Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Pinnacle


The Pinnacle -- a short story by Gaines Post
The duty had fallen to Cor to take his nephew Daron to the top of the Pinnacle, for no one else dared. The hard part was making a game out of it so that the boy would not suspect. Some lies were necessary for the greater good, after all. Weren't they?

This is the latest dark fantasy short story from the mind of Gaines Post. Click the image to the right to purchase an electronic version from Amazon.com for only US$0.99.

To get a free Kindle reading app for your computer, iPad, phone, or other device, click here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Overlap

Overlap
This is my nineteenth attempt. The lag is making it even harder. But I've got this: If I can just get luck and skill to both line up at the same time, the fucker's gonna blow. I'm sure of it.

The last Overlap happened more than a decade ago, back when I was twelve. After talking it over with their families, my dad and uncle knew exactly what they had to do. So they gamed the system and got posted to rig duty. I like to think their brave sacrifice is a major reason the rest of us are still here.

Now it's our turn: mine, my little sister Deb's, almost everyone we know.

Earlier in the night, in typical Deb fashion, the dumbass went charging in the instant we linked up to the Main. She didn't even wait for the rest of the team to gather. I gotta admit, it was actually pretty hilarious; she blasted a tunnel right through the first two layers all by herself, hollering the whole way down. The others were stunned speechless for a minute, but that little performance of hers ended up doing wonders for everybody's morale.

I mean, this was some scary fuckin shit we were about to face, and boom there goes my little sister, rushing in, one hundred per cent fearless. We big muscly types had no choice but to man up after that!

It was good. Fear has no place down here.

But Deb kept on going, and while we were trying to catch up one of the layers reclosed behind her and cut us off. Now she's out of communications range, and I'm trying to blast through as fast as I can to get to her. But the Intelligence--our name for the invaders that engineered the Overlap--they seem to be on to us; they keep reinforcing the layer, making it harder and harder to find the right resonant frequency.

Carl Griegsohn gave the order to backtrack and hit it from another angle, in a spot half a klick east of here. I ignored him and he shouted at me. So I told him Fuck off, it's my sister down there. He sputtered and threatened to disconnect me from the Main. I knew he wouldn't so I just kept working. A few seconds later he was racing back up tunnel, collecting stragglers, all snarls and bellows fading in the distance.

I'm almost there; this thing's gonna blow, I know it. Maybe Carl's proposed flank attack will be enough to distract the Intelligence from my mosquito efforts. Maybe attempt number twenty will be the magic number. Maybe Deb's on the other side, trying to work her way back through to my position.

Not bloody likely. My sister's probably already inside the Core by now, either dead or somehow still alive and about to place her charges right in the middle of the goddamned thing's brain.

Either way, I've got to blast my way through. I've got to find her. 


Monday, May 06, 2013

Jelly-bones


Jelly-bonesAugust knew what they called him behind his back: "nancy;" "jelly-bones." The five specialists--Toragger, Baans, Zim, Auldelaire, Morris--had all graduated top of their respective classes, extremely well-tuned elites of deadly military precision, but put them together in a group and their inner grunt came out.

The Relocation Meta might observe that they seemed to share an exclusive camaraderie based on a longing for boot camp or a simplicity of life that had probably never existed. Bring in an outsider from clear across the system to take their dead commander's place, and voila, recipe for animosity and potential insubordination. But it wasn't just that. There was an extra edge to their voices when they answered him; a vague limpness in their salutes.

It was because of his father, of course. Everyone knew who Colonel Tansworth had been. Even all the way out here in the dead of space, August still could not escape that fact. One of the specialists, Baans, chuckled something under his breath.

"Midshipman Baans."

Baans raised his eyes, but otherwise showed no reaction. He kept his elbows on his knees, a pair of meaty tattooed fists propping a square stubbly chin. Everyone stopped talking.

If August chose to ignore the man's insolence, he would appear weak. He cracked his knuckles. "That's right; I'm talking to you, numbnuts. On your feet."

Smirking, Baans shot a glance at Zim next to him, but eventually stretched himself upright to assume a semblance of attention. "Sir," he drawled, that extra edge even more palpable than before.

"What was the last order Lieutenant Mensus gave before he died?"

Baans shifted uncomfortably. "What?"

"Your former commander. The last thing he said to you lot before he carked it. What was it?" August knew exactly what his predecessor's last words had been; it was all on record.

Anger rippled across Baans's brow. He pressed his lips together and bunched his forearm muscles, but slowly blood of another kind rose up the sides of his neck. The foredeck had fallen so quiet they could hear the distant rumble from the matter converters.

"Well? I'm waiting, Midshipman."

Baans looked down at his feet. "..ny means..ary," he mumbled.

"Speak up, soldier," August snapped.

"By any means necessary!"

