Sunset Lady

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

She was violet and tangerine, like an earth sunset. The row of eyes on her face glowed with a bioluminescent blue light. To Susan the Ferai seemed to look alike, but Rain stood out. Susan couldn’t remember who started conversation, but it wasn’t long before Rain stopped by her holding cell at least once daily, pausing on her rounds, looping her weapon over her giant shoulders.

“How are you, Earth woman?”

“Glad to see you, Sunset lady.” Susan had to explain sunsets. With three bright lights in the sky, two of them actual suns, one of them a planet on fire (which is a different thing) the sun never goes completely out on this planet, which makes for interesting patterns in the sky, but not sunsets, not the fade to black and a night of stars for the Ferai.

“I brought you some food. They don’t feed the humans enough here.” Rain handed over some of the cold hard biscuit like squares that the Ferai machines spit out for human food. It was supposed to provide all the nutrition a human needed but after two months of the stuff, it was getting old.

“Thanks.” Susan leaned on the bars. “I wish there was a way I could thank you. When this war is over, maybe I can send you some things from Earth.”

“Earth sounds like an interesting planet, sometimes in dark, sometimes light, it must feel like you are always spinning.”

“Not really, but it is a great place. Maybe you can visit someday.”

“I think Earth people hate the Ferai.”

“We’re just afraid, and a little territorial. This will blow over.”

“I hope so. But I worry that the Council will want to invade Earth because of the intrusion into our space.”

“Oh God, I hope that doesn’t happen.”

“Me too.” Rain shrugged her giant shoulders. “Do you want to go for a walk? Out of the compound, I mean.”

“Could I do that?”

“Sure. I mean, I’ll be with you, an armed guard. You’re not going to try to escape, will you?”

“No, not in the middle of this desert. There isn’t anywhere I could go.”

“Is that the only reason you wouldn’t leave?”

Susan looked at Rain “Maybe I have other reasons.”

“Come with me.” Rain opened the door to Susan’s cell and lead her down the hall and out the front door, handing what looked like a ruby to the guard at the gate.

“Have your fun and then have the prisoner back in one rotation, you hear me?”

“There’s going to be fun?” whispered Susan. What would sex with an alien be like?

Rain dragged her along outside of the compound. “Come on, we need to move quick.”

“Where are we going?” Susan hurried after Rain “Where are you taking me?”

“Susan, I love you. I cannot see you imprisoned any longer, and I don’t know how long this war will last. I have contacted the humans, they are sending a small ship to pick you up.”

“Wait, Rain! What about you? What will happen when you don’t bring me back?”

“They will relieve me of my duties and I will be shipped back home, where I will be used for breeding, instead of military duty.”

“Rain, you’ve worked hard to be a warrior, why are you giving it up?”

“Because I love you Susan. I love you. Please do not fight me, I’ve already made this choice. We could never be connected the way we both want, I don’t even know if it’s possible, physically, to do so. It is best that we part, and that if I cannot give you of myself, that I give you this.”


“Just go. And don’t ever look back.”

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The Sisters of Light

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

The Sisters of Light arrived for my mother when I was eleven years old. Their robes flashed like light in a storm, shifting and unexpected. My mother welcomed them into our home. She knew why they were there but she acted like it was just a social call, smiling like they were old friends.

My mother had been a devotee of the order when she was a girl. Many proper young women became devotees before the war. Mother said that in her time, girls could leave just before they took the Oaths, before they would be sealed into service, the claws embedded in their skulls. Her parents thought that she could secure a good marriage coming from the Order, and they made great financial sacrifices for her proper upbringing. She got her good marriage, not to a wealthy man, but to a noble one. Then the war broke out and the Sisters sought old devotees for service.

Getting out of service was easy for folk that had money, that could pay the tithe towards the war effort that ensured members of the family could stay home. Father and mother hadn’t been able to pay the tithe to the government that year. They had lived on a blank hope that no one in our family would get chosen by the lottery for service. My father told me that it hadn’t been the first year they weren’t able to make tithe, but it was the only one I remember.

Two Sisters came into my home that day. Overkill. It was more than enough to convince us. One would have sufficed, a young disciple would be enough to make it known that my mother was to come, but they wanted to make a point, they wanted the family, the neighborhood to understand the price.

