Issue IV -- Solar System

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Read about the contributors to our fourth issue and see excerpts from each article or story.  

Issue IV Contents

Tail by the Tiger, Horn by the Bull                  Ken Rand

 

The media are already part of our exploration of space and when we have permanent settlements, the challenges, temptations and enthusiasm for a story will be the same for reporters as Tige Aronsen discovers.

 

Catalyst                                                                 John Alfred Taylor

John Alfred Taylor amused us in the last issue with his tale of nano-technology disaster aboard a spa in space. Here, he takes a look at what happens to the sweat shops when they move off Earth and bring in the wrong person.

Child of Luna, Child of Earth                           Ralan Conley

 

 

 

Made in Heaven                                                  Derek Paterson

In our second issue, Derek introduced us to Olee's space bar. He returns there with an aptly titled story about an unlikely love match.

 

Tail by the Tiger, Horn by the Bull -- Ken Rand 2002 Ken Rand

Ken Rand has sold stories to Weird Tales, Aboriginal SF, On Spec, and many more.  He wrote The 10% Solution: Self-Editing for the Modern Writer for Fairwood Press.  His first novel, The Eternity Stone, is out from The Fiction Works (www.fictionworks.com).  Also watch for Voices of Wonder, from Wildside Press, and Stories From the Lucky Nickel, from Yard Dog Press.  His website: www.sfwa.org/members/Rand/

        Zeroes and commas.  Lots of them.  More than I'd ever seen on a credit transfer voucher.  And all those zeroes and commas were made out to my account.

        The voucher flimsy fluttered before my eyes like a moth in freefall caught in the effeminate fingertips of Mr. Joshua Alexander Horn, one of the most powerful men on Berenson Corporation Station Number One--The One, as we called the orbital city.  A BereCorp vice president, Horn could toss money around like that, I knew.  But a voucher to me?   

        There it was, my name, on the "recipient" line: Tige Aronsen, and my account number.  TransSystem InterNews newsworkers like me never see those numbers outside of dreams. 

        The validation line was blank. 

        So, Horn wanted to bribe me.  He wanted me to write a story, either favorably about him or unfavorably about some enemy.  Maybe he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and wanted me to not write a story.  In a moment, he'd say something like "do what I ask and I'll validate."  What did he want?

        I thought about what all those zeroes and commas could buy.  I could retire, quit the rat race for good, and get back to Mars.  I could get away from the One's noise and pollution, it's stifling sameness, and the nightmarish view of a desolate, charred Earthome constantly overhead.

        And there was Tira.  A woman like her needs money.  I got lucky that one time when she was slumming, but it would take many zeroes and commas to make her a steady habit.

        I could pay a few debts.

        Everybody can be bought.  Everybody has a price.  Horn had found mine.

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Catalyst -- John Alfred Taylor 2002 John Alfred Taylor

John Alfred Taylor was born in Missouri, and educated in Missouri, Iowa, and the school of hard knocks. Military service in Germany. Taught at University of New Hampshire, Rice University, and is now a Professor Emeritus of Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. He is currently finishing a time-travel novel set in Elizabethan London and describes research as hell.

            Shoshanna was in free fall for the first time, and wasn't exactly sick, though she was wearing a bag with a sticky mouthpiece on a strap around her neck just in case. She didn't notice her queasy stomach like most of the other girls born on Callisto, Shoshanna had never seen the stars except on a screen, and all of them were clinging to the net around the single port, oohing and aahing at the myriad points of brightness. There was even one girl with a bag already glued to her mouth hanging there, determined not to miss the stars.

It might be their only chance, Shoshanna thought, but she wasn't going to say anything that scary to the others. It was just a guess, and if she was wrong, why have everyone nervous for nothing?

Whatever it was, it wouldn't be nice. Nobody bought sixteen kids and shipped them into space for no reason. She didn't think it was for sex: Shoshanna was small for twelve, and some of the girls were younger than she was. Besides, there were places for that back in Callisto.

            Shoshanna expected little. Mom turned strange after Dad's death, but the dole kept them fed till Benny the Wiz gave Mom her first taste of farvin. After that Shoshanna had a second reason to like school: some days the free lunch was her only meal. Maybe she'd have more to eat where they were going.

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Child of Luna, Child of Earth -- Ralan Conley 2002 Ralan Conley

            Doran's face turned red. "You did what?"

            His boss, Dave, shrugged his shoulders. "Couldn't be helped. Stan's out sick and Ned took his shuttle run."

            "But not her. She's an emigreen -- a pre-med student to boot."

            "Hey, I'm an 'emigreen' too. Almost everyone here is, or was, except you. Besides, I don't get that many applications. Ain't a glamour job you know."

            "Is now, if she gets hired."

            "She is hired ... and what's that remark supposed to mean? You haven't got a thing for Eri have you?"