"That's right; 'by any means necessary,'" August repeated. "Well ladies, I am that means. This crew needed a new runner, so here I am. You know it; I know it. It is what it is. So let's stop all this bullshit pussyfooting around so we can get to work. That okay with you specialists? Or am I going to have to drop one or two of you planet-side and find replacements at the orbital resup depot? I know a few folks stationed there who'd absolutely jump at the chance, and they're plenty qualified for the job."

One by one the others stood, glaring.

"Well? What's it gonna be?"

"No sir," Toragger growled.

"No? No what?"

"No need to find replacements, sir!" Zim barked.

August raised an eyebrow at Baans. "And you?"

Baans snapped his boots together and shot his hand up in a full military salute. This time there was nothing limp about it. "Count me in, sir. By any means necessary. Sir!"

"Well all right then. Take a seat, gentlemen, and let's talk about the speed of light." 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Remembering


He remembered rolling down the back lawn, crashing into cradling honeysuckle in a giggling heap, nose full of grass and earth and the sky still spinning.

And there were her smiling eyes.

He remembered singing, Shuffle shuffle shuffle through the crunchy crunchy leaves, as his feet sought golden orange maple and already brown sycamore and a pile so deep he could jump off the roof and land safe like a crouton in soup.

And there were her smiling eyes.

He remembered when he was a beetle. "You can walk between houses, honey," she said. But of course he insisted on crawling with all six legs. It had to be—and not just look—authentic, after all!

And sighing, perhaps, there still were her smiling eyes.

He remembered last October. The short visit; the half-finished conversations; the goodbye drop-off at the airport, hurried due to the very bulky box he was determined to check in.

And now, months later, he was sitting on a stone beneath an iron sky on the other side of the planet, trying to remember. Had he embraced her? Had he said all that he had wanted to say to her? During his time there, had he done anything to help at all?

The cat tiptoed around the corner and stretched. A cool gust of wind rocked the branches overhead, sending a pair of high-strung lorikeets screeching off in search of a more stable perch.

He closed his eyes, remembering some more. 


Monday, February 18, 2013

The Winemaker


The Winemaker
The Constable's tone had been sympathetic, but his warning was unambiguous: if Arturo did not pay up by season's end, he would lose the other eye.

Arturo had simply given the larger (but in his mind, smaller) man an impatient nod and shown him the door. For the Town to have sent someone all the way out here to East End just to tell the winemaker something he already knew was nothing short of patronizing, and as he watched the Constable carefully leading his mare back down the muddy oily slope, Arturo's wounded pride had left him no choice but to shout after him. "You'll see! It's a bumper crop this year. You'll all have your gold, and I'll be laughing!"

But that had been over a month ago, and no thanks to the embarrassing incident of the storm, his debt had now doubled. Arturo Morlen, who fancied himself a carefree type of fellow, was beginning to worry.

The aluminum broad-brimmed hat hanging from a nail in the doorframe had belonged to his father, and to his grandfather before that. Arturo placed it evenly on his own head, snatched a pair of stained leather gloves from the bench, and walked outside to face the day.

Only a few stars remained in the sky, directly overhead. Their light gleamed from Arturo's single golden eye. The steep little valley spread below him, its sides clothed in shadow-blue vineyards that were broken only by the occasional clump of spruces. Farther down he could see that his only neighbors, the Appenbaums, had already lit their breakfast fire; a ghostly white plume rose more or less eastward to merge with the thin orange glow from the sun where it promised to bloom above the gentle hills that marked the confluence of the Five Valleys. It was a beautiful morning.

Arturo smiled. Never mind the Town; he would prove the Old Crone wrong once and for all about the graygrapes, and while he was at it, he just might win Gailen's heart. 


Monday, February 11, 2013

Flight

FlightAs far as Tarilleon was concerned, birds were worse than fish. Sure, you had more freedom in the air, and thus -- potentially, at least -- more room for perspective. But with fish, the danger was obvious; from the second you entered, being inside one felt so alien and mind-numbing you couldn't wait to get out. The risks of being bird-brained for too long, on the other hand, were much... more subtle.

It was the addiction, of course. The hook, on which so many had hung their mortal coils and never thought to look back.

To be able to fly had perhaps been a dream in the human subconscious for as long as they'd had two hands and a pair of feet. Actually being able to do it now -- soaring high overhead, completely unreachable by earthly concerns, tasting the wild wind—was hard to give up indeed. Tarilleon's own brother Moz had fallen to the temptation, and he himself had nearly succumbed when he was a younger man. He had survived only by learning discipline, moderation, and control.

And so it was with great reluctance and more than a little trepidation that Tarilleon had agreed to the High Oracle's proposal. Using cormorants as their hosts, Tarilleon and four other Watchers would penetrate deep into Sha'mani territory, flying all the way south to the palace of Chamma'Nyva. There they would sit atop walls and on windowsills, dodging rocks and gleaning what information they could.

