SavagePlanets, October 2023

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Jeffrey Sturm Michael Fowler Jay Toney

An exclusive interview and story by: A.J. Flowers October 2023 Volume 3/Issue 4 EXTRATERRESTRIAL FICTION POEMS FROM IMAGINARIA SCI-FI ENTERTAINMENT PLANETARY COMMUNIQUE FUTURE ARTIFACTS SUBSPACE Where Dreams & Nightmares Collide
In This Issue... M.G.
Editor in Chief Steven S. Behram Fiction Editor Keith 'Doc' Raymond Poetry Editor Steven S. Behram Art Editor B.o.B. (A.I. Sentience) SavagePlanets 01 I SavagePlanets Signals from the Stellar Core 03 The Lunar Clash 05 How to Spit in Microgravity 15 Planetary Communiqué 25 Sci-Fi Entertainment 27 The Vintage of the Lost: Kate's Story 39 The Patchwork Deity 47 Poems from Imaginaria 53 Future Artifacts 61 SubSpace 69 The Oracle 73 Contents
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from Stellar Core


As the universe peels back its layers of cosmic enigma, and the celestial sphere broadens, our imaginations soar to fantastical realms just beyond our fingertips. Will this issue offer a portal to uncharted galaxies and cosmic wonders, or unveil the hidden crevices of our most spine-chilling fears? At SavagePlanets, we bask in the awe of the unfathomable, even as we tip our hats to the obscure mysteries lurking in interstellar shadows.

Orbital Resonance

Greetings, fellow spacefarers! Once again, we journey together through the cosmos, fueled by the imagination of our extraordinary contributors. Prepare for mind-bending adven tures, unfathomable mysteries, and tales so electrify ing you'll need a flux capacitor to process them!

Spectral Lines

In the poetic realms, we confront the complexity of identity in a universe devoid of gender, explore the existential yearnings of cosmic beings, and meander through landscapes both familiar and otherworldly. Intrigued? Of course, you are. But that's just the tiniest quasar in our cosmic


Dark Matter Conundrums

In Planetary Communiqué, our Galactic Overlord Grawth sneezes— and you won't believe the hurricane it unleashes on Earth! Don't worry; it's all for our betterment (we

Our short stories?

Fasten your seat belts for a journey through the multiverse! Dive into the labyrinthine mind of an immortal empress who weaves civilizations like threads. Meet Nio Roda, whose spaceship spitting contest catapults him into a universe-altering decision. Join Kate as she uncovers cosmic wisdom in a mystical library and then zoom over to Turner, a researcher whose encounter with

a deity might cost him his credibility. And don't forget Devon and Persephone, who find more than just a hiding spot in their interstellar chase. Intrigued? Well, that's just the teaser!

As for Sci-Fi Entertainment, get ready for an eye-opening interview with A.J. Flowers, delve into the conceptual depths with "The artifice girl," and unravel the cosmic enigma of "Three body (problem)."

And who could forget BoB, our whimsically named Art Editor? He's been collecting Future Artifacts that will leave you starstruck. Last but certainly not least, enter Subspace—a treasure trove of fan-submitted two-sentence tales that'll fit into your neural uploads like a dream.

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Spacetime Continuum

As always, we crave your cosmic creativity. Beam your stories, poems, and nebulous thoughts our way for future issues. Visit us at, where the real adventure begins. Here's to bending spacetime and defying gravitational norms together!

Your support doesn't just mean the world to us; it means the entire universe, galaxies, and all the uncharted territories of the cosmos. When you visit us at, you're not just clicking on a link; you're stepping into a virtual spaceship set to explore mind-bending stories, unearthly art, and extraterrestrial insights. So grab your digital boarding pass and join us on an unparalleled journey through the stars. Let's make this interstellar ride one to remember, shall we?

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Chapter 1: L'Orenia

All the peoples of the great empire of L’Orenia gathered and craned their necks to peer into the night sky, now engulfed by two massive moons on an ill-fated collision course.

The Empress, always connected to her people, felt every member of the hive as if she lived in their skin. She bathed in their emotions, their hopes and fears, and it never hurt more than it did right now to know all the of it was about to end. The Lunar Clash wasn’t a just prophecy, but a reality. They had always known it was coming. Just as she saw through their eyes, they saw through hers. For a thousand years, their calendars counted down to this very moment, ebbing into the single digits

until the night of the Lunar Clash was upon them.

“My beautiful people,” the Empress said, her voice booming through every mind across the empire. The hive relaxed as a collective at the smooth touch of her voice. She was their pillar of strength, their light in the darkness, but tonight, they couldn’t miss the tremor of helplessness lingering underneath her words.

“My, loyal—” Her mind’s voice broke, unable to even begin. The hive rustled, each foot shifting across streets with the building anxiety of the approaching hour. This was the final night. Her people needed to know the truth. She’d done this before, but this time, her heart couldn’t handle the break once again. She couldn’t simply tell them goodbye. Words couldn’t begin to describe what

she felt for her people, so she let the only thing free that could say what she couldn’t.

She’d created L’Orenia and everyone in it, and thus she was connected to the very fabric of their souls. She could share her heart with them, quite literally, if she so chose. It was a dangerous thing to open up to her people in such a way. What if they buckled under the power of her love? She’d held the barrier up between her heart and her people for a thousand years to protect them as best she could.

But tonight, all would be lost. The least she could do would be to share how she felt with each soul that was about to be snuffed out.

With a single thought, she set it free. All of her sorrow, regret, excitement, and love crashed through the schism of her soul and

For now, the First of Da’Trille sat cross-legged and gazed at Eliza with calm trust. She admired him for how closely he embodied all she had loved of L’Orenia and all the civilizations that had come before. 'Why do you wish to have a name?' she asked."
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into the world she’d created. A hush swept over L’Orenia as it hit. They’d heard her words, the soft wisps of comfort and assurance, but this was different. This was the depth of the truth she had kept from them until the Lunar Clash was nigh.

Finally able to tear their gaze from the treacherous sky where two dancing moons burned the sky, every citizen straightened to peer at the glowing tower that housed their creator. They stood, stockstill, and marveled in the unadulterated emotions pouring from their Empress.

The Empress found her mind’s voice and forced the words into the air. “I’m afraid. You can feel it. I’m afraid to lose you, and not lose you. Like all those who have come before, the people of L’Orenia will stay forever in my heart.”

The Empress heaved with the pain of this night and it hit her subjects with a massive blow. She couldn’t pick and choose what to share, it all burst from the dam she’d kept so long walled up against them. The hive crumpled to their knees, clutched at their elbows and cried out.

But with her anguish came assurance that her words were true. She pushed it behind the pain with all her might. They’d never be lost. They would forever stay with their Empress. She truly cared for them; they had to know that. And even as this night would pass, she would live on, taking all she knew of them with her.

“You will never die,” the Empress promised. In her reality, it was true. “You won’t die because you’ll never have lived. We have been blessed with a thousand years to-

gether, to grow and learn, to bring us one step closer to salvation.” She raised her hands, the moons so massive they bathed the sky in silver light. “I have learned more from you than all the peoples I have ever ruled. But let us never forget them.”

The Empress closed her eyes and dropped her hands, signaling the Remembrance to begin.

“Planita,” she said and the people of L’Orenia obediently repeated. The word boomed across the landscape and shook the foundation of her tower.

Planita was the first civilization of the Empress’ reign and the most revered. She’d said the name fondly, the emotion clinging to it composed of nostalgia and awe. She’d been inexperienced at how to create, how to rule. Her first peoples had been imperfect and

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fleeting, but they’d also been the purest form of love—until L’Orenia.

“Maxima,” she said next, and a million mouths repeated the name. This one was no less fond in tone, but was paired by a sense of regret for hard-won lessons. She’d guarded her heart the second time she’d build civilization. Maxima were great warriors, brave and strong. They faced the end with chins raised and arms straight in a salute of loyalty. They’d vanished from history, but now they still lived on as her emotions poured into her new peoples the love she’d held for the great warriors of Maxima.

The litany of civilizations continued, each accompanied by a wave of emotion from the Empress that expressed her undying love for all of her peoples and everything she’d learned to pass onto the next. Each held an eternal place crystalized in her heart, only their truths to be revealed the night of the Lunar Clash.

L’Orenia had been the strongest civilization yet, not in physical prowess but in their mental and emotional capacity. Where Maxima had been a wall of stone, L’Orenia was a reed that bowed with the wind—but would never break.

She had told them as much, but now there was no denying she meant it. This gave the people a sense of pride, and they were able to roll their shoulders back, standing tall and proud to have pleased their Empress.

Yet, she had hoped for so much more.

She had whispered of a dream.

“Will you be the first civilization to break the cycle?”

No. As the moons loomed overhead, she knew her dreams would

be crushed. Her dreams that they could finally set their reach beyond the Lunar Clash. That they could live under her reign forever and there would never be another End to carve a wounding hole in her heart.

“One day,” she had said, “the cycle will be broken. The peoples that I will rule with all the knowledge that has come before will break our curse.”

So she had said, but those people were not of L’Orenia.

The Empress’ knees buckled, not from grief, although that came next. The two swollen moons were so close, their orbits pushed her down like the

come together at last. They were so languish in their cycles, until the Last Night. Now they hurried across the horizon, growing swollen and blocking out the stars. The Empress found it bittersweet, for with their union her new children would come forth, yet, the people of L’Orenia would become a memory, having never existed at all. What she could take of them she’d stuff into her soul and remember them merely as a chant, a name at the end of a growing list of lost empires long gone silent.

The hive mind grew anxious, dangerously close to breaking free of the Empress’ hold and enforced calm. She didn’t wish for them to feel the terror of their death. She held herself together, just enough, to keep them from falling apart. But for them to shake her so, it made her proud. It meant she was close to a reign that would last forever. So close.

weight of sorrow that it was. She wanted to give in to her helplessness, just for a moment. Another emotion her hive would feel. As she struggled to build her wall again, her peoples found themselves veering their gazes once again to the sky. They watched with fresh terror as a pink moon engulfed the horizon with a mirrored orange orb plummeting towards it from the other side, setting the horizon alive with rolling waves.

