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Thursday, July 23, 2009

SKY PIRATES:Part12

by John Shirley


Barba-Doss was a blue world, mostly sea, with five long archipelagoes spreading out like the arms of a starfish from an irregular central landmass, itself only three thousand miles square, all of it the remnants of an explosion from a gigantic primordial volcano. Some of the islands were sun-baked black volcanic rock, fit only for seabirds and crustaceans--some of these sea creatures were native, others were brought from Earth by nostalgic settlers. To a visitor drifting over in a flyer, the island would seem a paradise. He would behold beaches of shining white sands, water of crystal-blue, reefs like roughly carved emerald, the island magnificently verdant with native greenbeard trees, the fields waving their rich bounty of sweetgrains and rumfruit in the mild wind, the turquoise skies flecked with clouds, the weather usually clement...

But paradise was ever a matter of the freedom to enjoy it. The beauty of the planet Barba-Doss seemed removed to another planet entirely, for those men working the surf harvest.


#


Jann, Moss, Derv, Ivan and six others toiled hip deep in the surf, raking up the cultivated crustaceans, dropping them into buckets. Once full, the buckets were carried up to the cart, which had to be pushed back up the beach and up the embankment, then along the rutted path to the waiting automatic trucks. The slaves began at dawn; they quit at sunset. The sun broiled them, reflecting from the water so that their skin went beet-red and peeling, then cracked and oozing, becoming particularly sensitive to the electronlashes of the plantation guards. The rubber boots they were given quickly shredded on the seabed of broken shells and volcanic rock; their prison clothes fell into tatters in the first week, and Gangtofen refused to replace them, as he refused to replace the boots--he called it unnecessary overhead. "Unnecessary" too was medical care and an adequacy of food for slave harvesters. They were always hungry, and could not even secretly eat the oyster-like crustaceans, since they were not oysters at all, but another crustacean that was toxic to human beings, but which could be squeezed to produce a specialized and much sought-after machine lubricant. Gangtofen would not fix the motor on the cart; had it been repaired, it would not be necessary to push it up the beach. It had been broken a year, according to some of the older slaves--emaciated, bearded men with rheumy eyes, who looked twenty and thirty years older than they were.

Over and over they pushed the cart to the road where the robotic trucks idled. The cart itself was heavy; laden, it took all ten of the men in Jann's crew to push it uphill, and even with ten of them it was backbreaking toil. Gangtofen was wealthy, and could afford to import parts for the cart, if he chose. But why bother?

"You'd think that whore's-droppings would get more efficiency using machines for this work," Jann whispered, barely audible over the hiss of the sea, as he labored by Moss's side-- their hands blistered on the rakes, and the salt burned their blisters.

"Oh, yes, harvesting machines are more efficient," Moss murmured, "but we are far out on the edge of the colonized worlds, at the frontier. There are depredations from pirates--and from the Veln." Enemies of the Kastillians, the Veln were a mysterious race said to be crossbred between Earth humans and quasi-reptilian aliens. "Importing harvest robots here is costly," Moss went on. "Slaves are cheap, and relatively plentiful. The Kastillians have hundreds of thousands of slaves, from their 'retaliation raids'. They've begun a breeding program, it's said, so that the children of slaves can be made to work--and any surplus can be sold."

Derv's deep voice rumbled to them. "I've heard that on Indulgence, slaves are put into fields to be hunted down, as sport--and then eaten." Indulgence was the Kastillian's legendary holiday planet--only for the most decadent.

Jann wondered if this tale of murder for sport and cannibalism could be true. The Lady Delphine was a Kastillian. There was an inestimable fineness about her. Could she be of a race capable of such things?

He had glimpsed her only a few times, since he'd been brought here on the transport. She had been riding an actual imported Earth horse, and looked like some mythical goddess astride the legendary beast.

"They really are magnificent creatures," Jann had said, seeing her ride by.

"Yes and the beast she's riding is fine too," Ivan had muttered.

Jann had an impulse to slap Ivan, then, which he'd suppressed--the guards punished fighting, as they punished any digression from the norm. A slave had been beaten half to death for drawing greenbeard trees on strips of bark, with a bit of charcoal. "It's sedition," the guard had said. "I don't know how but it must be. Otherwise why do it?"

Now, Jann paused to watch, through the shifting surface of the sea, as a thin stream of blood spiraled slowly out into the water from a new cut on his right foot. The blood spread out to a fine parachute-shaped membrane in the water and small aquatic creatures darted up to feed from it.

"You!" shouted a guard on the beach. "The Grandee from Paradine! Stop daydreaming! Get back to work!"

For the thousandth time, Jann controlled his temper. He squatted up to his shoulders in the waves to lift a sieve-like bucketful of crustaceans.

Lifting his own bucket, Derv said, "There is another reason, perhaps, that few machines are used here--a reason besides Gangtofen's miserliness. Gangtofen and Drumm enjoy slaves." Drumm was Gangtofen's chief slavewatcher, an enormous man, so pale as to be nearly an albino, and forever reeking of sun-screen oil. "They love the power of it. It's simple sadism."

"Yes," Jann agreed. "Doubtless."

Jann was saving his breath, now, speaking little, as a terrible thirst had hit him and talking made it worse. The sea here was salt, undrinkable, and he was not permitted to drink from the water barrel on the beach until the cart was filled.

