DEVIL'S WEEK

Here we have an extra-special treat, Freezine aficionados. Because just this last Halloween, the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction proudly presented a brand new, never-before-published short story from veteran author John Shirley. So if you're ready to be taken to an extremely dark place right now, then be sure to read on for our final tale for this autumnal season, THE SOFTEST PILLOW, by John Shirley.


Cemetery Art above by Shaun Lawton


Friday, September 30, 2011

SEPT '11 ISSUE

~ PROUDLY PRESENTS ~




 
 SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER
by Gil James Bavel
© by gil james bavel





WE ARE SPACELORD! AND WE
COMMAND YOU TO LOVE US!

by Sean Manseau
© by sean manseau


The SEPT '11 ISSUE marks another wrap for the FREEZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction. That's a total of fifteen issues since our inception just over two years ago, when John Shirley helped us launch this literary cyber-rocket into and beyond outer space with his then never-before-published novella SKY PIRATES (an homage to a more golden era of pulp science fiction, particularly that of Jack Vance and Edgar Rice Burroughs, with a nod to Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood).

The idea then (as now) was to bring the imaginatively-starved populace of this 21st century some new, original stories to be serialized in daily installments, the way Charles Dickens used to be serialized in the newspapers. As Editor In Chief of this virtual cybervessel, I've been appointed by a mysterious force known as "the Bloodhorde", or the "Blood Host"—also referred to sometimes as the "nano horde"—apparantly a collective of superminiaturized quantum computers dispatched from the future with the specific intention of having chosen US as the proprietors of establishing the ONE past out of more than a quadrillion-cubed-plus possible universes.

I've since been keeping tabs on the missives I get from the Nanohorde, and discovered they are in effect emissaries sent by our own descendants in order to make certain this crucial juncture of humanity's generations doesn't let slip the essential power and magic of our imagination itself! You see, I've since been able to logically deduce the following: The future already happened in the grand scheme of things. (This is just another way of saying "there is no such thing as the future," insofar as the peculiar nature of quantum physics is concerned.) We do not "choose" the future, that is a common misconception due to the proprietarily induced "Inversion Principle" which continues to blur our correct vision of the greater scheme of things. We've all been conditioned since elementary school to think of the future as this nebulous possibility we have yet to shape. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think about it. Every decision we make—and lack thereof—helps to actually shape the past. In the great quantum realm of things where time and space get tied up into virtually impossible-to-perceive knots, there is yet to exist a nearly infinite possibility of "Universes To Be Shaped". In other words, we have always had within our realistic grasp the potential to shape any world we demand—limited only by our imagination. Every real-world decision we make (or lack thereof) in fact does irrevocably shape The Past into what it is now! And it is our own emissaries from the Future who have selected us in precisely the same manner that we, in turn, necessarily select the past. Continue dwelling upon this crucial fact in our lives, until you "get it". I have determined that The Blood Host (as I initially called them, since they've invaded my central nervous system) are in fact these very Emissaries, sent from the future to make sure that we, in the present, make the better choices by which the One Past is optimally forged.



Which brings me to the imaginative efforts of the three Freezine Veterans who have graciously supplied us each with another free story of theirs. Three Cheers for our Returning Heroes!

First up, we have Adam Bolivar, who has shimmied up the totem pole to claim the most stories published in the FREEZINE under his belt, thus far. THE DEVIL CAME TO BOSTON is not merely his sixth (count 'em) story here, but also his fourth "Weird Jack Tale" (begun auspiciously with THE FOX IN THE THORN, from our AUGUST 2010 ISSUE). Taking his cue from Jack Tales and the olden Nursery Rhymes of Mother Goose, combined with a more modern and post-Lovecraftian sensibility, our illustrious Mr. Bolivar may pride himself for having concocted the Weird Jack Tale—and the FREEZINE is proud to have premiered them online for our insatiable readership. The nanohorde seem most satisfied with Adam's anachronistic offerings, and we here at the FREEZINE can't thank him enough for their distinctive support in this literary venue.



Next, we remain grateful to Gil James Bavel, another veteran Freezine author who cut his teeth on the SubGenius's Foundation anthology Revelation X: The “Bob” Apocryphon originally, and has already graced the pixels of our FREEZINE with three other original stories, archived in the right margin here under the ARCHIVE OF STORIES AND BIOS section (scroll down through this to see a list of every contributing author and their respective story hyperlinks). The Blood Host is especially pleased to have received Gil's science fiction novella SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER, and for decreasingly unfathomable reasons, have issued a command for us to manufacture a Limited Edition T-shirt featuring the cover art for Gil's serial, the "Jovian Sister" depiction my wife Shasta Fletcher Lawton threw together especially for it. Gil's novella premiered worldwide during the middle of September, in twelve daily installments, and is now archived here for posterity—hopefully, for the perusal and edification of our overseeing descendants.



Note: The staff here at the Freezine have fulfilled the request of our Overseer's, and have commissioned a limited set of Freezine T-shirts, available in short sleeve or long. Email us at freezinefantasysciencefiction@gmail.com if you or a friend or family member would like to be one of only 48 humans on earth to own this special, one-of-a-kind T-shirt. The short-sleeves cost fifteen dollars plus shipping = twenty dollars, and the longsleeves cost twenty dollars plus shipping = twenty-five dollars. At least a dozen have been sold already, leaving only 36 of these smart looking beauties left. Incidentally, authors who've been published in the Freezine are entitled to a free shirt of their own, so if you're reading this and want one, email us promptly while they're still available—on a first come, first serve basis.



The concluding short story to our SEPT '11 ISSUE is an extraordinarily written fable brought to us by yet another Freezine veteran, Sean Manseau. The Blood Host as well as our staff here at the Freezine are positively ecstatic over WE ARE SPACELORD! AND WE COMMAND YOU TO LOVE US!, a moving and hilarious parable of the transcendent power love itself holds over even the mightiest of demi-gods. A knowing wink and another grateful nod must go out to the author, Sean Manseau, for having submitted this wonderful story to our ongoing webzine. Readers take note: Mr. Manseau will return in a near-future issue with his first Freezine novella, slated for daily serialization—a notable event you do not want to miss out on.




Please take the time to leave a comment under these stories, and also to SHARE them with your friends on facebook, via the nifty little fb-share button located beneath each story. What better way to support your fellow writers than to spread the meme of their fiction throughout our shared social utility networks? You can also search these authors' names on Amazon.com and place an order for a book of theirs, many of which are now available quite inexpensively via Kindle and the like. We at the Freezine are dedicated to doing whatever we can to further the writing careers of our favorite authors. If you know someone with a talent for creative writing, urge them to Google the word FREEZINE and to begin Following our mutual enterprise here, and especially encourage them to submit a piece of their writing, be it flash fiction, a short story, or even a novella to be considered for daily serialization. Our staff of editors will treat them fairly and with courtesy, taking the care to reply and communicate honestly about the strengths and/or shortcomings of their writing. It can be particularly daunting to submit one's own writing for strangers to judge, yet we here at the Freezine openly encourage any and all writers, be they established professionals or aspiring beginners, to go ahead and do so, because you never know. You too could easily be included in the growing roster of creative writers here, alongside such luminaries in the field as John Shirley, award-winning authors such as Rain Graves, and our own growing crew of dedicated veterans who've banded together to give us the best free fiction magazine on the world wide web.

A tremendous THANK YOU goes out to all the Followers of the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. With your increasing support, together we will continue striving to expose this webzine to a wider readership. Until the next—MARCH or APRIL issue—we bid you a most gracious adieu.


WE ARE SPACELORD! AND WE
COMMAND YOU TO LOVE US!

by Sean Manseau




Who or what is Spacelord? Ultimately, Spacelord is beyond language. He is the mysterium tremendum, the Alpha and Omega, a universal force with a face.

But the important thing to remember is that Spacelord was, once upon a time, once before a time, a man. Not a human being like us, perhaps, but a sentient being, with barely understood needs and desires. Achieving godhood is no guarantee when it comes to the extinction of desire; ask the Hindus or Greeks about that. Desire instead undergoes a Great Inflation comparable to that of the universe itself in the first nanoseconds after the Big Bang. Which is just to say that at thirteen billion years old, Spacelord is still struggling with his desires, just like you and me. Sometimes his desires make him do stupid things. Just like you and me.

Some people think that because Spacelord gobbles worlds, he is evil. Not so. Spacelord is, as Nietzsche said, beyond good and evil. Moral considerations are for the mortal. Humor, however, is a divine quality present at every level of creation, from the gross to the transcendent. Spacelord has a great sense of humor. The multiverse glows radioactively with information—Spacelord processes it all, effortlessly. He loves Lolcats and the original BBC version of The Office.

Why did Spacelord return to Earth? He once swore a grateful oath that our planet was forever safe from his predations. But it gets lonely out there among the stars. Spacelord returned to Earth to win back the only man he had ever loved: his former herald, whom he had marooned on our world as punishment for insubordination.

For someone/thing that is more metaphysical concept than entity, Spacelord travels the old-fashioned way: by vehicle. His ship is a moon-sized, mirror-finished sphere that bristles with a thousand unnamed instruments and weapons. It is a physical object, but travels unconstrained by physics. Relativity is of no concern to Spacelord; relativity is relative to him. One moment he is in the vicinity of a certain star, and the next he is in a place so far away that the universe may end before the light of that star could find him. No big whoop to Spacelord. That’s how he rolls. His disco ball of a spaceship winks into existence between the Earth and its moon, and while the computerized defense networks of every nation have a collective grand mal seizure, Spacelord searches for Norrin.

Is Spacelord omniscient? Not exactly. Some things are hidden, even from him. And though he knows a lot, he’s forgotten a lot, too. He once spent the better part of a thousand years hunting fruitlessly for a particular world, positively succulent with life-energy, before he remembered he’d already eaten it. Hey, he’s thirteen billion years old. You try to keep it all straight.

