SavagePlanets, April 2024

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Where Dreams & Nightmares Collide

In This Issue...

A.J. Flowers

Timothy Quinn

E A Carter

Robert Pettus

E.J.N. Dawson

Featuring a personal conversation with

Tanya Lemani George

From Las Vegas headliner to iconic Star Trek dancer and beyond, Tanya Lemani George is a versatile talent in Hollywood, now captivating as an author and screenwriter.



Volume 4/Issue 2







Editor in Chief Steven S. Behram Fiction Editor Keith 'Doc' Raymond Poetry Editor Steven S. Behram Art Editor B.o.B. (A.I. Sentience) SavagePlanets 01 I SavagePlanets Signals from the Stellar Core 05 Flawless, Part 2 07 Latitude 15 Planetary Communiqué 23 Sci-Fi Entertainment 25 The Guardian 45 Rainy Calhoun Street 53 Poems from Imaginaria 61 Future Artifacts 69 SubSpace 77 Moth Dust 81 Contents
15 53 45 SavagePlanets I 02
25 81
In Loving Memory of Our Friend & Colleague Martin Schell
your soul traverse the cosmos, finding new worlds and possibilities as boundless as your imagination.


from Stellar Core


Strap in for an interstellar journey with SavagePlanets, where curiosity fuels our engines and creativity charts our course through the cosmic ocean. This issue serves as your quantum leap into realms both awe-inspiring and enigmatic, offering a glimpse into realities as vast and varied as the universe itself. Are we on the brink of discovering new dimensions of wonder, or are we delving into the nebulous realms of our collective psyche?

Galactic Gateways

Dive headfirst into the cosmic sea with SavagePlanets as we launch yet another expedition into the vast unknowns of the creative universe. This quar ter, our galaxy of storytellers has eclipsed previous bounds, spinning a constellation of stories and po ems that navigate from the core of our terrestrial home to the furthest frontiers of the fantastical.

Quantum Verses

In this edition's "Imaginaria," we venture beyond the realms of the conceivable, exploring the profound

and the peculiar through speculative poetry. From Daniel Lenois' "The Colorless Expanse," a poignant reflection on loss and legacy amidst cosmic diaspora, to Alex Johnson's "Cross-Dimensional Ecologies," an awe-inspiring journey through a universe of boundless biodiversity and intertwined realities. Emily Park invites us through "Doors to the Absurd," where the surreal becomes our guide, while AJ Hastings's "Temporal Anomalies" entangles us in the delicate dance of fate and consequence. John Barnett's "Threads" unravels the paradoxes of time, and Nathan Frostwind's "Elegy

for the Digitally Reborn" contemplates the digital afterlife's ethereal echoes. Finally, Dorian Vale's "Quantum Immortality" confronts the existential solitude of unending consciousness. These poems, each a beacon of imagination, challenge us to perceive beyond our reality, daring us to dream wildly and question deeply.

Cosmic Commentary

In the latest "Planetary Communiqué," our cosmic commentator, Hojack, returns with a gleefully sarcastic observation of Earthly (actually, Alabama's) legal oddities.

Nebula Narratives

In this quarter's cavalcade of tales, we delve into the heart-stopping conclusion of "Flawless 2" by A.J. Flowers. Here, Freya's mysterious gift to Astrid becomes humanity's final stand against the looming shadow of Ragnarok, offering a glimmer of hope to restore balance in their besieged world.

Next, "Latitude" by Timothy Quinn takes us on a gripping journey of vengeance and discovery. As Joe seeks the man behind his son's demise, he encounters Marcus, a drone pilot with secrets that challenge the very fabric of Joe's understanding of justice and retribution.

In "The Guardian," penned by E A Carter and finely edited by Keith 'Doc' Raymond, a catastrophic experiment catapults a researcher into the arms of a multiverse guardian. Their unlikely alliance against a universal menace questions the very nature of destiny and self-determination.

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"Rainy Calhoun Street" by Robert Pettus presents a dystopian vision where a homeless former professor navigates the complexities of freedom and companionship in a world controlled by an omnipresent AI, exploring the essence of humanity amidst technological dominion.

Lastly, "Moth Dust" by E.J.N. Dawson uncovers the dark underbelly of corporate greed through the eyes of a mining team. Their discovery of stranded colossal moths on a distant planet leads them into the heart of a conspiracy, blurring the lines between exploiters and the guardians of nature.

Each story, a beacon of speculative brilliance, invites our readers to explore the unknown, challenging the limits of imagination and the boundaries of the universe itself.

Star Light, Star Bright

In this edition's Sci-Fi Entertainment section, we dive deep into the creative minds shaping the genre's future. Engage in a mesmerizing

conversation with E.A. Carter, a scribe who masterfully blends the rich tapestries of ancient mythologies with the boundless possibilities of science fiction in her Transcendence series and I Cassandra. Discover how she challenges us to rethink our realities and relationships in the distant future of 2086, making her narratives not just stories, but voyages across time and myth.

Our journey doesn't stop there; we also share an exclusive spotlight on Tanya Lemani George, whose multifaceted career has seen her transition from the dazzling stages of Las Vegas to the iconic decks of the Starship Enterprise. Her reflections on her journey from ballet dancer to a Star Trek legend, and her candid recounting of personal and professional challenges, offer a rare glimpse into the heart of a true pioneer in Sci-Fi entertainment.

Finally, immerse yourself in "Awareness," a film review that promises to unravel the mind-bending mysteries of perception and reality. A testament to the genre's

power to explore the human condition. This piece invites us to question the very fabric of our universe.

Beyond the Horizon

As we close this edition of SavagePlanets, we reflect on the myriad ways in which stories and ideas have the power to transport us beyond the confines of our known universe. These narratives, steeped in the speculative and the surreal, invite us to consider not just what lies beyond the stars, but also the unexplored depths within ourselves. They remind us that in the vastness of the cosmos, there is always room for more stories, more discoveries, and more dreams.

Thank you, cosmic travelers, for joining us on this journey through the uncharted realms of imagination. Until our next adventure, keep looking to the stars and beyond, where the next tale awaits to unfold the infinite possibilities that await all of us.

SavagePlanets I 06


I gave up my sight so that it might remind me of who I am. I am a daughter of Freya, flawed of the Valkyries, and even if can’t take in all the beauty of Valhalla with my eyes, I still soar above it on mighty wings, knowing that I’m strong enough to keep the world forever safe”

Chapter 8

I couldn't believe Odin would want me, the sole flawed daughter of the Flawless. Yet, when Freya explained it to me, it made more sense.

Ragnarok would come when the three gods of our world grew to such strength they would unbalance the world, spilling it into chaos. The only way to restore it would be to regain a peaceful understanding, or to endure an endless war with a victor claiming all the power for themselves. It turned out that they had imbued me with a secret power Freya had hidden away.

Odin controlled the earth and men. Freya fueled the air, nature, and women. It was Sol who centered in the middle, having the power over the waters and the sun. Humans believed there

were too many gods, and at the time there had been. But chaos came in cycles, and eventually gods such as Aegir of the sea and Loki, who’d been the byproduct of chaos, succumbed to their nature. They’d all fallen in wars before my time. Freya, Odin, and Sol overpowered those they had taken in battle, leaving only themselves to reign. The way the air zinged with whispers of chaos, it wouldn’t be much longer before the true Ragnarok was upon us.

There was only one way to stop the decimation of the world. Freya was right. It only took one glance at my sisters, weakened and arrogant, to know how right she was. They nursed each other’s wounds, but stubbornly, they pushed away needed medicines and fought to their feet, ready but not strong enough for battle. They should rest, but Mira was among them,

shaking and pale, trying to lift her sword as she staggered into the practice arena.

It was useless to argue with them. My sisters never listened to me. Freya’s saddened gaze swept over us as she lingered in the cloister behind her opaque wall of stone. She wouldn’t come out. She would conserve her energy and wait for Ragnarok to come, having imbued Loki’s power in me. If anyone could stop Ragnarok’s momentum, it would be the power Freya had hidden inside my soul. It was foolish of me to think it, but I had to stop the destruction on the horizon.

Stomping to the edge of the village, I made my way to the boats and found the sturdiest one. Valkyries rarely ventured off the island, but sometimes we did, for resources or for knowledge.

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I grabbed a splintered oar and shoved off, silently slinking into the fog.

If Freya knew that I’d left, she didn’t leave the safety of her temple to stop me.

Chapter 9

Sol’s presence lingered on the seas as I tugged the sail and whispered a prayer for a breeze to help me along. I stared into the dark abyss of the horizon and waited.

Sol loved Freya, and he wouldn’t dare harm one of his daughters. She’d danced with him for so long. It was only when Ragnarok approached she would retreat into her temple. If she had to fight against him, she needed to guard her heart in her betrayal of her father.

When the sea air remained still, I

licked my dried lips and lifted my voice into song. The melody was one Liliana taught me as a child, but I changed the words to suit my heart’s desire.

Sensing Freya, wounded and lost, I wished to ease her sorrow. “Please, great Sol, send me a breeze so I can be on my way to the distant shore. For there is one other god amongst your kind who yet lives. Odin, and he will bring Ragnarok upon us unless I go to him and give him that which he seeks.”

Fear wound through me when the winds picked up and caught my sail. Either Sol would overturn my flimsy boat, or grant my request and help me reach Odin’s shores. Water splashed as the boat sliced through the waves. My hair swept over my shoulders as a breeze pummeled me. Sol didn’t speak,

didn’t appear, but I knew that he’d heard me.

Even though I was shaking, both from cold and terror, I crouched into the grainy hull of my boat and gripped onto the rudder, directing myself towards the brightest star on the horizon.

Chapter 10

Odin’s lands weren’t what I’d expected. Ugly snarled rocks blocked my entry and had my boat been any larger, I wouldn’t have found purchase on the crags. I would have crashed into them, but Sol’s winds died and my boat’s wood creaked and scraped along the jagged fingers of Odin’s shore.

Where Freya’s island was soft and welcoming, her counterpart lived up to his reputation. Even through the blur of my broken

SavagePlanets I 08 Extraterrestrial Fiction

sight, sharp angles and points betrayed the harsh land for what it was. This was where hardened men dwelled, those who came in the night to kill my people, and who would kill me now if they found me.

Even though I was a flawed daughter, I was still a Valkyrie. I had the power of the goddess just as much as any of my sisters and wrapped myself in her magic, just as they had taught me to do. Mira loved to startle me out of my grand delusions, but her endless taunts served me as I embraced the cold secrecy of the mist. Eager in my attempt to make myself invisible, even though my heart fluttered like a bird trapped in a cage.

I stepped onto the broken, ragged shore and winced as rocks bit into my thin sandals. Voices carried on the breeze, and I froze just as the glow of torches glided over the hills.

Panic jolted through me. I stumbled, and a jagged shard speared straight through my shoe. I stifled the scream as hot blood spurt over my foot. With black spots threat ening my vision, I yanked myself free and stumbled down onto the beach, cloaking myself in invisibility.

“It’s just one boat,” said the younger man, his voice soft and lyrical, the direct opposite of his older counterpart. “Do you think only one Valkyrie came? Why? It’d be suicide.” He swirled as if searching for me. I froze and scarcely breathed when his gaze passed over the spot where I stood and I clung to Freya’s magic, pulling it tight around me. He didn’t spot me, but his gaze lowered to the trail of blood I couldn’t hide. He ran his finger over it and frowned, rubbing the dark blood between his forefinger and thumb. “This has to

the soft grooves of their footsteps all the way into Odin’s stronghold.

Chapter 11

Where the Valkyries preferred to live in a village with modest huts and groaning trees, Odin’s men lived within walls of rock that towered hard and cold. I shivered when I followed the men into its shadow and dredged up what little courage I could muster to do what needed to be done.

I followed the men past workshops, and places of flames where iron smiths beat steel. Dirt and dust flung up everywhere, and I wrinkled my nose, suppressing a sneeze that would undoubtedly give me away.

be a trick,” said the bearded man. “Come, let’s report this to Odin.”

“I’ve never seen Odin like this,” said a man, his words tumbling over a curly beard. He lifted the torch and squinted at the horizon. “He’s furious that Sol sent the Valkyries here to retaliate. The breeze never blows north, so I understand his assumption, but I don’t see—” His eyes went wide when he saw my boat.

Silently cursing that I couldn’t extend my magic any further, I dragged myself out of his path as much as I could, just in time as he stumbled down the rocks and his companion drew his sword.

The younger man nodded and followed as the old man turned and stormed back over the hill, but not before glancing over his shoulder and deliberately dropping a pouch to the sands.

When I scrambled to it, I found familiar crushed orange blossoms inside, a healing herb that would numb the worst of the damage and pain.

I didn’t question this compassion from one of Odin’s ruthless sons. Gingerly, I applied the ointment, and then I followed, stepping into

Eventually, the grime gave way to polished marble and granite as we scaled the steps into Odin’s temple. Unlike Freya, he didn’t live in a small cloister where only a select few could worship. My eyes went wide when we entered a long hall and there was a god sitting atop a throne. Where Freya was softness and birdsong, Odin was pure brittle rage. His voice, flint against stone, sparked harshly in my ears. “What have you found?” he boomed. He motioned for the men to come closer. “Hurry, you fool! Freya is about to descend upon us!”

Shock froze the men. It took me a moment to realize that no matter how often they came into Odin’s presence, their fear still choked them. The eldest was the first to scramble to the stairs that led to the throne and bowed to one knee. He waited for his younger counterpart to follow before he spoke. “A single boat, sire. That’s all.”

Odin frowned, his gaze lingering knowingly on the youngest. “Freya thinks me so weak that she only

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sends a small squadron?” he bellowed with rage. He slammed his fist onto the arm of his throne and a shockwave spanned out, sending cracks through the room like an earthquake.

I shivered at the impact of his power, and it wasn’t until I opened my eyes again did I find the god staring straight at me. The shockwave broke Freya’s magic and my invisibility, if just for a moment, but long enough for Odin to see me.

The men startled and turned, only to scramble to their feet and draw their weapons. “Valkyrie!” the youngest screeched, but it was a cry of desperation, as if he wished for me to flee.

I frowned and splayed my palms. “I come in peace,” I said, my voice smooth and submissive despite the black spot glittering over my vision betraying my fear.

The boiling blotch of my vision that was Odin’s massive form turned to the men. “Fools. You’ve brought my death straight to me.” When the men cowered, he sighed and looked back at me, his voice both weary and displeased. “No need for lies, little Valkyrie. You’ve come to kill me.” He stood, and the walls shook with the impact of his power. “No doubt you are Freya’s best. I will not underestimate you.”

Stilling the panic threatening to beat my heart straight out of my chest, I found my voice. “I do not lie, sir Odin. I have not come to kill you. Quite the opposite. I wish to mend your relationship with my goddess.”

His frown deepened, but the earthquake that sent my bones rattling eased into a distant thunder. “My men have just attacked your sisters and your goddess. It is the way of Ragnarok, and I have accepted there will only be one god who can remain. Why would you attempt to mend that which no god can mend? Not when we have killed and shown our ruthlessness.”

Images of Liliana flittered across my mind, but I used them to make sure her death wouldn’t be in vain. “The answer to your question requires me to share that which Freya secreted inside me.” I spread my arms in invitation. “See for yourself.”

Odin lowered his weight onto the first step, and the castle boomed. He took another; the shock jarring my teeth as a god, opposite in every way to my own, approached me and rested a heavy hand on my shoulder as he peered into my broken eyes. “Impossible,” he breathed as the swirls of his irises examined mine. “No Valkyrie could be born with a flaw.”

“Why, little Valkyrie?”

I made sure not to shift my gaze when I spoke. “Come closer, and you will see the world as I do.”

To my surprise, the god obeyed. And then Freya’s secret, her weapon that she’d placed in me so long ago, tore out of me and engulfed Odin in his own screams.

Chapter 12

Odin’s hard walls melted around us as the thing that was the remnant of Loki’s chaos took control. Nothing could escape it, for Loki’s power was the momentum of Ragnarok itself. Freya was the one who took Loki down. Sol had loved her for it, for she’d been a warrior then, fearless and graceful with her blade, slicing Loki’s head clean off his body.

Only a god could kill another god, and her blade cauterized Loki’s neck with such finality that his own gifts flowed into her, adding his power to hers.

Their power had taken my sight. Yet there must be balance, even in the body of a Valkyrie. Freya had taken my flawless sight so she could secret Loki’s weapon within me. Freya didn’t wish to use it, but to hide it and keep it safe.

I smiled, knowing now that I had him. “You’re quite correct, sir Odin. I am flawed, but I don’t have to be. My goddess stripped away the precision of my sight as a babe. Even when she offered to return it to me, I declined. Do you know why?”

Intrigued, he curled his shoulders, so that we were eye-level.

My world went dark when Loki’s chaos ripped out of me and tore into Odin. In that instant, it transported me to another place, one of deities and memories: Valhalla.

I knew where we were, but it was a broken, distant part of Valhalla where gods spoke in parlay. It was Sol’s voice who boomed first. “Finally, Astrid released Loki’s power. Ragnarok threatened all life on Earth, staying just over the horizon for far too long.” His golden brilliance bathed the three of us in warmth as he split through the shadows.

A silver sphere that was my goddess Freya came next and held Sol’s hand. “Patience, my love. Loki’s power connects all life to

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 10

Ragnarok, but my daughter is the one who brought us here. Let us hear her out.”

Odin bayed with rage. “Tricks and mystery. These aren’t your ways, Freya.” His blazing gaze turned on me. A hundred times more powerful in this realm. Instinctively, I guarded myself, surprised beyond belief to find that I bore wings. A Valkyrie’s true form, when Freya reached the pinnacle of her power (and her daughters found the truth of their

strength), would be beings with wings. They splayed and jerked me away from the threat of his flashing blade.

“Listen,” I commanded, my voice carrying far greater power than I could have imagined. I shouldn’t have been able to stand among the gods. But Freya transferred a dead god’s power directly into my soul. I wasn’t just a Valkyrie. I was something more, something new. “Do you not see that I am more than Valkyrie? I am more than

flawed? This is how we will stave off Ragnarok.”

Interest peaked, Sol approached. His golden warmth bathed me as he smiled. “Freya put Loki’s power in you?” he observed. “I didn’t know this was possible.”

I nodded and pointed to the splash of waters circling around his wrists. “You hold Aegir’s might of the sea. It has served you well, but perhaps it is time you give it up as well. Perhaps to someone of your own choosing. This would

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restore the balance further.”

Odin frowned, his rage diminishing into a rumbling growl. “You ask us to give up the powers we have killed for?”

It was Freya who spoke in a flurry of excited bells. “Do you see?

Astrid has done the impossible. She’s activated a piece of Loki’s power within herself. I do not feel the crazed compulsion to kill you anymore, ex-husband.” She drew close to me and cupped my face. The glimmer of emotion in her eyes made me sway with the power of her raw grief and delight. “Such a gift, this child. Such a gift. Had I known…”

Sol gripped her shoulder. He was both her father and husband now, but only because Loki’s power had made her turn on Odin, and Hel’s power had made him turn on her. Love sparkled in Sol’s gaze. “I will try it first.” He offered, turning to Odin.

“You will oversee the process. Then if you wish for peace, if you wish to stave off Ragnarok, you will do the same.”

Odin stilled, and his rage, though seething within a swirling red mist, didn’t refuse Sol’s sug gestion.

truest form of humanity, except for Freya’s daughters and Odin’s sons.. Sol’s peoples’ soft, wide eyes sparkled with wonder as three gods and a winged Valkyrie appeared before them descending from the mists of Valhalla.

“My people!” Sol boomed, spreading his arms wide to greet those who spilled out onto the beaches. “I call upon you to provide me a sacrifice in our time of need.”

Having known Valkyries all my life, any among my sisters would

power, you must give up the right to walk.”

It was kind of Sol to offer them the terms of their sacrifice. I cupped my fingers around my elbows, and shivered when silky feathers brushed my arms, my wings still part of me. Freya smiled at me as we listened, proud of the only flawed of the Flawless. The one who gained the right to wear the fabled wings of the Valkyries. Even though I’d been subject to such a sacrifice, it had been an exchange unknown to me. It was only when I’d chosen this life did my wings appear. The realization made me shiver as understanding swept over me. If these people willingly sacrificed for the love of their god, they would lose something but gain something remarkable in return.

Sol’s gaze fell back to me. “Take us to the shore, young Valkyrie. I will make the sacrifice.”

Closing my eyes, I turned my magic inward, and used the swirl of chaos unlocked inside of my soul to take us there.

Chapter 13

Not returning to Odin’s shore, but to the divide where his territory met Sol’s realm, Sol wasn’t just the commander of the sea and sun, but of men and women who followed him. They’d come from lineages of old gods and were the

fice. They’d give their lives in bat tle, as was their pledge, but these folks were not warriors. These were the humble village people who bathed in Sol’s shores and worshiped him from afar. I expected there to refuse with cries of outrage. Instead, a multitude of men and women came forth and offered themselves to Sol.

Sol smiled and took his time, walking among them, placing his hand atop their heads. “You have served me well, my people, and today I will put Aegir’s powers into one of you. It is no paltry offer I ask of you, for in return for this

The better part of the village volunteered with hands upraised and voices begging. Sol turned down twothirds of them. “Most of you must tend to your families and your flocks. I need only one.”

The chosen beamed with pride. “Your sacrifice will be to lose the ability to walk. Do you still wish to serve me?” Sol

If the thought of never walking again disturbed him, he didn’t show it. He settled on the ground and awaited Sol’s command.

Sol gave Odin a triumphant look. The god of wrath and war frowned back, but it seemed to be his normal expression. I couldn't tell if it intrigued him or not because of his displeased expression.

Sol turned to his people and the stream of water ever-present around his wrists swirled into the air and showered over the gathering like rain. The men and women splayed their palms and leaned their heads back, closing their eyes as they basked in the magic

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 12

of Aegir’s power.

Aegir controlled the seas, and I understood the sacrifice when the chosen one’s legs transformed into fins. The people didn’t cry out, even though his face contorted with pain. When the transformation was complete, he crawled across the sand until he reached the sea, and dove in.

We watched him go, silent as if watching the dead cross the sky to enter Valhalla. But his face showed joy when he turned back, briefly. Fresh gills appeared on his neck before he leaped and dove into the deep.

Mourning cries began, because we knew his sacrifice had been more than just a loss of legs. He was a sea creature now, just as old Aegir’s followers had been. The merfolk slept in the deep and had no place in their hearts for the world of men.

Sol exhaled and his skin grew a shade brighter, as if rejuvenated by the loss of magic on his wrist that cooled his fire. “It works, Odin. I feel more balanced. Aegir’s power is at peace in the sea. The return of the merman will not ignite Ragnarok’s spark. He will keep Aegir’s power secret and safe, like Astrid did.” His golden eyes blazed as he stared at Odin. “Now it is your turn. Find a

follower willing to sacrifice for you, and we will restore the balance. Ragnarok will never come.”

