The Inheritors

Author : Desmond Hussey, featured writer

When the Quantum Drive was invented in 2023 the world was transformed; not all at once, mind you, but by degrees.

Initially, it was just the career explorers who ventured into the vast and unknown regions of space in their state-of-the-art Quantum shuttles on missions to map the new cosmic frontier. The intrepid cosmonauts were soon followed by wealthy thrill seekers in supped-up models of the Quantum rocket car. These bored rocket jocks quickly tired of the routine and rapidly growing congestion of the local super-highways within our Solar System and took to venturing further and further into space looking for high-octane adventure and exotic conquests. Most never returned.

Due to the effects of time dilation, it was a while before any reports came back to Earth regarding what was being discovered in the depths of the cosmos by these first pioneers. But, sure enough, within a few years news of diverse, hospitable planets and moons started trickling in, sparking an exodus that resembled a swarm of rats abandoning a sinking ship.

Earth’s population thinned out pretty fast after that. Once it was established that the galaxy was teeming with easily accessible profit opportunities, nearly every industry practically stumbled over each other in a frenzy to take advantage of them. Real Estate and mining moguls, colonial expansionists in their trans-galactic Winnebago’s, corporations, and war mongers all dropped Earth like the hollowed, profitless husk it had become. Even environmentalists and religious factions left to defend or convert new worlds. As far as all these groups were concerned, Earth was a used up commodity. But out there, beyond our solar system, the dream of an ever expanding economy still lived and everybody wanted their piece of the pie.

Well, not everybody.

Before long, only the infirm, the very old, the very young, the poor, the weak and the astrophobes were left behind, as well as those of us who simply didn’t give a damn about exporting humanity’s particular brand of schizophrenic perversion throughout the galaxy. Earth was our home and we were perfectly content to be left alone.

When Earth’s economy inevitably collapsed, nobody really cared much. We simply ceased all non-essential mining operations. We stopped producing needless and inferior commodities. We no longer endorsed land ownership; borders disappeared overnight. Politics became localized and diverse. Those of us who once went despairingly unheeded finally found a voice in our respective communities. Most of us became farmers, the rest, craftspeople and artisans. No one was a wage slave. A functioning technocracy, a byproduct of the scientific renaissance that sparked the Quantum Drive, provided ample, renewable power for our limited industries and humble requirements. War became a thing of the past. The desire to dominate and control left with all the hot-headed yahoos in their quest for greater glories. Those of us left behind found out pretty quickly how to get along with each other.

We, the inheritors of Earth realized that we had been granted a rare opportunity. With the ambitious, power-hungry, alpha personalities gone, the modest, obscure and lowly remnants of humanity were able to rebuild a relative utopia from the rusted, plastic clogged junkyard of our home world.

Thanks to the time dilation of quantum space travel it was a long, long time before anyone decided to check up on us. But yesterday we received a message from deep space. A ship was on its way. The Prodigal Child was returning. We could only hope that our brothers and sisters from the stars had learned the wisdom of humility we had so carefully cultivated here at home.


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Game Changer

Author : Desmond Hussey, featured writer

The troop ship hovers fifty feet above the drop zone under heavy fire from hostiles in the tree line. Low caliber bullets rattle harmlessly against the ship’s thick armor. I clip a rope into my belt carabineer, lean out the hatch and step off into the night.

I hit the ground running and head for cover. On the move, I switch my multi-optics to nightsight with thermal enhancement. I hear the rest of my squad touching down behind me. One by one, they sound off, indicated by a series of green icons and handles glowing in my heads-up helmet display. The jocular banter of eleven jarheads crowds my headphone implant.

“Cut the chatter.” I sub-vocalize into my bone mic.

We move like shadows through the jungle, closing in on the enemy’s last known position. Thermal imaging picks up some residual heat signatures on the ground. Footprints. They were here recently. I give flanking orders, flick the safety off my plasma rifle and creep forward, carefully scanning the dense underbrush.

Suddenly, two icons go red. Two men down. No gunfire. Not even a scream.

“They got Jervis and Cruz. Stay alert.”