It would be eight days before they returned to their real bodies. Hence the trepidation: the longest anyone had ever been inside a bird, and successfully returned with sanity intact, was six days. They could shorten the journey by traveling into Krr'Chamma first, finding a safe place to harbor their bodies, and employing wild birds locally. But with animals that had not been raised and nurtured since birth, the risk of a premature break was too great. And so they would have to fly all the way from here using the cormorants.

It was imperative that they find out what the Sha'mani were up to, and soon. Something terrible was happening; never mind the High Oracle, even Tarilleon had sensed it. He could feel it in his bones, in the soil and water, in the very air gusting through his feathers.... 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bodjack

"Tibialis Posterior Tendon," drawn by Patricia PostClella scratched again at her stubbly man chin and swore. Eerie gray cliffs rose on both sides of the ravine to disappear into a suffocating ceiling of cloud. Whoever had done this to her would pay.

She stared at the knobby bare feet and felt a strong desire to punch someone or something. The masculine intensity of the emotion felt alien but good. Tucking hard knuckles into fists, she watched as forearm muscles bunched beneath coarse skin that was patchy with black hair. Another string of four-letter words sparked deep in the barrel of her throat and exploded upward, ricocheting from cliff to cliff.

She continued her awkward trek down the dripping, fern-strewn gorge, toes and heels bleeding from the sharp rocks. She was shoeless and hungry, but at least she'd been left in a fairly athletic bodmod; the muscles been working for hours, and were still not tired. But everything was cold and wet, and this forsaken wilderness seemed endless. 

Think. Where the hell was she? Who had dumped her here, and why?? Bodmod matching cost a shit-ton of cred. No one would spend that much without a good reason. Why her? But never mind the who and why; the where was much more immediate.

Clella's gut told her this was some backwater hole of a planet; worst case scenario was, she'd been abandoned out on the fringe of some minor Brandscape like the boondocks of her birth. Still, she might luck out and find a conglomerate with a shifter she could hop to one of the majors, or a hub she could plug into in case she was already in one and this place was just some sort of recpark or something. But there had been no sound of air traffic all morning, so she knew her gut was probably right.

She ground her new bodmod's teeth. Things could have been worse. They could have just killed her.

It was raining and nearly dark when the cliffs finally gave way to reveal a tiny cluster of lights, twinkling from the right side of the now broad valley. Clella cracked the bodmod's stiff neck, stretched its legs, and picked up her pace. Soon she would stop shivering, and most of the pain would leave the swollen, brutalized toes.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zunz'ish

Zunz'ish
It's like getting out of your pod in the morning: you have to do it, whether you want to or not. We're soldiers; we've got a job to do. Why in the Four-Lights should that slacker Zunz'ish be any different?!

Every shift he just floats off by himself, completely out of formation, daydreaming. Putting us all at risk. If I were Reefguard Ts'idjuŗŗ, I'd swim over there and give him a good tailsmack to the face, make him pull his head in and get back to his post. But Ts'idjuŗŗ just keeps patrolling back and forth, inspecting the line or staring over the Edge into the abyss, acting as if nothing's out of place.

Some of us have been grumbling. Shanz'ched thinks the newcomer's birthqueen must've sent word to our Nest to make sure he got special treatment here. But Chonj'ŗŗa disagrees; he says we'd know it if Zunz'ish were that highborn, and that it's far more likely the puny little scrub is directly related to someone moderately important like a cross-Nest Maarguard. Whoever it is must be collecting on a favor, he says.

It would make sense I guess. Politics between Zunz'ish's birthnest and ours are complex these days, to say the least. If an order has indeed been sent down through the ranks to leave the outsider alone, it would explain why Reefguard Ts'idjuŗŗ has been turning a blind eye to the lazy algaescrub ever since he transferred here.

Whatever the reason, it doesn't give Zunz'ish the right to dilly-dally where he pleases and leave a hole in our defenses. If the Murk launched an attack right now, I reckon it would take Zunz'ish at least twenty seconds to swim over to his spot in the grid and synch up with the rest of us. By then we'd be dead; I've seen attacks come so fast that even a delay of five or six seconds would've cost us our lives. And if even one of us dies, the grid fails, and then the Nest will almost certainly fall.

I wonder if he even has the salt to do the job. They only put elite metasingers like ourselves, the best of the best, here on the Edge. But we're trained for this. If Zunz'ish is just some dandy that has been placed here so that he or someone else can get a fin or two up in his career, then may the Four-Lights help us, 'cause we're doomed.

"Sir? What's that up there?" I hear Shanz'ched say. He's staring toward the surface.

As Reefguard Ts'idjuŗŗ makes his way over, I follow Shanz'ched's gaze. Far overhead I can barely make out wave shapes in the dim moonlight. But something else is there, too. Whatever it is seems to be growing.

The Reefguard watches it awhile. "Flotsam, most likely. Nothing to worry about."