Spacelord reaches out with his nearly-omniscient mind and determines that Norrin is in San Francisco. But Spacelord stops there. Norrin too has Cosmic Awareness; it was one of the gifts Spacelord bestowed upon him at his creation. Along with gorgeous liquid mercury skin and the ability to soar unfettered through the cosmos. You’d think the guy might show a little gratitude. Anyway. The point is, Norrin will sense it if Spacelord pulls too much information from the ether. He will consider it snooping. He’ll be a complete bitch about it, and things will start badly and get worse. But Spacelord has not crossed ten thousand parsecs to fail. He will not pry any further, not even to find out if Norrin is currently seeing anyone special.

He descends under the cover of a raging thunderstorm, the kind that city by the bay almost never sees: black clouds swirling like the sky is escaping through a drain, cobwebs of lightning arcing to earth. Though he exists in every layer of the multiverse at once, to the unaided eye he appears to be a forty-five foot tall man in blue-and-purple samurai armor, with a great antlered helmet on his head. This will not do, however. He intends to keep this visit low key. By the time his boots settle on macadam, Spacelord is a six foot tall man in samurai armor. Seven, counting his helmet. He hopes Norrin will interpret this as self-abasement, and that as a gesture, it will be satisfactory. Spacelord has never had to grovel. But he will tonight if he has to.

The rain continues to lash the streets. Spacelord allows himself to be soaked. This will, he hopes, make him slightly more sympathetic. He stands at the door of a shop, and after a moment’s deliberation, turns the knob and pushes his way inside.

It’s warm in here, and smells richly of leather. One whole wall is given over to the displays of dozens of pairs of boots, both practical and extravagant, and there are racks of jackets and pants and bondage gear. Atop the racks there are mannequins modeling harnesses and restraint equipment. These, Spacelord knows, have been designed and crafted by Norrin. The way this shop smells of treated animal skin, these goods radiate traces of his former herald. Norrin’s residual consciousness makes Spacelord tingle and ache.

There are things hidden from Spacelord, and one of them is the why he cannot put his desire for Norrin aside. Spacelord has experimented and determined that he can, by sheer force of will, arrange 81,027 atoms into a configuration that exactly matches that of his former herald, from the dendrites in his neurons to the cells of his stratum corneum. In every way, shape and form, he can create Norrin’s duplicate. But they are never him. Not even close.

The man behind the counter is older, as human beings go, with a bald head and a white moustache that a walrus might envy. As muscular as a comic book superhero, he is shirtless under his black leather vest. A chain choker, secured with a padlock, is tight around his massive neck. The man hears the bell above the entrance ring, puts down his newspaper, and doesn’t bat an eye at Spacelord’s armor. This is Folsom Street, San Francisco, after all.

“Help you, stud?” he says.

Spacelord clears his throat. “We are hoping to speak with Norrin.”

The man looks at Spacelord with new interest. He is the owner of this shop, and he is Norrin's lover, a position he has enjoyed for almost ten years. They were married two winters ago in a ceremony at City Hall. The shop keeper, whose name is Lyle, wore a white wedding dress. Norrin wore a leather tuxedo and jackboots.

"You a friend of his?" Lyle asks.

Spacelord does not vaporize him with a thought. He does not turn him into a cockroach, or teleport him to asphyxiate on the surface of Mars, or send him back in time to be torn apart by a pack of velociraptors. Which is not to say he wouldn't enjoy any of those options. He nods and says, "We are."

Lyle gets up and moves to the doorway behind the counter. He pulls back the black rubber curtain and calls, "Nor! You got company."

The machine chatter stops. Lyle steps back from the doorway. And then Norrin is there.

Some people say that because Spacelord is not human, he knows nothing of love. Human beings, especially intelligent ones, can be chauvinistic that way—as if human beings invented love. Spacelord has been in love with Norrin since before the Earth was formed. He fell in love with Norrin’s long shining limbs, the sublime geometry of his face, but most especially, his courage in the face of the vision of wrath and terror that is Spacelord as he prepares to feast; Norrin traded his life for the survival of his world. Spacelord made him his slave, but in doing so, he became Norrin’s slave, as well. He made Norrin into something beyond the reach of death, imbued him with powers I can’t describe to you, because they are exercised at levels of reality neither you nor I can perceive. But the one gift he didn’t have to give Norrin was numinous beauty. That, he only externalized.

Spacelord trembles at Norrin’s appearance in the doorway as whole worlds tremble at Spacelord’s approach. Norrin is wearing leather pants and a white undershirt. Around his throat: a choke chain and padlock. The reflections of the overhead track lights dance across his chromed skin.

Of course Norrin knew he was coming. He says, “What are you doing here, Galen?”

Only Norrin, of all the sentient beings in all the universe, is allowed to call him that. Galen was Spacelord’s name, when he was a man.

“We were hoping we could talk,” Spacelord says.

Norrin sighs. It’s for effect: Norrin doesn’t need to breathe. “Now is not a good time. I’m way behind on an order.”

“We have come very far to speak with you.” A puddle is spreading between Spacelord’s purple boots. “We are soaking wet.”

Norrin and Lyle exchange a look. “We were just about to close,” Lyle says. “So unless you wanted to purchase something…”

Spacelord apports bills from the cash register into his hand and buys a pair of leather pants without bothering to try them on for size. Then he leaves and rents a room in a SRO hotel down the street from the leather shop. Upstairs, with his neighbors hacking the last of their lives into crumpled tissues and fighting over who has the radio turned up too loud, he puts on the pants. They are a perfect fit. Spacelord materializes thick-soled combat boots, a white undershirt, a wallet on a chain, a little leather hat. And a mustache. His purple armor he leaves strewn across the floor.

Every day Spacelord visits the shop. But Norrin remains behind the black rubber curtain, and the machine chatters idiotically. After a week Lyle takes pity on him, and they begin to talk. Spacelord tries very hard not to read Lyle’s mind. He learned this was necessary one morning after Lyle and Norrin had shared a particularly ferocious bout of lovemaking. Usually, Lyle wasn’t especially curious about Norrin’s rather exotic origins, or his preternatural abilities. But the evening before Lyle had asked Norrin to instantiate himself twice over, so that their bed groaned under four bodies desperately coupling.

Something you need to know: Spacelord and Norrin, during the several hundred thousand years of their association, were not lovers. Not the way Norrin and Lyle are. Spacelord acknowledges that was entirely his fault. He was a little caught up in his god-complex, thought he was above such things. He couldn’t understand Norrin’s obsession with fucking. It seemed so…biological. But in the decades since he condemned Norrin to eternal exile on this planet located in the ass-end of nowhere—what it came down to, really, was that on Earth Norrin had found the pleasure palace of his dreams, and had sided with the natives when Spacelord had arrived to gobble the planet whole, and yes at the time Spacelord was furious, but in addition to lust, Spacelord had discovered forgiveness (funny the way one directly influenced the other)—anyway—Spacelord has come to share Norrin’s attitudes towards the subject of fucking. In a big way. Spacelord wants to drag Norrin into the heart of the Sun (only a G2 class star, but it’ll do) and get it on until the space/time fabric tears beneath them. Sex, he has come to understand, transcends the biological. Or at least it can. With Norrin, he’s sure it will.

What changed his mind? If you’ve ever lost someone you loved, you already know. Some things are hidden, even from Spacelord; one of those things was the true nature of his feelings for Norrin. Only when Norrin was gone did Spacelord recognize the void his herald had filled. Andus III, Bergeron X1, Leonides IIa—planet after planet, with all their cities, seas, flora, fauna, blogs, reality TV shows, celebutantes—all were converted into energy to feed Spacelord. But somehow, none of it satisfies anymore. If you’ve eaten too many meals alone, you know what I’m talking about.

Spacelord read Lyle’s mind by accident, and what he saw there made him wish he’d perished along with the rest of his universe, those long fifteen billion years ago. That day he didn’t spend the morning in the shop, hoping Norrin would come out from behind the curtain. He went home, put on this armor, and teleported back to his sphere, still in orbit around the moon. “Fuck this shit,” he kept saying to himself. It was an expression he’d overheard from a couple arguing next to the bondage harnesses. The next morning, though, he was back in the leather shop, in his jeans and chain wallet, talking to Lyle. Lyle talks to Spacelord because he is sure Spacelord is no threat to his happy home; the things Norrin says to Lyle about Spacelord are another reason Spacelord tries to avoid reading the shopkeeper’s mind. Which brings up another thing that Spacelord cannot comprehend. Why would Norrin prefer a dimensionally-delimited pressurized bag of fluids like Lyle to the immortal power and glory that is Spacelord? Why? Why? Why?

Weeks go by like this. Spacelord is aware that his leather pants are hanging on him. If he doesn’t feed soon, he will lack the energy to return to his ship. He will be stuck here, on Earth, for a working definition of forever. In six billion years, when the Sun goes nova and consumes the Earth completely, Spacelord will be left floating in space, a wraith waiting for the Big Crunch to compress all the matter in the universe to a single point so the whole cycle can begin again. But the thought of leaving without Norrin by his side is equally unbearable. Spacelord decides to play the only card he has left.

The next morning he does not visit the shop. He takes a seat in the window of Pizza Love, across the street. Spacelord sips Diet Coke and waits for the world to complete a half rotation on its axis. When the sky has gone dark and the halogen street lights coldly glow, Lyle and Norrin exit the shop. Norrin walks over to start the motorcycle they ride together, while Lyle bends to lock the deadbolt on the front door.

For Spacelord, will and action are synonymous. He is sitting quietly sipping his soda. Then he is standing beside Norrin. He says, “It is imperative we speak.”

Lyle clears his throat. “Maybe it’s time you had that talk, Nor. I’m going down to Brainwash for a cup of coffee. Be back in twenty minutes?”

Norrin stares after him accusingly. Then to Spacelord he says, “Say what you have to say.”

Spacelord does. He reminds Norrin of the boundlessness of the universe, of the wonders that await in the furthest removes of space. He abandons English and speaks in wavelengths, in atomic decay rates, in quasar pulses. He apologizes for being a megalomaniacal shithead. He swears he is committed to becoming the best trans-dimensional omnipotent entity he can be. But to reach that lofty goal, he needs Norrin, because Norrin makes him want to be better. Norrin is his pole star.

