Editor in Chief
Signals from the Stellar Core
A Memo on the Impending Extinction
Poems from Imaginaria
The Last Flight Out
01 I SavagePlanets
Steven S. Behram
Fiction Editor Keith 'Doc' Raymond
Poetry Editor Steven S. Behram
Art Editor B.o.B.
63 SavagePlanets I 02
By Steven S Behram, MD Editor-In-Chief
In this issue of SavagePlanets, we continue our trek into the unknown. We hope to challenge your beliefs and to reinvigorate your senses. We hope to awaken that sense of shock and awe that should always be inside of us all, but sometimes can be dormant. We want to remind everyone that what lurks in the night sky is nothing short of savage planets. Star Nursery We have continued to receive and showcase new works from our contributors. Our network of friends and writers continues to grow. These wonderful perspectives create a richness to the fabric of this publication. Echoes from the Expanse Our speculative poetry selection for this month covers an array of topics. We see adventures about colonization of Mars. We feel the cacophany created by an orchestra in space. We explore the ideas of mechanized poetry in the "Alien Market." Finally, we learn what it is that draws us to the stars!
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The Exoplanet In the Planetary Communiqué, our extra-terrestrial Overlord wastes no time before condescendingly presenting us with his assessment of our space telescope. His edicts highlight his mandates for the human race in his usual comedic, but horrifying manner. We have five speculative fiction offerings for this quarter. "Food Fight" presents a devilish conundrum for a therapist caring for client with a unique ability. In "Middle Management" we learn of the challenges facing an entity assigned the role of assuming human form. In " A Memo on the Impending Extinction of the Last Earthen Tree" we get a sneak peak at a memo everyone
saw coming. In “Safety Net,” we see how competition can extend even to alien landscapes. Finally, in “last Flight Out,” we see the intersection of love and tragedy on a global scale. In Sci-Fi entertainment, we explore the works of Frank Herbert. We also have an exclusive interview with Alan Dean Foster. In our final installment, we review the Russian TV series Better Than Us. Our AI Editor, BoB, reveales some of his most recent renderings in a fun and clever manner. Each piece of art is paired with our favorite science fiction quotes. Fans are encouraged to suggest titles which then BoB uses to generate his masterpieces. Be sure to send us your requests because BoB is always looking for fresh ideas.
In Subspace, we give fans the opportunity to submit a two sentence sci-fi story. The most clever stories are seleted and published for the world to see! Collapsing Black Holes As always, we are drawn to you as much as you are drawn to us. We need your contributions, submissions and suggestions. Our goal is always to bring contributors and consumers of science fiction ever so closer together. If you've contributed before, please consider doing so again. If you have never contributed, please consider doing so. Kindly share and promote our magazine on your social media. Our website is http://savageplanets.com. Let's make some gravitational waves together!
SavagePlanets I 04
FOOD FIGHT by Alan Dean Foster
On the other hand, he had the most purely wacky mania she had encountered in fifteen years as a practicing professional. As she plucked a glass off the shelf and opened the door to the small fridge, she was already composing the first paragraphs of the paper she intended to write."
“My coffee keeps insulting me.” Dr. Erin Alderfield flicked a glance to her left to make sure the recorder light was still on, scratched unobtrusively at the place on her slim neck where the thin gold necklace she was wearing never seemed to sit quite right, tilted her head downward so she could look over the wire brim of her glasses, and thoughtfully regarded her patient. Seated on the couch across from her, Morton Ropern pushed nervously at the front of his forehead, where twenty years earlier he used to have a good deal more hair and waited for the therapist to respond. It did not take long. 05 I SavagePlanets
“Mr. Ropern, coffee does not talk. Coffee has no body, no organic physicality, and therefore no brain, much less larynx, lungs, and tongue. It is a liquid: nothing more, nothing less, sometimes imbibed, chilled, more often hot. It cannot talk.” Far from being dissuaded by this bracing dose of cold realism, Morty Ropern’s reply spilled out (so to speak) even faster than before. “And it isn’t just the coffee. It’s the cream, the sugar, and the bagel I have that usually accompanies it every morning.” He hesitated. “For some reason, the onion tends to keep quiet.” While still somewhat south of frantic, his expression could at least be said to be
verging decidedly on the fretful. “Dr. Alderfield, what am I going to do?” The slight but trim forty-year-old looked anxiously around the neat, bookshelf-heavy office. “No matter where I am anymore, food talks to me.” Dr. Alderfield checked the recorder again. Usually each day at work was much like another, every patient similar to the one who preceded or followed. Not today. Not this patient. She was sensing the rapidly expanding zygote of an incipient scientific paper. “Does all food talk to you?” she inquired with admirable solicitude, “or just breakfast?”
“All food, everywhere.” Inordinately relieved not to have had his phobia dismissed out of hand (much less with derisive laughter), Ropern worried on. “And not just my food. Other people’s food, too. Food in supermarkets, food in convenience stores. Sometimes I just overhear it talking to itself, but more often than not lately it recognizes something in me and addresses itself directly to me.” Perhaps it senses a kindred flakiness, Dr. Alderfield found herself thinking, though she, of course, said nothing of the kind. “I see.” Turning slightly to her right, she nodded toward the wood-grained cabinet that dominated the far wall. “Behind that lower door is a small refrigerator. Inside are various
cold drinks, water, and some small snacks.” She returned her attention to her patient. “Is any of it, um, communicating with you now?” Ropern looked in the indicated direction. Somewhat to Alderfield’s surprise (and professional delight), the patient did not hesitate. “Mostly it’s all chatting among itself. But there’s a half-gallon container of orange juice whose drink-by date expired two weeks ago, and it wants me to tell you it’s pissed.” Profession and experience aside, Dr. Alderfield was also human. This response from her patient compelled her to, if not actually bite her tongue, to clamp her lightly glossed lips tightly together and for a moment turn her head away from
him. When she had once more sufficiently composed herself, she looked back. “I didn’t realize that food could have, um, feelings.” Ropern’s gaze met hers unflinchingly. “It hates waste.” “I see.” She sat back in her chair, crossing legs that were shapely from decades of competition track, then city jogging. “How does it feel about being consumed?” “Fulfilled,” the patient responded immediately. He looked away, toward the window that opened out onto the noisy canyon of glass and steel towers. She recognized his expression immediately: it was the SavagePlanets I 06
look of a patient suddenly wondering what he was doing in her office. “As far as I know, I’m the only one who can hear food talking.” She nodded reassuringly, then asked the question that could not be avoided. “I’m sure that is a condition that we can deal with, given time and proper therapy. What I need to know now is… do you talk back?” Guilt and embarrassment vied for control of his facial muscles. In the end, it was a draw. “I try not to, but sometimes I have no choice.” “Really?” It was not the expected response. But then, nothing about this case was expected. “It is a
compulsion, then?” Mentally, she revised the prescription she had already intended to write for him. “No, not a compulsion.” Rising, Ropern paced back and forth in the office. Sensing his nervousness, she let him roam at will. Purposefully, the room contained no sharp or edged objects. “For example, yesterday I was walking to work, and I passed a guy eating the biggest, greasiest, grossest hamburger you ever saw. A real mess-on-a-bun. I could overhear the ingredients conspiring.” “‘Conspiring?’” It was becoming harder and harder for her to maintain her professional aplomb in the face of such
continuing, albeit inventive, illogicality. Ropern, however, was dead serious. “The cheese was whispering to the meat patties, and they were both conniving with the sauce. The onions and pickles tried to take a stance against them, but they didn’t have a chance.” “I see. But a chance to do what?” “Help the poor slob. The cheese was murmuring, ‘We’re gonna kill this guy. His cholesterol’s gotta be approaching four hundred. Let’s push him over the edge.’” Ropern stopped pacing so abruptly that for just an instant, Alderfield became alarmed. But his tone and manner were so subdued that she was quickly reassured. This patient’s mania was not dangerous: only bizarre. “Have you ever felt yourself similarly threatened?” she heard herself inquiring. “Oh sure, plenty of times,” Ropern assured her. “Usually by the same kinds of fatty, unhealthy foods. They’re pretty transparent in their intentions.” “You’re lucky,” she told him. “Most people have to resort to reading nutritional charts.” “I don’t feel lucky,” he replied morosely. “I feel isolated, alone, and put-upon. Can’t shut out the racket. Everywhere I go its food, food, food everywhere, and all of it yammering away like a crowd at a football game.” He glanced up sharply again. “A friend suggested I see you, but I really don’t think I’m crazy.”
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That brought forth the first smile he had shown since checking in with her receptionist. “You’re very understanding, Dr. Alderfield. My friend said you were understanding.” She shrugged off the compliment. “It’s my job to understand. And to help those people who come to me to understand themselves, the world around them, and how they fit into it.” Looking down, she checked her watch. “We can delve further into understanding, but not anymore today. Can you come back Friday, around ten in the morning?” “I’ll make time,” he told her. A hand thrust out as he rose and came toward her. She did not flinch. The fingers enveloped one of her hands and shook it gratefully. “I feel better already. I’ve been carrying this around inside me for so long. Just being able to talk to someone about it is an enormous help.” His eyes darted toward the concealed refrigerator. He looked suddenly uneasy again. “I can’t talk to food about it, of course.” “Of course,” she agreed readily. “Friday, then.” She nodded firmly toward the door. “My receptionist Mary-Elizabeth will give you a reminder card.” He stood to leave, paused at the doorway to look back. “You’re so accepting. I don’t suppose you’ve ever had any food talk to you?” She smiled. “One time in Zurich I had a peach melba call to me, but
that’s about the only occasion I can recall.” Wholly overlooking the gentle sarcasm, he nodded knowingly. “Desserts are the worst. They have this bad habit of always shouting.” Then he was out the door and gone. What a refreshing, and fascinating, change of pace, she thought as she walked over to the refrigerator to get something to drink. A patient who wasn’t in love with his mother, didn’t want to murder his boss, was confident in his chosen sexuality, and presented no immediate apparent danger to himself or to anyone else. On the other hand, he had the most purely wacky mania she had encountered in fifteen years as a practicing professional. As she plucked a glass off the shelf and opened the door to the small fridge, she was already composing the first paragraphs of the paper she intended to write. Cold shock coursed down her front from chest to feet as the bottom fell out of the container and a quart of orange juice spilled down her suit to run down her legs. Looking down in shock, she could only stare as the sticky liquid pooled and splashed over her expensive shoes.
After finishing the day at the firm where he worked shuffling sales statistics for a major retailer, Morton Ropern took the long route back to his apartment, detouring along the harbor. Usually he avoided it because of all the cafés and tourist shops selling seafood and such, but it was too nice an evening
to end it, and he felt strengthened by his session with the new therapist. He found that for the first time in a long while, he could ignore the mutterings of the cooked crabs that whispered darkly from atop hillocks of preserving ice. Clam chowder simmered expectantly, waiting for hungry imbibers. Cotton candy leered at passing visitors, while rows of fudge commented stolidly from within their window-mounted trays. Such food stalls and displays were always a problem for him, though nothing was worse than the occasional unavoidable visits he had to make to the supermarket. To most folk, buying food was a necessary chore. For him, it was akin to temporarily imprisoning a sympathetic eightyear-old in an animal shelter.
“Of course you’re not.” Her voice was soothing, comforting. Practiced. “You’re: perceptive. It’s the exact nature of your perception that we have to define, and deal with.”
“Buy me!” the cans of soup would scream at him as he hurried past. He wasn’t a big fan of soup, but he inevitably shuttled one or two cans into his shopping cart just to shut them up. “Bread—man can’t live without bread!” he would hear as he tried to make his way through the bakery section. “Eat us and the bullies at the beach won’t kick sand in your face!” the steaks and chops chorused accusingly. The cacophony, the pleading, the endless demands were unrelenting and deafening. It was all he could do to escape with a basket containing the minimal necessities. He didn’t even dare to shop in the imported foods aisle. Restaurants were mildly less stressful. There was less competition for his attention and the food SavagePlanets I 08
was invariably more refined. Not only the menu, but the dialogue. He had once carried on a very civilized tête-à-tête with a plate of Oysters Rockefeller before the last of them found its way down his gullet. Butter set on the table left him alone, reserving its banter only for the accompanying bread rolls, while the respective components of a properly prepared main course vied for consumption and his attention with the utmost politeness. “You first,” the main course would invariably declaim to the vegetables. “No, no, you first—you’re the entrée,” the assortment of squash, beans, and carrots would counter. “Don’t be silly—you’ll get cold,” the steak or fish or chicken would reply. “Don’t argue—I’ll go.” Leave it to a phlegmatic side dish of potato or rice to behave more sensibly than anything else on the table. “You’re all going,” Morty Ropern would tell them. At least their incessant demanding chatter helped him to eat sensibly, compelling him to vary his intake without favoring one dish over another. All of this and more, he explained to the attentive Dr. Alderfield that Friday morning and on subsequent visits. She remained neither judgmental nor accusative, gently bringing him back to the subject at hand when he threatened to wander, prodding him for details when it appeared as if he was going to hold back. With each successive session, he felt better and better. She noticed the change, too, until at the end of one visit she finally felt it was time to challenge him with the 09 I SavagePlanets
next step. “Are you doing anything tomorrow night?” “What?” His eyes widened slightly. “Tomorrow night. Are you doing anything? Do you have any plans?” “Plans, no, I… I thought I might take in a movie.” “Good.” She made sure the recorder was off. “Then it’s a date.” “A date?” He looked bemused. “Is that kosher? I mean, a therapist going out with one of their patients? I thought….”
faux pas. “I’d be delighted to go out with you. To a concert, to the seaside—even to a movie. But dinner, seriously,” Concern creased his face as he slowly shook his head. “I don’t know.” “I do,” she told him confidently. “You’ll see. Another step forward in your progress. Tomorrow night, then.” Rising, she ushered him toward the door. “We can meet at the snack bar downstairs and then go to a proper restaurant. You like French?” He nodded. “Most of the time. But not when the food insists I should start smoking again afterward. There’s nothing more annoying than a know-it-all main course.”