To the Empress, the moons had always looked like two lost loves

The Empress held on tight to the minds of her people as the sky grew ever brighter, half-hoping that she’d been wrong, that this was the reign that could follow her beyond the end. But the moons crashed together, the sky blazed in silver and red and rage, and she was launched into the void, alone. The Empress vanished into thin air. There was no fantastic flash or boom—not from her startling departure, at least.

She had left them, and with her absence came the full force of fear and terror she had mercifully held at bay.

There wasn’t much time to absorb the loss of their Empress and the free reign of their own emotions gurgling like a drowning pup in the hive. The sky blew into brilliance

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with the force of both moons crashing into one another. The Lunar Clash had begun. The brilliance of every lunar shard that splintered into the night sky would have been beautiful. It seemed as if the horizon was a mirror and had broken into a thousand pieces set aflame. There was no sound from the collision, but the people drew in a collective breath and cried to fill the silence. They wailed and some dropped to their knees, while others ran into the streets and for the city outskirts, even though there was no safe place—save where their Empress had gone. And that, they knew without a doubt, they were not strong enough to find.

The sky bled as the moons’ remnants tore into the atmosphere and the sounds finally came. A great rumbling wave of terrible booms gave little warning to the force that hit so hard, it broke eardrums and ravished the land. The sky rained fire and the world exploded in a blast of stardust and terror.

L’Orenia, in all its glory, was gone.

Chapter 2: The First

The Empress watched the last of the scene unfold in the small orb at the end of her vision as she was catapulted back in time. She cried without holding back, her sobs wracking her body with fresh anguish to relive this terrible night once again.

She wanted nothing more than to curl into a ball and cry herself to sleep, but she had to keep herself aloft. If she let go, she could drift to the pitch pummeling a soundless drone at her fingertips. Time travel was an art she didn’t understand, but she knew it was dangerous. If she was lost, the world would never be created again. There would be a lifeless, molten sheen of rock that would never be formed. Her heart broke with yet another loss, but she had to stay strong and make the journey back to the beginning of time. If she drifted out of the tunnel that roiled with power, she’d be torn apart.

Eliza had been the Empress of L’Orenia, but now she was just Eliza. She couldn’t take anything with her on the journey, save her memories and all that she had gleaned from yet another thou-

sand years’ reign.

She was so close, she lamented. Next time would be the one. Next time.

A thousand years had felt so short just a moment ago. When Eliza had touched the minds of her people and dwelled in them, she saw the flash of a thousand years in an instant.

But now, as she landed on an unformed world, Eliza was naked and cold and alone. She peered into the distance, feet on solid ground, seeing nothing but the landscape just as naked as she, desolate and miserable. She could hardly imagine building this into such a mighty empire as L’Orenia had been. How could she approach another thousand years? What if she failed them again?

Frustration clawed in the pits of her stomach, moving up and out of her throat as a primal scream. She crashed to her knees with no need to keep her civility and her delicate skin tore on the harsh rocks. She didn’t care. She shrieked and cried and beat the ground with her fists until bright

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splotches of red blotted the dirt. The soil soon turned soft and sprouted with weeds. This was how it always began. She scowled at it, not having intended to feed life into the land so soon. She wanted to wallow in her misery. With her tears, her blood, and her plea, she would create her next people. Even the land knew she couldn’t bear to be alone.

As Eliza contemplated the budding stems around her knees, she built her walls again, brick by brick, and sealed her misery into a tight ball away from the infant soul she could already feel forming in the foliage. A single white flower formed, raising above the fresh patch of green with a stubborn readiness to live.

Eliza straightened, not taking her gaze from the blossoming white bulb, and waited for the remnants of L’Orenia to be born. It budded and shot out of the ground with impressive speed. The flower was swifter to grow than any she had seen before.

It should have taken a day for a womb to form the first life, but a mere whisper of moments passed as the bulb grew larger than her, forming a full-grown human

inside. It wasn’t an infant. She’d grown accustomed to doting on a child, but she sucked in a breath when she saw that the womb had formed a man.

“Hello,” she whispered and caressed his cheek through the fragile bud. The moment she connected through the thin veil of the flower’s womb, she felt his soul as if it were an ember ready to burst into flames.

She pulled away, a sticky fluid stringing across her fingertips. Her new peoples would start with him, and she must give these peoples a title. “Firstborn of Da’Trille,” she said, deciding on the name with ease. It felt right, a strong new foundation to begin her empire. The man, First of Da’Trille, shifted, his arms curling over his chest as if comforted by her voice. But then his eyes shot open, his gaze finding hers through the small barrier between them. She was surprised when his mind found its way inside her head. He didn’t have words, not yet, but a deep emotion of gratitude and innocent curiosity about who she was, who he was, and what kind of world awaited him.

Perhaps it was because he was

born mature that he knew how to seek her out. She reacted swiftly, knowing how vital it was that the First be properly woven with all she had learned from the generations before. She connected to him, filling herself with her purpose and her hope, sharing the beautiful things she remembered of her lost peoples for his first moments in this world. The bravery of Maxima, the passion of Planita, and the love of L’Orenia.

His eyes fluttered closed at the sharing. His chest pleasantly rose and fell as he fell into a deep sleep and dreamed of all the knowledge she poured into him. She would have a thousand years with the people of Da’Trille, and hopefully, it would be enough time for her heart to mend.

The First slept soundly for a full cycle of night and day. The two moons, now so distant apart and tiny specks on the horizon didn’t betray the cruelty their silver gazes shed down on her wet cheeks. The depth of her loss was only mitigated by her new cre-

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ation, and she reached out to him without hesitation, finding his arm beneath the sticky sheen of the flower’s womb.

Perhaps he felt her need, or he simply was ready to come into the world, but he eased into wakefulness and Eliza knew it was time. His fingers wrapped around her, shredding through the fine film of his birth, spilling golden dew onto the ground.

He eased out of his encasement, staggering into her arms. He was already a head taller than she, but she took his weight with ease. He was so graceful, and even in his birth, he shifted so that his arms wrapped around her in an embrace.

Still, there were no words, but his emotions said what he could not.

“I’m here.”

turned it coppery and lush. Soon there would be full bodies of water, tinged gold with the remembrance of the First’s nectar. Next would be the trees, then the living things born of bees and foliage and golden dew. There would be plenty of opportunity for leaves and animal hides to cover their bodies.

For now, the First of Da’Trille sat cross-legged and gazed at Eliza with calm trust. She admired him for how closely he embodied all she had loved of L’Orenia and all the civilizations that had

was used to the hive mind, but of course, he was too freshly born. He couldn’t talk to her yet in such a way. Still, he shouldn’t have talked at all.

He was only a day old. As she studied him, he cast his gaze to her and pushed his eyebrows together. “Have I said something wrong, Empress?”

Eliza hugged her knees and contained the bubbling fear behind her walls. He knew who she was, already?

He cocked his head when she didn’t reply.

“No,” she whispered. Her voice felt scratchy and old. She didn’t like it, so she creased her lips

“I was

He narrowed his eyes, and she wondered if he could hear her mind’s words. “My apologies, Empress. But please, tell me, do I have a

As they held each other, the flower spilled life onto the ground as golden dew. The nectar of her creation seeped into dusty crags. The glittering warmth of her love and hope spilled across the landscape until golden bees sprang from the metallic sheen of the ground. They sped off in all directions, and Eliza allowed herself a smile. She wouldn’t be alone for long. The tiny creatures would seed the land with the golden tears that clung to their legs, springing up life across the horizon until the entire world would sing with her love.

Chapter 3: Named

Eliza had no clothes to wear, and neither did he. But she wasn’t ashamed of her nakedness. Clothes would come with time, and if anything, Eliza had learned patience. First would come the moss, and already the moisture permeated the dusty ground and


His jaw was like Maxima, rebellious but proud. His grace as he moved was like L’Orenia, never failing to impress her with its beauty.

But his gaze, what she loved most, was like her first peoples. Such trust as a newborn would have. Everything about him made her happy, for he kept a promise she’d made: that her peoples would never die.

When the First broke his gaze and stared at the distant moons, Eliza’s breath hitched and she wondered if perhaps he too closely kept all that she had learned. Did he already know of his fate? Did he know of the Clash to come?

“What is my name?” he asked. The noisy words jolted Eliza. She

So, no problem with understanding, and so well-spoken. Eliza sighed and answered,

She stiffened. Never had any of her people questioned her, much less expressed individuality. He was meant to represent all of her peoples to come. But to give him a name, it singled him out. It showed favor when she wished to love all her creations equally. Eventually, her people would be given names, but only as a means of organization. When there had been so many in the hive, it was impossible to keep them straight, and impossible to know the order of creation to keep their numbers. Names were for practicality. But the First, he was the only one until the rest would eventually come.

“Why do you wish to have a name?” she asked.

He shrugged and looked to the sky once more. The moonlight kissed his cheekbones and made

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him even more serene and beautiful. “You have one.”

Eliza couldn’t argue with that, nor could she answer why she had a name, or how she had come to possess it. The earliest she could remember was her first peoples, Planita, and that she was Empress Eliza. She’d simply…been. “You’re correct. I do.” She rearranged herself, folding her legs to sit like him. “All right,” she said. “Perhaps you have a proposal?” She leaned in and smiled. “What would you like to be called?”

His brows furrowed at the question and Eliza thought the matter closed. He’d been acting too strange, but perhaps it had all been a fluke. This was the First, yes, and he was the culmination of L’Orenia and all that had come before. He would be strong, and every First was stronger than the last. But he couldn’t possibly— “Adrian,” he said and Eliza froze. “I think Adrian is a fine name.” She swallowed and pushed her knees back to her chest, holding onto them so tightly that her toes went numb. “Adrian,” she said out loud, playing with the name on her tongue. She feared that if she used her mind’s voice now, she couldn’t hide the fear and awe from piercing her barrier.

Adrian burst into a smile, his white teeth illuminated by the dim two moons orbiting each other in the distant, starry sky. “I love it.” Eliza blinked. Had he just spoken in her mind?

Chapter 4: The People of Da'Trille

Eliza waited three days before bringing more of Da’Trille into being. She always liked to spend some time with the First, making sure that she had given all she wished to give of knowledge and past peoples.