“I broke my board,” Norrin says.

“We will make you a new one,” Spacelord promises.

“I don’t want a new one,” Norrin assures him. “I’m done roaming space and time. Home for me is a two-bedroom apartment in Hayes Valley. Lyle is my home. And I’m not leaving. Ever.”

"I can destroy this place." Spacelord hears the desperation in his own voice, and hates himself for it. "You know that. You and your monkey and your terra cotta dinnerware will be so much excretory effluvia trailing in my wake."

Norrin smirks. "That's the only way I'm getting anywhere near your ass, you bullying fuck."

Spacelord loses it. He is forty-five feet tall, in his blue-and-purple samurai armor. The sky has turned black and lightning forks to strike the antlers of his forehead. The hills tremble. The blacktop cracks. The Bay Bridge sways. People are running and screaming in the street.

“RETURN, HERALD!” he thunders. “WE ARE SPACELORD! AND WE COMMAND YOU TO LOVE US!”

“You’re making a scene, Galen.” Norrin sits back against the chopper’s sissy seat, his arms folded across his chest. “I’m sorry you’re hurting. But the answer will always be no.”

One hundred thirty thousand miles above them, Spacelord’s spherical ship deploys the Elemental Converter. In a matter of minutes, the Earth could be returned to a state of embryonic malleability, its oceans boiled away, its mantle running like syrup. Spacelord would sink slowly towards the planetary core, and linger there for the next several days, absorbing everything that made this world such a shining jewel, such a unique treasure in a universe overflowing with riches. Spacelord will be nourished by the sentience of its every creature, from the one-celled eukaryotes to the astral beings only a few orders of evolutionary development below his own, the ones whose existence human beings could never quite credence. Doing this would not be wrong; in fact, it would be in agreement with the universal order. For inscrutable reasons, this is what Spacelord was created for.

But he doesn’t do it. The Elemental Converter returns to its cradle, and Spacelord returns to his room in the SRO across the street. He takes off his armor and sits at the end of the single bed. He won’t destroy the Earth, because destroying the Earth would mean putting an end to Norrin’s happiness. Spacelord bitterly wishes he didn’t care.

That night he takes a walk. There is still time. Not much, but for a little while, he still has the strength to return to his ship. There is another life-sustaining world, not too distant. No sentient life there, unfortunately, nothing with hopes, hurts and dreams, so it will not be enough to return him to full strength, but it will keep him going until he can find someplace more suitable. Perhaps on that next planet he might find another herald. A little company for the endless night between stars. That’s later, though. Tonight he walks a few blocks down Folsom Street, until he comes to a bar called The Stud. Outside, a little claque of beefy men in strap-shoulder t-shirts stands smoking; they look him over appraisingly. One nods.

Spacelord goes inside. It is dark and the music is loud. Spacelord knows this song: “Ring My Bells”, by Anita Ward. The dance floor is crowded with shirtless men. Spacelord orders a beer, leaves the change from his ten on the bar, strips off his t-shirt, and joins the melee. The beer is cold. Hands grope him. It’s bliss. If you are ever heart-broken and want to forget everything, there are worse places to go than The Stud on a Friday night. Just so you know.

Hours later Spacelord leaves. Or rather, he is pulled from The Stud by a man named Tom. Tom has a shaved head, a Van Dyke beard, and rings through his nipples. Spacelord takes Tom to his SRO room. The man behind the bulletproof glass at the registration desk nods at Tom as if they are old friends.

High above, between the Earth and the Moon, Spacelord’s ship is keening. His energy levels are critically low. It’s time for him to return. Spacelord ignores its entreaties. Is it the beer that’s gone to his head? Or just the prospect of sex? Like I said before: sometimes desire makes us do stupid things. All of us. Even demi-gods.

Tom loves Spacelord’s armor. He insists on trying it on. He won’t take it off. He kisses Spacelord roughly. Then he turns Spacelord around, forcing him forward until he is braced against the bed’s iron frame.

Tom spits into his palm and says, “I don’t have any condoms. Do you care?”

“No,” Spacelord says.

So this is sex. It’s not quite the weightless, spiraling, gamma-ray explosion Spacelord had envisioned. There’s a lot more grunting than he expected. And it hurts. But that’s not a bad thing.

“What’s my name?” Tom says. “Say my name, bitch!”

“Tom,” Spacelord says.

“Bitch, look at me! Do I look like a Tom?” Spacelord turns to see a vision of wrath and terror whose antlers are scraping black paint chips from the low ceiling. He sees what, for the denizens of uncounted millions of worlds, was the last fact of existence. “Now say my name!”

“Spacelord,” Spacelord mutters.

“Louder!”

“Ah! Spacelord! Spacelord!”

Tom spends himself. He slumps over Spacelord’s back. His skin is slick and hot. His arm circles Spacelord’s waist. Spacelord breathes hard, although he doesn’t need to.

After a while Tom gets off him. Tom says, “Got any smokes?”

“No,” Spacelord says.

“Well, fuck me," Tom says. "I’m going to go buy some smokes. But don’t you fucking move. I better find you in exactly the same position when I get back, or you’re gonna pay. You understand me?”

“We—I—understand.”

Spacelord’s thighs are burning. His back aches. Sweat beads at the end of his nose, then drips to stain the bare mattress below.

“I’m not going anywhere.”



SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER: XII

by Gil James Bavel


Mission Day 722
: 12:47 hours
Ganymede Base Alpha, underground
Second Shift





Short period comet Murakami-Honda entered the Jovian system and set off the JSDA at 12:47 hours. Inside his underground facility, First director David Chenowith hit the button to silence the alarm, began recording, and watched the comet through the array’s network of cameras on his telescreen. It wasn’t large, but it had an unusually high mass and would pass close enough to Ganymede on its way into Jupiter that there would be serious disruptions. He was glad he was so deep in the interior of Ganymede—he wouldn’t have to worry about anything more serious than a rattling, but the crew of Ganymede Base would likely not survive.

Chenowith would pass the data onto the Earth station Mission Council. They would need to know every detail so they could prepare the next crew to inhabit the station. This entire event would be classified on a need-to-know basis, the only personnel to hear about it would be the construction grunts from the Company ferried out by the Space Corps to rebuild the installation and clean up what was salvageable. They were all cleared as top secret Company officers. As Chenowith prepared the data to send, he watched the comet continue on its path toward Jupiter. He continued his calculations and recordings.

The comet raced ever onward, pulled in by the sun, and shearing toward Jupiter because of Jupiter’s massive local gravity well. The comet’s tail was already brilliantly lit this far out in the system, outgassing cyanogen, water ice, C02 ice and other elements. It had a core of nickel/iron, ice, rock and other ores that gave Comet Murakami-Honda considerably more gravitational impact than most. Chenowith continued recording. This would be the closest Ganymede had been to a comet impact in his career, since the Company had been keeping track. It was a first, and a scientific curiosity.

Ganymede’s orbit was in an unfortunate position in relation to Jupiter and Murakami-Honda—they were both in almost perfect alignment with the sun. Chenowith had run the calculations over and over again, and while there was no chance of a direct impact with Ganymede, the gravitational perturbations would cause unyielding stresses on the moon’s surface. It would crack up the installation like an eggshell. Easy come, easy go, thought Director Chenowith. They wouldn’t be the first crew to die in space.

The day before, Chenowith had put the autobots that ferried H-3, water and oxygen from various stations such as Io to him on hold so they would not be affected by this event. He had supplies for his fusion reactor socked away; it wouldn’t inconvenience him a bit. As the comet grew closer, Chenowith began recording video from all the cameras on the Ganymede mining station, inside the base, the external angles—the Company would want every last moment for analysis.

The crew of Ganymede Mining Base was going about their business, blissfully ignorant of what was about to befall them. Technician Jensen was preparing to suit up to go onto the surface for his duty assignment. He’ll never survive, Chenowith thought. He turned to the JSDA camera and watched Murakami-Honda continue in. No one had ever been this close to a comet before in human history. This was one of the primary reasons that Chenowith was out here, to help study the ongoing impact of comets on life in space. While it was a once-in-a-blue-moon affair, scientifically speaking, it would be invaluable data, as freak an occurrence as it was.

Technician Jensen was outside the base, now, flouncing over to the radio shack. Chenowith watched with a keener sense than usual knowing that this would very likely be Jensen’s last duty—to direct the radio shack’s antennae toward the JSDA so it could pass on every last bit of data about the base’s last moments in crystal clarity. Chenowith felt no remorse, it was just another day in the Company for him. This was as exciting as his life ever got.

Jensen climbed up with a jump to the top of the radio shack and began his work repositioning the antennae. Chenowith zoomed in with an external camera to make sure that he was doing it right. Not that he could communicate with any of them now, that would be a dead giveaway. But still, it was part of his job to monitor the last duties of this crew. Jensen dutifully turned the dials that shifted the first and secondary antennae toward the JSDA. When he had completed that task, he manually moved the tertiary antenna, which took some effort and time. He had to line it up exactly, which required the use of his in-suit computer to insure the alignment.

Once finished, he radioed in that the work was complete and hopped off the roof onto the surface. Jensen made his way back toward the base, about a three-minute flounce. That’s when the moonquake started. The cameras in the base that Chenowith had been monitoring went offline, so he turned his attention to the astronomical event itself, eager to watch the rest of the show.

The comet roared by Ganymede, less than 70,000 kilometers away. Chenowith felt a deep rumbling from Ganymede’s iron core; the mantle shook and the icy crust with it. Down here in his core, he was safe from all but a direct strike, but it was still too close for comfort. In a few minutes, Comet Murakami-Honda would be swallowed up by Jupiter, and he would send the results of his observations on off to Earth Control.

First Director Chenowith continued recording for another fifteen minutes until the comet actually impacted Jupiter; it struck with a brilliant flash that overpowered the camera until it could compensate with a filter. It would leave a black eye the size of the Earth on Jupiter’s visible surface for a few days, and then all trace of it would be gone, forever. Chenowith wrapped up his notes, recordings, and sent them off to his colleagues on Earth. He turned to his desk and began writing his after-action report.