            Doran took a deep breath and glanced out the window. The tourist crowd below Dave's tiny, bare office swept along Luna City's main lava tube like geese in a Terran travelogue, only in Technicolor. Steady now. He turned back to Dave. Was that a smirk on his face?

            "Dave, don't be an idiot."

            "Then get out there and do your job."

            It was a smirk. Doran wheeled and bolted for the door, which hurried up and slid out of his way.

            "Remember to check the parts bin," Dave called after.

            In the ready room beyond, Doran clipped his helmet to his air tank frame, flopped his tool belt over his shoulder, and ignored the spare parts bin in his rush to leave. With a practiced lack of inattention, he headed for the elevator.

            Trying to keep his mind off his new partner, he calculated the time element of that morning's inspection tour.

.

            In a few minutes Eri straighten up. "Hey? What's this?"

            Doran leaned in close. The synthrubber gaskets on the hatch seemed crinkled. He had never seen that before. He shook his head. "Can't be anything."

            Eri bent in, getting close to him. "You sure?"

            Damn that perfume. "Do you know how many Air Beams there are on Luna, not to mention their big brothers on space stations and shuttles? How many years of safe operation? I've never heard of even one malfunction."

            She sighed. Her breath was warm, scented with mint. Doran backed away.

            But she continued to squint at the hatch. "Uh, I hate to say this, but your faultless Air Beam is bubbling."

            "What? No way." He leaned back in. "That's an allegory, escaping air doesn't really bubble."

            But escaping air can cause swirls of minute dust, which resemble bubbles.

            "Helmets!" Doran grabbed his.

            Eri barely hesitated before jerking her helmet over her head and twist-locking the seal.

            Doran waited long enough to make sure Eri was secure, before scooping up the K9-Bot and moon‑shuffling for hell down the tube. No time to cycle through the lock. He glanced back to make sure Eri was with him. If they could just get far enough away

            The rush of air flung him off his feet. He sprawled on the floor, clutching the K9 to his chest. The walls seemed to close in on him. He felt Eri clinging to his boots, holding on in desperation against the onrushing air.

            Airborne dust and debris blasted past them. Rocks of every size tumbled past sucked toward the decompression site.

            Doran spun away from boulders as they rumbled by, Eri rolling with him. But there were too many. A big one slammed into the K9, knocking the wind out of Doran. Another clobbered him on the back.

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Made in Heaven -- Derek Paterson 2002 Derek Paterson

Derek Paterson tells us he lives in Scotland, overlooking some of the loveliest island and mountain scenery you're likely to find anywhere. His short fiction has appeared in Jackhammer E-zine, Strange Horizons, This Way Up, NeverWorlds, and is currently available from Eggplant Literary Productions's Jintsu e-texts. Derek's web site is http://website.lineone.net/~derek_paterson

            Who would have thought that "Mayday" Merrick would have fallen for Olga Golenko?  He the handsome, square-jawed pilot who, it was said, regularly broke the hearts of sighing young women. She the formidable assistant cook at Olee's Bar on the edge of Ganymede Spaceport, noted for the perfection of her fried eggs and her ability to balance six beer kegs on her broad shoulders when unloading the quarterly supply transport from Earth.

            A less likely match could not possibly have been devised by a thousand AIs generating random word combinations for a thousand Galactic cycles.  And yet. . . .

            Buddy brought the grim news.  He stumbled into the bar, pushed his way through the early afternoon crowd and sprawled across the counter, gasping for breath.

            "Mayday's a gonner," he told his avid listeners, after they'd poured two beers down his throat to revive him.  "He was flying out to Camp Nineteen on South Plateau.  Magstorm came up fast, before he could get out of there."  Buddy shook his head sadly and started on his third free beer.  "And that was all Mama wrote."

.

            Olga pulled her pilot up onto the ledge and bent over him until their visors were touching.  The little men gathered around them, solemn yet curious.  He wasn't moving, wasn't saying anything.  She so badly wanted to open his visor and kiss him, but could not.  To her relief, his eyelids fluttered open.  The pilot stared up at her, uncomprehending.

            "Do not talk," she whispered.  "I get medical kit."

            "What a lovely voice," he said.  To her surprise, his gloved fingers stroked the curve of her helmet visor, wanting to reach her face.  "Are you an angel?  Have I died and gone to heaven?"

            "Not yet," she said, and hot tears burned their way down her cheeks.  "You must be very still.  Wait, I be back with medical kit."

            She made to get up but he held her hand, very tightly.

            "Don't leave," he said.  "Please."

            "I must.  I not be long."

            His gaze drifted across the sky.  "Where's Hendrick?"

            "Who?"

            "He was going to shoot us."

            Olga indicated the canyon.  "Down there, buried under much rock."

            "How?"

            "Shhh.  Talk later.  Rest now."  

            His eyes closed again.  

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