My mother served them tea they did not drink and gathered a pack of possessions she knew would be stripped from her in days. She called sister and I to her and hugged us. She gripped my shoulder so hard I thought I would cry. She said it wouldn’t be long before she came home again and not to worry. After ten minutes, the Sisters announced in their one, hard voice that they would be leaving now. My mother held my fathers hand until she was out the door. My father clasped the empty air, his hand opening and closing, watching the ship of the Sisters depart.

Two weeks later the Sisters sent a letter inviting my sister to come to school. My father burned the letter in front of us. We watched it smolder in the bathtub, the paper curling and glowing till it turned to cinders.

“If I went, do you think I would see mom?” asked my sister.

“No.” I said “I don’t think we’ll see mom again for a long time.” I didn’t tell her that we might never see mum again, that she might die in the war. Nobility can’t be drafted, but my mother wasn’t nobility. She had just married nobility.

When I was old enough, I applied to military school. When I entered service, my family could petition the government to return mother. My father begged me not to go. He hit me for the first time when I told him my mind couldn’t be changed. It took him a day, after I left, to petition the government for my mother. They returned her after I had served a year, after I was committed fully and her mind was gone.

They gave my family back an empty shell.

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Second Childhood

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

“How is the Krugar adjusting to his second childhood?”

The Krugar’s mother motioned to the reporter to sit. “We don’t call him The Krugar here, in his will, he requested that we call him Uill, as he was called in his first childhood.” The Krugar’s mother looked like a fairy tale godmother, round and pink in a flowered apron. She seemed a natural part of the cottage in the country where The Krugar had specified he would live his second childhood.

The reporter sat, crossing her long silver legs. She was tall, traditionally beautiful with shining black crystal eyes thin, pearlecent lips. She tapped her metallic fingers against the wooden table. “Does The Krugar remember any of his previous life?”

“Impressions, yes. He recognizes objects sometimes, doesn’t go outside without one of his toy weapons, but he has no real memories of his past.” The Krugar’s mother put two tin cups of tea down on the table. “The Krugar can’t recall specific events from his previous life. Uill is a child with ideas about places and people, but no real reason that he understands behind why he feels the way he does.”

“If he doesn’t remember anything of the past, why do you think he’s been summoned as a witness for the upcoming trial?”

The Krugar’s mother slid into the seat opposite the reporter. “Politics. Grandstanding lawyers. They won’t get anything about the War Crimes of Minister Talthod out of him. He doesn’t remember. He can’t.”

“How do you respond to allegations that his decision to be reborn was to protect Minister Talthod?”

The Krugar’s mother wrinkled her brow. “I generally don’t respond to those allegations.”

The reporter tapped her fingers on the wooden table. “Do you think this is disorienting for him?”

The Krugars mother looked out the window, where Uill was running after his pet Solft laughing, his little plastic sword stuffed down the back of his shirt. “Uill is just fine.” She smiled at the reporter and past her, to the three million viewers looking through the reporter’s eyes.

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Glory Star

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

The old man may have looked like Santa if he smiled, but red faced and spitting he was closer to a vengeful devil than the spirit of giving. The old man cornered Uill with his sizable bulk. “You are not a poet.” He said, stepping closer. He stunk of rotted food and oil. “You are The Krugar, a War Lord, the greatest military mind of my generation.” The old man gripped Uill’s lapels and shook him violently. “Snap out of it General! Come back to us.”

Uill trembled. “Mister, please just let me go, I’m going to be late to class.”

The old man kept one of his meaty hands on Uill’s thin shoulder and used his other hand to reach into his coat pocket. He pulled out a bronze metal and pinched it between his stained fingers. The medal had a half opened eye impressed on its surface. As always, these kinds of medals made Uill feel sad and angry, a press of emotions that intensified the stabbing pain in his head. The man shook the medal in front of Uill’s face. “I earned this after you commanded us on Mars. Do you remember Mars? You remember the Driell and the fire?”

Uill could feel the headache coming, the pain that always came when people talked about his old life. “I’m not The Krugar. I never commanded you. That man wasn’t me. I was reborn. Now I’m a student of poetry.” Uill held up his left hand, where his university glowed on his ring finger. “Look at my ring.” He waved his hand in front of the old man’s face. This is the Capital University student ring. The Krugar went to military school, right? I can’t be him. I go to Capital University.”

Shaking his head, the old man rummaged in his coat. “Don’t try to confuse me. I know who you are. I know what they did to you. I know they tried to make you reborn. But you are The Krugar. You wouldn’t forget, not with all the machines in the universe.” The old man pulled a knife out of his coat and flicked his thumb on the blade. The blade began to spin. “You’ve got to be in there somewhere. Maybe I can cut you out.”

