evolved from had been
mostly cleansed and stabilized, and the population began
to increase. Because of the hard times during the war
with the Imperium and the Great Exodus, when the live
birth of a healthy child was a miracle, the children of
the Star Nomads have continued even to this day to be
"spoiled rotten" by their parents.
Finally, The Star Nomads regained civilization and
eventually an industrial and technological society about
2,000 years ago.
At this point the record switches from being based upon
myth and legend to one supported by the systematic
records of history.
In 1422 AD (Terrestrial Standard) Nomad scientists
discovered that the star they had originally settled
around was near the end of its stellar life and
threatening to explode into a nova, thus scouring life
from the surface of their planet. In a vast program of
research and development, the Nomads managed to create a
stardrive with which to evacuate their race. The problem
was that this drive created a very precise wormhole, from
an exact point A to point B.
By coincidence Sol (Terran Home System) was selected as
the Nomads new home. The Nomad escape fleet, with 3.5
billion inhabitants crammed into eighteen huge colony
ships, arrived in the Sol system in 2005 AD to find it
Diplomatic contact was made with the Terrans and peaceful
relations established, with the Nomads eventually
establishing their colony in the Sol Asteroid Belt.
THE PRESERVERS AND HUMANITY For centuries, ever since
man has started his exploration of the galaxy, one
mystery has stood out above all the other unanswered
questions of life in the galaxy. Why are there so many
totally human and humanoid races in the galaxy today?
In this context the term "Human" refers to any species
that can successfully inter-breed with the human race of
Terra. Thus the Klingons are human and the Vulcans are
humanoid, because no special preparations either
biochemical or mental have to be made for a Human/Klingon
pair to breed; while vast technological support is
required for the creation of a viable offspring from a
Human/Vulcan or Human/Romulan mating.
Although the overall humanoid "shape" could be attributed
to some vast galactic morphogenetic field (and indeed
there is some indication of the existence of this field)
such an explanation cannot be invoked to explain the so-
called "genetic mystery" which links such divergent races
as the Terrans, Klingons, Correllians, Nomads, and
Taurens. These races apparently "born" on worlds
scattered across half the galaxy are all genetically
In the mid 22nd Century, a Vulcan scholar, M'brien,
advanced the theory, supported by hundreds of
archeological finds on dozens of worlds, that there
existed at one time (circa six to seven million years
ago) a super-advanced race who toured the galaxy and
"seeded" the human race in several places.
They are called the Preservers because, in several cases,
they carried out vast stellar engineering projects
requiring the administration of astronomical quantities
of energy. The only reason for most of these vast
projects was the health and well-being of a human
"colony" on the world so affected.
Little is known of the Preservers, except that they had
godlike powers of creation and destruction, and that they
DID pass this way some seven million years ago.
THE THIRD INTERSYSTEM WAR Although the Clone Wars
officially ended in 2354, the Terran Psychology Service
continued to maintain a heightened state of alert, and
this, coupled with the Federation-wide paranoia generated
by the Spectral invasion, contributed to the bloody Third
Intersystem War fought between 2361 and 2369. This war
was a power struggle within the Terran Empire for the
The Assassination of Jasilonis XI by agents of the
Corporate Sector Authority was the primary trigger
causing the Empire to fragment into several power blocs.
By far the two largest of these blocs were led by Gar
Landry of Terra, the old Emperor's Prime Minister, and
Tokerarat Bulgannian, selfstyled King of Perseus. In the
opening days of conflict, both sides ruthlessly used
their power and influence to weld together coalitions
from the other lesser power blocs. Gar Landry was
eventually declared Imperator by the Imperial Senate on
stardate 6012.24, and the Star Fleet and Army immediately
swore their allegiance to the new Emperor. Bulgannian's
group immediately declared themselves in rebellion
against the illegally crowned Imperator and quickly
crowned Tokerarat Imperator instead. The Rebels quickly
withdrew, seizing the New Titan Warp Gate as they left,
declaring it to be "Imperial property" of the King of
Perseus, one of Bulgannian's titles.