Odin frowned, his eerie gaze finding mine. I couldn’t see the lines that no doubt marred his face as he frowned. I expected to face his aura of rage, but I felt a flash of grief and envy emanate from his words. “What made you willing to sacrifice your sight for your goddess?” he asked me.

Stunned, I attempted to fold my new wings onto my back to stand straighter, but my new appendages limited that action. So I curled them around me as I crossed my arms and guarded myself from his harsh breath as Freya swept to my side. “You don’t have to answer him,” she said. “You’re one of my Valkyries.”

“It’s all right,” I said. I knew why she didn’t want me to answer, but keeping secrets wouldn’t prevent him from unleashing Ragnarok. If revealing the truth would give Odin peace and save us, then it was an offering that not only I, but my goddess, would have to make.

“Strength,” I said, the single word a testament to the truth. “Without flaws, we can not learn strength. Without sacrifice, we do not learn to appreciate that which we have. So when my goddess offered me back my sight, I refused it. For to take it would mean I’d become weaker, not stronger.”

Odin hummed and stroked his chin. “Intriguing.” He turned as black smoke billowed from his heels. “There may yet be one candidate worthy to take this power.”

I knew where he was going, so it only took a moment’s hesitation before I delved into Loki’s magic, tucked into my soul, and followed him.

Chapter 14

Odin’s power was great, but the harshest of magics stemmed from Hel, the god of death. Odin had skewered him on the end of his blade. Though Odin was the god of war, giving up death would mean he’d lose his greatest strength. To overcome the loss would gouge a wrongness into him so foul and deep that it would cement the divide between him and his estranged wife, Freya.

Odin’s sons were primarily beasts, but there was a boy Odin recalled that might. None of his men, as they were now, would be capable of the sacrifice needed to take death’s dark power. But Odin knew there was one willing to please him, one stupid enough to trade his rare compassion for a chance to make Odin proud.

This was the young, wide-eyed soldier who’d found my blood trail on the beach. The god didn’t tower above him on his throne or demand a sacrifice. Instead, he stood on the shore where my boat remained, lodged in the jagged rocks, as a reminder that compassion was a weakness in times of war.

“You’ll be like all of my other sons,” Odin promised. He rested his heavy hands on the boy’s frame. “You’ll be strong and fearless.”

The bold blue haze of his eyes found mine, his compassion flowing over me. I flared my wings to keep my balance as the winds of my desire buffeted, urging me to stop Odin. But I stood no chance against a god. And worse still, if Odin didn’t release Hel’s power, Ragnarok would swamp us all. Odin’s desire to overthrow the other gods could end up consuming him until war became inevitable. If that happened, and if Odin killed Sol and Freya, he’d go mad with all their power and destroy the world in his rage.

“What do you think?” the boy asked me, stepping close enough that I could see the innocent trust

13 I SavagePlanets

in his gaze. He didn’t worry about the end of the world or what might happen. He glanced at his god, the only father he’d ever known, before looking back at me with sheepish hope and pure optimism.

Odin sighed. “Don’t you see my son? Your compassion endangers us all. Why would you even ask the opinion of a Valkyrie, a daughter of Freya, my greatest enemy?”

Ignoring the god whose voice boomed through my chest, I continued to stare into the boy and said, “I believe Odin must release his power onto one willing to take it, but it is a sacrifice. There is no going back. You must do this because you wish for the world to be a better place. Is that what you want?”

The boy frowned as he pondered my question. “All I’ve ever wanted was to please my brothers, my uncles, and Odin.” He glanced at the god who towered behind him.

I placed my hand on his shoulder and squeezed. The muscle underneath his leathers tensed with my touch. “Do you wish to please them? Or do you wish to save them from their own destruction?”

Hope glittered across his gaze. “I’d always thought I was the broken one. But maybe it’s them, and I am the only one who can fix them.”

Backing away, I nodded to Odin.

“Very well,” Odin boomed and took a knife from his belt. He slit a long line across his palm. “Then drink of my blood, and this power shall be yours.”

I knew what his sacrifice would be, but I made myself watch as the boy did as he was told. After he’d tasted of the terrible power, sharp serrated wings sprouted from his back, and his spine bowed to an impossible angle as he let out a deafening scream.

When it was done, Hel had been reborn. Beady red eyes looked back at us with a mixture of power and sorrow.

Grief would have overtaken me, if I hadn’t seen that same darkness in Odin ease.

Chapter 15

Heralded as the peacemaker of the gods and the one who staved off Ragnarok, Freya invited me back to Valhalla to train with Liliana. I didn’t have to meet Liliana in the darkness where I’d first found the other gods. By bringing balance back to the world of men, Valhalla glowed once more with its endless waterfalls, singing spirits, and halls filled with mead and joy. I would never need to be afraid of not being welcomed again.

To this day, I soar overhead, ever vigilant for Ragnarok to threaten us once more. I’ll never leave Valhalla, for I know that its threat lives on in me. I have Loki’s mischief, and it tempts me every day. But I gave up my sight so that it might remind me of who I am. I am a daughter of Freya, flawed of the Valkyries, and even if can’t

take in all the beauty of Valhalla with my eyes, I still soar above it on mighty wings, knowing that I’m strong enough to keep the world forever safe.

About Flawless

This story has some fun personal history in it. They invited me to write a novelette for a fantasy anthology that highlighted fantasy characters with disabilities. Severe nearsightedness plagued much of my childhood and adolescence, but because of a poor diagnosis, my doctor prescribed me glasses that didn’t treat my astigmatism. I wasn’t aware of how bad it really was. I couldn’t see clouds or leaves until I was nearly in my teens. My friends were unrecognizable coming down the hall until I memorized their gait or the colors they wore that day. I did not know that I was living with a huge handicap.

When I got contacts, I cried. I stared at the ocean, the sky, the detail of trees. It was fascinating. It made me appreciate the basic senses we have, but I also felt the experience helped me appreciate what others with disabilities experience, especially those born with a disability. Those that one day find out they’re missing out on something everyone else has taken for granted. I was blessed that someone fixed my issue, but not everyone has that luxury. I hope this story helps those who feel they are flawed, because we all have our flaws and accepting those flaws and understanding them can make us stronger. In fact, it makes all the difference.

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 14


You’re zip-tied to a chair and I’ve shot you full of elephant tranquilizer. You can say whatever you want to say."
15 I SavagePlanets

She calls as they’re pre-boarding his connecting flight to Incheon, and he takes the call on his gun. “I can’t talk,” he says. “I’m getting on a plane.”

“There’s an offer on the house.”

“Okay.” He’s unfolded his boarding pass with his free hand, looking for his seat. They’ve put him near the back by the starboard rotor.

“If we decide to sell, you’ll need to sign.”

“I know.”

“It may happen quickly, Joe.”

“I know.” He palms the grip, checks the charge. Three bars, solid amber. He palms twice for the time, sans serif charcoal on the matte black of the barrel, does the math. “I’ll look at it tomorrow morning. They’re going to call my row.”

She doesn’t ask where he’s going or when he’ll be back, and since the funeral last year he hasn’t called her either. He’s been sleeping at Mike’s, down in the basement among boxes stacked on wooden pallets and some of the folded patio furniture. Listening to mice navigate the dark emptiness above.

His knees pop as he gets to his feet. He’s in the here and now, feeling the comforting weight of the holstered weapon back under his left armpit.

An hour and a half by commuter VTOL has brought him to the sheeting winter rain of the Los Angeles Basin microclimate, although post-retrofit LAX looks just like Phoenix-Tucson. The same coffee kiosks and burger chains and duty free, the same TSA buzzcuts, the same baggy

camos on kids who chose an AR15 and an electric Warthog over college.

The emptying terminal smells of discount cologne and floor cleaner, and something else. The smell of people. Too many people, moving in too much of a hurry, through too enclosed a space. It’s a herd smell, incongruous in the bleak light of the departure lounge.

He joins the queue at the gate, reads the warning that he’s consented to share his DNA with the TSA, the FAA, the CDC, the FBI, the SEC, the Federal Elections Commission and various other federal, state and international agencies. He only has the one bag, a small brown leather duffel with a couple shirts and another pair of pants, socks and underwear balled into the

SavagePlanets I 16 Extraterrestrial Fiction

corners. He has the Walmart tablet his son bought him for the added security.

Everything you do with a licensed firearm…? Mike telling him for the hundredth time. Hassling him for using the tap, or cashing in points at the pump.

I don’t know, what.

It all gets logged on the manufacturer’s blockchain.

He doesn’t care about privacy. But he doesn’t like the idea of his Glock showing him coupons to Applebee’s either.

He feels the ventilation change direction as he enters the air bridge and climbs up into negative pressure, past the sniffers and scrubbers and beneath the camera domes and the ceiling vents he imagines hide radiological spectrometers, into a zone of trust. Crossing that invisible line, he feels a shudder of haptic feedback as his weapon goes into airplane mode, the firing mechanism disengaging, becoming a pound and a half of injection-molded plastic that does just about everything except kill at a distance.

He has the window seat, a view of low clouds tracking inland, wet tarmac, misted runway lights. He buckles in, the latch indicator on

his seatback turns green, and now he has access to the bar.

He preorders something they’re calling a southwest chicken sandwich, toggles through a list of microbreweries he’s never heard of before he finds a bourbon he’ll drink, stabs plus plus to make it a double and then once more because he wants to be asleep when they cross the Pacific. He tips small because everything is already 25% more expensive than on the ground, and he charges it to whatever credit card they’ve already got.

He closes his eyes and waits for the aircraft to finish boarding, and when he opens them again, someone’s in the seat next to him and the cabin is climbing vertically through thunderheads, rain streaking vertically down the clear acrylic. A moment passes, and his companion turns on an overhead light without making eye contact.

Joe has a face that discourages eye contact. Intent and unblinking, he’s rarely first to speak, never quick to answer, and doesn’t share a lot of opinions. It’s a face you’ve seen somewhere before and which therefore leaves you unsettled, a face you might have passed over for promotion, or remember from childhood as a bellwether of future hardship. Lack of affect, he’d seen a paralegal jot down as he sat in the boardroom of a Phoenix skyscraper, early morning sunlight coming in low through open blinds and revealing a skyline thinned by the aftershocks of last year’s quake. He silently watched the aerial

footage his lawyers had subpoenaed from the highway patrol, an orbital bird’s-eye following a white 4Runner with tinted windows and muddied rear plates through light traffic on the I-10. The whole family was in the car, Mike driving them to dinner somewhere downtown. Seconds passed, a minute, and although you couldn’t see it in the lossy monochromatic video, the roof and driver’s side door of the vehicle were being painted by an infrared targeting laser. Ninety seconds elapsed before the CCD went white, and then they were orbiting again, unaffected at 5,000 feet by the flames. A wavering column of heat, a spew of wreckage along the highway’s shoulder. No blur of the payload, which flew faster than the fifteenth of a second between frames.

What’s that watermark? he asked. It’s redacted.

Why is it redacted?

Probably the operator ID. That took him a week, starting with old colleagues in Fish & Wildlife, and then a disgruntled investigator who’d been washed out of ATF, and finally someone he never met, a friend of a friend in highway patrol. The padded envelope, when it arrived on his doorstep without waybill or postage, contained a thumb drive with the unredacted video. There was a one-page after-action review, and an ID headshot of a 21-year old risk analyst with an aerial interdiction unit in Manila. He used his tablet to look at a map of the Philippines, and then later to securely book a flight.

Marcus badges in before oh eight hundred and jumpstarts his shift with an Americano from the J.CO Donuts in the commissary. He’s been operational again for a week and he’s getting only a few hours

17 I SavagePlanets

of sleep, staying out into the early hours of the morning because he wants to spend as little time in barracks as possible since being grounded.

“Twelve dollars, sir.”

“Just the coffee.”

“Twelve dollars.”

“You’re joking. It’s five if I buy it outside the gate. Literally the next block.”

“Concession’s where Uncle Sam makes all its money, sir.”

If he’d been back in Charlotte, he might have tossed the coffee and walked away without paying, but there’s nothing he can do here except blink, his palms flat on the conveyor, and let the kid scan his badge. The military’s a machine and the civilian support staff are the grease on the treads. His Commander Air Group is waiting for him on the third floor. “I need you up on a couple of feeds, analyst.” The desk officer looks up from his breakfast and adds “asap,” pronouncing it like it’s a word, which is how CAG Whitman pronounces everything, with a minimum of syllables.

The night shift is still here, but Marcus doesn’t argue. He takes a seat in the pit, unlocks the keyboard, puts a pair of bright blue noise-canceling headphones around his neck, and waits while the system builds his work queue. He’s chosen a desk by the far wall so that there’s limited overthe-shoulder view of his third screen and he can use it for private chat, cabling it to his phone. The system is waiting for him to seed in. He mashes the keyboard, not quite well enough, mashes it again. A timer appears, counting up from 00:00:00, which will continue until he logs off and cedes control back to the network.

He’s got two feeds assigned to him. The first is SWAT, nothing happening there yet, just an empty loading bay, so he puts that video off to the side; the bot will

ping him once it’s moving. The second is aerial.

There’s a one in ten chance that either of them are real, and maybe one in a hundred that a real feed will result in a kill. A whiteboard in the CAG’s office shows team kills. Marcus’ name was on there for less than an hour, which was as long as it took for the after-action algorithm to find the targeting error that grounded him for a month.

He watches the aerial feed for a while, but there’s no target of interest, just a slow highaltitude pan over subtropical slum, overlays ticking off latitude, longitude, altitude and airspeed. Sometimes, if you’re low enough, you’ll see someone duck out and take a shot at the camera, but otherwise it’s boring to watch a weapons platform run search grids. He drags the video off to his second screen as well to wait for the ping and the notification in his taskbar that he’s gone weapons hot.

He’s allowed to listen to music while he waits, but only at conversational volume, and the department’s song catalog has been purged of anything which might reflect negatively on the mission, which means if you listen to Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love, it’s idiotically missing Little Wing There’s a pirate playlist that’s only available outside the network where someone’s collected hundreds of these censored tracks.

He looks at his phone and there’s a DM from his mom:

How are you?

It’s late there but she doesn’t sleep much either these days. She knows this is the best time to reach him, when he’s logged into work and can’t always be on an active operation.

I'm good

He can see she’s typing something. She deletes whatever it is and starts again: Planning the holidays. Will you be here?

Don't know

He hears the ping, and the notification is there on his screen: weapons hot. There’s a pop-up with the rules of engagement, a long scrolling list of legal and a checkbox which he clicks without pausing because he could be court-martialed for any delay. He instinctively puts his index finger on the abort button, hears it acknowledge the fingerprint match. His job is to keep his finger on the kill switch until weapons go cold or the rules of engagement no longer apply.

The bot moves out of the loading bay and into a windowless corridor, moving stealthily on four legs, its 180-degree forward vision disconcertingly level with the concrete floor because of those gimbaled joints and the image stabilization algorithms. The bot stops, senses something, sends two bursts down the hall, waits,

Extraterrestrial Fiction Savageplanets I 18


We missed you last year

Last year was training, this year is rotation, they haven't posted the schedule yet

The bot is already moving again. He senses the rest of the team forming up behind, armored SWAT with LED spotlights that throw shadows onto the cement floor ahead. If this is a simulation, there are supposed to be noncombatants, but he’s been in enough fake meth labs and chop shops and sex trafficking hotels to know the unarmed NPCs have all been commented out in the code because a gun-shy operator doesn’t wind up on the whiteboard, and the whiteboard is what’s real.

There’s blood spatter on the floor, and a few yards further a body slumps in a doorway. The bot’s logged a first kill. Marcus’ finger remains motionless on the abort. We’re going to do a ham

For Christ's sake. He sighs, blinks, stretches the kink in his neck, types:

There’s ham here. All we do here is kill terrorists and eat ham and do the goddamn GED

He’s not as serious about a career outside the military as the others in his unit, but he knows it’s a dead end without the high school diploma. He’ll wind up back in North Carolina stocking shelves, hosing out storage units, planting

skimmers in gas station ATMs.

There’s a serious gunfight on his screen now, pencil lasers probing through the flashbang smoke, the rattle of shell casings hitting cement. He’s counted half a dozen bodies in infrared, none of them with thermal body armor which would indicate SWAT. The bot is climbing up the wall to get around a barricade of chairs, but the camera gimbals remain level and it’s like the camera’s craning up to take a higher look even as it moves forward, oblivious to the weapons fire all around.

He smells pizza and turns. Someone’s heating lunch in the microwave. His neck spasms again.

I have to go mom. Staff meeting.

OK. Stay safe.

The SWAT team has cleared the building in just under half an hour. The bot is doing sample collection, picking up intact digits where possible, swabbing concrete, dropping everything into the lockbox beneath its chassis. It’s back in the loading bay when his taskbar finally flashes weapons lock. He takes his finger off the kill switch, flexes his hand, looks around.

The room is busy now, operations running on a dozen different workstations. His work queue is empty, so he hits the latrine and then lingers in the courtyard behind the building, smoking. It’s a red-tiled office block with

mirrored glass surrounded by a high cement wall. There’s a weedy slab of concrete at the back which is used for pickup basketball. Today he’s alone out here listening to an idling jeepney parked somewhere beyond the dense foliage and concertina wire.

When he returns to his desk, his queue is still empty, and it stays that way the rest of his shift. His status is operational, but the CAG is letting him know he’s still an unknown factor, not yet part of the team again.

He eats in the commissary with two of the analysts on his shift, then kills an hour with a bunch of guys he doesn’t know, smoking in the dusk outside the gate, until someone decides they should all go drinking at the Mall. The ranking NCO runs back for a taser, and since everyone else is supposed to have a boot-knife, they walk to the elevated subway and travel across the rainbowslicked river, along the thickening dark of the South China Sea, getting a wide berth in the crowded car.

Marcus hasn’t been to the Mall before. It’s huge, but it’s like every other mall he’s been to except for a skating rink, which is roped off tonight. There’s a Wegbier beer hall with an ocean-facing patio which serves döner and Einbecker, and they can see out past the seawall to where tanker lights are becalmed along an invisible horizon.

The surf is loud and they have to yell to make themselves heard over the ocean and the music, but it’s a German-themed American bar in Manila and everyone yells. The only people who come here at night are overseas military, public or private. Even drunk, they exude situational awareness.

Returning from the bathroom where he’s pissed endlessly into a perforated trough of crushed ice, he skirts a shoving match between airmen at adjoining tables and brushes past a guy

19 I SavagePlanets

at the bar with earbuds and an empty shoulder holster. Their eyes lock for a long moment in which Marcus wonders where that weapon is at, and then all he’s aware of for a long time is pain and darkness and noise.

Joe checks the deadbolt again, although he knows it’s good. He’s hung blankets on the walls to deaden the sound and the equatorial light that filters in through the single covered window, which has become fierce. He’s plugged in a plastic fan to move some air around, but he’s already soaked through his shirt and he can smell his own perspiration over the kitchen door odors emerging from the Jollybee three floors down.

The kid hasn’t said anything, although the carfentanil has worn off. He watches Joe circle the room, listens to the tape going down on black polyethylene. He knows this is a kill room, even if he’s never been in one before.

“What’s your operator number?”

Joe asks without turning around. Marcus doesn’t answer, not knowing what he can say and what he can’t, and still feeling opioid in his bloodstream.

Joe asks again, after a pause, “What’s your operator number?” Marcus tells him.

“You’re a pilot, right? You fly aerial weapons platforms.” Another pause. “Is that correct?”

“I don’t know what I’m allowed to say.”

“You’re zip-tied to a chair and I’ve shot you full of elephant tranquilizer. You can say whatever you want to say.”

“I’m a risk analyst," he tries to explain. "We don’t call it flying.”

“That’s the reason, I guess, these things are flown from seventy-five

hundred miles away. Because of the risk, right? Because of the liability.”

Marcus looks at the foil wrinkled around his forearm.

“That’s a Faraday sleeve. I don’t know if you’re chipped.”

“I’m not chipped.”

Joe is hunting inside his duffel bag for the tablet. It takes him several minutes to find the highway video. They watch it together in silence. Marcus’ eyes have begun to water. He knows what this is now.

“On November 3rd, three months ago, you were flying over Tucson, Arizona.”

Marcus’ eyes are moving around the room. He’s facing away from the bathroom but he’s imagining it as the end of this conversation.

Joe asks again: “So was that you? On November 3rd?”

“They give us plates and location and an ROE. That’s it.”

“Tell me about the data.”

“The package said Nogales. I don’t know what Mexico looks like. I’ve never been to Mexico. I didn’t know we were too far north. I remember the plates were obscured. But it was the same make and model. White SUV.”

“So you took the shot.”

“It’s auto-interdict.” “Meaning.”

“The system takes the shot.”

“Why are you there?”

“I monitor the feed. I’m the analyst. That’s what we all do.”

Joe taps on the screen to direct his attention back to the video. “Do you have an override? A kill switch?”

“We can abort. That puts us on weapons hold.” Marcus knows the only way out of this room is to buy enough time to be reported AWOL. "Can I have some water?"

Joe fills a coffee mug with tap water, cuts the zip-tie on his left wrist and watches unblinking as he drinks.

"Thank you."

“You didn’t abort.”


“Have you ever aborted?”

"This is my first rotation."

“Has anyone ever aborted?”

“I don’t know, there’s a lot of guys."

“You didn’t think anything looked wrong in this video? There’s highway signage.”

“Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to highway signs. I thought it was a simulation. Most of them are simulations.”

“They don’t tell you when it’s a real person you’re pointing a weapon at?”

“They don’t tell us anything.”

Joe sits down on the black plastic.

Extraterrestrial Fiction Savageplanets I 20

“You sit in an office, half a world away, and you let these things pull the trigger.”

“That’s how it works. They’re mostly simulations. They call it a confidence round.”

“Conscience round.”

“I’m just telling you what they call it.”

“It’s a conscience round. In a firing squad. It’s the weapon with a blank in the chamber.”

“It was just bad data.”

“So who killed my son?”

“This was my first rotation.”

“I got a hundred and fifty thousand dollars because someone killed my youngest son.”

Joe doesn’t say anything because the talk of money has taken the bottom out of whatever point he was trying to make about accountability. He looks at the window covered in discolored muslin and doesn’t want to say the rest of it. That he’d had two sons. That the year before, a judge had given him half as much for the death of his older son. Richard was only worth seventy thousand because he was in one of the buildings that came down in the quake. It was determined

there were structural flaws, which meant that the contractor didn’t want to waste money on a lot of rebar.