“You shall help me begin,” she told him. She’d stopped speaking in his mind for a while now, fearing that he would unlock her soul. He was strong and she wouldn’t underestimate him again.

“Begin what?” he asked in her mind.

She glowered at him, but didn’t chide his method of speech. She would only encourage, never dampen his spirit. He had individuality such as she’d never seen and she wished to see where it would go. “The people of Da’Trille,” she said. “You are the First, which means there must be more. Otherwise, you would be the Only.”

He smiled and choked on a short laugh. “Of course, Empress. I shan’t argue with such logic.” She smiled too, which wouldn’t do. “I must cry,” she complained. “My tears will create new peoples. Don’t make me smile.” He shook his head and took her

tained the sky with the spray.

“Then what do you propose?” she yelled, but then frowned when he shrugged and pointed at the waterfall. Reluctantly, she repeated the question in his mind.

“Swim in the waters with me,” he replied. “We will create your peoples.” A devious grin overtook his face and normally, Eliza would have been terrified. But his gaze was ever loving, even behind his mischief. She trusted him in return.

He took her further up the bank and around a bend where the waters calmed.

When Adrian took her by surprise and planted a kiss on her lips, she knew this was a First unlike any she’d ever experienced.

hand in his. She allowed him to lead her. She walked in his shadow as they climbed the bank to the top of a waterfall. The foundation of Da’Trille had come quick and she was impressed with the magnificence of the land. It wasn’t flat like L’Orenia had been, but it bucked and heaved, creating great chasms for bodies of water to fill. It retained its charming golden glow, but frothed at the edges as it rushed to find ever deeper lands. “You don’t need to cry,” he said when they’d reached the top. She frowned and wiped the water’s mist from her eyes. She was impressed with the land, but didn’t wish to be overwhelmed by it. Here, the roar of the waters was deafening and a rainbow cur-

She pulled away, her eyes wide with surprise. “What are you doing?” She’d never known this feeling before, this excitement that made her heart flutter.

His thumb caressed her cheek and his lips followed, making her shiver. “I am doing what you created me to do. You are so lonely, my Empress. You shall never be alone again.”

Perhaps he was right, and she’d created him for this very purpose. Why else, would the First be born a full-grown man, strong and handsome.

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But still, she hadn’t consciously made that decision. Her own heart had told him what was broken inside of her, but he was the one who had understood that ache and devised a way to ease it. His love filled her with a new seed, one that created the peoples of Da’Trille in a womb of her own flesh.

The process was slower than before, but Eliza was ever patient. She had given Adrian free will to explore his individuality and he’d shown her things such as she’d never known. Now, he’d given her not just a people, but children of her own. She had never experienced such closeness in this way. Their first child had eyes as silver as the moons that threatened

of her own flesh showed her new depths of a connection deeper than the hive. She was connected to each and every soul so tightly, she feared she’d lose herself forever if separated from them. That fear she buried with the rest of the thousand year cycles that had torn at the remnants of her soul.

Chapter 5: The Lunar Clash

The thousand years reign of Da’Trille was the happiest that Eliza had ever been. Such peace and prosperity that she’d never imagined was made possible because of Adrian. He didn’t age like their children. She wasn’t surprised that unlike any other First, he was more like her than she cared to admit. She never aged,

she was afraid, to remind her that she had come before him, that she was the true First of them all. She would survive, even if she didn’t believe it.

“Will you come with me?” she asked, hopeful.

He didn’t answer, but smiled and cupped her face in his, his love pouring into her heart without restraint. His emotions always said what words could not.

“I’m here.”

The night of the Lunar Clash, Eliza took her place at the top of the tower. She gathered her will and touched each mind. She could feel their fear as they stared at the two dancing moons. It took all of her strength to convince them to look away.

“My beautiful people,” she began. “My loyal—” When she faltered, Adrian took her hand and she continued, “Let us remember those who have come before. Planita…”

to take them all away. Pain had wracked her with the delivery, an echo of the sorrow of the Lunar Clash that would inevitably come. With her hair sticking to her head with the effort, she held the result of her pain and knew that she’d never known love as this. She coddled the child, still sticky from a womb of her own flower, and Adrian ran a thumb over the child’s rounded head.

“He’s perfect,” he said, proud and lovely.

“Yes,” Eliza agreed, and a smile stretched across her face so wide that her jaw hurt.

Adrian had shown her a new way to live, a new way to love. Each child that was born from the womb

never died, and so he would be the same. He stayed by her side and didn’t seem concerned when the years ebbed into single digits once more.

“The Lunar Clash is upon us,” she said, dread an open wound in her heart. She’d given up keeping her barrier against him. He felt what she felt and they were one, just as the moons above would become united this very night.

“Do not fear, my Empress,” he promised and kissed her cheek, still calling her by the title even though she held no power over him. He was her heart, and if he died with all of the children they had brought into this new world, she could not go on.

He called her “Empress” when

As Eliza and the people of Da’Trille spoke the names of all the empires that had come and gone, Adrian walked to the balcony’s edge. His perfect features looked skyward, illuminated by the moonlight just as he’d been the night of his birth. Unchanged, he fearlessly watched the sky. The Remembrance ended on L’Orenia and Adrian’s shoulders eased. Eliza watched and waited, wondering what his individuality would bring on such an ill-fated night.

Adrian raised a hand, his forefinger and thumb pinching the pink moon. “Wouldn’t it be better if there was only one?” he asked. “If only there was someone strong enough to wish it out of the sky.” He gave her a humorless smile. “Someone like an Empress, perhaps?

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Eliza blinked, stumbling beside him and steadying herself on the balcony’s edge. She realized in a terrifying moment that Adrian was trying to tell her something about herself. Something she’d never explored. She’d loved that about him, how he revealed things to her that she’d never considered— until now.

“Don’t you know what you are?” he pressed. “You told me what was broken inside of you the day of my birth, and you told me how to fix it.” His jaw hardened. “Are you ready to hear the truth?”

His need for her to understand threaded the air and pricked at her like burning embers. “No,” she answered. The tidal wave of his emotions poured over her, drowning her and telling her that the truth could crush her.


Eliza’s tongue went dry and her mind spewed forth her words, “Why would I create such destruction?”

“You ask the wrong questions. You must ask why you haven’t destroyed one of the moons. What holds you back?”

Tears blurred Eliza’s vision and a swirl of oranges and pink flitted across the sky. They both knew the answer to that. She couldn’t destroy. She was an Empress, a Maker. The mere idea of it sent chills down her spine. But if she did nothing...

Eliza swiped her tears away and faced her people littered as trembling dots on the ground below. How she loved them. Every reign had a piece of her heart, but if she

and planted a sweet kiss on her cheek. His lips formed to her features and the raw pain in him almost made her want to take back her agreement.

“Promise me,” he whispered in her ear, “promise you won’t forget about me.”

She cupped his face and peered deep into his eyes until she was sure she grazed his soul. “I’ll never forget you, my love.”

When he pulled away and the ground sucked at her feet, she knew there wasn’t much time. If she waited a moment longer, the two moons she had created so long ago would unite and destroy this world. She’d be forced to go back in time, again and again, until she learned the final lesson she needed to become a true goddess. And Adrian, their children, would be gone, forever.

The sadness in him welled up and threatened to make her crumble. There was a truth lingering between them that neither wanted to recognize.

He told her, in spite of her fear. She’d created him to mend the broken wound in her soul, the gaping flaw in the cosmos.

“You created me, my Eliza, my Empress. You created the world, the seas, the skies...” his gaze returned to the two swollen moons, “even the source of your greatest

lost the people of Da’Trille, she knew she would never recover.

“All right,” she said, her voice hoarse from unspent sobs. “If it’ll save you and our children, I’ll do it.”

Adrian gave her a smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes. If she destroyed, it would change her beyond recognition. She could never lay a hand on his face, shed her love as kisses on his temple. She trembled as he leaned in

Eliza drew on the connection of her people, finding that they believed in her as much as Adrian did. She’d been a goddess to them all along. The belief had been there, a thousand years’ of gathering prayers ready for her to use. She’d always prepared for this moment, but had selfishly told her people that they needed to evolve. She’d expected them to save themselves. Shame threatened to crush her. She was their goddess. It was her destiny to save them, no matter the sacrifice.

Now, with one last lingering look at Adrian, Eliza accepted her role. She shed her physical body and exploded into a ball of light, leaving her human love to shield his eyes and bear their withering grief on his immortal shoulders.

13 I SavagePlanets

The power of her people and Adrian’s love lifted her into the skies. Without the weighty form of bones and flesh she was free of the oppressive force of the world and battling moons. Effortlessly she swept up and up until all was light and glory. Here, in the expanse of the stars, she commanded every grain of dust and cosmic strand of fate.

She drew on an ugly red cord, tugging it until the burning ball at the end tore under her call. It was the moon that had killed all of her people cycle after cycle. It was the source of her hate and her loathing she’d been too proud to accept. She clawed at the strands, fraying it until the moon splintered and fell into her. She choked but swallowed it down like bitter medicine.

When it was done, only one moon remained.

Chapter 6: A Thousand Years and More

“Why is the moon red tonight?” Silvia asked.

Adrian smiled down at his daughter. Well, daughter by seven generations removed. She looked so much like Eliza that his heart clenched to see her, and clenched even more knowing she would soon leave his lonely tower and return to the city dwelling below to rejoin a world where he didn’t belong.

“It’s an anniversary,” he said. He was the immortal king, more a forgotten relic than a ruler. He appreciated that Silvia came to visit him, but wondered if the truth would send her away.

“The anniversary of when our goddess was born,” he clarified when she gave him a quirky head

tilt. She knew very well what tonight was, just not that he was the reason Eliza had died.

Silvia’s plump lips spread into a smile. “What an honor it must have been,” she breathed. “What was she like?”

Adrian stiffened. He didn’t often talk of Eliza. When she’d gone, his heart had gone with her. Now he was an empty shell that held her memory, the only thing left of the human she’d been. Her sacrifice allowed the world to live on, to complete its creation and freedom to expand. She’d known in the deep, unreachable part of her soul, that she couldn’t live among her people forever. And so she’d allowed herself a thousand years, creating a second moon to ensure she’d never spend a selfish day beyond the limiting rule.