The new government petitioned the United Federation of
Planets for recognition as the rightful owner of Terra's
influential seats in the Federation's Grand Assembly of
Sentience and the powerful Security Council. The debate
was fast and heated, with several of Terra's rivals
seeing this as a way of bringing the haughty Terrans down
a peg or two. In the end however the Assembly voted 563
to 70 against recognition of the rebel government and 633
to 0 against seating the Rebels on the Security Council.
Bulgannian scored his biggest victory of the war in 2361,
when the Corporate Sector Authority, with its own
indigenous military arm, decided to join with the rebels
in hopes of strengthening their power over the political
rulers of the human race.
Within a month of that, Galron, the aging Klingon Emperor
and First Secretary of the Council of Peers, decided that
Gar Landry was the most likely to win in any Terran
version of the Komerex Zha. Although they stopped short
of actually taking sides, preferring to hedge their bets
with official "neutrality" (a relatively new concept to
the Klingon people), the government of the Komerex
Klingon did not forbid its citizens from seeking glory in
For nearly six years the war was fought, mostly between
Star Fleet and the Corporate Sector Authority, aided by
the latter's mercenary troops. Although the fighting was
long, hard, and bloody, neither side could win a decisive
The battle of Corridon III in the Draconis Delta star
system was the last major naval engagement of the war and
was also the only decisive space battle fought during the
war. Star Fleet won a resounding victory by luring most
of Bulgannian's strategic reserves into battle and then
springing an ambush, backed by both Klingon and H'Rumbian
mercenary vessels. The battle essentially broke the back
of the Corporate Sector Authority and left Bulgannian
with a scattering of auxiliary police craft and older
Rebel survivors from the battle, mostly belonging to the
V Battle Fleet, retreated through the Warp Gate complex
toward the Federation Outer Territories, finally emerging
into the Terran Prime Quadrant through the Arcturus Warp
Gate. The Rebels paused and stopped long enough to
attack and seize the refueling depot in the 70 Ophiuchi
star system on their way to a suicide raid on the Terran
Capital world itself.
Known for its agricultural productivity and the exotic
terrain of the western continent caused by the collision
of a planetesimal in prehistoric times, the planet Tarsus
was a sleepy little backwater world, dependent upon its
agricultural production and its strategic location (in
orbit around the gas giant Awesome) as a liquid-hydrogen
propellant manufacturing and distribution plant; it was
no match for the half-crazed rebels of the defeated V
Battle Fleet, who took out their rage on the civilian
population of the planet, using the cities as target
practice for its remaining cruisers and destroyers.
The Tarsan Aerospace Defense Forces did more than their
share of fighting a delaying action, keeping the rebels
busy and unable to refuel until the pursuing Star Fleet
squadrons were able to catch up with them.
Blackburn, Richard, DEFENDERS OF THE CROWN, c2371
Imperial War College Press, Star Fleet Academy, Mars, Sol
(Editor's note: This story , which began in the previous
issue of Planet Magazine, is excerpted from Mr.
Blackburn's novel in progress. Rick Blackburn can be
contacted at PwrPack@aol.com.)
Story copyright (c) 1994 Rick Blackburn.
THE SWILLER MANIFESTO
by George McCann
Bloody bell rang and I reached out to shut off the alarm.
Pitch-dark outside, but I had set the wake-up for
daybreak. Damn, this was 2094 A.D., and people still
couldn't invent a clock that worked properly.
But the bell rang again and the organism, benumbed by
sleep, finally tracked the source: the video-fone. I
activated it, flicked on the screen and fine-tuned the
"You're wanted at Top Base," from a voice I did not
recognize. I jiggled the screen switch, but it remained
blank. So the caller was either an infiltrator or some
HQ wallah testing security at 0300 hours. If the latter,
better humor him.
"Parole, please." Then the face materialized on the
screen. Good God, it was Smithers, among the nastiest of
the base staff and a pouf to boot.
"It is a far, far better thing I do," Smithers intoned,
"than I have ever done before or ever hope to do in the
future, so help me Henry Higgins and the Houses of
Parliament," all of it in a more than passable Mayan
dialect. May they rip his bloody heart out, I thought.
