Ray Gun Revival magazine, Issue 55

72 

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OVERLORDS (FOUNDERS/EDITORS) Johne Cook, L. S. King, Paul Christian Glenn

Matthew Winslow Book Reviews Editor

Shannon McNear Lord High Advisor, Grammar Consultant, Listening Ear for Overlord Lee Paul Christian Glenn - PR, Executive Tiebreaker, Desktop Publishing

L. S. King - Lord High Editor, proofreader, beloved nag, muse, webmistress Johne Cook - art wrangler, desktop publishing, chief cook and bottle washer

Submissions Editors John M. Whalen, Alice M. Roelke, Martin Turton

Serial Authors M Keaton, Keanan Brand. Justin R. Macumber Cover Art

“Spectral” by Juha Järvinen

Bill Snodgrass Site host, Web-Net Solutions, admin, webmaster, database admin, mentor, confidante, liaison – Double-edged Publishing

Special Thanks

Ray Gun Revival logo design by Hatchbox Creative Ray Gun Revival Issue 54 © 2009 by Double-edged Publishing,

a Memphis, Tennssee-based non-profit publisher. Ray Gun Revival Issue 54 © 2009 by Double-edged Publishing,

a Memphis, Tennssee-based non-profit publisher.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

2

Santa’s Spaceship

by Clinton Lawrence

4

First Film

by Alexander Field

11

Doors Through the Places You Live

by Michael Merriam

17

The Grand Illusion: A Dean The Space Rogue Tale

by Andy Heizeler

24

RGR REVIEWS

28

This Raygun For Hire: Forever Eden

by John M. Whalen

39

ARTIST INTERVIEW

Juha Järvinen, Finland

41

TALES OF THE BREAKING DAWN, The Ties That Bind, Part Four

by Justin R. Macumber

46

Calamity’s Child, Chapter 8

ROP: King in the Corner, Part Two

by M. Keaton

54

THIEVES’ HONOR: EPISODE 10

The Rescuers, Part 1

by Keanan Brand

60

DEUCES WILD, Season Two

Holding Pattern

by L. S. King

64

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SKY PIRATE

Season Three, Chapter 28 — The Barracuda Strikes!

by Johne Cook

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J

essica was looking out the win-dow at Proxima Centauri. The red dwarf hovered just over the moun-tains on the horizon, shining like a scarlet beacon. A branch from the bright violet Christmas tree brushed her cheek. This was her seventh Christmas, and she could remember all but her first.

Her father walked up behind her, and she turned at the sound of his steps.

“I was looking at the stars,” she said as she released the curtain and stepped over one of her presents.

Her father smiled. “You weren’t snooping around in your packages, were you?”

“No. Will you tell me a Christmas story?”

“Of course. How would like to hear the story of Santa Claus?”

“Who is Santa Claus?”

“I see you need a history lesson,” her father said. “On Earth, all the children know about Santa Claus. Long ago, when all people still lived on Earth, Santa Claus would come every Christmas Eve, and at exactly midnight, he would leave presents for all the good children under the Christmas tree. No one ever saw him, but they knew about him.”

“How did he reach every house?” “He lived at the North Pole, and he used a sleigh pulled by rein-deer. The sleigh flew through the sky and landed on the rooftop of each house. Santa would then take the presents reserved for that fam-ily out of the sleigh and slide down the chimney very quietly so that he could put the presents under the tree without waking anyone. This worked very well until humans first left Earth. Neither Santa Claus nor the reindeer could fly through a vacuum.”

“What did he do?”

“I told you he lived at the North Pole. Living with him were elves who built the toys he gave away for Christmas. He told his elves to build a spaceship for him so that he could reach the space colonies. Of course, he had some special requirements, such as a docking mechanism that couldn’t be detected. He also had to have a new generation of reindeer genetically altered to serve as his crew. As all this was occurring, more colonies were established, and they were farther from Earth than ever. He had to have new, faster engines built for the spaceship, and eventu-ally he gave up trying to reach the

colonies on Christmas Eve. He would take care of them in the weeks be-fore Christmas, and save the Earth for the traditional Christmas Eve flight. And then the Yasuko Drive was invented, and with it the hope of expanding civilization beyond the Solar system.”

“We learned about the Yasuko Drive in school last week.”

“Well, you know how important it was. The first true interstellar probes discovered this world and one circling Tau Ceti that seemed suitable for habitation. A coloniz-ing ship carrycoloniz-ing our ancestors set out for Alpha Centauri twenty years later, with an estimated travel time of seventeen years. And Santa Claus had to find some way of delivering presents to the children on the Star-flower. He needed a ship that could overtake it and return in time to de-liver the presents and still leave him time to deliver gifts to the rest of the space colonies and Earth. He turned to his elves again with his problem, and a month before Christmas, they had a new spaceship ready, with the sleigh and reindeer and Santa him-self painted on the side. It rested on the ice on a long pair of skis.

“’Will it get me to Alpha Centauri

and back in a week?’ Santa asked the elves.

“’No problem,’ the elves said. ‘We built the finest faster-than-light drive imaginable.’”

“Wait a minute,” Jessica inter-rupted. “Doesn’t the law of special relativity forbid FTL travel?”

“I’m getting to that. Anyway, Santa tried it out. He climbed the ladder into the spaceship, and the reindeer followed. An elf gave San-ta the instruction manual and told the reindeer how to start the ship and maneuver it. Then the engines started and the ship lifted off the ground. In minutes, they were in empty space. They flew all the way out to Pluto and around the Solar system three times, and got back to the North Pole in twenty minutes. Most of the time spent was for take-off and landing.

“’This is great,’ Santa told the elves. ‘Of course, you better get to building the toys. There’s not much time left.’ You see, the elves had spent all year on the spaceship, and had not started building the presents yet. The spaceship wasn’t much good without the presents. So the elves worked all day and all night, and barely finished one gift

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per child by the deadline. They were

all simple toys, and it was a bleak year for the children, but Santa promised that they would have the best Christmas ever the next year. The elves, on the other hand, had a big party to celebrate the end of their ordeal.

“As Santa Claus prepared to leave, he did not yet know this, but a special agency exists to enforce the laws of the universe. The agency is best known as the Cosmocops. Santa’s spaceship definitely violated the law of special relativity, as you noted, by being able to go faster than the speed of light.”

“Well everyone should know that,” Jessica said. “Santa Claus did pass preschool, didn’t he?”

“You have to remember, Jessica, that Santa Claus is almost as old as Christmas itself. He was an old man delivering presents before Coper-nicus discovered that the Earth re-volves around the Sun.”

“Well, surely he should have read it somewhere. Or Einstein could have told him. Or the elves, they must have known.”

“The elves were engineers, not physicists,” her father said. “All they cared about was whether they could make something work. The point is that the Cosmocops detected a dis-turbance in the space-time

continu-um near Earth and promptly sent a patrol to investigate.

“Santa was just loading the space-ship when the Cosmocops entered Solar orbit. After calculating the po-sition of the Starflower, he ordered the ship to take off, and it did, and as soon as they engaged the FTL drive, the Cosmocops docked with them and forced open the door.