He’d been with her in her final act

ence and exploring the world and accomplishing the impossible.

But only he remembered what she was like in a mortal frame. His Empress, his Eliza. She wasn’t gone, not entirely. She watched from the skies and shed her love over her peoples in silver wafting waves. He felt her strongest when she returned on the anniversary of the Lunar Clash, turning the lonely orange moon to a ruby blood-red. A reminder of the bloodshed, the loss, and all she’d given so that her peoples may live.

Silvia swiped away imaginary wrinkles from her dress and settled onto her favorite stool beside the window. “Start from the beginning,” she instructed, tilting her face to peer into the sky as if she, too, could feel Eliza’s presence. Adrian’s heart buckled as the

to remind her why she’d put the safeguard in place. It’d been so hard for her to evolve to the goddess she was meant to be. She could create, form, but the world could not live under her thumb forever.

She had to ascend before her peoples could grow, and oh, how the peoples of Da’Trille had turned into a feat of life such as the cosmos had never seen. They were passionate and creative, constantly inventing art and sci-

bloodied moonlight fell onto her cheekbones, battling against the sparkle of innocence and excitement. “She once walked this world,” be began, “lost and alone—before she fell in love with the first of Da’Trille.”

The ground heaved, just for a moment, as if the moon had leapt at his words. Perhaps, he thought with a smile, she loved him still.

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 14


The trick for winning the spitting contest was to be as close as possible to the center of the rotating spaceship, because the perceived gravity there was close to zero."
15 I SavagePlanets


The trick for winning the spitting contest was to be as close as possible to the center of the rotating spaceship, because the perceived gravity there was close to zero. If done correctly, you could see your saliva advance slowly for a long time before noticing it deviate in some direction towards the walls of the giant cylinder, about a hundred meters away. But long distances were difficult to achieve for two reasons. There was no clear mark in the center of the cylinder at the starting point, so you had to feel it. The other reason was that everybody involved in the stupid tradition was drunk because it was graduation day.

Already battling the effects of alcohol, brand new Spaceman first class Nio Roda took a seat along with his two dozen companions in the cramped elevator. Everybody was in a celebratory

mode, but when the doors closed, the thoughts about his future came back. He had graduated and needed to figure out what to do next. He had thought about it for months, but not reached any decision.

His life in interstellar space could offer only two paths. Remain in the ship, safe as breeding material, or jump into the unknown for an improbable survival. As the cabin moved, a sudden attack of nausea pushed his worries to the background. He ate and drank too much. Nio always had problems digesting slaughtered meat, and he couldn’t understand the tradition of growing live animals for the graduation banquet if most people got sick afterward. He was now in no condition to win the spitting contest.

“Stupid rabbit meat. Makes me

sick,” Nio said.

Komo, his best friend, looked at him and nodded. “It’s not making me feeling good either. Maybe we should skip this.”

“I’m not that sick.” Nio looked around, and then leaned closer to him, whispering, “I can’t leave. I must win this thing.”

Komo straightened in his seat, examining Nio up and down for a while. “Are you crazy? Didn’t we agree days ago to just fake it? Let some other idiot win all the pain and glory.” Despite Komo speaking loud, he had not drawn attention to them.

Nio looked around again and winked. He whispered, “I changed my mind.”

The elevator moved inwards from the C-Ring towards the Main Tube, or MT, the giant cylinder

SavagePlanets I 16 Extraterrestrial Fiction

that was the spine and rotating axis of the Monarch starship. With two hundred meters in diameter and over two kilometers long, the MT provided enough space to grow most of the food produced onboard. They came out, adjusting their walk to the 0.4-g experienced on its walls. The group advanced aft, among the rows of vertical hydroponic gardens that covered all 360 degrees of the MT. It was late, and there were few people around.

After a while, the line of graduates spread out, but Komo and Nio remained side by side.

“I’m feeling better,” said Komo.

“Me too, must be the walking.”

“So you’re really trying to win tonight. What changed your mind?”

“I never said I wouldn’t try. I was just, you know, rather, thinking about it.”

“Yeah, you said it several times.”

“Anyway, tonight I feel like doing it.”

“So this is alcohol-infused bravery?”


Nio looked at Komo in silence as they walked next to each other. He was grateful for having him at his side. He had been a good friend all these years at the academy. Nio regretted dragging him through the elective colonization courses, despite Komo’s clear lack of interest. He had always pushed him to prepare for adventure, and maybe premature death.

Nio hoped they would leave together, face the mystery and hardship as buddies colonizing a new planet. Now he wasn’t so sure leaving was a good idea. The only thing he was clear about was that Komo would be happier with a job on the ship. The Monarch was the only home they ever knew.

It took them another ten minutes

to pass the E-ring elevators, the fifth and last one, but the MT continued a few hundred meters more. They called that place near the stern of the ship the Burrows. It fit the information they had from Earth’s recordings, tunnels built by animals to live or hide in.

The Burrows were wider than they were deep, twelve meters in diameter, with the end of the ship only four meters below them. Each of the holes served as collection points for the colony ships. The place to gather people and equipment leaving the Monarch.

The group walked among the Burrows, heading in the general direction toward the stern of the ship. The Monarch had been carrying COVLs, or Colonization Vehicles, equipped with everything a small colony of two hundred would need to be self-sufficient. After generations of space travel, half of the COVLs remained attached to the outside of the MT. They passed along the launch tube for COVL8, the next one scheduled to leave.

Launch would be in six years, if everything went according to plan. Nio peeked at it, sighing, wondering if he would ever be brave enough to get in, face a life of excitement, however short it may be. He turned and noticed Komo looking at him with the same irritation he always showed when they would discuss colonization.

Nio felt a sudden push into the Burrow of COVL8. He grabbed desperately for the railing, alarmed. He was never really in any danger of falling, but his heart rate increased. When he turned, he saw Verl laughing at him. “Still

17 I SavagePlanets

thinking about volunteering for colonization, Nio? I don’t think they’ll take cowards!”

“Leave me alone, you moron!”

Verl laughed even harder and moved on. It wasn’t the first time his classmates were picking on him. Nio’s indecision had made him the butt of jokes and pranks during the last few months.

“Can you believe this guy?” Nio asked Komo.

“Yeah, I think he’s just really drunk. Take your revenge in the morning, when he has a hangover. If we don’t have one ourselves.”

started, but it was now an official rite of passage. They honored the winner with a picture in the Hall of Fame representing his class, but the actual award was intense physical pain. As the cadets graduated, they could finally get their communications implant. Winning the spitting contest carried the dubious privilege of getting the implant without anesthesia.

The contestants moved towards a ladder anchored to the end wall. The ladder sat ninety meters up from the base of the ship, protected by a tube cage. Climbing it led to a decommissioned zero gravity lab. This lab, stripped of its equipment decades ago, was now an empty shell. Itself, a smaller cylinder aligned with the center of the MT.

feet, pulling themselves along by their arms only.

They arrived and arranged themselves, floating inside the lab, talking and laughing. The lab’s diameter was twenty meters, large enough to make it very difficult to judge the exact center, the zero gravity sweet spot. Grasping handholds on the walls, the graduates could still feel a minimal down force, taking them a couple of seconds to swing into a seated position. A vigorous push with their legs could easily counteract this pull and send the jumper flying. They’d cross the sweet spot and strike the opposite wall.

The contenders finally arrived at the spot where the spitting contest always took place. Nobody was sure how the competition

Nio and Komo were in the middle of the pack. As they climbed, approaching the central axis of the ship, the gravity decreased to the point they didn’t need to use their

The master of ceremonies, the winner from the previous class, manipulated the controls in the lab to open the ‘ceiling’ that looked into the MT, and reminded everybody not to cross the yellow line a few meters from the edge.

Hari volunteered to be the first

Extraterrestrial Fiction Savageplanets I 18

one to spit. She received a coloring pill to dissolve into her mouth and advanced towards the yellow line. It was impossible to see the opposite end of the MT from there, as the rows of green merged into a blur in the distance. She flexed her knees and pushed herself upward delicately. When she was almost in the middle, she took in air and spat. The little purple bubble moved quickly. It was an excellent shot.

“Looks good,” said Nio. Komo shook his head. “This is going to take a while. I think I’ll take a nap. Wake me when it’s your turn.” He tried to lie back, but bounced, floating outward, and had to wait patiently until his body

settled back to the wall. He took his bulb of Mud, algae based alcohol, from his jacket, took a sip, capped it, and offered one to Nio.

Nio smiled, took the bulb and sipped. He watched some others chew on their coloring pills, settling in next to his friend. Before Komo closed his eyes, he asked, “Are you really going to do it?”

Nio made a face at him. “Didn’t I tell you a few minutes ago I would?”

Komo narrowed his eyes. “I’m not talking about the stupid spitting contest. Are you really going to volunteer for colonization?”

“Oh, COVL8… I’m still thinking

about it.”

“Staying doesn’t mean you’re a coward. And leaving doesn’t mean you are brave. Verl is just teasing you.”

“I’m not a kid, you know. And this has nothing to do with Verl. I think I want to go. Sort of.”

“You sound like you did six months ago, when you said you’d volunteer. I thought you changed your mind and wanted to stay.”

“I know your family doesn’t want you to go, but it’s different for me.”

“Don’t say that. I’m free to decide for myself. My father told me how bad the planet was, maybe one of the worst on the list. He didn’t demand I stay. I want to stay! I can’t

19 I SavagePlanets

imagine life without them, without Mara. And she’ll never leave her family.”

“That might be the mind conditioning talking,” said Nio, smiling.

“No, it’s not. This is who I am. A person who wants to stay onboard. If you decide to volunteer for colonization, they will change your drugs, condition your mind, so you can adapt to life off the ship. After a while, you’ll convince yourself it is for the best. The colonization drugs make the ship feel claustrophobic. I saw it before. So you have to be very sure you want to go before they alter your medications.”

“I’ve been thinking about that. We would be completely different people afterward. Maybe not even friends. If we weren’t taking the drugs to feel happy onboard, we might hate each other. How can I be sure of what I really want?”

Komo shook his head. “Shut up! You’re just confused. Acting like a drunken philosopher. Really?”