Top Base has been making the paroles overlong and setting
them in exotic tongues since Goldberger came a cropper
last June on the third moon of Jupiter. Fooled by a
short Yiddish parole, of all things. It was "Bupkis,"
and Goldberger thought the contact said "Cupcakes." Never
had a chance when the suspicious contact turned on his
"Good. Now that's settled," I snarled, "you realize I'm
not ready to go out again. Only got back from Alpha
Centauri Monday and I'm shot. We do a mission, we get
the next six weeks off; that's the rule. I'm off for
Bournemouth in the morning. Get yourselves another
Nothing. "Did you hear me?"
"Of course, old cock," Smithers drawled. "Just making
notes. Want to be sure to get it all right when I tell
Braun you're not up to the mustard anymore. Cutting it,
you know. . .or not, as the case may be. Heh-heh."
Braun, that bastard. He'll hand you a job for a defector
extraction on the rings of Saturn and while the
opposition is setting charges at your safe house door
he'll radio to ask you to pick him up a jar of that
jellied Kling-off squid he's taken a fancy to. Cold as
ice, the man is.
"What's Braun got to do with this?"
"He's running the board on a hot mission, says you're the
only man for it. Wants to give you Goldberger for
director in the field, says he's harmless now he's
brushed up on the Yiddish. But I'll be happy to tell him
you're too played out, old boy."
I was dressed in five minutes and stepping into the MART
(molecule assemble/reassemble transporter). I'd be at
Top Base in seconds, provided I organized my arrival
correctly. In the fluid molecular state, one must be
rather precise about slotting one's entry into an
unoccupied spatial allotment. Not long ago, Jenkins,
semi hung-over, pushed the wrong button when he arrived
at Top Base the same second as the char-lady. Poor chap
wound up as some sort of cosmic Cockney hermaphrodite.
Still a good intelligence man, of course, but wants to
wash the floor all the time. They've got him in Files
these days, until the shrinks are through with him. If
they can't separate out the char-lady -- poor old dear
-- Jenkins may be stuck with the cafeteria hostess job.
* * *
Braun's office is as intimidating as the man. Big, dark,
over-furnished, with him in deep shadow by the shuttered
windows. He looked up from his desk, squinted and
acknowledged my presence tentatively.
"Er. . .Swiller?"
"Dreadfully sorry to abort your holidays," he tittered,
"but we have a mission no one else can handle and I
entreat you to accept it."
No one else could handle, my blooming foot. Probably
didn't want to pay the overtime to the chap on duty when
the signal came down.
"I'll have to know more, of course, before accepting."
"Understood. But what I can tell you is limited. You
know better than I that the less you know, the less
jeopardy to the mission. If you're captured by the black
hats, we wouldn't want you to have to bite the capsule."
All agents are required to sign out a poison capsule
before a mission for use in case of certain capture and
interrogation. The capsule is really a two-pound
kielbasa, which is bloody bulky to conceal on one's
person. What's more, it must be cooked with fried chips
and sauerkraut before the poison goes to work. Deuced
"Understood, sir. No disrespect intended."
"None taken, old fruit. You'll appreciate hearing that
the mission is Earth-based. America. Washington, to be
exact. You have Russian, Vietnamese, Basque, Urdu, Finno-
Ugric, Han and Mandarin, so you should get along famously
in the States.
"The problem is a mole, maybe more, in the White House
itself. Yanks asked our help, since we just apprehended
the 1,779th mole in our own MI5. Success rates like that
merit attention, don't you know. The new president is a
Southerner. Good old boy, but Oxford, too. Doesn't
trust the Washington crowd, so he's come to us."
I wasn't quite sure how to phrase my next condition;
wouldn't want Braun to see me getting nervy. "I'd like
some assurance I won't be left hanging if the mission
turns sour." They'd left Morton to his fate in the
Tibetan nunnery when the Chinese rolled up his Lhassa
network and no one at Top Base will look you in the eye
when his name comes up.
"Useless request, old fellow," Braun replied, almost too
quickly. "All of you executives accept the sacrifice
condition when you sign on."
"You're giving me Goldberger for DIF?"
