Thursday, May 31, 2018


By Andrew Darlington

As the first Earthian sets foot on Mars, aching, it’s been a long hard journey, she finds the three Galaxiad delegates courteously waiting. A shiny octopus, a long-necked owl-faced bird, and a fish. It was not entirely unexpected. ‘We come in peace for all humankind’ she says, her visuals flashed back to watching Beijing and Baikonur.

‘We know all that.’ A fitting response. Although it appears to be Clarice – the bird, speaking, there’s an impression that the sentiment emanates from Amrita, the octopoid, which hovers suspended within a life-support sphere. The Intuitive Fish swims in a sapphire water-cube. Clarice seems to exist quite adequately on tenuous Mars-air.

‘Welcome, although we assumed you’d be here earlier’ says the bird. ‘Soon after you reached your Moon, in fact. We miscalculated, for I understand you had to have time to devote to your wars first.’
‘You’ve been waiting for us?’ enquires Zhi Ruo politely.

‘Like you wouldn’t believe. But now you’re here your species naturally qualifies for admission to the Galaxiad, as junior induction members.’

‘As in that Arthur C Clarke story? We have to prove our extraterrestrial credentials first?’

‘That was a cool movie. But no, not quite. Only yes, to an extent.’

As Zhi Ruo, Qing Shan and Tierney follow their hosts across the Valles Marineris floor, the sun a small bright coin in the twilight sky, the watchers in Beijing and Baikonur can begin to discern the form of the ruined Martian city they’re approaching.

‘Of course, it’s not Martian’ comments Clarice the bird. ‘There were never any Martians. Not even microbial ones in shallow pools. It’s just that we’ve been observing you from here for a long while, and maintaining these structures proved tedious.’

‘The three of you have been here hundreds of years?’

‘A million or so. We anticipated faster evolutionary growth on your part, I admit. But I retain a certain affection for some of your lapsed cultures, the Minoans in particular, and the Phoenicians were quite fascinating in a mercantile way. Originally there were five of us here. I regret our numbers were depleted by an unfortunate close-pass accident with your world some time ago.’ Although the slender towers and minarets are semi-derelict, resembling something from wild Barsoomian romance, the central court is hermetically sealed in sparkling crystal shells, allowing the travelers to relax without their protective suits. Fountains dance around a garden of softly humming blooms.

The three aliens face the three humans, feeding them visions. Countless millions of worlds, a cornucopia of species linked across the spiral arm in a million-year trading alliance of peace and prosperity, stars arranged into aesthetically-pleasing formations, glittering planetary-cities and sky-borne islands suspended in the streaming tides of gas giants, continents on piles sunk into blazing suns, a dance of captive black holes, gentle ocean worlds where leviathans bask in violet tides and idyllic rainforest planets of diversely beautiful avian life-forms, cascading nebulae choreographed to illuminate the night skies of golden cities, beings flitting in the harmony of ghosts across magical continuums, species pooling resources and expertise to resolve the fundamental mysteries of existence, to cure all ailments and share their benevolences freely across star systems. Lesser species helped and guided to achieve that perfect equilibrium.

‘I don’t see your starships’ says Qing Shan.

‘We still enjoy using contragrav ovoids to make local system hops’ says Clarice agreeably. ‘For galactic distances, think quantum symbiosis. It’s complicated for you to understand. The Intuitive Fish swims the tides of galactic space. Amrita acts as navigation input. That’s all we require. Simple for us, but it’ll be a long meticulous process for you, you’ll learn over the coming centuries through our measured tuition.’

‘So you function as a composite entity? That’s all we need to know.’ They draw stun pistols and freeze the Galaxiad comatose. There are three prepared chambers in their ship, the ‘Laozi’. Once back on Earth the aliens are scanned, analyzed, probed and dissected, their DNA transfused and replicated, injected and grafted, operating on sciences retro-engineered from the two previously captured specimens.