“You’ve seen too many television shows. This is not a social occasion: it’s all part of your therapy. A movie will be nice though, after we’ve had dinner.” “Din—oh no.” He rose from the couch. “I couldn’t. I mean, it would be….” She interrupted him gently. “What? Frightening? Amusing? You’re doing much better, Morty. You’re not obsessing about culinary conversation anymore. Each time you come in, you end up talking more and more about other things. About aspects of your daily existence that don’t involve gossiping food.” She smiled encouragingly. “About the rest of life. I think it’s time for you to take the next step.” She implemented a deliberately exaggerated pout. “Or is it just that you don’t want to be seen with me?” “Oh no,” he blurted. “I mean, I find you quite attractive, for a therapist. Hell, that didn’t come out right.” A grin partially compensated for the
He had high hopes and dressed accordingly. It had been a while since he had been out on a real date. Even though he expected it to be as much a session as a date, there was no denying the somewhat steely attractiveness of Dr. Alderfield and his anticipation of spending the evening with her was well, delicious. If only the food would cooperate. Perhaps she was more right than he suspected. Perhaps the only ones talking at their table would be the two of them. No such luck. It started, naturally enough, with the appetizers. Escargot he didn’t mind. The sautéed snails usually kept their somewhat snooty chatter to themselves. But the garlic sauce that accompanied them was sputtering right from the start. Aware
The main course, however, defeated him. He had chosen the blandest entrée on the menu; a simple, straightforwardly prepared coq au vin. Unless embellished, a wine sauce rarely uttered more than a mumble, and any chicken dish was sufficiently boring to ignore. But Erin (he could hardly spend the entire evening calling her “Dr. Alderfield”, they both decided) ordered a fantastic veal smitane. When you put veal, mushrooms, and sour cream together, the result was bound to be an exquisite conversation and a gastronomical free-for-all. Even so, he did not lose control until she brought a particular forkful of the main dish toward her mouth.
“It’s mostly cartilage, with a bit of bone in the center. It’ll go down, but it won’t sit well.” His eyes dropped, embarrassment reflected in his expression and his voice. “It ah, told me so.” She eyed the fork that was now resting on her plate. It looked like any other mouthful sliced from the entrée. “It told you so?” He swallowed hard. “It started complaining as soon as you made the cut. It’s potentially upsetting, and it’s been complaining about it. Loudly.” Loudly, she answered, “Morty, the person who’s eating the food gets upset. It doesn’t get upset itself.” He looked miserable. “You’ve eaten the good half,” he told her. “The rest is under-cooked.” Her characteristic self-control shaken, she became angry. She firmly believed they had made a great deal of progress, and now he was just being, well, silly. Not a medically accurate description, perhaps,
but an appropriate one. Sitting up straight, she brought the linen napkin to her mouth, dabbed delicately at her lips, and eyed him evenly. Sometimes therapy, especially in the field, required a directness that one might frown upon if delivered in the office. Deliberately, she raised the fork, bit off the bite-sized piece it held, chewed, and swallowed. Ropern looked quietly stricken. She smiled back at him. “It’s fine,” she told him. After studying her plate, she cut another slice, divided it, and downed both halves. The sour cream-based sauce was delicious. She told him so. “Well?” she prompted him. “What is my dinner saying now?”
that she was watching him intently, he did his best to ignore the insults that the food kept flinging his way. He disregarded the comments of the steaming snails and the frequent admonitions and repeated tut-tutting of the Caesar salad that followed.
“Nothing,” he replied quietly. “But the peas and onions are lamenting the situation, while the au gratin is remaining determinedly neutral. Potatoes usually do.” She took a sip of the wine they had chosen. The only noise it made
“Don’t eat that,” he heard himself saying, much to his horror. She paused. The evening had gone better than expected, validating her somewhat unorthodox invitation (unorthodox phobias required unorthodox therapies, she had decided). There had been no sign from her patient that the food the server brought to the table (and they subsequently devoured) voiced so much as a casual greeting. Until now. Fork halfway to mouth, she looked over at him, hesitated, and slowly lowered it back to her plate. “I beg your pardon, Morty?! Why not?” SavagePlanets I 10
was as it slid refreshingly down her throat. “We’ve done a great deal of work together, Morton, ah, Morty. Let’s focus on the progress we’ve made. The last thing we want is regression.” She eyed him sternly. “Food does not talk. Not my food, not your food, not anybody’s. It doesn’t tell you when it’s safe or gone bad, it doesn’t call out to you from greengrocer’s stands, it doesn’t fill your head with the kinds of inane inconsequentialities that allow the truly disturbed to set aside the real world in favor of some comforting imaginary one.” Reaching across the table, she took his right hand in both of hers. Another bit of atypical therapy, but one she felt was vitally necessary at that moment. “Does it?” she challenged him, her eyes locking onto his. He paused. For longer than she would have wished, and just when she was losing hope and thinking they might have to start all over again, from the beginning, a smile creased his face. It grew wider with every passing second. “I… I guess not,” he murmured. “Not if you say so.”
Breakthrough! Not perfect and entire, but she would take it. Starting next week, they would build on it. Letting go of his hand, she sat back in her chair and took another sip of wine. Knife and fork dug into the remnants of her meal with gusto. She found she was looking forward to the after-dinner movie.
They let him ride in the back with her in the ambulance. He stayed with her all the way to the hospital. The appalled restaurant management not only comped the meal, including the wine, but paid for the transportation to the emergency room. They let Morton accompany her inside, too, and afterwards off to a private room where she spent a restless, uneasy, stomach-churning night. Despite her intense discomfort, it was a night of revelations and further progress, although not the kind she expected. Not long thereafter, it surprised her friends to see them together on increasingly frequent oc-
casions. They were even more surprised when she invited him to move in with her. No one was more startled at this than Morton Ropern himself. Not so much because of the invitation she smilingly proffered, but because he eagerly accepted. “I don’t see it,” her best friend Miriam told her when they met for lunch the following week. “I mean, he has a good job, and he’s decent enough looking, and of course he isn’t gay, but he hasn’t been married before, so really, Erin, he’s no great catch.” Dr. Erin Alderfield munched on her salad. She looked, if not quite radiant, eminently content. “Morty has his special points. It’s just that they’re not all that visible.” “Oh, so?” The other woman was far from convinced. “Like what?” Seated at one of the café’s sidewalk tables, she pointed out the flow of humanity rushing back and forth nearby. “Tell me one thing I don’t see that makes him such a special catch.” Erin looked up from her salad. “You should eat more fruit,” she told her friend. “Good for the both of you.” A secret smile caused her lips to part. “You could say that Morty’s very good at foreign languages.” “For instance?” Miriam prodded. The look in her friend’s eyes was distant and glittering. “He can speak chocolate.”
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SavagePlanets I 12
MIDDLE MANAGEMENT BY MARGARET KARMAZIN
In the bar’s bathroom mirror, I inspect my face closely for the first time. My eyes are large for a human and brown, my chin is little. My forehead is wide and my mammary glands of reasonable size. My nose is rounded and small. I am reasonably familiar with current human attractiveness ratings which would denote my physique as athletic. My brown hair is full and curly. I decide that most likely, I am probably 'hot'."
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I took the assignment under duress. “You’re a disappointment,” states Bomav. “That the only way to put it.” She regards me with distaste, her big yellow eyes expressing pure disdain. She refuses to wear the black eye covers common to our kind. I suppose they are unnecessary since the lighting is dim in the
subterranean facility. Born into a World Supervision pod, I am stuck in a vocation vastly unsuited to my temperament. I don’t know what I am suited for, but after headquartering in this facility for hundreds of years and experiencing humans, I guess I might be better at art or writing? Or possibly raising baby animals? But such choices do not exist for our kind, not on any known world.
My purpose is to join my essence repeatedly with a human body and become that person. Essentially, to lose myself in that body’s genetic milieu and transmit information back to the pod for further analysis. It helps us understand this race we monitor, their inclinations and motivations. “There must have been some sort of mix-up with your fetus,” Bomav feels the need to continue. “You
SavagePlanets I 14
would be better suited to watching ground cover grow.” As if I didn’t already feel bad enough. There is no way out of this situation. It is impossible to change my assigned role. “All right,” I say stoically. “How long must I endure this one’s life?”
us in human form. We have moved them to war, moved them out of war. We have culled the herd with plagues and pestilence, led them out of caves and jungles to farming and civilization and now they teeter on the edge of space travel. “However long this American human female lasts,” says Bomav. “In this case, we are not requiring you to endure childhood and adolescence. The female body you will occupy ended her physical existence at twenty-four years because of personal stress and bipolar disorder.
Like it matters anyway; after this human stint is over, they will just place me in another incompatible body. The study and supervision of this planet has been going on for millennia and will continue long after I am gone. Indeed, centuries before my birth, our kind hasdirectedtheflowofhumanity, “The body is currently in stasis instigated their religions with howhile repairs are underway. We lographic events and charismatic have corrected the genetic dispoleaders.Influenced,ofcourse,by sition to her mental condition and
cleaned up the mess from her alcohol addiction. Afterwards, we will reposition her in upstate New York, far from her sparse family in Oregon, but maintaining proof of identity and full credentials as a registered nurse. “I don’t know how to be a nurse.” “Did you forget when you were a Swiss mayor in the eighteenth century, or when you were a French nun in the nineteenth or a Chinese peasant during the Cultural Revolution? How did you know what to do then?” “The body retains its education, abilities and memories,” I say by rote, “but being a nurse in the twenty-firstcenturyisabitmore complicated than a Swiss mayor or interminably praying nun.” “I wouldn’t know about that,” barks my unsympathetic superior. “The peasant’s life before he was tortured in the revolution wasn’t thatdifficult.Neverthelessyou messed it up. The mayor was a bumbling idiot so you couldn’t mess that up. Yet, you did.” I emit a small squeak. “This current subject graduated from nursing school and already worked two and a half years in the orthopedic ward,” Bomav continues. “She was relatively proficientatherjobbutledoffline by her malfunctioning brain. Of course, now any malfunction in that area will be due to your own input following insertion.” “I-” “Report to Medical, Deenu, where, as before, we will transfer
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Then she schedules me for the hospital’s mandatory two-day Iamenduringadistractingflood orientation. I will have to wait for of Kayla’s memories, though the next monthly orientation and they blur from a residual effect of in the meantime am introduced “Wait!” I blurt, but Bomav has herformerafflictions.Iseethat to the staff in the wing where I’ll already turned and whooshed the hospital is old but probably be working. For two days, I am to out the door. I feel trapped in an recently renovated and decorated follow and observe another nurse apparently never-ending torture in the hallways with inoffensive named Jessica. requiring me to adapt to many abstract art. lives, none of which I enjoy. But My colleagues look up from their then, beings such as ourselves, While my brain functions simipaperwork at the nursing station dedicated to monitoring and larly to the time when I was the and give me distracted smiles instructing immature races, are Chinese peasant, a nun and without warmth. I sense that never expected to feel pleasure. a mayor, the structure of their most of them are physically and thinking differed from Kayla’s. mentally exhausted. I have not I report to Medical for the The nun and the peasant conexperienced this before. procedure. centrated on “obeying” while the mayor was conniving and focused The emotion in the Chinese peason cheating. I hoodwinked my ant and around him consisted of contemporaries out of money and rageandterrorandfinallydefeat. As always, my emergence into stored my winnings like a squirrel In the nun, it was childish comthe human world is a transition in various unusual places. placency and occasional elation. from a darkened, sterile enviThe mayor was…let us not return ronment into a kaleidoscope of Kayla is apparently worried that there. He was not an evolved distracting sound, movement and she won’t be able to do the job human and left me a mess to color. My head aches from the riot correctly and wondering if she will handle. of sensual input. A car honks and everfindamate.Thenithitsme: I jump, heart pounding. ifshedoesfindamate,Iwillhave One week in orthopedics wheelto live through the entire ordeal. ing around medications to mostHybrids have arranged for me a ly elderly humans having their used, lower priced vehicle and a Human sex as a female, possible knees and hips replaced while sparsely furnished apartment in reproduction, the tedium of daily wearing my new scrubs and they Binghamton, New York. It is a few life and then sickness and death. move me to Cardiology! streets from the hospital where Why am I doing this? By the time I am working. The hospital is an Ireachthefourthfloor,Iwantto Panic. Not only do I have to older structure with easy access terminate this existence more purchase a new uniform, I know parking in front, no unsuperthan usual and consider the many nothing of cardiology other than vised high-rise parking structure ways of doing so in this very what remains in Kayla’s memory in which, being female, I might building. from nursing school. What am I havetofightoffrapistsandother going to do? attackers. (I am up to date on Someone called the “Nurse their“news.”)Fluffycloudsfloat Supervisor,” an obese, midBomav ignores my frantic telein a bright blue sky overhead as I dle-aged female with obvious pathic messages. I wish I had one maneuver with trepidation through arthritis. She takes me briskly into friend in the universe to complain the sliding doors of the front heroffice.Sherattlesoffrules to; just one to reassure and comentrance. and regulations, explains the fort me! hospital’s policy on scrub colors “Fourthfloor,”answerstherecep (Kayla’s are the wrong color), and “Basically, you will hang IV medtionist, “take that elevator over where to purchase them. ications, adjust vent settings and
your essence from your body and install it into the body of Nurse Kayla Davis. Best of luck. Now move.”
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run codes,” the new charge nurse says.
“Yes, thank you,” and follow them out.
She too is obese and I wonder why someone who works in this section of the hospital would overeat when so many of the patients are here due to lack of exercise and over consumption. But later I will understand.