"Yes. Is that acceptable?"
"Acceptable. You're sure about the Yiddish lessons?"
"Absolutely, plus a new hearing aid."
"Fine. But I want no back-up and he's to stay out of my
* * *
We sign out various equipment once we're activated. I
refuse, or course, to carry a weapon. Hate the bloody
things. So the lady clerk always tries to sell me one.
Tiresome, but brightens up her mean little life.
"Poison pill?" she simpered. I nodded.
"Hebrew National or Eckrich? Beef or turkey?" I put it in
my briefcase. Always worries me the foe will smell the
"As usual, no next of kin? Insurance to the Battersea
Battered Husbands Relief Society? And". . . she looked up
at me knowingly. . ."one red rose for Sheldon?"
I caught the 9:30 a.m. TAR (Trans Atlantic Rocket), after
checking for tags at the spaceport. Bit of a delay there
as a party of Kling-offs scuffed by in handcuffs and leg
irons enroute to their filthy ghetto in the Seventh
Galaxy. Nasty brutes, stink like pigs, and, with those
four arms, nothing's safe around them, not your wallet,
not your wife.
Kling-offs are 8 feet tall and covered with bright orange
hair, but they keep slipping past the Earth security belt
because, under certain conditions, they can alter their
metabolism, reduce their bulk and stow away inside the
smallest space on an Earth-bound space transport.
Once they're here, they assume the appearance of humans,
but we always catch them because they must remetabolize
after a year or so. Gives you a start, I must say, when
you're dining in Greek Street and your maitre d' suddenly
inflates to 500 pounds and turns orange. They plead
persecution in their homeland and cry for asylum, but we
ship them back, and right away. The smell, you know.
We landed at Kennedy at daylight and a clean-shaven CIA
agent was waiting for me at my gate. He was, in every
respect but one, your typical CIA spook. Neat. Subdued
clothing for lower visibility. Short haircut. Ankle
holster. J. Press shirt with pocket protector. But he
was only 5 feet tall, so to talk with him as we went to
baggage pick-up I had to carry him. He was doused in a
"The chief wishes he could have briefed you more
leisurely at our place," he said, "but it seems you're
wanted at the White House immediately. Not so tight;
you're hurting me. The president and secretary of state
want to confer with our limey cousin who's so effing
smart he's better than the entire CIA."
I detected hostility. This was not going to be as easy
as I had hoped or Braun had hinted. The spook squirmed
again; he might be short, but he was getting to be a
heavy little sod. I tried to improve my grip and in so
doing scratched his hand. Must have gone through the
coating of cologne, for a whiff of pure Kling-off
assailed my nostrils.
Quickly I dropped the little bugger onto the baggage
carousel, as he began to remetabolize to his natural
bulk. Too late or too soon, he achieved full size and
that beastly orange color just as he came to the
carousel's re-entry hole in the wall, sticking there
while luggage cascaded around him. I blew him a kiss,
picked up my two-suiter and ran for the cab stand as
Kling-off mini-missiles exploded around me. Welcome to
Washington, I thought, as I ducked into the cab and told
the Inuit driver to head for the White House.
* * *
"Dawg bite mah peckuh, Mr. Swiller, but it's good to hear
a sissy Brit accent again. Used to make out with mah
economics professor at Oxford and she talked just lak
y'all." C. P. Bobbett, President of the United States,
grabbed my arm and pulled me over to the far side of the
Oval Office. There were some fifty other people in the
room with us, a press conference, the president said.
"Didn't mean to get y'all messed up with the media, but
don't worry about security. Thayuh too interested in mah
wife's Jovian commodities investments to ask any
questions about moles. What a bunch of peckuh haids.
Here, Ah want you to meet the secretary of state,
Mortimer Tippietow, and my CAh-A director, Percival
Skulk. Neither one's worth a chicken's left foot, but
Ah'm stuck with 'em."
Skulk moved right in, cutting off the secretary of state.
"Here's the scoop, Swiller. We're leaking badly around
here. Eyes-only material from the State Department turns
up in the papers, so we know there's a mole. Maybe more.