“’Who are you?’ Santa demand-ed.

“’Cosmocops,’ they said. ‘Stay where you are. You are in serious vi-olation of the laws of this universe, and we have no choice but to arrest you and seize your ship as evidence.’

“Santa cooperated, having no other choice, but he wiped a tear from his cheek as the Cosmocops marched him and the reindeer into jail cells in their ship.”

“Didn’t they even tell him what law he broke?” Jessica asked.

“Yes. I forgot that part. Anyway, they took him to a planet orbiting Sirius for trial. He and his reindeer had to stand in an empty room, and the judge was only a voice that filled the chamber.

“’You have been accused of speeding,’ the judge said. ‘How do you plead?’

“’Ignorance,’ Santa replied. ‘I had no idea we were breaking the laws of the universe.’

“’Nonsense,’ the judge said. ‘These laws are well known on your planet and have been for several generations. We cannot allow bar-barians from primitive worlds to cause the kinds of cosmological dis-ruptions you are responsible for just because you claim ignorance. You are guilty as charged and sentenced to confinement for one galactic year in a black hole.’

“’But I was only doing it so all the children would have presents at Christmas,’ Santa protested.

“’No excuse,’ the judge said. ‘Let their parents give them presents. Take him away.’

“Santa thought as he was led away that he would like to give the judge three ghosts for Christmas. But the Cosmocops let him send a message back to Earth (it took al-most nine years to get there, of course), informing us of the situa-tion and instructing all to act as his substitute, though at least for Earth, Mrs. Claus filled in. And you know what happened then?”

“What?”

“The people of Earth formed a protest movement to get Santa freed. They called themselves the Santanistas, and they beamed their plea throughout the cosmos. And the ruler of the universe heard it and freed Santa on the condition

that he never build or fly another faster-than-light vehicle. So Santa Claus once again delivers gifts to the children of the Solar system, but here, we parents still have to act as his substitute.”

Jessica’s father waited for a few seconds, and then asked, “Well, what did you think of that story?”

“That’s one of the dumbest sto-ries you’ve ever told me,” Jessica said. “If Santa Claus would have been intelligent, he would have just cloned himself ahead of time and trained his clone to carry on his work on other worlds. Then he wouldn’t have had to build a faster-than-light drive, and he wouldn’t have broken the laws of the universe.”

Jessica’s father laughed. “I’ll try to do better next time. I think din-ner is almost ready.”

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The digital billboard flickered to

life with a small pop, the screen humming on, and then bang! a pow-erful explosion leapt out into three-dimensional space, like a fireworks display spitting out of a gargantuan set painting, only five-hundred feet up in the air.

As the fireball disappeared, flames roiling upward, the billboard lit up and launched into the movie trailer for Raindown Justice. The trailer opened with a massive explo-sion as subway cars crashed into a spiked barricade at high speed and then a half dozen flycars slammed sideways into one another as they sped along the superhighway stream.

This looked like an expensive movie.

Fargrave Goodman tapped a dash of cigarette ash into the slag tray hanging off the small balcony on which he stood. He leaned on the railing with his elbows, switch-ing off his selective audio synapse and watching the move trailer play on in silence. For the rest of the ad-vertisement, during which he saw McNaulty, Richard McNaulty, presi-dent of the United States, leaping off a chromed-piped floatbike in

mid stream, and onto a flaming ve-hicle riddled with suit-clad bad guys, Fargrave’s selective audio synapse panged annoyingly, pestering him to turn the sound back on.

He ignored it, and instead watched his cigarette burn down. It was hard not to be jealous of Mc-Naulty’s budget, his vision and his multi-dimensional campaign; a slo-gan like Raindown Justice crossed over into so many audiences that his message could play in both an action film and a sensitive TV ad about immigration.

Maybe Mantrove is right, Far-grave thought. This is probably the best way.

He looked back up at the billboard as the trailer wrapped up with more explosions and a series of words de-claring the film’s critical acclaim lit up the screen: “Superb,” “McNaulty Strikes Again!” though it wasn’t clear who had said what. Fargrave allowed his selective audio synapse to flick back on just as McNaulty’s rattled off a one-liner from the back of a meaty, green tank, “McNaulty’s justice will hit the streets!”

He dropped his cigarette into the small tray and watched it melt and disappear. In the early evening

billboard, a trail of cars that looked like a string of cheery Christmas tree lights circling the city from five hundred feet up. He wondered how much it would cost to run a movie trailer on that billboard then, guess-ing that it was beyond his budget, he banished the thought from his mind.

He took a deep breath and stepped through the heavy sound-proofed door into the sound stage, taking the iron stairs down the back wall to the stage floor where gaffers were preparing some rusty old float lights at varying heights arranged around a huge set piece.

He looked down at the small crew, most of them unpaid univer-sity students, his cameraman, Señor Andas, the director and Mantrove, his producer and father‘n’law, the man who had imagined up the story for this infernal little venture. As far as equipment was concerned, they had precious few cameras, all rent-ed, a set of old lights, some dingy microphones and booms, a rickety track for the makeshift dolly, and a rented deck that had been digitally recording their efforts all week long. He knew that the set of Raindown Justice looked nothing like this.

The focus of the crew’s efforts on the final scene was a towering twenty-foot posifoam sculpture of

by a dangerous looking peak. The cliff sat directly in front of a matte painting of a sprawling white-moun-tain range, a diving sun, and a sky of deep reds and oranges with hints of impending dark.

Mantrove had lassoed an art stu-dent into creating the backdrop as an art project.

At the back of the stage, Man-trove showed Señor Andas, through a square lens formed by his fingers, just how he felt the next shot should go. Señor Andas, the film’s director and a very talented man, watched with his eyebrows raised, his eyes distant.

“Are we ready to shoot this thing?” Fargrave said as he ap-proached Andas and Mantrove. “C’mon dad, let Andas direct this picture. Let’s get this movie in the can.”

“Mr. Governor!” Andas said. “We are ready for you, yes. Why don’t you take your place on ledge of the cliff and we’ll get Karla up there with you so we can finish this thing with power! And here, put on these camglasses so we can capture the opposite angle.”

“All right Andas, let’s get it done and get out of here by midnight. And stop calling me Mr. Governor,” Fargrave said, putting on the glass-es.

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“Fargrave, come here,” Mantrove

took his arm. “When you say that last line, steel your eyes, you know, McNaulty always does that, and kind of boom it out, you know, like ‘I’m going to pulverize Peterson and put a ‘Man’ back in the governor’s mansion!’ Can you say it like that?”

All Fargrave’s doubts resurfaced in an instant. Why am I doing this? He thought. He had seen the suc-cess that the president had had per-fecting the art of agitprop, and he knew that movies these days could be cheaper to make than most cam-paign bus tours but something in-side him didn’t feel right. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to go into politics after all.

“I’ve been thinking about that line,” he replied. “It needs to be more honest, this whole film needs to be more sincere, it needs to be about me, do you know what I mean, not about some caricature of me. Don’t you think?”