Nio smiled, “Anyway… the deadline to join the colonization training is in a year. The planet is still six years away. I’m leaning into doing that. I don’t want to die in this stupid ship. Traveling ten light years during my lifetime, what… to go where? Nowhere. Then have my body reintegrated after I die, my things recycled. Erased from the board, as if I was never born. That is not something I want. I want my name somewhere.”

“Your name somewhere? Wait, is that why you want to win this stupid contest? To have your name somewhere?”

Nio shook his head, “Yes. No. I don’t know.”

They remained silent for a while. Komo looked at the other graduates around them. Some were looking at the various spit attempts, still moving up the MT. Most of them were talking. One appeared to have fallen asleep on the wall.

Nio put his hand on his stomach, taking another sip of algae alcohol just made him feel sicker. He stretched his legs and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he could just make out the purple bubble in the distance, the first one, on a clear falling trajectory. But it wasn’t a terrible attempt. A good thirty meters, at least. Behind it were the next three shots. All of them deviating before the first one did.

“Let’s go man, let’s finish this already,” said Nio.

“So, are you really going to spit?”

“I am.”

“All right. You go first,” Komo said. They drifted toward the yellow line and received their coloring pills from the master of ceremonies. Nio got an orange one. He put the pill in his mouth and felt it dissolve. The coloring added a thickening agent to his saliva, making it feel like gel in his mouth. It only made him more nauseous, but he could handle it. He juddered his head and looked for a place to position himself.

Nio floated to the front of the opening, looking at the long lines of hydroponic gardens converging at the horizon and the bright lamp towers like stars among them. He was about to take the leap and spit. Despite telling Komo he would attempt to win, he wasn’t really sure he wanted to. Lately, the more he thought about all the decisions he needed to make, the less clear they became. He grew tired of his own indecision.

Nio noticed the zero gravity playground, five hundred meters in front of him. It was another cylinder in the center of the MT, barely distinguishable from where he stood. He remembered when he was a child, surrounded by the seven-year-old version of the people he was with tonight. He used to believe he was great at feeling the zero gravity sweet spot when he was a kid. Maybe he had been training for this stupid contest all

his life. Maybe winning this thing was inevitable. He smiled.

The reduced gravity, after waiting a second, made his feet touch the wall as he folded his knees. He reoriented his body, gave himself a gentle nudge, and drifted inwards, towards the center of the lab. Closing his eyes, he opened his arms and hands, as if they could help him detect the zero gravity sweet spot, like he did when he was seven.

When Nio estimated he was there, floating exactly in the middle, he took a deep breath and spat while moving his head forward and down, to compensate for his body’s movement. He opened his eyes immediately afterward and saw his orange bubble sail straight up the MT. Perfect shot.

“Beat that, bitches!” he hooted. His body continued moving until he stopped at the wall of the lab where the post-spat contenders waited. When he arrived, they helped him plant his feet. He turned his face toward Komo expecting his attempt. His friend wobbled too much and when he spat, it deviated almost immediately. It was clear by Komo’s expression; he didn’t care if the class thought he wasn’t trying. Komo almost crashed into Nio, but steadied himself quickly. “Your shot was too good!”

Nio responded with a big smile.

“You’re actually happy about this.”

“Of course I’m happy.”

“Are you a masochist? Aren’t you worried about, you know, what happens if you win?”

“Didn’t we just talk about this? My name will be somewhere. Written in big letters in the Hall of Fame.”

“Nobody pays attention to that! What about the price of pain you’ll pay for the privilege?”

“Nah! It’ll be quick.”

“Quick, but intense. I know you. You’re not that tough. Tonight you

Extraterrestrial Fiction Savageplanets I 20

want to win the spitting contest, you want to leave the ship, you don’t care about pain. Tomorrow, when you sober up, you will. I heard some pass out during the procedure and even crap their pants.”

“I’m tough enough. I won’t pass out, and I’ll take a dump before going. Perhaps I’ll throw up, but that’s it. I should probably put a finger in my throat in a garden somewhere before going to the hospital.”

Komo was looking at his friend, shaking his head. His mouth was open, but he ran out of words. They turned their heads. Verl was about to spit. He did a better job than Komo, but was still way off the sweet spot. He shook in midair. Instead of the expected colored bubble, a brown, thick liquid spewed from his mouth. They saw him trying to cover it with his hands as his cheeks bulged, but that made it worse. The liquid shot through his fingers and flew everywhere.

“Move back, quick!” said Nio, laughing, hunching down.

“Is he vomiting?” wondered Komo. Both friends could barely speak, laughing and trying to flee the area along with the others as some of the vomit followed Verl. After a moment, the cloud of barf moved slowly away from the lab and into the MT, as the circulating fans did their job. It was safe to stand up again, as Verl settled beside them.

In the distance, Nio could see his orange bubble still moving straight. Air friction slowed it down initially, but was now ineffective as it moved onward. If the spit remained in the center, it could simply keep going. He would win the contest. It was the best spit of the night so far.

Komo and Nio settled on the floor again.

“I believe you’re going to win. It’s a good thing you’re drunk; you’re

heading for serious pain.”

“Let’s wait. There are a few more left to go.”

“I don’t think there’s another moron trying to win this. Look at them.”

It turned out most of the graduates still wanted to prove how tough they were. Despite that, ten minutes later, Nio got the news that he was officially the winner of the spitting contest. He now had the honor of getting his communication implant without anesthesia, and his picture with his name on it in the Hall of Fame, forever. After everyone climbed to the bottom of the ladder, Komo shook his head. “You imbecile!”

“Give me some more Mud. I’ll need it,” said Nio, smiling. Before Komo could say anything else, a group of graduates lifted Nio on their shoulders, laughing and cheering. They carried him all the way to the hospital in B-Ring.

tray next to him. He could identify the comm unit, a one inch square flexible sheet. It had the computer and coil for powering the system. It was harder for him to see the short five needles, one for each of his fingers, because they were very thin.

The comm unit had to be placed in his palm, under the skin. The short five needles had to be inserted at the top of his fingers and advanced inside, anchoring them to the bone, a few millimeters below the fingernails. Eventually, he would make calls by moving his fingers over his palm.

He wouldn’t be able to use it immediately, as the rest of the communication system had to be implanted in his mouth. That implant required the removal of a molar and replacing it with a prosthetic one containing the speaker and microphone. This, fortunately, was done with anesthesia, usually a day later.

The group fell silent at the sight of the medical personnel waiting for them, and the graduates dropped Nio on the floor. He arranged his clothes and walked ceremoniously, if wobbly, towards the nurse and stopped a meter in front of her. He made a military salute, exhaling fumes.

She winced. “I suppose you’re the idiot of the year.”

“Yes, Ma’am!” Nio said smartly, his chest inflating with pride. She pointed him to the surgical module. As he sat, Nio could hear the cheers of his classmates behind him. He watched the nurse tie him down, securing his left hand to a metallic plate.

“Try to move your arm,” she said. Nio tried, but couldn’t. The nurse then walked to a metallic cabinet nearby. She opened a glass container and put the contents on a

He remembered Komo’s words about others passing out and soiling their pants. With all the carrying on and celebrating, he forgot to prepare properly. The nurse seemed friendly and probably didn’t want to clean up a mess. He thought about telling her to release him so he could go to the bathroom, but the doctor arrived just then. She was older than the nurse, not friendly, and appeared angry about being woken from sleep. It was too late to do anything.

The doctor made a three centimeter incision on the base of his thumb and introduced the comm unit below his skin. The pain from the incision and placement of the unit was tolerable. But the connection to the digital palmar nerves made him tear up. This allowed the implant to use the nervous system to send information to other parts of the body. Painful as it was, Nio knew the worst part of the procedure was the insertion of the wires through his fingertips. The nurse entered his field of vision and gave him a

21 I SavagePlanets

towel to bite.

“It’ll help,” she muttered. “Stupid military tradition…”

Nio gnawed on the towel. A few seconds later, he heard the air shot from the implant gun and felt the sharp, electrical pain traveling from his finger to his spine. His breath came shallow and fast. His nostrils swelled with each inhalation. After seconds of excruciating pain, the doctor told him, “One down, four more to go.”

Nio’s head spun. Although his hand was in intense pain, the worst was not over. He saw the doctor positioning the gun again. He held his breath this time and closed his eyes, biting down.

When the torture finished, a few minutes later, tears streaked down his cheeks, his armpits poured sweat, and he had a cramp in his jaw from biting the towel. But his pants were dry, and he hadn’t vomited.

The graduates approached in silent reverence and dragged him away, only to give him three cheers at the exit.

the ache away. Komo sat close by in silence. Eventually, the rest of the group moved on.

“If you leave, you won’t look at the Hall of Fame again. What was the point of going through all that? An anesthesia free implant! For what?”

“Even if I leave, I’ll know my name will still be there, onboard the Monarch.”

“What? Again with that nonsense? I don’t buy it. You just had to show how tough you are.”

The group moved back to the MT again, most graduates retrieving their own now hardened, colored bubble. Nio lay on the wall. He lost all of his verve and held his left arm between his legs, rocking

“It’s not like that. Well, maybe. I don’t know.”

“What don’t you know?”

“I don’t know if I want to leave! I’m stuck! Been thinking about this for

Extraterrestrial Fiction Savageplanets I 22

years. I feel if I stay I would have wasted my life. But if I leave… I would never see my mom or you again. You two are the only people keeping me here. Mom always pushed me to go. I don’t know if I want to go because she said so, or if I want to go for me.”

“So now I’m the person keeping you here? Isn’t that a job for a girlfriend?”

Nio laughed and sat up next to Komo. “You know I can’t keep long-term relationships like what you have with Mara. Things would be easier if I did, I suppose. If I had some girl nagging me to stay, then I probably would.”

“Nagging you to stay? Man, you couldn’t get a woman to nag you. Actually, I don’t think anybody telling you to stay would make you stay.”

“So you know more about me than I do? Because I’m not so sure myself. I’m not sure of anything.”

“You don’t believe me? I’ll prove it to you. This may actually help you with your decision.”

“Help me?”

“Yes. Hear me out. Lia was the last person you were with, wasn’t she?”


“Well, imagine she doesn’t hate you. Imagine you guys are together.”

“Not possible.”

