The Diversity Of Life

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

The thick, tightly packed blue grass bristled and rippled. From high above it was a smooth endless plain of vegetation, a shimmering inky velvet blanket stretched over a planetary sea.

As the two small white suns rose in the northeast, numerous tiny yellow heads appeared from their holes in the indigo fields. Long undulating segmented bodies quickly followed them. The legless creatures poured forth and slithered over the rough blue grass. And there they lay, somehow existing in this hostile environment, with less than 0.0009 atmospheres of pressure, and no liquid to breathe.

Despite the distance of the tiny suns, the creatures soaked up plentiful energy for their daily feed. Writhing and shimmering atop the floating blue fields they drank more than their fill.

By general appearance they were nearly identical to one another, besides the pubescent youths having two more segments than infants, and the mature adults two more again. Yet there was one who stood out from the others. It sported an artificial band, a blue strip of organic material, teeming with microscopic electric creatures, rearranging themselves thousands of times a second, sending radio waves pulsing down through the layers of the planetary ocean.

Two thousand kilometers below, in the depths of the western plain ice core city Phalanzedqua, scientists gathered around the meeting hub. Their eyeless heads pulsed as intake valves processed the thickly compressed methane rich seawater. Pinhole ejection ports on their backs bled black waste, it permeated their thick liquid atmosphere all around them, but it mattered not as they were completely without sight. They communicated through the electrical impulses of their microscopic symbiotic partners.

The head scientist linked his whiskers into the receiver ports of the main bio-computer. The machine, technically alive yet artificially grown and completely unaware of its function or duties, made millions of calculations per second. The scientist, known as Yachmaa, read the data through his whisker tips. He suddenly addressed the others and communicated.

“Quite incredible. It seems that the Yellow Quaxannai migrate all the way to the atmospheric ceiling,” Yachmaa paused for dramatic effect, “and then they breach the surface and leave the liquid!”

There were pulses of disbelief from around the hub. Yachmaa suddenly transmitted the data he had thus far received from his artificial band, attached to the unwitting creature days ago on a gutsy mission to the upper third. Everyone had been well trained, and protected by their pressure skins. Yet they had nearly missed the entire rising pod and had only gotten lucky with this straggler. Yet there he was, now sporting their tracking device up above the ceiling, transmitting valuable data from an unexplored frontier. The group floated transfixed, studying the spectrum of the alien habitat with its undulating fields and twin hot points.

Suddenly a bizarre flying creature swooped from the sky and snatched one of the Yellow Quaxannai in its hooked talons and then soared off with its long squirming meal.

Far below they all hovered bewildered as one of the scientists asked, “In the name of the core dweller, what in the world was that?”

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An Offer He Couldn't Refuse

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

We were pretty much finished. A dozen seven-foot Parakti loomed over us, spewing their fowl breath past yellow fangs. The survivors huddled behind me, fourteen hungry women and children. They had all looked up to me for protection. Now?

The leader’s greenish black skin tightened over his frame as he struggled to make our speech. “Your children will be raised on slave farms. Honor decrees that the rest of you may speak your last words now.”

When I was but a boy I had once witnessed an eerily similar scene. I had been a scared waif hiding beneath some debris while the man protecting his small band of humans that day had been my father.

He had been a blacksmith, as tough as they came. And he laid down a challenge that day, something I had never seen before and have never seen since. The alien had had no choice but to accept. And my father was killed in seconds. Then I watched the slaughter of the other adults.

Now I stood taller than my father had once been, and I too had started life as a blacksmith. This was followed by a stint in special ops, which was followed by two tours of duty on the Parakti home world. These days I climbed die scrapers with a hunting axe on my back. I too was as tough as they came.

I closed my eyes and uttered the words I had heard so long ago. “By the spirit of Great Zatai, I question your honor Parakti.” The looming beasts all gasped and looked instantly to their superior. I went on, “You will not even grant your challenger xathoo before honorable unarmed combat, and me but a puny human?” I slapped my chest twice, another Parakti challenge.

The leader stepped forward, easily a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier. Now I could really feel his hot disgusting breath. “I never once said I would not grant you xathoo human. Now I grant you xathoo so make it quick!”

I did not hesitate. “If I win you let us go unharmed.”

The entire troop of Parakti broke out in their gurgling laughter.

“Granted!” shouted the leader as he swung his claws down at my face. And then suddenly I wasn’t there. Like I said, I was as tough as they came, hard as the nails I used to pound out by hand and just about as fast as anything alive.