Ganymede Base mining station was no more.



Mission Day 723
: 15:30 hours
Ganymede Base Alpha, underground
Second Shift




It had been over a day since I’d received word that the Company had received my transmissions. The Company disavowed any knowledge of the incident. But they agreed with my estimation that this much time alone had driven the Director stark raving mad.

So no one will ever know what I went through, the Company would blame it on the Director, and since he’s dead, there’s no one left to take the fall. They’ll buy my silence, and put me out to pasture.

The radio squawked. “Hey, Will, you down there? It was pretty hard landing this thing. I’ve got a ladder for you, but I’m going to have to depressurize for you to get in. These shuttles are fast, but we’re really supposed to have a landing bay to accommodate passengers.” It was Captain Jim Stanton. Big Jim Stanton. Boy, was I glad to hear his voice.

“Copy that, Jim. I’ll be out in a few.” I powered down the console, screwed the helmet to my suit, and made my way back to the elevator.

God help whoever sits in that chair again, I thought, and hit the one single button in the elevator. Going up. Going home. I was going to make a new start, see my family and be glad I got away with my life.

I was going home.


~ The End ~



Return To Earth Later Today
For The Online Premiere of


Sean Manseau's
WE ARE SPACELORD!

AND WE COMMAND
YOU TO LOVE US!


Only On
the FREEZINE of
Fantasy and Science
Fiction

Thursday, September 29, 2011

SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER: XI

by Gil James Bavel


Mission Day 674
: 7:56 hours
Ganymede Base mining station
First Shift




Marquis Williams was the first out of bed. He went directly to the workout facility and stretched, then put in a half hour on the exercise equipment. It was mandatory for all crew to use the workout equipment daily. Afterward, he got into the shower. When he had finished and gotten dressed for duty, on his own way to the mess hall he met John Biggs headed toward the workout station.

“Morning.” Williams offered cheerfully,

“Morning, Marquis,” Biggs replied. “Did you wipe down the bike seat?” he asked playfully.

“Yeah, it’s all ready for you to use. Have a good workout. See you in the mess hall.”

“Right,” answered Biggs, and patted his friend on the shoulder as they crossed.



Mission Day 674
: 8:29 hours
Ganymede Base mining station
First Shift





The mess hall was already buzzing with activity. Today was a Friday Run, and since the crew had been allowed to sleep in, they were feeling lazy. They now had less time to do to catch-up to prepare the shuttle bay, and were consequently running pre-landing checks while they ate their breakfast.

Dr. Devon Berkshire was sipping black tea—Irish Breakfast—while Dr. Lisa Obermeyer and Will Jensen were drinking coffee and eating what passed for reconstituted eggs with some kind of soy-sausage patties. Obermeyer was finishing a fruit protein bar. They were noodling together while parallel working on their respective duty pads.

Marquis Williams entered the mess hall. “Morning all,” he offered, and made his way toward the drink station to procure some coffee. Various salutations went up from the crew, and Berkshire offered him a pad.

“Make sure you get your ducks in a row this morning. We’re running late, and I want to make sure our deliveries get made without a hitch. And that Jim and Sondra don’t have to do any more work than usual because we slept in today.”

“Sure thing, boss,” Williams replied, taking the pad and looking it over while he retrieved a cup from the drink station. He poured himself a coffee, stirred in some creamer and sat down with the rest of the crew in the breakfast nook. They munched at their breakfast and began planning out their duties for the day.

“Who wants to wash out the landing bay? I want it done before noon so they have an easy landing,” Berkshire ordered.

Jensen raised a hand. “I’ll take care of it. Then I can hit the bike afterward and be ready for them when they get here. What’s on the bird today?”

Berkshire wiped his pad with a finger and called up the relevant data. “Looks like we’ve got more drill bits, blower parts and algae kits. Oh, and they’re bringing us that new rover that’s been on backorder. I guess they worked out all the kinks, finally. Look, when it gets here, I want John to go over every system, check it and prepare it for initialization. Will, will you see that it gets done? And when you’re finished, I want it stowed away and locked down under a tarp. We won’t need it for a while yet. Let’s get as much mileage out of the old one as we can.”

Jensen nodded, finishing his breakfast. “I’ll make sure to tell him.”

“Everyone have their duty rosters down for today?” Berkshire asked his crew.

“Yeah, we’re ready, Devon,” answered Obermeyer.

“Good. When you’ve finished up breakfast, let’s get to work.” Berkshire resumed looking at the data he’d brought up and lost himself in his cup of Irish Breakfast.



Mission Day 674
: 10:04 hours
Ganymede Base mining station
First Shift





Class I Mechanical/Maintenance Technician Will Jensen was spraying out the landing bay, not with water, but with an air hose. A grating at the far side near the bay door caught the grit and stored it for eventual redistribution on the surface. It was tedious work, but compared to installing the annex, it was easy, and it was necessary to insure the Friday Run ship had a smooth landing. Jensen thought about seeing Sondra Lawton and Captain Jim Stanton again; Sondra always lit up the base with her youthful enthusiasm, and Stanton would be retiring soon. He wondered if they’d have a party. Jensen would have to look him up once his own rotation was over.

Of course, he’d have to repeat this process after the ship departed again, but that was par for the course. Dr. Lisa Obermeyer popped open the airlock and joined him in the shuttle bay.

“I’ll help you clean out the grate and get the regolith out, if you like. After a little nookie,” she said, a familiar glint in her eye.

Jensen smiled. “Sounds good, I’m done here. I’ll have to clean up before I suit up again, anyway. Let’s knock off for an early lunch, I’ll tell Devon I’m done here and that we’ll depressurize the bay in an hour or so.” He turned off the air hose and stowed it back on its rack on the wall. They left the bay together holding hands, and made for the command center. Dr. Berkshire was there, correlating data.

He turned to face the two of them. “Get the bay sprayed out?” he asked.

Jensen nodded. “Yeah, just finished. If it’s okay with you, Lisa and I are going to punch out for an early lunch, and then we’ll depressurize the bay and empty the grate outside.”

Berkshire agreed. “Okay, but when you’re done, I have instructions for you to reposition the antennae array on the radio shack. Not sure why, but here are the coordinates. Make sure you put them into your suit.”

Jensen took the pad. “Sure thing, boss,” he said, examining the data.

Obermeyer reached for Jensen’s other hand. “Let’s go, I’m hungry!” she remarked.

Berkshire smiled. “Have fun guys. Don’t fail to be back on duty in an hour,” he commanded. “Friday Run ship is due no later than noon-thirty”.

“Will do,” Jensen replied, taking Obermeyer’s other hand and following her out of their Commander’s control center.

They quietly walked back to her quarters. She opened the door and pulled him through.

“I didn’t get enough of you this morning,” she said, unzipping his jumpsuit. Jensen began removing her own clothes and soon they were in a competition with each other as to which would get the other’s clothes off first. Their boots fell to the floor and soon they were lost in each other.

“I want to have children,” Obermeyer admitted.

“What, now?” joked Jensen, fondling her smooth, white breasts.

“We could get started now,” she answered in between breathy moans. “No time like the present.” She instinctually inverted him so he was on top of her.

“You’re serious? Why the sudden urge to have kids?” Jensen asked. He was beginning to drop beads of sweat onto her naked body with every thrust of his pelvis.

Obermeyer's eyes rolled back in ecstasy. “Ohh…I…don’t know. I don’t want to wait until I’m forty to have kids.”

“You’ll have to marry me when we get home,” Jensen said, seriously.

“Oh...oh...okay...FUCK ME!” screamed Obermeyer, and pulled him into her where he exploded like one of Io’s volcanoes. He settled down onto her smooth, flat body and folded his fingers inside hers.

“I’m going to hold you to that, Doctor,” Jensen said, smiling.

Obermeyer was lost in post-coital bliss. “Oh, you do that,” she said with a sigh.

After a few minutes, she sat up, reaching for a nearby towel. “I’m hungry, let’s go eat.”

Jensen laughed. “Okay. Then we’ve got to clean up and suit up.” She handed him the towel and he cleaned off. Putting on his clothes, he zipped up and put his boots on. “I’ll see you in the mess hall.”

“Wait, I’ll come with you,” she said, and hopped out of bed. She dressed quickly and they left her quarters, headed for the mess hall. She planted a kiss on his lips as they departed.


Click Here


for the Conclusion

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER: X

by Gil James Bavel


Mission Day 674:
3:01 hours
Ganymede Base mining station
First Shift





The crew of Ganymede Base was sleeping comfortably while a rain of micrometeoroids fell harmlessly outside. The modifications to the base complete, they were enjoying a well deserved extra few hours of sleep.

The installation now sported extra crew quarters, new shower and restroom facilities, and waste disposal and containment areas. The airlock to the new section had gone in seamlessly. The survey team had graded the surface, laid a slab, and the construction team had gotten the annex up in well under the allotted time, testing each corner, wall and weld. They had pressurized it, waited an hour to insure there were no leaks, and then opened the airlock into it. No problems.

The most difficult part was wiring the electronics, but that was a simple matter to Jensen. As a mechanical engineer, he was used to fixing things on the fly with fewer materials than he’d like. This new section had really gone up without a hitch. Every member of the crew had pitched in, from the surveyors to the Commander. The micrometeoroids were breaking in the virgin surfaces of the outside of the annex, falling harmlessly to the ground afterward.

Dr. Lisa Obermeyer rolled over in her sleep. Will Jensen was there, in her rack, dreaming of his family back in the inner system: Walking on the beaches of Earth with his nephew, Colin; visiting Luna and his mother; and eventually of crawling through the caves of Mars with his brother Michael and his family. They loved spelunking those ancient caves. Michael’s stepchildren were young enough that they still believed that the caves had been cut out of the living rock by aliens millennia ago. It was one of their favorite hobbies. With nearly twenty billion people on the Earth, it had been an easy option for many of his family to settle offworld to the colonies. It was a lot less cramped, and a more easygoing lifestyle, if you could handle it.