What's more mysterious, the files from which the stuff
was taken smell terrible afterwards. Takes us a week to
get rid of the stench. Problem is, no one has access to
those files, except the president and Tippietow here.
An usher went by with trays of drinks and canapes and the
president took out his handkerchief to wipe his brow.
The crowd was heating up the room. But I caught a flash
of something from the corner of my eye. Not anything
definite so much as an anomaly, something that set the
organism to shivering and wheedling that it wanted to go
home. Took all I could do to restrain it.
The usher went by again and this time I watched him as he
passed the president. I saw the president seize a drink
with one hand, snatch a canape with another, wipe his
brow again with a third hand and, with a fourth, grab a
large piece of the behind of the Chinese woman who covers
the White House for CBS. The newswoman was appalled and
was about to knee the president when the hand with the
handkerchief blocked the blow, two more encircled the
correspondent, while the fourth rubbed her buttocks. I
heard the president whisper through pursed lips, "C'mon,
honey, pucker up and Ah'll let y'all do mah shirts."
More quickly than I would have imagined, Tippietow was at
the president's back, one hand over the chief executive's
mouth, one hand around his neck, one hand restraining an
encircling arm and a fourth hand hammering the
president's back. Tippietow yelled: "Mr. President, Mr.
President, this is not diplomacy, this is barbarism."
"Hell with you, Tippietow," the president chortled, still
trying to kiss the newswoman, "get yo' own broad." The
Secret Service were so addled by the sight of the
multiple arms that they were frozen in astonishment.
It was so obvious. Kling-offs somehow had appropriated
the bodies of the president and secretary of state and
had leaked the top-secret files, probably only to sow
mischief, dissension and confusion, a favorite Kling-off
pastime. But their natural need to remetabolize had been
set in motion, and the game was up.
"Stop it," I cried to the two disguised Kling-Offs, "or
you'll get a double dose of Ivory suds." This is a threat
that will reduce any Kling-off to pleas for mercy, and it
worked again. I told the cringing aliens, "I don't know
who you are, or what you've done with the real president
and secretary of state, but you're going back to your own
"Oh, no they're not," came a husky alto voice. I turned
and there with a Pocket Patriot in her hand, aimed at me,
was Hillary Tonya Bobbett, the president's wife and the
most powerful woman in America. "I know he's not my real
husband. I've known it since the first time he ran all
four hands over me. I want him. Now put down your gun.
"I don't care what he's done with my real so-called
husband, Mr. Swiller," said the First Lady. "I have no
use for Old Corn Pone; I run this whole shop anyway all
by myself. This is a real man, whatever else he is. You
can return to England now. The nation is safe."
"One question, ma'am." I said. "When their cologne wears
off, how do you stand the stench?"
She laughed, a rather nice, tinkling sound. "Oh that, Mr.
Swiller." she said. "You forget that I lived for 20
years in Arkansas."
I didn't know what Braun would make of all this and
frankly I didn't care. I was headed for Bournemouth at
Story copyright (c) 1994 George F. McCann
FANTASY & LEGENDS:
The Bell, The Bridge, and The Binalatongan River Maiden
by Romeo Esparrago
In the country of the Philippines lies the kingdom of
Pangasinan, so named because of the riches borne forth
from the Asin (salt) that comes from its earth. There is
a town named San Carlos in that land. This town was
built in the 18th Century, rising alongside and across
the San Juan River from the older village named
During that period, Spaniards still ruled the land and a
rebellion was taking place. The freedom fighters were in
retreat. The Spaniards were better armed, better
organized, better led, and more numerous in their number
of soldiers. They were fast approaching Binalatongan.
In a church of that village, there existed what was then
the largest bell of the country, the Bell of
Binalatongan, wrought of iron, laced with copper and gold
flakes, and etched with strange, unknown markings. It
was prized by the entire community and admired by all who
came to visit.
It was said that this bell originally had been taken from
an Aztec or Mayan temple from the newly conquered America
and had been transported by the annual galleon's voyage
across the Pacific. Legend also had it that the Bell was
originally a sacrificial altar, and when the
Conquistadors brought it to the Philippines they turned
it upside down and changed its purpose to that of a
church bell. Villagers whispered that it still retained
its magical powers.