Before he could whip around I was nearly behind him and by the time he finished his turn I popped up with five pummeling blows to his chin in less than a second. The alien reeled and that was all I needed. In less than a heartbeat I was five feet off the ground twirling my entire two hundred pounds, my foot whipping along like the projectile in a slingshot. The kick to the side of his giant cranium rang out like an old fashion gunshot. And even as he dropped like the ton of shit and slime that he was, I could see his yellow-green eyes flickering back to consciousness. And as I fell upon him his sharp claws swiped once more at my leg, but by the time they got there, there was only air. My other leg rammed downward, my knee cracking alien face bones. His body heaved one last time. I thrust my hand in and ripped his Parakti heart from the back of his throat, and held it up high… as the rest of them lowered their heads, and stepped aside to let us pass.


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The Time Goblin

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

Throughout the universe there are many creatures that eat other creatures. Few however match the intelligence and hunting prowess of the time goblin.

His species is incredibly rare, a solitary armless biped said to have originated from an ancient world orbiting Omnus VIII. Of his kind he is the only one still known to exist.

The time goblin is a self-regenerating super being with no set expiry date. As long as he keeps himself fed and avoids major bodily trauma, he is immortal. His kind has known of time travel since before ninety-five percent of all time traveling species in the known galaxy. And he has a particular taste, an affinity one might say, for time travelers.

He is a fierce creature to be reckoned with. He has felled and devoured giant insects in the Cygnus cluster, just as he once ate saber-toothed tiger on the plains of Earth. But his hunger these days cannot be sated so easily. Now he sits hunched over a wormhole fluctuation monitor, waiting for the ultimate prize.

Time travel by wormhole involves the breakdown and rebuilding process of moving living creatures through wrinkles in the continuum. In short, when one skips through time or space at these intervals, one comes out on the other side a whole new being. And that is what the time goblin finds so delectable.

It would seem that the breaking down of one’s living flesh into particles and reassembling them is an ultimate cleansing to the time goblin. He finds the meat of the recently transported being, whether they be Centurion beast or Epsilon high priest, irresistibly delicious.

Which brings us to Dr. James Nesmith. Not only is the good doctor the first to discover time travel for the human race; he is also the first to test its boundaries, and ultimately the last in a great long era of humankind to do so. It will be centuries before the next human scientist makes the same correct calculations.

Meanwhile in Dr. Nesmith’s lab, he keys in the final command code. He looks into the camera he has set up earlier that week and says to the empty room, “If this works I shall be sitting on the edge of a primordial sea some three and a half billion years ago in just another moment.”

The time goblin’s monitor flashes its green glow and an alarm sounds. Sol III? Now this was interesting. He didn’t think they had it in them yet. Oh well, dinner will be served earlier than expected. He sets his own coordinates, and is there fifteen minutes early.

Dr. Nesmith hangs onto the arms of the chair as the glass-walled pod shudders and then with a bright flash, the lab outside disappears. Suddenly he and the pod around him sit on a stony barren plain. In the distance steam billows as hot sea waves crash against a rocky coast. He dons his oxygen mask and opens the door.

His heart stops as from behind and above him he hears a thud, as if something wet and heavy has landed on the roof of the pod, and before he can turn around a slashing set of talons tear through his shoulder and neck like raw hamburger. And as he fades from life he hears a deep gruff voice say in perfect English, “Freshly traveled flesh is the sweetest by far. I thank you for the wonderful meal you are about to provide. Praise the balance of the universe.” And with that the time goblin pounces on him and begins to feed.


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Junk Planet

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

The piles of scrap starship parts stretched off toward the horizon in every direction. I’d lived on the junk planet for almost five years now, but my escape was imminent.

I wound up here like so many others, stranded in orbit with a broken ship, unable to pay the outrageous prices the thieving proprietors of this wasteland demanded. Finally I had crashed, and by the letter of the law my damaged ship had become their property. Fortunately the same laws also forced them to grant me refugee status.

They had chased me, as they did all other refugees, into Zone 470, a place where the junk was extremely old and deteriorated, and of little value. Yet my small band and I clung to life here, making valuable reconnaissance runs into other zones. Now finally we had our warp drive.

I stood back with Zeptag the three foot tall Rodachian. “What do you think?” he asked me in broken common.

“I think it looks like a pile of garbage,” and then added, “And I think it looks like freedom.”

With our limited resources one of the biggest challenges had been to put together a craft large enough to hold all of us. Zeptag’s genius with fluidics had been our savior as he had been responsible for bringing a two-century-old hover crane back to life. Without it we would have never been able to assemble the heaviest pieces.