Dr. Devon Berkshire stirred, rolled over in his own rack and awoke. “Computer,” he commanded, “MM status.”

The computer answered back, “Nominal.”

Berkshire called up the exterior view of the new addition and watched the dust of micrometeoroids bouncing harmlessly off of it. Over the years he had learned to wake up to the soft pellets of rain on the base. It was an uneasy sleep that came with command. Of course, the annex was the safest part of the installation now, but being the newest, in his mind it was the most prone to faults. He did a systems check from his bed and then rolled over and went back to sleep.

Biggs and Williams likewise slept restively, they were used to the sound of the rain outside but knew that during a micrometeoroid storm, there was a small but not impossible chance that a breach could occur and they’d have to get up and seal it when the alarm sounded.

Presently, the micrometeoroids slowed and the shower ended. The crew of Ganymede Base could rest easy for the remainder of their rack time and sleep in.


Click Here

for Part XI

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER: IX

by Gil James Bavel


Mission Day 722:
15:20 hours
Unknown Ganymede station
Second Shift




I finished recording the door mechanism and put my helmet back on. One last bounce onto the ledge and over the paperweight that sat between the doors. The second robot stared me down as if we were about to draw on each other in an old 20th century western. Instinctively, I looked back at the defunct robot to see if I could get access to my tire tool. It appeared as if, when it had powered down, the first robot’s magnetic inductors had failed, because the tire tool was lying on the floor next to it. I leaned over, reached down, and took it confidently in one hand.

I then approached on the second robot’s position, brandishing the tire tool in front of me. The robot backed up tentatively and I then knew how I was going to manage my way. I threw the tire tool down, past the first robot’s dead hand—about four feet further down the hall. The robot backed away immediately. It didn’t want to tangle with metal objects on the floor. I continued this, tool over metal hand, until I had backed the robot up against its original door. I made sure to leave the tire tool in its way so that I’d be able to pick up the first robot’s hand. Grabbing this, I made my way back to the T-junction, to the consternation of the second robot, unable to advance.

Now I was ready. I removed my helmet and prepared to activate the actuator that would play the signal from the door. First I held up the robot’s spherical hand and set it inside the ducted indentation. Then I pressed the button in my helmet. From the additional interface emerged a small button. I leaned forward and pressed it with my forehead.

The ceramic indentation pulled the robot’s hand out of mine with a strong electromagnetic field, and I felt a grinding underneath me. Looking toward the chasm, I saw that the rail in the middle was opening, and the bridge was extending into the darkness beyond. Lights flickered on. Success!

Smiling, I put my helmet back on, but then remembered how I had gotten here. This was the last place I could go. Wherever this bridge led, there was the end of my journey. To be prudent, I waited until the grinding stopped, which was at least ninety seconds. When the bridge had extended all the way, I grabbed my helmet, clipped the plasma torch back onto my jumpsuit, and took a first tentative step onto the bridge. Sturdy enough. I made my way across the bridge, being careful not to look down. There was something really strange about the gravity here, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was somehow stronger, but it should be weaker, I thought. It felt more like Luna’s. No matter.

On into the darkness I walked. It took me about a minute to get across to the other side, where I found another hallway much like the one I’d left. This door had another simple button, which I pressed. The door opened and I was greeted by a warm temperature, and a warmer glow from the lights inside. And here I could smell life. This was a familiar smell. Someone was indeed here. And I had questions.

I was in an outer access area, with simple accommodations and a hydroponics bay. It was not unlike the one in our installation, smaller, but also older. It looked as if one half had been recently cleared and new vegetation was growing, the other half was full of familiar veggies and fruit. I looked at some of the food there—I knew better than to touch it, but my mouth watered at the thought. It had been some time since I’d eaten. Focus.

Looking around, I could see a restroom and a shower/locker area to my left. There was only one shower, with a detachable wand and a metal bench. It could not service more than a few people. I wondered who lived here. To my right, I could see a hatch above the ledge near a drink station, and a round bin next to a cabinet with two doors in front. The hatch appeared to be closed, but was round, and looked as if it might accommodate a cylinder about eighteen inches wide.

I grew curious and opened the doors to the cabinet. Napkins, silverware, food paste tubes, condiment packets—someone not only lived here, but received regular shipments from home. But not from the Friday Run ships—they would have told us. I’m sure they would have. The occupants of this station also received fuel from somewhere—perhaps the auto-bots that mined Io for H-3, hydrogen and other ores. I stepped on the lever to the bin and a similar chute to the hatch above led down into the dark. Waste disposal. Fairly well planned out for such a small population. I unclipped the plasma welder and held it firmly in my right hand.

Ahead of me I could see another door, this one with a familiar panel on it—it looked exactly like the ones in our installation. So it was the company. I pressed my fist against the entry button, and the doors parted. Beyond was an all-too-familiar sight.

Something like a video studio, with a room-wide telescreen on one wall, and a camera on the other. I could see other things in my peripheral vision, but straight ahead of me—impossibly—was First Director David Chenowith of the Company. He was seated behind his command center desk, and seemed truly startled to see me. He regained his composure and put down the pad he was working with. He spoke with a familiar voice, but now it was uncompressed and, in real life, raspier than I expected.

“Well, son, I must congratulate you on your ingenuity and tenacity. I imagine you must have a dozen questions. I was truly sorry to see that Ganymede Base was compromised by the rogue comet.”

I could no longer contain my rage. “Compromised? Compromised-?” He obviously had eyes on our base, hell, he had probably had eyes in our base. “Okay, so it’s a rogue comet now. Did the Company know it was coming? Could they have saved the crew?”

“No, son. There was no way to save the crew or we would have, you must understand that.” He looked me unflinchingly in the eye.

“How much lead time did they have? Why have another base so close and not evacuate the crew? Why did you let them die? I loved her!” I was exasperated.

Chenowith shifted in his chair and crossed his legs under his desk. “They knew the risks when they signed on. It’s a dangerous life out here. That’s why you’re paid so well. Why your families are provided for so well in the event of your deaths. The benefits and perks are better than any other in the Corps. Earthside officers don’t make the kind of money that you do,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“What possible reason could you have for not evacuating us?”

“There was nothing we could do. We suspected the comet would affect the stability of Ganymede, but we weren’t sure. If it did, telling the crew wouldn’t do any good. If it didn’t, it would have been a close call.”

“Why did you disable the JSDA?” I asked.

“We did nothing to the array. We only modified your Commander’s COM system software so the alarm would not sound. Knowing there was a potential threat would have done you no good. Panic would have ensued, and no one would ever have survived anyway. Frankly, the only reason you did is because you were already outside in your suit. I must credit you for your ingenuity on making it this far,” he replied.

I was getting angrier with every word he said. “We all could have survived down here! Look at the room! It’s bigger than our entire installation!”

“But there are no supplies for a team as big as yours. My needs are small. As you are now aware, I am the only one here. I was the first settler sent here, and it was because of my advanced age that I was approved at all. When I came here, we did not have the advances in radiation shielding and plasma field control that we enjoy today. I have been through three bouts of severe radiation poisoning, and let me tell you, it’s no fun, son.” Chenowith looked at me.

“Neither is losing your entire team! We all could have survived until the Friday Run in here!”

“But who would have gone back?” he answered. “In the cargo hold of a shuttle? No one would have survived in the hold. It’s not meant for human transport. It’s not pressurized and has no radiation shielding. The Friday Run ship only seats two, you know that. Would you have drawn straws? Killed each other? Left five to die? We had no way of knowing for certain that you would have been affected at all. Predicting the effects of short period comets is hardly an exact science.” He set his hands in his lap, and leaned back in his chair.

“You should have given us the choice. We could have moved the fuel storage tanks away from the installation. We would have taken our chances.”

“Then how do you know that it wouldn’t have been something else to go wrong?” He queried.

Chenowith’s answers were getting dodgier and dodgier. His confidence was eroding and I could tell. It was palpable. He kept his composure, but I could feel his authority waning.

“And why have you been sending us messages from here as if you were on Earth? What’s with the pre-recorded background?”

“I’m sorry, son, but you’re not authorized for that level of clearance. Suffice it to say that the Space Corps and The Company deemed it mission-critical to have a commander off-site, and that will have to be enough for you.”

That tied it. Waving my plasma welder, I said, “I’m coming over there, old man, and I’m going to burn the answers out of you.” I advanced on the Director’s desk.

“I wouldn’t advise violence, son,” said Chenowith, and pulled a micro laser pistol from his lap, pointing it at my head. “This is the one weapon that, fired in here, will cause the core no harm whatsoever. It will, however, leave you quite dead. I’m sure you’ll see that I will be able to shoot you well before you can reach me.”

He had me there. My mind was reeling. He had secrets he was keeping and I was determined to find out what they were. Or die trying.

I was acutely aware of the fact that I had nothing left to lose.


Click Here

for Part X

Monday, September 26, 2011

SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER:VIII

by Gil James Bavel


Mission Day 655:
10:45 hours
Ganymede Base mining station
Third Shift





John Biggs and Will Jensen were just completing the internal modifications to the indoor hatch. They’d cut into the interior wall that tomorrow would be an airlock. Most of the work had been in measuring the cuts to the exacting specifications their Commander had shared with them earlier.

Prepping the plate, they put down the welding visors over their faces and arc-welded it over the cuts they’d made with hand-held plasma welders. This was mostly a formality, as there was another exterior wall on the other side, but in case something weakened it, they had to strengthen the interior wall. It would be easy enough to remove the plate with the thermal lance in the morning.

The work went smoothly, and within a few minutes the plate was fixed. Powering down the welding gear, Biggs and Jensen shot the breeze as they put the equipment away, and stowed the gear. They said their good nights and retired to their respective quarters.

When Will Jensen got to his quarters, Dr. Lisa Obermeyer was there waiting for him.

“Why don’t you come over to my place?” she said, and offered him a languid hand.