Ten years later human armies break out across the peaceful worlds of the Galaxiad, shimmering instantaneously through space-time tides, despoiling and annexing. Within a century Earth has become control-centre of a galactic empire stretching from star to shining star…

- - -

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Regulated Planet
By David K Scholes

“They are reducing our allocated living space again,” I exclaimed with a mixture of surprise, anger and fear. “It’s the second edict in less than 2 years.”

Joy reviewed this information on the mind channel reserved for Earth persons.

“35m2 living space per adult, 10m2 working space if you work away from home and 65m2 outdoor recreational space per adult are the new figures,” she had difficulty saying it without crying. “Half that for children.”

I whistled. “How much further can they reduce us?” I asked.

“I don’t believe that they are done yet Dave,” there was a near certainty in Joy’s voice. “That’s five reductions in all since the planetary judgement first came down and the Ploorst took over.”

At first it hadn’t seemed so bad. I mean Earth had been at a low ebb with our world laid waste by a world war followed by several large scale alien incursions.

The Ploorst prefabricated cities and towns seemed like the answer to our problems. We had seen that the “prefabs” had the capability to expand. From individual rooms to the entire prefab city. What we hadn’t realised was individual spaces, rooms, halls. congregating points, even an entire pre-fab city, could all similarly be reduced. This unedifying, indeed frightening fact only became clear after the first of the brutal forced space reductions.

“I don’t think that I can take another space reduction,” offered Joy. “It’s not quite so bad for those that have a workplace to go to but for those of us who work from home!”

“And the children,” I said, “the children.”

The dreadful thing was that the younger children didn’t know anything else.

“With most family units reduced now to a single room the concept of an actual 2 or 3 bedroom residence, a unit or a house even, was just that to the younger children. A dream - a theoretical concept.”

* * *

Our “group” – a collection of 10 family units – and the maximum social-interaction allowed us – had discussed options many times. Including getting out of the prefab city and to the countryside. Though we mostly accepted the official line that the countryside was all still high radiation wasteland. In any event in all the time we had been in the prefab city no one in our group had even been able to get to the next module let alone outside the pre-fab.

* * *

“I think I’ve found something,” I told Joy in a hushed tone. “Something that might help with our space problem.”

“The only thing that could help us is more space,” Joy couldn’t quite see how that was possible and said as much.

“That’s what I’ve found,” I whispered even more quietly. “Somewhere – where there’s more space – sort of.”

I took Joy and Dirk from our Group to part of the interface between our module and the next. Technically en route to Dirk’s work station but an unauthorised area for Joy and I.

Theoretically it should have been possible to walk through the interface to the next module but we had all been too fearful to test this out. Until now.

With me leading we walked sideways into the interface. It looked like we were just continuing down the walkway.

“Have we gone over into the next module?” enquired Dirk. Things were very similar to our module but also somehow different as well.

“No, I don’t believe so” I replied.

“We kept on going and going – corridors and hallways and the occasional small room. Mostly with nothing in them and taking us progressively further away from our interface entry point. Eventually we returned.

* * *

Later we made a group decision to conduct deeper forays into this place, this alternate module, or whatever it was, that I had discovered. To try to find out if it offered us something our present existence didn’t.

We never got the opportunity. The next forced living space reduction came far sooner than expected. It was just too hard for us to take. Our entire group left our module via the interface for what we hoped had to be something better. Our brave new world.

* * *

They could not have known it but Joy and Dave’s small group was one of the last groups to leave their modules in the pre-fabricated cities and towns of Earth.

In time these prefab cities and towns contracted to nothing. The work of the Ploorst on Earth was done. Ultimately all part of the Judgement.

Joy and Dave’s group and all those that left before them will not be troubled about any lack of space in their new extra-dimensional environment.

What they ultimately make of this is up to them.

- - -
The author is a science fiction writer who has written more than 200 short stories. He has written eight collections of short stories and two novellas (all on Amazon). He has been published on the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles sites and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently about half way through a new collection of science fiction short stories

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Stealing Wings
Chapter 1, Sneak Peek

By E.S. Wynn

Date: 4th April, 2293
Location: Outskirts of the town of Zaitsev, Calav Beta, Arctostaphylos System (HD 12661)

Saint Von Mitternacht, patron saint of the genetically modified.

