Jack Mackenzie & G. W. Thomas Shoot the Poop!

The publisher of Rage Machine Books, G. W. Thomas and I sat down and had a bit of a back-and-forth about writing: Here’s how it went:

 

 

GW: How did you ever decide to become a novelist? Certainly there are easier ways to express yourself. Finger painting. Interpretive dance?

Jack: Well, as much as I love interpretive dance as a medium for expression (and, honestly you should see my “Dying Swan” It brings people to tears), my chief medium for expression has always been words. And, I’ve always loved books, chiefly Science Fiction novels. The authors who wrote those books were my heroes growing up, so it was natural that I would try to emulate them. Short stories are great, sure, but novels are like a big canvas. That’s where you get the chance to stretch out and do world building.

It all boils down to not stopping, I guess. You just write. As Neil Gaiman says writing is like laying bricks. You pick up a brick, you lay it down. You pick up another brick, you lay it down beside the first. You keep doing that until you build a wall. With writing you write a word. Then you write another, Then another. Then another. It’s that easy and it’s that hard. It’s all about how long you can stand to keep doing that. I found that I could stand to do it for long stretches at a time. How about you?

GW: I’m not sure I’m really all that fond of the full-blown novel. The 20,000 worder seems more fun to me. Sadly, the Pulps are gone so no one is going to call it a “brand new novel” by G. W. Thomas. They were pretty loose with that term.

Jack: Well, they keep saying, with the rise of e-books, that shorter, tighter works are becoming popular again. Do you think that is the case or is Google just giving everybody short attention spans?

GW: I do think that ebooks do open up a door for shorter works. The issue in paper publishing is: what do I do with less than a 50,000-80,000 word piece? Different people tried small paperbacks or small brochures. Think of the Dime novels. They were saddle-stapled booklets. Hugo Gernsback supplemented his Pulps with a booklet series. (Those are incredibly hard to find now.) The 1980s small press horror field exploded with saddle-stapled booklets. (I miss those!) But nobody has made any real money on small books. With ebooks now, books can be any length. And priced accordingly.

Jack: What’s your process for writing?

GW: The fiction writing process for me has been a binge thing. With a day job, you grab time where can. When I was young and poor this was pretty easy. I’d write at the dentist office, on the bus. Now that I am old and fat, the distractions are more difficult. Mostly wasting time on my computer or phone. Or watching Netflix. I have to leave my house and go to a coffee shop.

Is your process for nonfiction the same as fiction?

 

Jack: My process for writing nonfiction is different from my fiction writing process. Currently I am treating my fiction writing process like a job. I start at a certain time, I have a target for the amount of words I want to get done. I tend to work at it every day from Monday to Friday and take weekends off. Within that writing time I will block out some time for nonfiction. For me most of the time I spend writing nonfiction is doing research. Once I think I have what I want to say worked out then I will sit down and start writing. The actual writing doesn’t take a lot of time. Sometimes I’ll have to spend some time doing supplemental research while I’m writing which slows me down a bit but for the most part the nonfiction writing itself happens fairly quickly.

And, yeah, Facebook, Netflix and phone are all big hazards for any kind of writing.

GW: My non-fiction process is messy. I start lots of pieces and finish them as the reading gets done. For instance, I have a piece on Francis Flagg that is two-thirds done. But I need to read any eight stories first to finish it. When will that happen? As the mood catches me. There’s no dire consequence to finishing it, so I guess that makes me a hobbyist. Of course, three other pieces may get finished this week instead.

Well, it’s been fun yakking. We’ll do it again soon.

 

Metropolis Restored

Metropolis maria

Hey.

So… yeah. It’s me. I’m back. It’s 2016. Day one.

Happy New Year.

So, one of our Christmas presents that the wife and I got for ourselves was a smart TV and a subscription to Netflix. So today, on the first day of 2016 I watched the restored version of the classic science fiction film Metropolis.

 

Metropolis restoredMetropolis is widely regarded as the very first major science fiction film. If you’ve seen a truncated version or the execrable Georgio Moroder new-wave soundtrack version released in the 80’s, then you really haven’t seen the movie. If you have Netflix already I can’t recommend it highly enough. Despite the fact that it is a silent movie and is hampered my the accompanying undercranked sequences, this restored version is a revelation.