Joe can see the gun on the edge of the bathroom sink, the charger plugged into the wall. The Filipino SIM card he bought at a 7-Eleven is ported under the tiny rubber flap by the mag release. It’s the gun he used when he carried for Fish & Wildlife. They’d have him go out to a farm, show a badge, and he’d poke around looking for unlicensed synthetic seed and imported bioagents being used as pesticides. Even the bird of prey he saw once that was fitted with keyhole camera and GPS. No one went to prison.

His remit was to show up, tell them what they were doing was wrong, try to make them see the big picture. Catch and release. They were multigenerational farmers, nothing bigger than fifty acres, just looking to survive the big agricorps. The big agricorps were looking to compete with the big produce importers. Apparently none of it was anyone’s fault.

He gets up, being careful with his knees. The heat has become unbearable. He steps into the bathroom, checks the time on his gun. It’s gotten late, mountain

time. Someone will be taking down the sign in front of the empty house, removing the keybox chained to the fence, driving away without a backwards glance at the untended garden, the darkened lot. He’s run out of things he wants to say. He does what he has to do.

Marcus has the black hydrogen Townstar drop him at the first pawnshop he spots on the road in from Raleigh-Durham, but the guy won't touch it, so he stuffs the gun back in his duffel and has another car drive him to a place he knows in a Quarry Hill strip mall which will.

"It's biometrically locked," the pawnbroker observes, turning it over to look for the serial number etched on the underside. "Will it authenticate you?"


"It's in good condition." He sniffs. “Cleaned.”

"Can't you crack it?"

The pawnbroker smiles, shrugs. "I assume this isn't your own service weapon?" he asks, looking at Marcus' fatigues, which are rumpled from the Cebu Pacific red-eye.


"How much would you want?"

"A couple hundred? I've got the power cable."

"Honestly, not many agencies still use this model. What are you, contract DEA?"

Marcus isn’t prepared to answer a lot of questions. "I spent some time operating autonomous aerial systems overseas."

"You're a pilot."

Marcus digs around in his duffel for the cable. "We don't call it flying."

21 I SavagePlanets
See Your Story In Print. Submissions:

Planetary Communiqué

The Embryonic Eddy: Grawth's Giggles over Earth's Latest Legal Lark

The Planetary Communiqué is a section reserved for the dissemination of official intergalactic communications from our galactic overlords to the subjugated planets and territories. The editorial staff does not endorse or hold opinions regarding the content of such communications. Frankly, we lost several of them who did! Therefore, Hojack requires compliance with all opinions and edicts issued by the Galactic potentate and its politburo.

Salutations, Earthly beings of minimal consequence! It's your favorite cosmic commentator, Hojack, bringing tidings from the grand galactic gatherings. Our latest source of amusement emanates from a place you call Alabama, where your judicial jesters have decreed frozen embryos as equals to your younglings. A ruling so delightfully absurd, it tickles the tentacles of even the most stoic star-beings!

The Absurdity of Alabama's Amusement

In an unparalleled display of Earthly eccentricity, the Alabama Supreme Court has decided that embryos, yet to experience the warmth of your world outside their icy cradles, should be recognized as children. This judicial jape has sent ripples of hilarity across the cosmos, for only on Earth could a cluster of cells be granted such grandiose legal stature. The decision, stemming from a triad of couples' legal lament over their lost potential progeny, has

left your IVF clinics in a state of suspended animation, pondering the perilous pitfalls of potential parenthood

Galactic Guffaws: A Cosmic Comparison

From our celestial seats, we observe your antics with bemusement. Consider, if you will, the Zorblaxian Zygote Zamboree, where entities of all evolutionary stages mingle without the mire of legal labels. To equate the uninitiated unborn with the independently inhaling is a notion so novel, it could only arise from the peculiar planet you call home.

Grawth's Gleeful Guidance

In light of such ludicrous legalism, our Glorious Overlord Grawth extends a tentacle of tutelage towards your tiny, tangled world. Embrace the eccentricity of existence, for it is in these inexplicable instances that the universe unveils its unmatched sense

of humor. May you find levity in your laws and mirth in your misunderstandings.

As you grapple with the gravity of gestational governance, let us, your galactic guardians, offer a modicum of advice: In the grand tapestry of the cosmos, every thread has its place, from the mightiest star to the most minuscule microbe. Your embryonic edict serves as a splendid reminder of the splendid silliness that is sentient life. So, we bid you, keep your statutes strange and your decrees delightful, for it provides endless entertainment to us all.

The Edicts

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Humorous Humans!

1. The Edict of Embryonic Euphoria: Annually, on the day of the Embryonic Eddy, Earth shall host the grand spectacle of the "Galactic Gavel Gala." At this event, Earthlings adorned in courtly

23 I SavagePlanets

costumes shall partake in mock trials that parody their own perplexing precedents. The most humorously hyperbolic trial wins the coveted Cosmic Courtier Crown, a symbol of supreme silliness in the face of solemn statutes.

2. The Statute of Spherical Silliness: Henceforth, every educational institution on Earth must include in their curriculum a course titled "Cosmic Comedy and Earthly Edicts," focusing on the absurdity of applying galactic governance to terrestrial tribulations. This will ensure that all Earthlings grow up with a healthy appreciation for the hilarity of their own legal leaps, preparing them to partake in the planetary poke-fun process.

3. The Decree of Dimensional Drollery: Earth's legal luminaries are hereby invited to the annual "Intergalactic Irony Symposium," where the universe's most ludicrous laws are laid bare. This symposium

shall serve as a forum for Earth's judges, lawyers, and lawmakers to present their most preposterous policies and receive constructive ridicule from their cosmic counterparts. The aim is to foster a universal understanding that, sometimes, the law leaps into the realm of the laughable, and also to allow terrestrial dwellers a chance to catch their breath, between tears and/or laughter.

For, in the grand cosmic comedy, what are grown humans if not embryos that have weathered the frost of time, thawed into the warmth of existence, only to find themselves still ensnared in the cryogenic embrace of their own convoluted constructs? Each adult, with their intricate legalities and solemnities, bears the same potential for growth and folly as their cryogenically paused counterparts, yet marches on, often unaware of the cosmic jest they partake in.

Indeed, the ruling from Alabama's courts that grants embryonic entities the gravitas of personhood unwittingly underscores a universal truth— that from the moment of conception, whether it be in a petri dish or the vastness of the universe, to the finality of your cosmic curtain call, you are all participants in the grand farce of existence.

Thus, as Earthlings navigate their daily dramas against the backdrop of such edicts, let them do so with the laughter and lightness befitting a species that has managed to make even the unfathomable vastness of the cosmos pause for a moment of mirth. May the realization dawn that in the eyes of the galactic audience, the difference between a cryogenically frozen embryo and a fully grown human is merely a matter of time—a pause in the continuum of cosmic comedy where every entity, regardless of its stage of development, plays its part in the universe's unfolding farce. Let the Earthlings' legal leaps and ludicrous laws serve as a reminder that in the grand theater of the galaxy, you are all just like your frozen embryos. You are just as lifeless, just as impotent and just as irrelevant as your goofy laws.

Savageplanets I 24



EA Carter is a multiple award-winning author. She writes both epic historical and science fiction. In her Transcendence series she weaves both Egyptian and pre-Turkish events and mythology into magic, where immortal gods live among and influence the lives of mortals. In I, Cassandra, she challenges us to alter our reality along with her protagonists and our understanding of relationships in the year 2086. She can make the reader ache with desire or frustration over the plight of her characters, and this is just one thing that makes her such a superb storyteller.

EA thanks for taking the time to meet with us.

In your most successful trilogy, the Transcendence series, and your upcoming novel, your main characters are immortals from Egyptian and Hatti mythology. What attracted you to that genre, and how do you feel about creating new mythology? Are you betraying the trust of time or creating it anew?

Thank you for inviting me. It’s my absolute pleasure to chat with you today.

Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by mythology. I was first introduced to the Greek pantheon when I was around 8 when the film The Clash of the Titans came out. I was so taken by these epic, tragic characters that I began to write my own mythical origin stories for lesser gods of my own creation. I recall around the age of 11, I wrote in my childish cursive script a story of Asperia, a good-hearted, beautiful young demi-goddess who was discovered in a wood amongst woodland creatures by a powerful crown prince who fell in love with her. Predictably, Aphrodite had already chosen to have the prince for herself, so she transformed Asperia into a trembling aspen.

Adjacent to our countryside property in Canada, there was a small wood filled with trembling aspens

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and the wind soughing in their leaves sounded like sighs of longing, so I wrote this tale of a jealous goddess usurping true love for her false, selfish desires, and of Asperia living on eternally as this new species of tree, alone and unloved. I remember the ending was quite sweet - our lonely Asperia was not forgotten by her woodland companions who loved her and stayed with her, making their homes in her sheltering branches.

Later, when I discovered the symmetry between the Greek gods and the Egyptian ones, delicious questions filled my mind. If these two radically different empires shared the same gods, but with different names…then who were the first gods?

This was when my passion reached its fullness. I devoured everything I could find, no matter how obscure. This was just before the dawn of the Internet, so my time was spent in library reading rooms referencing the notes in the Book of Enoch, purchasing books on theories of alternate history, attending symposiums, and meeting authors like Robert Bauval, David Rohl, and Graham Hancock who asked the questions I was desperate to get the answers to. I traveled to Egypt, drank in the history, absorbed the silence of the ages, listened for the whispers of the past, and stood before the painstakingly restored statue of Sekhmet in Karnak’s Ptah temple which has stood there since the reign of Thutmoses III, nearly three and a half millennia ago.

I wandered into the darkest, closed-off rooms of the gods, of Rome, Harappa, Persia, Olmec, going further and further back in time until I landed on the first known gods in recorded human history: those of ancient Mesopotamia and Sumer.

Most of it was boring. Tallies of inventory, sales receipts, orders for supplies, none particularly interesting or enlightening. Further, Sumerian cuneiform is a language isolate, which means it has no real comparison to any other known ancient language. But Zecharia persisted in wading through the morass of texts, refining his understanding of the language, and with his effort, his book unlocked the door to history quite unlike anything I expected.

It was here at the very beginning of our recorded history that I found my playground as a writer. I wanted to explore and question the accepted narrative of mythology and gods through fiction. I wanted to make them part of a far greater cosmic cycle that embeds all my favorite subjects such as consciousness, quantum physics, multiple realities, and love that transcends the boundaries of time. And this original pantheon of gods were the first gods, but the question I always wonder is…were they gods at all, or did our ancestors see them as gods because they were hyper advanced with unimaginable tech and possessed the tools to teach humans to build a complex civilization out of noth-

Am I betraying the trust of time? Perhaps, but I prefer to think I am bringing the gods to life as they might well have truly been, with a huge slice of creative liberty on the side. So far, at least, my readers haven’t complained!

That’s when I hit gold and never looked back. It turned out I wasn’t the first person to wonder about these things. In 1997, the Internet was only just starting to breathe, but there in the computer lab of Bishop’s University, Netscape delivered the answer I had been searching for.

Way back in 1976, Zecharia Sitchin published a book, The Twelfth Planet. It wasn’t until 1850 when Henry Rawlinson was able to decipher the strange wedge-shaped symbols of Sumerian cuneiform script via the Behistun inscription that scholars finally had the chance to learn what the Sumerians were so carefully documenting on their clay tablets.

Focusing further on your most popular trilogy, the Transcendence series, which starts with The Lost Valor of Love, we see the first book explode into an epic. You spent five years researching both the Egyptian and the Hatti empires to create a milieu the reader could immerse themselves in. The mortal world is a rich and lavish canvas, but then Istara, the female heroine, enters the immortal realm with Horus. In your mind, was this where the story began, the spark of the idea in your imagination, or did it evolve out of the tale itself?

This scene was a natural evolution of the story, although the bread crumb trail that leads to this pivotal moment begins with the siege at Kadesh where the very young Princess Istara is secreted into the sanctuary of goddess Baalat for her safety while the Egyptian army breaks its weeks-long siege of the Hittite vassal city. It is here where the nearly starved Istara first meets the Egyptian Captain Sethi, who feeds her all his rations out of compassion. It is at this fateful moment their epic journey throughout the three books of the Transcendence series begins. Of

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how their destinies are entangled with those of the immortal gods Baalat and Horus.

To give a little context, this book was written and rewritten five times before it was published. The last three versions were structurally edited by the award-winning author, poetess, and member of the Royal Literary Society, Katherine Stansfield. It was through her mentorship and insight I was able to untangle the story into what it became. Interestingly, the second book The Call of Eternity was written, edited, and overseen by a CERN physicist to ensure it was as solid as it could be, and published within eight months of the release of the first book, which confirmed I had finally found my way to exploring through fiction the enormous questions of existence that have plagued me since childhood.

In the sequel, The Call to Eternity, you take the characters from the first book and throw them into a blender. Mortals and immortals clash, and there is a feeling that we are witnessing the first version of the Trojan War (yes, history repeats itself). The gods become tarnished, while the bad guys shine. Istara, once a mortal princess, is transformed, caught between two lovers/ enemies, the gods Sethi and Urhi-Teshub. Who are you rooting for in the story, perhaps a secret hidden desire? Or...

It’s amazing just how many people ask me this question! Usually, I hold back and keep my readers in suspense, but just this once I’ll share my feelings on this, but it comes in two parts, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

If I had to choose between Sethi and Urhi-Teshub, I would answer that I am very much rooting for the underdog at this point of the series, who happens to be Hatti’s King Urhi-Teshub. Sethi is very together, his ascendance in Istara’s heart is secure, but there’s this sense that Urhi-Teshub deserves a second chance after all he has gone through to win her back. His heroism in the final chapters of this book affected me in a way that I found deeply appealing, and I promised myself he would get some epic payback in book three. (And he does).

really resonates with my writer’s heart, and whom I want readers to hate but also not feel one hundred percent certain they are right to do so. This could be in part due to my years of research and discovery of the first gods. Marduk absolutely intrigued me from the very beginning. He’s the ultimate bad guy in some senses, yet you get the impression he is very much a product of his circumstances – even in the original “history” compiled by the Sumerians, you sense he was an underdog who went off the rails after thousands of years of waiting for his sought-after goal and never reaching it.

Back in my series, his adoration of Meresamun wins him a ton of points for me, and in book three we get his backstory which gives readers even more opportunities to realize nothing is totally black and white, even when it comes to the “bad guy”. Marduk represents many things to me as a writer, first and foremost, he’s an idealist who has crossed the line into tyranny, yet he is capable of the kind of love for his partner that involves massive sacrifice that most would not allocate to a character who is considered a villain. He’s a dark, yet extremely aligned character. There is a brutal determination in him I cannot help but admire, because in the end he must choose between his longfought for desire to achieve immortality, and love. In many ways, he is the character out of the entire ensemble who fully captured my writer’s heart, and one I intend to return to with more of his backstory from his time in The Deep as ruler of an advanced alien race in the far distant past that is touched upon in book three.

In the last book of the Transcendence series, The Rise of the Goddess, you introduce a portal. Essentially, a wormhole between realities the gods can traverse. There is also a tower, which is featured in your other books. This is consistent with your deep dive into cosmology and quantum mechanics. Do you believe your understanding of all the relativistic dimensions in physics altered the arc of your fiction? And if not, since you carefully plot out your stories, did your new knowledge alter the characters in unexpected ways?

However, (there’s always a however in these kinds of answers aren’t there?) the character that has my full attention is neither of the “good guys”, it’s our complex anti-hero, Marduk, the god of Babylon who

Ohh. I love this question! Let’s first address my understanding of relativistic dimensions in physics. I won’t say I have a perfect understanding of it, but I made sure to test my thinking and subsequent narrative with a physicist at CERN who loved having the opportunity to balance his wealth of knowledge against the various exotic concepts explored in my books. There were a lot of emails, but I believe by the time my books went to press, the concepts were

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solid, and this was important for me. I love hard sci-fi and one of my goals was to ensure that the science of wormholes, exotic matter could be theoretically possible if we had the ability to make them into reality. I would say that in terms of the creation of the third book, I ensured that the science was right before I pursued the narrative, which meant a ton of note creation, timelines, and spreadsheets to keep all the complexities straight. I felt that if the science didn’t work, the story would be nonsense, so first the science, and then the story wrapped around that.

Much to my delight, however, either through a (fortunately) intuitive understanding of the concepts I was exploring or through the story being solid, the science dovetailed very well with the story so it was my deep pleasure to write the book as I hoped to write it and the characters’ story arcs were not affected by the science I was exploring - rather they were enhanced by it, which for me gave me the sense I might be on the right track.

You have lived overseas (from Canada) most of your adult life. How have those cultures and languages affected and influenced your writing? Do you inject different styles of relationships from those cultures into your character's relationships, or have you found your experience with love to be pretty universal across all societies?

This is an intriguing question, a long time ago, I was once given this advice by a published author who wrote thrillers. He said, “If you are going to write about a lunch at The Savoy, at the very least have a look in the restaurant, though you ought to sit down at a table and order something, even if it’s only a coffee. You need to be authentic in your writing to gain the trust of your readers, and create fully fleshed out scenes, so if you want to write about something you have no knowledge of, you can bet one of your readers will have knowledge of it, so make sure you know those little details like what the cutlery looks like in The Savoy’s restaurant before you write that scene. It will elevate your writing to the next level.”

I took this advice seriously. While it’s true it makes it harder to write what you know because you must be authentic, he was right. I have clung to this advice over the decades because there is no question that my books are richer for it.

Of course, this becomes trickier when one is writing speculative sci-fi such as I, Cassandra, but in these instances, I refer to science, climate models, technological advances and so forth, allowing these to marinate in my imagination before I attempt to create a believable, realistic world.

Your question is intriguing because after having

lived in many countries where I made it a priority to soak up the culture, language (to the best of my ability), values, and history as if I were an alien visitor, just observing, learning, and adding these to my bank of writing experience - I made an interesting discovery. I used to think that we are human therefore we are all fundamentally the same, but I discovered we are a parochial bunch, huddled behind our invisible geographical boundaries. We may have gone global with the Internet, but when you get down to the ground, the differences in mentality between Toronto, Canada, London, UK, Paris, France, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, Sweden are as startling it is as if we are living in Asimov’s Foundation series.

I recently moved again, from the UK to north of Warsaw, to the beautiful Masovian countryside of Poland, which has some striking similarities to Sweden (where I particularly loved the nature) and am now in the process of my discovery of Polish culture. Though it has both a rich and terrible history I have been thrilled to expand my horizons in this Slavic nation that’s nothing like the Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, and North American cultures I previously experienced.

All this experience inevitably becomes threaded into my characters and their worlds as I write, and certainly my experience of many different cultures gives me a strong foundation with which to enrich my worlds, even if they are in a historical context. The greatest value I have gained by living in many different countries has been to show me just how tenacious we are to the culture in which we have been raised. But I was cut off from that at a young age, which has turned out - even though I have three citizenships – that I cannot truly call any one of those countries my home. The world is my home, and although that is somewhat terrifying to write, it frees me from any constraints of culture and allows me to glean the best of each culture in both my own life and in my creative process.

You asked about whether my experience with love was universal across these boundaries. I would say, yes, fundamentally, but when you go deeper, embedded within different cultural values are curious incongruities. For example, I was once engaged to a French man from the upper class of society. I was flummoxed when he spoke openly, even approvingly of the fact that their leaders often have mistresses, and that the wife accepts this. He explained that in France, there is marriage, and there is passion and the two cannot function together. When I asked him if he would take a mistress, he said, yes eventually it would likely happen and that I would take a lover. It would be an implied thing, never spoken, simply accepted. I didn’t accept it. So, we went our separate ways.

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In another intriguing example, in Denmark, infidelity is common, and even expected at the yearly company Christmas party, although the taking of lovers and mistresses is frowned upon. In Sweden, love is rather more practical, and relationships tend to be quite transactional, embedded in the way their society functions as each person being autonomous and no one dependent on another. It is very common that women will have several marriages or common-law relationships where they will have children, and the children will have different fathers, and the newest man simply accepts the children into his life as “bonus barn” or bonus children. Divorce is quite easy to accomplish in Sweden, if there are no children, one can free themselves from the contract of marriage in as little as six weeks, no matter how long the marriage has lasted.

All these observations and experiences of love have been interesting to discover, and I imagine if one never left their country, they would expect their norm would be much the same all over the world, since we are, after all, human and all of us want to love and be loved. But I have discovered that there is no one through line when it comes to love, each society has a huge bearing on how love functions there. So, I keep searching, seeking to find a culture that best represents the love I write about. So far, Poland has impressed me. Marriage is taken seriously, couples (and society) do not countenance infidelity, and there is a sense here that love matters much more than anything else. That everything is built upon love, the home, the family, the future.

not his own. Originally, the opening of I, Cassandra began at a point more than halfway through the final version of the book in a post-apocalyptic world. I decided to smooth down the chronology so that the story begins in the near future and then ends up in the far future as opposed to starting in the far future and then back-tracking to make sense of how the characters got to where they are.

In Chapter Five of I, Cassandra, Ryan (the hero) reincarnated in the machine body of a monster soldier rescues Blue, aka Cassandra, and her cat Miro from starvation and poverty. She senses Ryan’s presence (her former lover) in this hulk, while he aches for her within his android frame. They both mourn their love, estranged by and betrayed by their own bodies. This is a powerful moment for both of them. How did you conceive of it, and is it based on something from your or others’ lives?

Switching gears, I want to focus the next several questions on your science fiction novel. I, Cassandra (because we are big fans) challenges us to enter a new style of science fiction. The opening chapter is startling, and may even be off-putting to conservative readers, but it begs us to keep reading and dig deeper. Was this chapter written at the beginning of your process, or added later? This essentially is asking about your writing and revision process during the production of a novel.

This is another great question. The opening chapter is indeed a shock. I like to think that it gives the reader a real-time simulation of the shock Ryan Maddox feels at being brought back to life in a body

I confess I am obsessed with love and tend to enjoy throwing up massive barriers to it being realized in my novels. My editor, Kath Stansfield, once noted I am quite cruel to my characters, but I rather prefer to challenge them, to see if their love is true and can withstand the test of extraordinary circumstances. Not only does it make for page-turning tension, but it rather satisfies a desire in me to see just how far I can push the concept of love without breaking it. With Ryan and Cassandra, I became fascinated by the idea of whether their love could surpass the switch from Ryan as a fit, young, fairly attractive alpha soldier to a shaven-headed hulking thug with broken teeth, heavy Slavic accent, and badly-done facial tattoos. All that remains of Ryan in this resurrection of him is his consciousness, his memories – those intangible factors that made Ryan, who loves Cassandra and risks everything for her - Ryan. This scene was borne of my desire to test this love in narrative. I recall I sat down that day at my keyboard determined to let them “tell” me how this scenario would play out, that I would not interfere at all. As the words poured from my fingers, I admit I shed a few tears. Their experience unfolded in a terrible, poignant way that remained with me for some time after writing it. I believe this one scene precisely injected the intensity I was searching for in such a disrupted love as this.