I'm five. Old enough to understand some things, not old enough to understand others. Old enough to understand that I am different. Old enough to understand that I have to keep it a secret. Not old enough to understand why.

Grandma keeps a rough carving of Saint Von Mitternacht on an end table near the silver disc that projects our television onto the wall. When the jasmine blooms, she places the flowers at the little statue's feet. When the oranges are in season, she places strips of peel there in offering. When we have visitors, she hides the carving behind a chair and throws a towel over it to hide it. We aren't any color of Catholic, but I suppose its human to cling to whatever hope for redemption, for divine guidance and protection you can, and we do.

It's human– though at age five, I wonder if I really am that. Am I human, as grandma says, or am I something else? Something less?

I haven't seen my mother since I was a toddler. Memories of her, of her face come in hazy shades, in tired smiles and frames of my tiny fists balled up in her grease-stained overalls. At five, I'm still young enough to watch the window that looks out over the parched, weed-spotted yard and the pavecrete road beyond, to wonder when she's coming back, wonder if this time will be the time I spot her walking in, her beaten red toolbox in one hand, the other brushing through the brown and wiry tufts of her rough-cut hair. It'll be a few more years before I give up, before grandma tells me the truth I already suspect. My mother is gone, lost, and she's not coming back.

Ellen Eisenherz. My mother. Signed all her early letters E.E. even though she and my father never married. She was registered with the Department of Licensing for Genetic Constructs as Ellen Meyers, was fitted with a subdermal licensing chip and worked any contract job for reactor techs that came along. Tagged and papered like all good citizens of the Commonwealth unlucky enough to carry the crossover-proof gene-tags that are the legacy of a time when corporations could splice together and brew up batches of “perfect” people, program them, own them, make legal slaves of them. The family story is that we have an ancestor who'd been born in a gene-vat, a prototype for the K-series of bodyguards and soldiers who had been genetically engineered by a twenty-second century megacorp called ChromaToZone. When faster-than-light travel finally opened the stars to humanity, this ancestor, along with many others like her, escaped Earth and made her way to the frontier. K-1, she was called, and if she took another name for herself, I don't know what it might have been. All I know is that she rode in steerage on a colony ship bound for the furthest planet from the core that she could find. Couldn't tell you much more than that. No one in the family could.

With the exception of the twin great uncles who fought and died during the Centauri Uprising of 2245, my tagged family has stuck mostly to the rim of the Commonwealth, followed the frontier even as it was pushed further and further out from Earth. My father was pure human, unlicensed, unpapered, a mutt of chance and nature, free to do as he pleased– and that's exactly what he did. In her innocence and naivete, my mother never stopped loving him, held her own hope that he'd return someday, but my grandmother knew better. Dad abandoned my mother three days after he found out that she was pregnant, and no one has seen or heard from him since. No letters, no vids or calls. Nothing, and I've never bothered to try to look him up on the network. All I know about him at age five is that he was a pilot, dark-haired and wild, that the last time anyone saw him, he'd contracted to fly a jaunt on a freighter full of cattle bound for a colony at the other end of Commonwealth space. I doubt he knew how my mother died, how the ship she was contracted to run three months with as an assistant tech ran hot on a jaunt through the Vaulcouleur system and the rest of the crew locked her in the reactor room and let her die because she was "just a GMO," or a "Moe," for short, using the racial slur that's flown too free among Commonwealth normals since the Centauri Uprising. Radiation in the core cooked her until she was just a stain on the floor, but she saved the whole crew before she died, put the reactor assembly into a rotating on/off diagnostic cycle that slowed the ship but got everyone else home. Instead of honoring her, being thankful of her sacrifice, I heard later that her crewmates cursed her for the two extra weeks in transit her last-minute field fix cost them.