"No sir, I think.. I think it's sinking," Chonj'ŗŗa whistles.

"Nonsense," Ts'idjuŗŗ trills.

But sure enough, the dark mass above us appears to be coming closer. Not only that, it seems to be dividing into sections. A chill ripples down my dorsum, immediately followed by a hollowness in the pit of my stomach.

A trick. We've been duped. No sooner do I look down than the first shockwave comes roiling up from the darkness below.

My voice cracks from panic. "ATTACK!!!"

The others race back to their posts, and we begin tuning up as quickly as we can. Out of the corner of my left eyecluster, however, I can see that Zunz'ish has not budged.

"Sir!!! Zunz'ish!!!" I screech, nodding in the slacker's direction.

The Reefguard simply eyes me and shakes his head. "He'll be fine. Do your job, soldier."

"But—"

"No time," he warbles. "Form the grid, now."

Outranked, I shut up and do as I'm told. 

We sing.

Our voices coalesce into a protective grid less than a second before the first shockwave hits. We're in too much of a hurry, though, and the concussion nearly knocks us out of sync. Below, rising fast, is the bulk of the Murk, evil and dark and hungry as ever. I shut my eyes in concentration.

The shockwaves always come in threes for some reason. The second buffets us harder than the first, but our makeshift grid holds. Bracing myself for the final assault, I sing as loudly as I can, and can feel my comrades doing the same. We're a soldier down, though. And the Murk is already level with the Edge.

The third shockwave slams into us. The Murk looms immediately behind it, sending out a thousand shadowy tendrils to surround us. Above, the sinking mass from the surface reveals itself to be more of the same. Very clever, I reflect. A distraction tactic, and we were stupid enough to fall for it.

One of the dark tendrils slices perilously close to Shanz'ched's throat, causing him to flinch. We react, and the grid falters.

"HOLD!" yells the Reefguard, but deep down I know it is too late. And that sooner than I ever expected it would be, my death is upon me.

A clear, piercing note rises from off to the left. I open my eyes just in time to see a reddish globe billow outward from Zunz'ish's position. Expanding as it travels, the strange sphere heads straight for the bulk of the Murk, tearing through the reaching tendrils and leaving fragments in its wake.

It strikes the Murk square in the face. A great bellowing rumbles around the Edge, snapping coral and stirring up a swirling storm of sand and dead fish. The dark beast writhes, vomiting forth a cataract of black mud from its terrible maw.


When the debris finally clears, I peer over the Edge just in time to catch a glimpse of the wrecked mass of the Murk as it plummets into the blackness below.

I can't believe it. We're alive, and the nest is safe. And there's Zunz'ish, still floating off by himself, still daydreaming as if nothing happened. 



Monday, December 03, 2012

Contact ( II )

(continued from "Contact ( I )," below)
...


Contact ( II )
It was Friday afternoon, day twelve of the experiment, when entropy reared its ugly head and ruined the whole plan.

They were in the boiler room, preparing for what would be the last of their secret workplace smooches. Hector was fidgeting impatiently as Samantha went through her "safety check," as she liked to call it. She had to be sure they were alone; if anyone were to witness the two of them being intimate, it could mean an end to her career. And Hector's, too.

"Come on, let's do it. No one's here, I promise," Hector snapped, glancing at his watch.

"Okay, ready now," Samantha said, returning to their secret corner after one final peek up the stairwell.

Hector leaned close. There was the familiar build of energy, the tickling crackle of electricity channeling more and more intensely as their lips drew together. Samantha closed her eyes, as she always did, even though she knew Hector's eyes were open.

As their mouths came together, a spark leapt to the giant water heater nearby. Samantha drew back in alarm. The last thing she heard was Hector shouting and a wrenching sound of tearing metal.


As the sun ducked behind the clouds, a chilly breeze drew goose bumps across their skin. Far below them at the top of the fjord, the water still had not finished filling the crater where the base had once been. The white cataract, appearing frozen in the distance, sent up a faint roar. Nearby a bird was singing.

"Maybe people aren't meant to have all that power," Hector said. "Maybe that was the universe's way of putting us back in our places."

"Maybe," Samantha purred, and pulled his arm around her more tightly. "But one thing's certain: I like kissing you better when it isn't planned."

Hector smiled, closed his eyes, and made contact. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Contact ( I )

Contact

Nothing else seemed to work. They had tried other intimacies, of course; Hector, especially, had wanted to double-check every possible form of contact, and some more than others. But in the end Samantha's hypothesis held: only lip-to-lip contact would build the power.

Worse, they discovered it was not as simple as just kissing each other over and over to build the power all at once; the more frequently their lips touched, in fact, the milder the hit. Likewise, if they went too long between kisses, then what power they had built would quickly fade. After much experimentation, the lovers decided it built best when their lips met no more and no less than about once every seven hours.