Mantrove laughed heartily, as if a four-year old had just told him how the clouds look like teddy bears. He put his hand on Fargrave’s shoulder and walked him slowly away from the set. “Listen, if you really want to be the next governor of this state, if you really want to help people, we need to play the game, you need to create a persona that people can

re-late to.”

Fargrave stopped. “All right then, let me say something different. How about this, I could say, ‘Karla, I’m go-ing to help change this state. I just want the people who live here, to live better.’ Say it from my heart, with some passion and sincerity.”

“Hmmm,” Mantrove looked at him. “That could work, empathetic, a man of the people, a robin hood swooping into the political machin-ery with a wrench, not to jam it, but to fix it right up. I think that could work Fargrave. But why don’t we go with the first line in this film, and when we make your sequel, in the next election, we’ll use that as the theme. Show that you’ve got some depth, show that you’ve grown. Good? People like characters who grow, change. So the line again is ‘I’m going to pulverize Peterson and put a “Man” back in the governor’s mansion.’”

Fargrave sighed, frustrated with how his first film was turning out. “All right, let’s get this over with.”

“Mr. Governor, step up on that cliff face, okay?” Andas called out. Karla, his co-star, already stood on the posifoam peak, in place and ready to go.

Fargrave walked up to the bot-tom of the posifoam cliff and began to pull himself up. As he groped for

handholds and made his way along the sculpture, he noticed that the cliff face was lined and pocked with tight crevices and small granite-like grooves. The art student had been a steal to get this thing made so quickly. Breathing heavy, he pulled himself to the top ledge next to Karla, swinging both legs onto the pseudo-summit sending small spouts of foam dust spinning lazily into the air.

He stood up and wiped the dust off his pants, turning toward the camera as he did.

Below, he saw Shon walking to-ward the cliff face, talking rapidly— always talking—she probably talked on her synapse phone more often than she talked to anyone face to face, although that wasn’t necessar-ily a bad trait for a campaign man-ager.

The makeup woman stepped off the rusty crane lift to touch up Far-grave’s face and he tried to stand still while she powdered the sheen of sweat on his forehead. He over-heard Shon say, “Please hold on,” from below.

“Mr. Goodman, we got just word,” Shon called from the stage floor. “Peterson is working on something interactive. We don’t know what it will be exactly but our sources say that it’s a low-end virtual game;

two-player adventure, maybe first-person shooter. We also think he’s working on an alliance with the State’s Gaming Consortium that would get the game distributed fast and cheap, statewide.”

“But you don’t know for sure.” Fargrave called back, as the makeup woman continued working on his face.

“I’ve got a credible source, sir, but it could be a plant, though that’s not likely.”

“It sounds to me as though he’s targeting a younger audience this time, Fargrave,” Mantrove said, now standing next to Shon.

“Sir, I’ve got somebody working on scooping a copy of the game, an independent ‘researcher,’” Shon said with a sly grin. “We’ll see. I don’t think it’s even finished.”

“Shon, call off your researcher,” Fargrave said. “Remember we’re counting on the issues here. This guy is a slam-dunk on the state economy. We can nail him on the five of the top seven voter con-cerns. Have you sent out a press re-lease on that?”

“I’ve got a writer working on five variations of that press release right now, sir, one for each of our issue priorities, but whatever we can get, we can use,” she said. “At the very least, I’ll get our team working on

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spinning some stories we can throw

at the press before Peterson does any PR himself. We might be able to sell the idea of the game being too violent or too dull before he’s even finished it.”

“Shon, please hear me, let’s focus on the issues.”

“No problem, sir, focus on the is-sues. Consider it done. A gaming de-bacle would simply be icing on the cake.”

“Let me know how that press conference is shaping up for tomor-row,” Fargrave said, but Shon was al-ready walking away. Mantrove had taken her arm, walking Shon back to the small office in the back, but she nodded her response as they moved away.

She was a hard-working cam-paign manager, and the woman who convinced Fargrave to make this film when he had balked at the idea. “Mantrove is right,” she had told him. “If we air it on key regional stations, everyone in the state will see it, and even those without TVs will hear about it with a couple of well-timed marketing hits.”

“Places people!” Andas called out from below as he stepped in behind a bay of monitors showing various angles of their final scene.

The young actor playing the lead-ing lady, a sculpted six-foot brunette

named Karla, stepped forward to the edge of the mountain in full mountain climbing regalia, and now Fargrave was going to save her life. He took a deep breath, settled himself, and rolled his head around slowly.

Then everything moved quickly. Karla got into position below him, poised to grab the handhold above her, Andas grabbed his megaphone and a pair of floating mics hovered and darted overhead.

“Rolling,” a volunteer called out. Andas let the stage breathe for a long second and gave a dramatic cue.

“Action.”

Karla reached up toward a hand-hold as Fargrave talked her through it.

“Be careful, darling, it’s only a little further. You can do it,” he said. She scurried up a little further, then paused, and suddenly a look of alarm came over her face.

At that moment Karla’s hand slipped from its hold and she let out a shriek as she slipped—until Fargrave’s arm shot out and caught hers in mid-slide.

The moment had been perfectly timed in rehearsal, her feet land-ing on the ledge below—but from the camera’s point of view he had caught her in a one-armed display

of brute strength.

Fargrave held Karla there for a moment, gathering himself, then he reached down toward her with his other arm, locking both his hands around her wrist, and he pulled her up, working every moment for max-imum effect.

He flexed his muscles, leaned his head back, the veins in his neck pounding with the effort. Then Karla was on the summit with him and the two of them were together, smiling, hugging, and breathing deeply.

“Fargrave Goodman, you saved my life! You’ll make such a wonder-ful governor!”

He steeled his expression and she melted into his half-embrace. Then he readied himself to bestow his father’n’law’s superfluous one-liner upon the world.

“Darling, I’m going to pulverize Peterson and put a ‘Man’ back in the Governor’s mansion.”

BAAAM! A burst of hard white light knocked everyone down. Far-grave covered his face instinctively as a small shockwave hit the cliff face. Suddenly he, Karla, and the posifoam sculpture slammed back-wards into the painted backdrop, the set piece shattering.

Fargrave felt himself tumbling into large posifoam chunks, his eyes blinking white flakes, the bitter taste

of posifoam dust on his tongue. He hit the stage floor, landing in a bed of foam shards as the sculpture crumbled into chunks, breaking his fall entirely.

His mind swam and reoriented, seeing the set totally destroyed. He wouldn’t have the money or the time to rebuild any of it. At least we got that last shot.

After the initial shock of hit-ting the ground wore off, Fargrave stood up, finding himself in a hov-ering cloud of posifoam snow that swirled and drifted around him. He went to Karla, and helped her to her feet; she coughed to herself but ap-peared to be unhurt.

He turned and made his way through the cloud toward the cam-era setup.

He didn’t see Señor Andas, Man-trove, or Shon. He saw movement at the back of the sound stage—a person darting around purposefully. Then the person was gone. He ran toward the back of the stage, mak-ing his way past chunks of foam, fallen float lights and found nothing but more swirling foam.

