THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION – Part 10

TPOR

I’ve been falling behind with this story and now I will likely fall behind even further because this below is the last that I have actually written on it. I know how it is going to end but I am not sure when I will be able to sit down and write it all down. To be honest I don’t know if anyone even cares about this story at this point. Nevertheless, it will get written and will eventually be compiled and edited and be available somewhere. I hope someone has enjoyed this. Let me know, or better yet buy THE MASK OF ETERNITY (see sidebar) for a complete Solis DeLacey novel

So, here’s part ten:

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Solis picked up an overturned chair and waved it menacingly at the first suited figure. The figure paused in its approach and held up its hands as if to try to calm Solis down. Solis gestured menacingly at the figure with the legs of the chair and the figure stopped its approach. She whirled around to menace the figure that was coming up behind her. That figure had gotten alarmingly close while her back was turned. It, too stopped.

Solis blinked back tears of frustration. She slammed the chair onto the floor and sat down upon it, hunched over clutching her stomach.

The figures approached her silently. One took her arm and gently but firmly drew her to her feet. Silent as ghosts the suited figures guided her out of the structure.

Outside Solis saw a ship. It was one of the ships that had carried out the assault on the Kruath the night before. It had its landing gear deployed and it was sitting in the field while the suited figures moved silently around it.

Human girl!” Solis heard Ovrafa shout. She was being similarly guided by another suited figure. “Are you alright?”

Yes,” Solis said. Neither tried to get away from their captors. Solis guessed that both had come to the same conclusion about the futility of that.

The ship was obviously their destination. It was configured unlike any ship that Solis was familiar with and whatever engines were powering it seemed to work in an unnatural silence. The side hatch was irregularly shaped and had a small step. The suited figure guided Solis up the step and inside.

Solis’ stomach tightened as she stepped into the dark. Her eyes had not adjusted but the suited figure kept guiding her onward. Solis stumbled once and the suited figure stopped to allow her to regain her balance. The figure did not loosen its firm grip on her arm.

Her eyes were adjusting now. They had come through what Solis assumed had been an airlock. The inner hatch was what had tripped Solis up. She was standing at the entrance of what looked like a cargo space. There were a number of items scattered about. Most of it was tied down. The suited figure guided her to a bulkhead and gestured for her to sit. She sat, her back against a bulkhead.

Ovrafa was guided in as well and was encouraged to sit beside her.

Who are they?” Ovrafa asked in a whisper. “They aren’t Kruath. Are they another Hegemony race?”

Solis shook her head. “They wouldn’t have attacked the Kruath if they were. Hegemony races don’t fight amongst themselves no matter how much they may hate each other.” The races that made up the Hegemony were all of them thralls to one master race, the Taarkaan, who rarely left their homeworld.

Where are they taking us?” Ovrafa asked.

Solis could only shake her head.

The space began to fill up with suited figures. There were nine in all. Three continued on through a hatch on the far side to what Solis assumed was the ship’s control area – a cockpit of some kind, perhaps.

The other suited figures occupied a part of the bulkhead that formed a kind of bench on either side. Three on one side. Three on the other. Three more suited figures in the control room and two frightened beings without suits sitting on the cold metal deck with their backs up against a bulkhead.

Solis felt the deck below her shift and the room seemed to rock for only a moment. The craft was taking off. There wasn’t the tell-tale sound of engines firing that she was used to with shuttle-type craft. This craft was unnaturally silent, just like its crew.

The artificial gravity kicked in and Solis noted that it was a lot lighter than the local gravity. She almost felt like she would soon float off the deck. Instinctively she searched for something to hang on to.

The suited figures became animated then. With the lighter gravity they seemed to relax. They began removing their atmosphere suits and Solis heard them begin to speak to each other in a language that she did not recognize.

One of the figures closest to her reached up and unsealed its helmet. As the helmet came off Solis was shocked to see that their captors were Urwaldian – or, at least, similar enough to have evolved from a similar subspecies. The Urwaldians they had met on the surface had been short and stocky. These Urwaldians were tall and had delicate features, almost brittle. They had the same red eyes and structures that swept up from their heads as well as the same blue skin coloring. But their complexions were lighter, more even. They also seemed not to have the same bark-like appearance that the Uwaldians on the planet had possessed.

As the figures began to remove their suits one other fact became clear. All the Urwaldians on the planet had been male. These Urwaldians were all female.

The figure closest to her stood and addressed her in her language. Solis shook her head to indicate that she did not understand. “Why have you captured us?” Solis asked in Koh. “Where are you taking us?”

The tall female stared at Solis quizzically then she replied using Galactic 1 “It is not safe on the surface. The Kruath have been scattered but they still have a ship in orbit. They will send reinforcements. We are going where they will not detect us. We are going to Monat.”

Monat?”

We are going to the moon.”