This posed a problem on a few different levels. First of all, he was a nightowl and she was not; prior to all of this insanity, Hector's typical morning had begun with waking more than an hour after Samantha had already left for work. Secondly, and most significantly, she was his superior in rank. Although it was widely known that off-base they were a couple, any physical contact between them while on duty was strictly frowned upon and could adversely affect both of their careers. This was what had led them down to the boiler room for their series of secret rendezvous. 

The third problem was academic: if they wanted to sustain a schedule of having lip-to-lip contact once every seven hours, without fail, then their meeting times would necessarily continue to change over the course of their planned regimen. 

Unfortunately, neither Hector nor Samantha had any leave coming up, so if they wanted to attain their goal of building up two weeks' worth of power, they would just have to endure the messed up sleep schedules and risk getting caught together at work.

It was fun at first, especially for Samantha; she seemed to get a kick out of making Hector suffer. "Nope; down, boy. Two more minutes to go!" But by the end of the eighth day they were both already so exhausted from having forced themselves awake at odd hours that their resolve had begun to weaken. The only things that kept them going were curiosity and the perpetual craving for the power, a power that had been building inside them both since the beginning.

"Just think of all the cool stuff we'll be able to do once we've accumulated all those hits," Hector said. It was three in the morning and Samantha, drained from a grueling work week, had just put the annoying alarm clock through the ceiling with a flick of her wrist.

"I don't give a shit," she growled. "I'm tired; tired of it. Can't we just head up there now?"

She was referring to the little meadow they had chosen, the place they would use to test their power at the end of the two weeks. It was a beautiful spot, very isolated, that overlooked the fjord and the top end of the base.

Hector shook his head. "Nope. We're going to stick it out, babe, all the way to next Sunday. But... how 'bout I promise you a two-hour foot massage if you make it to the end? Deal?"

Samantha looked ready to send him after the clock, but a moment later her feet won out and she groaned a reluctant yes. 

(to be continued... )


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Genome

Genome
"Genome" -- This piece of flash fiction was first
published in the  May 2013 issue of AntipodeanSF
To read it on their website, click the image above.
Ani had started with plans for a redberry tree, but the resulting runty bush and the shriveled black things hanging from it were nothing like the beautiful explosion of red lush berriness she had envisioned. That was her first lesson about design-your-own genome kits; since then she had tried a couple of other brands, but none of them was as "fool proof" as it advertised.

And so she cracked her neck, linking her mind to the wyfy, and began to teach herself chemistry. Her mother seemed concerned; now and then she would poke her head into the thirteen-year-old's room and say something like, "Aren't any of your friends around?" or, "What, are you allergic to the phone now? I never thought I'd see the day...."

Ani would just shake her head and mumble some sideways excuse, anything to get her mother to leave and close the door behind her. Friends? Whatever. With the stuff Ani was learning, she wouldn't need those backstabbers anymore.

It took several weeks, but eventually she had the design template tweaked to exactly how she wanted it. The hair was definitely the masterpiece; she was very proud of that in particular. Ani couldn't wait. So she clicked "confirm," and the order was placed.

It was a sunny afternoon when the knock finally came at the door. Heart pounding, Ani jumped up and streaked down the stairs past her bewildered mother.

She opened the door.

"Hi. My name is Berry," said the gorgeous thirteen-year-old with the magnificent brown hair standing on the porch.

"I know, silly," Ani giggled. "I'm the one who made you. Come on in, girlfriend!"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ooryit

OoryitThis time the man's Call was pure and steady. The beautiful note drew from all his strength, welling up from his chest, and struck at the three remaining ooryit all at once, causing them to flinch.

For several seconds nothing happened. The fog enveloped them, deadening all sound and seeming to stop time itself. Then, turning slowly, the ooryit began to whisper at each other, their weeping brain-like faces drawing closer to one another, the sultry sounds from their mouths more and more intense. The man scrambled out of the way as the creatures tackled each other, tearing and raking with their legs.

The man couldn't keep the note up for long; already he was beginning to feel spent. But before his voice cracked and the spell was broken, another of the ooryit was dead, and a second one had lost too many legs to be very mobile.

Just one uninjured one left. It came at the man where he kneeled, swaying left and right as it closed in.

The thing's whispers were beginning to break the man's internal silence; soon they would tear through his defenses completely, and the ooryit would control his mind.

He waited a moment longer; he needed the creature to be in range. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that the other ooryit, the nearly legless one, was dragging itself toward him through the fog-laden grass, its whispers picking up in strength. Its blind face was as deadly and impersonal as a shark's.

With what energy he had left, the man Called once more, but this time the note was weak and unsure; it warbled forth like a child crying. The uninjured one was leaning in now, less than a foot from his face. He could smell the breath of the thing....


Monday, October 22, 2012

Forty-Five Degrees

Forty-Five DegreesIt was inside the metal of the hull.