Jensen simply smiled, took it, and followed her, too tired to argue. She led him back to her quarters, which she’d lighted appropriately and had obviously been preparing for some time.

“I’m touched, Lisa, I really am,” Jensen said. “But I’ve got to be up in a few hours and get back to work. Can we just sleep together?” he asked, weary.

“You’re going to fuck me now...or in the morning. It’s up to you.” Obermeyer led him to her rack, practically threw him into it and started pulling off his boots, then his jumpsuit. “Lights,” she instructed the computer, and they dimmed the rest of the way.

“In the morning, then.” Jensen relented. “I’ll need a pick-me-up anyway.”

Obermeyer punched him gently in the shoulder, and nestled in with him in her bed. She nibbled at his neck and whispered, “Oh, I’ll pick you up all right.” She kissed him sweetly, and then they drifted off to sleep and dreamt of being back on Earth.

They almost always did.




Mission Day 656:
6:00 hours
Ganymede mining station
First Shift





The lights came on in Dr. Lisa Obermeyer’s quarters. A gentle musical alarm sounded which she immediately turned off with a light touch. She reached over to Will Jensen, still groggy with sleep, and put one hand on his chest. “Wakey wakey,” she said, and moved her hand down to his already-erect member.

“You mean business, huh?” he said, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “Okay, saddle up,” he said, “I’ve got time for a quickie, but that’s it.”

She accommodated him, straddling him and locking her ankles under his legs. They’d done this many times before. This position called for no straps in Ganymede’s low gravity. She locked her fingers into the small of his back and he grabbed onto her shoulders. They made love as if it were the last time they would ever see each other.

It wasn’t long before they both came together in a furious orgasm, and with a modicum of post-coital cuddling, they cleaned up and Will was on his feet. “J’excuse, mon cheri,” he said, getting dressed, “But duty calls.”

Obermeyer rose, placed her hands around his neck, and gave him a long, passionate kiss on his way out.

“Be safe,” she called after him, and as the door closed, she fell back onto her bed with a soft sigh. She would have to be up and at duty herself soon.

Jensen walked down the hallway and toward the showers.



Click Here

for Part IX

SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER: VII

by Gil James Bavel


Mission Day 654:
12:21 hours
Ganymede Base mining station
Second Shift





With the survey work completed for the week, the North Forty had been leveled and was ready for the new terraforming equipment. The crew of Ganymede Base were in the mess hall taking a well-deserved break. Marquis Williams broke the silence of lunch.

“So, Devon,” he started, “We going to break out the construction gear tomorrow?”

Berkshire played with the food he’d squirted out onto his plate, mashing it into the vegetables they’d grown in the hydroponics bay. “Bright and early. Be up at six hundred hours, I want to get an early start on it. We’re going to finish getting the East side leveled and ready so by the time the Friday Run ship comes in, all we’ll have to do is set it up and join it to the existing structure.” He looked at John Biggs, and Will Jensen. “You guys are going to need to set up the interface for the new airlock. They’re adding steerage for six more bodies. That’s three rooms worth of kits, a corridor and another restroom. We’re going to be doing work outdoors for a couple of weeks. But I want it done in short shifts, like the survey team does. Too much radiation out there, your suits can’t handle long durations. Keep it to six hours, no more.” He eventually found something edible on his tray and forked it into his mouth. Chewing, he said, “I got most of the East side surveyed, it’s nearly level already. Mostly filling in small craters and laying a slab. Shouldn’t be too hard.”

Biggs nodded, reaching for his drink. “I can knock the cutting out tonight, and put a panel on the inside, so we’ll be ready in the morning to depressurize.” He turned to Jensen. “Will, you want to put in a few hours this evening after dinner?”

Jensen was caught shoveling food into his mouth, an orange glop that at one time could have been some kind of meat—with sweet potatoes, probably. “Sure, that sounds fine,” he answered. I’ll prep my suit.”

Biggs drank from his glass and shook his head. “Shouldn’t need it. We won’t make the cuts on the outer wall until tomorrow, I just want to get a plate up on the inside so it won’t take us long in the morning.” He looked at his Commander. “Boss, there’s very little chance of anything going wrong, but in case, do you want to relocate into the radio shack?”

Berkshire contemplated the food on his tray and shook his head. “Nah. We should be all right. Besides, if there’s a problem, there’s not much we can do about it anyway. Anybody that’s squeamish can get into a suit. You’ve been cramming on your construction training, right?”

Jensen swallowed and said, “Yeah, all week. We’re ready. It will only take a couple hours after dinner, we’ll be in bed early.” He looked at Biggs as if it were a challenge.

The stark, white interior of the mess hall reminded him of a museum. “Hey, boss,” Jensen said, “Can we at least paint the new unit when we install it? White gets so boring.”

Berkshire looked at Jensen with a smile. “Sure. Paint it green if you like. Just get it back to regulation before you pressurize it.”

A panel lit up by the telescreen, which was showing several external views of the surface around the base. There was a transmission in from Earth. Berkshire reached over and hit a button. “Look alive, people, it’s the Director, regular priority.”

Received from Jovian Deep Space Array, 12:24:17 hours,” the computer voice announced.

Indeed, the staid face of First Director Chenowith materialized on the telescreen. He appeared in the foreground in front of the camera, again with a bevy of technicians behind him going about their duties in the background. It was a familiar sight to the crew.

“Greetings, Ganymede Base”, the transmission began. “Fine work you’re doing. We want you to know that we’re all behind you. I have a mail packet coming in for you after this transmission ends. Just wanted to let you know that your supplies and the spare parts and construction materials for the new addition will be arriving on tomorrow’s Friday Run. As you’re aware, Devon, the mission council have determined that the North Forty is incompatible with further mining stations, but not for a blower, so you’ll be getting a new one of those as well. I’m putting you in for a note of merit for getting it done ahead of schedule. You probably saved yourself a week of surveying by getting that out of the way. Good work. Also, Devon, after the mail packet, there is a priority message for you, eyes only. Take it in your private quarters. Keep up the good work, everyone. First Director Chenowith out.”

Dr. Lisa Obermeyer rolled her eyes. “Note of merit. Big fucking deal.” Turning to Berkshire, she grinned. “Gold star for you, Devon.” She had finished her lunch and pushing her tray forward, got up to go to the restroom. “You’ll be able to get another raise soon.”

Berkshire seemed nonplussed. “Feh, out here it really doesn’t matter. Okay, everyone, mail call.” He got up and began handing out pads to the crew. “Take your time, there’s another half an hour before anyone needs to worry about getting back to work. Enjoy your videos from home, folks.”

Obermeyer looked at Jensen with a wink and closed the restroom door behind her. Jensen took his pad from Berkshire and looked it over. Message from his mother, several from his family on Moonbase Beta, and a recording from his nephew back on Earth. He picked up his tray, finished what was on it, and retired to his quarters to watch them.

The rest of the Ganymede base crew followed suit, and slowly got up, looking at their pads, putting the trays from lunch into the washing unit. Berkshire went to his quarters and took the priority message from there. Sitting down at his COM center, he piped it through. It was a program designed to run only with an officer’s password. Berkshire entered his. The computer at the COM center unpacked the archive, processed it, and it ran.

They were specifications for the new addition, plus plans for the blower, algae kits and the spare parts they’d ordered. The only priority eyes-only material other than that was a directive that the addition be up and habitable as soon as possible. Why that couldn’t be opened in front of the rest of the crew was beyond him. He took notes on the specs, and saved it. Back to the grind, he thought, and turned off the workstation. He’d share the specs with the crew later.

Click Here

for Part VIII

SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER: VI

by Gil James Bavel


Mission Day 722:
15:15 hours
Unknown Ganymede station
Second Shift





At the bottom of the shaft, I was in complete darkness, although my eyes were adjusting slowly. Just as I wondered how I was going to get out of the car, its doors opened up and lights flickered on in a hallway in front of me. I got to my feet—steady, I thought. The gravity down here felt different from both the installation, and topside. I was just getting my bearings when I saw that there was only one button in the elevator car. Up when you’re down and down when you’re up, and you’d better have your spacesuit on, I thought. I threw the tire tool into the hallway, where it gently bounced against the metal floor.

My own suit’s power supply now dead, I unscrewed my helmet hoping there was breathable air here. I still didn’t have much choice. I’d know momentarily if there was, or I’d suffer decompression so severe that it would make the bends that divers back home get look like a mild case of the hiccups. Phsst! My helmet came off and I smelled fresh, clean air. It was warm—a little cooler than the installation had been, but the air here was more pure somehow. It didn’t smell of people. Even with atmospheric reprocessors and C02 scrubbers, you could still smell the farts and the dead skin cells that had flaked off of your crew. Here, there was none of that. It was clean, cold, clinical. And yet, there had to be somebody here. Why else the atmosphere? The elevator?

I stripped off my suit and crawled out, leaving my boots and jumpsuit on. I grabbed the plasma torch and headed down the hallway. Let’s see what there is to see, I thought. As I rounded the corner carefully, my mind began spinning through the options. It’s a control station. A monitoring station. That’s it. That’s got to be it. Just a once-in-a-while, mostly unmanned pit stop to check levels on tidal forces and moonquakes. Like the one we got hit with. Too convenient. This was obviously a permanent station, not built out of a kit like our installation was; our mining stations; our terraforming units. This was first.

The long hallway came to an end with a big drop at a T-junction. This must have been built on a natural ice cave, blasted out of the methane before our installation. I had learned in school that Ganymede is almost 52% larger than the diameter of the Moon and has twice its mass. It is 77% the diameter of Mars—but comprised of mostly ice and ores, it has such low density that its gravity makes it easy pickings. But why keep this station a secret?

I went to the edge, and looked over. My head was spinning. Even at one seventh G, it was a long way down. It got dark about twenty feet from the rail, and I could only imagine how far down it went. If I could see the other side, there was a chance I could run, launch off the rail, and grab the other side—if there even was one.