…to be continued…

 

 

LOVING THE ALIEN

MD Jackson has another article over at the AMAZING STORIES website:

Human beings have always had a fear of and, at the same time, a fascination with the “other”.

Almost as soon as humans were able to make art on cave walls depictions of strange and bizarre creatures began showing up amongst depictions of their fellows and animals. The stone walls of ancient Egypt were rife with depictions of gods with human bodies and the heads of jackals or eagles or snakes.

In modern times, when gods were replaced with aliens, depictions of beings from other planets have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Before the twentieth century a number of Victorian illustrators, chief among them French illustrator Isidore Grandville, were adept at creating menageries full of wild and outrageous creatures, but it was in the twentieth century with the rise of the science fiction pulps, that alien creatures really took center stage.

J. Allen St, John, a marvelous illustrator from the very earliest part of the century, had the enviable opportunity to be one of the first to illustrate the fantastic tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Although mostly remembered as the author who created Tarzan, Burroughs also wrote planetary romances set on the Moon, Mars, Venus and even at the earth’s core. Burroughs’ books contain a menagerie of alien creature which were ably depicted by St. John. From Martian Thoats to Lunar Kalkars St. John’s depictions inspired the imaginations of readers of the Blue Book and All-Story Magazines where Burroughs’ stories first saw print.

Read the rest of this article over at the AMAZING STORIES website.

Dress For the Occasion: The Scantily Clad Female

AMAZING STORIES has posted another article by artist M D Jackson, this one about a subject close to my heart (or maybe a little lower) The site is now live!

So, here’s a question:

Say you’re a beautiful woman (I assume some of you reading this actually are women. Please believe me when I say that in my eyes all women are beautiful. If you’re a man reading this, then use your imagination) and you need to leave the relative safety of your spacecraft to go out into the vacuum of space or maybe planetside where there is a strong possibility that you will run into hostile aliens.

What do you wear?

It’s a tough one, I know.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that a self contained space suit with a substantial air supply and radiation shielding. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

But not so fast. If we’re examining the history of science fiction illustration (which, at the moment, I am) then we have to think outside the box of conventional wisdom. Here we must enter the strange wisdom of the science fiction cover illustration.

So, what does the typical beautiful woman wear into space?

How about an evening gown?

That seemed to be a good idea to the woman depicted in a Norman Saunders’ painting for Marvel Science magazine in May 1951 in which two adequately suited spacemen appear to be manhandling a negligee-clad woman into a spaceship.

Now, according to something that we like to call science, the human body cannot survive unprotected in a vacuum. So the chances that the lovely lady in this painting is alive are slim to 0 to the power of 10 billion. She does, however, leave a beautiful corpse, which is surprising since her body has been exposed to hard vacuum.

You can read the rest of the article at the AMAZING STORIES website.

NEW! MODERN! CONTEMPORARY! HIP!

I’m taking a break from The Price of Redemption for this week. AMAZING STORIES is back and they have a website and a team of bloggers. One of them is M.D. Jackson.

The site is still in a Beta test.

New Header

I have spent a lot of time in previous posts dwelling in the past. I have been like an old man suddenly lost to the present, the memory of times past reeling behind his eyes while he absently stirs his tea. Well, I think perhaps I should bring this topic into the present and talk about some of the science fiction and fantasy artists working today.

There has been an explosion of fantastic art. In the past fantastic art’s only reason for being was as illustration to fantastic literature. That changed and today fantastic art is it’s own reason for being. You can find fantasy art on posters, tee-shirts, coffee mugs. You can find it on the internet almost as easily as you can find pornography or lolcats.

Digital art, made possible by programs such as Photoshop or Painter, has exploded onto the electronic canvas of the internet like a Jackson Pollock painting. No longer do we rely on the “delivery devices” of magazines, book covers, calendars or the like. The art is completed and posted online within hours, sometimes in the very minute of its completion.

The digital revolution in art is a big topic and one that I will not tackle in this post. I’ll get to that later. For now I just want to touch upon a few artists still working with traditional materials today who, in my mind at least, stand above the crowd.

You can read the rest of the article here.

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION – Part 9

TPOR

On the forested planet Urwald Solis DeLacey has been captured by Kruath soldiers who are working with a human traitor named Carstairs. Paranoid, Carstairs tortures DeLacey to find out how much she knows about his plans. His inquisition is interrupted, however, by an attack from above.

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4. SHADOWS

Confusion reigned over the Kruath. Soldiers were running this way and that. Solis heard a defening noise above her and looked up to see a small ship streaking overhead. As it strafed the main body of the Kruath encampment it dropped another bomb. Tents flared and soldiers returned fire in the vain hope of hitting the ship.

Another passed over, then an other. Solis thought about the lights she had seen earlier in the sky. The ships were whizzing overhead, dropping bombs on the heaviest concentrations of Kruath. Solis tried to stand, but couldn’t. Another shockwave knocked her down. She felt the post at her back shift under the withering blast.

