banner art above by Charles Carter

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


by John Shirley

One day, after seventeen sleeping periods, a voice amplified from the wall.

"Prisoners! The circuit magistrate has arrived on station! You will approach the food slot in a group, elbows touching, side by side. You are being observed. The door will not open until you have done as you are told."

"At last," Ivan muttered. They did as they were ordered.

"Now," said the voice from the wall, "turn your backs to the door, and put your hands together behind you. If you move, after the door opens, before you are told to move, you will be instantly shot dead."

They again did as they were told, and heard a faint hiss as the door irised in the wall; Jann felt a gust of chill on his hands and the back of his neck, where the hair stood up in response. Then he felt something slithering around his wrist--one of the snakelike artificial beings the Kastillians used for handcuffs. His wrists were painfully vised together.

"Now turn slowly around."

They turned to see four scowling, heavily armed uniformed Kaswills in a corridor of blue-gray metal studded with shock-absorption bolts. "You," said the oldest and shortest of the guards, nodding toward Derv. "Lead the way. Step into the hall and proceed to your right. You others follow him. We are right behind and you are also being monitored remotely, so don't try to run--panels will instantly seal you into the corridor, and a robot will be dispatched to take you prisoner. It will then place you in an airlock from which the air will be removed...and it will be removed very, very slowly."

Jann, Moss and Ivan followed Derv down the hallway. Shouted took them left at a cross-corridor, then down a ramp, and along a long passageway with curved walls. They were met by three more guards who directed them into a waiting room adjacent to the Hearing Chamber.

When Jann moved too slowly, a short, surly guard gave him a jolt with an electronlash and Jann fell convulsing to his knees, grinding his teeth with pain. He smelled something burning, and his gut contracted; it was all he could do to keep from vomiting. When Jann could not get to his feet, the guard raised the electronlash for another jolt.

"Up, dimpkin!" growled Derv.

Fury surged through Jann and he jumped up and spun to face Derv--then saw in the rueful smiles of the other prisoners that Derv had provoked him to get him up and spare him a further lashing.

He nodded, and walked hastily into the waiting chamber.


Jann regarded the Kastillian magistrate with a sickly fascination. The man who would decide his fate had a skullish, blotchy face: his hair was some cheap, glossy implant; he had sunken eyes and cheeks, a nose that was a snub and two holes, a slash of a mouth. He wore a black robe and an armband emblazoned with the symbol of the Kastillian interstellar military. His long lean frame was twisted in something near to a question mark shape in his chair and his head hung to the side almost touching his rounded shoulder.

The domed ceiling of the room was of textured steel; there were rows of benches, lined up in front of the magistrate's desk, on the dais before which Jann now stood. Small view ports looked into space, but little could be glimpsed through them from here but the feeble gleam of a few distant, comfortless stars.

Jann was the last of his cell to be judged; twenty-five from other cells had been judged that morning and through the afternoon. The Kastillian magistrate seemed weary and bored. "Are you the one known on the planet Paradine as Jann Grelle?" he asked, stifling a yawn.

"I am Jann a Grelle, DemiLord of Paradine. In one year I am to become Lord of Grelle Manor," said Jann firmly.

The guards standing behind Jann laughed. The magistrate scowled. "Silence, you dimwits! You laugh at his impudence?"

"Shall I lash him, your Omniscience?" a guard asked.

"No, no, not this time. He will have suffering enough. So if you are Jann a Grelle, little else need be said, prisoner, for I have before me remote footage of your murder of several Kaswill Fighters."

"Your Omniscience," Jann said carefully, with as much respect in his tone as he could manage, "I was acting in self defense. They had killed my behemoth, stolen my neighbor's property, and landed without permission. In retaliation for my acts of self defense..." He swallowed. He controlled his voice. "They killed my mother."

Throughout this speech, the magistrate stared in some surprise. Then he laughed: a sound like hollow blocks clattering across a floor. "You are attempting to excuse the murder of my compatriots?"

"Self defense is not murder, your Omniscience. But speaking of murders--who is investigating the murder of my mother and her servants? And who investigates the destruction of my home?"