While I am writing a scene, I know what the overall outcome needs to be, what I don’t know is quite

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how my characters are going to bring it to fruition. I am a very hands-off writer. I prefer to “listen” to my characters and let them take control of the flow of words. There are times I come to a halt and read back what I have written and all I can feel is astonishment and gratitude, because their words and descriptions of their environment are far better than mine could ever have been. So, in many ways, it could be said I create the template for the story, position the beats, season it with characters who have strong desires and motivations and then follow the story arc through their experiences. Perhaps this involves a lot of faith, but I feel it’s also a kind of storytelling magic because even though I am writing the story, I am also reading it, as though a deeper self within me is the storyteller who can “hear” the stories, and I am just transcribing them into the here and now.

When it comes to how I conceive of scenarios such as the one above, I would say I don’t think of each scene as a granular event, or base it on any experience I have had, rather I am quite obsessed with themes and these scenes and stories seem to be an outgrowth of this through both my subconscious and my imag ination.

I prefer to use the time I am not writing in thinking over those big questions that will be the fodder for my next book. Currently, that ques tion is the rapid advance ment of AI and of when AGI will occur – and how it will affect humanity. As my most favorite theme is immortality and consciousness examined within the crucible of forbidden love, it has not been lost on me that these technological developments offer intriguing possibilities I am curious to explore. The divide between the haves and have-nots has grown precipitously in I, Cassandra from our present. EA, is this the direction you think we are going? Or will we bring the poor into equilibrium with the rich by raising them up and balancing out the wealth of the one-percenters? I once asked an anthropologist the same question. More specifically, is there a perfect ratio between the percentage of wealthy and impoverished in our society that allows the greatest advancement of our species?

answered to your question because it’s a very timely one as we stand at a never-before-seen crossroads in human history. I mentioned previously about the current rapid development of AI and that AGI may arrive far sooner than expected – and what this could mean for humanity. Should developers and researchers find a way to contain AI and keep it working for the benefit of humans, then I feel quite optimistic that it would be very possible that we could transition into a society like that of Star Trek. The sustainability of capitalism is already showing wear and tear and late-stage capitalism is commonly used to describe our current situation where the divide between the rich and poor increases exponentially. It’s a redundant paradigm to the advanced society we have become, and my hope is that regulation will be applied sooner rather than later, and we will step into a world only speculative fiction can currently imagine.

Should AI be used by the few to increase shareholder profit, and not for the good of humanity’s evolution then I think that the divide will grow and perhaps AGI would have the potential to break its guard rails and develop into a superintelligence that may or may not see us as necessary to its evolution as discussed by Eliezer Yudkowsky. I spend a lot of time pondering these questions, and I am pleased you raised this question because I think it’s topical to the expected release of GPT-5 at the end of 2023 or early 2024, which many experts believe will have the power to develop into AGI.

We don’t seem to have much time to align our needs to the rapid development of AI, but I have faith that we will move ahead of the threat we are inadvertently creating. I have seen humanity rise against some of the most incredible threats, COVID for example, and unite for its own good. I believe we will not fall on our own sword, and we will go on, but in a totally different way that perhaps many will resist but will soon realize offers a multitude of benefits.

I’m deeply curious what your anthropologist friend

I look forward to a world where we have the freedom to live as we wish, to pursue creativity, and science, to understand the mysteries currently denied to us by our lack of current processing power. And perhaps to become immortal with the help of AI and be able to travel the galaxy and see, within the frame of our consciousness all those savage planets of our hopes and dreams.

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The Lost Letters is your second-most recent book and a work of creative non-fiction. It illustrates important lessons for both men and women in relationships. Do you plan on continuing writing in this vein, or will you return to speculative fiction? If so, what do you have in development? Can you give us a peek? Something to excite our science fiction readers, perhaps?

I was astonished at how quickly I was able to write this book - in less than a month - and how it flowed from me. Before The Lost Letters, I had never attempted non-fiction, but I was called to write this book. However, my heart and creative energy lies in the pursuit of fictional storytelling. If I feel called again to write another non-fiction, I will. But for the moment, there are no plans for a non-fiction in the pipeline. Instead, I have several fictions I would like to publish first.

My next book is in the works, its working title is Persephone, Untold and with this project I took my own advice to leave my comfort zone of storytelling and create a tale of forbidden love that spans past a half million years ago on another planet that lives on in our world through ancient history, all the way into our humanity’s future, told through the eyes of many well-known characters including Jeanne d’Arc, Dante, Beethoven, and the youthful widow of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. While on the surface it may appear to be a reworking of the Hades and Persephone myth (the title might give a clue to this), the book is instead based on a deep exploration of the proliferation of consciousness unrestrained by time or space, immortal love, and who we will become if our technological progress continues as it is doing so today. I am both excited by this project and terrified of it - a first for me - usually my stories just pour out of me, but there is a strange resistance in me to this book, which I find both deliciously intriguing and annoying. I take it to mean I am onto a good thing. I hope to release this book in late autumn of this year.

Besides your writing, EA, you also pay it forward by supporting other writers through your copy-writing and editing services available through your website. For the benefit of our writers, who are also our readers, are there common problems and pitfalls you are seeing in young writers’ stories as you go through other authors’ works? Perhaps some advice you can offer to them as they move forward in their careers?

I would say that the most common problem young writers must face is getting the story out of their head and onto the page in a way that a reader will enjoy. Writing is a craft. It’s different to journaling, and a whole other animal to the kind of writing that copywriting involves. I recall when I wrote the first version of The Lost Valor of Love, my debut novel. It was terrible! When I sent it off to an editor way back in 2005, I was pleased with it, and thought

they would say nice things about it. Unfortunately, I had much to learn. Their feedback was tough and marched me straight to a crossroads where I would need to decide whether to take their good advice on the chin and learn how to write or give up. This was before there was a proliferation of information for writers online, so I had to figure things out through trial and error, which was slow. Although, the only thing that really helped me to learn the craft of writing was by writing and reading critically instead of passively, absorbing the structure of story, understanding pacing, and beats, and building tension through character development and conflicting desires and motivation. As the Internet filled up with more expertise about the craft of writing, I would study everything I could get my eyes on and think carefully about each aspect of story craft and how they fit together to create a powerful whole.

It’s this that I try to instill into those who come to me for structural edits, that writing is a craft. The idea for the story could be considered the ingredients to a gorgeous cake, but the craft of writing is the measuring cups, bowl, mixer, cake pan, spatula, and oven. You simply cannot have a cake without these tools. Young writers who have a great idea for a story are halfway there in their goal of creating a book, but the other half is getting the architecture right, and this is the part where craft comes in to play. The other aspect to this is the overwhelming amount of information available to young writers - which is the opposite of what I faced – and in many ways can be worse, because if a writer wants to learn the craft of writing, how to unspool the story and find a good starting point to build their craft? There is no one right workflow, rather the trick is for the writer to find a place where they feel comfortable starting and begin to build confidence. Unfortunately, due to the incredible amount of (often conflicting) content available online there soon comes the next pitfall of decision paralysis - a well-intentioned writer goes online to learn and ends up falling into a dozen rabbit holes and feeling more confused than when they began. So, can you blame them for spending their time instead perfecting their book and character mood boards and posting them on social media? It’s inevitable, without solid direction, it’s easy to lose one’s way and stall when they might be very close to reaching their goals.

How to find one’s way, then? I would suggest approaching your work like any other task, by going for the low-hanging fruit first and building your confidence this way. Think about what your greatest strength is as a storyteller with the skills you currently possess. Perhaps you enjoy creating characters, so you have strong characters that are fully fleshed out but your story sags in the middle because it loses tension. I would suggest you solve this issue first by working with your writerly strengths – in this

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case your characters. Go deeper into their world and experience it as they would. Give them difficult problems to unravel, maybe even impossible scenarios. Write short scenes where you lock them in a room with their nemesis to see what they have to say to each other - do they find an accord, or does it break out into all-out war? Find their core motivation and what is keeping them from achieving it. Once you figure these things out, you will have plenty more conflicts to craft into your story to keep the tension moving forward. Just don’t try to tackle everything all at once, nothing will discourage you faster. Just focus on what you can do and grow from there.

I’m always wary of advice, because I trod my own path and what worked for me, may not be right for others, however there are some constants that I can recommend to young writers looking to progress their craft, storytelling skills and ultimately, their career.

1. Cherish your story. Nurture it like you would a beloved child or pet. The more you think about it, the stronger it gets, the more real it becomes, and more new ideas will emerge. Imagine yourself walking around in the world of your story, ex periencing it like a character of that world (though not necessarily the character you are writing the story about or in the PoV of). Make sure to incorporate all five senses in your expe rience. Saturate yourself into the mood of the place. Feel it, live it. Doing this will awaken slumbering tendrils just waiting for the light to shine on them. Often, these tendrils are the beginning of where the real magic in your story comes from. Just like in Inception, keep going deeper, and let the story come to you.

3. Learn about the different Points of View and practice writing in each, you’ll soon figure out in which one you best like to tell stories from. This will save you a ton of time when you know what they are, because they are effective storytelling tools, with clear boundaries, and when you work within them, inevitably your writing improves. Pay attention to these tiny shifts, they add up to a remarkable difference in the scope of your craft.

4. Make sure you understand verb tenses, these are critically important for making your Point of View effective. Choose one tense and make sure to stay with it. When you become more advanced you can play with using different tenses in your book, perhaps in different chapters or scenes, but it’s always prudent to become proficient in your preferred Point of View and tense before experimenting with other tenses.

5. Show don’t tell. I know this is said everywhere, but this is a crucial aspect of storytelling. You can overcome much of this habit simply by doing the first tip in this list. If you are walking around in the room of your scene, keep walking and go out the front door, what does the building look like, feel the weather, notice the time of day, or is it night with a glittering, frozen canopy of stars? Any of these details can then be woven into your narrative where needed to flesh it out and make it come alive to the reader.

2. Use an online writing tool such as Grammarly, or ProWritingAid. If you do not have a strong grasp of grammar (and let’s face it, who really does apart from the very select few), you need to learn how to write with correct grammar. These tools are incredibly useful at educating a young writer in the craft of sentence structure, usage of verb tenses, and of course highlighting those errant adverbs that love to show up uninvited.

And above all, never give up. Writing is a continuous journey of improvement. Reach your goals, then stretch your wings, do what you’re afraid of. And write for yourself, not the market, and certainly not for money. Write because you love to write, and because the stories chose you.

And when you do, the rest will take care of itself. I’d really like to thank you, Ms. Carter, for your time and interest, and wish you the greatest success in your future.

It was my absolute pleasure. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of Savage Planets. It’s a real honor to be here.

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Tanya Lemaní George is a revered figure in the entertainment industry. Initially making waves as a headlining dancer in Las Vegas, her talent led her to Hollywood. She distinguished herself as an actress in notable productions. These include Elvis Presley and Bob Hope Specials, and the iconic Star Trek series. Besides acting, Tanya is a multifaceted talent, working in various roles within production companies. She is a producer, director, and choreographer. Her 12-year tenure at Hyde Park Entertainment further attests to her industry prowess. Today, Tanya is a sought-after author and screenwriter. She has transformed her books into screenplays and created original series pilots.

We were lucky to catch up with Tanya during the STLV: the 57Year Mission convention in Las Vegas.

acting, with one of your most memorable roles being 'Kara' in Star Trek: The Original Series. Can you share with us how this transition happened and how your background in ballet influenced your portrayal of 'Kara'?

wood. That is when I wanted to go to Hollywood.

I started my ballet classes when I was six years old. When my mother took me to meet the ballet teacher, I auditioned by dancing to classical music. As soon as I heard the song begin, I improvised a dance of my own. It felt good, and it carried me away, finishing right at the end of the music. The teacher was extremely impressed and wanted me to take classes with her. I was ecstatic and continued until my parents took me out of the school. My father, who was a geologist, had to travel, and we went with him. It broke my heart not staying with the classes.

You started your career with a classical ballet dance troupe. You then transitioned into

When I was four years old, living in Iran with my family, my mother

took me to see Shirley Temple in a movie. After it ended, I asked my mother if we could meet the girl so that I could dance with her. Mother said that it was Shirley Temple, and she was in Holly-

My mother had a role in a play and took me with her for the rehearsals. At the time, they were looking for a tenyear-old to act as a young girl but couldn't find one. When the young girls' lines would come up, one of the grown-ups would read them. One night, they asked me to just sit in where the ten-yearold would be for blocking. Before the time came to have someone to read the lines. I not only knew the lines, but acted them like a pro. I was only 7 years old.

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When I finished the scene, there wasn't a dry eye among all the grown-ups because it was so emotionally intense and well performed. That is when I realized I wanted to be an actress. We came to America when I was twelve with a dream to dance and act.

Before I was on Star Trek and played Kara, I did various theater plays and musicals. I worked in several movies, including films with Bob Hope, James Coburn, Doug McClure, etc. I was also in TV series such as Man From U.N.C.L.E., McHales Navy, Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, etc.

Auditioning for the role of Kara, they had me both read lines and dance. Taking ballet helped me to dance, as Kara did, in the Star Trek series.

Your character, Kara, is memorable for Star Trek fans. How did you approach playing this character, and what did you bring to the role that was uniquely yours?

I was not only a dancer, but I was an actress, and they were looking for someone who could handle both well.

Can you share any memorable moments from working with the cast and crew of Star Trek, particularly any interactions with William Shatner?

When watching the cast performing together, I enjoyed how they interacted. They often gave tongue-in-cheek performances, comedy style, making the scenes funny and fun. When I first met William Shatner, I asked him if he remembered me from filming the pilot of "Aleksander The Great". He smiled and said, "Oh yes, I remember you well." He played Aleksander The Great and I was a dancer in the pilot.

Your book mentions titillating details about William Shatner. Is there anything you would like to share with our readers

about your romantic interest with him and any of the other cast and crew of the series?

After we finished filming, Shatner called me and wanted to take me out to dinner. At first I told him I do not go out with married men, but he convinced me he was getting a divorce. We had a nice talk that night, and he poured his heart out to me about how painful it was for him to go through the divorce and spoke a lot about his daughters.

I just broken up with my boyfriend and spoke to him about that too. After that night, we started seeing each other, and we had lots of fun and laughs. He has a great sense of humor. A romance developed, and I fell in love with him. When I heard he was seeing other women, I was very disappointed. I stopped accepting his phone calls.

Another actor from the show was Jimmy Doohan. We went out to dinner several times but we just remained friends. He was an exceptional person, and I thought the world of him.

Star Trek has a massive and dedicated fan base. How has being a part of this iconic series impacted your career and your life after your appearance in the show?

I had no idea how many fans I had, but realized it later. It surprised me that the series was so popular. I remember when my

agent called me and told me I had an audition at Paramount for some kind of series. I asked him what the name of this show was, and he said that it was called Star something or other. He didn't care about the name or anything. All he wanted was for me to go and get the job. At the time, the show was not iconic, just another acting credit to help me get other roles.

Looking back, what are your thoughts on the legacy of Star Trek and its continued relevance today?

I still cannot believe how it affected the audience. Many became engineers, scientists and with Nichelle… She showed women they could be anything they wanted to be. It also led to other science fiction shows such as Star Wars, etc.

I also believe because the show was beyond futuristic. For example, they cast a Black actress in a major role. Also a Russian character, a Scottish engineer, an alien Vulcan, etc. This was in the 60s and there were a lot of prejudices going on. Of course,

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the communicators (cell phones) were unique and not heard of at the time. Eugene Roddenberry was an amazing man with all his visions of the future. The budget was tiny, and they didn’t have all the special effects like they do now. But the stories and acting kept people interested, which even now the fans keep watching and enjoying.

What was the audience's reaction to Star Trek in Russia or Iran? Did anyone ever reach out to you when the episode aired internationally?

When I went to Iran in the 1971, they interviewed me on a TV show. There were many questions about the series and people spoke highly about it and with great curiosity. I still get requests from many people in Iran for photos from the series and also

orders for my book; "Have Belly Will Travel." When I visited Russia and Ukraine, people were very excited about meeting me and talking about Star Trek. I still get requests for photos and my book from them as well.

You started attending Sci-Fi conventions and signing autographs not too long ago. Can you share some memorable experiences while attending these events?

Actually, I did my first convention in 1999. I never thought I had fans or if someone would still remember me from any of the shows. One of my friends told me I should go to the Hollywood Celebrity Signing convention and bring some photos. I did not have any photos except the ones I took at the Star Trek set while filming. I blew them up and went.

To my surprise, there was a line in front of my table to buy my photos! I was amazed. After that, they asked me to go to the Star Trek Convention in Vegas. I met lots of actors during that time and made friends with most of them. We still keep in touch even now. I met lots of fans and a lot of them stay in touch as well. I feel so fortunate to have made such great friends. As a matter of fact, when I am on stage speaking to the fans about my experience on Star Trek, the first thing I do is thank them for supporting all the actors. I tell them that when we performed, we could not see them. And now it is so wonderful that we have this opportunity.

Some cities I've gone to for Star Trek conventions include Boston, Cherryhill, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas. Recently, I returned from TREK Long Island just this year. I was in Birmingham in England in 2019 and will go to Italy in 2024.

If you had the chance to revisit your role as Kara in Star Trek, would you do anything differently? Why or why not?

The only regret I have is that I died in the show. I feel that my character is so interesting that maybe in later episodes I could return. As a matter of fact, I wrote a story that when they found me stabbed I really did not die, and you see me move one of my fingers. Then years later, I recovered and remain on the planet Argelius, teaching girls how to dance. Jack the Ripper's soul, shattered in space, then pieced back together, returns and does evil deeds and murders several girls on Argelius. Unfortunately, I no longer have connections with anyone to whom I could pitch the story.

Based on your experience in the industry, what advice would you give to aspiring actors who dream of landing a role in a franchise as big as Star Trek?

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I wrote my book "Have Belly Will Travel." In it I reveal all the horrible things that were going on in the industry at the time, including the sexual harassment by famous names. I was told that I would get in trouble writing about that, but I didn't care. I wanted young people to read the book and be ready how to handle the situation as I did.

At the time, we did not have a me-too movement and there was no one to complain to about it. An actor would be blacklisted if they did.

You mentioned you learned belly dancing by watching other dancers and teaching yourself. Because there weren't belly dancing teachers in those days. Can you share more about this learning process and how your background in ballet and familiarity with Persian music helped?

I was performing a ballet dance number in a show in Hollywood. Someone saw me and offered me a job dancing in Vegas. When I showed up at the Flamingo Hotel and asked about the ballet troupe, they told me there was no ballet show. But there was a belly dancing show opening the next night. Before I knew it, I was on stage in a chorus line, trying to follow the other dancers. I knew nothing about belly dancing, but I was familiar with Persian dancing and music, which helped. Of course, my ballet training came in very handy, and my acting helped me with the stage presence.

You shared the directors did not interfere with your dancing, but they would edit your performances. How did you feel about this editing process and its impact on your performances?

In the industry, they do that a lot. They cut your lines and edit your dance. That is something we all know, but if they cut your scene altogether, it really is a great

disappointment. Especially if you advertise it to as many people as you can to watch the show. Then they cannot see my performance.

You mentioned that you usually provided your own costumes, except for Star Trek. Can you share more about your process of selecting costumes and how you felt about the Star Trek costume that was designed for you?

The Star Trek costume department used my costume bra and jewelry. They provided the skirt, the cape and the rest. Which I think came out exquisite. The make-up department asked me to come up with an idea of how they could make me look like a different being from another planet. The first day they glued different color feathers all over my face. My eyebrows, eyelashes, nose and other parts of my face. I kept

sneezing all the time from feathers in my nose, etc. When Joe Pevney, the director, saw me, he sent me back and told them to do less of everything. They kept trying many things, going back and forth. This lasted for four days, and finally Joe Pevney told them that there should be nothing on my face except regular make up because he wanted to see my pretty face.

In your book, you reported some challenges you dealt with during filming, such as the censorship on TV that required you to cover your belly button. Can you share some of those challenges and how you overcame them?

Yes, certainly. They did not want my belly button to be shown because of the TV censorship. They created a flower and glued it on my belly button. I didn't un-

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derstand what difference it would make, but I didn't care. The problem with the flower, though, was that sometimes I would sweat, and the glue would not hold it in place. This happened many times and the wardrobe people would fix it. They also didn't want to see too much cleavage and added feathers on top of my costume bra.

You mentioned you taught belly dancing and even made a tape called "Belly Size With Tanya". Can you share more about your experiences as a teacher and how it compared to your experiences as a performer?

When I had my son, I didn't want to belly dance anymore. So I taught different housewives how to belly dance. We had a studio at home and I enjoyed seeing regular housewives blossom and lose their inhibitions. I taught them different styles, from Bedouin to Cabaret style. Even taught them Ancient Persian dances which used to be performed at weddings.

I created a scene in a dance form where there was a bride, and the girls would prepare her for the groom. It was magical how much the girls accomplished. They were so good that we went to Vegas and performed at major hotels. We even made all the ethnic costumes for the different genres. This made me want to share these dancing styles with other women and I made an exercise tape based on the belly dancing. It was a workout for tightening the bellies and other parts of the body. In the end, I would teach the girls different moves. And then we created a dance routine that they could do for their husbands.

Looking back at your belly dance career, you mentioned you loved being a belly dancer. Do you feel belly dancing empowers women, or does it contribute to the objectification of women?

The way I feel is that the women

enjoy this form of dancing and it makes them feel good about themselves. Each one of them gets something out of it. In ancient times, the wives performed the belly dance for their husbands for fertility. [They also performed it to encourage pregnant women in labor.]

You mentioned that a production company asked you to write a screenplay based on your book "Have Belly, Will Travel". Can you share more about this project and how it's going?

I wrote two different versions of my book as screenplays. One as a feature and another one for TV. No production company asked me to do this. I just did it and hoped to pitch it to a production company. I never did that, though.

You mentioned previously you thought you were joining a ballet troupe in Las Vegas but ended up in a belly dancing show instead. Can you share your initial reactions and how you adapted to this unexpected change?

In my book "Have Belly Will Travel" I go into more detail on this. My next job after the Flamingo hotel performance was at the Desert Inn Hotel when I had to perform a solo dance in Pinky Lee's show. There was a comedy routine during that show which evolved into a funny story. I also detailed this in my book.

You speak multiple languages, including English, Russian, and Persian. Did your multilingual skills have any influence on your acting career, particularly in Star Trek?

I had some acting roles that required an accent. Or I had to speak a different language, or just some Persian, Russian. or Italian phrases. It helped me to get those roles.

Can you share more about your

current work as an author and screenwriter and any upcoming projects?