Thinking better of it, I explored the hallway perpendicular to the one I’d entered from. The walls here were made from much sterner stuff than our old installation; it looked to me like high-grade prefabbed aluminum, almost certainly with old style, heavy-duty radiation shielding behind it. The kind with lead, concrete and Mylar sandwiched together. But the floor was made to exactly the same specifications as ours. This made me angry. Some kind of secret program built here, first, and none of us knew about it. This place could have saved everybody I worked with. It could have saved the woman I loved. This didn’t feel like the Space Corps to me—somebody would have breathed a word of it to Devon, and he would have told the rest of us. This had to be the Company’s doing.

Someone wanted us out of the way. That was no rogue comet. They probably knew it was coming for months. The Jovian Deep Space Array would have detected it. I was becoming furious just thinking about it. Somebody purposefully wanted us dead.

I reached the end of the left-hand portion of the hallway. A big door. With little slits through it at the top like a high-school gym locker. Dark. No doorknob, no keypad, just a panel to the left of the door with a ducted ceramic indentation. Looked like a high dielectric coupling device, probably piezoelectric-acoustical wave. I obviously didn’t have a spherical key for that, so I doubled back, boots CLICKing, and went down the hall the other way at the T-junction and tried the other door. Not surprisingly, it was exactly the same. Returning to the hallway, I noticed that there was a similar control for something in the middle, this one had an additional interface with an indentation in it. It seemed as if there were an extendable bridge leading over the chasm of ice. I could see the end of it jutting out from the edge of the floor.

I was at an impasse. Fat lot of good being a class I mechanical/maintenance technician did me without any tools. Well, I got in, I thought, now I just have to get in further. If I couldn’t get inside those doors, I’d have to bring somebody out. It was too clean in here, like the clean rooms back at Space Corps. Somehow, I would have to make a mess and see who came out to clean it up. But with what? I thought about lighting my suit on fire with the plasma torch, but if I were ever to escape from here and make the Friday Run shuttle, I would need it to get back to our damaged installation. First I’d have to figure out a way to power it up. One thing at a time.

I went back down the hallway to the door to the left of the junction. A sensor above the door peered down at me that I’d missed before. I could damage it, I thought, with the tire tool or the plasma torch. But that was a trick I could only play once. Then it hit me. The water supply inside my suit. Unless I got power back into it, it wouldn’t recycle for long enough to last until Friday. But there was enough there to maybe short out that control panel.

I made my way back to the elevator where I’d left my suit, and grabbed the tire tool and water bottle out of it. There were secondary and tertiary backups, so this wouldn’t be the absolute end of my supply. I checked the greywater containers but there wasn’t enough there to do much with. I took a last, long pull from the water bottle—who knew when I’d get another primary source.

I squirted the remainder of the water onto the electro- mechanical coupling device and the control panel next to it. The panel sparked, as if it had shorted out. Then, nothing. My hopes were dashed. I had nothing left to affect the door with short of burning my suit. I sat down, frustrated. My anger at being a patsy to whoever had built this station was combined with a growing sadness at my inability to work my way further into whatever it was.

Just then, the large metal door opened silently. A mechanized robot floated out into the hall, repelling off of the metal floor somehow. It wasn’t huge, but it was intimidating; gunmetal grey with a sort of flower pot head and two arms—one with a spherical end! It had no legs, but hovered a few feet above the floor, moving with slow determination.

Wasting no time, I rolled just under the robot and into the small room it had come out of–the closing doors nearly clipped me as I pulled my feet through, getting only a piece of the tire tool that I was still holding onto. Rising to my feet, I could hear faint whirring and mechanical noises from inside the walls of the maintenance closet. It sounded like electronic music, repetitious and eerie.

I looked around, and although many controls and devices adorned the room, I could see no openings or doors from here that I could fit through save the one I’d just entered. Screens atop a ledge displayed machine data; there were waste chutes and refills for cleaning supplies, but no other ways out. That robot would be coming back soon, I thought. As soon as it’s dried the panel and worked out the short, it would come back and I did not want to have to fight a metal man when it did. And another thing—that robot looked like it used a linear induction motor for propulsion, like the kind used in maglev trains. That means I don’t want to touch it—it’s operating under extremely high voltage. And any minute, it would be crammed in here with me and I wouldn’t have any choice but to touch it. I’d have to incapacitate it without touching it.

One last good look around. Nothing. Nothing I could use. I looked down at the tire tool in my right hand. Nothing had ever seemed so clunky and useless. I was stuck alone in a maintenance closet with nothing but faint, creepy mechanical music to keep me company.

Then it struck me. In my training toward my mechanical engineering degree with the Company, I remember learning that the acoustical wave devices used in electromechanical coupling controls like that were subsonic. 20 Khz at best. There’s no way a human being could hear them. But those connectors—that’s all they could hear. This type of control was infrasonic.

So all I had to do was disable the robot without touching it, take its arm off, and play the appropriate sounds for the controls on that extendable bridge’s panel while coupling the arm to the spherical ducting.

I might as well still be outside, frozen to the surface, staring up at the Great Red Spot. Keep your mind in the game, I thought. You’re running out of time. I had passed underneath the robot without any ill effects; what if I could use its high voltage against it? Somehow stop it in its tracks. Something to get in the way of its propulsion.

That’s why the tire tool had hit the door on my way in—it wasn’t that I was too slow—it was being pulled back by the linear induction motor’s magnetic field. I knew what to do now. I placed the tire tool directly in front of the doors and stepped onto the ledge in front of the screens that were streaming mostly machine data, and the occasional external shot of Ganymede. Now all I had to do was wait.

Within seconds, the doors opened again, and the robot began gliding into the room. As it passed over the tire tool, it spun wildly in an upward spiral and struck the robot on the bottom of its housing with a loud, hideous, CLANG! The robot wobbled, spun out of control and fell to the ground, and when it hit, it powered down—shorted out between its own high voltage and the floor.

The doors could not close because the robot was solidly wedged between them. I unclipped the plasma torch from my jumpsuit and tossed it at the robot to make sure that it was no longer electrified. It struck the robot and fell to the ground harmlessly. I picked up the plasma torch, clipped it back on and got to work. I assumed the other maintenance closet had an identical robot and that it would be here as soon as it figured out its companion was down to come take care of it.

I applied the plasma torch to the end of the robot’s arm, near the join to the sphere at the end. It didn’t take long before the metal gave way and the end dropped to the floor. Hurriedly, I crawled over the robot, and went out to grab my water bottle. There was a little left in it, which was lucky. I scrambled back over the robot onto the ledge and squirted the remainder onto the hot slag end of the robot’s limb and left it to cool. Hopping over the dead hulk again, I landed with a bounce onto the metal floor and a CLICK—and ran for my life. The gravity here was definitely somehow different. Running was hard. It took a concerted effort of will not to tumble end over end.

As fast as I was able, I sprinted down the hallway to the T-junction, and indeed, there was a robot identical to the one I had just disabled, just clearing the other corner. I raced to my suit, grabbed my helmet and made a break back for the maintenance closet. We never had this much room to run in our old installation. I was glad that I’d continued working out after being on the track team back home. It was crucial to life on Ganymede. As it was, I beat the second robot as it closed the gap at the T-junction with little time to spare.

I returned to the maintenance closet, making my way over to the first, defunct robot. Its dead limb was hot to the touch, but not hot enough to burn me. I had only one chance to make this work. Hopping back over the robot, I landed on the floor and met the second robot about halfway down the corridor. Staying clear of its outstretched arms, I laid the first robot’s appendage in the way of the second. I had to hope that they didn’t communicate with one another.

But this one seemed savvier. Maybe it was that the first one couldn’t see the tire tool in front of the doors—but this one didn’t approach any further than about five feet from its twin’s metal hand. It backed up, tried to make another approach, and then backed away again. It hovered there, menacingly, blocking my exit from this side of the hallway.

I didn’t know what else to do, so I put on my helmet, and made my way over the fallen robot back into the maintenance room. I could still hear the faint whirring and creepy musical sounds emanating from the room. I hoped that the infrasonic decoupler was still active and transmitting inside the door, which was still unable to close around its keeper.

Now, a bit more calmly, I removed the helmet and pointed its internal microphone at the control panel. Using the com recorder inside my helmet, I hoped I was recording the signal that would activate the extendable bridge at the T-junction—if I could just get past metal-head out there.

Click Here

for Part VII

Friday, September 23, 2011

SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER: V

by Gil James Bavel


Mission Day 648: 06:51 hours
Ganymede Base mining station
First Shift





In the mess hall, the lights were on and Dr. Lisa Obermeyer and Will Jensen were already up and drinking coffee at the breakfast nook when Marquis Williams and Jim Stanton ambled in. Obermeyer and Jensen had been quietly cooing at each other and speaking in hushed tones. Obermeyer took her hand off of Jensen’s reflexively.

“Morning,” she said to the two. “Coffee?” She reached for the carafe.

“Look,” said Stanton, “You guys don’t have to pretend. Everybody knows you’re seeing each other out here. Hell, I don’t blame you. Just keep it professional and you won’t get in trouble. And yeah, some coffee sounds great.” The tall shuttle captain ducked his head by the drink station and poured himself a cup. In the main lab, the ceilings were just a little too short for his liking.

Obermeyer flushed. “Well, that’s awfully big of you, Jim.” She admitted.

Stanton sat down with them as Williams made his way to the coffee. “You’re the medical authority, Doctor. Sexual tension is bad for the mission. We’re all adults out here, and frankly, it’s a dangerous job. This is one thing the Space Corps and the Company see eye to eye on. You know what you’re doing. You can see a civvie if you want to.” Stanton smelled the coffee, it agreed with him, and he blew on the surface to cool it and took a tentative sip.

Jensen sat up a little straighter with a gleam in his eye. “So, Cap, what did you guys get up to last night?” he said sarcastically.

“Oh, I wish you guys would cut it out. You know I’m married,” Stanton responded, setting his mug down carefully. “Hand me a lid, Marquis, will you?”

Williams complied, poured himself a cup and joined the other three at the table. “Hey, yeah, didn’t your wife squeeze out another kid recently?” he asked.

