It's All About Sacrifice

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

In the heart of the cluster, near the most populous planet of all urban worlds, the battle raged most fierce. There was no more bargaining. There were no more peace talks. Both sides, containing countless races, killed at will. There was at least one large battle cruiser exploding in low orbit every fifteen minutes. Countless short-range fighters popped like so many insects on a re-entry windscreen. For those below, in constant survival mode, and on the continuous hunt for prey from the other side, one of the biggest hazards was dodging falling bodies.

She could take no more. She had to do something. The majority of both armies were nearby. Everyone in this quadrant was pretty much insane, hell bent on killing one another. This would be the place to strike; if there was to be any hope for the survival of intelligent life in the rest of the galaxy.

She knew how to fly the family yacht.

In the middle of a fierce volley a Xanthphantzian captain was interrupted by his communications ensign… “Look sir, off the starboard bow!” For a moment the battle seemed to disappear and all on the bridge stopped what they were doing to watch the beautiful sailing ship pass silently between their massive vessel and the nearby smoking and burning cruiser of their adversaries.

The elegant human woman stood upon the deck of the small but graceful pleasure boat, protected from the cold harsh elements of space only by a thin survival bubble. She was like a goddess under a glass dome. Her ship was a gossamer butterfly amongst so much carbon-scored grey steel.

Both sides seemed hypnotized as she passed; solar sails spread wide, casting glimmers like diamonds against the starry backdrop. And onward still she careened… into the very heart of the battle. And as she continued forward, others stopped their fighting to gaze in wonder at the strange and beautiful sight, until she reached the very epicenter of the war, where two massive galactic warships had been, up until recently, busy trying to vaporize each other. And not one officer or soldier fired a weapon as the beautiful gossamer yacht glided amongst them all.

Suddenly the communication consoles of ships on both sides crackled to life. Her face was even more striking up close. Her high cheekbones and wide-set eyes made her seem both mysterious and regal. She spoke to anyone within earshot of a ship’s address system. “The time has come for closure on this chapter. You’ve all fought bravely and I hope every one of you feels at least somewhat vindicated.” She then held up, for all to see, a simple wormhole opener; a device that occupied most ships’ galleys.

It seemed harmless enough… what could a wormhole opener do? They had failsafes built in. They were for retrieving food. One would not activate anywhere near a dangerous place like for instance in the fire of a planet core… that would be deadly to potential users. It is difficult to imagine what would happen if a transference line were to open in the vicinity of say… a super nova. All that energy would be instantly drawn through. Luckily the opener would not activate in such circumstances. The real trick would be if you could predict where a super nova was “about” to take place, a real trick indeed.

“It’s all about sacrifice,” she said as she engaged the device and the fires of creation poured forth.


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The Revival Of Henry Hamilton

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

Henry became suddenly aware. Aware that he was sitting upright in a comfortable chair, wearing comfortable clothes made from warm white fabric that he did not recognize. All around him was whiteness, save for a wide bay window across the room that looked out into pure blackness. He looked to his left and saw a man standing there, also dressed in white. The man’s head was shaved, his face stony yet friendly. He smiled warmly.

Henry suddenly remembered that he could talk and found his own voice welcome but only distantly familiar, as if though he hadn’t heard it in a very long time. “Where am I?”

“You’re in the future Henry.”

“The future?” He blinked, considering it. “For real?”

“For real.”

For the moment he asked nothing else, finding it bothersome that his mind was having so much trouble processing such a seemingly small bit of information. Then he managed, “How far? I mean, what year is this?”

“We now use a different calendar than you are used to, but translated it’s the year 4970.”

Again, nothing but a simple number, a date. Why was it so hard to fathom what it meant?

“How did I get here?”

The bald man squatted down beside his chair, still smiling. He put a reassuring hand on Henry’s forearm. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

The last thing he remembered? He tried desperately to think. Then with a sudden wave, “A heart attack! I had a heart attack. They were working on me in the ambulance. Then… then, well then I guess…” He paused unsure. “I guess they must have… saved me?” A sudden quivering in his voice revealed his own doubt.

The bald man patted him on the shoulder. “I’m sorry Henry. They didn’t save you.” He raised a grey eyebrow and shook his head, never losing that friendly, reassuring look. “I’m afraid you died that day.”

Henry Hamilton shuddered in the comfortable chair. He looked back to the bay window and out into the blackness. Suddenly a small light zipped by, followed by two others. “What was that? Out there? Is that… space?”

“Yes, those ships are transporting people to other stations. There is a lot of traffic here in Jupiter orbit.”

Suddenly the bewildered man remembered that he had legs. He sprang from the chair and sprinted across to the window. There he pressed his face against the clear glass and gasped aloud as he gazed upon the twisting lighted tendrils of the space station that stretched off for kilometers in many directions. And all the while below, the mighty pink and red behemoth planet glowed so massive and close he was afraid that if he reached out he would touch it.