"What? According to the records here before me, that home was destroyed by your planet's so-called 'Free Ranchers'. They attacked men from a Kastillian ship which had made an emergency landing for repairs--in their mad lust to destroy all in their path they also destroyed this Grelle Manor of yours. Your relatives will have to seek reparation from these 'Free Ranchers'--"

"That is a…" He bit his lip to keep from calling the judge a liar. His voice was hoarse with repressed emotion as he went on, "Your Omniscience has been misinformed. A forensic investigation will reveal the house was completely destroyed--the Free Ranchers have no weapons powerful enough. Clearly it was destroyed by the weapons on Kastillian flyers, or weapons on the Kastillian ship itself. I heard some of your guards speak of the reprisal--"

"So these 'Free Ranchers' cannot destroy a Manor?" the judge interrupted, snorting. "They have fire, I assume? Can they not light torches and throw them at the structure? That is what the record says."

"I visited the manor after its destruction--it was not burned down. I demand an investigation--"

"You demand! Of me? Do you, now!" The judge leaned toward him, eyes ablaze.

Jann swallowed. "I would only suggest, your Omniscience, that by rights I should be judged by the authorities of my own world. The alleged crimes took place there. I ask to be extradited to Paradine."

"Paradine will belong to Kastillia soon enough," said the magistrate dryly. There was a flaring in his eyes and his bony hands twitched into view, clutching at one another, his shoulders quivering. "I have seen it! I have seen the stars rushing to align to the magnet of the Supreme Grandee of Kastillia!" Spittle foamed at the corners of his lips. "The sky is glass and through it, the Great Eye stares!"

Then the gaping stares of the guards warned the Magistrate that he was close to raving. He broke off, and reached into a pocket of his robe, fumbled out a pill dispenser, and popped a calming agent.

"The fatigue, the long day," he muttered. "A mild, strike my, ah, irrelevant responses from the records..."

"The records are thus purged," said the computer, booming sepulchrally from the walls.

"But of course," Jann said, chuckling. He knew now it was no use arguing, no use pleading his cause, no use even in maintaining a pretense of respect. He raised his voice, more and more loudly as he spoke, till he ended with a shout. "I have not only a brute Kastillian, with no sense of justice for my judge! No, that was not enough--he is also a madman! And his madness is itself a poetic summary of Kastillian 'justice'!"

White-hot pain seared through Jann's shoulders as a guard struck him with an electronlash, and he fell down, convulsing.

"And now," the magistrate went on, dabbing at his lips with a kerchief. "And judgment..."

Chapter the Fourth: the Abysmal Dilemma of Jann a Grelle

How beautiful, the lights of the engine that drew his life from him. The glow of the tubular lights increased as he diminished: purple and green glowing from the crystalline tubes; the quartz purple shading to ruby, emerald to sapphire; the connections, of black wire and pure filigreed gold--the Grelle colors!-- sparking iridescently with stolen force. The lambence of the starcraft's engines truly moved him.

Jann a Grelle almost laughed at the irony as, driven by the electronlash, he forced himself to stand and placed his palms and bare chest once more against the receiving plates, and willed a little more of his life force into the engine's power tubes, his urge becoming ergs; adding his force to that of the other energy slaves, driving the multipurpose starcraft His Majesty's Fervent Impulse forward through interstellar space.

He shivered, feeling quantum mindstuff--the essence of his spirit-- drawn away into the machine. It was almost enough, for awhile; enough to propel the ship into quantum jump. He looked down the line of slaves, men and women alternating at the absorption panels, all of them quite nude, some newly enslaved and still fully fleshed; others emaciated, enervated with months on the driveline. There, Derv the Alpha Centauran, his bone-colored hair quivering upward and then going limp with the outflux of his force into the ship; there was Moss, shaking as he tried to maintain contact with the panels. It might be that his heart was about to give out. There were six men from Grelle manor's fields here, too, and three Free Ranchers who had fought beside Jann and Vonn--including one of the women. There were many others, from across the colonized arm of the galaxy. Jann had seen two women and a man die, sucked dry by the ship, in this voyage.