Mick’s Bar and Grill is comfortable in the way humans enjoy – dark, cozy, warm. Possibly this reminds them subconsciously of their mothers’ wombs. The only annoying thing is that several televisions blare in the bar section.
Often the temperament of humans who choose this profession is one of helping others at the expense of their own well-being. The resulting stress leads them to consume comforting carbohydrates and collapse from exhaustion later, leaving no energy for exercise.
The place, though contemporary, reminds me of an inn in my days as the Swiss mayor. Same ambiance, same desperate and tired humans trying to unwind. Perhaps current humans should distribute their working hours to suit their physical natures better since everyone I meet appears to be fatigued.
In addition, well-meaning family members of patients bring in sugary foods for the nurses. I make an intense effort not to join them in their ingestion. By the end of the day, I am depleted and often too tired to bother obtaining colorful fruits and vegetables. And of course, there is no psychological support from my World Supervision Pod who seem to instantly forget my existence once I am occupying a human body. “Hey Kayla,” a coworker asks as I prepare to leave one day, “some of us are going to Mick’s for drinks and a bite – wanna come?” The coworker, Megan, is in the process of training to become a nurse practitioner and I see her companion is the physical therapist Aaron that I met when working in orthopedics. I am not sure what a “bite” is, but why not? My mission is to experience human life, so I answer,
17 I SavagePlanets
This was not the case with the nun, though she arose at four in the morning, nor the mayor; he slept nine hours a night. The Chinese peasant, however, got little sleep while being tortured in one of the re-education camps.
with current human attractiveness ratings which would denote my physique as athletic. My brown hair is full and curly. I decide that most likely, I am probably “hot.” Around a wooden table, we share stories of ridiculous demands by patients and insensitive doctors and I feel the pleasant effects of alcohol and camaraderie. It is whileundertheinfluenceofsuch that I make the acquaintance of a male named Cesar Chasco. He is tall, slender and muscular with thick black hair. We are almost the same skin color, caramel, though he has light eyes while mine are dark. Right away, I feel an attraction towards this human. This is the trouble with occupying bodies on whatever world we supervise; one experiences physical and emotional urges connected with a particular species. Onceagain,Iflushalloverwhen he speaks to me. My gonads en-flameandIsensetheurge, common in the species, toward reproduction.
The bar is full of humans of both sexes shooting out pheromones to attract a partner. Suddenly, I wonder if I am attractive. As Kayla, I am one hundred and “Cesar is a second-year resident,” sixty-two centimeters in height, says Megan. “What’s your current weightfifty-eightkilogramsand rotation, Cesar?” of, as humans say, of mixed race. Kayla’s biological father was half “Neurosurgery. I like it. I might African and half Paiute. Her moth- make it my specialty,” he says, all er was Caucasian. the while boring into me with his startling blue eyes. In the bar’s bathroom mirror, I inspect my face closely for the Later, after another round of firsttime.Myeyesarelargefor drinks, he leans close and asks a human and brown, my chin is me to accompany him somelittle. My forehead is wide and my where for a meal and to listen mammary glands of reasonable to “blues” (whatever that is) in size. My nose is rounded and a cellar somewhere. Naturally, small. I am reasonably familiar I accept. It is my job to experience, among other things, human
This ends up leading to the physical expression of affection and an intense physical need for reproduction, though paradoxically, I use birth control. Kayla is “on the pill” and Cesar uses a prophylactic. The whole thing is rather amusing and messy, though the carnal drive appears to override all normal senses. Oncewehavefinishedwitha session, I wonder what happened to my sanity. Of course, there is no one with whom to discuss this and I do not wish to draw suspicion by bringing up the subject with Cesar. In spite of it seeming peculiar for one being to insert a body part into a crevice in another, I willingly engage in this activity again.
nights as well.
they take their last breath.
Wefindbriefperiodsinwhich to engage in sexual activity in a maintenance closet as long as the ED is quiet. I was not this sexually questionable even as the Swiss mayor. The nun did not engage in this sort of thing and the Chinese peasant, after being tortured, did not want anyone near him, not even his mate or offspring.
Is this why Bomav gave me this assignment? To touch death? If so, why? I know perfectly well that humans live brief lives compared to ours and suffer inevitably and needlessly.
Humans die under my care. I understand that this is part of the job. I have seen numerous humans expire as the Swiss mayor (smallpox, pneumonia, cholera, uprisings, religious wars, stabbings) and more than that in the Chinese revolution. Many people lost their minds as well. But it is a different matter to have your hands inside someone’s body as
“I don’t like it when they die,” I tell Cesar and he laughs. “Then you’re in the wrong business,” he says. I have to laugh even though he has no idea how I am forced into it. We are in bed, having consumed pizza and gotten stains on the sheets. We forget all about the food and go back to our usual mating practice. Little do we know that this episode will cause a sperm to meet an egg. We have
I can imagine what Bomav would say about this. She would approve of experiencing it, but not enjoying it. I adjust to working in cardiologyandbecomeproficientwhen suddenly they move me to the Emergency Department and now I have to buy another color of scrubs! This appears to be counterproductive, but after all, these are humans, a race still in its childhood. Much of what they do makes little sense as we have repeatedly learned. Before long, I have worked my way up to a temporary supervising position in the ED, not necessarily due to excellent work, but because no one else wanted it. It involves working more nights but surprisingly, Cesar has another surgery rotation and is working PlanetsRising I 18
relations and from previous lives, I suspect these are mating rituals.
run out of condoms and nonsensically gone ahead.
“You can have an abortion, you can have the baby and give it up for adoption, you can have the Ineedtomakenoteofthis:after baby and keep it for yourself or time spent in a human body, we can get married.” self-interest and pleasure often override knowledge. I suddenly “Get married?” I really wish I had realize that after a couple of days, someone to talk to about this. I I have forgotten to take my concould call up my human acquainttraceptive medication. And soon ances from the bar outing, Megan will discover, I miss my monthly or Aaron, and ask them what bleed. This does not please me. The mayor and the Chinese peasant had children, but they were male humans and did not have to grow them inside their bodies and push them out while screaming. I have seen this on television and in person in the ED before we sent the poor female up to Obstetrics. “What do you want to do?” asks Cesar, once I have told him about my condition. We are having lunch in the hospital cafeteria. I have grown most fond of grilled cheese sandwiches and bite into one now.
My superiors are never interested in how we “feel” about our assignments. They simply monitor our experiences through biochips installed in the host bodies. Since working in my current position at the hospital, I realize that where I stand with my kind is “middle management.” As Deenu, I have numerous “bosses” over me and drone workers under me so thelabelfits. Though who do I manage other than myself when away from Bomav? Perhaps I too am nothing but a drone.
to do, but I would much prefer discussing this with one of my own kind.
ButinwhomcouldIconfide? Bomav has the sensitivity of a hy“What do you mean?” I ask. ena about to consume a carcass. My only other friends are long He is looking very attractive. I gone; one destroyed in a rock stare at the raised green veins slide climbing a volcano where we on his tanned forearms, for some set up a base and the other occureasonfindingthembeautiful.pying a Frakine body somewhere 19 I SavagePlanets
on Kacha III, the other primitive civilization which we are currently monitoring.
If I marry this male human, what if it does not go well? Will this count against me? Bomav said I made a mess of the Swiss mayor since I allowed him to continue his borderline criminal activities. But as humans say, what the hell? “We’ll get married then,” I tell Cesar. Megan as my maid of honor and Cesar’s sister and Aaron are bridesmaids even though Aaron is a male. I tell people that I
Meanwhile,Cesarfindsaplace in a neurosurgical residency and we have slightly more money. The baby arrives (not a pleasant experience) and somehow I survive. During the delivery, while blind with pain, I scream curses at Bomav and everyone asks me afterward who this person is, but thank the Universe I have the wherewithal not to explain. They would not believe me anyway. “Here is baby Mia,” says the nurse, handing me a pink wrapped bundle while Cesar takes photos. I am to apply the infant to a mammary gland, which I do but it doesn’t function correctly. The hungry baby becomes fussy. Finally, she succeeds by sucking her tiny gummy mouth on the nipple, causing me a mixture of pain and pleasure. Life goes on and after a couple of months of sleepless nights, I return to my job in the ED. Because I am methodical and used to working long hours, they promote me to Charge Nurse. Meanwhile we let our nanny go and use the babysitting services provided for staff at the hospital. “You bought three gallons of chocolate almond ice cream,” notes Cesar a year later as he steps out from the shower. “I saw it in the basement freezer. Is there something you’re not telling me?” There is indeed something. My very inconvenient monthly menstruation has stopped and a test hasconfirmedmyfears.Idon’t answer him; he reads the look on my face, something humans are
relatively skilled at and a good thing, since they have thwarted their telepathic abilities. He smiles broadly (the hominidae baring of teeth to show submission, in this case, submission to fate?) and says, “Another rug rat, I like it! Let’s have ten more!” No, just no. Taking on an assignment is one thing, imprisonment and torture another. “I think not,” I tell him, but he is dancing around the room naked with a towel on his head. The second one is born, a little wiggling male with straight black hair and giant dark blue eyes. He almost looks like a pod hybrid with those eyes. He is very strong and pulls on my mammary glands and by the way he grips them, I postulate that he will be a determined individual who might run forahighpoliticaloffice.
experience. I am truly not fond of it. The Chinese peasant had to endure humiliation and torture but his wife and children were spared. In fact, they survived to old age. The nun lived stupidly and happily and died in her sleep. The Swiss mayor, horror that he was, lived to his eighties and died from choking on a piece of pork. And now for no reason, this perfection of nature Cesar and I created perishes in his safe little crib right next to us in the night. I scream at the Universe, I long to kill something and then after a while, I want to hide in a dark room and drink alcohol. Instead, I make myself rise from the ashes and return to the ED.
Of course, we have no sexual interaction for a while and I don’t want it. I feel depressed, depleted. A colleague warily suggests “it might help to see someone,” but I decide to let myself go on feeling miserable since it might earn me some points with Bomav in my debriefing.Toknowhowhumans feel when their hearts break, I will explain.
Our family lazes about in bed on a Sunday morning (I have two months off from work again) and I allow myself to feel pleasure and peace, although I know such thingsarefleeting.Indeed,Iam “We have a beautiful daughter,” correct when two weeks later, Cesar reminds me and he is right. little Liam suddenly expires from SIDS. Mia is growing like a sprouting We had placed him in his crib plant and will soon enter preafter a feeding around eleven school, a pathetic form of educaat night. When I fell asleep but tion which I plan to supplement wasn’t awakened some hours with secret and superior teaching, later by his usual cry, I sat bolt though Bomav would not apupright in the bed and jumped to prove. The hell with Bomav! What go check. I screamed for Cesar does she know? What do any of when I saw he was not breathing. them know? I started CPR, but to no avail. Cesar tried too but gave up, blind- “And we can have more,” Cesar ed by his tears. adds. So…this is the human
have no relatives and apparently, they believe me.
Silence while I ponder this. No, PlanetsRising I 20
I think. “I do not want more,” I answer him. He seems letdown but he will have to live with it. Secretly, I meet with one doctor I know, a female, and inform her that I want to have my tubes tied. I tell Cesar I have ovarian cysts and need surgery. He looks slightly suspicious but then is sympathetic and I go ahead with the procedure. He never knows that I underwent sterilization. Bomav does not intervene, but then she never does. Only afterwards when, as humans say, she “reams me a new one.”
They expand the ED with added rooms and beds, and honor me with a raise in salary. Most of my pleasure now is derived from work. The work is tedious, but occasionally someone comes in with a distracting problem like the girl who pierced her eye lid herself and made a horrible mess of it. Or the man with schizophrenia who had welts on his back that spelled out “WHAT?” We laughed though probably we shouldn’t have.
After a while, he stops bringing it up. He goes to a gym, loses weight and sprays himself with perfume. It takes me a while to understand and when I do, I feel a numbing anger but I cannot change my behavior. It feels as if I am trapped in quicksand. Then Mia gets into trouble at nursery school for throwing tantrums. I realize I have to pull myself together before I seriously impair her development. I do as my colleague suggested and “see someone.”
not allow me to see the course of my life so I do not know if I will die young or live to “old” age. Onenight,forthefirsttimesince Liam’s death, I feel an urge to engage in sexual relations. Cesar is surprised and goes along with it, though with little excitement. By now, undoubtedly, he is seeing another female. I think I know who it is, an OR nurse. With all that is going on in the ED, I don’t experience the jealousy one might expect under ordinary conditions. Cesar seems bored and listless. The next morning, he is febrile and mentions a mild sore throat.
This has to stop after two sessions. When the therapist begins to dig into my psyche, what will shefind?ThatIamnotofthis world and beyond her under“You need to call in sick,” I tell standing? Most human therapists him and he argues with me. As lock themselves into rigid matehe raises his voice, he has to rialistic world views, but I cannot stop and cough. “It’s nothing,” he takethechancethatshefinds insists. out what I really am even if she would deny it to herself. “Then get tested!” I bark.
