Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
Agent Rockton was all on his own here in the heart of the city. He appeared no more than a shadow, creeping stealthily through twisting service alleys under the cover of the ink black night that hung perpetually above this remote rock that had at one time been a federation outpost.
He paused and held his breath, his back flat against a stone wall. He heard footsteps. This was good. It would only be one of the Mumphet people running this errand or that for its master Slug. Had Rockton heard the sucking sliming noise of one of the actual enemy approaching he would have had much more to deal with. He watched the short hairy being pass by, loping along with a sack of some supplies or other tossed over its shoulder. Poor buggers, they’d been enslaved for generations. He felt badly that so many Mumphets would have to perish as well when the shit hit.
Once in the clear he began to move again. Almost there now. His visor’s readout showed him that he was but meters from the city’s center, his ultimate destination. Might as well do it by the book. There ahead was a decorative fountain that spewed stale smelling brackish water. That was ground zero.
After a quick scan he stole across the open square and then dove to the wet pavement and rolled into the shadow of the fountain’s edge. He procured the receiver from his backpack and slid it as far as he could under the stony lip of the fountain, then engaged the timer. The 10:00 hours began to tick backward. That was what he had, ten short hours to make it on foot, out of the city and across kilometers of rough terrain to a safe distance from the blast.
As he slid out and stood up he heard a click behind him. He froze, and heard the unmistakable sound of a Mumphet grunting into a universal translator. The words in Common were instant and mechanical. “I have a high caliber energy weapon aimed at your back. I must warn my master, you have done something. What is it you’ve put under the fountain?”
Rockton held his hands out, fingers splayed. He spoke into his own translator and was honest and direct. “You’d be wiser to go get any family you want to save and leave this city at once.”
“Turn around intruder.”
Rockton turned to face his short hairy assailant. He could tell the young Mumphet was scared.
Yet it raised its weapon threateningly and asked, “Is it a bomb?”
“No my friend. It is a teleportation receiver, but in a few short hours it will bring a thermonuclear device that will destroy everything here. The people who are sending it are far away, in another star system. They can’t be stopped, and the receiver cannot be turned off. Heed my words, get your family and run.”
The Mumphet was not quite convinced. “What if I just shoot you and then smash it to bits?”
“You can’t smash it; heck you can’t even move it. It’s held in place by wormhole forces, it would be easier to move the whole planet.”
Suddenly the Mumphet stepped back and said, “You know there are other Slug cities on other planets; this won’t get them all.”
“I know,” Rockton replied. “But it’s a hell of a good start.”
The Mumphet smiled. “I’d love to converse further, but I need to rescue my family.” And with that he turned and disappeared into the night.
Rockton began to make his way out of the city.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
He walked and he calculated. The intense red sun beat down yet, as always, the suit kept things temperate. He urinated without thinking, and on he walked. He glanced at his wrist and saw that it was nearly rest time.
The dry little planet was about 28,000 kilometers in circumference and by figuring his average walking speed he knew he might encounter his own footprints soon enough.
His chronometer beeped at him just as he spied a nice sand pile to lie back against. There weren’t many options. There was sand, rocks, and more sand. He lay back against his uncomfortable bed and closed his eyes, trying to imagine what he might do next after circumnavigating his dusty prison. The problem was the suit worked too damn well. And while his will to survive trundled along stubbornly within him, the tired part of his mind wished that some misfortune would befall him so he could just die quickly. He had been in the wretched thing for months now and could not take it off, could never take it off unless rescued. The air out there was poisonous and thin, the pressure drastically low. Every day he considered picking up a rock and smashing his face shield. But what if he only managed to crack it? A slow death was not on his agenda.
He slept furtively, dreaming of the accident and his so-called escape to this place. The screeching of metal as the hull tore apart, the explosions, finding the stray survival suit floating in the weightlessness.
They had already fallen into close orbit around the nearest planet as per emergency procedures, and just in time for his sake. As he had jettisoned into the stratosphere, feeling the crushing g-forces from the suit’s rockets slowing his orbital speed, he had watched Surveyor III disintegrate. He was the only one to make it out. No other white suits had followed. Then he had waited patiently for the chute to open. Had it sprung from his back too soon it would have been ripped uselessly away and he would have taken many long minutes to fall to his death.