Beyond the slaves stood the robotic task master -a squat figure of cobalt metal, with sullen-yellow lights for eyes: the IntraDigital 77. Called "the Id", in the slave quarters. The Id pointed a jointed pseudopod, and a yellow blue snake of electrons emitted to strike the heavy-worlder's back, raising welts, making him scream piteously even as he pressed harder against the panels. Draw back, but for a moment, and the robot punished you. It wasn't enough to strap a slave to the absorption panels, for the energy that translated into quantum-drive must be forced into the machine by an act of will. Thus the slaves were not artificially pressed to the plates that sucked out their life force, but driven to consciously submit to the interface by the alert brutality of the supervisory robot.

The naked stuff of will itself was drawn into the absorption panels, there transformed, and transferred to the storage bulb, as the ship built its quantum-energy storage to near jump capacity. How consciousness itself become the power to lift a ship into the higher planes, beyond space-time, for its short cut to a far destination in standard space, was a mystery to everyone but the starcraft's designers--and perhaps even to them, ultimately.

It seemed to Jann, as he watched, that the process was a dramatization of the tragedy of existence. Man was born to give up his joy and his freedom to some great confining machine he didn't understand.

But he knew what Vonn would say to that--that this defeatist point of view was distorted by the darkness of his dilemma, his slavery. There was more to life than just striving as your youth burned away.

But here it was hard to believe in anything else.

The slaves watched the quantum-energy increasing in the transparent bulb at the narrow end of the arrowhead shaped room; the quantum energy charge looked like a trapped nebula swirling around a seething blacklight core. When the singularity-nebula sucked into the living blackness at its center, there would come a reactive out-pulse, like a widening ripple in an incandescent pool, and when the pulse reached the containment glass of the bulb, the ship would Jump into higher space and its slaves would be able to rest.

The shimmer in the bulb brightened, sucked into itself, then expanded to reach the glass, and--it was done. The Golden Surge passed from the bulb to lift the whole ship out of space-time, sweeping through the superstructure of the spacecraft, through bulkheads and frameworks like a ripple in reality, and then they were in the quantum Between, the ship protected from the interdimensional chaos only by its probability field.

The galley slaves sagged back into their harnesses, panting, and the robot receded.

Jann hung in his harness, resting as completely as he could. He was far beyond fatigued: he ached in the center of himself, sensing a loss of his living essence. That living essence could be restored--but toiling as a quantum energy slave didn't give you that chance.

Soon the slaves would be unlocked, and led to the slave quarters, there to be given nutritious but nearly tasteless paste for their supper; to await the call for another Jump. A man's Higher Self--what in some eras had been called his Soul-- was said to be untouchable. But the psychic energy with which he lived his life could be siphoned away, and after a certain time, no amount of rest or replenishment would restore him; he would begin to slide downhill faster and faster, aging overnight, finally dying in his harness.

Quantum energy slaves rarely lasted six months. Four, five months at most--and they died. And they didn't even know the names of the ship's various destinations. They had no access to windows; they were given no information. They were never allowed out of the engine room or slave quarters.

The ship carried cargo--luxury items, likely. Many of the Kastillians aboard were on holiday. Slaves were dying so that Kastillians could have imported air-sweeteners, and Alpha Centauran blossom robes, and so that bored Kastillian debutantes could go to the ocean planets during spring break from their Deportment Schools.

The death of a few slaves en route mattered little to the Kastillians, for there were millions of others to be "harvested" from the Abandoned Systems, and the politics of the situation--economic interdependence and the military threat of Kastillians--prevented Earth Central from doing anything about it.

Jann realized he'd begun to slip over some inner borderline into surrender--he knew it because the stolen energies, the crystalline contraption of the engine, had seemed beautiful to him. He told himself again that he would escape. It had never been done successfully, to his knowledge, but what of that? Someone had to be the first.