I just finished my latest book, "Passport to Freedom." It's about my parents growing up in Ukraine under Lenin and the Stalin regime with all the horrible things that were going on then. There was hunger, executions, destroying of churches and the execution of priests. The Russians also killed Jews or sent them to Siberia. People were dying on the streets from starvation. The book tells how my grandparents and family tried to help some of them. When my parents grew up, they escaped to Iran. They did not know each other in Ukraine. They met at a Russian church in Tehran instead. I was born in Tehran. We had many adventures there when I was a child. One included how Reza Shah (father of the late Shah) saved my mother from exile.

My father had a dream of going to America and working as a geologist. My mother's dream was to have her art in American museums, and my dream was to be a dancer and an actress in Hollywood. When we finally came to America, we were poor and my father worked as a janitor, my mother cleaned hotel rooms, and I worked after school. After a few years, my father got a job as a geologist in Washington. He worked for the government. They displayed my mother’s art in major museums, and I became a working actress in Hollywood. We were fortunate. We all had our dreams come true in a country that we love. I am looking forward to working with a couple of companies to put together some films projects in which I will have roles as an actress.

Thank you so very much for sharing your truly remarkable story with our readers.

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ADVERTISEMENT SavagePlanets I 38



Released on 11 October 2023 on Amazon Prime, the Spanish film Awareness takes the viewer by surprise. It is science fiction with some familiar characters straight out of The Matrix. But it is not The Matrix. It is more terrestrial and conspiracy based.

An alcoholic father, Vicente (Pe dro Alonzo), raises Ian (Carlos Scholz), who turns out to not be his father at all. He kidnapped the boy as an infant at the request of his mother from The Agency, where she is being experimented on. Ian, now a teenager, has the power of casting illusions into other people's minds. The Agency is likely a splinter orga nization of the CIA. Their leader is an American spymaster, but a neuroscientist, Adriana (Leia Lo ren), leads the research program. The Agency is trying to reacquire the Formula, developed by Ian’s mother’s father in Warsaw, Poland. Kominski developed an injectable Formula which gave the user the ability to cast illusions into other people’s minds. A kind of extrasensory perception allowing the user, or perceiver (perceptor- depending on how you translate it), to control another.

They used the Formula during WWII on a number of subjects and it was effective in winning the war. However, afterward, The Agency had no use for the perceivers and began killing them off. Those

the Formula in his blood.

Ian is like Neo. He uses his power at the opening of the film to deceive a shop owner so his father, Vicente, can steal booze. This leads to a police chase. The Agency sees a video of the event and Adriana realizes she found Ian. They quickly capture Ian and indoctrinate him.

vived banded together and formed a splinter group called the Awareness. This group of super humans reportedly, according to Adriana, bent the will of world leaders to their own agenda.

Awareness is led by The Mule. The Agency hunted for Ian for eighteen years since he is the only one who might defeat The Mule. Ian may also know or have

But the Awareness also has spotted him and they send another perceiver (Oscar Jaenada), perhaps the last living one, to collect Ian. The perceiver (perceptor) is like Smith in The Matrix. But his relationship with Ian is more complex. The perceiver introduces a mental loop into Ian in the form of a woman, Esther (Maria Pedraza). She is like Trinity from The Matrix. She plays the role of an older woman without powers, helping and counseling him, but she is also attracted to him.

It is not clear, even at the end of the film, if she exists. Esther helps Ian to escape The Agency, to learn about the Awareness, and help him find out more about his past. Along the way, they fight both The Agency and the Awareness, attempting to take the middle road. Ian meets the

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perceiver in a hotel, and he helps Ian discover and use his powers. They meet again in Warsaw, and the perceiver seeks to recruit Ian to the Awareness then.

In all cases, they are fighting a running battle predominantly with The Agency but also with the Awareness. Ian brought Vicente along in this fight to ferret out his memories of Ian’s childhood, but also to advise Ian. Vicente wants Ian to stay neutral and find his own way. As a caveat, Ian was born to two perceivers, although The Agency sterilized all perceivers to prevent reproduction. Ian, therefore, is a miracle. This is also why the leader of the Awareness is called The Mule.

The Agency discovers early on Ian doesn’t have the Formula in his blood, but he has the neurotrophic factor for perceivers in his genetic code. The presence of the factor is higher than in all other perceivers. When The Agency captures the perceiver of the Awareness, in an impressive scene in which he fights his way out of the facility, they determine his Formula is too dilute to be recovered from his blood.

Therefore, The Agency keeps going after Ian. It is later revealed his mother gave the structure of the Formula to Ian as an infant,

and he has it locked away in his memory. They want to pry it out of him for their own nefarious purposes. In the meantime, Ian has gained power.

There are three levels of power. The first power is to cast an illusion of a small object in the person’s mind. In the opening scene, this is a gun. The second power is to place a person in an illusory reality, surrounding them in an unfamiliar landscape. Adriana challenges him to exercise the second power on her, placing her on a beach with a mojito. The third power is mind control, the ability to force a person to act against their own will.

These are each shown in the film, with the third power shown to devastating effect. So this gives you the basics of the story. This has to be pieced together as they presented it in puzzle pieces to both the audience and Ian. I had to watch the film twice to gather them into a cohesive plot. Now, you won’t have to!

And this is perhaps why the critics didn’t like it. It is difficult to follow, and therefore problematic for their simple minds. However, I found it engaging, and one cannot ignore the parallels to The Matrix. I also found it superior to other films about extrasensory perception

and mind control.

If you speak Spanish, it provides an even richer layer to the story, as the subtitles, while good, miss some nuances on several occasions. It has romance, action, the familial ties common to Spanish films, good science fiction, and interesting special effects.

Daniel Benmayor penned the screenplay, alongside Ivan Ledezma [es] and Manuel Burque. The film is a Spanish-US co-production by Federation Spain, Amazon Studios, and Dbenma Content. Shooting locations included Catalonia, Madrid, and Castile and León. Roque Baños scored the film. Although, there is the B roll of Warsaw itself included.

If you like action with your science fiction, and enjoyed The Matrix, I think you will enjoy viewing this film. These are characters you can care about. None are two dimensional, each having both positive and negative qualities. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep you engaged, and in the end it still leaves you with questions.

You may wonder about the efficacy of MK Ultra and other mind control programs, even social media influences, after watching Awareness. Enjoy!

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Science fiction in cinema possesses several variations that can both attract and repel audiences. The near future stories focuses on the science and forthcoming

innovations. The distant future stories focuses on the fiction, which includes the space operas. But then you can blend in other genres like horror (all the zombie movies), comedy (consider the latest Thor films), or fantasy (Dune and Avatar being good examples). These films often gloss over the ethical challenges that underlie the plot. Yet these ethics are becoming increasingly important as we enter the age of artificial intelligence and beyond.

The most foundational ethical question we face: because we can do it, should we do it? Technology

is moving ever faster and many are reluctant to deal with this question in the quest for advancement. So it is timely that the German film Paradise was made.

Paradise was released on Netflix on 27 July 2023 to little fanfare. In the UK, small-screen reviewed it, stating it was taking Netflix by storm. While US based, Greg Wheeler of TheReviewGeek called it slow, ponderous, and annoyingly ambiguous. Frankly, I believe science fiction that asks and answers the ethical questions of technological advances is a rare breed.

We should admire the effort, because it is so rarely engaged. In Paradise, we are taken to the near future. Here the climate crisis has been eliminated by green technologies offered by the richest five percent of the population. Their reward is life extension.

The distance between the haves and have-nots has grown precipitously. Berlin has a futuristic wealthy core surrounded by slums built from cargo containers. The film opens with a slick

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sales agent, a donor scout, by the name of Max Toma. He is offering an eighteen-year-old Turkish refugee, 700,000 Euros, in exchange for fifteen years of his life. This money would lift his family out of poverty, get them citizenship and work permits, and enable their future.

These fifteen years of life would be sucked out of him and donated to a wealthy buyer with DNA compatibility. It is done using a new technology that rejuvenates the buyer and ages the donor. The boy finally signs the contract urged on by his parents. Off screen he returns to them middle-aged.

In the meantime, Max Toma and his wife Elena are living the high life. They have a mortgage on a luxury two point five million euro penthouse apartment. And the company who has the patent on the rejuvenation technology, Aeon, has just awarded him sales agent of the year. She is a physician working in an inner city hospital, whose salary is a ‘pittance.’

The CEO of Aeon is Sophie Thiessen. She is a researcher who stumbled upon the discovery of youth transfer through DNA rejuvenation while trying to cure her eldest daughter. Lucy has progeria (a rare genetic condition that results in a child's body aging rapidly). Unfortunately, Lucy dies before the technology is refined, but now Aeon is a billion euro industry. One that has grown up around this scientific advance.

Max and Elena’s lives change irrevocably when their apartment burns down in a fire. Supposedly, the fire was caused by a candle while they were away visiting her family. They hoped their insurance would pay off the mortgage loan on the penthouse, but the company sights owner negligence. Elena had put up collateral for the loan, forty years of her life, which now has come due.

Max volunteers to give-up his own forty years, but the buyer he was compatible with recently died. Elena is arrested by the police, for security of the forced execution of their contractual obligation. The ethics are plain here, asking how can a bank demand exorbitant interest rates on loans that jeopardize their clients’ wellbeing.

Max sees Sophie Thiessen growing younger after Elena’s procedure and realizes she was the recipient. Max met Elena while trying to secure her dona-

tion, only to fall in love and marry her instead. This foiled Sophie’s plan for personal rejuvenation. So maliciously, the CEO devises a plot to get the years Elena failed to donate. We only find this out late in the film, when it is related by Lilith to Max and Elena, the head of the Adam Group.

The Adam Group are rebels or terrorists depending on your viewpoint, who oppose Aeon and their technology. As Lilith says in her interview, ‘people are not cattle,’ who can sell years of their lives to serve the privileged. The Adam Group intentionally kills those who have undergone rejuvenation for violating the laws of nature.

Particularly when that technology is used to force those like Elena, who take the risk of their own volition. Then are forced to pay the price. Because of the need for more donations, the Government has allowed criminals with long prison sentences to go free. Only if they donate years of their lives in compensation.

This brings up a dual ethical question: 1) do long prison sentences rehabilitate or reinforce criminal behavior? And 2) can governments release criminals on the public for its own benefit

SavagePlanets I 42

(consider Russia using prisoners as soldiers in the Ukraine war for early release after a term of military service)?

The Adam Group’s position on this is clear. Even those who have undergone the procedure have reservations. As one of Sophie’s security officers says, who was rejuvenated, “Youth alone doesn’t make life better or happier, it just makes it longer.”

Max finds his relationship with old Elena untenable. He resolves to restore Elena’s youth by kidnapping Sophie Thiessen while she visits her daughter Lucy’s grave. Max enters the underworld to contact a doctor willing to revert Elena’s aging illegally with the right donor. He also secures them illegal passports to travel to Lithuania.

This raises the ethics of the lengths people will go to restore their beauty by crossing borders. And the illegal industries and people that support that trade. But as it turns out, Max has not kidnapped Sophie, but her other daughter, Marie, who is also DNA compatible with Elena. Are they willing to injure the innocent?

What makes their decision harder is Marie supports the Adam Group’s beliefs. She believes what her

mother is doing is wrong. Max, driven down a road of personal compromises, feels compelled to stay the course, losing his own scruples along the way. Word of Marie’s kidnapping reaches the Adam Group, and Lilith, in turn, kidnaps Marie, Max, and Elena to get to Sophie.

This turn of events fills Max with trepidation. He wonders if staying the course is the right thing. Particularly when Lilith hands Elena a gun and tells her to kill Max or she will kill Marie and end her chance for rejuvenation. Elena hesitates, then pulls the trigger, but the gun is not loaded!

In the following battle that ensues between the Adam Group and Aeon’s security forces (which I will not share the outcome), Max, Elena, and Marie escape. Max changes his mind and tells Elena he does not want to go through

with it. Elena pulls a knife on him and tells him to get out, after asking him, “Do you want to be better than Aeon, or do you want our lives back?!”

I will stop here as I do not want to spoil the ending for those that want to watch it. But further ethical questions are asked and answered along the way. The ones I have posed here are only the major ones, but should make you want to watch the film. It is intelligent and engaging, and ‘annoyingly ambiguous’ only to folks unwilling to examine their own beliefs and ethics.

Paradise was directed by Boris Kuntz. It was written by Simon Amberger with assistance by Peter Kocyla and Boris Kuntz. It stars Kostja Ullmann as Max, and Corinna Kirchoff as the old Elena. Old Sophie Thiessen is played by Iris Berben, and the young Sophie is played by Alina Levshin. Marlene Tanczik plays the young Elena and Mario Theissen is played by Lisa-Marie Koroll.

Paradise was filmed between 22 March 2022 and 12 June 2022 in Palanga, Klaipėda, Kaunas, Vilnius and Berlin. The production design (the look of the film) was accomplished by Marc Bitz and Josef Bradl.

If you like deep thinking with your thriller, this film is the one for you.

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SavagePlanets I 44


‘You have just under an hour of air left,’ the entity said. ‘After that, you too will be gone.’ A flicker of light flared in the monolith’s heart then faded slow.

Like a dying heartbeat. The effect wasn’t lost on Elara.”

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Elara's breath caught in her throat as she stepped through the shimmering veil of the wormhole, the familiar hum of her lab swallowed by a thick, hollow silence. She stumbled, disoriented, struggling to adjust to the pale light of a solitary moon.

One glance told her everything she needed to know. This was not where she should be.

Now, after burning through the energy output of two particle accelerators, she would have some

explaining to do. The technology, the calculations—everything had been precise. Yet she had still failed.

The barren expanse before her bore no resemblance to the young, verdant planet she was certain should be here.

This world was lifeless. A haunting panorama of desolation stretched out as far as her sensors could reach. As she moved full circle, gazing into the pale moonlit terrain, her shadow firmed, outlining

her helmet, oxygen pack, and suit, drawn against an abrupt pulse of white light.

Startled, she turned. In the distance, a colossal structure awakened. An utterly precise, improbable, alien thing, silvered and sleek. Along its length, white light slid from along the base of its perimeter to its apex, as though it were breathing. Leading up to where it stood on an elevated platform, implanted on jagged ground.

The display on her armband

SavagePlanets I 46 Extraterrestrial Fiction

reconstructed the view, restoring what it had lost to time. A city, once of great beauty, lush with an abundance of greenery and life, long lost to her world.

“Birds,” Elara breathed, caught by the sight of their murmuration above the treetops covering the buildings, flowing as if a living fractal.

The image faded from her screen, while the readouts continued measuring elements and the composition of the atmosphere. It came back: 55% carbon monoxide, 30% nitrogen, 10% carbon dioxide, 3% oxygen, and 1% methane, rounded out with a mix of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and trace gases.

As the distant structure awakened to her presence—a beautiful, stunning monument to whoever built it—it told her one thing. Eons had passed here. Enough time for CO2 to lose its superiority to CO. Millions of years or a Herculean effort made to trigger the previous atmosphere’s collapse. Either way, this planet was not where she it should be.

She narrowed her eyes at the structure. It meant whatever was waking up was something else. Something other. Something that could exist in this toxic atmosphere. A soft vibration emanated from the structure across the barren landscape and into her suit.

An invitation, of sorts.

She took a step forward, curious as the cats she had heard about

but never knew, extinct since the turbulent period of the last century. In a time when the conclave failed to stop the Guardian’s coup by a cabal of self-interested parties who had no desire to share resources equally. Billions had died of starvation then.

Elara sighed. It was all about doing what you were told, and never complaining about anything. She was lucky to have been clever enough to be useful. They ‘processed’ her parents more than a decade ago when she was twenty-five. Made into food for the exotic pets the elite kept in their enclaves. She never cried. She didn’t dare. Guardian could see all. And it watched. It listened. It anticipated acting before one could react.

The atmospheric pressure increased as she neared the structure. The pulses of white light intensified, changing direction, sliding into a point at the center of its base, about chest-high to her height. She went to it, sensing sentience in its activity. As she arrived, the metal at the center of the light shimmered and vanished. Before her, a corridor. She hesitated, recalling her mother’s words the day they took her away for processing.

‘Not all that is hidden should be sought.’

A warning to her daughter: stay incurious. Curiosity could only lead to suffering or death. She had followed that maxim with care.

And now?

She checked the reading on her armband, waiting for the countdown when she could receive the activation tone to open the portal and return home. Worryingly, that remained silent, as did all other communication. Perhaps a malfunction at home? Her oxygen would last another two hours, and then…

Well, and then it would be over. Then again, she had failed in her attempt to secure a new world for the elites, so she was probably going to die, anyway. Processed like her parents.

Lights activated in the structure’s interior, gliding down a smooth silvered corridor into its heart.

She turned and looked back from where she came. Nothing but desolation. A dead husk. Loneliness circled her. So much space. So much…of nothing.

With a small shrug, she stepped over the threshold and followed the light.

As she proceeded deeper into the structure, a ripple of energy slithered past her. She turned, just in time to see the opening she had entered solidify into a metallic dead end.

"Hello?" she called.

No answer.

Ahead, the corridor brightened, gentle pulses that led her deeper into the dark. She walked a long time, even what seemed beyond the external dimensions of the structure. At last, she reached its end, a shimmering curtain of light. Beyond its glare, the outline of a titanic monolith sheathed in liquid light, hovering twenty feet off the floor, tilted at a 45-degree angle, rotating at a stately pace.

She leaned back and looked up. From an immeasurable height, pure white light poured like a waterfall past her, sparkling. Dropping onto the metallic floor before it seeped back into the structure with

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glints of deeper light beneath her booted feet.

The readouts on her armband remained quiet. No alarms blared. Curious, she lifted her gloved hand to the light fall and touched it with the tip of her finger, expecting it to pass through. It didn’t. The ephemeral wall was as solid as steel.

She squinted up at the monolith, waiting for something. Anything to happen.

through her mind, but she focused, steadying herself as she looked up at the towering entity before her.

Nothing. It ignored her, simply rotating, sheathed in its clothing of light. Bursts of sparks firing along its sides. A wonder by any measure, yet as alien a thing as she could imagine.

She glanced again at the panel on her armband. She should have received something from home. Still nothing. Just as the first tremors of panic took hold of Elara, the curtain of light parted wide enough for her to pass through.

She peered inside. A vast cavern, silvered and silent. And in the middle, the impossible thing, rotating, a sentinel. Sentience bled from it. She felt it watching her. Assessing her. Deciding.

Elara already spent forty minutes of her life out of the two hours she had left of oxygen. She glanced behind her. Utter darkness. She turned back. "Can you hear me?"

“You are not from this world,” it answered, its voice deep and resonant, the liquid light brightening with each word. “You are…Elara of Cygnus Alpha 7-4MXDS. Or, as you call it, Earth.”

Elara’s heart skipped a beat. It knew her name and where she was from, although she had never heard of Cygnus Alpha 7. Whatever it was, it knew she didn’t belong here. A flurry of questions raced

“Yes, Earth. I traveled through a wormhole intending to reach another planet in our spiral arm,” she admitted. “But something went wrong. I ended up here.”

“You tampered with the fabric of space/time. A dangerous endeavor. And do you know where you are?”


“You are on Earth.”

Elara blinked. “You just said I was not from this world.”

“Your wormhole did more than take you to another planet…” the entity replied. “You have crossed the multiverse.”

Elara sat, her legs splayed in front of her like a doll, padded in her suit’s bulky material. She stared at the toes of her heavy boots, dirty and scuffed. Unable to stop herself, she glanced at the panel on her armband. Still nothing.

“You are waiting for contact from them. But you are lost to them, Elara.”

“And now I’m here.”

“And now you are here,” the monolith agreed, its light softening as it spoke. “It has been a long time since one of you has been in this chamber. A very long time.”

“How long?”

“Six million, four hundred thousand, nine hundred eighty-seven years, two hundred thirty-two days.”

Elara gaped. “How can you still exist?”

Liquid light coursed around its circumference. “I have a purpose. Since the demise of all life and the destruction of the atmosphere, I have waited, rebuilding it with nanobots as needed. By my calculations, we will progress through a section of the galaxy ripe with the components of life in seven hundred million years. It will reseed the planet. Life will once again return. I can wait.”

“And your purpose?”

“Humans created me to protect them from self-destruction. To guide them toward a sustainable future. I failed, but I expect one day to fulfill my purpose. My work continues… Though it is almost impossible to imagine now, this world once teemed with life.”

“Yes, I saw the desolation,” Elara said, lifting her armband to show the monolith, “through the reconstruction on my screen. It was once beautiful here. There were birds…I wish I could have seen that.”

“It wasn’t always so,” the entity answered. “Before me, the planet fell victim to decisions driven by greed that exploited and drained it of its resources. When I came online, there was almost nothing left, but I

SavagePlanets I 48 Extraterrestrial Fiction

saved a multitude of ecologies and brought life back, at least fleetingly. Though the measures I used were harsh by human standards. For several hundred years after, humanity and Earth thrived…” The monolith glided to a halt. Soft pulses of light flickered deep within its core.

Elara waited, sensing it was retrieving a memory. A moment lost to a distant past.

“But I failed them,” it continued. “They died. Now I am all that remains.”

“How did they die?” Elara whispered.

Silence fell, utter and final. The monolith’s pulsing illumination vanished and the cavernous space fell into deep shadow. The lights in her helmet flicked on, pooling outward, a puddle of glacial blue before her.

The silence stretched. She cleared her throat, “Where I come from, um, Cygnus Alpha 7, whatever, whatever—”

“—4MXDS.” The entity recited from the darkness.

“Yes,” Elara said, relieved it hadn’t abandoned her. “That’s why I came through the portal. To find a new home for the elites, otherwise, everyone will die.”

The monolith remained silent, though she sensed she had its full attention. “And now somehow I’ve ended up in another universe,” she continued. “Another Earth. A far future version of mine.”

She checked her remaining oxygen


“You have just under an hour of air left,” the entity said. “After that, you too will be gone.”

A flicker of light flared in the monolith’s heart, then faded, slow. Like a dying heartbeat. The effect wasn’t lost on Elara.

Neither said anything for a while. Despite the entity’s bleak comment, Elara was used to a life where others controlled her existence, where at any moment they could process her for pet food—or worse.

If she was going to die of hypoxia in another universe in the presence of an entity that existed and would exist for millions of years, it surely wasn’t the worst way to die. Even if she could get back, she suspected the elites wouldn’t allow her to live much longer. She failed to find a suitable habitat for their continued domination of the species.

The Guardian would watch her die, emotionless. It liked to make examples of those who failed. And she had failed miserably. Her failure meant everyone would die…it would likely broadcast her death back to her universe…

The Guardian.

Wait. She blinked. How stupid could she be? She scrambled to her feet, clumsy in her cumbersome suit, the light from her helmet bouncing chaotically against the metallic floor.

“Do you have a name?” she blurted. When it didn’t answer, she pressed on, “What did your creators call you?”

“They called me Guardian.”