In the village church where this bell resided lived a
young maiden named Mangatarem. Her task was to care for
At the height of the rebel retreat, Mangatarem sensed
that the Spaniards were beginning to close in on the
village. Mangatarem began to ring the Bell, warning of
The community decided to burn down Binalatongan to slow
the Spaniards and prevent the remaining rebel forces from
entrapment and destruction.
As the villagers began to abandon their homes and set
fire to the buildings, Mangatarem could not bear to leave
her beloved Bell. The order was given to save it and a
large cadre of rebel soldiers came and brought the bell
down. They tied it onto the biggest, most sturdy cart
they could find and gathered the town's three strongest
karabao (water buffalo) to pull it.
The burdened cart was the last to approach the bridge
that spanned the San Juan River, with the karabao
pulling, the contingent of freedom fighters and
Mangatarem pushing. All strained to get the bell across.
Binalatongan blazed behind them. Cannon balls began to
land from the Spaniards, some bursting in the air above
them, others exploding within the conflagration, a few
splashing in the river.
It has been argued that a cannon ball struck the bridge,
but many believe the bridge collapsed because of the
enormous weight put upon it. One of the karabao had
already crossed, but two of the animals, the Bell,
Mangatarem, and the soldiers fell into the river as the
bridge crashed into the roiling waters below.
All the beasts and the men were able to swim to the river
bank and reach San Carlos. The Bell sank into the dark
depths of the San Juan River. Mangatarem was never
found. The Spaniards arrived and saw only the mounds and
ashes of ruined Binalatongan and no bridge to cross the
Eventually, the Spaniards were able to move forward and
occupy San Carlos. The rebellion, as with many that
followed, was crushed.
* * *
Since then, many have tried to recover the Bell of
Binalatongan. Spaniards, Americans, and Japanese during
their respective periods of occupation, as well as
Filipinos and other visitors to Pangasinan, have sought
unsuccessfully to get their hands on the Bell. But a
strange story has arisen from the numerous failed
attempts. It is said that whenever the Bell is pulled
from its watery grave, something would grasp it and pull
it back: a pale figure, purported to have the face and
upper figure of Mangatarem but to have the lower shape of
The place where the village Binalatongan once stood is
now overgrown with weeds and vegetation. No marker
identifies its location. The deep river still cuts its
course through there. Within its folds, the San Juan
River retains its hold on the Bell of Binalatongan and on
its guardian, the mermaid named Mangatarem. #
Story copyright (c) 1994 Romeo Esparrago
(Editor's Note: This story has appeared in AOL's Fiction
ROADS OF TIME
by Peter Alejandro Cortes
I'm sluggish on that blunted
sands in the hour glass
I understand time when all I know of it is
absence and craving? Time as a wheel
when time is a flower.
There was a time and there was a place
where and when the crossroads spoke.
I have moved so far from the center of the crossroads
that all I can do is accept that I'm here. Now.
And now, I mean, could you imagine what Flatbush Avenue
*** Warning - You will be disconnected in 5 minutes! Please Finish quickly!have to say at, oh, about noon on the 13th day of the
month -yeah, sure: traffic.
But what I search for is time enough to lose dim
human vision; the cluttered roads of time avenged and re
I am crystals and seeds and a body. I can be time. #
Poem copyright (c) 1994 Peter Alejandro Cortes
AFTER THE FEAST
by Kevin McAuley
Now the meal is over.
Only bones and scraps of meat remain.
Birds twitter at the back window,
Eating the black bread you set there. Falling away, like
They swing low over the trees
And disappear northward,
Carrying the touch of your fingers
Inside warm bellies. #
Poem copyright (c) 1994 Kevin McAuley
LETTERS TO THE HOUSE DOCTOR
by Steve Ross
Planet Magazine is pleased to premiere this new feature
for our readers. All questions will be answered by our
"House Doctor," Rob Vila, M.D., former host of "This Old
Body," chief homeopath at the Rickel Hospital and Editor
Emeritus of "The New England Journal of Renovation and
Our attic ceiling recently started to show water
stains that get bigger after every rain. A contractor
inspected our roof and said that we need new shingles,
but I'm reluctant to give the go-ahead. My wife's never
had shingles, but I had a pretty bad case in the late
70s, and they were no party. Besides, the contractor who
did the inspection had no medical training whatsoever.