I pick up my pace, keeping eyes out for snipers. I hear a brief subsonic throb nearby as McKenzie’s icon turns red.

I burst through the thick foliage and find McKenzie crumpled on the ground. I sweep the jungle for any signs of life. Nothing. I check the body. No entry wounds. No apparent signs of struggle.

Three more icons flash red. What the hell is going on?

I don’t even see my attacker. My body jerks and all goes black.

Dying is never comfortable. Mind you, it’s my clones that actually die. I just have to experience it vicariously through my neural link-up. The physical pain is filtered and stepped down for my convenience, but it’s never pleasant. The psychological effects are the most difficult to shake off. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this, but it’s better than the alternative.

When the medics finish their protocols I’m pulled from the sensory deprivation tank. I tear out the electrodes and sensor plugs and stalk out of the room, still in my dripping, skin tight wetsuit.

When I burst into the debriefing room, Jervis, Cruz, McKenzie and seven others from my unit are already waiting, as well as Major Biggs and General Cavendish.

“What the hell happened?” I shout. “Those back-water rebs took us out like guppies in a pond!”

“Sit down, Captain Perkins.” General Cavendish looks grim. “As you are fully aware, we have a serious situation on our hands.”

“Damn right we do.” I take a seat and try to calm down. “Do we know what took us out?”

“Corporal Hayward is still in operation.” Major Biggs reports. “She’s managed to identify the weapon used to disable the neural link-up to your clones.”

We’re all on the edge of our seats.

“Somehow the rebels have managed to get their hands on portable Electro-Magnetic Pulse cannons.”

Everybody starts talking at once, firing an angry barrage of questions at the two senior officers. The Major and General patiently wait out the storm.

“Apparently they have a new benefactor supplying them with tech,” the Major continues when we’ve settled down. “We don’t know who and we don’t know how, but as long as they’re armed with EMPs our clones are next to useless.”

General Cavendish continues, “So, boys and girls, it looks like we’re going to have to do this the old fashioned way.”

Without clone surrogates?

This police action just became a whole lot less appealing.


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Pan-Galactic Travel Agency

Author : Desmond Hussey, featured writer

“You the new guy?” A massive Velorian Lobster asks me, a clawed hand over his head mic as I stand in the doorway of the busy office. There’s a muffled squawking coming from his headphones. I catch the hawkish profile of an elderly human female in his video globe.

I nod.

He gestures toward a vacant desk with a crimson pincher. I silently take my seat.

“Yes, maam,” he speaks casually into his mic, “Still here. Yes, maam. No, maam. Did you read the brochure? You didn’t?”

His beady eyes wobble momentarily. His antanae are laughing, but his voice is all business. “Well, maam, there’s your problem right there. The brochure states very clearly that the Dem-Lok eat dogs. Especially fond of poodles.”

The squawking escalates.

“Sorry, Maam. PGTA takes no responsibility for the actions of indiginous populations. No, Maam. Your insurance doesn’t cover pet loss.” He winces. “Let’s not get personal. A word of advice, maam. Next time, read the bloody brochure.”

He flicks a button silencing an indignant squawk as his globe darkens. The large tub of briny water serving as his office chair swivels to face me.

“Welcome to PGTA.” He says, thrusting a pincher at me. I shake it amiably. “Name’s Jammarl. Your first day on the job?”

I nod.

“Don’t talk much, eh?”

I grin and nod.

“Well, you’ll get to do your share of talking here, let me tell ya.” Jamarl’s mucus slick antennas gesticulate as he speaks. “The first thing I tell every newbie is, ‘Make sure clients read the brochure’. Our job would be so much simpler if the bloody gorbies just took the time to read the damn thing. I mean, if you’re going to visit an alien planet, wouldn’t it be a good idea to do a little research first?” He pauses.

I nod. It seems appropriate.

“Do they bother?” he queries.

I shrug.

“Not a single one of ‘em. But, who do these cosmic jet-setters blame when they ignorantly blunder into an embarrassing, if not deadly cultural faux pas? Us. ‘You sold us the travel package!’ they whine. ‘You shoulda warned us!’, they simper. To which, I always respond, ‘did you read the – ” He looks at me meaningfully.