Uill held up his hands. “Please. No. Poetry. I do poetry. Cloudless climbs and starry skies, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, do not go gently into that good night.”

“Forget poetry Krugar.” The old man waved his hands around his head. “Forget it. Don’t you hear the news? The Driell are returning. They are coming back. Only you can beat them. Like you did last time, remember?” The man lifted his arms where the lights of the city sparkled against that velour sky. “There!” he said, pointing excitedly to a streetlight, dropping the knife. “That star! There, that glory star. ” The knife blade sparked on the pavement as it spun. The old man didn’t notice. “You remember the song, Glory Star?” The old man put both his hands over his heart and closed his eyes. Then he began to sing, his voice surprisingly clear. “Glory Star, Glory Star, bright and bold The Krugar’s Company.”

Uill knew the words. All eighteen verses. He heard them in his wild dreams, those spastic glimpses of long stretched hours of tension followed by moments of terror and then after, long, brilliant songs, his mind on fire. Uill ran out of the alley, back to the university, back home to his life.

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Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

Maja’s ancestors conferred in her head before the date.

“Wear a dress!” said her great grandmother.

“Not that one!” cried her great grandfather “He will think you are a whore, and will offer you money for sex.”

“Old man, you are behind the times.” Said Florence, Maja’s grandmother. “Dresses like that aren’t considered slutty. Showing her nipples is a sign of strength nowadays, don’t you ever pay attention to the modern media?”

“Oversexed tripe.” Muttered Maja’s great grandfather.

They chattered on among themselves. Maja put down the orange dress and pulled out some pants and a long-sleeve shirt. She called her car to come to the front of the house and pick her up to take her to The Last Drop coffeehouse for her date.

“What if Maja marries this man.” Said great grandmother “I’m not sure if he would make a good husband. His job isn’t all that great.”

“It’s got lots of potential.” muttered Maja.

“Would you like to change your destination?” asked Maja’s car in a friendly voice.

“No! No.” said Maja. “I’m talking to myself, disregard. ”

“Look at that.” Said Florence “You are making Maja nervous before her date! You old fogies. All of you shut up until she asks for our guidance.”

“You mind your own-”

“Honored ancestors. Please allow me some peace?”

“Fine,” said Maja’s great grandfather, “but only because you asked politely.”

At the restaurant Maja missed the end of Tachi’s joke, listening to her great grandfathers lecture on the indecent table manners of the youth of today. Tachi was offended, and then surprised, when she told him why she had missed his witty banter.

“You have what, where?” said Tachi, his silver fork still poised in his hand.

“My ancestors.” Shrugged Maja. “They’re all in my head. They got their personalities patterned and I carry an electronic implant that carries them with me.”

“But why?” Tachi put down his fork, shuddering while he imagined his grandmother in his head at all hours of the day.

Maja leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “They guide me. They care about me, love me, they help me make choices.”

“They’re with you all the time?” Tachi fidgeted with the tablecloth. “Even when-”

“Even when what?”

“Even when you are in the bathroom?”

Maja sighed, relieved. Sex was a touchy subject with her ancestors. “Yes, all the time, even in the bathroom. They don’t really care much about what I do in the bathroom though. They care more about what I’m wearing or who I’m going there with, where I’m sticking my credits, my job, the entertainment I watch. You probably think this is weird.”

“It’s different, sure, but not weird. I mean, my grandparents live in a polyamorous commune where everything thinks they are teenagers. At least you’ve never had to worry about your grandfather stealing your girlfriend.”

Maja snorted. “I guess not.”

“That actually explains a few things about you.”

“Like what?”

“Well, when we met, at Rudolf’s party. I remember thinking how elegant you looked, both modern and refined all at once. Classic, I guess is the word. You’re classic.”

“He thinks we’re classic!” cried Florence. “Oh, what a nice man.”

“He’s trying to get into her pants.” Said Maja’s great grandfather.

“Thank you.” Said Maja.

“Do your ancestors say anything about me?” asked Tachi.

“Rude.” Said Maja’s great grandfather.

“I don’t think they’ve all made up their minds.”

“What about you? What do you think about me?”

“I’ve made up my mind, but you’ll have to stick around for dessert to find out what it is.” Maja smiled.

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