He spun back to the white room and the patient, smiling man. “Why? Why now? I never asked to be frozen. Did I?”

“Relax Henry. You haven’t been in stasis or cryo-sleep.”

“Then what? What?” He was beginning to feel like a caged animal in the room.

The bald man suddenly shone a small light into his eyes and Henry instantly calmed down. Then the friendly stranger walked him back to his chair and helped him to sit.

“Now just relax and listen while I tell you all about mankind’s wonderful mission to regenerate everybody through the genome reestablishment plan.”

“Who’s everybody,” Henry asked dreamily. That flash of light had done something to him. He felt wonderful.

“Why, everybody who has ever lived and died of course. We’ve finally done it Henry. We’ve finally found immortality and nobody is going to get left behind!”


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Maintain Your Equipment

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

“Damn it Jones! Haven’t you got that translator working yet?”

The ensign was baffled. He had set up translators on hundreds of worlds. This program was the very best, drawing on any slight nuances of anything that could conceivably transmit language, whether it was electrical impulse, sound, smell or motion. It could usually get a landing party hearing broken basic from any race in a day or two. “I don’t get it Captain. I’ve tried resetting all the perimeters as many different ways as I can.”

The captain looked across the river from the bay window of the cloaked ship toward the village of mindless blue bipeds running around playing, frolicking, laughing. Oh yes they could laugh. But how did they communicate? They were obviously intelligent to some degree. They slept in sturdy shelters with running water and automated climate control. They fed from long tubes that led directly to large replicator tanks. It all ran flawlessly. The crew had not once witnessed the beings perform any kind of maintenance on any of their equipment. “That’s it!” exclaimed the captain.

“What sir?”

“I’ll bet they lost their smarts somewhere along the way. They built everything too perfectly. They didn’t need to think anymore so they eventually devolved.”

“Hmmm, I guess it’s possible Captain. But that would take a long time. Do you think all this technology, all their structures and machines are really that old?”

“I’m going to order a scanning team to start dating the structures. You keep working on that translator!”

Then to the utter surprise of both men the translator suddenly crackled to life, speaking in its robotic tone. “Cattle in quadrant northeast are ready for slaughter. Prepare for killing and processing to commence.”

Both men stared at each other bewildered. Then the captain smiled, eyebrows raised. “Great work Jones! You finally figured it out.”

The ensign looked unsure. “Uh yes it seems to have finally latched onto an ancient previously catalogued language I’m not familiar with, but none of this data is making any sense. And besides, these creatures don’t keep cattle. The program must be misinterpreting something.”

The one aspect that everybody on the ship seemed to like about this place were the beautiful alien plants that swayed in the wind like multi-colored trees above the village of blue bipeds.

The translator announced again, “Initializing mobilization.”

The two men, jaws agape, stared out the window as a dozen of the colorful tree-plants suddenly stepped forward on their long stalks, and moved quickly into the village. The blue bipeds noticed it too and became nervous and agitated; something the humans had not yet witnessed.

Without warning the biggest tree-plant reached down into the throng of bipeds and scooped up a number of them, and then hurled them into the air, the blue creatures screaming aloud. Other tree-plants caught them and began to horribly rip the unfortunate beings to shreds. Still others gathered the guts and gore, and via hollow vines began spraying the biological food-fertilizer amongst their brethren.

All over the ship alarm bells sounded as the Captain barked, “Highly unexpected contingency! Prepare to abort mission! Make ready for lift off!”

The tree-plants continued methodically with their slaughter. And as the horrified ensign searched for anything else out there to draw his attention momentarily from the carnage, he spied one of the lofty giants form an upper limb into a prying tool and use it to remove the top off of one of the replicator feeder tanks. Of course, he thought. You have to maintain your equipment. You have to keep your cattle well fed.


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Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

Rupert’s father blubbered uncontrollably as he took his son’s hand and led him away from the car and into the forest. Son? Was he really? Maybe if he kept thinking that way this might become somehow easier. Yes, he just needed to keep reminding himself. The boy may have sprung forth from his beloved Mary’s womb, but he wasn’t natural. No sir, not in the least.

Bob cried aloud as the revolver fell from his waistband to the wet leaves. Dropping to his knees his body was wracked with sobs as he stuffed the gun back into his pants, all the while Rupert stood expressionless, waiting for him to get up and continue leading the way.

“I’m s-s-sorry son. There’s nothing else to do now.” He wiped snot on his sleeve and composing himself momentarily he grabbed Rupert firmly by the hand again and said, “Come on.”

And further into the woods they went. Rupert always silent, allowing himself to be led, as per usual, wherever his parents took him, just like he had allowed them to lead him to school for the first time. But it wasn’t long before the Williams girl had turned up dead on the playground. No one could explain it. One moment she had been apparently talking to Rupert, and the next she was lying there with blood pouring from her ears and eyes.