"Captain, maybe we should risk it. If that whole thing breaches I don't think we can patch it in time. Certainly not if it keeps growing like this." Maarstein's sharp blue eyes followed the scar of blistering metal along the ceiling to the latest mark made by whatever deep-sea alien malignancy was attacking the submarine vessel.

Captain Gutierrez glanced again at the sonar map. They were clear of the "lily pad," their name for one of the giant floating masses of plant matter that formed the only "land" on this waterlogged fish fart of a planet. But if they surfaced now they would still be well within detection range of the damned fast-flying Rays they'd been trying to escape in the first place. 

"Captain?" 

Gutierrez raised her voice so that everyone could hear. "Suit up, folks. Whatever this shit is, I'll warrant it won't be good for the complexion. Dorwell, take us up. Forty-fiver and power ahead, full.

The six-member crew did as they were told without an if or a but or even a smart-ass joke from Lang. They were all shit-scared, and as Gutierrez saw the weird blistering seam bulge a few more inches along the ceiling, she, too, had to steel herself against a sudden rising panic. 

"Three hundred meters, Cap," chirped Dorwell in a voice that was far too young to die. 

"Lang, get your ass to the aft cannon and put on your gamer face," Gutierrez barked. 

"On it Cappy. What we playin?" Lang was already vaulting past on his way to the weapons console. 

"One-fifty meters and rising, Cap," Dorwell piped. Someone groaned.

Gutierrez flashed a wry smile at Lang. "Sudden death, gunny. Better not miss, or it's our asses!" 

"Fifty meters, Cap." 

On the dorsal view monitor, several large shapes could be seen moving through the sky above the ocean to converge on the exact spot the submarine would be surfacing. 

"Hard to port!" she managed to blurt, just as the first projectile hit and sent the submarine into a spin. 

Her head slammed into the metal of the hull. The last thing she saw before sinking into the oblivion of unconsciousness was a fine spray of water that was arcing down from the ceiling, pretty in the flashing red of the warning lights.... 




Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More

More
"I love you more."

She opened her eyes. "No, you don't. I love you more."

"Nope," he smiled. "I carved your name into the hilt of my dagger, remember? So I love you more."

"Ah," she purred. "But I gave you that dagger, last Circle Day. See? I love you more."

They were lying on their sides, facing one another. He drew back an inch or two and squinted. Mischief and triumph twinkled in her eyes as she traced a pair of fingers from the base of his neck downward until they were resting in the small of his back.

He shook his head, and the movement caused the cot on which they lay to squeak. "No, I love you more -- because it was with that very blade that I saved you from that rabid saberbeak up on Stoneknuckle Crag! So ha!"

"Not ha," she snorted. "Who was it who cooked you a very spicy saberbeak stew that night, hmmmm?? And sat by the fire eating it with you, too, even though I don't even like hot food. There's your proof: I love you more."

His hand glided past her hip to the back of her thigh. Meeting little resistance, he pulled gently until her knee was pressed against his. "Hey, I sometimes cook things the way you like them, too," he murmured.

"You try," she smirked.

He raised an eyebrow. "That I do. See?? I strive to impress you, despite great hardship and adversity. Because I love you mostest."

She laughed. "That's not even a word. If we're going to play without rules, then I love you infinity."

But no sooner had the last syllable left her tongue than she frowned and angled her eyes toward the pillow. For a while they lay together in silence, as if an invisible shroud had fallen across their naked bodies, extinguishing playfulness with a sudden melancholy.

Infinity was exactly what they had; the curse had made sure of that. The lovers had watched the decades glide by as first their parents, then siblings, and then children, grandchildren, great grandchildren... one by one had fallen to old age. Now it was just the two of them, forever together but forever alone in their house in the mountains.

He stroked her hair. "Hey," he whispered softly. "You win. You love me more."

The twinkle danced back into her eyes. "Yes, I do," she whispered, and drew his lips to hers. 





Monday, October 08, 2012

Landfall ( II )

Landfall ( II )
(Continued from Landfall ( I ); scroll down to read.)


"Wot you mean 'wot'? Showed us, you know, Lan'fall." 

Ooplo was not in the mood for games. He leveled a thick finger at the farmzod. "Do you even know what that word means, rot-thumbs?"

The farmzod hesitated. Varantz shook his head and sighed.
Ooplo tried a different tack. "Alright, that thing they showed you on the Big-panel -- what did it look like? Was it square, was it triang—"

"No, no! Not sq-square. 'Twere like a wot's-it; like a, ..you know, like a like a like a like a like a...."

Varantz thumped the farmod on the back to stop his skipping.

"Plate!! Like a plate; 'at's it." The little farmzod was grinning and wagging his head up and down. He seemed to get caught up in the motion and began to giggle vacantly as his movements became more and more exaggerated.