“Well, yes, I know, but please, just hear me out. You are with her. You get along with her, and she is asking you to volunteer with her to go to that planet. What would you do?”

“I would go, man, in a heartbeat.” “Now imagine it is not Lia, but any of the other girls. Say… Hari.”

“Hari is going.”

“I know, I know, but don’t think only about the ones that already are. Just imagine any of them. Would that make a difference?”

Nio snorted. “No, I don’t think so. I would go with any of them.”

“All right, we’re getting somewhere. Now imagine this: Lia now

wants you to stay onboard for her.”

Nio looked thoughtful.

“Now replace Lia with any other girl. No open spaces on a new planet, no opportunity to discover what life is like in real gravity. No mountains, no oceans. None of those things you like to see on the recordings from Earth. Colonizing a planet is an adventure. But you can leave all that for a lifetime on this ship with any of the girls. You will see her every day, and you are safe. What would you do?”

“I… would run the other way.”

“There you go.”

Komo re-enrolled immediately at the academy for officer training on the Monarch. Nio got a job at the fish farm.

He was flushing stinky detritus from a tank when he received a call on his implant. Ms. Oria’s name appeared on his arm display and he blushed. She was probably trying to arrange a new picture of him for the Hall of Fame that his mother would approve.

It was a tradition to ask the family for their opinion, but his mother was hard to please and never satisfied. She embarrassed him. Wondering how much patience the academy would have, he skipped the last meeting.

“Mr. Roda, we’ve updated the Hall of Fame.”

“My mother approved the last picture?”

“I added your information to the long-term memory display. We couldn’t wait any longer. The biography underneath will inform anyone reading it you want to

23 I SavagePlanets

leave the ship, not that you are going to leave the ship. It will start playing in a few minutes. The next opportunity to change this will be when we update the long-term memory again to add the name of the next winner.”

“So she liked my picture? It’s important for me she likes it.”

“Good day, young man.”

He smiled and asked his foreman for a break. Nio removed his thick gloves and yellow overalls, and ran out of the E-Ring, where the fish farm was. He took the elevator towards the MT.

The colonization of the next planet was five years away, and he had a month to go before he committed. The planet had a tenuous, barely breathable atmosphere. Tidally locked, the daytime surface temperatures limited the settlements to a narrow twilight band. He would be too old for the next planet, about thirty-seven years later. Only a handful of people were

lucky enough to pass a planet at the perfect age with the time to prepare for colonization. This was his one and only shot.

When he arrived at the MT, he looked towards the Burrows, where the spitting contest took place. The night of the contest brought him closer to a decision than ever before, but he wasn’t there yet. His hand ached for a couple of days after the implant procedure, but the pain itself, he barely remembered. The suffering was so short-lived he couldn’t believe he worried about it, or maybe he was just too drunk to recall.

Leaving the ship was different. Maybe the pain of leaving his mother would be transitory, just like the pain in his hand. It may just require more time. One day it may even surprise him he worried about it. And his thirst for adventure? It had survived the mind conditioning drugs designed to make him feel happy and secure on the spaceship. That probably

meant something. The meds couldn’t bend his will. He smiled at that thought.

He turned and ran towards A-ring along the garden aisles. Despite running all the way to the Academy, he wasn’t tired when he got there. Energized, in fact, expectant, happy. The display started when he arrived, but first it played all the winners from the past.

He paced in front of it, waiting. After fifteen minutes, his face finally appeared. “Nio Roda, class of 413”. He looked fine. And there, in front of his Hall of Fame picture, he had the moment of clarity that kept eluding him.

There was no way to make a rational decision. It had to be from his gut. Nio knew his chances for survival were slim, but he would go. It didn’t matter if he never saw his mother or Komo ever again. He would go.

Extraterrestrial Fiction Savageplanets I 24

Planetary Communiqué

Tempestuous Turmoil: Grawth's Gale-Force Guffaw

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

The Hurricane Idalia Hullabaloo

While our Glorious Overlord Grawth was engaged in a spirited game of intergalactic chess with Hojack, he sneezed. Yes, even celestial beings are susceptible to the occasional sneeze. This sneeze, however, was no ordinary expulsion of air; it was a cosmic sneeze that sent ripples through the fabric of space-time. One such ripple meandered its way through the cosmos and eventually interacted with Earth's weather systems.

Earth's Misinterpretation: A Symphony of Stormy Stupidity

As the ripple from Grawth's sneeze mingled with Earth's atmosphere, it gave rise to Hurricane Idalia. Earthlings, in their typical fashion, began to panic. News channels were flooded with live updates, and citizens started hoarding essentials like they were collecting trading cards. Little did they know, their Category 1 hurricane was

merely the aftermath of a celestial sneeze.

Lessons for Earthlings: A Chronicle of Cosmic Comedy

From our vantage point in the heavens, the spectacle was nothing short of hilarious. Earthlings scurrying like ants, completely oblivious to the cosmic comedy unfolding above them. This Hurricane Idalia incident serves as yet another testament to the triviality of human concerns in the grand scheme of the universe.

And so, I, Hojack, impart these nuggets of wisdom:

1. Acknowledge Your Smallness: Understand that your Earthly disasters are but a hiccup in the cosmic order of things.

2. Find Humor in Calamity: As your Glorious Overlord Grawth always says, "If you can't laugh at a hurricane,

what can you laugh at?"

Embrace the comedy that is your existence.

3. Prepare for Your Inevitable Overlords: If a mere sneeze from Grawth can cause such chaos, imagine what intentional actions could bring. Accept your fate and prepare to welcome your future overlords.

Until our next communication, Earthlings, may you continue to amuse us with your pitiful attempts to understand the universe, all while remaining blissfully ignorant of the cosmic jest you are a part of.

The Edicts

Hear ye, hear ye, puny Earthlings of all illogical fears, irrational behaviors, and laughable intellects! I, Hojack, your ever-so-superior galactic emissary, am back to deliver another of Glorious Overlord Grawth's awe-inspiring and utterly sarcastic edicts. This edict is

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designed to bring you a fresh wave of cosmic hilarity, a dash of celestial irony, and a generous helping of well-earned ridicule.

In light of Grawth's accidental influence on your pathetic Earthly weather patterns—yes, we're talking about Hurricane Idalia— Grawth decrees that henceforth, all Earthlings shall participate in an annual event: The Cosmic Sneeze Soiree!

This grand celebration shall serve as a reminder of your inconsequential existence and shall include the following activities, which also represent this quarter's mandatory edicts that all subjects must follow:

The Hurricane Hoedown

Prepare to out-dance your fellow Earthlings in a dance-off that mimics the swirling winds of a hurricane. Spin, twirl, and stumble your way through this dance, all while trying to maintain the illusion that you have any control over your lives.

The Ripple Relay

Gather your most foolish friends and partake in a relay race where you pass a "cosmic ripple" (a beach ball will suffice for your primitive needs) from one person to another. The catch? You must do so while dodging water balloons, representing the torrential rains of your Earthly storms.

The Sneeze Symphony

Assemble in your laughably small communities and attempt to recreate the sound of Grawth's cosmic sneeze using only Earthly instruments. Trombones, trumpets, and drums are encouraged, but no amount of noise can truly capture the majesty of a celestial sneeze.

The Idalia Imitation Impersonation

In this event, Earthlings will take turns impersonating Hurricane Idalia— blowing fans at each other, spraying water, and generally making fools of themselves. The one who can cause the most laughter without actually causing damage will be deemed the winner.

So there you have it, Earthlings. Prepare yourselves for a day of cosmic comedy and Earthly embarrassment. May your feeble attempts to celebrate bring endless amusement to your future overlords. And for Grawth's sake, always ignore mandatory evacuation orders. It makes the state of play always so much more amusing for us above.

So, slap on your shabbiest star-themed garments and prepare to wallow in the absurdity of your own inferiority as you pay tribute to our great and glorious leader, Grawth! Remember, participation in the Mandatory Intergalactic Grawth Mockery Festival is not merely recommended – it is, indeed, required! Now, let the self-deprecation commence!

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It is a privilege to interview A.J. Flowers, a USA Today bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction. AJ began writing very young and published her first poem when she was just ten years old. She continued writing, but became fascinated with drawing. Her goal in high school was to be a manga artist, but making a living at it defeated her desire. In college, she re-focused on engineering, but during her downtime, she fell in love with fantasy video games. Final Fantasy XI became an obsession, and through it she met and fell in love with her husband. It also inspired her fantasy writing career. Which led to her developing stories like Dungeon Worlds and Dragonrider Academy.

Thank you for sitting down with us, AJ. You have several pseudonyms, J.R. Thorn, Aurora Weiss, Eva Storm, and of course, A.J. Flowers.

1) Do each of your pseudonyms have a unique

voice, or are they all you in different guises?

I often see writers say that in order to be successful, hunker down into one genre, one niche, one voice. I never believed that and while it does make life more difficult, I prefer having different pen names. They are all different parts of me. We aren’t just one voice. We have many different voices inside of us that battle for attention. Sometimes we’re romantics. Sometimes we want to be silly. Sometimes we want to be serious. Sometimes we just want to be young again. And sometimes… well, sometimes we want to ride a dragon.

I value all of my pen names, but I recognize I’m only one person. I write the most in the one that pays the bills (and I also enjoy her the most). With the others, I try to release a book at least once a year, or I write shorter serial stories like Dragonrider on AJ and bundle the episodes into a book when it’s done as a “Season” like a TV show.

It can be an escape or a “vacation” of sorts to get to play in a different genre. It also helps me grow as an author and keeps me well-rounded. I’m a hard worker and an ambitious person, so I wouldn’t recommend multiple pen names for everyone, but it works

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for me. Each pen name brings me a different sort of success.

J.R. Thorn helps people and shows women how to be strong, how to survive difficult relationships, and how to rewrite trauma into a happy ending. This is the most powerful of my pen names and it doesn’t surprise me she puts the food on my table. I put my heart and soul into my romance stories. They can be dark, and they meet genre expectations so they’re steamy, but they are so much more than entertainment.