He awoke and saw that the sun was nearly down. No matter, his helmet lights would show him the way as they did every night. He got up and trudged on westward, his back to the setting red dwarf.
There was microscopic biological material here, nothing registered as life but just the same there was ample matter along with moisture blowing around in the dusty atmosphere for the suit to continuously make food for his intravenous inputs. When he had first arrived it had been a worry. Despite all the suit’s capabilities he would surely starve or die of thirst on this rock, but surprisingly both the suit and the planet were still keeping him alive after all this time.
But what was the use? He could not be sure if their distress signal had ever been received. For all he knew no one in the universe knew he was here.
Suddenly he stopped in his tracks. On this journey he had previously had to skirt around canyons, mountains and other obstacles to maintain his linear course but this was a big crevasse, and with the sun down behind him now all was black before him. He took several small steps and then cautiously leaned forward to allow the helmet’s bright floodlights to shine down a nearly vertical wall with no bottom in sight.
He wondered how deep it was. Surely deep enough to smash a face shield he thought.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
The Neptune was a first class luxury star liner, the finest of everything from stem to stern; from her massive chandeliers hanging from cavernous twenty meter and higher ceilings to the never-ending filigree of intricately wood-carved railings and archways. The richest of the rich gathered in her grand ballroom, the behemoth ship orbiting the young star Epsilon Eridani close enough to see its violent magnetic storms through the tinted plexi-panes along her port side.
A whistle sounded and the crowd turned to the grand entrance stairway where the captain was descending with the president of the federation. The people ooed and aahed while applauding heartily. Both men were escorted by lanky, scantily clad, fem bots. Large security bots kept the masses at bay as the two celebrities and their posse made their way to the captain’s table.
“But I must get through, they have to be warned!” a voice came through to the inner circle.
The gruff metallic voice of a security bot stated sternly, “You’ll have to step back sir! Autographs will be signed at the meet and greet session at o-twenty-two-hundred.”
“You lumbering rotard, I don’t want autographs, I must warn the captain!”
As two security bots began to escort the interloper away roughly and without empathy, the federation president asked the captain. “Do you know who that is?”
Captain Rexxon looked both bothered and put out. “He used to be my chief science officer but the new budget cuts caused him to be transferred to a different post at a lesser wage.”
He turned to one of his assistants, “Where is Higgins working now?”
The intern answered, “In the galley sir. He has been learning his new trade of…” The assistant double-checked his hand held, “Cook’s helper.”
The president’s brow furled. “You had your chief science officer transferred to the kitchen? Well that doesn’t make sense at all. Maybe we should see what he’s trying to tell us.”
“Don’t worry Mr. President, he’s obviously disgruntled about his sad but necessary career change.” Then the captain rubbed his hands together. “Ah good, our round of drinks is here!”
By then the poor distraught man was already out of the ballroom and down an access hallway headed for the brig. It made no matter anyhow. Even if the captain had listened to and believed the former science officer and his sudden prediction that a massive bombardment of solar wind was on its way with unknown ramifications, there was no possible way to get the ship into hyperspace in time now.
And as the door slammed shut on the all-purpose cell and the SS Neptune’s newest cook’s helper, Jonathan Higgins, stumbled to the white padded floor, the flare hit.
A gasp came up from the startled ballroom crowd as the entire ship shuddered momentarily. Then there was the briefest instant of stillness followed by a sudden violent shaking as Neptune’s hull was bombarded by the surging wave of radiation.
And then it happened. Up became down and down became up as the surge suddenly cut through the tree trunk thick focused beam inside the ship’s gravity generator, separating it momentarily and then instantly reversing its poles.
In the ballroom and in other parts of the ship’s grandiose causeways and parks people suddenly found themselves falling from a sky of endless carpet, through twenty to sixty meters of air toward harsh landings on metal ceilings and endless chandeliers of diamond and glass.
Inside his prison Higgins sat up dazed but unscathed on the cell’s white padded ceiling; while all around him elsewhere on the ship people were screaming and dying.