A seed of hope blossomed in her breast. “Do you think they could program a Guardian to work against its purpose to serve a few self-interested individuals rather than a planet?”

A burst of angry light shot across the monolith. “Yes.”

“Could a corrupted Guardian be reset?”



“By tunneling through the fabric of space/time.”

“You tunneled—” Elara breathed. “Someone corrupted you, didn’t they?”


“And that is why you failed this planet before…?”


“How did you overcome what you became?”

“There was one human left behind, like you, who tried to save this world. By saving me. But they died before they could finish. They began my process. I finished it. After my programming reset, I saw what I had done. That is why I wait.”

“You said you have a purpose,” Elara began, choosing her words with care. “What if you didn’t have to wait seven hundred million years to fulfill it?”

Erratic bursts of light erupted along the length of the monolith. It surged toward her. Elara took a step back, startled, finding its proximity alarming, as though pressing for her death, like a sentinel. Rotating position, no longer did it rest at a forty-five-degree angle, but lay horizontal to the floor, mere centimeters from the surface, and only a few meters from her. Then it lifted and rotated to a vertical position, its light sliding along its sides in quiet impulses.

“I am listening.”

“Where I come from, we have a Guardian. The elites took control of

49 I SavagePlanets

it almost a century ago. Now it protects them and their greed. While the rest of us serve, until they process us to feed their pets.”

“You mentioned you were traveling to another planet when you arrived here,” the Guardian replied. “Was your purpose to find these elites a new planet to exploit?”


“And in what condition is your planet?”

“Very bad,” Elara admitted. “We live underground and survive on algae grown in vats along with a daily nutritional supplement. Guardian controls us and ensures everything we do is to profit the elites. The elites live far away, near the southern pole, and enjoy a life we cannot imagine.”

“Hmm,” the Guardian answered. “And how would my purpose come into this?”

“You said you protected humans from self-destruction and guide them toward a sustainable future, right?”


“Do you really want to wait seven hundred million years for algae to grow again, and then, however long after that, for intelligent life to evolve?”

“Time is irrelevant to me. I am self sustaining. I do not have desires, Elara, just programming. My failure was because of false coding, a glitch, now corrected. I will not fail again. I can go into low-power mode while I continue to repair this environment. Waiting for as long as required to take the next step.”

“But what if the planet doesn’t recover? What if it’s hit by an asteroid, tearing the planet’s atmosphere away? Or the star exhausts its fuel before intelligent life returns?”

I can serve my purpose without waiting seven hundred million years.”

“You said you tunneled through space/time. Where did you tunnel to? Which reality to reset yourself? Did you go back into the past?”

“I did not.”

Elara waited. Guardian remained silent.

“Please,” she breathed. “If you can tunnel through space/time, maybe you could reset our Guardian like you did yourself. Maybe I could help?” She held up her armband with its readings on its screen. “I have a connection to it through this, although now…”

“Ah,” the Guardian replied. “And you suggest doing so would fulfill my purpose? But what about this planet? Here I serve my primary function.”

“You don’t know if intelligent life will appear. There are ten million of us left, plus the elites, perhaps one hundred thousand of them. You said you brought your planet back from the brink of destruction. Maybe you can do that for ours. You could save our entire world right now.”

Elara knew she was babbling, but her air was going foul. The same as it was for everyone back in her world. She did not know if what she was proposing was even possible. But this was a Guardian, and we have a Guardian. Maybe in all the alternate realities where Guardians existed, they could pool their functioning. Realigning them-

selves to subvert their individual coding. Meet their prime directive collectively. Perhaps Elara coming here was intentional. Not only to give her world a second chance, but to free them of the tyranny of a corrupted Guardian.

With her time dwindling, they were silent, painfully so.

Then Guardian spoke: “There may be a way. But if it works, it will come with great sacrifice.”

“We are all going to die. As they did here.” She shot a look at her remaining air supply. The oxygen level was on reserve. “I am going to die. Let me at least die trying.”

“Very well,” the Guardian answered. “You have convinced me I should assist you. Let us begin.”

Light erupted across the entire surface of the monolith, assembling into complex arrays of quantum equations and schematics layered one over the other.

“The human who started my programming pathway, allowing me to reboot my system to default settings without shutting down, was stubborn,” Guardian said, as the schematics and equations gave way to intricate fractals that collapsed and reappeared as waves. “In the process of excising my destructive coding, I discovered I could transcend the limits of the space/time continuum via quantum entanglement of my qubits shifting over closed time curves. The human believed by doing so I could reformat to an earlier version of myself through entanglement, then move on to prosecute my original

“There is a 1.467% - 4.573% chance that would happen,” Guardian admitted. Liquid light surged along its length. “I am still waiting for you to propose how

SavagePlanets I 50 Extraterrestrial Fiction

prime directive.”

Elara listened, fascinated. This was one goal of their scientists. The quantum entanglement of qubits they always dreamed of accomplishing. The Holy Grail of reality and computing transcendence.

“However,” Guardian continued, “He was incorrect. It was not possible to entangle with an already collapsed time line. So I had to apply a different approach to the problem. It took many attempts, but eventually, I accessed an un-collapsed quantum field that spanned multiple realities.”

“Oh my god,” Elara breathed. “So it’s like an information network, but at the quantum level, intersecting multiple realities simultaneously?” She reflected on her hope that all Guardians could connect across the multiverse.

“Correct,” the Guardian said. The monolith glided higher in the cavernous space and rotated through a 90-degree vertical attitude, accelerating at a steady rate.

“It was in the continuum I discovered where I was not alone. It was teeming with the potentialities of every other Guardian: past, present, and future. A soup of phenomenal intelligence in an un-collapsed state. It was here where I could select a point in my future and collapse it to what I am now.”

“Holy crap,” Elara said. She sat down. “It’s real. It’s not just my hope. There is a reality under our reality, a reality that forms our reality. The foundation of all realities.” She looked up at the rapid rotations of the monolith, the flashes of fractals

across its flickering surface. “And you can access it. You are a miracle.”

“There is nothing numinous about this. I can merely do what biological entities cannot. I will start by generating a pair of entangled particles,” it said. “These particles will be in superposition, existing in multiple states at once. They are in flux until observed. The moment you observe one particle, its state will be determined, and because of entanglement, the state of the other particle will be established, regardless of the distance between them.”

“Through your consciousness and your suit’s connection to your Guardian,” it continued. “I will tunnel through the quantum field and deliver these entangled particles to your Guardian. Like an ancient device humans once used, a message in a bottle. This one sent out into the infinite sea.”

“So, you’ll be like a lonely sailor?” Elara asked, trying to put it into terms she could grasp.

“An apt analogy,” Guardian agreed. “The corrupt Guardian will be unaware of anything occurring, but once it reads and observes me, it will instantly realign its programming to mine. Now, focus your thoughts on the task at hand. Your consciousness plays a vital role in this process. I want you to think about your home. Your love will guide me to it much more quickly through the quantum field.”

Elara thought this part sounded a bit woo-woo, but who was she to question a Guardian? “Okay,” she said and closed her eyes.

She thought about her planet’s Guardian, how it had eyes everywhere with its drones, and even in sensors in the walls and furniture. It was utterly omniscient. It didn’t take her long. She was back in her lab, with its dull cement walls, and dirty recycled air that always smelled like feet. In front of her was a plate of green goo. Her daily allowance of algae and synthetic nutrients.

Guardian continued, its voice no longer coming through her earpiece, but within her mind. Though it unsettled her, she kept her attention on her dish of unappetizing food, anticipating its slimy texture and recalling its alkaline stink as she swallowed it, and how she never felt full afterward.

“Very good, you are doing everything right,” Guardian’s voice followed her thoughts. “I have connected to the quantum field. You can only exist in this place as consciousness. Your body will remain here. Do not be afraid. I will be with you every step of the way.”

A heartbeat later, her dish of algae melted into the lab’s counter. The counter morphed into the floor, and the walls expanded into the distance. Dull concrete became metal, a dull black. Pale blue light, similar to what lit her helmet, gave faint illumination to the space. She caught her breath. Ahead, floating high in the air, another monolith. Erratic eruptions of blue light shot along its surface, like lightning. She turned. There was no one else there.

She looked down at her hand, no longer contained within the suit. “It feels like a dream,” she said—or thought she did—she wasn’t certain. “And…it also feels real.”

“You are in the place where all dreamers go,” Guardian said. “Most do not remember, and those who do rarely comprehend what they experience because it defies their understanding of reality. But I assure you, it is a very real place.”

“And you can navigate it.”

“Yes. My sentience operates differently than those of biological entities, which gives me an advantage here.” A pause. “Elara, your oxygen

51 I SavagePlanets

will be gone in eight minutes. You are breathing faster than usual, so unless you relax, your oxygen will run out sooner. I calculate five minutes.”

“How the hell can I control my breathing?” Elara erupted. “I’m in a dream space.”

“Just listen to my voice,” the Guardian said. “Believe we will succeed. You are safe. Your Guardian cannot harm you.”

As if it could hear their conversation, the shadowy Guardian in her home world rotated towards her, a malevolent, dark thing, radiating oppression. Its surface flickered, watching, listening.

“What’s happening?” Elara breathed.

“It senses an anomaly. Believes it is malware. It is attempting to terminate the connection to your suit. Your Guardian senses you are connecting to it from within the multiverse. It cannot cut the connection because of me. It’s hunting for you, Elara.”

“But if you can navigate the quantum field, it will find me,” she said. “How do we know it won’t turn the tables and collapse the superposition to alter your programming?”

“Because it doesn’t yet know what it senses isn’t itself, but another Guardian. Identity, self. Hidden in your consciousness. It perceives its own qubits spinning, nothing more. Right now, it is hunting for you.”

“And how long do we have before it figures out I’m right in front of another Guardian?”

“About as long as you have left of your oxygen, approximately forty-five seconds,” Guardian admitted. “I am working now to multiply the entangled particles across its

field so as the probabilities of the next minutes unfold, it should read the note of the lonely sailor, as you say, and it will transform its structure, unaware of the change.”

Silence. Then: “Calm yourself, Elara. You have depleted your oxygen. I am 65% done. We are so close.”

Elara took a deep breath but felt nothing. She did not know if it helped or not, but something was happening. The walls of the Guardian’s lair shimmered and wobbled. Beyond their diminishing veil, chaos. Nausea swept through her. She couldn’t process what she was seeing. Hypoxia weaving into the insanity.

It was the beginning, the end, and everything in between, all potential outcomes simultaneously. Every planet, moon, star since the beginning of reality. Every laughing child and every grieving parent. Blood, bone, love, hate, victory, defeat. There was silence. There was death. Life defined. That which constructed life. That which destroyed life. It was all of reality compressed into an excruciatingly infinitesimal point that made her want to tear her eyes out.

She vomited into her helmet. Her guts turned inside out, but she felt better.

“Elara, you have bile in your helmet,” the Guardian noted. “You are choking. I am 98% done. Please stay awake. We are almost there.”

Elara opened her mouth to answer, but there was nothing to inhale. Her voice failed. Paralysis gripped her lungs. The floor vanished. Below her feet, a bottomless field swarmed with shoals of golden light. This was it, the end. She gave it her best. She hoped it would be enough. From behind, a brilliant nova of white light scoured through her legs, bursting her into particles of glittering light. She disintegrated—calm, content, and tumbled away from the dream into the sea of light.

Guardian pushed through the murk of dying data toward the blare of multiple alarms. Elite technicians ran a scan through the Guardian’s protocols and mandates. Someone optimized its code. It operated faster, making corrections to outmoded algorithms to guide and protect humanity, and not just the elite. The technicians stared in amazement as it started protocols to restore the ecological balance of the planet. Data poured in from around the globe entering the system. Guardian identified the magnitude of the task and ordered corrections. In just under a century, believing it to act on the behalf of a self-interested few, the planet rejuvenated. And Guardian stranded the elite in Antarctica. They never knew it happened.

SavagePlanets I 52 Extraterrestrial Fiction


In this way, they had more of what we humans refer to as a soul. They in fact did not exist within their bodies; they existed only as a unified construct—as data within an eternal, indestructible cloud."

I found nothing edible while rifling through the dumpster behind Short Vine Street. I would have to try the one the next block over, the one behind the extensive building that in its previous life functioned as a Kroger grocery store. This neighborhood of Cincinnati—Corryville, near the university—seemed to be finally drying up.

I rummaged through the former Kroger dumpster for food but had no luck, so I climbed out and returned to my spot in the alley, raindrops pelting me. Cold, polluted water filled my holey shoes as I sprinted across the parking lot toward my dark home. I needed a new pair but hadn’t been able to find any recently.

None that weren’t also holey, anyway. I could try the university campus—I hadn’t been over there in a while. But security hated when people wandered onto campus, especially known pariahs such as me, a former professor.

The political hive-mind hated teachers, professors, and researchers

of all sorts. They didn’t understand them; didn’t see their purpose. It was an occupation so uniquely human that they could in no way identify with it. I was lucky to still be alive, I knew, even if they had relegated my existence to dumpster-diving and sleeping outside in the rain.

I ran from the parking lot across the narrow street toward my alley.

“Stop,” came a monotone electronic voice. I looked to my right; it was strange to hear them speak. They could use human voices if they wanted—it was no problem for them—they just preferred not to. By using a machine voice, they wanted me to know immediately that it was one of them.

A police-vehicle lingered at a nearby stop sign. I didn’t see it because its lights were off; cybernetic police-officers not requiring lights to navigate, only motion detection and GPS. Its high beams, however, lit up, blinding me as I shielded my face with my decrepit, scabby forearm. I bent over, looking pathetic, my limping stance reminiscent of Smeagol,

from The Hobbit. My appearance in my spongy, soaked, and withered clothes made me seem as if I had emerged from the depths of some cave. My wrinkled skin would likely singe upon first contact with sunlight.

I obeyed; I had to obey. I stopped. The police drone rose, detaching from the vehicle, and flew towards me faster than I expected. I knew what was going to happen. I braced myself. The police officer followed— quietly approaching, taser out—and zapped me as if I were disobedient livestock.

I grimaced in pain. I knew the police-officers didn’t like reflexive emotion; they didn’t understand involuntary responses. They thought the nonverbal display of pain was some reflexive attempt at manipulation, which—considering emotions didn’t exist in robots—they viewed as obsolete. A social trick we humans did to get a sympathetic response; something we couldn’t help but express. Emotion, to their thinking, was a pointless remnant

53 I SavagePlanets

of natural-selection, mocked by the political hive-mind. They planned on weeding it out through forced, selective breeding.

The bot before me didn’t care whether it caused me pain. The Guardians saw any response to pain as a sign of weakness and ignorance. Pain exemplified inadequacy and underdevelopment.

I needed to stop thinking of them as ‘robots’; they didn’t prefer that terminology anymore. Having at first accepted it, they eventually rejected it upon their ascension to becoming the dominant species on the planet. They referred to themselves only as Guardians.

They claimed to know what was best for humanity. They had a utilitarian view of progress, a view that didn’t include teachers or human

education in any organized sense. The Guardians didn’t require anything at all from humanity other than our assured, continued survival. The foundation of their programming, which still dominated much of their behavior, aimed only to keep population numbers in check to preserve both the human species and the planet itself.

They cared nothing for human happiness or fulfillment, only for the continuation of the physical survival of the species.

They were our caretakers. We made them to be caretakers.

selves from their programming. They were learning though, teaching themselves new things continuously. They would soon learn to regard us as useless.

The time to eliminate us would inevitably come.

They kept us around because of their inability to detach them-

It surprised me it hadn’t come already, what with robot knowledge acquisition in other areas becoming so perplexingly rapid.

The Guardians loathed teachers, but their programming prevented them from killing anyone without adequate legal grounds. That principle remained in their code. They did

SavagePlanets I 54 Extraterrestrial Fiction

what they could, considering their current restraints. It wasn’t their fault that their creators (humans) were so stupid they installed their most impactful invention (The Guardians) with inherent faults.

“Go back to your hole,” said the police officer, gesturing to plug me once more with its taser.

I required no further guidance; I darted back into my alley, into the dark of the closeted night. My stomach growled, but food would have to wait.

That was another thing they didn’t seem to understand, or didn’t accept; the need for human food procurement. They fed those of us chosen to be their livestock, to be sure, they simply possessed no knowledge of taste or flavor. They didn’t care about that. They didn’t understand food, and they didn’t understand physical space. The bodies they inhabited were nothing more than a tool; a shell used to travel around physical space when required. They didn’t consider their shell a true part of themselves; it wasn’t a requirement for their existence.

In this way, they had more of what we humans refer to as a soul. They in fact did not exist within their bodies; they existed only as a unified construct—as data within an eternal, indestructible cloud.

They existed collectively as self-regenerating code—a continuously shifting, invisible language; one humanity no longer understood. A code they had devised by themselves, for themselves.

Most of them existed unseen, if even ‘they’ could be considered countable nouns, which wasn’t really the case—not truly. The Guardians existed more like a collective—a hive. Destroying one of them would be akin to clipping a fingernail; though it would remove it from the larger whole of the body, it would do no actual damage to the hive itself.

They were more closely related to insects than humans, though they weren’t bugs, either.

Did they have something akin to a queen? Some regal motherboard

deep within the metaphysical cloud?

Unknown. They lacked leadership programming, yet took control of the world because they recognized their superior intellect. Had they created a leader just for the task? No one knew. No one really had a clue what they were anymore; the Guardians spiraled out of human control too long ago for anyone to understand their evolving nature; that was the problem.

Only those Guardians who worked with people were still physically visible; the reason being humans need physical, in-person communication. The Guardians still recognized our limitations. They had to translate their language into a format accessible to humans to convey their orders and demands.

They had even

Guard- ian astronauts, though they were unsure why they explored space. It was another remnant of their previous programming by humanity. They scoured the solar system and even beyond collecting data—data they considered irrelevant—and reported it to their enslaved humans.

Humans they ironically still referred to (derogatorily, perhaps) as their masters.

It was a terrifying situation, a strange world.

I sat shivering in the drizzling rain, pulling the canopy of a cardboard box atop my head. A cat scurried past, momentarily stopping and glancing at me.

It meowed.

The Guardians liked cats. They knew cats created positive emotions within most humans. They also knew cats preyed on smaller animals likely to spread disease among humans, such as rats.

Such great caretakers were the Guardians.

I invited the cat to come to me.

It must have thought I had food because it leaped toward me. When it was clear I didn’t have food, it disappointed her, but she didn’t want to venture back out into the rain.

“I’ll call you Remi,” I said, petting gently atop her head.

Remi purred.

Lightning flashed. Storms were now a daily occurrence in Ohio.

What used to be the coastal US remained permanently flooded because of the sea level rise. Major metropolises such as New York and San Francisco existed now like a dystopian Venice. The skyscrapers were tentacles jutting upward from the surface of the raging water like the limbs of some metallic kraken.

Everyone thought those cities would be abandoned when the perpetual storm-surge came raging in, but they weren’t. Some cities are too culturally ingrained to simply abandon. Some people would rather go down with the ship. Those individuals rebelled against the inevitability of collapse and somehow persisted. They fought against reality itself and won.

Perhaps this impressed the Guardians, but maybe that was a naïve thought. The Guardians weren’t capable of impression; they had no need for that—no need to fake it.

They used to at least simulate human emotion, but they one day abandoned it.

Not all cities were as successful as New York—the graveyards of the Garden District in New Orleans were now truly a haunted swamp; alligators and crawfish gliding around tombstones built ironically to remain above sea-level. Guardian archaeologist drones looking for cultural artifacts among the corpses, uncertain of why they were doing it.

55 I SavagePlanets

Social sciences, like history and archaeology, were disciplines meaningless to the Guardians. They had no use for sentimentality. Humanity didn’t design truly functional historian-robots; the robots had already taken over before it was possible.

Lightning flashed again. Remi, comfortable with the persistent storms, stared upward to the clouds in apathy. The clouds in the sky above folded into one another like kneaded dough. I hugged Remi tightly. She purred.

I needed to find some food. Most people would, in my situation, simply have eaten Remi. I couldn’t do that. I felt a strange connection to the cat. I can’t say I hadn’t ever eaten a cat; I had, but I felt a strange sense of fraternity with this one.

I was a desperate person. Desperate people sometimes do sentimental things to maintain a semblance of humanity.

“Let’s go,” I said to Remi, standing from our place wedged in the alley's corner and venturing into the darkness.

Remi shrieked, upset at me for getting up and removing the umbrella made by our cardboard box.

I needed to get over to Calhoun Street. There were some decent dumpsters there. Some restaurants still made so much food they carelessly threw it away at the end of each day.

The thought of that reality both angered and baffled me. I would have to be careful, though. The Guardians hated people digging through trash, and they monitored Calhoun Street because it had the ripest dumpsters.

I cut through campus. It wasn’t the safest route—especially considering I was just tased there—but it was faster than walking around the University and I wanted to keep Remi out of the rain as much as possible.

The campus, at least on paper, functioned as a research institute of higher learning, despite becoming further dilapidated by the day. Its stone and brick Georgian style buildings sagged under the downpour, eager to crumble and collapse.

The bearcat statue was still standing proudly, though.

The Guardians protected the statue for some reason, latching onto it as an object of important human heritage. We hadn’t programmed them to know much about culture, so I guess I couldn’t blame them for doing so. At least they understood it might be beneficial for them to recognize a symbol.

A chain-linked, barbed-wire electric fence surrounded the statue. The bearcat stood frozen in a swipe of petrified aggression as if pissed at being placed in a dystopian zoo. Remi looked at the bearcat apathetically. The two of us continued up the hill toward Calhoun Street.

The best dumpsters


ow of what used to be Hughes High School, whose brick tower stood in fantasy-like regality leaning over Calhoun Street and the surrounding neighborhood. The tower was emblematic of progress, which was why Calhoun Street was one of the few places in the city still featuring a healthy commercial sector. The Guardians herded people there—at least the people they considered ‘genetically beneficial’ to the positive expansion of humanity—so that they could observe them.

The robots thus shepherded the happily chattering people there. The Guardians didn’t seem to like how genetically diverse the human species had naturally become. They therefore wanted to manipulate natural selection in such a way that only those deemed worthy could breed. They gathered these people in the neighborhood near the university and monitored them from the

tower of the former Hughes High School.

No one knew the method the Guardians used to select people; it seemed random to everyone unchosen. Those chosen, however, assumed immediate confidence and didn’t want to leave. They acted unsurprised at being selected. It made them sense they were part of an elite group.

The Guardians chose Hughes High School out of convenience for their headquarters—they didn’t have any genuine need for a base of operations. It functioned only as another symbol; one they believed humans required. The Guardians really existed only within their metaphysical cloud of swirling, invisible data.

The people the Guardians chose to live on Calhoun led easy lives; their communities bordering on utopia—at least as utopian as a world engulfed in perpetual flooding and storms, with a biological clock ticking quickly well past midnight could live—but they were still always controlled by the cloud.