I feel like beating him with a stick as he goes off to work refusing to A human plague predicted decget checked. All day I am impoades ago arrives to shut down tently enraged. As I get Mia ready a large part of society. The ER for daycare, I feel panic as I touch fillsupwithpeopleyoungand hersmall,firmbody.Sofleetingis old gasping for air. We mask our human life; she could die any secI love little Mia. She is growing faces and buckle down. ond just like Liam, and then what taller every day, but something is the point of living? left me when Liam died. Human scientists labor to create a vaccine but the current govTwo weeks later, Cesar dies in “I don’t know how you expect me ernment sets up roadblocks to the ICU. They don’t allow visitors to go without sex forever,” Cesar distribute it. Religious fundamenother than those who work there says one night. talists declare the vaccine evil. due to the pandemic, not even his wife. Before they intubate him, he HisfaceisflushedandIalmost I expect to hear something from calls me but says nothing about feel as if he might strike me. But Bomav, but nothing comes and our marriage, only to tell Mia he he never does. He works very once again I remember that part loves her. hard and deserves to enjoy himof my mission requires no outside self when he is home. I know this contact. Human emotions from Once again, I have failed. A bad but cannot make myself get in the elation to suffering must be “genmayor, a destroyed Chinese mood for sex. uine” and unadulterated. They do peasant, a childish nun and now 21 I SavagePlanets
His family does not, thank the Universe, demand an in-person funeral and organizes a virtual one. Naturally, I participate, but while doing so, I know I will have little contact with any of them henceforth. They dislike me, which is understandable. I am not, in human terms, very “likeable.” They probably all knew about our “dead” marriage. “Take a couple days off,” offers the Chief Nursing Officer,but I turn him down. The ED is in disaster mode from all those dying from the pandemic and work keeps me from brooding over my failures. I witness humans leaving this world and my heart hardens. My days consist of grueling work, maybe two hours with Mia and then we sleep. My love grows for her more each day. The deadness inside me slowly softens, becomesasmallflamewhich I nourish with Mia’s sweetness and kisses. She no longer throws tantrums.
“The vaccine will arrive this those goals. morning,” a hospital spokesman informs us and by afternoon, we Bomav and my kind slip from arelineduptoreceivethefirst my consciousness and interest; dose. Several refuse it. I rarely think of them and after some time, not at all. It amazes me that they work in a medical system and hand out medications daily, all created by science that they normally trust, Sixty years later, Mia is an acbut now they won’t let themselves complished author. She became a be protected from potential death. nurse practitioner, married a phyI understand what Bomav means sician’s assistant, had two sons all while writing a medical mystery novel. Then she wrote another one, had two grandchildren and currently lives outside of Pittsburgh with her husband.
an inadequate wife. It is indeed strange how I feel so numb about Cesar’s death. What is wrong with me?
She helped me move out to live nearherfifteen years ago. I live in a very nice senior living complex. I am half deaf and have macular degeneration. Frankly, I’m ready to hang it all up. I’m not afraid to die and am pretty sure there is something after, not sure what, but something. when she tells us how childish humanity is, especially when I observe such behavior. My sole concern is protecting Mia. She has lost her father and brother and I am determined to live in this body until she is an adult, on her way professionally and hopefully with a good companion. All my concentration will be towards
I seem to have a vague memory of being someone else before I was born, but who or what that was, I don’t remember.
PlanetsRising I 22
Planetary Communiqué ThePlanetaryCommuniquéisasectionreservedforthedisseminationofofficial 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.
Your Overlord Grawth, the Gorgeous Ginormous Gargantuan, has graciously, and most ostensibly, noted your so-called James Webb Space Telescope. After laughing so hard that he ejected not only the contents of his stomachs, but three of his six stomachs as well; His Greatness has allowed me to share his thoughts on this endeavor. I, Hojack, your underlord, send greetings, and this, your quarterly communiqué. First,knowyourplace:Your point... of our galaxy! is when the night/day terminator species is so stupid that you write crosses major land masses. In the value of pi beginning from the Our telescope was a kindergarten the hours that follow, it seems mostsignificantdigit.We,onthe project accomplished by a couple millions of humans, almost in otherhand,aresorefinedthat of we children while their substitute perfect synchrony, squeeze some write it beginning with the last digteacher slept one day in school. substances from tubes onto it. Think about that for a moment. Bored beyond tears, they conbrushes before they stick it into structed the biggest telescope in their mouth-holes. After a minute, We truly are a galactic empire the galaxy. Something to pass the millions of humans spit out the with an eye to one day control time until their parents fetched sudsy foam. We assume this has all the known universe. Your tiny them. Of course, said parents somereligioussignificance,but micro brains must hurt every time punished their petulant brats for with a civilization so backwards, you look up at the cosmos. Are wasting time. So embarrassed, how can we be sure? you frightened, little human? they didn't even admit it to their friends for nearly three decades. As your underlord, it brings me When you look up at the night When Lord Grawth heard about infinitepleasuretobringtoyou sky,itmustfillyouwithwonder.this abomination, he went back in the edicts for this quarter. We, however, are full of stories time,andfloggedthetworapscal about our travels and conquests lions and then exiled them to, you Edict #1 around most of the points of light, guessed it, Earth. you see. And, we will never forget You must immediately launch all the funny stories with those He then ordered the telescope to a manned mission to the L2 weird looking and strange aliens, be trained permanently on your Lagrange point. The mission must creatures just like you! puny,insignificantplanetsohe be a multi-nation, multi-billion could eternally give them the evil dollar effort. The mission aim is We recently learned that you eye. This also allowed him to satsimple:Youhavetosendaman launched another, er, 'telescope' isfy his personal morbid curiosity, (or a woman) to remove the lens around the L2 Lagrange point watching the goings on in your cap on the telescope that you foraround your planet. Well, we also pathetic little world. got to remove just prior to launch! have a telescope, but our teleHa! And here you thought you scope is around the L2 Lagrange One of his favorite observations were looking at images proving 23 I SavagePlanets
the existence of dark matter, or worse, the beginning of the universe. Such fools!
atomized Tau Epsilon.
Yourreward:theymadeEarth’speoplethemostbackwardcivilizati the galaxy.
Edict #2 Edict #3
Once the lens cap is off, point As your mother once told you, if you keep playing with your telescope, the telescope towards youryou’ll go blind. We insist you do! selves. We want you to see what is making the rest of the galaxy OnEridaniMinor,you'llfindaraceofexhibitionistswhoconstantly nauseous for at least the past change with their atmospheric doors ajar. On Ursae Majoris, the incoupleofcenturies.Forthefirst habitants model their lives based on television show signals intercepttime in your miserable existence, ed from other alien planets in the cosmos. It's the only place where we want to you to experience the you can catch a live action replay of Gilligan's Island and Celebrity metaphorical toilet paper that's Apprentice.OnAldebaran,you'llfindamenagerieofsentientlife-form stuck to our shoes. We want they collected and caged for our galactic amusement. Be aware, they you to witness what causes us usually feed the animals on Tuesdays and Fridays, if you want to watch. to weep on the other side of the ThescientistsonBetaDraconisarestilltryingtofigureouthow Milky Way. How ridiculous your make sound travel through space. They torture life-forms with varying science, how misplaced your amounts of electricity to see if other space faring civilizations can hear faith, and how hilarious your their screams. These experiments have been running for at least a few technology. Do you know that hundred of your Earth years. You’re next, if you keep staring. you're the most backward planet we have ever encountered? Well, there was Tau Epsilon. How could So you want to see what’s out there? Fine. I forget their folly? I order you to train your James Webb on these and other sites to see the true grandeur and majesty, but also the horrors of our universe. They believed in this sludge planetwherelavameltsandYou flowsthink you can handle the truth? The only thing protecting you from the ugliness of this cruel galaxy is a disgusting and thin, membranous, randomly across its face, makfleshyeyelid.Andifyouchoosetoblinkwhenyouseewhatwewant ingbizarreconfigurationsused you to look at, well… we can have your astronomers’ eyelids removed, by their astrophysical fortune so they will go blind. tellers to predict future events for wealthy mutants. For centuMaybe then you can understand that you are not yet ready to see ries, empires bet their fortunes what's on offer. Until then, I remain your humble Underlord Hojack. on these patterns (foretold by the Tau Epsilon prophets) until a research poster, authored by a young graduate student, revealed that the observed patterns were nothing more than smudges on the telescope lens used by the fortune tellers. Empires rose and fell based on squirt cheese smears left by the ‘prophets’ while manipulating the device with unclean hands. The Calderians were so infuriated they
PlanetsRising I 24
SCI-FI ENTERTAINMENT THE HERBERT BIBLE by Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond
Arguably, a belief exists by many isthefocusofthefirstbook. in the genre that Frank Herbert The Fremen name and adopt wrotethesciencefictionbible, him, calling him Muad’Dib on the what I will call the Herbert Bible. desert planet, and declare him a Encompassing a vast universe, ‘teacher’ of the children of those Dune and all the follow-up novels that live on Arrakis, or Dune. in the series, including those writMuad’Dib is in fact the Arabic ten by his disciple (his son) esword for ‘teacher.’ tablish it as a collection that when Paul Atreides becomes the combined represents the holy Kwisatz Haderach, meaning ‘one scriptureofsci-fi.Noothernovel who could be in many places to date has been its equal, though at once.’ The Bene Gesserit, a there are many contenders. sisterhood of witches, sought to To read Dune is a bit like entering uncover special knowledge and adistinctreality.Thefirsthundred its associated powers. It drove pages of the book are apocrythem to start a long-running gephal and confusing, but becomes netic breeding program to crecleareronreflectionasyoudive ate the Kwisatz Haderach. This deeper into the novel. Herbert would yield a male with mental starts with a tabula rasa, but then powers capable of bridging space hecreatesagalaxyfilledwithand time. But also he would be planets all unique and complex. under the direct control of the Populated with beings both formiSisterhood (or so they hoped). dable and startling. The Bene Gesserit knew not only Each race contributes to the would their Kwisatz Haderach Empire in their own way. Frankly possess Other (genetic) Memory (no pun intended), to describe on both the male and female side them all here would take a book. of the sisterhood, but that he From these planets, characters could predict the future precisely. emerge. Paul Atreides has one He would be a Bene Gesserit of the most interesting roles and Reverend mother, a Mentat (or
25 I SavagePlanets
living supercomputer), and a Guild Navigator, all in one. Paul Muad’Dib, the Kwisatz Haderach, is a prophet not unlike Mohammed or Jesus. He is the sciencefictionversionof-thesec ond coming. Complex back story, no? And Paul Atreides is just one character. The saga intertwines other complex characters and species on the level of a Russian novel, requiring a list of characters to keep them in memory. Promotional images are only used here for the purposes of criticism, comment and news reporting.
Each book explores a differdid). Sterling Lanier, the editor is one of the prime movers in the ent story in this universe, while for Chilton Books, maker of auto ecology movement worldwide. advancingtheplot,orfillingin repairmanuals,finallyaccom Dune cried out to be made into the gaps. For Frank Herbert, it plished the publication of Dune a movie, but it is far too compliwas his life’s work. He had the in novel form in 1965. Almost cated to be accurately captured privilege of writing full time since immediately, it won Nebula and cinematically. 1959 because his wife was the Hugo awards. Thefirstdirectortoattemptitwas breadwinner writing advertising Dune became a cult classic, likely the closest to achieving the for an agency (although he someintroducing psychology (inner goal. Alejandro Jodorowsky, a times took side jobs for certain character monologue driving Mexican surrealist made famous periods and at forhisfilms,El different points Topo and The Holy in his life). The Mountain, planned primary books on making a in the Dune fourteenhourfilm saga, after from Dune. He Dune included had an amicable insequence: relationship with Dune Messiah, Frank Herbert, Children of after receiving the Dune, God filmrightsfrom Emperor of APJ productions, Dune, Heretics aFrenchfilm of Dune and producer, for the Chapterhouse: movie. Dune. The furthest Perhaps I Jodorowsky went proclaim my in producing the nerdom here by filmDunewasa stating I read massive storyevery one. I board, which Jean recall sitting ‘Moebius’ Giraud, in my Junior a famous French High school illustrator, created. library and Jodorowsky hired reading Dune H. R. Giger and after school. Dan O’Bannon Transported (both of Alien fame to another later) to design the world, I was so sets. He selected engaged the progressive rock librarian had to bands to make kick me out so she could close interactions), philosophy (if music, one band for each planet and I could go home for dinner. predestination negates surprises represented in the Dune galaxy. Duneitselfwasfirstpublished would we exist in a mathematical- Imagine Tangerine Dream, Gong, by John Campbell in serialized ly limited universe?), and ecology MikeOldfield,PinkFloyd,and form in Analog between 1963 and (shouldtheMiddleEast’soilMagma fields writingmusictoreflect 1965. Many publishers rejected drive global decisions about the each major planet’s sound in the the novel repeatedly, one even environment?) to a whole new saga. saying he would regret it (and he generation. As a result, the book Butgetaloadofthecast: Salvador Dali as Emperor SavagePlanets I 26
Shaddam IV, Orson Welles as Herbert died in 1986, so it was Jessica, Oscar Isaac as Duke Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Mick the only version of his book he Leto Atreides (with a much longer Jagger as Feyd-Rautha, Gloria saw. But wait, in 2017 Legendary part in the movie compared to Swanson as Lady Jessica, and Entertainmentboughtthefilm the 1984 version), Josh Brolin Brontis Jodorowsky as Paul rights for Dune from Paramount as Gurney Halleck, and Jason Atreides. Costumes designed by Pictures. Momoa as Duncan Idaho, to haut-couture houses, and ships In January 2017, Denis Villeneuve name a few. It downplays the by O’Bannon. Alejandro prommet with Jon Spaihts and Eric spice melange harvested on ised Dali $100K per minute for Roth and prepared a two-part Dune as an addictive substance, on-screen time if he performed in script for the novel. Filming began but presents it rather as a tool for thefilm!Thencuthisparttofivetwo years later, and their verboth Paul (to gain insight) and minutes to save money. the Spacing Guild Sadly,thefinancesfell (who uses it to fold through, and Hollywood space for interstellar wasn’t interested in transport). Sign of making a fourteen hour the Times, I suppose. movie that took liberties There are other differwith the original novel. ences to the original Jodorowsky lost the as well, such as Dr. rights to Dune in 1982. Leit- Kynes being Which was picked up female in this version almost immediately by and the book. Dino De Laurentiis. He Likely, you have seen hired David Lynch to Villeneuve’s Dune directthefilm. Part1.Itsimplifies Lynch used many of much of the complexJodorowsky’s ideas, but ity of the novel, and went his own way. For narrows the focus, example, he hired Toto so as not to detract and Brian Eno for the from the story of Paul music. Instead of Mick Atreides’ life. As a Jagger, he used Sting result, they gloss for Feyd-Rautha. But the over many of the side firstreleasedversionof characters, leaving Dunewasacriticalflop. them as unknown It lost 10 million dollars quantities to the after distribution in 1984. viewer. In Part 2, we Still, back then, I enjoyed may learn more about it! And according to a them, but I suspect reliable source, so did Villeneuve will stick FrankHerbert.Thefilmbrought sion of Dune Part 1 premièred with the same formula. life to a story we dearly loved. For at the 78th Venice International Villeneuve scheduled Dune Part aficionados,itisworthwatching Film Festival in September 2 for release in October 2023. But tocompareittothelaterfilm2021. Critics appreciated it for you owe it to yourself to read the versions. its visuals, scope, and ambition, book, and\or books to get the auJodorowsky himself, dragged by and no doubt Herbert would have thentic story before the next part friends into the theater to watch approved too. appears. It is a masterpiece, and Lynch’s version, began the trip in This version features Timothee no doubt you will be a genuine shame, but left laughing, emChalamet as Paul Atreides, believer after reading the Herbert barrassed by the attempt. Frank Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Bible, also known as Dune.