The action sequences use techniques that will be familiar to modern audiences. Very early on, early filmmakers like Fritz Lang learned how to manipulate audiences with creative editing and musical cues. These techniques… the cinematic bag of tricks… haven’t changed much in the eighty-nine years since this film was originally released. Particularly in the climactic sequences when the underground city is being flooded and Freder is trying to rescue Maria from the deranged Rotwang on the roof of the cathedral, modern audiences will see familiar shots, editing and pacing.

Yes. the film is a bit clunky in some areas. Some obvious camera trickery won’t fool the jaundiced eye that is used to high end CGI, but even so some of the practical effects are surprisingly effective. Also the political message behind the film is quite dated. Also the seductive dance that is performed by Brigitte Helm as the robot Maria is probably the least sexiest dance performance ever.

Still, the film has an impact even today. I really can’t recommend it enough. If you have Netflix, check it out. It’s available on DVD at Amazon and it is worth the price.

Trust me. I went to film school. I’m a science fiction writer. That makes me an expert.

No… really…

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.

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.

____________________________________

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.

DID YOU GET A KINDLE FOR CHRISTMAS?

Did you buy a Kobo on Boxing Day? Did you recently get an e-reader either as a gift or at a bargain price?

If so, may I make a few humble suggestions?

   

The Mask of Eternity and The Green Beast are both available for Kindle.

 


Or check out the Rage Machine Bookstore page where you can find other titles by Jack Mackenzie and other terrific writers!

Exciting fiction available at Boxing Day prices!

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION – Part 8

TPOR

Solis DeLacey has been captured by Kruath soldiers on the remote planet Urwald. She has also discovered that two of her crewmates aboard the Kyann ship she was assigned to, fellow Terrans Cartsairs and Hathan, are traitors working with the Kruath.

__________________________________

Hathan scampered to join his master, leaving Solis alone.

Callin? How could that be? How could a Callin be a traitor? The family name had been synonymous with honor, duty and loyalty going back to the pre-Commonwealth days.

A Callin had saved her life. It was because of a Callin that Solis was even still alive. And now this one wanted to… what? If he had wanted her dead she would be dead already? Why was she being kept alive?

Solis shuddered and pushed the thought aside.

Was Hathan telling the truth? Did Carstairs — Callin — want to take over the Commonwealth? Solis did not doubt that the Callin family could. They had enough of their members in key positions — positions of genuine power — all throughout the Commonwealth. If the Callin family wanted it, it would happen.

But the Callins had always been adamant that they serve the Commonwealth and not the other way around. The Callins always maintained that they were loyal to the Parliament on Kyann. They supported the democratically elected government in all things. Solis had never heard a rumble, not even a whisper of dissent.

Could that all be a mask for their real intentions? Or perhaps this Callin had gone rogue? But what would make a Callin turn from the family and everything it stood for? He had allied himself with the Hegemony? What kind of power did he wield?

Solis did not know.

Urwald’s sun was sinking below the horizon. Solis tried to stretch out her legs. She had been sitting with her back against the post for a few hours and her limbs were beginning to feel the inactivity. The binder cords would allow her only limited movement but she took advantage of as much stretching as she could. The big muscles in her legs ached. Between the mad flight through the jungle and sleeping on the rough ground her body was beginning to feel everything that had happened to her in the last night and day.

Her uniform was in tatters around her. The jacket was beyond saving so she discarded itl. Her sleeveless undershirt was relatively intact and served to cover her. Her boots were still in good shape but her cadet pants were mere strips of torn fabric. She tore away the tattered remnants. The material was tough but it eventually gave way under her hands and she was able to render them down to a rough pair of shorts.

The air was warm despite the onset of evening. Now that she had discarded most of her clothing she hoped that the night would not get too cold. She looked up at the night sky and saw Urwald’s moon — Monat — rising and full.

She thought about the ancient Urwaldian and his stubborn belief that all offworlders came from the moon. She felt a pang of sadness. She had only known him for such a short time but she missed the old being. She tried not to think about his death at the hands of the Kruath.

Something caught her eye. A light moving in the sky. She looked up. There were several small lights that were moving around near the moon. They seemed to be circling the satellite. One broke away from the others and veered downwards.

Strange. What could be causing that? Solis thought that perhaps it had been broken up pieces of the Kr’tk’tk that had somehow been captured by the moon’s gravity, but these seemed to be moving with some purpose. More Kruath support ships?

Before she could speculate further a dark shape stepped up and blocked her view of the moon. Solis squinted in the dark and made out a Kruath soldier looming in front of her. He was holding a short staff. Then a smaller figure stepped out from nehind the looming soldier.

“I need information” said Carstairs — Callin. “How much do you know? Are you part of the investigation?

Solis had no idea what Callin was talking about. She said nothing, merely stared up at him in mute incomprehension.

Callin stood without moving for a moment, then nodded to the Kruath soldier. The Kruath lifted up the shaft and activated a toggle. The end of the staff lit up and Solis could hear a high pitched whine coming from it, growing in intensity. The Kruath reached down with the glowing end and touched Solis on her exposed side.

There was a loud crack and suddenly her body spasmed. Pain flooded through her body like it was suddenly on fire. The Kruath took the staff away and the pain stopped, but Solis entire body was shaking. She could still feel every nerve end tingling like it was crackling with electricity. She slumped panting onto the ground.

After a moment Callin spoke again. “The pursuader does not cause permanent damage… at least not phyiologically. I am told, however that the emotional scars are quite… permanent. I ask again: Are you part of the investigation?”

“What…” Solis managed to gasp. “…what investigation?”

She heard the high pitched whine and again the Kruath staff touched her side and for a brief moment her body was aflame with agony. She was left panting and tingling on the ground again.

“Refusing to answer will result in punishment,” Callin said. “Wasting my time with denials will result in punishment. Are you part of the investigation?”

“I don’t know anything about any investigation!” Solis protested. Tears were streaming down her cheeks “I’m not part of anything!”

“Then why were you put onboard the Kyann Ship?”

Solis blinked. “It was a punishment,” she said. “There was an accident. A cadet was killed.”

Callin narrowed his eyes and stroked his chin. “Stephan’s girl? I heard about that. You were involved?”

Now the pain flared fresh inside her, worse than the fiery agony provided by the persuader. “She… she pushed me out of the way… It should have been me.” fresh tears coursed down her stained cheeks.

Callin narrowed his eyes. “An accident? Truly? I’d assumed it was a targeted attack…” he trailed off, lost in thought.

Targeted attack? Was Callin really that paranoid? “What are you trying to accomplish?” Solis blurted out, stifling a sob. “Why were you aboard the Krktkt??”

Callin snapped his fingers at the Kruath in annoyance. The Kruath activated the persuader. Solis’s body arced in an explosion of pain.

The pain stopped suddenly, but the explosion seemed to continue. Her body shook… or was it the ground? Solis opened her eyes and saw the Kruath soldier and Callin bathed in orange light staring in open mouthed shock.

Solis looked around and saw the bright plume of an explosion. an instant later the shockwave hit. Calin was knocked down but the Kruath soldier ran back towards the main camp.

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION Part 7

TPOR

Things are getting worse for our heroine, Solis DeLacey. Captured by the natives of the planet Urwald she has been handed over to an army of Kruath, a subject race of the Orion Hegemony.

3. KRUATH

What were Kruath doing in the expansion zone? They had killed the Kyann and probably destroyed the Kr’tk’tk. Had they managed to track down and wipe out the rest of the Guiranam?

The Kruath commander loomed over her, his twin mouths twisted in an evil sneer. “Sssso this is the troublesome one…” he said. He turned to one of his subordinates. “Bring the traitor,” he hissed.

There was movement at the back and several armored Kruath moved aside to reveal Carstairs and Hathan. They aproached the Kruath commander. Solis noted that they were not bound and seemed unharmed.

“Is this the one?” the Kruath Commander asked Carstairs, this time in Koh.

Carstairs gave Solis a look that was very unfriendly. “Yes,” he said without inflection. “That’s her.”

Solis stared at Carstairs open mouthed and completely confused. What was going on?

At this point the old Urwaldian stepped forward. “We have a not-men with us now,” he said in Koh, gesturing to Solis. “She will send you home. You listen to her words. She will bring terrible powers down on you!”

“Will she?” the Kruath commander said in a mocking tone. The Kruath soldiers laughed.

“Do not laugh!” the old Urwaldian commanded. “She is a not-men! Very powerful!”

The Kruath commander shouldered his weapon. “Perhaps, if the Terran woman is so all-powerful, she will save you before I do this.” He fired.

“NO!” Solis shouted, but it was too late. The weapon discharged a lethal blast directly to the old Urwaldian’s chest. The force of the blast shot the old native backwards, his ribcage disintegrating in a fiery shower that spattered onto the grass.

The Urwaldians who had been grouped behind their elder stared in uncomprehending shock for a moment, then they turned and ran. A few of the Kruath soldiers began firing at the retreating natives, the hot blasts from their weapons disintegrating a few unlucky stragglers and setting fire to the long grass

“Hold your fire,” the commander ordered, lazily. A few more shots fired and two more Urwaldians were disintegrated. “I said hold your fire!” he turned back to Solis. “So it seems that you’re not as all-powerful as the natives seemed to think you are. What did you tell them?”

Solis shook her head, still reeling from the shock of the sudden violence. “I didn’t… I didn’t tell them anything…”

The Kruath sneered at her with his twin mouths, then gestured to Carstairs and Hathan. “This one’s yours. Do with her what you will.”

Carstairs nodded to a Kruath soldier who grabbed her by her upper arm. As she was being led away she heard the commander laugh. “You won’t find it so easy to convince these two that you have magical powers. You’re welcome to try, though.”

The Kruath soldier kept a tight grip on her upper arm. The combat suit had servo mechanisms in the joints that gave the wearer added strength. Solis found herself fighting tears that wanted to fall from her eyes in response to the pain. She would not give them the satisfaction, though she felt sick inside. That was the second person who had died because of her.

They made their way down the line of soldiers to the rear of the column where the Kruath had set up a rudimentary camp. The camp was quiet, but Solis felt and undercurrent of tension. Kruath soldiers lounged outside temporary shelters, nervously fingering weapons. She saw one who was continuously checking and re-checking his weapon’s status. A nervous habit or a drill? Solis did not know. The Kruath stopped what they were doing and they glared at her as she was led amongst them. Their twin mouths sneered their contempt for her because she was a Terran.

Her guardian hauled her roughly to a space in the center of the camp where a wooden post was driven into the ground. Attached to the post was a set of plasteel binders. The Kruath grabbed the manacles and made them fast around each wrist. Solis winced when he clicked them closed. They were tight but not quite tight enough to cut off the circulation to her hands. Once she was secure he walked away, leaving her alone.

She sat down, her back against the post. The binder cords had enough play to allow her to sit like that with little trouble, but there was little else she could do without coming to the limit of their range. She slumped and closed her eyes. She felt hot tears welling behind her eyes, but she was damned if she would let them fall in front of the Kruath. She was determined to show them no weakness.

What were Kruath doing in Commonwealth space? That was the question she mulled over as she sat, staring at the ground. Their mere presence here was tantamount to a declaration of war, never mind the wonton murder of Commonwealth citizens and innocent races.

Solis supposed that was why the Guiranam were a threat. They were witnesses to the Kruath presence. That was why they had yo destroy the Kr’tk’tk. That was the reason, for that matter, that she could not be allowed to live. If anyone from the Commonwealth were to find out about the Kruath presence then the galaxy would be at war.

Even if the Kruath were acting on their own and not on behalf of their Taarkaan masters (which Solis considered extremely unlikely) the Commonwealth would still be dragged into a conflict. But why? Why risk an all-out war? What were they doing here? Was Urwald merely a staging area? Perhaps it was a foothold into Commonwealth territory in advance of an invasion. It was not an unlikely scenario, but Solis thought that there msut be something more to it all, but she could not quite see it. What would make the Kruath think that an invasion of Commonwealth controlled space would be successful?

“Hey there, Giraffe,” Said a voice. Solis looked up to see Carstair’s lackey, Hathan, looking down at her with a smile that made Solis sick to look at. “You’re in quite the pickle, girly.”

Solis said nothing. She dropped her eyes and kept them fixed on the ground directly in front of her feet.

“You know, I could help you,” he said, unmindful of her sullen attitude. “I could get you special treatment… if you’re nice to me.”

“Let me go,” she said through clenched teeth.

Hathan laughed. “Oh, no. I can’t do that. But I can make it pleasant for you. All you have to do is be nice to me. You can do that, can’t you?”

Solis suggested he perform an anatomical impossibility on himself.

Hathan grimaced. “Hmph. No need to be a bitch about it. You might change your mind.”

Solis shook her head. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. “You and Carstairs. I don’t get it. The Kruath commander called him the Traitor. Why?”

Hathan scowled. “Is that what they’re calling him?” he shook his head. “They don’t understand. He’s not a traitor. He’s a patriot. He sees the way things are going in the Commonwealth and he wants to change them.”

“By allying himself with the Hegemony?”

“He sees the strength the Commonwealth needs in the member races of the Hegemony. That’s the model he wants for the Commonwealth.”

Solis made a face. “The Taarkan rule the Hegemony races with fear. They are all subjugated to their will and live and die at their command.”

“Exactly! Now imagine that situation in the Commonwealth, but instead of the Taarkaan, it would be us — Terrans — Humans — in charge!”

“Humans subjugating the other Commonwealth races? Is that what Carstairs wants?”

Hathan nodded. “As it should be. But his name’s not really Carstairs. It’s Callin.”

Solis looked up at Hathan in shocked disbelief. “Callin?”

“Hathan!” Carstais — Callin — called from a few steps away. He had come up to them while they were talking. “You talk too much. Come with me.”

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION PART 6

TPOR

Personal Note: This manuscript that I am posting is a rough draft and therefore is presented “warts and all”

_______________________________________________________

Disgraced crewman Solis DeLacey was supposed to be enjoying shore leave with her crewmates, the arboreal Guiranam. Their compound was attacked by unknown assailants. She has been shot at, carried through the trees, captured, tied up, mistreated and now she has encountered the natives of the planet Urwald and they have a few surprises.

PART 6:

His accent was thick and hard to understand but he clearly knew the rudiments of Koh. Solis was rusty and had to speak slowly. “We came from the sky, yes. From a great vessel.”

“You come from the moon?” he asked.

The moon? Solis shook her head. “We came in the shuttle. The flying machine.”

The Urwaldian nodded his head. “All the not-men come in the fly ships. They live in the Moon.”

Okay. The moon is the biggest thing in the sky. They probably figure everything that comes from the sky comes from the moon. Solis shook her head. “We came from a star vessel — a very big ship — from very far away.”

The Urwaldian nodded. “Like the Cru-men.”

That one puzzled Solis. “Cru-men?”

“Men — not like us — not like they –” he gestured to the Guiranam. “They say Cru-men. They come from far away.”

Solis could not figure out what he was saying at first, then she figured it out. The soldiers.

“These Cru-men… with weapons?” she mimed firing a weapon. The Urwaldians all around her gsaped in shock and consternation. Suddenly the hall was alive with concerned voices.

The old native raised his hands for silence. He turned back to Solis.

“The Cru-men come. They say to us that other sky people here…” he gestured at the Guiranam. “Must not see them. They say they need to keep quiet. They say no one can see them. But now you are here. You fix.”

“Fix?”

The Urwaldian pointed at her. “You. You not-men. You fix all. Send the Cru-men away.”

Solis stared at the Urwaldian in utter confusion. “Me?”

The old Urwaldian nodded his head. “You come from the Moon. You Not-men.”

Solis shook her head. “I come from far away. I come with them,” she gestured to the Guiranam.

The old Urwaldian seemed confused. He shook his head. “You come from Moon.” he insisted. He took a step forward and poked Solis in her lower belly. “You come to get child in you.”

Solis backed away, shocked. “What?”

“You come to get child. All Not-men come down from the moon. They bring us seed for crops. They give us rain and cause the sun to shine. They cure us when we are ill. They fix what needs to be fixed. They command us to put children in them and they bring them back to us if they are men.”

Solis was utterly confused now. Had these Urwaldians confused her with some sort of god?”

The old Urwaldian pointed directly at her. “You are Not-Men. You fix. Now.”

Solis stared open-mouthed at him for a moment before shaking her head. “I can’t fix,” she said. “I do not come from the Moon. I do not bring the rains or seeds and I do NOT want to get a child in me!”

The old Urwaldian stood back from Solis’s vehement outburst. He gave her a puzzled look. Before he could speak again another voice called out in Urwaldian from outside.

Suddenly the hall was alive with a commotion. The Urwaldians all leapt to their feet. The old man shouted a command and a group came and seized the Guiranam. The old man approached Solis. “The Cru-men come back. We give them the others,” he gestured at the Guiranam who were being bound and dragged screaming out of the hall. “But you can fix. You must fix.”

The old man turned and hobbled out of the hall. Solis followed.

Outside the great hall the sun was still high in the sky and the Urwaldians were moving about, partly in excitement but mostly, Solis thought, in fear. They dragged the two Guiranam to the center ground where they had left her earlier.

There was a shout and one of the Urwadlians was pointing. Solis looked and saw figures approaching. A chill went down her spine at the sight of them. It was the soldiers, the same ones that had attacked them the night before.

They were on foot but were accompanied by a hovertank which made the tall grass sway and flatten and made a horrendous noise.

The soldiers approached, still in their combat armor. In the daylight Solis could see the combat suits more clearly and something about their construction was familiar.

The old Urwaldian clutched at Solis’s arm and moved her forward ahead of him. “Fix,” he whispered.

The soldiers were approaching casually as if they had nothing to fear. They held their weapons easily, but still ready to use if need be. Solid felt herself go numb as one of the soldiers approached.

He stopped less than three paces away. He reached up and unlatched the seals on his helmet. Solis gasped when he removed it. There was no mistaking the yellow, leathery skin, the hairless head, the black eyes and the twin mouths. The soldiers were Kruath, a Hegemony race.

The Kruath commander sneered with his twin mouths. “You have done well,” he said to the old Urwaldian in Koh. “You have brought us more of the interlopers.”

The Kruath commander took a menacing step forward and regarded Solis with hate-filled eyes. “…and a Terran.” he hissed in High Kruath.

…to be continued

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION – Part Five

Part Five – Out of the frying pan and into the fire. On the planet Urwald, Solis Delacey’s shore leave party has been attacked by unknown assailants. DeLacey has escaped capture with the help of her crewmates, the arboreal Guiranam, but now they have been captured again by a group of the planet’s native

 

It took the three of them to carry her and these Urwaldians (if such they were) were not as considerate or as skillfull as the Guiranam had been. Twice they dropped her to the ground and the first time she tried to scramble away. That was when they bound her hands and feet with some kind of jungle creeper which was inflexible and impossible to break.

At one point one of the three wandered off somewhere else which just left two of them to carry her. They ended up dragging her behind them and her clothes that had already been torn were now in complete tatters. She could feel several deep scratches on her back and sides.

Soon the dense jungle gave way to a grassy clearing. The darkness was receding. Dawn was braking somewhere in the East and Solis could smell the unmistakable odors of a settlement — cooking fires, animals, ordure. She caught glimpses of a crude settlement — little more than grass huts arranged in a rough semi-circle.

The two Urwaldians dragged her to the rough centre of a space of bare earth around which the grass huts sat. They dropped her unceremoniously and then wandered away, talking to each other in gutteral grunts.

Solis was still bound. She tried to turn over so sit up. She saw other Urwaldians dragging some of the Guiranam the same way she had been dragged. She saw only three Guiranam and Ovrafa was not one of them. She must have gotten away with the others. At least Solis hoped so.

Her hands were bound in front of her. She managed to roll over on her side and pull her knees up. She stretched her bound hands above her head and managed to get to her hands and knees. The sunlight was growing stronger now and she could see clearly.

The village was a rough assembly of grass huts arranged around one permanent building made from rough-hewn logs. The Urwaldians were all milling about, those who were just waking conferring with those that had been part of the capture party. Solis estimated about fifty of them, all males. She wondered where the women and children were.

Holding her position was tiring so she slid back down on her stomach. The sun was warming her back which was screaming in agony from the scratches and being dragged for The Eternal Void knew how far. She closed her eyes and tried to ignore the pain.

The next thing she knew she was being jostled awake. She blinked and rolled over. She’d fallen asleep. How long?

An Urwaldian was standing over her, silhouetted against the noonday sun. The silhouette held a knife and it bent down towards her. Solace reached up her arms to ward him away but he grabbed her roughly, cutting the bonds around her wrists. He then cut the creepers tied at her ankles and then uttered a command in his gutteral speech.

Solis’s hands hand gone numb while she was sleeping and her legs were similarly useless. She tried to stand but found that she couldn’t. The Urwaldian grabbed her to help her up. Solis braced for another round of rough treatment, but this time the Urwaldian was surprisingly gentle. He carefully helped her as she limped along, trying to get the circulation going back in her legs.

The milling crowds of Urwaldians were gone. So were the Guiranam. The Urwaldian guided her to the wooden structure. The Urwaldians were inside, The structure was like some kind of community gathering place. The Urwaldians sat on the ground around a central space. The two Guiranam were already in the centre and Solis was led to them. She stood with her fellow engineers, gazing out at the crowd of purple skinned natives staring back at them.

“Are you two alright?” she asked the Guiranam, but before they could say anything an Urwaldian, an older one by the looks of his dusky pale skin, approached them. He wore a tattered shawl and a headdress and he carried a wooden staff as we moved his bent frame towards the center of the gathering.

The old Urwaldian spoke, his aged voice ringing around the hall as he addressed his fellows. Solis could not make anything out of his language. She had minored in linguistics at the Academy and spoke several galactic languages, but this language was idiosyncratic and difficult to follow.

The old native finished addressing his people, then he turned to Solis. He spoke to her in his language. Solis shook her head. “I don’t understand you,” She said in Galactic 1. The old native continued to speak. Solis tried Galactic 2, 3 and 5, but the Urwaldian did not respond.

On a whim she tried Scrazi, one of the newer languages used by the Diplomatic Corps. The old Urwaldian stopped speaking when he heard it and regarded Solis quizzically. Solis spoke some more: “Do you understand me? Do you recognize what I am saying? Do you speak this…?

“Fwuataazi…” the old native said. That was familiar. It was a word in Koh, a battle language related to Scalzi. Solis wansn’t as conversant in it but she tried it. “You speak? Understand?” she said.

The old Urwaldian nodded his head slowly. “Yes,” he said, hesitantly. “You come from sky?”

…to be continued

Are you enjoying this excerpt? Come back next week for part six. You can also read a full length Solis Delacey adventure. THE MASK OF ETERNITY is available as a hardcover, a trade paperback and on Kindle.

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION – Part Four

Solis DeLacey, after being assigned to a Kyann Ship for a lapse of judgement, was enjoying shore leave on a forested planet called Urwald. During the night their outpost is attacked and Solis manages to escape into the jungle.

2. AHNIKH

The jungle was whipping by her upside down. Creepers and branches slapped her face, her shoulders and her outstretched arms. She could feel hands grabbing at her waist and legs, hauling her up into the trees. She was dizzy and she felt her gorge become buoyant. Her dinner and the rasha were threatening to come back up, but she forced it down. If she threw up while she was upside down she felt she was liable to choke and suffocate.

She was suddenly turned the right way up. The world spun around her and she had to fight with her stomach again.

“We’ve got you, human girl,” a voice said in her ear. It was Ovrafa. She and another Guiranam had ahold of her from either side and they were making their way through the treetops at a dizzying pace. Several times it proved too much for her and she had to close her eyes, but with every movement she was afraid that she would slip from the Guiranam’s grip and fall to her death below.

Her stomach lurched one or two times during the passage even with her eyes closed. Once she was certain she was falling and she barely bit back a scream that wanted to escape from her lips.

The Guiranam’s progress slowed. She felt herself dipping down once – twice – then a third time. “Ground,” Ovrafa said and she felt the dense vegetation of the jungle floor beneath her feet.

She tried to stand upright but she could not keep her balance. She fell to her hands and knees. Ovrafa and the other Guiranam plopped down on either side of her.

They sat in silence for a moment, listening tensely for the sound of weapons fire or of soldiers moving through the jungle. All Solis could hear was the sounds of the jungle which seemed to loom darkly all around her.

“Who…who were they?” Solis asked, her voice barely above a whisper. Ovrafa looked at her, her eyes wide, but she shook her head.

Soon other Guiranam plopped down beside them. They were all silent and watchful. Solis could not see because of the darkness but she had the impression that all of the Guiranam were there. Their flight into the jungle had saved them all and Ovrafa and the other had saved Solis.

Once again, she thought. I owe my life to someone that I cannot repay.

Solis managed to sit up. Her cadet whites were torn and soiled and her hair was festooned with leaves and twigs from her passage. She was trying to pick them out but they were hopelessly tangled in her curls.

The Guiranam had begun to discuss the situation amongs themselves. Some of the senior engineers were arguing about what they should do. One of them, an older Guiranam, said that he was rated to fly shuttles. If they could get back to the shuttle they could perhaps fly back to the ship.

Solis shook her head. “The ship was attacked,” she said. The Guiranam all looked at her. “The Kyann pilots… they were in communication with the Kr’tk’tk. I heard the ship challenging an intruder and then the communication cut out. Even if you could get to the shuttle there might not be a ship to go to.”

“Who are they?” another Guiranam asked. “Why did they attack us?”

Solis shook her head but the other Guiranam began chattering, asking the same question and floating wild theories. The noise level began to rise and Solis was suddenly frightened that they would be discovered by the soldiers. Some of the other Guiranam tried to quiet the others but they just made the noise worse.

Solis stood up and began to move away from the group. She felt dizzy and exhausted and her stomach was lurching again. She told herself that she just needed to walk it off but in truth she was trying to put distance between herself and the chattering Guiranam. She was frightened of being discovered again.

The sound of the Guiranam receded behind her. The thick undergrowth threatened to trip her up a couple of times, but she managed to keep her feet. Her stomach was another matter. She leaned over and heaved its contents onto the ground.

When she finished she wiped her mouth with the back of a torn and soiled sleeve. The smell of what she’d thrown up — half digested dinner and Rasha — threatened to cause her stomach to heave again so she walked away, trying to be careful of her footing. She moved slowly in the dark until she could not smell the offending odor anymore.

She stopped and blinked, trying to make out her surroundings but the darkness was complete. She listened, trying to detect any sign of the Guiranam but she could hear nothing save for the sounds of the jungle at night.

Small fingers of panic began to write in her belly. Had she wandered too far? It would be easy to get lost in the jungle during daylight hours. In the blackness of night navigating was nearly impossible. If she couldn’t get back to the group…

She listened. She stood still and tried to pick out any familiar sound. She thought she could hear someone moving to her left but she wasn’t certain. “Ovrafa?” she hissed. “Anybody?”

Suddenly the trees around her were alive with movement. She could hear Guiranam hooting and shouting all around her. She could hear rustling all around her as if someone was running all around her.

The soldiers! Had they found them? Solis was rooted to the spot with fear.

Suddenly she could see a light moving through the trees. It flickered and bobbed up and down. then she saw a second and a third. Torches!

In the light of the flames she could see that torch bearers had dark, dark skin. They were tall and wore little or nothing in the way of clothing. She could hear them shouting and their speech was low and gutteral, almost a series of grunts. They did not speak any of the standard lingua, nor did they carry weapons.

Were they Urwald natives? Solis had not reviewed the survey files as her supervisors had suggested so she had no idea if the initial survey mentioned a native population or not.

Solis’ heart was hammering in her chest. In the torchlight she could see the newcomers trying to round up the Guiranam. The Guiranam were taking to the trees with screams and shouts. She saw two of the newcomers had grabbed one smaller Guiranam who was putting up a fight.

The area around her lit up. She turned. One of the natives was behind her with a torch.

He was humanoid and dark blue in color and he was covered in patches of bark-like skin. His forward-facing eyes were red and the skin on either side of his face swept up and backwards in four vaguely horn-like structures. His teeth shone whitely in the torchlight and he smiled.

Solis tried to back away but her foot caught in the tangled undergrowth and she went down on her ass. The native loomed over her with his torch. He uttered a gutteral shout and two of his fellows came running.

Once again hands were grabbing at her and Solis was being carried away in the dark.

…to be continued…