But at the age of five, I still idealize my mother. She's very much alive in my mind, her brilliant blue eyes crinkling at the edges with stress, with exhaustion, with the weight of always being less important than everyone else around her. I think of her when grandma calls me Ellie, and I'm proud that my mother's name lives on as my middle name, my nickname. My young mind wants to be like her, sees the strength, the skill she put into every turn of a wrench, every spot-soldered and wire-wound frontier engine fix that saved a crew and got them all home to their families. In my mind, she's always been a hero, misguided, too passive perhaps, but a hero still. An inspiration, as much as a warning against weakness.

I'm five, and on April 4th, 2293, one month and six days before my sixth birthday, I watch my sixty-seven year old grandmother hobble into our home and bolt the door with shaky hands. She's mud-splashed and bruised, but since my grandfather died, there's rarely been a day that she goes into town when she isn't. Today is different, though. I catch the stagger in her walk, the way she winces as she crosses to the bedroom, pushes the one shell of birdshot she has into her centuries-old, break-action hunting shotgun. There's a rumble on the road, and I run to the window to see if it might be mom. Instead, two men in faded shirts stamped with the logo of the Commonwealth Navy throw open the doors of a sagging, rusted hovertruck. One of them has a baseball bat, yells my grandmother's name.

"Nemea! Fucking clone-spawn bitch!"

"Ellie!" Grandma hisses. She's standing at the door to the bedroom with the shotgun in her hands. There's no fear in her eyes, only fire, only iron. Looking back, I know now that she must have been terrified, that she knew she was stuck between the rage of two racist drunks and the law that would put her in jail for even owning a firearm. "Hide!" She whispers, gesturing toward the bed. Obedient, scared, I nod, dart into the darkness and fold myself up in the dusty clothes and boxes wedged under the mattress.

The men come. They beat on the door. They break windows and hammer on the walls. They stomp around the back garden, leave boot tracks all through the fertile mud. I listen, and while my Grandma Nemea stands silent, wary, the two men shout hate at the house. My grandmother and I stay out of sight, but I never see her set down the shotgun. Even after the men have left, even as the hovertruck rumbles away on struggling, keening suspensor coils, she carries it with her around the house. She holds it while I help her clean the mud and spit off her synthwool cloak. She holds it while she draws water for a stew of vegetables from our garden and meat from the colony market in town. It keeps her company, sits in her lap while we eat, and only at night, when we curl up together in the modest bed we share does she set it beside the nightstand, breathe a heavy sigh.

It's a scene I see too often growing up. At five, it's the first time I've seen grandma followed home, the first time I've seen her hard-eyed and waiting with her shotgun in her hands, but it won't be the last time. I can't say how many times I lived through scenes like that, how many times we had to patch the sheet plastic that became the norm for our windows because we couldn't afford to replace the glass.

She was tough, my grandmother. She fought as hard as she could, in the ways that she could, but she also knew how fragile our life together was, how easily she could find herself locked up, dead or worse. In the eyes of the law, she was the lowest class of citizen. Marked like a dog, licensed and papered.

But I wasn't, back then. My birth certificate says that I am the child of a previous relationship of my father's. According to the records, I was adopted by way of a marriage that no one bothered to file paperwork on. We were poor because my grandma wanted me to have a future, because she bribed every doctor who tested my blood, who screened my genes for disease markers and corporate tags. In the eyes of the law, I was fully human, but she had to buy that status every step of the way. In the eyes of the law, I was a person, pure and unadulterated by the tampering of man. That was her legacy. That was what allowed me the freedom to fight, to make a difference in all of the ways that I have in the decades since.

- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over 70 books.

Stealing Wings: A Novel of the Cygnus War is available in print and digital formats through Thunderune Publishing.

From the back cover:
One of my ancestors was a science experiment. She was cutting edge technology a century and a half ago, but then the world fell apart and she ran away. She ran away, and every child in her line who carries the same genes has had to pay for it in all the years since.

I am one of those children. I have genetically modified ancestry. I can't legally own a gun, can't serve in the military and can't be licensed to fly a starship.

But I do anyway. I do, because so far, no one knows about the GMO in my family tree.