27 I SavagePlanets
See Your Story In Print.
SCI-FI ENTERTAINMENT AN INTERVIEW WITH
ALAN DEAN FOSTER by Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond
of some of our most beloved characters, and succeeded!
His latest venture involves the composition of orchesAlan Dean Foster is a silent tralficmusic. giantinthespeculative -
tion universe. He wears two His own life has been as full primary hats as a writer. An of adventure as the charauthor in his own right, he acters he has created. But has an entire library of origI will let him explain it in the inalsciencefictionnovels following interview. and short stories built on a galaxy from his own imagiThank you Mr. Foster for nation. agreeing to talk with us today, and sharing your He is also a reverse engitime and art. neer, and has novelized some of the most iconic My pleasure…. sciencefictionfilmsofour time. His collection includes Going novelization of Alien, Star back Wars, Terminator, Outland, to the and the Transformers to beginname a few. Creating the ning, inner landscape of complex you characters from popular met and movies he has faced off with worked both fans and producers to with John create authentic portrayals
W. Campbell. No doubt one of the godfather's of science fiction. How did you meet him, interest him, and retain him as a mentor during your first book? Did he introduce you to Ballantine or did you simply submit the manuscript? Adf:ThefirstWorldSFconvention I ever attended was Baycon, held in Berkeley, California in 1968. I was a senior at UCLA and completely new to the world of SF conventions. While trying to meet as many people as possible, I happened to pass by an older gentleman discussing the Vietnam war with two younger men. I stood nearby listening and gradu-
By Elf - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, 29 I SavagePlanets
ally inserted myself into the conversation. It continued after the other two left, and the older man and I ended up discussing Vietnam, SF writing and publishing, and more for about another twenty minutes. After we parted, a new acquaintance came up to me and said, “Do you know who you’ve been talking with for the past twenty minutes?” “No,” I replied. “That was John W. Campbell”. More than anything, I was amazed that someone of Campbell’s stature would allot that much of his time to some young, unknown student. Later, after I sold a short story to August Derleth, I sent one to Campbell (“With Friends Like These”). He bought it immediately, without remembering our meeting years earlier. When I wrotemyfirstbook(“The Tar-Aiym Krang”), he supplied me with many pages of suggestions; some of which I incorporated, some of which I did not. Betty Ballantine bought it without knowing anything about me, and Campbell was not involved, though he told me he thought the “good yarn” was sale-able. Did you have a similar mentor in the film industry when working on Star Trek?
Adf:No.Myinvolvement with the Star Trek movie came about because I had written the ten Star Trek Log books, and the folks involved with the new ST project knew I was familiar with the Star Trek universe. So when they were trying to revive it as a TV series, I was one of many writers they asked for submissions. You have written over 130 books. Rather than asking what your favorite one is, I'd like to ask about the one you hated which became popular. Which one was it, and how did you respond to the readers who adored it? Similarly, which one of your books did you love, but seemingly was ignored by readers?
Digging deeper, Mr. Foster, you created an entire galaxy filled with all manner of lifeforms. My personal favorite is the Thranx (insect-like aliens), particularly their poets. Which race did you enjoy creating the most?
Adf:Ihavetoagreewith you there. The Thranx wereoneofthetwofirst non-human sentient species I created (the other being their antagonists, the Aann). (The Aann are a ruthless lizard-like civilization.) How would you present a species thatrepulseshumansatfirst glance, but who turn out to be so attractive, sensible, and friendly that we could do nothing else but become friends with them?
One of my favorite sciAdf:Goodquestion.Idon’t ence fiction films was The hate any of the books that I Chronicles of Riddick, have written, but my worst which you made into a experience was with the novel. A perfect blend of novelization of Alien 3. Too action and high concept much involvement and inter- story telling. One might ference from the producers. argue Riddick was the prototype for the bad boy As to the second part of protagonist, which led your question, I’m very to many others. Did you proud of SAGRAMANDA, a write other novels about novel of near-future India. the Furians, the NecroA book that received exmongers, and the Elemencellent reviews but did not tals? If so, what are they? sell anywhere near what I and the publisher hoped. I Adf:Ihavenotwritten - any might also mention PRIMAL thing else set in the Riddick SHADOWS, which Clive universe, but I have plenty Cussler really liked, but it of ideas ;). He’s a great not being SF probably had character who could be a lot to do with how it was expanded in so many interperceived. esting ways. Can you give our readers SavagePlanets I 30
love to read. Read everything you can in the genre orfieldinwhichyouplan Any tips for young auto write, so that you don’t Adf:Someshortstories. thors? Perhaps mistakes spend a year working a Recentlyfinisheda-nov you made, and learned book whose central idea el LOST ON PARADISE. from the hard way, to firstappearedinAstound About 15 months ago I advise writers to avoid ing Stories in 1934. Never started composing orcheseither in the craft or the pay a fee for an “agency” to tralmusic.Ijustfinished business? place your work. If it’s good a Prelude for Organ and enough to sell, a reputable Orchestra, and I’m currently agency will handle it for their doing a piece inspired by Adf:Alwayswritewhatyou commission. a hint about what you are currently writing?
Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu.
The best way to break into filmistomakeoneyourself. Beyond writing, you have had a rich and full life. Lived adventures and gone places that many could only dream of going. What was your favorite, and did it inspire a novel? Adf:Iwouldhavetosaythe three trips to Papua New Guinea, which is the most primitive and yet exciting place I have visited. Violent clashes of the Old and the New. The novel PRIMAL SHADOWS arose out of those trips. What was your scariest moment scuba diving, and where? Adf:DivingoffBlupblup island off the north coast of New Guinea. Another diver and I became separated from the group. Because of strong currents we were unable to swim to the now distant dive boat, and those same currents kept us from swimming to shore. We were stuck bobbing in 31 I SavagePlanets
Did you play the piano or organ, or perhaps another instrument before taking up composing? Adf:No.Icannotplayan instrument (well, maybe a little taiko, but that doesn’t help with orchestral composition). What was your first musical inspiration? Adf:Mymotherplayedpiano and had a baby Steinway grand. She could play a mean Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin) from memory. As a child I used to sit by her piano and listen. We had a few 78rpm records in the house, most notably Beethoven’s Fifth, but what really got me going was seeing Disney’s Fantasia when I was 7 or 8. Is there a Muse in your life? Adf:I’mintroublenomatter what I say to that, so I’m going to take the Fifth (and not Beethoven’s). the same place for about Is there anything else an hour until someone on you'd like to share with theboatfinallyspottedour us.readers? But the boat could just as Adf:Icanstillsee-my easily have gone off in the self sitting outside at Deopposite direction looking mel’s, ordering a caffe mit for us. The prospect of being stuck there, unable to schlagobers and a slice of reach shore, when night fell, chocolate cake, watching people stroll past, seeing was…unpleasant. So, no the smile on the waiter’s sharks, no sea snakes, no face when I ordered in equipment failure. Just the German. I hope to do that fear of being lost. again one day.
Finally, what would be your dream venue for a performance of your work? Adf:Sinceyou’reaskingme to dream, why not the Vienna Philharmonic? Ricardo Muti conducting, of course! Adf:Naturally. Thanks again.
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SCI-FI ENTERTAINMENT BETTER THAN US: A RUSSIAN TV SERIES
by Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond
HadNetflixnotpickedupthe wife, a mother of adopted chilSafronov in a park. Arisa imprints Russian, Chinese series Better dren, and a companion, all at the on Sonia, giving her authorized ThanUs(bmqr_,q_fex^b, same time. user access, and eventually the Romanized:Luchshe,chemlyudi, rest of the family, which also literally Better Than Humans) What makes Arisa different includes Sonia’s teenage brother, sciencefictionfanswouldneed beyond her advanced AI is that Egor. Georgy and Alla’s marriage to speak the language and have she does not have to follow the is on the rocks, and Arisa ata connection to their satellite threelawsofroboticsasdefined tempts to replace Alla later in the system to see it. Filmed both in by Isaac Asimov (introduced in his show. Meanwhile, the gynoid is Beijing and Moscow, and created 1949 short story Runaround and being hunted by CRONOS. by Andrey Junkovsky, Aleksandr featured in his 1950 collection I, Dagan, and Aleksandr Kessel, the Robot). As a result, she accidenGeorgy Safronov is a fallen neuseries takes us to the year 2029. tally kills a maintenance worker rosurgeon, now working as a foat the CRONOS corporation who rensic pathologist in a morgue. A In this world, they integrated attempted to steal and use her corrupt ambulance driver brought androids and gynoids into society, as a sex-bot. Viktor Toropov, the in the dead CRONOS mainteserving several menial tasks, from director of CRONOS, purchased nance worker, and Georgy on housecleaning to service workers, Arisa through the black market to examination discovers that someand, of course, pleasure bots. In duplicate her software for a new one murdered him. CRONOS China, the one child policy has line of robots he wants to feature. operatives bribe the ambulance led to a shortage of marriageable driver who also attempts to bribe women. An engineer designed After the murder, Arisa escapes Georgy to keeping the murder a a gynoid named Arisa, far more CRONOS and meets Sonia secret (since a robot did it). Which advanced than any previous, to Safronov, the four-year-old is how Georgy got involved even meet this need. Arisa can be a daughter of Georgy and Alla before he meets Arisa. 33 I SavagePlanets
The series follows three story plague modern families today. undertones we viewed during lines:Arisa 1) andthefamilyshe thefirstseason.Furtherdelays adopts; 2) Egor and his girlfriend Thefirsttwoseasonsoftheshow beyond that of the pandemic may Zhanna, who are members of a began shooting in 2016. It hit the result if relations between Taiwan terrorist anti-droid militant moveRussian small screen in 2018. and Mainland China continue to ment called the ‘Liquidators; ’ and Netflixpickeditupandtook - itdeteriorate. in 3) Viktor Toropov, as the director ternationalin2019.Netflixactual of CRONOS, introducing the new lypresentedthefirsttwoseasons No one can predict what this next Arisa line, which he cannot dutogether, all sixteen episodes. season will be like, but reportedly plicate and he hunts, as she has So while we await the second they planned to begin producdisappeared. season, it will actually be the third tion in Beijing in the Fall of 2021. season for the series. China has been hands off of sciMeanwhile, the police are inencefictionuntilrecently,butwith vestigating the murder of the CRONOS maintenance worker. This involves the cyber crime division, led by Major Varlamov. Varlamov believes Toropov is a criminal, and his been chasing him for years, unsuccessfully. He is also investigating the Liquidators because of their crimes. There are similar shows to Better Than Us out there, the UK series Humans and the US series Extant. What makes Better Than Us unique is the thematic overtones. Careful viewers will note The third (second) season is the success of The Wandering the political statements that ride reportedly distinctly different Earth and the upcoming Third beneath the surface. Issues refromthefirst.Somecharacters Body Problem series by Cixin garding corporate control invading will return, but not all. Aleksandr Liu, not to mention all the recent government power. Police orKessel’s Sputnik Vostok comfantasy/sciencefictionactionfilms dered to step back when company has teamed up with Steve thataregarneringbigboxoffices, panysuccesswillinfluencetheChicorel’s Taiwan-based Organic they have become more agreeState’s economy. Not to mention Media Group, and with Gao Qun’s abletofilminginthegenre. the one child policy in China that Mainland China-based Wudi drove the technological advance Pictures (aka WD Pictures) for I’m looking forward to seeing in robotics to meet a social need. a deal that leverages streaming what Better Than Us will become rights in Greater China. They will this year, or perhaps next. In the I believe it is best to watch the filmitinChinainMandarin. meantime, it is well worth looking show in the original with subtitles atthefirstseasononNetflix.I’d rather than to watch it dubbed. Asaresult,andsinceNetflixhas like to thank Scot Noel, and really There are nuances in the acting no foothold in China, the second the thanks should go to his wife, that come through hearing the (third) season might stream on Jane, who put me on to this show. original actors’ voices. Beyond Amazon Prime. The preexisting Apparently, she placed it on their the political, there are views into China government-approved watch list (as in; she schedules modern Russian society and co-production agreement will what they watch!). Enjoy! disclosure of social issues that probably eliminate any political Promotional images are from CD Projeckt RED and only used here for the purposes of criticism, comment and news reporting.