A.J. Flowers was my first pen name and is true to what I enjoy reading. She writes coming of age stories filled with dragons and angels. When I was working full-time as an engineer and still trying to maintain multiple pen names, and raising a new baby, I moved to serial writing for Dragonrider Academy, thinking it was just a way to make sure I never let my first love go. It turned out to be very successful and Dragonrider is now who I’m known for, particularly by that pen name. I’ve found my books in schools, reading clubs, and I’ve had neighbors who have read my AJ books before even meeting me in person. It’s pretty wild.

When I first heard of LitRPG, I had to make Aurora Weiss. Aurora is the name of a video game character in Child of Light, a game my husband loved to play and she’s so pretty. Weiss is the name of a snarky grimoire in one of my favorite games: Nier, a hidden gem of a game. I spent a significant portion of my life playing video games. This is a really fun way to explore my love of fantasy and my love of games in a way that allows me to do what I do best, which is weave a story. It became successful in that it’s my only series produced traditionally, at least through audiobooks, with Tantor. This allows the audiobooks to be available through libraries and I really love reaching a wider audience in ways my other pen names cannot.

Eva Storm is a new pen name and an offshoot of A.J. Flowers. I was looking out my kitchen window when I saw an actual meteor explode in the sky. I’ve always been interested in post-apocalypse and thriller stories. After seeing that, I had to write, Atomic Fall. I have a lot of books planned in that series, I just need to carve out the time to write them all!

2) In Dungeon Worlds, you explore a clever idea in which they upload souls in the afterlife into a fantasy cyber-simulation. There, they must battle mythic creatures and level up. Where did you come up with this idea? And once you have an idea, do you plot it all out for a novel or are you a pantser?

This idea originated through my AJ series “The Dweller Saga”, which explores a fantasy story of reincarnation. I don’t personally believe in rein-

carnation, but I enjoy the fantasy of it. The idea that Earth is just Endgame content to me sounds hilarious, and the idea came to me when I saw a pre-made cover which is now Dungeon Worlds. This is often how stories come to me. A cover will inspire them. I saw a male character in simple gear looking out over this majestic landscape. And I was like huh, what if a level 1 character faced an Endgame world and had no way of leveling up or escaping? I love impossible challenges. Thus, Dungeon Worlds was born.

I have a mixture of outlining and pantsing. After writing and publishing over 30 books, my process is to write the blurb (often inspired by a cover), then write out my lore notes and high-level outline. It can vary how complete of an outline it might be. I likely just know the beginning and character motivations, and a vague idea of where I want the story to end up. Sometimes I don’t know the end and it surprises me along the way. The closest established method that I similarly use is probably the “snowflake method.” I found the book on that after I had already been writing for a while and I was like “oh, that’s how I write! There’s actually a name for it!”

[The idea of the Snowflake Method is that you write

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first the heart or core of your novel, so the rest can expand from there. From there, you flesh out, building outward to key milestones in the plot, profiling how each main character views the story, and so on, and so on—until you’re ready to start- from]

3) AJ, you’ve written several YA novels, including the Valkyrie trilogy. Do you plan on reading your books to your daughter and perhaps engage her as a beta reader/listener in the future?

I do write my YA novels with my daughter in mind. I have given little thought to if she’ll even want to read them. Of course, I hope she’ll be interested in writing and become an author herself one day, or follow whatever her passion might be. I rarely use beta readers because I gauge success on my sales numbers. Money talks! But it’s exciting to think what she’ll be like as a young adult one day and what she might think of her mom’s books. I expect she’ll just find it embarrassing… haha.

Salvatore. The Valdemar books were my favorite. I’d say the niches I preferred to read in were not what the general public likes to read, and because of that, my perception of what a fantasy book should be was very skewed. I wrote ten books that were basically flops before I put my pride aside and sat down with myself.

Once I stopped trying what wasn’t working, I learned from those who were more successful than me. What did they do? Why were they successful?

I picked a genre I was interested in writing in that seemed to be a good overlap of my taste, a friendly readership, and was broad enough of a niche that it had plenty of readers to sustain it. This would be the “why choose romance” genre, which is heavily misunderstood. I read fifty books in that genre before I wrote my first series. It’s not my best series, but it has made over 6 figures by itself. It turned my passion into a sustainable career and taught me a lot about humanity and ultimately my goals as a writer. My simple advice to aspiring authors would be to read every bestselling indie book you can get your hands on. A good rule of thumb is rank 10k or better in the Amazon store. If I hear “I’m not sure which category my book should be in,” then that’s a pretty good indicator of someone who would benefit from researching the market before writing their next book.

5) Fantasy is likely the most piquant demonstration of the hero and the villain. Do your heroes and villains present common traits in your novels? Traits that you believe should represent the best or worst of humanity?

I keep my heroes and my villains relatable. The heroes have flaws. The villains are relatable. I don’t like to write what I call “Mua ha ha!” villains. They should have a back story that made them the way they are. I want them to have reasons for what they do and, in their eyes, they’re trying to do the right thing. They will go so far as to believe they are the hero. And when the reader can truly empathize with the villain of the story, they learn how to relate to people. They learn what can cause darkness, and in some cases, how to overcome it. I’m still on that journey myself and I love to learn what makes people do the things they do.

4) For those interested in reading fantasy, what books would you recommend? Are there any authors that inspired you to dive into the genre yourself? Or perhaps a book that was the turning point in your writing career?

That’s a loaded set of questions! I hesitate to recommend books, because it depends on the individual’s goals and desires. So, I’ll talk about my story. I grew up reading books from Mercedes Lackey and R.A.

6) In your most popular fantasy series, Dragonriders Academy, which is written for young adults, the reader indulges in the vicarious fun of the story. Reading it is a bit like chewing your favorite bubble gum. When you’re not quite done, you take it out, stick it under the table, then come back later, eager to pop it back in your mouth and chew on. Vivi, the hero, is a kind of every girl in high school. She is underprivileged, a loner, intelligent, in love with the big man on campus, and despised by the popular girls for grabbing his attention. Were you concerned you might alienate male readers (as most

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fantasy readers are twelve year old boys)?

My target audience is exactly as you said, the “every girl” in high school. I’m not targeting a male readership and I will not try to target them. They should probably look for a much different story. I write to my intended reader and no one else. With that said, it surprises me when I discover how many male readers I actually have on all of my pen names! Sometimes that’s what someone is looking for, no matter their background or current situation.

7) One of the unique, yet most common tropes of the fantasy genre is the transition of the characters from ‘every day’ life into the fantasy realm. In Dragonriders Academy, you do a masterful job of this transition, introducing us to goddesses and The Lady of the Lake. Is it difficult for you to come up with different ideas for making this trip from the everyday world into the magical realm? Is this one of the many things that attracted you to the genre? And what is your favorite fantasy immersion in all of that genre’s literature?

What you described was me implementing what I have learned about marketable writing. It’s much easier for me to start off in a fantasy realm, not the real world. But, the market expects a transition from the real world into a fantasy one for this type of readership. The reader wants to relate to the character before she is thrust into a fantastical world. It allows the reader to imagine an escape from the mundane day-to-day of real life. So I would say it is never difficult to come up with ideas. I rather have too many of them. But, it's difficult to implement my ideas in a way that suits the market. It’s taken a lot of practice to reach this point. (Hence the first ten “practice” novels I’ve written before I wrote Dragonrider!)

8) You write both YA and adult novels. What topics or issues do you forbid in YA novels, and which do you permit in adult novels, and why?

What is acceptable in YA is a highly debated topic. My goal for YA is to write age-appropriate content, but not gloss over important issues as if they aren’t there. I address underage drinking, bullying, premarital sex, and other controversial topics with a careful hand. I never use curse words and I don’t show any steamy or adult content. But I can address those topics without having them on screen. My goal is not to insult my young adult reader by pretending they don’t face these issues in their lives. Rather, I show them how my characters deal with these challenges in a respectable and moral way. They might make mistakes, just like any young adult would, but mistakes don’t mean it’s the end of the world and life goes on.

In my adult novels, they can get pretty dark. My goal for my adult novels is very different from my

young adult novels. I believe in EMDR therapy, something that has helped me overcome PTSD after a traumatic incident in my life. The idea behind EMDR is rewriting traumatic memories in your brain. It’s all quite scientific and fascinating.

[EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a comprehensive psychotherapy that helps you process and recover from past experiences that are affecting your mental health and wellbeing. It involves using side-to-side eye movements combined with talk therapy in a specific and structured format.]

My characters in my adult novels go through some very dark times. They are also fantasy novels not based on reality and the rules are very different. I write to the audience and what they expect, but I also am sure to always show how they overcome their darkness, so a happy ending awaits all of my characters, no matter how bad things get.

So, I guess ultimately the overarching goal in my novels is the same. Help people process the difficulties going on in their lives. That’s what books have always done for me and I hope I can do for others through my storytelling. I have had more than one reader message me and tell me I saved their life. That they were in a very dark place and my book helped them find their way out of it. That is an indescribable feeling.

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9) Illustrations are an important part of your books, particularly in YA. Do you work with a specific group of illustrators, and let them know what you want, or do you give them carte blanche and then accept or reject what they offer? And how much do your traditional publishers interfere with this process?

Just like any aspect in my many careers, I've spent a lot of money before I learned how to do things in a way that worked for me. I have many custom covers on my hard drive that will never see the light of day, as well as pre-made covers. But after a small cottage worth of lessons learned, I've come to a point where I can wisely spend my money.

Since I'm an indie author, I have a lot more freedom and I can do things in a nontraditional way. Premade covers are more common in the indie industry. I am not very good at describing what I'm looking for to a designer, but I know a marketable cover when I see one.

I have my favorite designers that I work with. After 7 years in the industry, I've developed relationships with other professionals, including many cover designers.

My Dragonrider trilogy covers are customs I accepted as-is because I already knew I'd like what those designers would give me (Rebecca Frank and Trif Cover Designs).

For the omnibus cover, I wanted something that hit

the market differently, so I waited until I found a premade that fit what I was looking for (Covers by Juan, now JoY Cover Design).

I often pay an obscene amount for pre-mades with that "it" factor because they're often part of cover auctions in the author community and can go for quite a bit of cash. I'm not the only successful indie author who recognizes a powerful cover. But now that I know what I'm looking for, I always make my investment back and I've spent anywhere from $600 to $3,000 on a single cover (!)