“Shon? Andas?” he called. He heard muffled replies behind him back toward the set. Maybe they were looking for him.

He groped around in the hazy white aftermath until his hand met

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the catering table. He moved right

until he reached another empty table, and time moved slowly, per-haps because his ears rang and his eyes blinked through the posifoam dust trying to focus.

Wait. An empty table? The digi-tal recording deck. Fargrave whirled back to look at the table again. The digital recorder deck they had rent-ed, was gone. Then he flashed on the movement he had seen earlier. It had been a person, moving pur-posefully in the midst of the posi-foam snowfall. His mind did a back flip. Had someone has sabotaged the movie?

Someone had stolen his film! #

Fargrave slammed down the door handle and rammed his shoulder into the back door of the sound stage, sprinting out into the night. Outside it was dark, the blinking lights of the superhighway stream flashing in the air above the city. He looked right and left, and saw no signs of movement. Ahead of him there were more warehouses like the one they had rented, most of which were only used during the day, meaning that most of them were now empty of life or aban-doned.

He ran forward cautiously, his head swiveling as if on a tripod.

After a few moments he caught sight of a man running. Fargrave saw a man wearing dark clothes ducking around a corner. Fargrave sprinted after him.

His mind raced. This was his first film, hours worth of footage, over a week’s worth of work, gone. More importantly, a large chunk of his meager campaign budget was in-vested in that footage. He tried to remember if they had backed up everything on the digital record-er deck. Señor Andas may have backed up the footage, but even if they had everything from the week, they would still be missing the final scene on the snowy mountain face. If he didn’t get the footage back, they would have reshoot the scene somehow, somewhere.

Fargrave quickened his pace and reached the corner, ducking around it quietly, hoping to surprise the man wherever he had gone. Turn-ing the corner, Fargrave spied him about two warehouse blocks away, and it looked as though he ran for the superhighway launch strip. Surely the man had a car waiting in the parking structure.

Fargrave chanced a short cut and ducked into a side alley running as fast as he could manage. He found the end of the alley and scaled a fence, landing on the other side

softly. Then he sprinted straight to-ward the parking structure.

Fargrave could see the three level structure ahead, three warehouses away. He put his head down and ran, sweat sliding down forehead and ruining the thin layer of makeup he wore.

That was when it occurred to him. The saboteur wouldn’t just de-stroy this film. He or she would give it to someone, or sell it to Peterson. After all, this saboteur had in pos-session, footage that contained ev-erything they had shot that week; including outtakes, line mistakes and even whole sections where Far-grave had tried to improvise a scene that eventually went nowhere, or worse, ended with laughing and cursing amongst the crew.

He tried to think like Shon for a moment. Was there anything on those reels that could be used against him? There were plenty of line mistakes and gaffs that were no big deal normally, but it amounted to an amazing batch of footage for a competitor’s campaign or press release package that the networks would pounce on.

Fargrave groaned.

It had come to this and in a mat-ter of moments his entire political career had been put in jeopardy. One moment he had been a

guber-natorial candidate of immeasur-able strength and vast, but as yet unknown potential. This small act could destroy everything he, Shon and Mantrove had worked for.

As he neared the end of the al-ley, the parking structure loomed before him. He had taken a chance coming this way, betting that the saboteur would take this route. Now he wasn’t so sure.

He peeked out of the alley look-ing both directions, warehouses stretching as far as he could see. The parking structure sat in front of him, and beyond that, the super-highway launch strip pealed off into the sky—a horizontal highway that ramped upwards, quickly morphing into a vertical strip of roadway that ended abruptly a hundred feet into the air. The launch strip appeared as wide as a skyscraper or thin as a flagpole depending on your vantage point.

But still, he saw nobody, no movement, and no sound. Nothing.

Fargrave dashed toward the right hand side of the parking structure, hoping to catch the man off guard. He couldn’t have gone too fast car-rying the digital recorder, but the man did have a head start.

Just as Fargrave began to doubt his decision to head toward the parking structure, he heard footfalls

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on the second floor. Fargrave ran to

the nearest stairway and took the steps two, three at a time. He leapt out the door on the second floor to see a car starting up on the far side of the structure.

Quick! Think! Where is my car? The saboteur’s car was pulling out of its spot fast; he could hear him jamming the gear stick into first gear so quickly that Fargrave guessed the man must have seen him.

He dove back into the stairway, taking the stairs down, four, five at a time. He could hear the car squeal-ing across the second floor now. He burst out of the stairway and made for his own car, halfway across the first level lot. The grimy, stained floor of the lot was slick, forcing Fargrave to slow down to a careful sprint. He sweated heavily now, his shirt sticking to him, his legs starting to throb at the sudden, prolonged impact.

Yelling out his unlock code, his own car door popped open just as the saboteur’s car came into view at the other end of the structure.

Fargrave slid into the front seat of his two-door sedan, slammed the door, and started the car in a series of swift motions. The motor roared to life and he jammed it into reverse.

He looked at the rearview

cam-era screen when the other car sped past, behind him. He swiveled to look out the window and caught a glimpse of the driver. It was a man wearing black driving a sporty pur-ple sedan, and driving very fast.

Fargrave kicked his car into re-verse, pulled it out of the park-ing spot, slammed it into drive, and peeled out across the lot. As he neared the exit he kicked the car into overdrive readying for the deafening launch onto the super-highway—as he did so he fishtailed through the last of the parking lot, sliding across the concrete, correct-ing slightly, and shot out the exit with a lurch—close behind the pur-ple sedan.

Both cars gathered speed quickly and began the ascent up the launch strip.

Just as the highway went verti-cal, the sedan in front of him took off with a burst of speed, shooting up the launch strip and taking to the air in a flurry of exhaust fumes and a small exploding fireball.

Fargrave reached the minimum launch speed seconds later, en-gaged his booster, and took to the incline abruptly, slamming up the vertical ramp.

The superhighway stream flick-ered in front of both of them now, a thick braid of lights and exhaust

fumes, cars, flybikes and small air-craft that blinked erratically and continued on as such night and day. He flicked on his signal, showing his intent to enter the stream.

But before he had the chance to dive up into the stream of cars and flybikes, he saw the purple sedan spin about and catapult into the stream going the opposite direction, a dangerous maneuver that might have suggested he didn’t want any-one following him.

Fargrave spun his wheel around and followed, watching the sedan enter the stream at high speed, another dangerous maneuver. Far-grave increased his speed, dodging cars as he flew up underneath the stream, waiting for the next avail-able window.

A steady band of cars sped over-head as he maintained speed and kept an eye on the saboteur a few cars above and ahead of him. As he watched the stream continue to move overhead, he checked his rearview camera angles and saw that there wouldn’t be an entry win-dow between cars for some min-utes. In a few moments he would have to slow down because he was flying too low and coming danger-ously close to the hovering super-highway markers.

Somehow the saboteur had

got-ten extremely lucky.