My name is Tessa Ellen Eisenherz. This is my story. This is how I learned to fly. This is how I got involved in The Cygnus War.

This is me, stealing my wings.

Get your copy here:

- - -

Thursday, May 10, 2018


April 14, the Day God the Utterly Indifferent Came to Earth
By Damian W. Du Charme

There’s something that needs to be understood before all of… this ends. It was all within your ability to prevent. You see I didn’t create him, but his ancestor. Like all sentient beings of the universes, I began them as nothing more than an atom. Those that were skilled enough to become a something did. After this planet’s hive control had been released life among you so called humans became crass. He was the only one that really mattered when it came to the sense of this planet’s safety. Residing deep in his subconscious is a metaphysical connection to all life on his planet. That’s why all life here is carbon based, and come from a singular cell. His family, the celestials of Earth, died through the ages and eventually left him to be the last of his bloodline. Sure he has children, but only the select can continue the life of Earth. Just not without him.

The teachings of control had long been forgotten, mostly because of a lack of those able to teach. Many members of his ancestors left the planet, only to never return. This forced nature to implement a crash course on how to keep the planet in balance. The only time he lived in true balance was while in love, and his love with you is the greatest of any. That kept his planet in harmonious balance, bliss.

Let’s put this into perspective… Every natural disaster in history was caused by his bloodline. Somebody in his family caused Pompeii to erupt, another set forth the Aleppo earthquake, and before his birth his grandfather put China through the earthquake of Tangshan. When he was only two he slipped and hit his head on a stone fireplace, Nevado del Ruiz erupts. You see where I’m going with this? Whether it was an accident or purposely controlled it is they who initiate natural selection. Whenever something does happen, it’s to beat down the ever-growing population. Each celestial can only create and maintain enough resources to allow life to continue. The rate that humans use these resources is why he was often left feeling drained, or angry. He’s spent the majority of his 30 some years not knowing what he was. There was no crash course for him; it all hit him at once.

As his mind collapsed into the sudden realization of what he is, he became flooded with an uncontrollable rage. This has happened to all celestials forced. It was then, during his collapse that you were needed most. If only to just hold him and settle his rattled conscious. The feeling of love is his only cure. Love from his family. Love from his beloved. Instead he was karmic-ally gifted abandonment, and yes he did deserve it. He would likely agree it was a long time coming. Yet, none of that changes the lesson he learned, or the intense need he has for you… does it? As the observer and creator of the infinite sea of universes, I can say your specific life form is the most compassionate. More is based on the emotions you feel than was originally thought of as “sane”, but have proven time & again that you can change lives, let alone the world through emotions. Whether or not it’s believed or understood by all, the Y chromosome gender dominates and more or less controls your species now. It’s no wonder so many are trying to “switch sides”. Most don’t grasp that your soul, as it were, has no gender, let alone a use for such a troublesome piece of anatomy.

Now, however, I am here designing myself into a form hopefully understandable enough for you to stop and take a long moment to consider the facts of life. What is important? Can you see his love? Have you paid heed to the lessons he’s learned? Never doubt he has. A real problem is that it may be to late for him regardless. Could be that his feeling is this being the only completion of the lesson. How does that make you feel? Are you prepared for the responsibility of ensuring the continuation and safety of life on Earth? It is much easier to give up than to keep on. If you haven’t lost all hope, if you haven’t given up on him and feel that love… don’t. You’re both going to need it. There will always be difficulties; true love is the power to over come these obstacles of life. Stay strong. Especially for him now, because it is now he needs you most. Do you not hear him howling for you?

He feels that an apocalypse is the only thing that will make you reconsider. He has always had a love of volcanoes, never knowing that was part of his power connection as a Capricorn, a violent mixture of magma and water being able to create earth, his main element. That is why he is heading for the closest volcano, Rainer. If that volcano goes, it will start a chain reaction to every active & non-active volcano on his planet. A complete restart, 99% total extinction. The only thing that will survive is the bacterium formed by the first celestial, the immune system of all living things to his planet.