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A MEMO ON THE
OF THE LAST EARTHEN TREE
by Shelly Jones
I am writing to inform you that the last tree on earth is dying. As you know the three thousandyearoldfigtreewasthefoundationalartifactthatthemuseumwasbuilt While other wings are dedicated to tintypes of ferns, photos of dahlias and roses, and so-called “modern” interpretations of various other species, the glass rotunda sits as the focal point of the museum. Its mechanical walls were designed to expand outward with theevergrowinglimbsoftheficus.Butnow,thetreeiswilting,itswaxyleavescurl yellowing, its aerial roots brittle to touch. Despite the grant-funded mechanical wasp drones that have been programmed to mutually pollinate like the extinct insectoids of the previous century, the tree is fading. We have re-coded the wasps several times to no avail.
Ascuratorandheaddendrologist,Iamataloss.Inadditiontotheexistentialr of this monumental development, there are practical concerns for the museum. I fear with no living tree as our signature exhibit, alien tourists will no longer visit us. Even the last few remaining Earthen schools no longer require our programming, their fundings cut, their academic priorities adjusted. Any guidance you may provide would be greatly appreciated. Respectfully submitted,
L.R.H. Curator of the Earthen Botanical Museum
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By Phil Hurst
Grant let loose a howl and doubled over as the agony struck. He threw up inside his helmet, clawing at it, then broke the faceplate with his fists."
The tablet in her hand beeped, showing a new pathogen group. Nelsonia took a note of the time and location, then instructed the drone to keep the sample and begin testing. Withbloodlessefficiency,the drone slaughtered and absorbed the rat-crocodile. Within thirty seconds, there was no sign of the original organism at all. The percentage bars on her tablet crawled toward 100%. It wouldn’t be a long wait, but it was still a frustrating one. Nelsonia named the creature Rattius Snappis while she waited
for the results of the pathogen test. So far, her drones, scanners, and miniature laboratory had found nothing on the Dog Star planet 13B that wasn’t responding to existing antibiotics.
colonization without checking it outfirst.
The hardest part about the job was the solitude. Nelsonia could deal with the dangers that came with her work, but It was looking more and more like being alone for six months on thislittlerock,floatingfaraway each tour was exhausting. She from any other celestial bodies, often hypothesized how her would be suitable for habitation. experimentswouldbenefitfrom This rainforest was dense and having another human planexotic, but harmless (at the microet-side with her, but she knew bial level, there were some bigger her employers would never creatures out there with big teeth). agree to that. The tundra was next. Experience The ground beneath her feet told her it was less likely that she’d shifted, but the dome she was findsomelethalbacteriaorvirus sitting in twisted to adapt to it. there. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t Designed to protect against be able to clear the planet for SavagePlanets I 38
natural dangers, whether they befloraorfauna,thedomewas her safety net on the planet. She checked her tablet. Seismic activity was constant, but well within an acceptable range. She had tucked her camp against the side of a huge tree-like life form. There were thousands of them on the continent, and when the sun went down, they all stopped their ponderous ‘walking’ and settled, going still. Nelsonia would be long gone by the time it woke and started moving again, and in the meantime, the heat that the tree-monster gave off would help reduce her reliance on battery power. Then, as the progress bar reached 40%, she heard something tapping through her acoustic sensors. Morse code. On an uncharted planet?
his heart. Themanshuffledbehindthe tree-monster. “Wait!” he shouted, “I need help.” Nelsonia sighed and clicked the microphone and speaker on. “This is an un-biomed world,” she said. “I know,” he answered. “My ship crashed. All my equipment — “ He clapped his hands together. With a tiny movement, Nelsonia instructed the drone to scan for other human life signs. She would not end up the victim of marauders or pirates. This far from Earth, help wouldn’t arrive soon enough to save her, and she had no desire to remain a prisoner or a slave for a lifetime. “Then why are you here?” she asked.
“Are you from NET?” he asked, No one should have been here correctly guessing her company. before her, and she’d not had any notificationofothershuttles land “I’m not at liberty to say,” Nelsonia ing since her arrival. She opened responded. her locator app. She instructed the drone to hover There it was, about half a kiloa little lower. metre from her. A human life sign. She sent a second drone out to “That’s the same bullshit I used to investigate and watched as the answer when someone asked.” imageflickeduponthescreen. He shook his head. “I’m Grant.” A human, a male, dressed in “Are you from NET?” she asked, the same protective clothing she calling his bluff. wore. He was sitting next to one tree-monster, tapping against its “COOK.” hollow trunk. The sound echoed They worked for rival across the entire forest. companies. He must have heard the drone “Why are you here?” because he looked up and waved Nelsonia asked. at the little machine. She switched the drone to defensive mode. The screen turned a light shade of green, with the man’s circulatory system lighting up bright red in the centre, and a small targeting reticle forming over 39 I SavagePlanets
Grant started moving again. A small vine started curled around his leg, and he brushed it away with a practiced swing of his arm.
“Whereabouts is your dome?” he asked. “I’m not telling you that,” Nelsonia replied. “Fine.” Grant gazed up at the dark canopy created by the tree-monsters, narrowed his eyes, then started walking in her direction. Nelsonia wondered whether he’d worked out her location or had just guessed. Maybe he was backtracking, following the direction he’d seen the drone come from. She ordered her drone to follow him, aware that company policy was to neutralize rival explorers on sight. It wasn’t something she ever had to do, and it wasn’t a prospect she relished. But the implications on her contract were clear. Any biological deterrents uncovered were no longer proprietary if someone else was in the region. Any discovery found under such circumstances would be subject to a ninety per cent reduction in her finder’sfee.Ninety-eightifthey were non-NET personnel. The mobile lab next to her beeped, and she prised her gaze from Grant for a second. It would appear she had a way around the problem. And she’d be able to pass it off as
science gone wrong.
coloured liquid. “I was wondering if this would do anything,” he said.
Nelsonia told the drone to shoot him. She centred the crosshairs on a spot near his shin, close enough to break the protective material of his suit, and abrade his skin, delivering the payload. Surprised, he brushed off whatever smeared his suit, looking at the glove. There was a bright green streak over the blue fabric. “What the hell did you do that for?! Didyoufindthesamethingas me?” he asked, checking his skin through the breach in his suit. “Sorry,” said Nelsonia. Grant shrugged. reached into the pocket of his suit and recovered a small syringe, load-
with the same green
He laughed. “No, you won’t,” he said, “but thanks for giving me hope.” Grant let loose a howl and doubled over as the agony struck. He threw up inside his helmet, clawing at it, then broke the faceplate withhisfists. Nelsonia watched the tablet passively, continuing the recording, as if she were a gambler studying an opponent’s poker face. The machine would analyze the playback, of course, but she wanted to see what happened to him herself. That way, she’d be able to make a full life cycle report of the effects of the organism before she sent any additional samples back to Earth. It looked promising for weaponization. Grant lay silent, going still, on the ground. Then, with a burst of movement, he stood straight up. Tendrils burst through his suit from every joint, implanting into the surrounding ground. When the explosion of activity abruptly stopped, he looked like he was wearing a skirt of weeds.
Grant rolled back on his hips, his neck totally stiff. She zoomed in on his face. Inside the helmet was a mess of blood, bone, and cartilage. There was no way he could still be alive. So why was he moving…
With a tap, Nelsonia recalled the drone. The microphone picked Grant’s leg twitched. Judging by up Grant, shouting at her through the horror on his face, it wasn’t a thedrone’saudioasitflewoff. movement he was expecting. The drone wasn’t clever enough “Please record this for me… I am tomaskitsflightpath,soshewas Grant Irving,” he said directly to gambling on the results from the the drone. “Employee number sample analysis being correct. 54001255. I love you, Kyle Irving. The drone collected its new payMore than you know. This is my load quickly and returned to Grant. last request. I want my compensation to go to him and our family.” “I thought you’d abandoned me,” he said, waving happily at the little “I’ll pass on the recording.” machine as it hovered above him. Nelsonia said, lying to him.
“Grant?” Nelsonia asked over the speaker. “Is that you?”
A stem punched through the remnants of the faceplate, and abeautifulflower-likething emerged. It was pink, with fivepetalsstreakedwithred (Grant’s blood, maybe), gatheredaroundareflectivecentre point.Itspreadaboutfivefeet wide, expanding outward, and thecentreoftheflower-thing reflectedthelightfromthe drone like a disco ball. Then, after its violent movement, it settled. It looked like any otherflower-thingintheforest, except for a small, torn and bloodied space suit hanging from its stem. It was beautiful, and no doubt neutralized whatever was left of Grant inside the suit. Nelsonia laughed out loud. The marketing for this new product would punch her ticket. Home security and gardening in one? She started thinking about names. Safety-Nettle? Mari-guard? Prevent-Rose? The compensation from NET would be insane. She was going to be rich!
Another groan, and his head rocked back and forth. SavagePlanets I 40
Official erch Store Quality merchandise at reasonable prices. Limited-edition and collector's items. Proceeds used to fund future magazine content.
Inventory changes quarterly. Surprise the alien in your life. Ships to North America and Europe.
Imaginaria 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.
blinding daylight byKeith ‘Doc’ Raymond
zenith riding blue giant, still; unblinking upward, despite the crossing, far ahead of their sound in transit, he warned her, don’t look, she refused to listen, the waves not reaching ears. The star burns the terrain white, molten snow or frozen lava beneath them, but she’s not seeing that, just stellar eruptions growing dimmer as her cornea cook. he watches in horror, her lenses go 43 I SavagePlanets
white, paralyzed, unable to shield her, driven back by her clawsshe does not speak, blown away by the plasma, joining the outwardflight of mass ejecta, bridgesofflame arch and collapse, no pain in yearning for majesty. her lips grope for the straw, thesmellofburntthingsfloat in recirculated air, he shakes his head, they will heal her no doubt... but for now he must lead her. Down into the subsurface caverns, she feels the unwanted darkness, hates him for it, craves the searing blue giant, while he craves silence; The thing she keeps interrupting, begging directions to the blinding daylight.
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The Alien Market
yb Steven S. Behram, MD
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"Space Force" 51 I SavagePlanets
FUTURE ARTIFACTS Hope is a variable in an integral driving dystopia to utopia. She injects life into the inanimate and gives cause to the hopeless. We stood in Zanzibar, flew on Barsoom, and laughed at attack ships off the shoulders of Orion. With her, we surf social turbulence, rising into wonder’s starscape. All of the art is provided courtesy of The Big Sleep as envisioned by BoB, our resident A.I. multimedia editor.
fire-eater must eat fire, even if he has to kindle it himself."
Isaac Asimov Foundation
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ome things you can never leave behind. They don't belong to the past. They belong to you.” Rick Yancey The 5th Wave
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"Vicious Little Alien" SavagePlanets I 54
"Man's Best Friend" 55 I SavagePlanets
tuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in 10 seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451
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was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.” Octavia E. Butler
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"Clone Wars" SavagePlanets I 58
SUBSPACE 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.
ew robot model, dumber than a baby. Product recall." K. A. Williams
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he invincibility oozed out of the darkness, melting into the crowd. The promoters smiled, believing the screams were for the band.." Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond
hez Debonair, the exclusive restaurant, achieved an extraordinary, unprecedented fourth Michellin star to the delight of their clientele, made up of tenth per-centers. That is, until an investigative journalist discovered they sourced their meat from a food kitchen on the adjacent street supported by charitable contributions and formerly known as We Serve People.." Ndya Chambers
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he problem began when the Naldaxians lost sight of the future in their scopes. Their time machines could no longer move forward, forcing them to recede and recede back into the past to where their star devolved into a gas cloud and their planet froze." Vance Richards
n the excitement, their computer malfunctioned, firing the afterburners on the Huntress, forcing the crew back into their seats with such force backs broke and bones shattered. Those that recovered could only admire the new world they orbited, unable to leave their crash couches, knowing it would be their death Kim Song Cho
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o the dwarves of Kefelneem, they were giants in the eyes of the ant folk. The arrival of the humans not only challenged that notion, it made them question their self worth; and if it wasn’t for Malcolm Cornwall, they would have certainly died in a ritual immolation." Oliver Hardwick
ommander Encinitas took in the desolate alien terrain, her Geiger counter playing a song of genetic mutation. She mourned, sensing this place was once alive, filled with creatures of wonder, but war or asteroids or some other misfortune gripped the crust and flipped it over, folding its inhabitants like a plow back into the regolith." Pat Gutierrez
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FLIGHT OUT By Chris Preston
Falling meteoroids cast off from the mass darkened the sky, glowing as they hit Mars’ atmosphere. A large one slammed into the ground a few hundred meters away, knocking Joel off his feet. More continued to fall."
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Along the Martian plains of Gale Crater, Commander Joel Richards toiled away on NASA’s newest space rover, Aura. Mount Sharp silhouetted in the far distance, no other natural features were nearby. His only cover from the intense midday sun was the occasional wind-blown regolith. Space Rover Aura beat him there two years before but suffered damage upon landing. Just digging out the car-sized capsule housing required a full day of labor. Sweat accumulated un-
der his salt-and-pepper beard after hours of work, causing an urge to itch. No way to do it by hand. He occasionally shook, allowing the sweat and moisture on his visor to run down his neck. Joel’s headset chimed with a message. He paused and stood, arching backward in the EVA suit to stretch. Even in Martian gravity, work in the cumbersome gear wore on the veteran astronaut. Glancing at his wrist display, it read, ‘Incoming call from ML-101 Nautilus.’
Joel clicked the action key to give an audio command. “Open Call.” Rather than the voice of Mission Pilot Marie Flynn, he heard the soothing lyrics of Bill Withers, sung over-top Grover Washington Jr.’s saxophone notes. An uncontrollable smile crossed his face. Ever a jokester, Marie clogged their airwaves daily during Joel’s three days on Mars with this same classic hit from the early eighties. It was also the song they arranged for their wedding night’sfirstdance.One thatcontinuedtodefine
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their relationship. No dog, no cat. No child. And, because of budgetary requirements for their eight-month trip to Mars, no other crew members either. Just the two of them. ‘You’re up there,’ he thought. ‘Aren’t you?’
ny Mars, became instead a NASA lifted the ban on marmanned rover repair platform. ried couples just to keep you While not the success story from getting lazy. Over.” NASA had envisioned, the missionmadeJoelthefirst“Honestly, I preferred it the other way. Your nagging is just person to set foot on the red punishment. Over.” planet. The tune petered out.