But Fargrave didn’t have time to wait. He checked his rearviews, looked out both sides, gauged his thruster for evasive action, and swerved his car out from under the stream diving up and to the right so that he was flying parallel to the stream itself. He leveled his car with the stream, earning a few nervous looks from the other drivers passing him only a few yards away.

He could no longer see the purple sedan he was following. This was costing him too much time!

Even more abruptly, and just be-fore slamming into a flashing super-highway marker, Fargrave threw his car above the stream at high speed, passing the cars below him.

Flying at a deafening speed, Far-grave caught sight of the saboteur and his purple sedan about a mile ahead. Finally seeing an open sec-tion in the highway up ahead, Far-grave brought his car down, drop-ping into the stream a few cars behind the purple sedan.

An instant later the purple fly-car moved to the left, and dropped through one of the stream gates which led into a downramp tun-nel that would direct it to the city streets. On the streets, the sedan would disappear completely.

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Spangler for a ride four years ago? You’re trying to sabotage my film.”

“Listen, Goodman, you can stop right there,” Peterson said calmly. “Everyone knows that political rivals look in on each other’s campaign strategies. That’s just the way of politics these days, rookie.”

Peterson moved forward as he spoke, his voice smooth, his hands reaching out and taking the record-er from his associate.

“That is not the way of it—that’s called political espionage.” Fargrave said. He moved forward, matching Peterson’s movements and grabbed recorder at the same moment, both men taking hold of the box, trying to wrest it from the other.

“You know what, it’s your word against mine, and who are you? You’re a political neophyte, some-one with nothing going for you. In this state you’re no one, Goodman. No one.” Peterson lunged at him, pulling on the recorder.

“That’s grounds for disqualifica-tion,” Fargrave said through gritted teeth, as he pulled at the recorder. “Mr. Peterson, I’m going to have to ask you resign your post as gover-nor and forfeit the election to me.”

Fargrave leaned over and tried to wrap his arms around the recorder in a sprawling bear hug. The other two men had slowly backed off, his car across three lanes of stream

traffic, dangerously cutting off a gi-ant airbot trash compactor, which heaved suddenly at the rude en-counter, and dove his car into the downramp tunnel. He sped through the tunnel, blind to anyone in front of or behind him.

Fargrave took a deep breath, pre-pared for reentry as the tunnel guid-ed him down. In a moment he shot out onto the bustling city streets, seeing no sign of the purple sedan. As he slowed his flycar down to a normal speed, he analyzed the road for a moment.

He looked left, and looked right, seeing nothing.

Valuable seconds were passing by, and the purple sedan was get-ting away.

Then on a hunch, Fargrave spun his steering wheel 180 degrees, swung his car around and drove past the tunnel from which he had just emerged, shooting underneath the stream downramp and into another part of the city. A moment later, Far-grave caught sight of a sedan diving down into a driveway that took the car below street level, under a non-descript office building. Fargrave couldn’t tell if it was the purple se-dan, but seeing no other similar cars in sight, he followed.

The ramp down was dark except

for a few ineffective pale wall lights. There was no gate or service booth at the bottom of the driveway, and the rest of the area was only subtly lit. Fargrave drove slowly past a few rows of cars, looking for movement, scanning the dark.

When he reached the last row of cars, he saw it. The purple se-dan sat in the last stall in the row, no occupant anywhere in sight. He breathed in, feeling a burst of confi-dence knowing that his film footage was here in this place and that he was going to find it.

He smiled to himself. For the first time in the last couple weeks, he just wanted to finish this film for himself. He wanted to be governor of this state.

Fargrave parked his car nearby. He got out hurriedly and ran to the purple sedan, looking through the windows of the car for any trace of the recorder. The sedan was emp-ty.

Across the lot Fargrave saw a pri-vate elevator, but it wasn’t moving. There was only one other possibility for so hasty an exit: An unmarked service door in the back wall of the parking lot.

Fargrave walked toward the door confidently. He grasped the handle and pulled the door open wide. There at the end of a dingy concrete

sewer tunnel stood three conspicu-ous looking men.

The men, who had been talk-ing in quieted tones, hushed when Fargrave opened the door, turning toward him. The dark service dock was not well lit, but he could see the three men well enough, stand-ing in a makeshift circle. He heard the sounds of rushing water and he noticed that one man held his digi-tal recorder.

Fargrave wasn’t a necessarily big man, but when he found himself in awkward or threatening spaces, he always tried to assume control of a situation to turn it in his favor.

“All right, now which one of you is going to return my recorder? You?”

Fargrave strode swiftly down the short hallway toward the three men as if he were entirely unsurprised to find them there. Two of the men stepped backwards as if caught by surprise, while the man holding the recorder was so dumbfounded that he just stood stock still.

“Well, if it isn’t Fargrave Good-man,” one of men said, in a voice Fargrave recognized.

Fargrave stopped and looked at one of the men, who had stepped forward.

It was Peterson.

“Mr. Peterson, is this how you win your elections? Is this how you took

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stunned by the sudden wrestling

match that had sprung up between the politicians. Peterson leaned backwards now, both his hands straining on the sides of the record-er, his face red.

“What do you think you’re do-ing?” Peterson growled, his tone shifting abruptly. “This is just poli-tics! It’s not my fault you squan-dered your campaign money on a film so bad, you decided not to re-lease it!”

“What are you talking about? Your record in office hasn’t even im-pressed your own party!” Fargrave shot back through clenched jaws, wrenching even harder.

“My party! I am my party, Good-man!”

At that moment, Fargrave stepped forward, latching his arms together around the recorder. “Instead of wrestling over my movie we should be debating the issues of this cam-paign. If you’re man enough, why don’t we set a date and stage a debate—the winner gets the other person’s vote!”

At that moment, Fargrave lunged backwards, pulling on the recorder with all his might, almost bringing his opponent down on top of him. But Peterson quickly brought up his foot and slammed his size ten-dress shoe against Fargrave’s shoulder in

a single blunt motion.

The force of the kick loosed Far-grave’s arms from around the re-corder and sent it flying backwards through the air, tumbling end over end toward the sewer tunnel. Far-grave watched it clatter against the sewer wall, fall and crack, breaking open and splashing into the water beyond the tunnel’s end.

Fargrave jumped to his feet just in time to watch it all bubble in the dark water, its battery crackling and sparking as the expensive piece of equipment died, and sank to the bottom. Fargrave wondered absent-ly how much his campaign would have to pay to replace the rented recorder. It would probably cost him more than he had left in his meager budget.

“A debate?” Peterson said with a growling laugh. “Why would anyone want to watch that?”

Fargrave slumped to a heap on the ground. His film was ruined. It was irrecoverable. His campaign budget was spent. There was no money to reshoot the final scenes. Fargrave didn’t care. He had always hated the last line of his first film anyway. That silly line Mantrove had written about putting a man back in the governor’s mansion. So ridicu-lous, he thought.

The three men laughed as they

left the sewer tunnel, leaving Far-grave slouched on the ground.

“Hey Peterson,” Fargrave said, coming to his feet.