But after giving up one's will to the ship, the feeling of despair, of bone weary hopelessness, made the dream of escape seem childish. Derv the Alpha Centauran had said it with his usual dour pithiness: "It takes will to plan and execute an escape--and that is exactly what they take from us. The very stuff of will. I no longer have any inner strength...and thus I have no outer strength. I am no one, and thus I cannot escape. Only a real person can escape..."

Jann struggled against this corrosive logic. He reasoned that if he tried to remember who he had been, he might remember that he still was someone.

Jann a Grelle closed his eyes and let himself drift back…to the solace, the hope, of remembering…

He had not always been a slave on a Kastillian Galleon. He had been a DemiLord on the pleasant planet Paradine, in the Polaris system...

Jann a Grelle gloried in riding behemoths through the clouds.

It was a spring day on the planet Paradine...

"This is an interesting specimen," said a voice dry and detached as an airless moon.

Click Here for Part 11 of SKY PIRATES,
by John Shirley

1 comment:

  1. Magnificent! An interstellar slave galley that sucks one's very will to resist until they are left a lifeless husk.

    I think my cube at work somehow serves the same purpose.


Archive of Stories
and Authors

Sean Padlo's

Sean Padlo's

Sean Padlo's exact whereabouts
are never able to be fully
pinned down, but what we
do know about him is laced
with the echoes of legend.
He's already been known
to haunt certain areas of
the landscape, a trick said
to only be possible by being
able to manipulate it from
the future. His presence
among the rest of us here
at the freezine sends shivers
of fear deep in our solar plexus.

Konstantine Paradias & Edward

Konstantine Paradias's

Konstantine Paradias is a writer by
choice. At the moment, he's published
over 100 stories in English, Japanese,
Romanian, German, Dutch and
Portuguese and has worked in a free-
lancing capacity for videogames, screen-
plays and anthologies. People tell him
he's got a writing problem but he can,
like, quit whenever he wants, man.
His work has been nominated
for a Pushcart Prize.

Edward Morris's

Edward Morris's

Edward Morris is a 2011 nominee for
the Pushcart Prize in literature, has
also been nominated for the 2009
Rhysling Award and the 2005 British
Science Fiction Association Award.
His short stories have been published
over a hundred and twenty times in
four languages, most recently at
PerhihelionSF, the Red Penny Papers'
SUPERPOW! anthology, and The
Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. He lives
and works in Portland as a writer,
editor, spoken word MC and bouncer,
and is also a regular guest author at
the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

Tim Fezz's

Tim Fezz's

Tim Fezz hails out of the shattered
streets of Philly destroying the air-
waves and people's minds in the
underground with his band OLD
FEZZIWIG. He's been known to
dip his razor quill into his own
blood and pen a twisted tale
every now and again. We are
delighted to have him onboard
the FREEZINE and we hope
you are, too.

Daniel E. Lambert's

Daniel E. Lambert teaches English
at California State University, Los
Angeles and East Los Angeles College.
He also teaches online Literature
courses for Colorado Technical
University. His writing appears
in Silver Apples, Easy Reader,
Other Worlds, Wrapped in Plastic
and The Daily Breeze. His work
also appears in the anthologies
When Words Collide, Flash It,
Daily Flash 2012, Daily Frights
2012, An Island of Egrets and
Timeless Voices. His collection
of poetry and prose, Love and
Other Diversions, is available
through Amazon. He lives in
Southern California with his
wife, poet and author Anhthao Bui.


Phoenix has enjoyed writing since he
was a little kid. He finds much import-
ance and truth in creative expression.
Phoenix has written over sixty books,
and has published everything from
novels, to poetry and philosophy.
He hopes to inspire people with his
writing and to ask difficult questions
about our world and the universe.
Phoenix lives in Salt Lake City, Utah,
where he spends much of his time
reading books on science, philosophy,
and literature. He spends a good deal
of his free time writing and working
on new books. The Freezine of Fant-
asy and Science Fiction welcomes him
and his unique, intense vision.
Discover Phoenix's books at his author
page on Amazon. Also check out his blog.