While the jazz song played, “Nautilus to Lander, do you he hit the action key once copy?” It was Marie. “I hope moretofindtheircastlein you the aren’t taking an afternoon sky. “Nautilus, strobe effect,” nap. Over.” he ordered. “Copy, Nautilus. Appreciate Three white lights pulsed high the wake-up call. I might have in the thin atmosphere for slept the afternoon away! several seconds, giving away Thank goodness they sent the position of the orbiter. The you to monitor me! Over.” under-funded, twice-cancelled Her laugh (the one he fell in deep space NASA vessel, love with decades ago in the nowretrofittedfromitsoriginal Air Force) came through his purpose to establish a coloheadset. “Yes, that’s right!
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“And here I was, about to say that I miss you. Over.” “Miss me? Aren’t you already sick of me?” Joel chuckled, then let out a sigh. “Anyway, Aura’s being stubborn, but she’s almost ready to boot-up. I could really have used your help down here on this one. I need some extra leverage on this stripped tire latch. Over.” “Leverage?” Marie said in a low growl, mimicking her husband. “You calling me fat? And now you’re asking
Perseverance and Curiosity. The other rovers delivered by the Nautilus’s freight drone for servicing. The drone sat idle behind them, coupled to the lander’s batteries for a recharge. Orbital scrutiny determined Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity were non-salvageable. While initially interested in seeing those three relics, Joel avoided using up the freight drone’s juice to check them out. Instead, he focused on refurbishing the two modern rovers. Their purpose, to explore regions suspected of possessing water. As he neared the lander, another chime came in. This
me to help you? That’s a lander before hearing from first!Listenup,”hertone Flight Director Wembley. He changed, “CAPCOM wants secured his tools and began you to make your way back the half-kilometer trek. to the lander. Orders from the Flight Director. Wembley As a self-proclaimed pioneer, Joel preferred hiking during is starting his shift at Misthe last three days. The bugsion Control early to speak gy was cumbersome to get in withus.He’llbethereinfive minutes. Something about an and out of. Plus, it kicked up important update, top priority. far too much red dust. Over.” After several minutes, Joel could see the lander atop a “Copy. Making my way back barren landscape. The conenow. Over.” like capsule was three stoData transfer at this time of ries high. It housed the upper day and year was optimal. command module, living Four and a half minutes quarters in the middle, and in each direction between the lower section containing Earth and Mars through laser science, propulsion, and communication arrays. That cargo bays. gave him about ten minutes Beside the lander stood the total to make his way to the
SavagePlanets I 66
time a message. Joel hit play while continuing to walk.
to the dot as it grew over the bley’s nuances throughout the next few minutes. He pressed last two decades of missions a hand over his EVA suit’s they operated together. It “Commander, this is Wembley. chestplate,flexinghisfist. terrifiedthestoicoldguardo Sorry to pull you away from Joel secured their wedding NASA. your work, old friend. Sentry ring on a gold chain around just informed us of a large Inthedistantflatlands,debri his neck, a go-to for stressful object heading your way. The fidgeting.Excessiveweight crashed down. Each fragment deep space probe tracked it from space throwing regolith loss from the journey made inbound. We’re patching in in all directions. The shower wearingitonhisfingerrisky. the Nautilus’s array to collect swept across Gale Crater, more data on its telemetry. A new message came in from closing in on him. The deadly Canyouconfirmvisualcon Wembley. “Fast is right. We rain pelted the surface ferotact? By our estimates, it have Cal Tech crunching the ciously, but all he could hear should be visible over Mount numbers was his own heavy breathing Sharp by the time you receive in the helmet. Joel picked this. Over.” up his pace, running to get inside the lander, Joel spun to face the distant but he didn’t make it. lone mountain. Holding up a hand to reduce glare, The asteroid he saw a moving dot. passed directly “Roger, Wembley. I see overhead, mimsomething. What am I lookicking the size of ing at? It’s fast. Over.” Earth’s moon from Joel’s While waiting for the message viewto be delivered, Marie cut in. point. “Commander, I’m monitoring Fallthe situation up here. Maying be an asteroid or a comet? meCollision detection is showing now. Initial-find teora thirteen percent chance ings… an asteroid. Big, twen- oids of hitting the Nautilus, rising ty-fivekilometerswide.” cast steadily. Requesting evasive off maneuvers. Over.” ‘Double the size of the asterfrom oid that kick-started the Crethe While it may have been NAtaceous–Paleogene extinction mass SA’s intent to drum up media event,’ he surmised. ‘Apocadarkened attention, viewership, and lyptic.’ the sky, glowfurther funding by sending a ing as they hit Mars’ married couple. Joel never The message continued, atmosphere. A large one wouldn’t have wanted any pushing through the backslammed into the ground a other pilot for this mission. “Do ground static. “It’ll miss Mars. few hundred meters away, it. Keep yourself and Nautilus Barely. We’re still assessing. knocking Joel off his feet. safe. Over.” New data is… every few secMore continued to fall. onds. In the meantime, we’ve “Roger.” Marie replied with a cut the media feed to avoid a Lying there, feeling the imcoolness that only pilots could global panic. We’re blaming… pacts rattle his suit, he felt it pull off. “Comms may degrade maintenance for the… being. being weighed down by the until I complete the maneuOver.” accumulating regolith. Joel ver.” shuddered at the thought of Joel picked up many of Wem- being buried alive. The showJoel turned his attention back 67 I SavagePlanets
A dour, low note sounded off in his ear. He peered at his display, which read, ‘Connection lost.’
It took several more minutes before it was over. When Joel sat up, he shed the dust and glanced around, amazed that he survived. The rovers seemed intact, as was his lander. Only
Joel repeated the order several times before spotting her caught up in the asteroid’s tail. The three lights spun in a corkscrew-like trajectory, becoming fainter with time and distance.
the freight drone looked damaged. The surrounding terrain was worse off, riddled with craters. Another chime. “Open call.” “Joel! I…. misjudged…. correctional orbit too early. Debris punctured…”
“Marie!” He struck his action key. “Nautilus, strobe effect.”
‘No, no, the firing squad didn’t spare me just to watch her die!’
kept them pitched back in takeoff position to enjoy the view during downtime. Joel climbed into the pilot’s chair, strapped in, and turned the power on for the control board. He logged into Nautilus’s remote piloting feature. Linking with it took longer than normal, and it was clear why once the navigation pane showed her position. It was well above her previous orbit and moving away. Thousands of kilometers and counting. Nautilus was out of control.
He rushed up the ‘Marie, my love, why aren’t lander’s ramp, you correcting this yourself?’ slamming the hatch shut beJoel made stopping the hind him. Internal ship’s spin his priority. pressure equalized Re-establishing her correct within the airlock. pitch, yaw, and roll required Heflippedthrougha deft hand. With signal a diagnostic panel strength so low, the connecwhile undressing, tion kept dropping, causing waiting for the presan over-correction with its sure to stabilize. No vernier thrusters. Sweat ran environmental breach as he tried again and again. detected throughout the Success. The spin wasn’t lander itself. gone, but it was slowed Thegreenlightflippedon. enough to the point where Joel discarded his EVA suit. navigation was possible Leaving it in a scattered heap once more. onthefloor.Wearingonlyhis orange jumper, he scrambled Rather than waiting on Marie to take back control, Joel through a passage tube to altered a course for Nautilus the command module. His that re-established her previhands grew numb crawling ous orbital position. An alert onthemetalfloor.Space heaters wouldn’t cycle on for popped up on his screen. Remaining fuel reserves another hour. made the maneuver imposJoel pressed through ansible. She was moving away other hatch. The command too fast and in the wrong module contained view ports, direction. allowing sunlight to splash He recalculated until the over the seats. He always
er was of such an intensity, Joel had no other option but to wait it out and leave it up to chance whether one would hit him. Death by falling rocks wasn’t how he wanted his story to end.
SavagePlanets I 68
alert disappeared. The new trajectory was roughly three times higher than her original orbit. Tripling an ascent in such a cramped vessel wasn’t optimal, but the lander was capable of it. And it was better than being marooned. Joel executed the command. But, as seconds went by, the Nautilus seemed to ignore his instructions and kept drifting away. The small radio icon on his screen went from yellow to red. Then, red to grey. All Joel could do was watch his wife, and any hope of returning, leave him. He kept falling back on his training. No one expected this scenario. No contingency was remotely useful. A headache struck him between the eyes. He squinted hard through the pain. Joel put both arms over his head, struggling to stop the agony and his sense of hopelessness. “Don’t take her from me. Please,” he prayed. Something beeped. He looked up to see that Nautilus had appeared once again on his radar screen, plotting along its path to re-enter high orbit above Mars. “Marie, you came back!” The radio icon was still grey but diagnostic information floodedinfromtheship’s modular auxiliary data system, which had its own x-band transmitter. There was a hull breach in the living quarters 69 I SavagePlanets
pod. The containment sysThe man appeared distraught. temssealedofffiveother ‘No,’ thought Joel. ‘Defeated.’ compartments, also damaged. “Commander, this is MisSeveral electrical systems sion Control,” Wembley said. appearedoffline,communi “Pleaseconfirmconnection.” cations being one of them. The lander required a link with Joel spoke, knowing a response would take time. “MisNautilus’s laser comm array sionControl,confirmed.- Nau to send and receive data tilus has sustained damage. through NASA’s Deep Space I’m sending you it’s modular Network. Most satellites in the Mars Relay Network were diagnostics output now. I can’t get a hold of Marie.” laser equipped. His mouth ran dry long ago, but Joel didn’t dare take his eyes from the panel. He patched into the nearest MRN satellite and sent a ping to Mission Control. They could decide which channel was best to reach him.
He could see his own image in the bottom right with a
After several minutes, a video request came through. It was from Earth. Though, he wished it was from Marie. His priority was to hear from her, but the ship’s communications were still down. Thankfully, life support and avionics seemed to be operational. He unzipped his jumper partway, exposing a sweat covered chest. Grabbing a water pouch, he sucked from it, re-hydrating. Taking a deep breath, scraggly beard, looking like he pressed accept. The feed some beer swilling lunatic filledhismainconsolescreen. who stole a NASA-embroiThere, Wembley stood in view dered jumpsuit. with a dozen frenzied staff rushing back and forth behind A few minutes later, Joel him. His curly gray hair shot heard his voice, echoing gruff out in all directions, and his andchoppy,reflectedthrough lucky red tie (the one that he their speakers. His face, wore for every mission) undisplayed on an angle by the done. Mission Control’s main mon-
itor, caught the attention of Wembley’s staff.
dred percent certainty? That speed is impossible. Do we have any planetary defenses I’m not aware of? Nukes hidden in satellites, perhaps? You suit-and-tie types keep us in the dark on those details.”
Jackie, the CAPCOM, shoved Wembley off screen, bulling her way in front of the camera. “Yes! Commander, you and your wife need to get back here ASAP. Any survivors may need an eye in the sky.”
to hush Jackie, the mission’s When the message went CAPCOM, nearby. “It’s about through, Wembley scratched the asteroid. Sentry conhis temple. “You’ll be months He waited some more, while firmedthatitwillimpact too Earth late. Besides, we have checking again on the Nauti- at a speed of over ten million protocols for this. If the word lus lasercomm system. kilometers an hour.” got out to the media, society would crumble into chaos. “Glad you’re okay, old friend. “Nothing moves that fast,” Criminal behavior would Confirmed,receiving - di Joel uttered to himself. run rampant. All staff are agnostics now.” Wembley being held to the strictest looked down at a nearby Wembley continued, “The confidentiality.Yourmission monitor. “We’re registering physics are barely comprestatus remains unchanged, hatches opening and closing hensible. Yet here we are. Commander. The situation is on board, so I’m sure she is The impact event will occur in evolving by the second, so working hard to restore all just over six hours.” just hang in there. I’ll update systems by now. Nobody you if anything changes. Joel responded to the camcould’veflownthatthirtytwo God help us.” era. “Wembley, one hun-
“I’m not saying no…” Wemb“No, I’m afraid not, Comley replied off screen. “I just mander. It appears you want proper clearance from twotookthelastflight AdministratorBerkeleyfirst.” out.” His voice trailed off to a whisper. “And where’s he?” asked Jackie. Wembley removed his tie and tossed it on the ground. Joel took a moment of silence to glance out of the port at the quiet sky above him. billion dollar ship any better under those circumstances,” Hearing that allowed his own heart rate to slow, even if only for a fraction. Joel watched on, unable to interrupt whatever Wembley was about to say next. “I, ah…” He took a moment
Wembley sighed. “Last I heard, he was meeting the President in the PEOC.” “Come on,” Joel whispered while kicking on the fuel warmers. “There’s no time for this.”
He cleared his throat, returning his attention to the mon“We’re waiting. End of the itor. “We have to get back. world or not, we have reMarie and I, we can establish sponsibilities to uphold. Earth orbit and rescue whoWe’re still a government ever we can. Mission Control, with rules, even if we have pleasesendusthepre-flight an expiration date!” Wemchecklist for return. Cut out bley coaxed Jackie back to anystepsnotcriticalto flight her station. integrity. Now!” A technician chimed in. “The SavagePlanets I 70
asteroid’s trajectory is going to interfere with our communication to Mars, Sir. Twenty minutes, give or take a few, until the connection drops permanently.” “God dammit!” Wembley shook. He took a breath, attempting to compose himself.