Ooplo snapped his fingers in the farmzod's face. "Stop it. A plate? As in a round plate? Like the kind you eat on?"

"A wot?"

"A rou—"

"Oy, yes!! Round it were! Round like a round plate!!"

"Okay, so, a circle," Ooplo said. "What color was it?"

"It were wot's-it; blue wi' a tiny bit o' white near the top an' bottom, it were. Blue an' white, yes."

Varantz gasped. "Well I'll be fu—"

Ooplo silenced him with a cautionary glare. The younger mechand pursed his lips and flared his nostrils. His face had gone pale.

The farmzod frowned and scratched his head, apparently trying to figure out what he was missing. Varantz sat rigid. Just then Ooplo chuckled.

"Bah, fun's over. Let's not kid the little fellow anymore!" he said, masking his excitement with a toothy grin and winking at Varantz. He turned back to the farmzod. "We were just messin' with ya, buddy! Blue and white you said, yeah?"

The farmzod nodded.

"Okay, well, blue and white plates are nothing to worry about! It's just a logo! A pretty design to look at, that's all; like a fancy floor!"

The farmzod tilted his head, his eyes darting back and forth between the two mechands as if wary of being tricked.

"It's true," Ooplo continued. "See, Landfall, my little food-growing friend, is just another word for the End of the Year Feast!" He smiled and Varantz forced himself out of his shock, grunting in agreement.

"Ah.... I... right. Right! 'At's wot I was sayin' in th' first place, only yous weren't list'nin'! I knew wot it was, I did; I was just teasin' you lot! Hahaha!!" The farmzod jumped up and down, squirming in his loose-fitting worksuit.

Ooplo and Varantz put on another good laugh then, but as soon as they could they shifted the conversation to safer topics. Eventually the warning bell sounded, and the scrawny little farmzod bounced happily off toward the elevator shaft to return to his work up in the growfields.

Ooplo and Varantz made their way back to their post, both deep in thought. Before they parted ways Ooplo put a hand on his friend's shoulder and spoke into his ear so quietly that Varantz barely heard him.

"If the shipmasters have indeed found a planet that can support life, this could be our one and only chance. We need to get the word out."

Varantz nodded solemnly. "Yes. Yes we do. And you know what? I'm tired of being a slave. You?"

"You know it, brother."


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Landfall ( I )

"The o'Mighty Gracef'l Shipmasters decreed it, They did.'Eard it wi' me own eyes this very wakin' hour, I did!"

"Well now I know you're lying.'Heard' it with your 'eyes'? Hey Var, get a load o' this mushbrain scallopgrafter! Ha!" Ooplo slapped the side of the tank with a mighty fist and belched a series of guffaws.

The little farmzod's eyes darted back and forth between the two brutish mechands, cringing at the booming sound of their laughter. "'At's..." He started, and then raised his voice to be heard. "Oy! 'At's not wot I meaned! I meaned seened. Seened wi' me ears is wot I meaned, I did. An' no joke, neither! They said to us—"

"Hey look," chuckled Varantz as he pointed at the farmzod and elbowed the other mechand in the ribs. "He's... he's like a.... He's like a volofruit!!"

"BAAAAHAHAAA!!!" Ooplo was laughing so hard his face bulged red, and a thin whine escaped his throat as he fought to catch his breath.

The farmzod sighed and rolled his eyes. "Fine, don' beleeb me. Do as wot suits you nice; jus' wait 'til the time comes, an' you lot'll miss out on a count o' you din see fit to beleeb the tooth in wot I be sayin'. It won' dee-sturb me nohow, it won't."

"Wai... wait," Ooplo wheezed. "I think the little veggiescab is actually trying to tell us something." Chest heaving and tears streaming down his soot-caked cheeks, he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and stared intently into the farmzod's eyes. The farmzod rolled them once more, but seemed suddenly less uptight now that he was being taken seriously.

"Now. What was it you think you heard, little one?" Ooplo said.

Varantz erupted with a fresh bout of sniggering. "Or saw?"

"Shut it," Ooplo barked, signaling for the farmzod to speak. The other mechand sobered immediately.

The farmzod folded his skinny arms and made a show of glancing over his shoulders to make sure they were alone. It was a particularly pointless gesture, because he was sitting with his back to the wall. "'Struth, I say," he hissed in a whisper louder than his normal speaking voice. "First time the o'Mighty Gracef'l Shipmasters deigned to make a announciation in months, see. You mechands down 'ere wi' your machines an' pipe tunnels an' all, you think us planters get blessed an' get pressies every day, but let me tell you—"

"Get on with it, dirtboy," Ooplo growled.