Then there was the old man at the park. Rupert’s parents had only turned their backs for a minute, but when they had suddenly discovered that their son was missing, it didn’t take much frantic searching before they located him in some nearby bushes, standing quietly over the elderly fellow’s corpse, again complete with all too familiar bloody orifices.

And so they had moved to another town, to get away from all the pointing fingers and accusations. But it wasn’t long before their new neighbor’s dog was felled by a mysterious ailment that had caused it to bleed from its ears and eyes as well.

And Bob had endured it all, but there was now this, the final straw. He had come home that afternoon to find his worst nightmare realized, his beloved Mary on the floor, blood surrounding her. Why it had happened was just as much a mystery as any of them, but it was the last time it would ever happen. And the hell-spawned demon would now pay for taking her from him.

They came to a small clearing and Bob let go of his son’s hand. He took two steps away and turned to face him. “It was that lab your mother used to work at, wasn’t it? They did things there… things that she was sworn to never discuss, not even with her own damn husband!”

Rupert stood as wordless as ever, his blank stare giving no hint of thought or emotion.

His father yelled at him. “They exposed her to something! They did… something! And you’re the bastard result!”

Rupert’s expression never once changed, but deep inside the center of his chemically enhanced mind he calculated. And he remembered everything. They all had it coming. From the bullying, pinching girl, to the disgusting pervert who had made ready to take his sex organ out, to the stupid biting beast, and worst of all, his pillow-smothering bitch of a mother.

And now here stood his blithering idiot of a father, making ready to dispatch him with that crude weapon.

Suddenly Bob’s sniffling and crying stopped abruptly, and as the revolver tumbled uselessly from his fingers he began to bleed steadily from his eyes and ears.


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Shore Leave

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

Shore leave at last! Ensign Pull Crimson was wide-eyed as he made his way through the dirty bustling streets of Port Tidaria. Thousands of aliens, both humanoid and otherwise shaped, filed past the endless teahouses, massage parlors and juke joints.

A human hand reached for him out of the throng and a familiar voice cut through the alien dissonance. “Come on Crimson. You better keep up!” The seasoned spacer, Lt. Jaxon was right. The young ensign followed through the masses, feeling some jelly-like substance smear his pant leg. He knew his inexperience with the port and its inhabitants could land him in serious trouble if he didn’t watch himself.

But he continued to revel in the blessed freedom that three days off of that depressing gray tub brought to his worn out brain. All he wanted to do was find a safe environment, and party the night away, maybe strike up some friendly relations with a female spacer or two if he was lucky.

They broke out of the main throng and found themselves on a slightly less populated street. Jaxon pointed ahead. “Up there, about a kilometer, is a senior officer’s club.” He grinned. “I can sign you in as long as you promise to behave.”

“Sounds good Lieutenant, as long as they’ve got booze and broads I’m a happy guy.”

“No problem there kid.”

Suddenly Jaxon’s face went serious and he patted his belt buckle. “That son of a bitch!”

“Who?” asked the young ensign.

“That fat hunk of crap Tidarian customs officer back at the elevator. He never gave me back my ID chip!”

Crimson knew how serious this was. Without it Jaxon was flat broke, and neither of them would get into the officer’s club. “Oh man, we have no choice. But it’s such a long way back. And we’ll have to fight that crowd.”

Jaxon thought of the prospect of dragging the young ensign back through the sea of aliens again and then thought better. “Never mind. It’ll be quicker if I go alone. You go on ahead to the club. Get in line. Tell the doorman what happened and that I’m on my way.”

Pull Crimson looked up the long street, suddenly unsure.

Jaxon saw his expression and reassured him. Pointing he said, “See the gold skyscraper on the right? It’s on the first floor. You can’t miss it. Just go straight there and don’t talk to anyone along the way!” With that he turned and was quickly swallowed up in the crowd.

Crimson carried on warily. This seemed like the longest kilometer ever. Suddenly the crowd thinned considerably as the road dipped momentarily into a dark hollow of older looking ramshackle shops. And as he made his way past the open mouth of a steamy alleyway he heard a small voice.

“Please mister. Please help me, I’m so scared and lost.”

Crimson stopped and turned to see a little human girl, perhaps four or five, standing there crying in the shadows. Tears streaked her dirty cheeks. He looked up the street toward the gleaming gold building, then back the way he had come. No sign of Jaxon yet.

“Please mister,” she pleaded again, her lip quivering.

The Ensign’s heart melted and he stepped into the shadows. Bending down he rested his palms on his knees and raised his eyebrows. “Who are your parents sweetie?”

It took the shape shifter less than a second to open a huge mouth lined with rapier teeth. And there was hardly a muffled yelp as a sudden fountain of warm blood sprayed out into the street.


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