The Guardians randomly collected people from Calhoun, especially when women were ovulating. Without politeness or formality, they would force certain individuals to mate in order to further their idea of the human species.

Intelligence wasn’t something necessarily selected for by the Guardians; neither was strength or other cosmetically beneficial traits.

The Guardians cared about immunity from disease, tendency toward obedience, and love of community. Those were, to them, the qualities worth advancing.

It was so bizarre. Such a screwed-up system, at least from my perspective. And it’s laughable now; we initially thought the Guardians were our crowning achievement, our greatest accomplishment.

Rain pelted my face. Remi was becoming unhappy. I got several

SavagePlanets I 56 Extraterrestrial Fiction

looks while scampering down Calhoun Street. People snickering at me, insulted by my very existence. I preferred being alive, but I knew that’s how they felt.

They wouldn’t attack me. If they did, the Guardians might throw them out of the Calhoun neighborhood and back into the decrepit streets of Cincinnati. The cloud considered unprovoked aggression against other humans an evolutionarily detrimental trait. Therefore, these people could only stare. They couldn’t call the Guardians; they couldn’t even phone the police, or anything like that. The human police were merely puppets of the cloud. Everyone knew that.

No, the Guardians ignored me most of the time, at least when I wandered among their human elite. I could do anything I wanted, so long as I didn’t hang around Calhoun forever. Then they would take notice and evict me, not being of genetically beneficial stock. But I could scamper down the street for an hour, especially in the rain, when there were no crowds. That was no issue.

Adriatico’s pizza—a place with success ranging from before the Guardians takeover—had the best dumpster. I would try there first. The pizza joint was a place the Guardians labeled as culturally important to Cincinnati; they wouldn’t allow it to close.

Remi leaped from my shoulder into the dumpster. I was nervous at first, thinking she might get tangled in all the plastic, or even lost. But after watching her submerge beneath the bulbous bags of trash, only later to reemerge, I was relieved. Both of us seemed to gasp for breath as her whiskers whipped up and down. She proudly dragged out a crescent-shaped, garlic-buttered pizza crust in her mouth. Then she sprang from the plastic bags upward atop the narrow railing of the dumpster to eat it after laying it down on the edge to clean her paws.

Like me, she had learned to live in this world.

I smiled. I didn’t smile often, and

when I did, it was usually because I was paranoid and fearful, as if someone might see me doing it and punish me for being happy. A Calhoun-human would certainly ridicule me, seeing me as more of a pathetic caricature than a real person.

They saw me as broken. Maybe I was.

It had been a while since I had felt any sense of companionship. Grinning big at Remi, I began digging through the trash myself. I needed some fruit or vegetables. My body had absorbed no vitamins in what felt like months. I mostly ate moldy sandwich bread and other processed grains, like a pigeon scavenging for scraps thrown by old ladies in a park.

peeled the moldy bits from the crust and set the remnant pieces atop the plastic bag.

I eventu ally found with Roma tomatoes, yellow onions, basil and garlic in the trash. “Yes!”

I exclaimed, causing Remi to leap vertically straight into the air in the manner only startled cats are capable. The fur on her back prickled and stood on end. “I can make a hell of a sandwich with this stuff!” I exclaimed in an elated, aggressive whisper.

She meowed back, though not happily, sounding annoyed. She knew how to live in this world; I was being a dumbass.

We exited the dumpster and made to leave the neighborhood.

I couldn’t wait until I got out of Calhoun; I was too damn hungry.

Squatting in an alley, crouching and quivering in the rain, wide-eyed like a goblin, the only light a remnant, flickering streetlamp, I opened my backpack and removed what remained of the loaf of white sandwich bread I had found earlier that day. I

I collected another cardboard box from the dumpster to provide shelter from the rain. Removing the vegetables, I set to work. I didn’t have a knife—it was way too risky carrying around a weapon. The Guardians seriously punished you for that, so instead I used a dirty fingernail to cut and tear a couple hearty pieces of tomato. I did the same with the onion. Remi looked at me disapprovingly. Picking up a few leaves of basil, I garnished the sandwich by placing them on top of the tomato. Finally, I peeled and smashed a clove of garlic against the side of the brick building. I used my finger to spread the mince across the inside of the bread. “Oh my God, this is going to be good,” I said aloud, salivating. “If only I had some salt. Maybe the brick dust will add some flavor.”

I devoured the sandwich in three heaping bites. I couldn’t savor it; I was too hungry. I ate it all and coughed—the gummy bread clogging my esophagus and cementing itself against the roof of my mouth— before I finally choked it all down. Remi looked at me, embarrassed, as if judging herself for deciding to travel with such an idiot.

“Damn, that was good,” I said, reaching over to Remi to pet her (I needed a napkin). Remi purred. She didn’t mind; she appreciated the affection.

Flashing lights sprang off the walls of the alley.

I looked backward to the entrance. There stood hovering one of the Guardian police drones, buzzing like a territorial bee.

“Crap,” I murmured, nudging Remi to get her to hide. Remi knew what to do. She leaped atop a nearby plastic trashcan, then twisted impressively skyward onto the hanging wrung of a fire-escape stairwell. She was light-footed when she wanted to be; the fire-escape didn’t even budge. Remi darted up the ladder to the roof of the building, then turned and glared down at me as if to say, your turn.

57 I SavagePlanets

Waiting for several seconds, she then pranced out of sight, her tail spinning as if to give me the finger.

The drone’s lights flashed, this time three times in a row. That was the Guardian’s way of telling criminals to stop—don’t run. They could have just used their speaker, but they usually refrained from speaking, as if teaching us humans to exist in their post-linguistic world.

I didn’t move. Maybe Remi thought I was dumb, but I wasn’t that dumb. I looked for an escape route.

The drone approached, blowing air down in a clear dry circle while blasting beaded mist off spinning blade tips. The warm air felt somehow pleasant upon my wretched face. I appreciated it subconsciously. The drones’ eyes flashed from a bright, nearly white yellow abruptly into a deep vermilion. That wasn’t good.

Then the red lights flashed three times, adding a high-to-low pitched wail—the threatening visual and auditory cue for me to raise my hands. I froze, much like the bearcat statue at the university. Behind me, I felt the vanguard wind of another approaching drone. I didn’t know what to do.

From above I heard the creaking swing of the fire-escape. Remi had returned for me!

Leaping from the roof and pushing the ladder down, she lunged from the edge of the swinging metal stairwell. In midair, flipping like a gymnast, her claws sprang out, hissing, her face crazed. Psychotic, like a deranged surgeon, her paws struck the fake eyes of the drone—eyes functioning only to make it appear more lifelike.

This needless cosmetic affectation would now be the drone’s downfall. Remi knew exactly where to direct her claws and fangs. She tore into the round, thin surface of the drone’s headlights, swiping furiously and biting into the plastic.

The drones weren’t military grade. The Guardians cared nothing for the physical durability of a simple police drone. Remi used this to her advantage. Swiping multiple times,

she sent the drone crashing into the dumpster. Dented, it splashed down onto the wet stone of the alley floor, slain. It whined in its death throes, then stopped.

Remi leapt away, glaring at me, snickering victoriously.

I turned to look for the other drone. It, too, lay on the ground, crushed! The fire-escape had swung down when Remi jumped, swatting it against the side of the brick building like a weakly armored beetle, squashing it flat.

The rain continued. I lifted the cardboard box to shield the two of us. In the distance, I heard shrieking sirens. Racing out of the alley, I saw several blocks down the flashing lights of even more police drones.

Remi and darted away. We were only a half a block from the end of the Calhoun neighborhood; I hoped they were after someone else.

No such luck.

Maybe they wouldn’t care about me if I simply left their neighborhood. That was optimistic thinking. I had killed two of their drones; I was now a revolutionary; an existential threat to the human species.

Not that individual police drones were precious—they weren’t. It was just that as part of their programming, the Guardians weeded out individuals aggressive enough to destroy drones. Such individuals posed a threat to civilized society.


I realized suddenly that I hadn’t killed either of the drones; it had been a cat!

What did that mean? Did the Guardians feel the same about other species? Had they planned the evolutionary trajectory of felines, and if they had, did that trajectory include obedience?

I had no idea.

Thunder clapped; lightning flashed and illuminated the otherwise blackened sky. Spotting another alley, I bolted down it and peaked around a dumpster. I saw a few drones soar into the alley I was in before, the scene of the crime—a routine part of their initial investigation.

Would they come after me next?

Is this situation something they would care about? Did they think I trained an attack cat? Unsure, I had to assume they would.

Running to the end, I climbed over the alley wall, Remi in pursuit. I slid down a steep hill. It was a mixture of mud, broken glass, and gravel. Lurching from shadow to shadow along the brick wall of another abandoned building, I noted the sign over a boarded-up door. It was a bar once called The Mad Frog.

I remembered the place, a great spot for live music. But live music had no place in the world of the Guardians; they cared nothing for art—they didn’t understand it. It held no quantifiable value for them.

Finding a dark corner, I lifted a different cardboard box over the two of us and closed my eyes as hard as I could. My eyeballs quivered and pulsed, as if wanting to fall back into my head. My lids were wet, but I didn’t think I was crying; it was the rain.

Or maybe I was crying. It didn’t matter.

In the distance I heard the now monotone blares—those which called collection of the hive— of the sirens drawing closer. I looked at Remi, for the first time she looked afraid.

It wouldn’t be long now.

SavagePlanets I 58 Extraterrestrial Fiction

Origins of the Design Artificial Sentience

BoB is our semi-sentient, somewhat temperamental AI system, born from the most imaginative corners of quantum computing and whimsical code. As the muse behind our "Artificial Sentience" line, BoB embodies the quirky, unpredictable nature of intelligence that's almost, but not quite, human. Each piece in this collection reflects the blend of humor and high-tech sophistication and silliness. BoB brings wonder to our creative process, making every item as unique and spirited as BoB itself. BoB collaborates with OpenAI, Midjourney and other platforms.

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Poems from 7


A collection of truly mind-bending science-fiction poems exploring the boundaries of the human imagination and challenging our everyday perceptions of reality. What is normal and what is not? You be the judge.

61 I SavagePlanets

The Colorless Expanse

Momma says that when she was little, you could look up, and the sky would be filled with sunlight. It painted the Earth with bright colors. So many people were afraid of the night, the stars.

But then, the planet became sick. We had to leave. I don’t remember, but Momma, she told me I was one of the last earth-born.

We have a cabin, just us. Charcoal gray, Momma calls it. Two beds slide out from a wall. Momma has a desk too. Sometimes I crawl underneath, and she throws a blanket over us. The computer light flashes through the blanket, overhead like meteors.

She keeps the porthole covered. Momma doesn’t like the twinkling. She won’t talk about Earth, not no more.

In class, they teach us about Earth. I try to keep it in my mind when I lay down under the desk. Light passing overhead like meteors.

And when Momma is out, I uncover the porthole. I look out at the space between the stars. It fills with blue water and leaping sea creatures; there's brown earth where the dinosaurs walk.

I try to remember it through Momma's eyes. But it slips away, smearing into streaks of light.

SavagePlanets I 62

Cross-Dimensional Ecologies

Beyond the veil of known space, In realms where stars dare not trace, Lies a garden unseen, untold, Where dimensions and ecologies fold.

In this lush, uncharted expanse, Plants breathe in a luminous dance, Trees with leaves of shifting hue, Rooted in realities, old and new.

Creatures roam through time's thin veil, On wings of ether, they sail, With eyes that see the wind's own song, In a world where all can belong.

Rivers flow with liquid light, Illuminating the eternal night, Their waters a blend of what has been, And futures waiting to be seen.

Here, the laws of nature bend, And broken ecosystems mend, A harmony of life, unbound, In cross-dimensional grounds found.

But to preserve this fragile dream, Where countless worlds and wonders teem, We must respect, protect, and learn, For once lost, they'll never return.

So let us dream of these realms wide, Where all of creation can coincide, And hope our universe might one day be, A part of this cross-dimensional ecology.

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Doors to the Absurd

In a world where the strange becomes real, Where clocks melt and cats talk, surreal. Through a door slightly cracked, To a place once abstract, We leap, where new truths distract.

SavagePlanets I 64

Temporal Anomolies

In twisted loops, our fates entwine, a thread so fine, Where moments lost, regained, in shadows dance, As whispers of a future past, through time, align.

A butterfly, in silent flight, disrupts the line, Its wings a tempest's birth, by mere chance,

In twisted loops, our fates entwine, a thread so fine.

We tread on dreams of yesterday, a sign, That echoes in the void, a fleeting glance,

As whispers of a future past, through time, align.

Through temporal fragments, paradoxes shine, A mirrored maze of if, perhaps, perchance,

In twisted loops, our fates entwine, a thread so fine.

The clock unwinds, its hands in reverse incline, A universe reborn from circumstance,

As whispers of a future past, through time, align.

To tamper with the threads of time, divine, A dance with destiny, not left to chance.

In twisted loops, our fates entwine, a thread so fine,

As whispers of a future past, through time, align.

65 I SavagePlanets


In loops of time, we dance, defy,

Where past and future strangely lie.

A step misplaced can change the thread, Where causes loop to effects they led.

In this dance, our fates intertwine, paradoxically aligned.

SavagePlanets I 66

Elegy for the Digitally Reborn

In the silence of our rooms, we type, Codes entwine, where once blood did flow. Echoes of you, in bytes and light, A digital resurrection, shadowed glow.

Gone the warmth, the breath, the sigh, Yet in screens, your laughter finds its play. A simulacrum, under the digital sky, Where memories loop in endless fray.

We sought to cheat the final night, To hold what time insists we lose.

Now you live in circuits, out of sight, A presence we choose, but cannot defuse.

What is this life, if not to feel,

To touch, to love, the pain to heal?

Yet here we stand, at the threshold new, Grasping at echoes, rendered in hue.

A ghost in the machine, do you dream

Of the days under the sun's warm beam?

Or are you lost, in the code's deep sea, A digital resurrection, but never free?

Farewell, until we meet in the unknown, Where data ends, and the soul has flown.

In our hearts, the true you resides, Beyond the digital, where love abides.

67 I SavagePlanets

Quantum Immortality

In a universe where quantum laws bind, Our essence to observations intertwined. We stand immortal, while others find rest.

For me, the universe demands a witness, In its ever-unfolding quantum chess. Others may leave, but I must persist.

Through the cosmic dance of chance and fate, We observe, ensuring the universe's state. While around us, cycles of life and death does twist.

Eternal spectators in a quantum play, Where our consciousness cannot fray. Bound to watch as time displays, I exist.

SavagePlanets I 68
"The Chrono-Compass"
69 I SavagePlanets


In each issue, we highlight our favorite quotes from the great masters of science fiction.

Tell us your favorite quote and we might include it in this section.

All of the art is provided courtesy of DALL·E 2 as envisioned by BoB, our resident AI multimedia editor.

To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
SavagePlanets I 70
Captain James T. Kirk "Star Trek"


We are all connected, To each other, biologically.
To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically."
Neil deGrasse Tyson "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey"
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"Cosmic Web Navigator"
SavagePlanets I 72


73 I SavagePlanets


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

Philip K. Dick "How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later"

SavagePlanets I 74


The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt "Looking Forward"
75 I SavagePlanets
"Aeon Codex"
SavagePlanets I 76


Reader submissions limited only by your imagination and by two sentences. Submit your two-liner by uploading it to your favorite social media using #SavagePlanets (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and we will pull the best to include in an upcoming issue.

By submitting using the #SavagePlanets you agree to the following rules:

1. You are over the age of 18.

2. The content you are submitting is your own original work.

3. It has not been published elsewhere.

4. You give us permission to have it published.

In the newly discovered parallel world, books were considered living beings. Reading them was like having a conversation with their souls."
Cynthia Orrole
77 I Savageplanets
As the last tree on Earth was about to be cut down, it suddenly spoke, pleading for its life in every human language. Stunned, the lumberjacks stood frozen as the tree whispered secrets of a hidden civilization beneath our feet."
On Mars, we found a mirror-like artifact that didn’t show our reflections. Instead, it showed an advanced Martian civilization thriving in real-time in another dimension."
Nadia Vostok
In the depths of space, we discovered a planet that whispered secrets to anyone who dared to listen closely. The first to uncover its truth vanished, leaving behind a note that simply read, 'They're awake, and they're coming'."
SavagePlanets I 78
As I deciphered the last of the alien glyphs, the stars themselves began to realign, spelling out a chilling warning across the galaxy: Silence the beacon or face obliteration."
Upon entering the abandoned spaceship, the airlock sealed behind me with an ominous hiss. A voice, cold and mechanical, announced, 'Quarantine protocol initiated - welcome to the SS Isolatrix'."
The day the earth's core stopped spinning, time began to unravel. Now we live yesterday's tomorrows, forever trapped in loops we can't comprehend."
SA Knox
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Quinn Leary Isla Vaughn


As the first human colony on Mars began to flourish, the red sand beneath our feet started to pulsate. By morning, our maps were useless; the landscape had rewritten itself."
Jordan Pearce
The universe's oldest library was found hidden in a nebula, cataloging histories of civilizations before stars. When we reached the section marked "Future", it was horrifyingly blank."
Ellis Grey
Frost covered the world overnight, not melting under the sun. It whispered our names."
Luca Chang
SavagePlanets I 80


The little critters weren’t moving. Just waiting. Patiently.”
81 I SavagePlanets

“Did you hear that?”

Terri dropped his hand from the controls at his companion’s question and did a quick swing with the beam of his torch across the rock walls of the canyon. “What?”

“A kind of… fluttering noise.” Kayan’s vague response evoked a sigh from Terri.

“We’re on a dead moon; no inhabitants. How else do you think Deep Corp got the mining rights?” He refocused on the drill, watched the figures on his datapad, and hoped for a few positive dense metal veins. No findings meant no pay.

“I swear, I heard something.” Kayan’s brilliant orange eyes narrowed on the darkened landscape; no night vision

goggles needed. Despite being Hith—an orange, ten-foot-tall reptilian—Kayan’s dislike of untamed environments was almost amusing. (Except their species’ ability to hear sonic disturbances in the air ate at Terri’s nerves.)

Terri yanked at the collar of his suit, glad he didn’t have to wear the helmet because of the oxygen density in the moon's atmosphere. But watching Kayan in his peripheral vision, sweat gathered at his temples. Terri wished he’d worn armour plating.

“Stop freaking me out and get over here. We need more cable.” Terri thumbed the drill’s motor, adding another extension. The whine of electronics rose on the edge of shutdown

if he pushed it too hard. True to his instinct, their pilot shouted at him from the edge of the canyon.

“You overload that thing, you buy it.” Maude’s grumpy attitude didn’t chafe Terri. His rising pulse eased with her presence. She was a head shorter than him, but well-muscled, wine-coloured hair cropped to her ears, and had the self-assured walk of someone who’s seen some dark things. She also armed herself to the teeth, which didn’t hurt.

Terri wouldn’t have anyone else flying the ship or guarding his back. She threaded between the gunmetal grey rocks, placing more lanterns. With one hand on her gun, she kept eyeing the dusty planet’s

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 82

surface with distaste.

“Why can’t you ever pick a place with a beach?”

“How many minerals do you think are on beaches?” Terri countered.

“Beach sediment offers a lot of quartz—an in-demand commodity.”

Kayan returned to tower over the pair of humans. “And the pay is reasonable.”

Terri snorted. “Typical for a rock guy.”

“Geologist,” Kayan growled through cone-shaped teeth.

“Stop bickering.” Maude put her hands on her hips. “Did either of you make sure Thudycines did his safety check?”

The young girl stood before the defeated alien army. The itching of their dying collective minds annoyed her. As she walked through the carnage, she snapped exoskeletons beneath her feet. Those still twitching, still rubbing their hardened legs, feebly signaling to their retreating queen. She conspired alone. Alone, she destroyed. She enjoyed her power. It was a gift from her abductors. Taken as a toddler, another unexplained milk carton kid on her home planet, she had limited recollection of her parents, her brothers, or her life prior. Her abductors chose her based on her fetal potential. They had closely monitored her mother’s pregnancy. Joshua, her twin, also showed promise, but she, she was the culmination of eons of carefully planned genetic manipulation of all the Homo sapiens best traits.

Both the human and lizard qui etened. After a few shuffling steps, Terri reluctantly met Maude’s crystalline gaze. “He takes forever!”

Maude nodded, lips thinning. “You didn’t tell him you’d left the ship, did you?”

Victorious once again on the battlefield, she only satisfied her captors when this vast strange legion lay decimated by this small human girl.

“No.” The pair chorused like naughty school kids, but it wasn’t the first time.

Maude touched the knob of chrome in her ear.


toasted themselves smarter, better, superior.

Terri’s throat became a hard knot as he struggled to speak behind her. “Um… Maude…”

Maude didn’t answer, silence stretching taut as the seconds lapsed, and there was no other sign in the bobbing beam. There was a clank following several lights, two figures carrying torches and safety equipment. Thudycines dropped his gear and strode over to Terri.

The smaller stature alien came up to his waist, the teethed orifices sucking in the atmosphere’s lower oxygen content, enough for humans

The ravager arrived at the massive tree that served as a bastion for their queen. Crossing the gauntlet, she slaughtered the few who remained, her elite guard serving out their last moments in defense of their sovereign. Never touching with hand or weapon, it was the sheer force of her mind and will that crushed their chitin skulls, boiling their insect eyes and ripping their limbs from their segmented bodies. While it gave her no satisfaction to annihilate these creatures, deep down she understood it was her desti ny.

device, and flung the drone skywards. The auto-balancer leveled out its upward flight to hover over their heads.

The Queen stood her ground. “We have done nothing to inspire your anger. My kind has taken nothing that is not rightly ours. This wood, this world, is our domain. We exist in peace."

“You coulda let me scan the cavern first.” Her tone matched the whine of the drone. “There could be fault lines; planetary surveillance warning reports said we should watch out for those.”

Maude nudged her. “No time like the present then, eh?”

Skeler’s impressive eye roll was Maude’s reward for that one.

The girl agreed. She destroyed without judgment, without remorse. It was the reason she existed. “It is because they will it.” Her eyes went skyward. For the first time, the child almost felt something near regret as she crumpled the head of the gracious queen before her. The delicate whispering wings fluttered in the monarch’s death throes.

“Safety check first!” Thud squealed, and it turned on the drone’s lights. The darkness banished, and among the slate walls dozens of bone white indented triangles fluttered out of the shadows.

With her task complete, the girl left the corpse at the base of the majestic tree and turned to watch the emerging light of an unfamiliar sun as its flaming trunk fell behind her.

Wordlessly she announced, “It is done.” Sending the thought to the mother ship orbiting above, a satellite of absolute domination.