Your choice matters not to me, I only wanted to convey the options you have. I will now leave this universe, leave you to your choice. This is where it will either all fall apart, or root into the strongest love that can never be broken. No matter the test. Choose wisely… choose continuing… choose being his savior.

He has already chosen to be yours.

April 15


- - -
A brokenhearted man with only his writing and his fishing pole left.

Thursday, May 3, 2018


A Beautiful Husk
By Joseph J. Patchen

The silence is beautiful. All around me this silence, this emptiness, surrounding and swallowing me in this vast expansive space, is utterly intoxicating.

It is beautiful; for my heart not to see any more loss; for my mind, to rest. All my weary senses are intrigued as to the prospects; anything to fill the emptiness I am inside.

Forget all the circumstances that have sucked the very life from me up to this moment. Forget this is the aftermath of brutality on brutality with the ritual bloodletting of one race against another. Forget that I am floating free in a derelict fighter, damaged by hate and envy.

Two worlds are dead tonight. Two worlds have sacrificed their futures for this; for this serenity where no one else is available to die in the next hour. Yes, this silence, this emptiness, is so beautiful and hypnotic.

These far away stars are jewels, spread apart so wide with a vast darkness in between. I am in need to find the perfect one. I desire an isolated one. True those stars may be worlds worn by their own conflicts and worn down by their own wasteful people yet I salivate at the prospects.

I can’t stay here, not in this metal and glass coffin. I need them; I need to wear a very last pearl.
My body spasms, cramped without having any real movement for some time as does my mind from the constant rigors of war.

As the last of my kind I need to find a suitable one; a new home that can only provide sustenance and sleep. I need sleep. I need rest. I need simplicity. This has been a long war; a complicated conflict long enough for each side to kill each other. I have lived a nightmare. I wish to simply dream.

My flight is damaged, perhaps more than I. My only hope is to use what instruments I have left to locate a world upon which to crash and hopefully survive to live in the absolute beauty of emptiness, peace and silence.

Empty as I am of hate. Empty as I am of love. I wrestle with what I have left behind thirsting only for the life of what is to come. I pray that soon I will float beyond all this debris and wreckage of humanity and human ingenuity.

I pray soon. I pray often.

Off to the starboard tumbling freer than I is the body of a woman. Swathed in her silver space suit she shines brighter than any of the stars. What a queer ballet this shapely and slender form is performing; tumbling slowly and easy with her limbs waving…

She is within my wake and I have become fixated on her. Until I can find a home she offers me the last and only companionship I will know.

She is still wearing a helmet. She is wearing the uniform of my vanquished enemies. But war is over and if she were alive I would extend my hand to her in friendship and perhaps ask her to waltz or dance closely.

I can feel her soft touch on my shoulder; her white manicured nails softly press into the flesh of my hand as we sway to the strings of a symphony. Swathed no more in the silver suit of war my left hand cradles into the chiffon of her of her gown.

In sync are our moves; we are one. In sync in our hearts; we might find ourselves in love…

I lean back in my chair. I can see she is no longer tumbling in space. But she is not lost or fallen under my craft. I can feel the back of my head nestling against her space suit right between her breasts. Even with her gloves on, her slender and smooth fingers lovingly dig into my shoulders at the neck; massaging the tension of this interplanetary mess away.

She’s humming a lullaby. My favorite lullaby from when I was a child.

As I reopen my eyes I see her helmet is still on…

I need to see her face. I need to bask in her smile. To take joy in her eyes and run my fingers through her hair…

Standing and turning I take hold of her hands. I am so drawn to her; to her inviting figure and her loving touch.

Pressing her hands on my hips, I face her and reach for her helmet. We whisper sweet nothings about how our fortunes have turned in our finding each other. The strings of a symphony flood my mind’s ear as I finally get to see my secret love.

Not much of her hair remains. Her skin is no more. She is more than mere skeletal remains; she is a peeling and fragile husk. She is a beautiful husk; the only one left in this vast universe to love me. She is a beautiful husk, pulling me closer and closer for a kiss.

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