“Brochure?” I finish.

“You catch on quick.” He winks, I think. “It’s all in there. What not to wear. What not to say. Who not to look at sideways. Everything you need to know about visiting the home world of a species is in the brochure. If you don’t read it, you’re an idiot. Plain and simple.”

“I had these client’s once,” he says, stifling a laugh. “Her husband shnerd-ed in a room full of Sliggargathians. I mean, he really cut one loose. A real zinger. Didn’t cover his gloopus expeller or anything. If he’d read the brochure, he would’ve known that you never shnerd around a Sliggargathian. He might as well have Fthulu-ed in their Kol-tuth-pak. I mean, these guys take their skeeking seriously.” Dramatic pause.

I take my cue.

“What happened?” I ask, forcing curiosity into my voice.

“They gorthed his Chuth-vetch.”

“No kidding.”

“You should know this stuff, kid. You could save a life.” I’m not sure if he’s joking. “Of course, it’s all in the brochure.” He taps a massive tomb on his desk with a claw.

“Is that –“


“Does it cover all the planets?”

He chuckles. “Heck no. This is just the brochure for Xelios III.” His antennas gesture toward the wall; a vast library of brochures. One for each race and their customs.

My globe lights up with a call.

Oh, Fthork!


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Up In Arms

Author : Desmond Hussey, featured writer

“Not a single shot was fired during the Centauri Conquest.” General Kark says, stirring his cold narth-noodle soup. “Little known fact. They just rolled over as soon as our battle cruisers broke atmosphere. Signed the treaty before nightfall. Total subjugation. Easiest planetary occupation in the Hegemony’s history. Not a single casualty.” He smirks. “Well, not one of ours anyway.”

President Niboogi nods, feigning interest. Conquered slaves shouldn’t even be seen, let alone discussed, especially one as utterly servile as the Centauri. He casually plucks a bubbling drink off a passing tray carried by one of the ubiquitous legless and headless Centauri, walking on four prehensile feet, its eye tentacle extended beyond the heavy platter. He sips his frothing beverage and smiles. The Centauri may be a tiresome topic of conversation, but they make damn fine poon punch.

“Fascinating,” Senator Waboo’s wife clucks, “And to think how wonderfully compliant and versatile they are. I couldn’t imagine life without them. They were obviously made by the Onetruegod to serve us.” The two grey-furred Centauri contorted into her settee shift slightly beneath her ample weight.


“Well, there’s one good thing about them,” the Senator cuts in, “They’re quiet.”

They share a condescending chuckle.

“I hear the Emperor only uses Centauri servants.”

“Because they’re so quiet?” asks Mrs. Waboo.

“Because they don’t talk back,” quips her husband.

More laughter.

“What about their strange hand-talk? Is it true they have a secret language?” Mrs. Waboo queries with an air of mystery. Rumors of a covert Centauri language have been the hot topic of gossip tables for decades, attaining Urban Myth status.


“Hardly. They’re trained monkeys; able to convey simple commands to each other, certainly – we’ve all seen it – but they’re hardly intelligent enough to have a sophisticated language, let alone a secret one. Any race that uses its hands to eat, walk and talk can’t be that smart, now can they?” This from the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“But what of the rumors, Minister? Their supposed martial prowess?”

“Utter hogwash. The Centauri are completely benign.” The General takes command of the conversation. “Their alleged martial skills are a child’s fantasy. They’re docile to the point of idiocy; wouldn’t even raise a hand in self-defense.” Demonstrating, he lifts his bowl with one hand, and, wielding his spoon with the other, jabs his Centauri table hard in the fleshy dimple on its back where its four shoulder bones meet. The creature winces, elbows bending slightly, then, uncomplaining, resumes its stoic tabletop composure. “By signing the treaty,” the General continues, “they became the Hegemony’s first volunteer slave race. Simple as that.”



“We’ve had Centauri slaves in our family for over ten generations,” the President’s wife boasts. “Nowadays, anyone who’s anyone has at least three.”