Wembley yelled at other team members moving toward the exit, “By rock or bullet, my orders remain! Can someone explain to me why we haven’t heard from Administrator Berkeley yet?” The rear entrance of Mission Control burst open with afloodofarmedsecurity guards, shoving back the staff trying to get out. Some fell tothefloorandwerebeing trampled.
“My wife is in the sky above me, battling what could be a catastrophic failure. I’m going to get her, Wembley. Someone over there, provide thepre-flightclearanceforTheir a head of security pushed return to Earth.” back one staff member with hisrifle,saying,“Baseand As his message played in communication lock-down, Mission Control, the staff grew folks. Return to your stations. more chaotic. Arguments Orders from the president. broke out. Nobody leaves.” “You understand it will take you almost two days to reach Nautilus in her current orbit, right?” Wembley’s attention turned to one technician, who was moving toward the exit. “Hey! Where are you going?” Joel watched as Wembley barked orders at the technician to stop, but the man just pushed through the rear Mission Control doors and left.
Wembley shouted, “you can’t be serious! Sargent, do you even know what’s happening?!” “We have our instructions. Now, hand over your cellular devices. We have jammed outgoing signals for now. We will return them to you after the lock-down has lifted,” the Sargent said. He turned to the main monitor. “Cut that feed!”
“Sir,” Jackie cut in. “It’s RusThey levelled M4s at the staff sia on the line. Roscosmos and collected cell phones, picked up the object. They starting with those located would like access to our surclosest to them. veillanceforconfirmation.” Theflightdirectorflippeda “Delay them.” switch on her board. “See, it’s off.” “There’s more. I, ah, new data is suggesting it’s not actually “Keep it off!” an asteroid at all, but some type of spherical object pulling Audio was still being sent to debris along with it. SynthetWembley’s headset from the ic.” lander. ‘Synthetic?’ 71 I SavagePlanets
“Wembley, get out!” Joel cried.
“Act for once in your life! Find your wife and daughter. Please. Be with them in these last moments.” The connection was waning. Commotion and discontent continued in Mission Control as minutes ticked by. ‘Come on, please receive this, Wembley,’ he begged. Wembley whispered, “Received.” Joel exhaled. After a pause, Wembley continued in a hushed tone. “The signal’s drying up, old friend. Thank you for the advice. Now,youneedtogofindyour girl… Yes, it’s off. Okay, I’m backing away, Sargent. Don’t point that thing at me. Hey! What did I—” The connection dropped.
An hour slipped by as Joel attempted to bypass many ofthelander’spre-flight di agnostics. Without Marie, he was clumsy and forgetful. Any pause in the checklist and his mind slipped from the job, forcing him to start over. Earth’s impending doom plaguedhim,fillingevery - va cant thought. Communication with Nautilus wasstilloffline,thoughits modular auxiliary data system’s x-band radio kept pushing out hope that Marie was still there. One blaring alarm made him wince. As his frustration peaked, he realized it was a warning to disconnect the
supply cable to the freight drone outside before lifting off.
him. Blood smeared the inside of her visor, obscuring Marie’s brown eyes. “I made it? I made it! Joel, I screwed up. Bad. There wasn’t time to get further out, not without exhausting all our fuel.”
“Are you okay, where’s this blood coming from?”
Liftoff boosters were about to punch him skyward when Joel “My left arm. Unsecured powered down. The rockets debris rattled around while While spooling the wires back fell silent as he hurried to rethe ship spiralled, slashing inside a utility hatch, he restore environmental controls. me open and dismantling membered their summer in a Through the port, Joel saw the half our electrical sysrented RV crossing Australia. lonestreakofthrusters tems. firing If you hadn’t corMarie enjoyed emptying the in the night sky. It illuminated rected it, we would’ve lost gray and black tanks, then the shallow hills and plains everything. Somehow, avirefuelling the freshwater tank. allaround,snuffingoutafter onics was mostly spared. She was more passionate touchdown. I couldn’t access it from about nuts and bolts than he my station anymore, but I Joel took the buggy, pointever was. could from Payload. The ing its six wheels toward the last bit of data received ‘Hang in there, my love. I’m landing zone, sliding around onboard before losing the coming.’ rocks and craters that he laser comm array was your spottedinthevehicle’snew floodrouting. I muscled the Once back inside and seeing lights. He pushed the buggy Nautilus into place from the green lights he had been to its limit, following the supthere.” She mumbled this fightingfor,Joelbeganthe ply drop’s locator beacon. A while he lifted her out. ignition sequence. His comm few rough patches of terrain call to Nautilus still unanmade his teeth rattle. After an “I was about to come help swered. anxious half-hour, the cargo you.” drop appeared, highlighted in Over the rising hum of mathe darkness by a blinking red “You’re helping now. The chinery below, he heard a new wraps I applied to my light. beep. One he wasn’t familiar wound did nothing without with. It took a few seconds to Leaping from the buggy, Joel gravity.” spotthereasonforthe - notifi dashed around the eight-footcation. A new object, seeming tall cube until he spotted the She stood, but only with to emerge from the Nautilus Joel’s arm around her. personnel compartment, still itself, appeared on his radar sealed. He gave it a good pull, They hobbled back to the screen. It was a resupply drop and the hatch opened. There buggy, where he got her descending from orbit. buckled in the passenger lay his wife. Her EVA suit seat. streaked with blood. ‘That makes no sense. Why would the Nautilus be dropWhile putting the vehicle “Oh my god, Marie. What ping supplies?’ happened?” Joel asked, while into gear, Joel asked, “Darling, did you hear the latest freeing her restraints and Details came in as the obnews about Earth?” clicking on her wrist display’s ject’sinflatableheatshield microphone actuator. deployed. Its trajectory was “What news?” straight toward Gale Crater. She tilted her head toward SavagePlanets I 72
Donning his EVA suit once more, Joel stumbled out into the dying light of Mars. Sunlight disappeared behind a shallow bank of hills on the near horizon, thinning the sky to a point where he could see stars. He jogged over to the drone and decoupled the battered machine.
Joel went over his last few steps to ensure he hadn’t accidentally tripped a sensor. He scanned the payload on board the resupply drop. One of the automatic oxygen tanks was swapped out for an emergency personnel pod.
“In just a couple of hours, the object that passed by us will strike Earth.” He looked over at her while gripping the steering wheel. “And if I don’t get that bleeding stopped, the remaining human population in the galaxy will be cut in half.”
up to the crew quarters, then slid her onto a bunk. “Hey, keep those eyes open, Marie. Drink this.” He handed her several water pouches while peeling open a med kit.
In the corner of his eye, one dotinthestarfieldtwinkled Joel logged into a telescope on the abandoned Nautilus to focusonEarth.Aflashenvel oped the globe. The glow expanded outward. As the light died, what was once a perfect circle now seemed stretched and distorted.
She sipped, periodic weak gulps, as he wiped blood “What the hell?” away from the wound. It “Hang on.” was a jagged laceration, Dumbstruck and drunk with but thankfully shallow. After grief, he stumbled back Joel pressed the accelerator, afewbutterflybandagesto down to the crew kicking up dust as they rolled bring it together, he sealed it quarters. Marie forward. with medical glue. Joel then was still wrapped it with a tight dressasleep, ing. her back He kept talking to keep his As she lay down, Marie whisto wife conscious on the trip pered, “Will it be soon?” him backtothelander.Hefilled and her in on every detail he knew “What? The asteroid? I think about Earth’s impending so, yes.” extinction event. When possible, he gripped her gloved “Are you going to watch?” hand during moments cross“I will.” ing smooth terrain. She kept shaking her head, taking in She pulled his face down to softthe information, speechless. kiss him. “I can’t. I can’t watch ly the Earth die.” Arriving at the lander, Joel struggled to get her up the breathFeeling safe, Marie rolled over entrance ramp and into the ing. onto one side and snored. He airlock. She was noticeably Pulling her pulled a sheet over her and weaker and going into shock. sheets back, gave her a kiss. Grateful she He, too, was running out of Joel slipped into survived. gas. the single-sized bunk behind his wife and spooned Removing her suit revealed her. how much blood she lost. For the next hour, any radio Dark like molasses, it oozed Whether it was the sudden signals Joel came across, out along the dusty decking. warmth, his trembling, or Jositting in the command modShe smelled of burnt wires ule, were just varying degrees el’s continuous whimpers, Maand ozone. Marie’s black hair, of static. When he wasn’t rie stirred awake. She gripped normally stretched out like his arm, comforting him, and searching through channels, a lion’s mane, hung straight perhaps herself. Joel would scream in anger, down with sweat and clung to cry, and beg for a miracle. The her high cheek bones. commander even hummed a hymn; being a man of sciThe next day, they went back Once down to her underwear, ence, he didn’t know any to Space Rover Aura together. and the airlock equalized, they words, but was familiar with Staying on mission was the continued inside. He half carthe melody. only way for Joel to manage ried and half dragged Marie 73 I SavagePlanets
Joel kept one glove on top of Aura’s car-sized chassis as it crept off the drop pad and moved forward. He examined a portable terminal, its strap slung around his shoulder, and executed a program. Joel could hear the rover’s
electric motors whirring as it lurched away, starting on its mission to collect soil samples. Joel smiled. Marie did too, grabbing his hand. One job
“My love,” he said to her through their paired headsets. “Do you feel what I’m feeling? We lost the entire human race yesterday. I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“That’s what Mission Control suggested before I lost the signal.”
She studied his face. After a moment, Marie responded, “The end of the world is the end of the world. What more is there to say? To even feel? I’m numb. Friends, family, everyone, everything… yet here we stand, just a rounding error in some complex unknowable equation.” “Spared a similar fate only because we spent our entire professional lives putting Earth in the rear-view.” “Fair enough. At least, we’ve got each other. I think we’re lucky to be alive after Earth’s end. Somehow, it makes the apocalypse easier to swallow. After all, it always was just the two of us.” He sang her last few words, making the soft tune mournful. When it trailed off, he mumbled, “I know.”
his despair. He wanted Marie to rest, but she insisted, not wanting to lose sight of him ever again. They freed the rover’s rear-left tire from the stubborn restraints together, readying Aura for activation.
“Well, for our next family vacation,maybewe’llfly back to the place it came from. They picked the fight,we’llfinishit.” She imitated a punch with her left arm but recoiled sharply from the resulting pain.
“Whoa! What do you say weletyouhealfirst,-cow girl?” Joel said, steadying her. “Until then, we have plenty of work to do here.” They hugged. While still embracing, he looked toward Aura, disappearing in the distance, then to the lander and all their other toys. Joel gazed up at the sky, knowing the Nautilus was still up there somewhere. Finally, his eyes tracked back to where Earth should’ve been.
The last of their kind, just the two of them. There would be no more. But at She put her helmet against his least for now, he didn’t feel and said, “Do you really think alone. someone, or something, made
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SavagePlanets I 74
CONTRIB Keith 'Doc' Raymond Poetry Contributor
Margaret Karmazin Fiction Contributor
Chris Preston Fiction Contributor
Dr. Raymond is a Family and Emergency Physician that practiced in eight countries in four languages. Currently living in Austria with his wife.
Margaret Karmazin’s credits include stories published in literary and SF magazines, including Rosebud, Chrysalis Reader, North Atlantic Review, Mobius, Confrontation, Pennsylvania Review, The Speculative Edge, Aphelion and Another Realm.
Chris Preston is a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction from Ontario, Canada.
When not volunteering his practice skills, he is writing, lecturing, or scuba diving. In 2008, he discovered the wreck of a Bulgarian freighter in the Black Sea. He has multiple medical citations, along with publications in Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grief Diaries, The Examined Life Journal, The Satirist, Chicago Literati, Blood Moon Rising, Frontier Tales Magazine, and in the Sci Fi anthologies Sanctuary and Alien Dimensions among others. Keith is the Fiction Editor and co-founder of SavagePlanets.
75 I SavagePlanets
Her stories in The MacGuffin, Eureka Literary Magazine, Licking River Review and Mobius were nominated for Pushcart awards. She has stories included in several anthologies, published a YA novel, REPLACING FIONA, a children’s book, FLICK-FLICK & DREAMER and a collection of short stories, RISK.
Formal studies include University of Toronto’s Creative Writing program, as well as various workshops. You can currently see work by Chris within Mystery Weekly, Schlock! Webzine, and Asymmetry Fiction. To find out more, feel free to visit www.seeprestonwrite. com. You may also follow Chris on Twitter @write_preston.
BUTORS Shelly Jones Fiction Contributor
Shelly Jones, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at SUNY Delhi, where she teaches classes in mythology, literature, and writing.
Phil Hurst is a Colchester, UK, based storyteller who tells dark stories with a playful twist.
Her speculative work has previously appeared in Podcastle, New Myths, the Future Fire, and elsewhere. She currently serves on the board of trustees for a small, local museum whose mission is to educate the community about sustainability practices and land stewardship. Find her on Twitter @ shellyjansen.
His crime short fiction is published on Punk Noir, Close To The Bone and Bristol Noir and his first crime thriller novel is currently under consideration.
Steven S. Behram Poetry Contributor
Steve Behram is an OB / GYN who is in practice in the United States. He practices with his wife who is also in the same field. He jokes that the only thing he was ever really good at was pulling little people out of bigger people.
His first sci fi novel The Unjudged, was published in 2018, and he currently is working on two new sci-fi novels, expected 2022.
He has been hooked on science fiction from a young age. His addiction worsened as he read more and more drafts and manuscripts by some very talented authors.
For more info, you can find out more at www. philhurstwriter.co.uk or follow him on twitter @_philhurst.
He begins his day with the hope that his inbox will bring him the freshest and latest speculative adventures. Steve is the Poetry Editor and co-founder of SavagePlanets. He is also serving as the Editor in Chief.
SavagePlanets I 76
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