Peterson turned around. “What?” “Peterson, you’ve made a mock-ery of this state, and even if I lose, somehow I’m going to help change this state. The people who live here deserve better.”

Peterson laughed out loud as he left, his men following him back into the parking garage.

After a few moments, a slow smile broke on Fargrave’s face.

Maybe this is the best thing after all, he thought. My campaign will be about this state, not some movie or interactive video game. He dusted off his pants, rose, and made his way toward the door.

#

Back in the car, Fargrave called Shon.

The first words out of her mouth were, “Brilliant work, sir.”

“What do you mean? I didn’t get it back. The film is six feet under wa-ter—”

Shon cut in. “Forget the movie Fargrave, we had a backup recorder. Your little adventure just played on live feeds to the entire state. Every-one saw it unfold, Peterson, the re-corder, your last line about the

peo-ple deserving better, everything!” “What are you talking about?” Fargrave said, wanting to share her excitement, but feeling skeptical.

“Your camglasses sir,” Shon said, and Fargrave sighed in shock taking the glasses from his face.

“Sir, we recorded everything. From the moment you left the sound stage. I had Señor Andas patch the feed from the camglasses to an open channel, I made a few calls and suddenly Internet feeds across the state were broadcasting the feed and following your chase live. The newscasters have been re-playing the last bit on every evening news update for the past twenty minutes. You don’t even need a film now. This was your first film! He doesn’t even know it yet, but Peter-son is ruined!”

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Doors Through the Places You Live

by Michael Merriam

Doors Through the Places You Live

by Michael Merriam

“N

ice and gentle now.”

Gary Ampierre eased on his suit’s control thrusters, steering himself up to the derelict warship. Through his visor he saw Terrell Bingham, his partner for the mis-sion, flip over and point his boots at the hull of the vessel.

Gary mimicked the maneuver, al-lowing the soles of his boots to gen-tly touch the metal of the warship. He engaged the magnetic grips, sticking him to the hull.

Gary turned and looked back to-ward the ship he and Terrell had traveled from. It floated only a few hundred meters away, illuminated by its running lights. As he watched, a thruster fired, keeping the salvage vessel lined up with the old warship.

“Ampierre to Wanderer: we’re here.”

The voice of Lycinda Tomlinson, the ship’s owner and captain sound-ed in his helmet. “You’ve got two hours. Get what we came for, and get back to the nest.”

“Check that,” Gary said. He turned and looked at his companion. “How do we get inside?”

“The entry hatch should be about two meters that way.” Terrell point-ed along the hull toward the stern

of the vessel, the lamp on his hel-met illuminating the way.

They reached the hatch, sweating in their clumsy suits from the strain of walking with the magnetic grips turned on.

“What do you think happened?” Terrell asked as he knelt on the hull to grab onto one of the manual ac-cess switches. Across from him, Gary did the same.

“I don’t know.” Gary pulled up on his switch. He glanced up to find Terrell’s switch pulled up as well. “On three.”

Terrell nodded.

Gary counted to three, and both men turned his switch counter-clockwise. The hatch opened, expel-ling particles of dust into space.

The two men climbed inside. Ter-rell closed the hatch behind them and gave the internal locking mech-anism a sharp turn. They climbed down the metal ladder and landed on the deck below, facing the door leading to the ship’s interior. Gary looked through the small window while Terrell fumbled in his kit, fi-nally withdrawing a small electronic device and placing it on the wall next to the access door.

“See anything?” Terrell asked as

he pressed a series of buttons and the device beeped.

“No. There’s too much dust on the window.”

Terrell pressed another button. A series of lights started to flash as he looked around the little airlock. “I’m telling you, I saw someone in one of the port windows.”

Gary frowned. “There’s no one alive on board.”

The Wanderer and her crew had been traveling to the site of a re-cent skirmish between two mem-ber worlds of the Colonial Alliance. A minor dispute over asteroid min-eral rights had escalated into an exchange of fire between ships be-longing to two colony worlds. The Alliance parliament had stepped in to mediate, but not before an Alli-ance frigate was damaged in the crossfire. The Wanderer was hired to tow the stricken vessel back to its home port. It was the kind of job the small, powerful Wanderer was designed to accomplish.

They had discovered the derelict warship adrift in space five days from their destination. Scans, both electronic and visual, showed no signs of activity on the ship. There was no active power signature, no lights, and no distress beacon.

There were also no obvious signs of damage. No blast marks, all the

hatches and airlocks secure, the es-cape pods unlaunched.

Gary had identified the ship as a Caryago-class heavy cruiser of the defunct Earth Space Navy. He told his captain that the ship had been old when the war between Earth and her rebellious colonies had bro-ken out.

Captain Tomlinson had dutifully radioed the contact, including the ship’s registry numbers, to the Alli-ance military and continued on her course.

Five hours later they received a priority message from Alliance Fleet Command, requesting they return to the Earth vessel to collect its logs and any other surviving information they could retrieve from the ship’s computer. They were to disturb the ship as little as possible and to take nothing off the vessel except the requested data. They were to set a tracking buoy on the warship and make best possible speed toward the Alliance command post at New Helena. A military courier would be dispatched to meet them in route to take possession of the logs and files.

Captain Tomlinson had served in the Alliance fleet long enough to read between the lines: something about this ship was important to the Alliance, and the Wanderer was the only vessel nearby. Tomlinson

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knew the military would revoke her

captain’s license and impound her ship if she did not cooperate. They turned about and made best speed back to the warship. It was right where they had left it, floating in space, dead.

A soft click came from the door in front of them.

“Got it,” Terrell said.

Gary stepped away from the door. “Ready?”

Terrell nodded and pressed an-other button on the electronic de-vice. The door groaned and swung open.

Gary stepped cautiously into the corridor, looking both directions. The ship appeared empty: no signs of whatever incident caused the vessel to end in its current state.

Behind him, Terrell unhooked the electronic door bypass and returned it to his kit, then stepped up next to him.

“Let’s do this,” Gary said, setting off down the corridor toward the left, heading for the maintenance tube leading to the ship’s computer core.

“I was expecting bodies,” Terrell said.

“Me too. I think this is worse, though.” Gary kept himself moving steadily toward another bulkhead door. He knew a ship of this type

car-ried a crew of over seven hundred. He had expected to find human re-mains as soon as they entered.

Gary and Terrell took hold of the door and pulled, opening it enough for both men to step inside.

Gary nearly knocked Terrell off his feet as he tried to enter through the narrow gap. “Jeez, Terrell, what are you—” Gary stopped talking as he noticed what had made his partner stop in his tracks.

The corridor beyond the door was brightly lit. Crewmen, dressed in modern Alliance uniforms, went about their business. No one seemed to notice the two intruders in their bulky suits. No one stepped up to challenge them.

Terrell stopped front of a crew-man, a technician first-class if Gary was reading her insignia correctly. The crewman ignored them. Terrell reached out to touch her shoulder.

“Don’t” Gary cried, an instant too late.