Stanton nodded. “Yeah. Our first girl, Stacie.” He pulled out the pictures. He carried them old-style, in his ID pack. He handed them around the table as if they were party favors.

Obermeyer looked at them longingly. “Wow, she’s so beautiful.” Obermeyer was feeling her own biological clock ticking away.

“Thanks, I think so. Melissa had another smooth labor, just under three hours. I think we might call it quits now. Two boys and a girl is enough, even if we do retire to Mars.” Stanton took an honest gulp of his coffee, followed by a satisfied Ahh. “One thing’s for sure, you guys may be roughing it out here, but you sure have some damn good coffee. I’ve thought more than once about pilfering some from your delivery,” he said mischievously. “It’s getting harder to get the real stuff back home.”

Williams, comfortable in his medium build, was accustomed to the smaller spaces in the installation. He stretched out and tried his coffee. “You’d never even think about it. They’d kick your ass out of the Corps and you’d lose your pension.”

Jensen piped in, “Hey, let’s have a look and see if we took any damage last night from those MMs,” He deftly pulled a computer pad over to the table and set it on its armature. He called up the relevant damage reports and video camera angles. “Well, it’s a good thing we got you in when we did, but it looks like there’s no damage to the station. Your surveys are going to have to be redone, though,” he said looking at Obermeyer and Williams.

Obermeyer put her free hand back on Jensen’s, and sighed. “Well, we knew that was going to happen, anyway. She gave him a squeeze. “The important thing is that nobody got hurt and there’s no damage to any equipment.”

“Speaking of which,” Captain Stanton interjected, “let’s take some time while we have it and compile a list of what you guys need next week. Will?”

“Okay, well, let’s see,” he said, and wiped the computer pad with one hand, clearing the damage control data. Calling up the installation manifest, he entered in his maintenance code and began poring over a new screen. “Looks like we blew through four drill bits, and we’ve got four on hand, so let’s put in for another four. No, six.” He turned to Williams. “You guys decide whether you’re going to put in another drill station over on the North Forty?”

Williams shook his head. “That’s Devon’s call. But if I had to put money on it, I’d say no. The terrain is too rough and I think it’s too close to the other ones. But like I said, it’s up to him. He’s in command.” Williams got up to refill his coffee, and as he did, Berkshire’s head appeared at the entrance of the mess hall.

“That’s affirmative,” Dr. Berkshire agreed,” we really don’t need another drilling station that close. Hey, grab me a tea while you’re over there, will you, Marquis?” he asked, and sat down at the increasingly crowded table. It came out “Marky” in his dulled British accent. He ran one hand through his thinning black hair. “The company wants more terraforming equipment here, though. You’d better put us down for another blower and algae kit.” Berkshire’s beard stubble was already thick enough to see this early in the morning. Williams handed him a steaming cup of hot water with a lid and a bag of black tea in it, along with a toothpick.

Jensen nodded, and entered the data into the manifest. “Got it. Just need your signature here, Devon.” He handed the pad over to Berkshire. He set down his cup, looked over the pad, and pressed his thumb up against the screen. After a moment, he held it up to his eye and it scanned his retina.

“Okay,” Berkshire said, “Done and done. He handed the pad back to Jensen, picked up his tea and very slowly pulled the tab up and down on the toothpick and then let it steep.

A lull settled over the mess hall as they all paused, sipping their drinks.

Lawton and Biggs broke the peace, entering, much too perky for the rest of the crew.

“Hey guys, what did we miss?” Lawton asked, with a broad, playful smile. She entered the mess hall and took a seat at the table. She was still in her undershirt and shorts.

“Oh, good, the gang’s all here,” Berkshire said, getting up. “Have a seat, John.”

John Biggs sat down as if there were an ominous punishment coming his way. “Okay, Devon, what is it?”

Dr. Berkshire didn’t enjoy command, he was a planetary geologist first and foremost, and then a terraforming specialist second. The whole chain of command thing bugged him. “There’s a message from the Director that we’re all supposed to see. It’s not for the shuttle crew, but there’s no reason that you shouldn’t see it, too.” He dimmed the lights and turned on the telescreen, which normally showed a view of Ganymede’s surface.

Received from Jovian Deep Space Array, 05:44:34 hours,” the computer voice emitted.

The Director’s image appeared on the screen. An older man, in his seventies, First Director Chenowith had been with the Company as long as any of the current crew could remember. Chenowith was a distinguished-looking man with white hair, and the smart grey coat of a bureaucrat. He sat in the foreground, in front of a telescreen camera, with a coterie of people behind him moving back and forth, all buzzing about on their own tasks. Several controllers and technicians sat behind computer stations in the background, going about their business. There was an audible buzz of activity behind him.

“Greetings, Ganymede Base,” he started, “I know you’re out there on your own, and you’re doing good work. Your reports have been coming in regularly and I especially want to thank Dr. Berkshire for his continuing level of excellence. There is good news and better news. The Space Corps have authorized you for a new rover for your expeditions to survey new mining and terraforming territory on Ganymede. I must tell you that the financial outlay for this was difficult to secure in the current monetary climate. It will come equipped with the full complement of surveying apparati and the latest in technology. The new transmitter for the lab is on its way as well.

“We’re also sending you an extra blower and algae pack kit. You’ll be building a new terraforming station on the North Forty, so scrap the plans for mining there. Also, we’ll be upgrading the capacity of the installation to accommodate more space for your crew. Unfortunately, we can’t spare the manpower, so you’ll have to make the upgrades yourselves. I know you’re not construction grunts, but you’ll have the benefit of knowing the job’s been done right and we’re doubling both your pay and your rations during the entire upgrade. There’ll be extra living quarters and more space in the lab.

“Additionally, the helium-3 output from your ore stations will be doubling. It’s a lot of extra work, but that’s why you’re there. Your accounts have already been credited this month; I wanted to be the first to tell you. Specifications and orders follow. Again, good work, Devon and crew, and we’re all behind you. First Director Chenowith out.”

The transmission ended and the telescreen resumed its view of Ganymede’s surface. The grumbling among the crew began immediately.

Berkshire put his hands up at once to quell the uproar. “All right, all right, it’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. We’ve had it relatively easy out here until now, it hasn’t been a picnic, but we knew the harder work was yet to come. That’s why they pay us the big bucks. So let’s look at the specifications and see what we’re in for. Hell, by the time we’re done with the upgrades, you guys will still be bitching about it.”

Captain Stanton raised a hand. “Look, we’ve got to haul the extra stuff, and I know it doesn’t make much difference to you guys, but we can help put in some extra time.”

Berkshire shook his head. “Thanks, Jim, but they’d throw a fit if anything happened to either of you. We can handle it. We’ve had secondary construction training from the Company. We’ll figure it out. For now, let’s just deal with what we have to do and get on with our lives.”

“Chenowith is an evil slave-driving bastard,” said Williams, looking over the pad with the specifications on it.

Berkshire tried to stifle a laugh, unsuccessfully. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. If you don’t want the job, I can send you to Titan Station.”

“No you can’t,” answered Williams. “You need me here, and they’d send you with me if you tried.”

“Yeah, you’re right about that,” Berkshire answered. “But we’d see more of each other.” He smiled.

Both crews continued grumbling about the extra work, talked about their bonuses and went about preparing their mission work for the day. It would be a long couple of weeks.


Click Here

for Part VI

Archive of Stories
and Authors

Edward Morris's
MERCY STREET


Gene Stewart's
CRYPTID'S LAIR


Adam Bolivar's
SERVITORS OF THE
OUTER DARKNESS


Adam Bolivar's
THE DEVIL & SIR
FRANCIS DRAKE



Adam Bolivar's
THE TIME-EATER


Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee.





David Agranoff's
A PLANET OF YOUR OWN


David Agranoff's
THE FALLEN GUARDIAN'S MANDATE


David Agranoff is the author of the
short story collection Screams From
A Dying World, just published by
Afterbirth Books. David is a hardcore
vegan and tireless environmentalist.
His contributions to the punk horror
scene and the planet in general have
already established him as a bright
new writer and activist to watch out
for. The Freezine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance. David's latest
books include the Wuxia -Pan
(martial arts fantasy) horror
novel called Hunting The Moon Tribe,
already out from Afterbirth Books.;
The Vegan Revolution...with Zombies,
[Deadite Press, 2010]; and
[Deadite Press, 2014]

Daniel José Older's
GRAVEYARD WALTZ


Daniel José Older's
THE COLLECTOR


Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.

When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found HERE.


Johnny Strike's
AS YOU WISH


Johnny Strike's
NIGHT FLAMERS


Johnny Strike's
THE HOMELESS MUTANTS


Johnny Strike will beat you with his guitar
and leave you lying in the gutter wishing you
had never dared enter his under ground world
of fake passports, lucky amulets, rain soaked
hotels, and occult mystique. If you don't leave
nice comments under his story, he's sure to sic
his band CRIME on you. He also wrote the novel
Ports Of Hell (Headpress), recommended by
William S. Burroughs. You don't receive kudos
from William Lee himself unless you are the
epitome of cool. Besides, have you listened to
CRIME's album Exalted Masters? It was
released in 2007 on the Crime Music label,
on vinyl only, featuring a slew of their old
rare hits. Its real punk music from seasoned
veterans. Now go track yourself down a copy
before its out of print. The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction is proud to host the story
that contains the line which titles his first
From Above (Rudos and Rubes).


Paul Stuart's
SEA?TV!


Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at paul@twilightlane.com,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.


Rain Grave's
MAU BAST


Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -



Icy Sedgwick's
THE PORCELAIN WOMAN


Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.


Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth
with LIPSTICK



BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and
‘ARMED to the TEETH with LIPSTICK’.


G. Alden Davis's
THE FOLD


G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.


Shae Sveniker's
A NEW METAPHYSICAL STUDY
REGARDING THE BEHAVIOR
OF PLANT LIFE


Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.



Nigel Strange's
PLASTIC CHILDREN


Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.


J.R. Torina's
THE HOUSE IN THE PORT


J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.


K.B. Updike, Jr's
THE GOLDEN THIRD EYE


K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free: