Posted tagged ‘Planet Magazine’

Website: Starship Modeler

August 16, 2009

Starship Modeler is an information resource for the science fiction, factual space, fantasy, mecha, or anime scale model builder.

Visit:
http://www.starshipmodeler.com/index.htm

Advertisements

‘More Blood’ by David Such

July 12, 2009

Illustration (c) 2009 Romeo Esparrago

Illustration (c) 2009 Romeo Esparrago

The girl sitting next to him was hot, but damn she could talk. Jes was Sam Blood’s latest potential new girlfriend. She hadn’t quite separated from her current man, but Blood had a feeling that this was imminent. The uComm beeped in Blood’s ear. He activated it on silent while pretending to continue to listen to what Jes was saying.

“Blood, we have another tasking order,” his partner spoke in his ear, “it’s a worker’s comp case, a back-injury claim. The insurance agency hasn’t been able to prove it, but their AI has indicated that this perp is a faker. I’m uploading the file now, have a squiz and I will pick you up in 10.”

Blood considered this and took a swig of his He-Man 9000 Super Strong Ultra Beer. It tasted like crap but what the hell, he had an image to uphold. He focused back on what Jes was saying: “… I can’t believe it, he was such an arsehole. Don’t you agree?”

Blood thought that he was pretty safe in going along with this, “Yeah — a total tool. Who is this again?”

“I just told you, my ex-fiasco! Were you even listening?”

“Of course, Babe, I’m just a little distracted at the moment. My partner and I have this big case that we are working on. We need to catch a cheater.”

“A cheater! I’m an expert on that.”

“Is that right? Tell me everything. I’m here for you Jes, I want you to know that.”

(more…)

‘The Hero’s Wife’ by Michael Meyerhofer

July 8, 2009
Illustration (c) Romeo Esparrago

Illustration (c) Romeo Esparrago

You don’t know me, but you know my husband.

Likely, you heard about him fighting Shogun’s Bane, that undead dragon with a penchant for carrying off gorgeous but rather disagreeable virgins way back during the Year of Black Snow.

Or else you read that epic poem detailing my husband’s battle against the four-armed Troll King. Or how my precious Therocles stole a magic flower from the den of a kraken to heal a dying child. Maybe you told that same story to your own children to frighten away the chill of long winter nights. For me, though, those stories bring no comfort.

He says he comes home as often as he can, but that’s still only once or twice a year. I guess a leaky cottage and an aging wife can’t compare to the courts of kings and the shy giggles of well-manicured princesses. I know he made a vow — so did I — but there are some vows even knights don’t honor.

Every visit, it’s the same thing. Therocles paces for a few days, hot-tempered as a demon-bat, then says he has to get going before the snow blocks the roads. By then, Dastian has had his nose bloodied and I have finger-shaped bruises on my thighs.

This year was no different.

* * *

“I cannot sit idle all winter, woman!” He reached for his boots. “Somewhere, brave souls are in need!” His square jaw and jet-black hair made him imposing as ever. I thought of how his looks used to thrill my blood. Where had that feeling gone?

“We could use you here,” I said. “The plow’s still broken and there’s a wyvern nesting in the chimney–”

He cut me off. “Dastian, bring my pauldrons!”

I winced at how he spoke our sweet son’s name. Dastian would have done anything to earn his father’s praise instead of his fist. “I’ll get them for you,” I volunteered.

“No! Dastian is practically a man. Sooner he learns which end of a lance is up, the better he’ll be in this world!”

I decided to change the subject. “My love, about that chimney…”

He snarled with exasperation. “I don’t have time to tussle with a wyvern — not with the snows coming! And I don’t have the coin to see it done, either!”

I wanted to argue with him, but I knew he was right — about coin, at least. Wyverns always nest deep, steely talons burrowed in stone. They love chimneys because of the darkness, the heat. Safest way is to hire a sorcerer to charm them out. But for all my husband’s exploits, we rarely had two coins to rub together. Therocles rarely accepted payment for his adventures, and then only what was absolutely necessary to care for his steel and his horse, plus a few macabre gifts for me and Dastian. A Dwarfish jewel hammer carved with skulls. Scrolls of Elfish poetry, reeking of perfume. A map drawn on Troll skin.

This visit, though, what he brought back was far less impressive.

(more…)

‘The Package’ by Ilan Herman

July 2, 2009
blueguy

Illustration by Andrew G. McCann

Jeff was watching the news in his living room when a knock sounded on his apartment door. He opened the door and smiled at the rotund mailman, who’d been serving the apartments for ten years. “How ya doin’, John?”

Holding a mid-sized cardboard box, the mailman smiled through his thick and graying mustache and asked, “What ya order?” He inquired only because he knew Jeff wouldn’t consider the question intrusive.

“I didn’t order anything,” said Jeff as he eyed the box.

“But it has your name and address on it,” the mailman said. “Why would someone bother to send you something you didn’t order?” He rapped his knuckles lightly on the box. “Good packaging job.”

Jeff shrugged. “I’m not sure I want it. Maybe you should take it back.”

The mailman, who wished to avoid carrying the package back to his van and back to the warehouse, chuckled. “Now that doesn’t make sense. It’s not like they’re chargin’ you or somethin’. Take it. It’s yours.” He leaned toward Jeff and held out the box. Convinced by the mailman’s hard sell but also curious about what the package held, Jeff accepted the box — about two square feet and five pounds.

The postal employee saluted. “US Mail delivers once again.” He turned and rumbled down the stairs with one more glance and a smile at the middle-aged man standing at the door to apartment 106.

* * *

Jeff walked into his apartment and shut the door. He laid the box on the coffee table and heard the postal van chug away. He then fetched a knife from the kitchenette and cut through the tape sealing the box. The label didn’t have a return address. He liked the fact that his last name, Simmoneyous, was spelled correctly. Many times when he’d requested an order, his surname was jumbled by the sender, though never to the point of a botched delivery.

The box contained a fireman’s red helmet and black jacket, both of excellent quality and authentic-looking. His first name was etched on the front of the helmet and above the breast pocket of the jacket that fit snugly around his shoulders, yet left plenty of room to raise his arms. The helmet also hugged his scalp well, as if the designer knew the exact circumference of Jeff’s head.

A warm vibration soothed his skull as soon as the helmet was resting on his head. Then a stocky, sky-blue creature formed from thin air and floated a foot off the ground. The creature had no limbs. One watery-brown eye centered its round face that had no mouth or nose. Two short tentacles rose from the top of its head.

(more…)

‘The Man in the Cowboy Hat’ by Jude Coulter-Pultz

June 15, 2009

Illustration by Romeo Esparrago

Illustration by Romeo Esparrago

It’s the same every night. The same nightmare every night for weeks. It never changes, and that makes it all the worse.

In the nightmare, I’m only six years old. Even though I know I’m really sixteen, it doesn’t matter. You can only run so fast when you’ve got the legs of a kindergartner. In the end, I’m going to get chopped up by the man in the cowboy hat, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

It starts in the old Halloway house — the perfect setting for a game of hide and seek. It must have been built at least two hundred years ago, back when nooks and crannies were all the rage. I’ve been Nick Halloway’s friend for years, so I know all the best places. No one apart from Nick himself ever found my hiding spot behind the laundry machine in the basement. You have to crawl on all fours through the spiders and their spiderwebs, and lord knows what else just to reach it. Then you have to sit there in that dark, square hole, with your arms, legs, head, and butt all scrunched up against the damp pipes and the dusty floor.

I hear footsteps. Even the first time I had this dream, I knew what the footsteps meant. One by one, down the stairs. Each footfall seems to be carefully filled with the greatest possible amount of malice. I consider running over to the door to lock it, but it’s too late. It’s always too late. The rusty hinges let out a low creak as the man in the cowboy hat steps into the room. I can’t see him, but I know he’s there. I can hear the jingle-jangle of his spurs now, coming closer and closer. Ching. Ching. Ching. My only hope is that I can hold my breath until the man in the cowboy hat decides to walk away. The footsteps pause. He must be almost on top of the laundry machine by now. Time passes reluctantly, as if being squeezed from the air. Gradually, an itch grows at the back of my throat. It feels like one of the spiders has somehow crept into my mouth and has started spinning a web down inside my trachea. The waiting is unbearable.

At last the man in the cowboy hat turns and leaves, jingling and jangling and full of menace. Still I wait, fighting the maddening urge to clear my throat, until the footsteps disappear completely up the stairs. I emerge from behind the laundry machine like a drowning sailor, a coughing, gasping, sputtering mess. As I try to muffle the coughs with my hand, I spot a spider scurrying away over my fingers. It’s the same thing every night. I flick it away and wipe the strands of silk from my lip. Every night for weeks.

But this time, something happens to make me freeze. Standing in the middle of the darkened room is Nick Halloway, as if he had been waiting for me all along. This isn’t right. He’s not supposed to be here. Not now. My stomach suddenly turns heavy and cold. I thought knowing what was going to happen was what made this dream so awful. Now that it seems to be changing, I’m filled all the more with dread.

“Derek? Derek Young?” The voice that comes out of his mouth is not his. It’s older and it doesn’t belong at all.

My head starts to spin, and I feel like I’m going to throw up. I call out his name. Maybe if he hears his name, he’ll snap out of it and turn back into my best friend.

“Nick? Who–?” He looks down at himself and then smiles ruefully. “Oh, right– sorry. I forgot about that. Hold on.”

Nick takes a slow breath, closing his eyes and his lips tightly. Then, before my eyes, his body begins to inflate like a long balloon. Features come anew to his face and his body, defining a tall, pale man in a trenchcoat. His hair is an untamed mess that looks like it’s been slept on in all the wrong ways. As a finishing touch, a pair of fashionable shades appear atop his slender nose, although he immediately removes them. Underneath, he has the red-rimmed eyes of a profound insomniac.

“Gato, Nightmare Hunter, at your disposal,” he announces, with a slight bow.

(more…)

‘Three Gold Pieces’ by Brock L. Noel

June 11, 2009
Illustration by Romeo Esparrago

Illustration by Romeo Esparrago

Sir Lochlan Mayes’s breaths were coming hard as he bent over in the stifling heat scorching the city streets of Goldenshore. It had been especially hot this summer on the coast of the Southern Sea, and today was no different. Lochlan put his hands on his knees, watching the sweat drip off of the tip of his nose onto the cobblestone below. He grimaced and looked up just in time to see the princess turn the corner onto another street.

“Sorcha!” he called out as he started after her again.

As Lochlan rounded the corner he could see the young princess many paces ahead, dodging between the carts and wagons filtering through the street. Cursing under his breath, he continued after her. He could see the city folk out of the corner of his eyes, laughing and pointing with amused smiles. It was an utter embarrassment. Lochlan was a revered knight who had commanded armies in the Great War. And here he was chasing a small girl, who at twelve summers was just fast enough to elude his aging strides.

“Sorcha, stop this instant!” he yelled again. “Your father will hear of this!”

He knew that was a lie. If there was one person in the whole kingdom of Andara that Lochlan didn’t want to anger, it was King Marcas Goldenshore. He would have Lochlan’s head for this if anything ill should befall his only daughter. The daughter I was sworn to protect, Lochlan thought as he barreled out into a street crossing.

The scream of a horse drew Lochlan’s attention away from the princess. He turned his head just in time to see a rearing mare kick its front hoof into his shoulder. He fell hard onto the street and rolled over just as the wagon that the horse was pulling rolled over his ankle. Lochlan let out a scream of his own as he heard his ankle crunch under the weight of the wagon. Without a word of worry the man leading the wagon quickly snapped the reigns and was off again, leaving Lochlan in the street, grasping at his already swelling ankle.

“Solton curse you,” Lochlan said between gritted teeth, evoking the wrath of the king of gods. He pushed himself to his feet, remembering the princess. But one step later he fell again. Wincing, he dragged himself to the other side of the street and set himself against the Copper Mug, a tavern frequented by the nobles of Goldenshore.

“You there,” Lochlan called out to a youth walking the street. The boy gave Lochlan a dismissive look and kept on his way.

“Stop this instant, boy!” Lochlan called. “In the name of Marcas Goldenshore, your king, you will come here this instant.”

The boy stopped and turned to regard Lochlan, but did not come closer. The lad couldn’t have been more than fourteen summers, if Lochlan had to guess. The light brown hair coming out of his worn leather cap hung just past the shoulders of his tattered tunic. He looked like a beggar, which was odd to Lochlan. Most beggars didn’t come to this part of the city.

“What do you want?” the boy asked impatiently.

“I need your help,” Lochlan replied.

“Can’t say I’m really in the helpin’ mood, mister.”

“Your king needs your help, boy.”

His light-blue eyes narrowed. “Can’t really say that changes my mind much.”

“Don’t make me call the city watch after you,” Lochlan threatened, wincing again at the pulsing pain in his ankle.

“I’ve escaped the city watch plenty of times. Go ahead and call them. Besides, what’s in it for me if I help you?”

Lochlan looked down the street, knowing the princess was getting further away. He wiped the sweat from his brow.

“One gold piece,” Lochlan said after a moment.

“Five gold pieces,” the boy replied instantly.

“Five golds!” Lochlan stammered. “You must be mad! Two golds. No more.”

“Four golds.”

“Two,” Lochlan reaffirmed sternly.

“Three.”

“For Solton’s sake, boy, I’ll give you two golds to help me and that is all.”

The boy looked Lochlan over for a few moments.

“How do I know you’re good for it?” he asked.

Lochlan sighed. “I’m a knight in the Princess’s Guard. My word is my honor.”

“I’ve seen knights do bad things before. Most I’ve seen don’t have any honor.”

“Very well, boy. Three golds. Three golds if you help me.”

“Swear on your father’s grave,” the boy said.

“My father still lives, but I’ll swear on my mother’s.”

“Say it.”

“I swear on my mother’s grave that I will give you three golds if you help me.”

“Help you with what?” the boy asked.

“I’m chasing a girl through the city. She is very important to me, and if anything ill should happen to her, I’d be in a very uncompromising position.”

“Uncompromising?”

“Very bad things would happen to me.”

“And it’s worth three golds to you?”

“Yes. Now will you help me?”

“Where is this girl?” the boy asked.

“The last I saw she was running down that street,” Lochlan replied pointing. “She has long, blonde hair. It comes down to the middle of her back. She’s wearing a light-green dress that matches her eyes. I need you to find her and bring her back to the castle somehow. If you have to ask the city watch to pick her up and drag her back to the castle, then so be it. Tell them that Sir Lochlan Mayes has given his permission to do so. They will help you.”

“I will find this girl for you,” the boy answered confidently. “Where can I claim my reward?”

“Come back here to the Copper Mug when you have safely returned her to the castle, and I will give you your three golds. Now be off! She is running for the city gates, I have no doubt.”

The boy started up the street. Lochlan watched him go for a moment before he reached down to his ankle. It was broken. There was no doubt about that. He grimaced as he touched it through his boot. Somehow he was going to have to get back to the castle. From there he could tell the other men in Sorcha’s guard she had escaped again and set them out to find her. He knew the young boy wouldn’t be able to bring Sorcha back, but at least he might be able to divert her long enough for his men to find her. Lochlan called out to the next wagon that passed. He would need a ride back to the castle.

(more…)

‘The God Project’ by James A. Ford

June 7, 2009

Illustration by Gary Campbell

Illustration by Gary Campbell

3rd quarter 2135 CE

Northern Hemisphere President’s address

“We stand on the precipice of time.

Preparing to undertake a great adventure of discovery.

One which we can only complete with cooperation and brotherhood.

To finally and for all time answer that eternal question: Does God exist?

To set aside the now-quaint beliefs proven to be in error by the Scientific Age.

“And to continue the work of our forefathers. The warm regard still held for the great, written traditions of the ancient holy books illustrates Man’s need for knowledge on this subject. Great moral guides these books have proven to be — they are now universally recognized as some of Man’s first attempts to explain the universe and the place of Mankind within it. All were written without the benefit of even rudimentary scientific knowledge and discovery. Information that, we in our Age take for granted, was missing back then. The writers of those books tried to explain the universe in the only ways they could, using the myths and legends and general beliefs of those times, beliefs now proven false.