Solis had to get out of the open. With ships strafing and bombing all around her it was only a matter of time before she was hit. Solis pulled at the wooden stake to which she was bound. She felt it move slightly. The force of the blast had loosened it from the ground.

Her body was exhausted and her muscles were in agony from the shocks they had taken from the persuader. Nevertheless, she had to move or be obliterated. She wrapped the binder cord around her wrists and pulled. Every joint and limb screamed in protest, but she ignored the agony and pulled. She felt the stake give some more. She pulled again.

A flash exploded nearby. Solis dropped to the ground and curled into a fetal position before the shockwave hit. It knocked the wind out of her and lifted her off the ground. She let herself go tumbling and her arms were pulled violently. She felt like her arms would be pulled out of their sockets. Then she landed with a thump.

She lost consciousness for a few second, perhaps for a full minute, she did not know. She opened her eyes and gasped a breath. Every inch of her felt like it was on fire. She moved her arms and was rewarded with a fresh burst of pain along the full length of both of them.

But they moved freely. The binder rings were still around her wrist but the ends had torn free of the wooden post. The post itself lay a few feet away, shattered to pieces.

That could have been me, she thought and thanked the Eternal Void for allowing her this much luck today.

Solis ran as fast as she could, making for the cover of the trees. The muscles in her legs were in agony, but the adrenaline rushing through her body helped her to ignore the pain. Ships continued to roar overhead and explosions brightened the night. She still could not hear anything but she could not worry about that now. She concentrated only on running.

Another blast hit close. She saw the flash and felt the concussion. It knocked her to the ground. She skidded to a stop, scraping her chin on the ground. She rolled over on her back just as a craft passed overhead. She closed her eyes and braced for the expected strafing, but nothing happened. She opened her eyes and scrambled to her feet.

The craft turned. Was it coming back to finish her off?

She ran. She didn’t look back to see if the craft was gaining. Solis put on a burst of speed and practically dived into the dark woods.

The air was suddenly cool against her exposed skin and Solis began to shiver. Crouched low, she moved as quicky and as quietly as she could through the dense trees.

Everything around her was black. Just like the night before, she was running on instinct, trying to avoid being tripped up by roots underfoot, or dashing her head on low hanging branches.

She heard something drop into the undergrowth from above. She froze, trying to determine the direction from which she’d heard the sound, preparing to run in the opposite direction.

“Human Girl?” a voice called out.

“Ovrafa!” Solis scrambled over to where she’d heard the Ovrafa drop. She felt the Guiranam’s long arms wrap around her and she did her best to hug her back.

“How did you get away?” Solis asked. “I was afraid that you’d been…”

“Some of us were,” Ovrafa said, her voice quavering. “They gathered us up and shot Chief Hawp. Then they said they’d shoot every one of us if we didn’t tell them what we were doing here. We told them, but they kept asking and kept threatening to shoot us. Then the ships came and started bombing. A few of us managed to escape during the confusion, but I got separated. I’ve been keeping to the branches, trying to avoid the ships. They seemed to be searching for survivors.”

Solis nodded. “Same here,” she said. “One of them chased me into the woods. Do you know where we are?”

“I think so.”

Ovrafa led the way. Her night vision was better than Solis’ and her footing more sure. Ovrafa would have preferred to climb and travel through the branches, but she couldn’t carry Solis on her own, so she stuck to the undergrowth. The sun began to rise as they reached the edge of the forest. The sky was clear of ships so they chanced traversing the open spaces, but they tried to keep to the tall grass and they kept low.

They spied the survey pre fab. Much of it had burned but some of the structure stood intact although nothing seemed to be spared the scorch marks left behind by Kruath weapons fire.

Inside the structure, Solis found what was left of the communication array. It was broken and burned beyond repair. There was little that wasn’t broken or burned. Solis wandered into the structure’s small galley. The water was not running and the stasis units were all broken open, their contents littered over the floor. Insects buzzed above the foodstuff that was slowly spoiling in the heat of the day.

The spoiling food smelled bad but the odor was not overpowering — not yet anyway. Solis saw a packet of biscuits. The biscuits within were mostly broken but the packaging was still intact. Solis was excited and she wanted to share her find with Ovrafa. She moved out of the kitchen and was about to call when a figure in an atmosphere suit came in through the structure’s main entrance.

Solis froze for a second then ran back into the kitchen. There was an exit at the back of the Galley and Solis made for it but when she got there it was blocked by another atmosphere suited figure. She backed away. The figure moved towards her unhurriedly. The figures were tall and the suit’s structure was unfamiliar to her. The suits’ helmets were oversized and the faceplates were completely black.

They did not look like Kruath but Solis was not about to take a chance. She turned and ran back the way she’d come. Somewhere from upstairs she heard Ovrafa shriek.

Solis was trapped.