What would you advise?
-Shingle-Free and Happy in Crown Point
Dear Shingle-Free and Happy:
It has become increasingly common for rooves to
develop the viral infection called herpes zoster, or
shingles. You could try covering it with tar, but this
is really a shortterm remedy that doesn't get to the
underlying virus. Instead, you should have your
contractor apply several coats of a topical antiviral
ointment, using paint-rollers and cotton swabs.
My wife and I have raised five children in our home,
but recently we have been experiencing difficulty with
our male/female coupling, and as a result have not been
able to turn on each other's lights in over a year. I
personally think that her outlet receptacle is eroded,
but she says that my plug is probably malfunctioning. In
addition, our circuitry is pretty old, and I'm worried
about blowing a fuse. Any suggestions would be greatly
-In the Dark in Tuscaloosa
Dear in the Dark:
It sounds to me like you need an extension cord. No
matter what they say, length is important; after all, if
it can't reach the receptacle, a live plug's no better
than a bump on a log. As far as the age of your circuits
is concerned, our resident specialist on such matters,
Dr. Ruth Westinghouse, feels that you shouldn't worry,
that you should do what feels right. However, you should
probably keep an extra fuse handy, ready to screw in,
just in case.
Every time I think of doing any work on or around
the house, I get a headache that knocks me flat so all I
can do is sit on the couch, watch television, and munch
out. Would you please explain, for my wife's benefit,
that this is possible? Thanks, guy.
-Pabst in Pittsburgh
The condition you describe is known in the medical
community by its original French name, pomme de terre de
chaise longue ("couch potato"), and is so widespread that
it is practically a cliche. It is also the reason why
home repair professionals such as myself have been able
to make such a comfortable living.
I love my house, I really do. I've replaced her
aging details and supported her sagging floor; I've
sealed and joined her with rabbets and dadoes when nails
would've been easier but less attractive; I've reinforced
her corners with gussets and then covered them because I
know she's shy. In short, I've sanded and shaved and
polished and maintained her, through up and down real
estate markets, and all I've ever asked for in return is
fidelity. I'd always felt confident about it, but
lately, well, I don't know. On three separate occasions
I've walked into a room and found studs where they didn't
belong. Last week I noticed the stains of a penetrating
sealer in her tongue-in-groove flooring. And then, this
past weekend I was looking for something in the attic,
and I found distress marks on her collar beams. Now my
coping saw is on its last teeth, my spirit level's down,
and I feel unhinged. At any minute I might just grab my
rivet gun and power drill and, well, you can imagine the
rest. Am I awl wrong, reading the signs incorrectly? Do
you think I'm mistaken?
-Carpenter Cuckold in Kansas City
Dear Carpenter Cuckold:
I'm afraid I can't help you. You need either a
psychiatrist or a private eye.
I'm writing you because we have, well, a leakage
problem in the bathroom. I am concerned that it might be
my husband's prostate, since my Uncle Lou had a similar
problem some years ago, but our plumber claims that it's
a common problem for people with rotating-ball faucets,
and that a new washer might do the trick. Should we
replace the washer, or get a new and different faucet?
-Drained in Detroit
Your plumber is both right and wrong. Single-handle
rotating-ball faucets are fairly recent inventions, and
one of their advantages is that they replaced the
outdated and problem-prone prostate with a cam-and-ball
assembly that is, unfortunately, subject to leaking. A
new washer is indeed a short-term remedy, but new piping
might be needed to address the chronic underlying
condition. Urethra-width copper piping, sealed with
Teflon tape instead of sealing compound, is the most
suitable replacement. In addition, a diverter valve with
hose clamps will provide your husband with greater
control than he's probably ever experienced; he can even
have a pressure valve installed that would give him
enough power to knock a bottle off a fence post from
-Rob Vila #
Story copyright (c) 1994 Steve Ross
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Rick Blackburn, a disabled Vietnam Vet, is interested in
astronomy, astrophysics, role-playing gaming, drawing,
and writing. He's a FANatic fan of Star Trek, Star Trek
-- The Next Generation, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica,
Dr. Who, and SF in general. He is also president of the
Power Pack Fan Club, and can be reached at: POWER PACK
FAN CLUB, PO Box 13712, Los Angeles, CA, 90013-0712.