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

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. He has been
a Romantic poet for as long as any-
one can remember, specializing in
the composition of spectral balladry,
utilizing to great effect a traditional
poetic form that taps into the haunted
undercurrents of folklore seldom found
in other forms of writing.
His poetry has appeared on the pages
of such publications as SPECTRAL
CTHULHU, and a poem of his,
"The Rime of the Eldritch Mariner,"
won the Rhysling Award for long-form
poetry. His collection of weird balladry
and Jack tales, THE LAY OF OLD HEX,
was published by Hippocampus Press in 2017.

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff is the author of the
following books: Ring of Fire (Eraserhead
Press, 2018), Flesh Trade (co-written
w/Edward Morris; published by Create-
Space, 2017), Punk Rock Ghost Story
(Deadite Press, 2016), Amazing Punk
Stories (Eraserhead Press, 2016),
Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich (Eraserhead
Press, 2014), Hunting the Moon Tribe
(Eraserhead Press, 2011), The Vegan
Revolution...with Zombies (Eraserhead
Press, 2010), and Screams from a Dying
World (Afterbirth Books, 2009).
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.

Sanford Meschkow's

Sanford Meschkow is a retired former
NYer who married a Philly suburban
Main Line girl. Sanford has been pub-
lished in a 1970s issue of AMAZING.
We welcome him here on the FREE-
ZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking currently
resides in the high desert of Phoenix,
Arizona where he enjoys campy horror
movies within the comfort of an Insane
Asylum. Search for his science fiction
stories at The Intestinal Fortitude in
the Flesheater's World section.
The Memory Sector is his first
appearance in the Freezine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Owen R. Powell's

Little is known of the mysterious
Owen R. Powell (oftentimes referred
to as Orp online). That is because he
usually keeps moving. The story
Noetic Vacations marks his first
appearance in the Freezine.

Gene Stewart
(writing as Art Wester)

Gene Stewart's

Gene Stewart is a writer and artist.
He currently lives in the Midwest
American Wilderness where he is
researching tales of mystical realism,
writing ficta mystica, and exploring
the dark by casting a little light into
the shadows. Follow this link to his
website where there are many samples
of his writing and much else; come

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's

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
Audio Anthology, The Tide Pool, and
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.

Paul Stuart's

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,
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

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

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

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

G. Alden Davis's

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.
He's also the best friend I ever had. He
was taken away from us last year on Jan
25 and I'll never be able to understand why.
Together we were a fantastic duo, the
legendary Grub Bros. Our secret base
exists on a cross-hatched nexus between
the Year of the Dragon and Dark City.
Somewhere along the tectonic fault
lines of our electromagnetic gathering,
shades of us peel off from the coruscating
pillars and are dropped back into the mix.
The phrase "rest in peace" just bugs me.
I'd rather think that Greg Grub's inimitable
spirit somehow continues evolving along
another manifestation of light itself, a
purple shift shall we say into another
phase of our expanding universe. I
ask myself, is it wishful thinking?
Will we really shed our human skin
like a discarded chrysalis and emerge
shimmering on another wavelength
altogether--or even manifest right
here among the rest without their
even beginning to suspect it? Well
people do believe in ghosts, but I
myself have long been suspicious
there can only be one single ghost
and that's all the stars in the universe
shrinking away into a withering heart
glittering and winking at us like
lost diamonds still echoing all their
sad and lonely songs fallen on deaf
eyes and ears blind to their colorful
emanations. My grub brother always
knew better than what the limits
of this old world taught him. We
explored past the outer peripheries
of our comfort zones to awaken
the terror in our minds and keep
us on our toes deep in the forest
in the middle of the night. The owls
led our way and the wilderness
transformed into a sanctuary.
The adventures we shared together
will always remain tattooed on
the pages of my skin. They tell a
story that we began together and
which continues being woven to
this very day. It's the same old
story about how we all were in
this together and how each and
every one of us is also going away
someday and though it will be the far-
thest we can manage to tell our own
tale we may rest assured it will be
continued like one of the old pulp
serials by all our friends which survive
us and manage to continue
the saga whispering in the wind.

Shae Sveniker's

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

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

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

K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)