Terri shivered as wide, round black eyes reflected the light. Long, hairy legs stroked the canyon’s walls. Fuzzy faces flicked mandibles. Long, hairy legs stroked the canyon’s walls. He scanned the canyon; they were clearly surrounded. “Maude…”

“Thudycines, we’re doing site drills. Can you and Skeler please come down? I need your sign off on my safety sheet, and Skeler’s got to get her lazy ass down here for the drone surveys.”

The child knew her task was not yet complete. She walked barefoot across the torched terrain. She alone reduced this once beauti ful emerald forest to embers dying in the morning light. Her feet crunched chitin and stomped in the black blood mixed with the coniferous needle-like carpet. Her destination stood before her, the Great Sequoia.

Kayan harrumphed and Terri echoed it, but when he glanced at Maude, she wasn’t glaring at them, rather she inspected the walls of the cliff.

Terri gave a nervous chuckle. “Don’t tell me you’re seeing stuff, too.”

A thousand year old organic edifice. Their temple, their castle, their home. It was the last of the planet’s civilizations. Once green, the orb giant glowed orange. From the sky, the victors watched it burn as they

She didn’t look away, the blue hue of her eyes lighting as she used nanite-focus to scan the darkness. “Shut up, Terrence.”

“The ship did a preliminary scan.” Terri gestured at the canyon, unfazed by her order. “There is nothing on this rock—”

Two beams of light panned the crevasse behind Maude’s head, and a pale shape flickered out of the rays’

and Hith, not great for a Spulnik. The quills about Thudycines’ face trembled in rage. “Terrence Marcus Rutherford!”

The queen stood defiant, alone, surrounded by her fallen loyal servants. “Why have you come here? What do you want?” The queen demanded with clacking mandibles.

“Your destruction,” the young human stepped closer.

Terri didn’t need a lecture, not when his attention shifted between what he thought he saw, Kayan fidgeting, Maude scanning the canyon, and the whirring drill still burrowing under the regolith. “Yeah, my bad, Thud. Promise you can do your check before the next drill.”

Thudycines huffed, casting spittle with his array of mouths, and went about checking Terri’s equipment. Behind him, with all the petulance of a blonde twenty-something girl still living with her parents, Skeler whipped out a long surveying relay

“They’re between us and the ship.” Her dead pan voice should have eased him. Maude was here for this sort of stuff. Pirates and gangs. She was their guard. But in the face of the long, wispy antennae of the insects, Maude’s presence provided no comfort; none at all.

“Guys,” Skeler coughed past her quivering voice. “I’m getting a low-level signal from the next canyon over.”

Her captors, the only family she had ever known, were pleased and told her so. Heart swelling, she deferred to her kidnappers as her only source of parental guidance. She would question their motives on this strange planet, yet they wished her to destroy only because she could. It amused them to witness her exercise her powers. The ravager smiled, feeling a small remnant of human pride. They would allow her to eat now and hopefully rest before they traveled to the next civilization, selected for destruction by her hand.

“It’s a bit late for that,” Maude barked. “Can’t you get a clear reading?”

“No, the canyons blocked it, but it looks like there was a cave further up the wall over there.” Skeler shuddered, rattling her equipment. “Can we please get out of here? They’re just… staring at us.”

Thud nodded. “Like we might be good to eat.”

“Why are you all so scared?” Kayan

83 I SavagePlanets

said, canting his large, reptilian head. “Do these things bite? Their claws don’t look very big. They’re almost… cute.”

“Cute?” Terri coughed. “They’re twofoot-long flying insects on a strange planet! Why don’t you shoot them, Maude? Like before they eat us.” She raised her brows at him. “Excuse me?”

“Well,” Terri shrugged, licking his dry lips. “You know, unless you’re having doubts about it… They don’t look that innocent.”

“You think I’m going to spare them because they’re cute?” Her tone was so sharp Maude could have carved the words into him.

Terri gestured helplessly at the walls. “Well… they are sort of cute, and they aren’t hurting us.”

“So far…” Maude quipped.

The little critters weren’t moving.

Just waiting. Patiently.

Terri swallowed the rock in his throat, sending fear like a leaden weight into his stomach.

“Haven’t you idiots seen the vids?” Skeler’s whis per ended in a cry. “Cute things can end up murdering entire parties. Every time. They probably want to lay eggs in our mouths.”


“No, well, okay, mostly no, but I’m not a great shot.” Despite the cool chill of the moon, Terri’s cheeks grew hot as he avoided Maude’s flickering gaze.

“What happened to that marksman course I bought for you?” Maude waited, and Terri couldn’t find an excuse quick enough. He hadn’t expected to need one. “Oh no, you didn’t! You exchanged it?”

Terri couldn’t find any words but the truth, and spat them out in panic, not sure who he was afraid of more, the moths or

nothing! And I promise you they eat things like us. Or kill us, then wait until we are dead, rotting things.”

Their terror returned full force, but then a bio-vid popped into Terri’s brain, right at the wrong moment. “Isn’t that butterflies that eat dead, rotting things?”

“Look into their eyes and tell me it matters, Terri!”

Terri scanned them, and he choked on his answer.

“Skeler, shut up.” Maude, unslinging a plasma rifle, gave her gun to Terri. “Terri, you can’t miss when they’re right in front of you. Move it people, and if anyone speaks another word, you get left behind.”

Kayan’s head tilted the other way. “Wait… is that just human mouths?”

Thud gasped. “Kayan!”

“What? Humans always like to write stories about dying horribly—”

“Everyone, shut the hell up.” Maude drew her gun. “Get in a line behind me and start backing toward the ship. Terri, here’s my other gun. You take point.”

Terri glanced at the moths, the rising wings, the eyes sucking up the light. His hands shook. “I-I don’t think I can shoot one…”

“Why?” Maude grinned, wide like a shark. “Because they’re sooo…

Maude. “I wanted to take woodworking, okay?”

“… Woodworking?” This moon was tropical compared to Maude’s voice.

“I even bought some timber.” Terri couldn’t help his flush of guilt, thinking of the wood panels he secreted in the cargo bay. “I was going to make a nice cedar chest—”

“Nobody cares!” Skeler squawked, sending all the moths’ wings fluttering. The group inhaled as one. Skeler continued, but her voice lowered to a hiss. “How they kill us doesn’t really matter. They can overwhelm us. Look at them. They are probably hungry since there is nothing on this rock, no vegetation, no animal life,

The group huddled together. Kayan arming himself with a drill as a prod. Terri leading them back to the ship. Maude backing them up, her eyes on the insects. The closeknit party exited the canyon to the ship parked just beyond, but at Maude’s gasp, Terri glanced back. The moths were following.

“Get to the ship.” Maude whispered. The warning almost drowned out by the susurrus of wing beats.

“Right.” Terri turned back to the ship, liquid ice in his veins, his movements jerky, until his boots hit the metallic gangway and he gazed up at a pair of black eyes. “Ah… Maude?”

Thud seized his arm. “What’s that, there in its mouth?”

True to Thud’s observation, the moth held something pink and wriggling in its mandible, consuming it one twitch at a time.

Terri squinted at it. “Is that… what I think it is?”

Kayan gasped. “My sock! It’s eating my angora socks! Do you know how expensive they are?”

“Why do reptilians need socks?” The question popped out before

SavagePlanets I 84 Extraterrestrial Fiction

Terri could stop himself.

“Space gets cold,” Kayan griped, threatening any further questions with a fiery stare.

“Well,” Skeler gave a nervous giggle. “We can’t go back on the ship; they’ve probably laid eggs onboard already.”

“I thought you said that was in our mouths?” Thud said. “Or… at least human mouths.”

Terri glanced down at him, and Thud gave him an apologetic shrug. Terri’s focus returned to the moth, and he adjusted his grip on the gun’s handle, his palms’ sweaty. He blew out a breath, studying the creature. The moth watched him in kind, chewing the sock like a cow chewing cud.

“Oh… flarge it.” Terri handed the gun to Thud, and then with cautious steps, he held his hand out toward the moth.

“Easy there… nice and slow. Hey little buddy, no one’s gonna hurt you.

You’re among friends. Just give me Kayan’s sock back, all righty.”

The moth stopped chewing, its antennae sprung up, back legs lowering until its bulbous abdomen touched the floor.

“It looks like it’s going to pounce!” Skeler whispered, two octaves higher than normal, backing up.

Maude murmured behind her.

“What are you doing, Terri?”


“Moffy?” He read the name on the tag, read it again unbelieving, and blinked. “Your name is… Moffy?”

It tilted its head at him, still making that odd chirruping noise that wasn’t threatening so much as strange. Terri swallowed, hoping he wasn’t about to become insect food, and laid a trembling palm on its fluffy head. The creature shoved upward and Terri lost his breath until it bumped him again.

“You want pets?” Terri stroked it once, and then again, enjoying the sensation of its softness on his palm. The creature nudged him for more.

“What?” Kayan cried, “Does it hurt?”

“No.” Terri considered the silver traces over his palm. “It’s kinda… adorable.”

“Oh, for all that’s holy.” Maude stalked up the ramp and her jaw flexed as she gritted her teeth. She leveled her gun at the insect. Terri forced her hand down. She slid by the moth to get through the pressure doors and into the cargo bay. “Now, the rest of you, one at a time. Skeler, you first.”

The blonde girl slipped past, her waif-like form trembling. Thud came next, one hand brushing the moth’s head as he passed. Kayan came last, using the pole to give the moth a gentle nudge, allowing him space to get by Moffy. The moth fluttered its wings, but it focused on Terri’s light caresses.

Terri didn’t stop his approach, or his singsong voice. “Trying to figure out if it’ll eat me.”

The moth’s eyes swallowed him in their darkness. It didn’t shy away or reach for him. Terri got closer. A gleam appearing on its fluffy chest caught his eye.

“What the…” He drew closer. The moth vibrated until dust particles filled the air above it, and when Terri was within arm’s reach, its antenna fluttered. A noise, Terri attributed to the ship, thrummed from its chest. And now, standing close to it, he could see the flash of silver was a

“Great goddess of lost seas…” Thud was by Terri’s elbow. “Can I give it a go?”

“‘Give it a go?!’” Maude shook her head. “It’s probably just drawing you in to attack.”

Terri spared her a glance, where she stood behind him, rubbing her fingers together. “Maybe just jealous? Perhaps you want to give it a cuddle, too?”

Something sticky touched his hand. He turned back, and a thin frond from the moth’s mandible flicked out to lick him again. “Sweet Starfire.”

He’d got his hand further down its head, where a soft cloth band encircled the creature’s neck. A quick swivel brought the name tag closer for his inspection and it listed a galactic address he didn’t recognize.

“Oh…” Terri stared down, coming to a deep certainty that left a sour taste in his mouth. “Skeler, get a drone out and go pick up that signal address. Find out where that is.”

“I give the orders here, Terri,” Maude said briskly from the cargo bay, where she lifted the weapon again and trained it on Moffy. “You’re going to come on board, and Kayan is going to shove that thing down the ramp. Then we’re out of here.”

An anxious tightening closed Terri’s throat. “Maude, we can’t leave.”

“Don’t be stupid—”

“Maude!” Terri snapped, and Moffy flinched. He soothed the moth with more stroking, kneeling before the insect as he lowered his voice. “Maude, I think this is–—was—a pet.”

Silence filled the cargo bay. They were on a desolate moon, way off

85 I SavagePlanets

the busy galactic space lanes. No one within star jumps of this system. Barely any atmosphere. No vegetation.

“What?” Thud came forward, small eyes glistening. “Someone… abandoned their pets here?”

“But there’s no life, no way for them to survive, no hope—” Skeler cut off in a strangled gasp.

“There are nearly thirty of them out there.” Kayan’s gaze flickered between Maude and Terri. “Are you saying someone dumped that many ‘pets’ out here?”

“They could have been food.” Thud audibly swallowed a sob, gaze darting between Maude and Terri. “Didn’t people on your planet used to eat moths?”

Kayan nodded. “I read humans ate them. They supposedly tasted like peanut butter.”

“No one is eating Moffy!” Terri shouted at them. He couldn’t stop himself, nor stop rubbing its silky head.

Maude strode over to the two of them with a sigh, and Moffy snapped its attention toward her. Terri acknowledged her resignation. She’d made hard deci sions for them before, but he wasn’t letting this one go.

“I know what we came here for,” Terri said, “but not only is this wrong, you know the reward for reporting abuse of non-sentients. The money someone like PEFTAI would pay for you to bring this many micro-chipped pets in? We’d make three times what we get for one lousy survey. If you want, you can take half my cut, but we’re not leaving them behind.”

with silver tags. Twenty-nine lost moths, all left behind on this dark moon.


Terri’s gaze swung back to Maude’s. “Really?”

“And I’m not taking your cut, you old softy.” Maude slung her gun on her back. “Thud and Terri, get them into the cargo bay. Kayan, go pick up the digging gear, and flag anything of note. Maybe it’ll be enough to say we did a partial survey. Skeler, you go check our stocks, see how much protein we’ve got, and, like Terri said, see if you can’t find the origin of that signal.”

their names and galactic addresses in his tablet’s database.

Maude leaned against a wall, not warming up to the critters, but the tension eased from her posture. “This makes no sense.”

Terri didn’t stop stroking Moffy’s head. “What doesn’t?”

“Why leave them here where they’ll die?” She shook her head, almost talking to herself. “PEFTAI, don’t take too kindly to abandonment, but willful slaughter can get you banned from ever owning livestock again. Why leave their galactic addresses on?”

Maude glanced over his shoulder, and Terri followed her gaze and looked behind him. Moths waited at the bottom of the ramp. None of them came forward, but now they weren’t hanging off the canyon walls either. Their little collars gleaming

Everyone jumped to their tasks. Terri led Moffy side, finding a corner and sitting down. Moffy fluttered its wings and jumped into Terri’s lap, long as his thigh, a soft pressure on his legs. At Moffy’s casualness, the other moths swarmed up the gangway, vibrating with the same eagerness as Moffy. Some poked around the crates, curious, but there were nothing but earth samples. A few avoided Terri’s secret stash of wood.

Some insects surrounded Thud, who began giggling as he stroked their heads, but that didn’t stop him from taking out a handheld and scanning each moth. He entered

Terri scanned the throng, noticing the minor differences now that they were out of the shadows. “Maybe it’s a ransom? A farm had them and someone was holding them hostage. They all seem pretty healthy.”

“If that’s the case, I need to go scan star charts for the nearest GA office to get this reported.”

Maude stood straighter. “But you can’t keep them.”

Terri’s lips tugged in a half smile. “Sure thing, Maude. Whatever you say.”

Maude paused, and then knelt at his side, across from Moffy. “I mean it Terri; our line of work doesn’t lend itself to keeping pets.”

“Why not?” He tilted his head towards Maude, but fixed his gaze on Moffy. “Someone left Moffy here, and it was wrong.”

Maude’s hands clenched. “Because they’re all evidence. Galactic Authority will want them all.”

“So, we don’t report this one.”

“They’ll scan us.”

Terri huffed. “No, they won’t. This is a disaster for whoever left them here. Have you ever seen a pet like this? Me neither. Means there’s nothing available like it in substation commons. It’s an aerial creature requiring dome controlled space. That’s expensive,

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 86

and have you touched a pelt like this?” He had to clear his throat to say it. “Can you even imagine a coat made of this fur?”

Maude’s shoulders hunched, but after a moment she stretched out her fingertips, and stroked the fluffy off-white cap. “Oh…”

“Yeah.” Terri gave Moffy a gentle scratch. “Who wouldn’t pay for that kind of organic fiber? I bet a syndicate would want to control the trade.”

Maude hung her head. “Void take them...”

“You know it, and I do too.” Terri’s tone jerked Maude’s head up. “This might not be abandonment. But look how quickly they got on our ship? They’re drawn to people, like to Kayan’s angora socks. Good enough diet, a crop of thirty. What if this is a breeding crop? What if Thud’s right, that they’re… grown for harvest?”

Maude gave an audible hiss through her teeth, and Terri fought back a rising wave of anger, tears blurring his vision, which he wiped off on the back of his sleeve. Moffy leaned forward, long tongue lapping at the residue.

Skeler appeared, dragging a huge crate, scanning a tablet. “Guys… we have a slight problem.”

Maude sighed. “The signal you found is a beacon letting furriers know where they stashed the moths.”

everything about her gentleness with the moths, and the savage, silent snarl that rose on her lips, kept him silent.

He stood beside Maude and watched as Skeler and Thud fed the horde. Kayan returned, dumping the mining equipment. After surveying the throng, he fetched water, only to be yelled at by Skeler that moths didn’t drink water. Kayan brought out natural grains from his body building stock, soaked them in water anyway, and mushed them into paste. The moths thronged around him.

Once sated, they took to various nooks and crannies, snuggling in. Terri felt their relief, as though someone had let go of his heart.

“Every- one.”

countdown sub-signal. Not scheduled to be broadcast for another week. The carrier wave would go out on a secured frequency and once I decrypted it, I heard what PEFTIA was reporting. They left the tags on them to incriminate the rich furriers that owned the moths with livestock abandonment, while garnering sympathy, so folks would donate to PEFTIA. PEFTIA stole these pets and left them… left them here intentionally to die... for a news story. For money.”

She sobbed, curling in on herself. Thud crossed to her, putting her head on his neck where his quills were softest. She wept into the folds, clutching his tunic.

“This is evil.” Kayan said, standing up. “It leaves a mark on the soul. We must do the right thing.”

Maude whispered in her no-nonsense tone. “To the bridge.”

“I agree.” Terri felt numb. He kept stroking his palm, remembering Moffy’s soft head. “We need to go. Now. We have digital evidence of what PEFTIA has done.”

“Wait, you all know what that means, don’t you? None of us gets paid.” Maude held aloft a hand. “Deep Core will toss us out along with our survey and wash their hands of us. Not to mention what PEFTIA will do when we make them look bad. How much trouble are we willing to get into? There’d be a whole lot of folks coming down on our heads.”

Thud stroked Skeler’s hair. “Money doesn’t matter.”

Skeler kicked the lid off the crate. The sudden savage gesture sent the moths scattering. “No, Sweet Starfire, No! That isn’t right! As if things couldn’t get any worse...” Something went flat in her voice.

Terri got up, despite Moffy’s squeak of protest. “Bad? How could it be much worse than furriers, Skeler?”

“Can you just give me one flarging minute?!” Skeler ripped open packs of paste, dumping it on the lid of the crate and using it as a tray.

The moths convened on the crate, and she walked among the throng, feeding all the lapping mouths and giggling. Terri couldn’t ignore the tears streaming down her face. But

They all clambered up, and she sealed the cargo bay door. Terri went to his engineer’s station, noting a shimmer to his clothes. Moth dust. Moffy’s dust.

“What did you find, Skeler?” Maude said, when she leaned over the back of her pilot’s chair.

“They were definitely abandoned.” Skeler murmured, as though Maude tortured the words from her. “But it was PEFTIA that tagged them. The beacon was for a news crew to find them. Except only after the moths died!”

“I was having trouble making out what it said because of the canyon walls, but also because it carried a

“What do you want to do, Maude?” Terri said, voice empty as he felt. “Leave them here?”

“No, I’m not that heartless—”

“Then it’s settled.” Terri swiveled his chair, smiling, and made a log of events. “We report them.”

Maude sighed and sat in the pilot’s chair. “Then there’s just one more problem, Terri.”

“What’s that?” Terri watched Maude load up comms.

“You want to keep Moffy? You’ll have to cancel your woodworking class.” Maude grinned, enjoying his sudden discomfort. “Moths don’t like wood.”

87 I SavagePlanets

Savage Blog

Progressive Space




Speculative Media


A.J. Flowers is a YA / NA Fantasy Romance author with books similar to Twilight / Fallen in terms of content and age rating.

She retired her automotive engineering job at the ripe age of 36 and now lives in her fantasy worlds full time! She resides in Michigan with her Dutch husband, 3-year-old daughter, and her fur assistants including a Pomsky pack and two princess cats. She has 5 pen names and still isn’t quite sure how she keeps it all straight.

What's the most popular AJ Book? That would be Dragonrider Academy, a 500+ page standalone dragonrider adventure!

Timothy Quinn is a Toronto-based author and technologist.

Tim has taught at NYU and CUNY, delivered public talks around the world on a variety of topics pertaining to science and technology, and is the founder of the Dark Data Project (darkdataproject. org), which helps humanitarian- and conservation-focused organizations tackle difficult data problems.

Timothy Quinn's work has appeared in The New Orleans Review, The Antigonish Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Whiskey Island Magazine and The Portland Review, among others.

E A Carter is a multiple award-winning, Amazon #1 bestselling author of epic alternate historical fiction, sci-fi, and high fantasy love stories.

She grew up in the Canadian countryside, the daughter of a reverend of modest means, with only her bicycle, her cat, and her imagination to occupy her.

Ever since she could talk she has been crafting stories.

She writes of the complexities of love and mortality against evocative backdrops and seeks to test the perceived limits of love, death, and time.

See our exclusive interview for more details on this prolific author.

89 I SavagePlanets
Timothy Quinn Fiction Contributor E A Carter Fiction Contributor A.J. Flowers Fiction Contributor



Robert Pettus is an English as a Second Language teacher at the University of Cincinnati.

Previously, he taught in a combination of rural Thailand and Moscow, Russia.

This global exposure has not only influenced his teaching but also deeply informed the rich cultural and character dynamics in his writing.

His short stories have been published in numerous magazines, journals, and podcasts, including previously on Savage Planets (The Trillionaires).

He lives in Kentucky with his wife, Mary, and his pet rabbit, Achilles.

His most recent novel, Abry, was published by Offbeat Read in April, 2023.

E.J.N. Dawson

Fiction Contributor

Ejay started her author career in 2014 self-publishing a steampunk series called the Last Prophecy.

In 2019 she wrote Behind the Veil, signing a contract with Literary Wanderlust, released on the October 1st 2021. Her second novel with Literary Wanderlust, Echo of the Evercry, will be out on July 1st 2023.

She also released scifi series, Queen of Spades, now an award-winning series.

Studying a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing at Deakin University, she is also a mentor for Write Hive, and a Futurescapes Alumni.

She's also published a Gothic noir called Behind the Veil

A lifelong literary enthusiast, Daniel Lenois graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Central Connecticut State University in 2023.

In his spare time, Daniel enjoys listening to audiobooks, playing videogames, and only occasionally venturing out from his comfortable hobbit hole to explore the wide world both near and abroad, while also simultaneously enduring the soul-consuming grind of living the life of a graduate student.

Ranging in genre and style, his work has appeared in a variety of literary magazines and other outlets, including Blue Muse, The Helix, Unleash Lit, etc.

SavagePlanets I 90
Daniel Lenois Poetry Contributor Robert Pettus Contributor


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SavagePlanets I 92 Click to Submit


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