A vacant look came over the farmzod's features. He sniffed twice, pulled a string of grimy black snot from a nostril with the end of his little finger, and wiped it on his leathery forearm. "Right," he continued. "Well as I was sayin', They ain't made a announciation in months. An' 'ere They are this mornin', as sudden as a fart outa me mum's bum, a-speakin' to us right an' proper from the Big-panel jus' like they never left, see? Jus' like They was the lovin' Mothers an' Fathers They was o'vold, see? Only this time it weren't no 'Plant this, harvest that, get to work you lot;' no, I say! They was all eyes-a-glowin' an'—"

Varantz groaned.

The farmzod sat up straight. "Right." Wot they say was, Our Great Mother Ship, see, She's goin' to make Lan'fall within th' year, She is."

The two mechands sat stunned for a long moment. "Landfall?" Ooplo finally snorted. "You sure you heard right?"

"'At's wot I said; Lan'fall! Showed us clear as a drunk sot's piss on th' Big-panel, They did!" The little farmzod was blinking rapidly, quivering in anticipation of the praise he obviously felt he deserved for divulging this information.

"Showed you what, exactly?" Varantz's jaw was rigid. Ooplo sat still as a box of lead bolts, one hand frozen on his chin below a pair of slightly parted lips. There was not a trace of laughter left in either of the mechands' eyes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tunnel

TunnelThe wall reflects this cold light, draws a glowing shawl around my periphery, and fools my brain into believing the black pit in front of me is something I can control by measuring my advance.

But I am the one controlled. For as warm as these curves might feel to my eyes, it is the darkness that draws me on; ever forward, ever deeper, ever farther from life and love and security.

I chose to be here. You'll never know why; even when They do eventually find my body, dredged in whatever form by Their ubiquitous little cleaner bots, no human back topside will hear of it. Not that you would understand anyway, my son.

We've had that conversation before.

Hope is upward, not downward, you would say. And I would reply again that in this world that is not ours, upward is a false hope; defiance is the only thing worth fighting for. Even if it is, as you say, futile.

Because I believe there are some things more important than succeeding or surviving: Dignity. Sovereignty. Living without shame. But we've had that conversation before.

And so downward through the tunnels I go, alone. Eventually They will discover me, and the lights will go out. But who knows? I might even find my way to the underside before that happens, and catch a glimpse of the clouds as they drift over our beloved homeland, miles below this invasive monstrosity.

I might even get a chance to fly.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Envoys

Envoys. Photo by Gaines Post, 2012.The band of killers crested a hill and had a view of the Harbor behind and the snowy mountains ahead. The wind blew down the little alpine valley, carrying with it a scent of manure. Olion raised his gauntleted hand, and without a word his men stopped behind him. Vaardvir the Boot sidled up and leaned close.

Olion pointed at a shady rock outcropping half a dal ahead. The Boot followed his gaze and nodded.

A tiny pair of figures was there; children probably, tending a fold of shemgar near the lake's edge. Now the bleating sounds of the animals could be heard intermittently on the wind.

"We're close," Olion whispered, scanning the valley for smokesign. The Boot tilted his head and signaled the men. They touched their fists to their chests silently and followed him and Olion, charging along the icy shore on black-veined legs with inhuman speed.

They swept upon the two little boys like a wave. The older of the two shouted something and tried to grab the younger one in a frantic effort to escape, but the Boot tackled them and pinned them to the ground, one in each arm. Soon the others had rounded up several of the shemgar and were already beginning to butcher them.

Olion stood over the children. They were perhaps ten and twelve in age and appeared to be brothers. He cleared his throat.

"We are envoys from Vogroth Castle," he lied. "We require these animals for our sustenance. Tell me, boys, what is the name of your village?"

The older one met Olion's black eyes defiantly and tried to shrug off the hands that held him down. A smart one, Olion thought. He frowned, but the boy did not lower his gaze.

Vaardvir the Boot tightened his grip, pushing the wind out of the boy until he winced and stopped struggling. But Olion waved him off. Letting go, the Boot stood slowly and loomed over the boy and his little brother as they wheezed for breath.

"Pyelmubrr'on," the older child said finally. "Our village is Pyelmubrr'on."

"And your name?"

The child hesitated. "Danloro."

Olion leaned over him. "Well, Danloro, I can see that you are quite brave. But do not forget your manners, young man, or those shemgar will not be the only ones to lose their pulses this afternoon." Olion nodded meaningfully at the boy's little brother.

Danloro sat up and brushed himself off. "Yes, darr'a," he said.

"Myotdarr'a," Vaardvir the Boot growled.

"Yes, Myotdarr'a," the boy repeated in a tone rich with irony.

"Dan," his little brother whimpered next to him.

"It'll be okay," the older boy whispered.

"Quiet," the Boot menaced.

Olion stood and glanced at his lieutenant. "We will take these two with us. But first we eat."

The Boot tilted his head in acquiescence and turned to organize the men.

Squatting next to Danloro and his brother, Olion placed his weapon on the cold mountain grass and said, "Now then, boys, my men are hungry.  What do you know of starting a fire?"