Terrell’s gloved hand passed through her body. The crewman shivered and stopped working for a moment. She looked over her shoul-der, blue eyes scanning the corridor.

“Help me,” she whispered, before turning back to the communication panel. She snapped the panel back into place and a voice filled the cor-ridor.

“This is the Captain: space trials of the new engines will begin in one hour. Engineering and damage con-trol crews report to your stations.”

Gary turned toward Terrell as the blonde technician stood and turned around. He noted the name “Jen-kins” on her uniform before she walked past him and through Ter-rell, moving purposefully toward the bulkhead door they had entered from. “I think we need to get out of here,” Gary said.

Terrell’s voice sounded thick and muffled in his ears. “Yeah.”

Gary toggled his communication unit as he turned to follow the crew-man. “Ampierre to Wanderer, do you copy? Wanderer, this Ampierre, can you hear me?”

Terrell fell into step beside him. “Is the hull too thick?”

“Maybe,” Gary lied. He knew the armor thickness on this type of ship. His transmission should have no trouble reaching the Wanderer. Something was definitely wrong.

Gary and Terrell followed the young technician through the bulk-head door, back toward the corridor leading to the hatch.

“Sweet mother,” Terrell whis-pered through his radio.

They were on the bridge of the cruiser. The desiccated remains of the crew surrounded them, each

body at the duty station they had manned in life. Gary swung his light around.

The thin remnants of a blonde ponytail sticking out from a decom-posing head caught his attention. He pointed his light at the corpse’s name patch: “Jenkins.”

He looked up to find Terrell clear-ing dust from a panel, cautiously moving around another withered body. Near the panel was a placard giving the name of the ship: UES Gambia.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to download the logs. That’s what we’re here for, right?” He chuckled. “Though if I didn’t know Lycinda would have a fit, I’d dig through this ship’s systems a bit: I’ve always wanted a closer look at one of these old-time warships.”

Gary grunted at the engineer. “As if Wanderer isn’t enough of an an-tique.” He looked back at the corpse of Technician Jenkins, then turned away to scan the bridge. There had been a battle here. Spent cartridges lay on the floor, and he saw bullet holes in both equipment and bod-ies. He turned back to the remains of Jenkins. There was a rip in the upper part of her uniform’s left arm and a dark stain around the area. Behind him Terrell’s equipment beeped and buzzed.

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“Can you get anything?” Gary

asked. He was ready to get off this ghost ship.

“No, I need to be at the computer core.”

Gary sighed. “Let’s try to walk for it.”

Terrell repacked his kit and looked at Gary. “Lead on.”

“Help me.” Technician first-class Jenkins—or something in the form of Technician Jenkins—stood in the corner, pale, translucent, washed-out.

“Gary,” Terrell said, looking to-ward the spot where Gary’s light shone.

“Do you see her?” “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

Gary Ampierre turned to look at his partner, then turned his light back on the corner where the ap-parition had stood. Dust and debris was all to greet him.

“Come on,” Terrell said, his voice low and shaky. “Let’s try to reach the computer core.”

They walked across the bridge, past the navigator’s station and helm controls, to a door just off the bridge. Gary stepped over the fallen body of a marine and pulled the manual release lever. The door popped open and Gary, with Terrell following, passed through.

A marine with an automatic rifle

leveled his weapon at them.

Gary instinctively ducked to his left and flattened himself on the deck, trying to dodge the weapon’s fire. He did not know if the bullets could harm him in this place, but he did not want to find out.

Behind him, Terrell gasped. Gary rolled and found Terrell looking down at his chest, the man’s hands clutching the front of his suit as if expecting damage. For a moment he thought his friend was shot, but there were no wounds or blood on Terrell’s suit.

A guttural roar caught Gary’s at-tention. Technician Jenkins sprang from the ground near him, bleeding from her left arm where she had ap-parently been hit. She smashed into the man with the assault rifle, slam-ming him backward against the hull. Before he could react, she struck him between the legs with a raised knee. The man doubled over and Jenkins brought her knee up into his face.

Technician Jenkins tore the rifle from the stricken Marine’s hands and fired one round into his head. Seeming satisfied with her handi-work, she turned to another crew-man lying stretched out on the deck in a pool of blood, and touched the still form’s neck.

“Somebody help me!” Jenkins

cried. When no one appeared, she scowled, stood, and started off down the corridor at a trot.

“Stay with her!” Gary cried out through the radio and took off after the receding form as quickly as his suit allowed.

The two men followed Jenkins around a corner. Strewn along the deck like so many broken toys were bullet-riddled members of the crew, officers and enlisted both. Occa-sionally they would find a dead ma-rine or two surrounded by several bodies of the ship’s crew.

“What happened here?” Terrell asked.

Gary ignored him, saving his breath for the mad dash he was en-gaged in.

Jenkins reached a door and stopped. She pointed the rifle up and took two deep breaths. In one fluid motion she slapped the entry switch on the door and, lowering the rifle, dived through the open-ing. Gary followed her.

He stopped in his tracks. “Um— maybe we should leave,” he said.

Terrell pushed his way inside. “Why? Oh!”

Technician Jenkins was most of the way out of her uniform, her arms and one leg wrapped around a crewman in a similar state of un-dress. They toppled over onto the

bunk, Jenkins landing on her back. Terrell walked deeper into the room, heading for the computer ac-cess station. “I wonder if I can use her access panel.”

“Terrell—” Gary said as the en-counter on the bunk became more intimate.

“What? They don’t know we’re here. They’re both long dead, Gary. It doesn’t matter.” The engineer turned his back to Gary and started pulling equipment from his kit. “If it makes you uncomfortable, you can wait for me outside.”

“That would be a terrible idea. We shouldn’t separate.”

Terrell placed a hand-held com-puter unit on the panel and pressed a sequence of numbers into it.

Gary turned his back on the amo-rous encounter between Jenkins and her friend, ignoring her gasped cries of “Help me.” He walked over and stood next to Terrell. Terrell was the ship’s engineer on the Wan-derer. He was the tech guy on the mission. Besides the requirement that a minimum two crew members be assigned to any off-ship mis-sion, Gary was here because of his knowledge of this model of ship and the fact that he was Tomlinson’s ex-ecutive officer as well as navigator. He sighed. All the—oddness—had made his knowledge of this vessel

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useless.

Terrell swore and packed his hand-held in his kit. “Nothing. The hand-held says there’s no power to this console despite what my eyes tell me.”

Gary nodded his head. “Let’s go back out the door and see what happens.”

“Age before and all that.”

“Very funny. Stay with me.” Gary opened the door and stepped through, Terrell on his heels.

Outside the room they found themselves in a corridor near the outer hull. The ship around them was dark and dead.

“Well? What now?” Terrell asked. Gary peered down the dark cor-ridor. He was in charge of the mis-sion. What they did next was his call. “I think we should try to get off this ship. The military can retrieve the logs themselves.”

“Good. How exactly are we get-ting off this tub?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, we better figure some-thing out before our oxygen fails.”