“Well – “The General is silenced on account of having a bowl of cold narth-noodle soup forced down his gullet by his Centauri table.

The President’s elite dinning party find themselves unexpectedly restrained, held captive in the ultra-strong arms of their Centauri slaves.

There’s an ever-so-brief scuffle near the foyer where Hegemony bodyguards battle with, what appears to be, a whirlwind of fists. When the martial dervish ends six guards lay in an unmoving mass crowned by two muscular Centauri.

Simultaneously, across the Hegemony’s hundred light year empire, within every household, every office, street and shop, even within the Emperor’s throne room itself, the Centauri, having bidden their time for a century, overcome their slave masters in a brief, but effective coup.

Not a single shot is fired.


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Grampa's Stories

Author : Desmond Hussey, featured writer

The red ball ricochets down the corridor before careening off a table leg into the kitchen. A trio of giggling children is in hot pursuit, but when the ball rolls silently across the kitchen floor and slips through the slim gap of an open doorway their laughter turns to stunned silence. They stare mutely at the crack of inky blackness, listening to the ominous dull thuds as their precious ball bounces down the stairs into the basement’s gloomy depths.

“Go get it,” says the boy, shoving his kid sister forward. “You threw it.”

“No! You,” she squeals.

“Uh uh. Not me. No way.”

“Don’t be such scaredy cats,” teases the older sister, who’s nearly ten. “It’s just the basement. There’s nothin’ to be a’scared of.”

“Then you go,” the boy challenges.

“All right. I will,” the eldest says. Her façade of courage barely hides her trepidation. “House, lights on,” she commands, but the stairs remain shrouded in inky shadow. “Lights on!”

“Bulb must be out,” the boy says helpfully. “Maybe we should wait till Mom gets home.”

The little girl nods eagerly.

“Don’t be silly. Wait here.” The older girl runs off and returns shortly with a glo-ball. She deftly twists the top. The orb emits a soft yellow light as it lifts from her hands to hover near her head. “Follow me. Stay close.” She takes a tentative first step. The light pushes back the darkness, filling the three children with fragile confidence.

At the bottom of the creaky stairs they look around nervously for their missing ball, but all they can see in the gloom is a labyrinth of boxes and shelves with dusty bottles – long neglected treasures.

“Hey, what’s this?” The boy tugs at the edge of a canvas tarp covering something large in the corner. The tarp slips off and crumples into a pile on the floor, sending a cloud of dust motes dancing amid the dim light.

The children stare in awe at the mysterious object revealed. It’s like a large coffin, but with rounded edges and made out of opaque black glass. A row of buttons and dials is set neatly in the side. Next to some of the button are little windows with writing behind them.

“What do they say?” the littlest girl squeaks.

The senior sister peers closer. “Flying to the Moon”, she reads, “Spelunking the Caves of Mars. Hitch-hiking Across the Solar System.”

“Hey look!” the boy says, pointing. A tiny light pulses like an emerald heartbeat at the lower corner. “It’s a button!”

“Don’t –“

He pushes it.

Suddenly, a bluish light fills the glass chamber illuminating its ghastly contents. The little girl screams and clutches at her older sister’s leg. The boy stands transfixed, his lower lip trembling with terror. The eldest child’s eyes open wide in abject wonder. They’re all unsure whether to flee or stay.

Within the airless sarcophagus, a figure of an ancient man begins a jaunty, animatronic pantomime to a strange, playful melody. Its leathery face twitches in realistic parodies of expression as the body lurches in jerky, dance-like movements. The still elastic skin stretches tightly over metallic armatures. The macabre spectacle is both hilariously ghoulish and morbidly fascinating.

“Hello future kiddies!” the jaw waggles, “Gather close and listen to fascinating tales of long, long ago, told by your Grand-daddy Woodman in the flesh. Select from hundreds of stories of my adventures on Earth and Beyond the Starry Skies. Sit back and be amazed!”

Wrinkled skin morphs into a clownish rictus. The ancient thing waits patiently for its ancestor’s selection.

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