“We, with our vastly superior understanding of the cosmos, will now embark on a great voyage of discovery. It has been said that Science has destroyed God, that Science has rendered such a quaint belief obsolete and irrelevant. But why can not Science be employed to answer the question, Yes or No?, with finality. That is the course we set ourselves upon. A scientific search for God. A scientific search for Truth.”

It had taken decades to build the special sensor device.

That of course was the key. No other projects were even started until that was completed.

Once perfected, several months were then spent in the pinpointing of probable locations. The sensor device acted as an enormous energy analyser, capable of gleaning intricate and complex information from the cosmic rays that constantly washed over the planet. The science of the device was understood by only a select few, the men who built it. At first, almost everyone in the general and scientific communities dismissed both the device and the project. After the first mission, that all changed. Overnight, the planet’s mood went from outright disbelief to outright optimism. The device had worked, and brilliantly. Unfortunately, the civilization it found had died out, but the clear remnants of its recent existence had provided elegant proof of the worth of the device and vindication for the project. The device was the discoverer of worlds — what else was it capable of? If nothing else we were rapidly discovering just how un-alone in the universe we were.

With the device, finding intelligent life forms was very easy; the next steps however were not. Evaluation was still a man-made decision. The primary, most important, factor was whether the culture believed in some form of supreme being. Further, did the culture have some proof or basis for that belief. After just a few months of searching, hundreds of such alien cultures were discovered. There was need for a new, improved ship capable of reaching them and studying them face to face. During the ship’s construction, a crew was selected and trained.

* * *

These stellar voyagers travelled farther from home than anyone had before. The technology they used was more advanced than anything dreamt of by past scientists. The four-man crew was the proverbial cream of the crop, picked from millions of qualified applicants. These four men had the right combination of intelligence, technical expertise, and common sense, and, perhaps more important, were a fair representation of the world population in 2163. These men reflected a large segment of the racial makeup of the planet, as well as the beliefs and ideals of those inhabitants. That of course didn’t mean they all liked one another.

“How much longer?” asked Simms, known also as No. 4. There was no answer at first, and then Richards, No. 2, looked up from his engineering station and stared at Simms. Richards knew he was the only one to whom the question could have been directed; there was no one else in the room.

“What, Simms? What now?” Richards demanded, continuing to stare at No. 4 as if Simms had several heads.

“How – Much – Longer?” Simms intoned, ” Before – We – Land?” As he spoke the words he made a point of staring fixedly back at Richards. It was common knowledge that pilot 2 and pilot 4 hated each other. They were here, despite the friction, because they were the best at what they did. Most members of Mission Control had placed bets as to which man would snap first and physically attack the other — most of the serious money was on Simms.

“I don’t know Simms… check your flight scanner, I’m working over here!” With that, Richards turned away and tried to forget about Simms, whom he couldn’t stand in the least, and wanted to spend as little time with as possible. The man irritated him not just because he was an atheist but because he was so sure of himself. Simms always had an opinion on any topic, and he always wanted everyone to hear it. Richards also felt certain that Simms went out of his way to goad him every chance he got.

“You know we won’t find anything,” Simms stated, staring up at the ship’s low ceiling. He stole a quick glance at Richards, who was studiously ignoring him.

“Our sensors have detected nothing,” he continued. “That rock is as dead as a billiard ball. Whatever was there is long dead — no culture, no god. Nothing.”

“We won’t know for certain until we actually land and search,” Richards countered, not looking up from his calculations console. He hung his head for a second, then looked at Simms and continued. “Many of our religious traditions quote instances of God walking amongst His people…maybe someday we will get lucky.”

“Ha! Don’t hold your breath,”Simms said, rolling his eyes. He stared at the ceiling for a moment then added: “God, I’m bored.” He sighed, casting a quick glance at Richards.

“Simms, I thought you didn’t believe in God?” Richards asked, a slight smile of disdain on his face.

Simms stood up. “Don’t worry, No. 2, you haven’t converted me, it was only an expression, not a profession.” His work done, Simms walked away.

(more…)