There was worse slave-work on Barba-Doss, though, Jann had heard. The sweetgrain fields were on the steep slopes of the dead volcano, and workers there toiled uphill most of the day, carrying even greater weight. There were mines, too, in the undersea colony, and slaves sent there were said to go mad after a few months in the only faintly-relieved darkness. For they were never allowed to come out of the mines and into the illuminated, transparent dome on the sea floor.

Of course all slaves dreamed of escape. But there were four heavily armed human guards watching every crew of ten--some of the guards were Kaswills, assigned by Kastillia to help protect outlying colonies and to supervise slaves. One of the harvesting guards on the beach, Blust, had been their overseer on the ship, was now their chief tormenter at the plantation: the very fellow that the Lady Delphine had stopped when he was about to whip Jann. Blust was always looking for an excuse to lay into the slaves.

The guards were armed with auto-repeater hand cannons, electronlashes, and the heavy Kastillian swords. A rush from the slaves might overwhelm the guards with only some of the slaves dying--but there was an "Id" here too, an older but even more brutal model of penal robot, this one armed with energy beams.

Yet it was a special weapon that Blust carried that provoked the most fear. A small gun the guards called a writher shot a harmless-looking pellet into a man--which was activated by contact with his blood to vigorously burrow, to dig furiously through him with astonishing rapidity like a small living buzz saw, methodically cutting him up from the inside, so that he writhed and screamed as he fell to pieces...The writher was legendary, and the legend was enough to suppress rebellion.

There were women slaves, working the Gangtofen's house and kitchen, but they were kept far separate from the males. Jann had heard the guards gossiping that Gangtofen used the female slaves as he pleased--but tried to hide this vice from his niece.

At last the buckets were full enough. They lugged them up to the cart, dumped them into the hopper. Then Jann hurried over to the water barrel. He bent and drank, drank deeply--and then screamed as the electronlash cut into his back.

He rolled to one side and jumped to his feet, crouched, found himself looking into Blust's narrowed eyes.

"You were not told you could drink yet," Blust said. He held the electronlash in his left hand, its coppery bristles crackled with blue-white sparks; his right hand fingered the small butt of the Writher on his hip.

Jann's back-muscles still quivered, reacting to the shock with a life of their own. He felt fresh blood running down his spine and the blood seemed to trace the course of the cold rage that was running through him.

Jann thought, Why not?

If he rushed the guard he might well get hold of his gun arm, deflect the pellet. With his other hand he might break Blust's neck--and he felt strong enough in his rage, to do just that, yes, one-handed. Perhaps the rest of the slaves would rush the other guards. The Id was on the embankment above them--not in very effective range, though it could move quickly on its treads when it wanted to. What of it? He would improvise.

Jann was poised on the knife edge of action. Blust saw it in his eyes and his own eyes widened. Everything hinged on this second--and less than a second.

Then Derv stepped into view, behind Blust, and caught Jann's eye. Jann knew what was in Derv's mind, then--somehow the Centauran conveyed it with that look.

If you go for him, you commit us too. Don't throw our lives away on rage. Wait!

Jann took a deep breath and slowly let it out. And muttered, "Sorry, sir," to Blust. He trudged past Blust back to the cart. He felt deeply weary now, drained by the sun--and by the burning pain in his back. He hated everyone in that moment--briefly, he hated even Derv.

Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Blust frowning--then glancing over his shoulder at Derv, who towered over him. The guard swallowed, probably guessing that if it had gone any other way, one of the two slaves would have killed him.

Blust tapped his electronlash in his palm--but elected to do nothing more about it now.

Jann knew that the time would come. Blust could wait, too.

So can I, Jann thought. I can wait. But not much longer. It had to be soon, before he was too worn down for escape. Before he died in chains.




Tune in next Monday for SKY PIRATES:Part 13,
by John Shirley





Friday, July 24: a brand-new short story from Keith Graham appears, for the first time anywhere. Keith is a computer programmer, blues harp player, and speculative fiction writer. His story Farewell Tour is a slight departure off the beaten path here. Without giving away too much, let's just say it's a sort of rock'n'roll ghost story. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for Farewell Tour, then return Monday for the final week of John Shirley's SKY PIRATES.



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Archive of Stories
and Authors

Sean Padlo's
NINE TENTHS OF THE LAW

Sean Padlo's
GRANDPA'S LAST REQUEST

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
Morris's HOW THE GODS KILL


Konstantine Paradias's
SACRI-FEES

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
ONE NIGHT IN MANHATTAN


Edward Morris's
MERCY STREET

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
BURNT WEENY SANDWICH

Tim Fezz's
MANY SILVERED MOONS AGO

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
DEAD CLOWN AND MAGNET HEAD


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's
AGAIN AND AGAIN

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
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. 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
REALMS and BLACK WINGS OF
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
A PLANET OF YOUR OWN


David Agranoff's
THE FALLEN GUARDIAN'S
MANDATE


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
INEVITABLE

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
THE RECIDIVIST



Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's
THE MEMORY SECTOR

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
NOETIC VACATIONS

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)
GROUND PORK


Gene Stewart's
CRYPTID'S LAIR

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
explore.

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
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
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.
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
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:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)