My old maintenance robot Freddy was putting the finishing touches on some welds and the others were busily loading our meager supplies. I shook my head as I gazed upon a Croanthan freighter cockpit scabbed onto a Zachtarian troop transport hold. You could tell it was Zachtarian by the faded remnants of the yellow patterns they seemed to paint on all their ships, save for the dull gray side heat shields pillaged from an old Hoolyichie battle bird, of course heavily modified to fit. But what really scared me was the thruster cluster on the underbelly. It had been everything our old hover crane could do to bring the heavy Tenzonite engines across miles of terrain under the cover of darkness. But they were ancient, and even with Freddy’s reinforcements I wondered if they would hold together long enough to get us off the ground.

If we could only make it into orbit we would be safe. The warp drive, still with half-charged batteries, was our biggest prize. It was Rodachian, pillaged from Zeptag’s old ship at incredible risk.

Now we all piled aboard. I crossed the rusty deck plates and took the captain’s chair. All lights were green, save for the rear escape hatch alarm, but I knew it was faulty and welded up tight by Freddy so no risk there. I flipped the ignition toggles and ran my hand over the screen. “Here we go kids, it’s now or never.”

The old Tenzonite engines belched to life and every fastener in our makeshift craft tried to rattle apart, still she seemed to be holding together, for now.

Freddy warned, “Here they come, over the south ridge.”

The dust rose in the distance as the junk planet proprietors raced toward us. I increased the lift and surprisingly, as she shuddered once more, even harder than before, our makeshift tub began to slowly rise into the air. Now our pursuers were close enough to see, and they were setting up an ion cannon. I shoved the thruster lever forward and as the hull strained and old metal shrieked in protest I closed my eyes and uttered, “Come on baby, you can do it.”


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Never More Than Half a Billion

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

Doctor Flynn had a difficult decision to make. He looked up from his desk. The afternoon sun was beaming through the window alleviating the need for candle to see by. Out in the massive garden two-dozen people knelt, keeping the commune alive, keeping the family thriving.

He looked back to the ancient leather binding on his desk and traced the archaic symbols. “Never more than half a billion,” it read. It was their credo. It was the ultimate law.

They were already at their maximum of one hundred people. No one was supposed to be pregnant yet. Cassandra was definitely an anomaly. But it had been happening more often in recent years, women were becoming fertile again.

Flynn looked out at old Ben as he tottered by with a wheelbarrow. He was looking frail and sickly. Flynn knew that if he guessed wrong and Ben lived another year he could be risking the entire commune. It had happened in the past to one of their nearest neighbors.

Maxwell Commune only fifty kilometers away had been caught with new children, half a dozen people over their allowable, and the authorities had repelled from airships and razed the place. He remembered seeing the black smoke in the western sky.

He looked up and to his surprise saw Cassandra looking through the window at him. Her face was hopeful yet it was obvious she had been crying, she absentmindedly ran her hand across her stomach and then, her tears welling up again, turned and ran toward the sleeping quarters.

The doctor loved her as he did all the people of Flynn Commune. And he desperately wanted her to have her baby. But rules were rules and he had to tread lightly. A surprise audit was always a threat. They had been here in the past and they would come here again, especially to a community whose numbers were at capacity.

He still had a week. He would watch old Ben’s health carefully.

Two days later the northern gate sounded the horn. They had visitors. Flynn walked out to the edge of the farm flanked by his closest advisors. The envoy from Jefferson Commune escorted an official auditor and his two assistants, both armed with government only technology in the form of long-range communication devices and electrical weapons. Old man Jefferson shook Flynn’s hand and said, “We passed with flying colors. Down to ninety since I lost my wife.”

“I’m sorry,” replied Flynn.

“No need to be sorry.” He nodded to his envoy. “We’ll be off.” Then nodding back at the officials, “They’re your problem now.” And with that they turned and began their seventy-kilometer walk back home.

The commune gave no trouble to their unwanted guests as they were all assembled and counted. Cassandra came into the common room bundled up in a thick robe. Flynn hoped the officials wouldn’t notice the garment’s heaviness for the current warm temperatures.

Then finally, “I see you’re at capacity Flynn.”

“Yes, it would seem so.”

“ Well I’m afraid I can’t leave until we administer pregnancy tests to all women under fifty.”

“What? Since when was that the law?”

“Word travels slowly by foot my friend. It was passed into being several months ago.” The auditor stepped forward and eyed Flynn. “What are you worried about?”

Suddenly old Ben burst forward toward the auditor, a fire poker raised high. Both guards drew and fired simultaneously, their weapons sending forth lightning blasts, leaving poor old Ben a smoldering mess on the floor.

Flynn gasped, and then looking up he answered the question. “Nothing at all.”


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