Brian Burt is a systems analyst at a bank in Kalamazoo,
Mich. (yes, it's a real town), and a struggling SF writer
whose biggest credit to date is winning the L. Ron
Hubbard Gold Award in the 1991 Writers of the Future
Contest (for a story called "The Last Indian War"). He's
had five other stories published in small-circulation
Peter Alejandro Cortes is a poet in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Romeo Esparrago is an engineer in Sacramento, California,
and aspires to be a children's writer/illustrator
someday. His nightly dream has been to have a bio in the
"About the Authors" page of Planet Magazine.
Biedermeier X. Leeuwenhoek once again does not appear in
this issue. He is currently working on a fantasy trilogy
based on a race of elves who reject fluoridation for
their Fountain of Arrogant Youth, with dire consequences
for their teeth. Perversely, he also once abducted an
alien, taking it for a two-hour car ride across the
Kevin McAuley is a Brooklyn-based writer.
Andrew G. McCann is a writer and editor in New York City.
George McCann is a retired corporate-PR type who teaches
Steve Ross is a writer and book editor in New York City.
His work has appeared in various small-press
Circulation for this mind-bending e-mag, as of 10/94:
Only Cthulhu Knows
Editor & Publisher
Andrew G. McCann
Planet Magazine accepts short stories, poems, one-act
plays, and odds-and-ends (use the lengths in this issue
as guidelines). We prefer original, unpublished SF,
fantasy, horror, poetry, humor, etc., by beginning or
little-known writers (but no porno, gore, or ads from
immigration lawyers, please). Because this e-mag is
free and operates on a budget of $0.39 per annum, we
can't afford to pay anything except the currency of free
publicity and life-enhancing good vibes (of course, that
and $2.50 will get you a double-tall cafe mocha with
powdered mesquite ash, but it's still a head rush to see
your name in print). To send a submission: query first,
whatever that means, then send stories or poems as
Stuffit- or ZipIt-compressed ASCII text files to
WHERE TO FIND THIS MAGAZINE IN OTHER FORMS
Planet is distributed as a B&W printed magazine and in
two electronic versions (simple and fancy). The e-zine
varieties can be downloaded from the following sources:
# The America Online Writers Club Forum (keyword:
WRITERS; look for the Writers Club E-Zines folder in the
Writers Club Libraries folder) carries a stuffed, or
.sit, text file (which can be read by Mac or IBM, using
some version of StuffIt and a word-processing program).
The WC forum also carries a stand-alone, read-only
DOCmaker file that incorporates full color, graphics, and
a suitable layout (Mac only); this file is also available
in AOL's Science Fiction & Fantasy Forum (keyword:
SCIENCE FICTION; look for the Sci-Fi Library in the
Science Fiction Libraries folder).
# The CompuServe Science Fiction & Fantasy Forum (go:
SCIENCE FICTION; look in the Science Fiction literature
library) has a .zip file version, which can be read by
Mac or IBM using some form of ZipIt and a word-processing
# The text file is also available in the Acorn BBS's
"newsstand," in the NVN fandom library of the SF forum
(go: science fiction), and Cthulhu knows where else.
# No Internet site for this magazine exists yet, but we
haven't tried very hard to find one. Still, we're open
The text file takes a few minutes to download at 2400
baud. The DOCmaker file takes about 15-20 minutes to
download at 2400 but only about 5 minutes at 9600. The
latter option is the coolest (hint: click on the
The fancy version is composed on an Apple Quadra 605
using DOCmaker 4.1. The text is set in 10 point Geneva
and 12 point Helvetica; the logotype is Times.
Illustrations done in Color It! 2.3. #
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