Gary walked down the corridor a few feet and looked out of a port hole. In the distance he could see the lights of a ship illuminated the dark. “There’s Wanderer.”

Terrell moved next to Gary and looked outside of the warship.

“Looks like the Captain and Stevner are coming to find us.”

Gary gave the two figures com-ing toward the ship a closer look. As they approached he suddenly recognized them by the way they moved in their suits.

“Get down!” Gary cried, grabbing Terrell and dragging him from view.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“That’s us out there. Come on, there’s an airlock this way, away from where we came in. Let’s make for it and hope for the best.”

The two men started down the corridor. As they turned a corner, they found themselves facing the form of Technician Jenkins.

She stood, or more accurately, floated, in front of them. Pale and grey, her skin peeling from her face in narrow strips, her eyes pale and sightless, tendons and muscles on her neck visible where the skin had rotted away. Her uniform was bloodied and shredded below the knees. She opened a mouth full of yellowed teeth.

“Please. Help me.”

Gary leapt backward as the appa-rition reached for them. He grabbed Terrell, too late. Jenkin’s own ghost-ly hand shot out and took Terrell by the arm. It passed through his suit and the man screamed.

Gary yanked Terrell away and

both men fled, the creature that was once Tech Jenkins following them. Gary decided to take a chance and dived through an open hatch, pull-ing Terrell with him.

“Hull temperature at critical!” a man’s voice cried.

Gary and Terrell found them-selves back on the bridge. This time it was chaos, as crew and officers dashed from station to station, checking readings. Outside, Gary saw the bright orange-yellow orb of a star he could not identify growing larger in the window. Around him equipment shorted out, causing sparks and smoke to fill the bridge. He caught a glimpse of Technician Jenkins, her ponytail loose and her blonde hair in disarray as she worked, lying on her back under the navigation console.

“Navigation?” a man’s voice asked, strained and tight.

Gary turned to the sound. An old-er man sat in the command chair.

“Still nothing,” said a young wom-an sitting at the station Jenkins was working on said.

“Engines?” the captain asked. One of the officers checked a dis-play station. “We’re at full power. Without the navigation computer online, and connected to the jump drive, the rest of the sequence won’t finish.”

Terrell leaned over one of the display stations, wheezing hard. “Gary? Gary, they’re trying to jump to another star.” Terrell could not keep the slight note of awe from his voice.

Gary dashed over and looked at the display. “Jump technology’s a myth. It’s impossible.”

“It possible in theory, but they don’t have enough power or speed.” Terrell said. “This ship has an early stage Pratt and Lockheed power plant. Probably a type two.”

“All hands, this is the Captain: abandon—”

“I’ve got it!” a female voice called. Gary recognized as the same voice that had asked him and Terrell to help her.

Technician first-class Jenkins screamed as a shower of sparks rained down on her. Her body jerked and bucked, as if caught in a powerful electrical current.

The Gambia seemed to hesitate for an instant, then moved with a sickening lurch, Gary and Terrell were thrown backward. The burn-ing orb outside filled the window.

Gary screamed. He could not help it: he knew he was going to die, so there was no reason to hold back. He screamed until his throat was raw as the bright light washed over the warship. The Gambia gave

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think I’ll find my way back out? And what about you? If I walk out and leave you behind, do you just disap-pear?”

“I don’t think so. I may not exist in the same space or time as you do anymore, but I don’t think I’ll cease to exist. I’m not completely clear on what will happen, but—” Terrell smiled at his friend and dabbed the blood off his lips. “—the engineer in me really wants to see this jump through.”

Gary nodded and exhaled slowly. “You realize this jump, if that’s what it is, will most likely end in the mid-dle of some star somewhere?”

“Possible. But if it does, I’ll never notice anyway.”

“Terrell—”

“Get out of here, Gary. Take the girl. She’s the key to all this, I think.”

“We were told specifically by the military not to take anything off the ship.”

“She’ll be a better source of in-formation about what happened here than the logs ever would. Take her and get back to Wanderer be-fore your oxygen is gone.”

Gary lumbered to his feet. He reached down and took the limp form of Technician Jenkins un-der her arms and started dragging her toward the hatch. He reached around behind his back and opened cause we technically don’t exist in

this space. If you take a closer look, they’re not frozen, they’re still mov-ing.”

“Jenkins saw us,” Gary said. He looked back out at the other mem-bers of the Gambia’s crew. “They must have all seen us.”

Terrell shook his head and dabbed at his nose with a sleeve. “No. The rest of the crew never ac-knowledged either of our existences in any way. It’s just her. So I knocked her out and put her in my suit while the world around me slowed to a crawl.”

Gary frowned. “I still don’t under-stand.”

“I think she’s a part of why we’re trapped. Take her out of the trap and we, or at least you, should be able to escape. She’s the only thing or person on this ship that interacts with us. I think when that charge went through her body, she con-nected for a moment to the jump drive, and it tore something in space-time.” Terrell leaned forward. Resting on his hand and knees, he put his head down and coughed, long and wet. He caught his breath and looked back up at Gary. “She keeps asking for our help. I think we should give it to her.”

Gary nodded. “So if I take her with me through that door, do you lips slightly parted.

Gary turned back to his friend. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Hopefully, saving your life.” He nodded toward the still form in his suit. “Saving hers too, if I’m lucky.” Terrell drew his hand across his nose: It came away smeared in blood, and a line of deep crimson ran slowly down, toward his upper lip. “As for me, I think I might be done.”

“No.”

Terrell smiled a small smile. “Ever since her shade passed through me back in that first corridor, I’ve felt it.” “All the more reason for me not to take her in your place!”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think that’s how it works.” Terrell wiped his face and coughed. “Look, I went through the trouble of stuffing her into my suit. The least you can do is drag her out the door.”

Gary gave his surroundings a look. They were still on the bridge, the crew frozen in their positions from the moment before the attempted jump. He turned toward the viewing windows. The star that had filled the screen was gone. There was nothing out there. No other stars or ships, just blankness.

“How come we’re not frozen?” Gary asked.

Terrell shrugged. “I think be-another lurch, and Gary was thrown

across the bridge. His helmet struck the corner of the navigation station with a dull crunch. He heard the hiss of oxygen escaping his suit.

Gary turned his head to the left. Technician Jenkins lay on the deck next to him. She looked at him, a horrified expression on her face. Gary Ampierre blinked at her. She mouthed the words “Help me,” and then his world went black.

#

Gary pushed away the dark-ness, forcing his consciousness to rise to the surface. A quick inspec-tion showed that his suit had been damaged, but someone had already patched and sealed the cracks in the helmet. He hoped it would hold on the trip back to the Wanderer, assuming there was a trip back. He saw Terrell’s form lying next to him. Gary reached out to shake him awake.

“Welcome back.”

The voice sounded muffled, dis-tant to his ears. Gary sat up and looked at his companion.

Terrell Bingham squatted in front of him in his lightweight uniform. Gary gasped and looked at the form lying on the deck. He reached over and rolled the suited body toward him. Technician Jenkins’ face greet-ed him. Her eyes were closgreet-ed, her

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