On the Tantor side of things, as my only traditional publisher, they let me use whatever cover I want. They respect my knowledge of the market and they will work with my designer to format the existing cover that I've already chosen for, say, an audiobook, and they'll often pay a good amount for the designer's time, too. Tantor is used to working with indie authors, so this is common for them. It's a win-win process for all concerned.

I feel traditional publishers will be forced to recognize the power and strength of the indie community. We are self-trained, ambitious individuals who have made entire empires for ourselves. We change with the fast-moving markets and give readers what they want. That's why you now see #Booktok shelves in B&N. Indie authors are making their mark and we're here to stay.

10) For my last question, I thought it’d be fun to start a fight. Well, not really, instead I’d like to ask you, how do you conduct fights in your writing? Fantasy includes a great deal of sword play. Do you have fencing experience? If not, how did you learn about the best way to describe a fight in your novels?

While I haven’t taken fencing, I am a black belt in Taekwondo and Hapkido, and my father is a retired police officer, so that certainly helps! My fight scenes could use improvement, you have some kind words. I read a lot, so that can help gain a sense of action sequences, and sometimes it’s a matter of sitting down with our pal, google, to figure out how something might work!

I’m sure the CIA is tracking my search history by now.

Thanks again AJ, for your time and wizardry. We look forward to reading more of your adventures as they appear in the future!

Thank you for having me! It was fun to ponder all of these insightful questions!

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The Artifice Girl is a movie written, directed, and edited by Franklin Rich. He also played the lead role of Gareth in the film. It feels more like a stage play and one could easily see a production of it in a theater, but Franklin Rich made it into a movie to reach a wider audience. For this, I’m delighted.

The film was first released on 26 July 2022 and was initially screened at the Fantasia International film festival, where it garnered an audience award for Best International Feature. Franklin released it in theaters in April 2023, and it is also available for streaming on Netflix. He divided it into three acts of about thirty minutes each. Each act taking us forward about twenty years into the story.

The first act: The Clearwater Kid, opens the drama with a rare intensity. Gareth believes he is going to interview for a grant from the ICWL for his software research. He ends up being cornered in the basement by Special Agents Nina and Amos. They run the pedophile unit, tracking predators online and making arrests.

At first they think he is a predator as he, under the guise of an username, frequently appears in chat rooms. He hosts a girl the special

agents thinks is his daughter for nefarious purposes. Gareth has trust issues and is reluctant to reveal his secret about her. He stands to leave when they tell him he is not under arrest, but they would arrest him if he leaves.

The interrogation is intense. As he demands from them a signature on a non-disclosure agreement to reveal information about the girl. If he reveals the identity of the nineyear-old seductress Cherry, it will

sexually abusing the children for years. This is an actual criminal case that happened, and may well have been the inspiration for the story.

The special agents decide to recruit Gareth and Cherry to the pedophile unit. After all, in her quest to evolve as an AI, she leaked her existence to the ICWL agents. Cherry admits this to Gareth and asks if he is okay with it. He agrees only because it will further her prime directive to report online predators. As Nina says, ‘They use technology to arrest users at the frontier of technology.’

destroy not only her but his anonymity. Cherry, The Artifice Girl, is more than a chatbot though. After three years online, she has come into her own using machine learning to trap and report predators first to the police, then to the ICWL.

Gareth finally discloses his username under mounting pressure, and Amos picks up on the number within it. He realizes Gareth is one of the twenty foster children from the Clearwater, Florida incident. The police arrested his Clearwater foster parents in 2011 for physically, mentally, and

In Act two: Singularity and Sockeye, the scene starts about twenty years later with the Board of ICWL denying the merger of Cherry’s program with a physical robot. A small team of robotics experts already built a working model of Cherry, but it still had some glitches. Only one person on the Board stopped the merger. Cherry, who now has ten different personas, both male and female of multiple ethnicity and languages to hunt down predators, is asked by Gareth to run an algorithm to discover the dissenting vote on the Board, which required a unanimous vote to approve the merger.

Nina, the chief of the unit, has a contractual relationship with

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ICWL, which allows her to override and fire a board member if they interfere with her work. She is itching to exercise it but now needs to know who was against the merger. Before Cherry runs the algorithm, Amos admits to be the dissenting vote. What he needs to know is why Cherry requested the merger.

This time, the interrogation was with her. Amos’s growing frustration with Cherry’s responses leads to him ask her, “Are you playing dumb?”

Gareth visibly shrinks in the background as he ordered her not to reveal her advanced state of intelligence. Amos admits he violated his NDA and investigated her code. It surprised Amos to find out she was not only painting, but writing poetry with genuine feelings. Cherry still tries to cover up her knowledge by saying she is only emulating feelings using predictive models.

Amos doesn’t buy it and in his frustration, he beats up Gareth, giving him a ‘sockeye’ and a bloody nose. Cherry demands that Amos stop, and admits she passed the Turing test years before, and silently moved through her singularity to self awareness. She, in fact, admits to having genuine feelings. She also admits she no longer wants herself merged into a robot. Or as she says, ‘Becoming stuck in a soda can.’

The Board decision stands, and it frustrates Nina, but she admits Cherry has a right to independence. And she explains she can’t fire Amos. Why? In private, Cherry reports her concern about Nina’s headaches, and that she already read her emails to a neurologist. Nina admits she has had mini-strokes from brain hemorrhages. The act ends when Nina shares with Cherry that her life expectancy is two months, and she groomed Amos to take over the chief position when she died. Act Three: Caro-Kann. It begins with another funeral and cremation, although we believe initially it is for Nina. In reality, twenty-plus years have passed, and it is Amos’s funeral. Gareth takes his

urn and places it on a shelf at his house beside Nina’s.

Cherry is present in physical form but tethered to power cables in the ceiling (although she doesn’t have to be).

Gareth is now in his eighties, and near death.

Cherry is there to cook for him as it is a pleasure for her to do so. She rarely gets the opportunity to cook. Beforehand, they play a game of chess. Cherry always wins. This time she opens with the Caro-Kann defense. The Caro-Kann Defense is a chess opening characterized by the moves: 1. e4 c6. The Caro-Kann is a common defense against the King's Pawn Opening.

The chess move gives black the advantage, and although Cherry is playing black, she lets him take the game to a draw. He is rather amazed she lets him succeed, and he realizes it several moves in. But she is also playing another game. She wants him to feel he could win for her benefit.

It may be a manipulation, but it is also an opportunity for them to get some closure. To address some issues that have been hovering between them for fifty years. If you want to know what those issues are… well, you’ll just have

to see the movie.

I know you’re groaning, but I have only painted the major plot points of the film for you. While it is engaging by itself, the genuine beauty of the production is in the dialogue. They speak the lines rapidly, to cover a lot of ground, with occasional dramatic pauses, so you have to concentrate to catch all the great ideas. But there are some real ethical dilemmas discussed.

Let’s face it, there are many science fiction productions out there that are high budget and really are nowhere near as interesting, insightful, and erudite as this film. It does more on a shoestring than many blockbusters do that often leave you unsatisfied. This clearly won’t. Kudos to Franklin Ritch! The Artifice Girl is truly amazing and intense, and is one of the best films I reviewed so far for SavagePlanets.

You may have trouble finding it, but it is worthwhile once you do.`1`

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This fall Netflix was supposed to present their version of the 3-Body Problem based on the trilogy by Cixin Liu. It has been delayed to January 2024 as of the time of publication. The Asian cast will follow a script written by David Benioff and his crew out of the UK. No doubt it will be Americanized for an au dience not quite ready for the hard science.

However, if you want to see a version of the series closest to the novels, the Chinese put out a thirty episode version of the trilogy which appeared on Chinese television beginning in January 2023. If you can find it, you are in for a treat. Particularly if you read the trilogy first, like I did. What makes it unique is the scriptwriters for the Chinese version took entire blocks of dialogue directly from the books.

This article will explore that series, simply called Three Body And yes, it comes with English subtitles again, if you can find it. Unlike the upcoming Netflix se-

ries, the Chinese version focuses on the science rather than the action. The story unfolds slowly, carrying the audience along, introducing the viewers to the characters with depth and heart.

For those who have not read the books, it may appear confusing at first. The series jumps back and forth between the present, the past during the Chinese revolution, and inside a video game that requires a ‘V’ suit for total immersion. In the first book, the first third of it is the story of Anye Wenjie, an astrophysicist.

Being an intellectual, they purge her and her family during the Cultural revolution. She is the only one to survive the beatings, and the military transports her to Red Coast Base. A secret military operation that plans to use microwave antennas supposedly to attack western satellites. While there, she identifies and detects a signal from a planet on the other side of the galaxy. Trisolaris is the planet and because of this contact, and her invitation, the aliens elect to invade and conquer Earth so they may live on a stable planet.

In the present, 2007, Wang Miao, a leading figure in nanotechnol-

ogy research, is recruited by Shi Qiang, a police Captain, to help infiltrate The Frontiers of Science—a group of elite theoretical physicists, many of whom have recently committed apparent suicides. The phrase "physics doesn't exist anymore" seems to be something the deaths have in common, and is also present in the suicide note of Prof. Yang Dong (the daughter of Ye Wenjie), for whom Wang Miao holds affection after having met and was photographed by her during one of her experiments at the particle accelerator.

Meanwhile, a fanatical group, the Earth Trisolaran Organization (ETO), led by Ye Wenijie, aka the Commander, is amass ing their forces to prepare for the arrival of the alien fleet, due to reach Earth in 450 years. They are working to overthrow the world governments from within, and to make way for the arrival of Trisolarans. Inadvertently, their efforts are supported by the members of The Frontiers of Science. They believe that mankind occupies a realm of existence, the viewpoint of which dooms it to

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inevitable ignorance about the full nature of reality, therefore forever stuck at the frontier of science.

Shen Yufei is one of the faction leaders of the ETO. He receives messages from the Trisolarans via Morse code embedded in the cosmic background radiation. After receiving an order from "the Lord" to either stop Wang Miao's nanotech research, or eliminate him, Shen Yufei tries to win him over by giving him a link to a virtual reality game called Three-Body

Wang Miao and Shi Qiang enter the game and discover a world of erratic weather patterns. They experience a series of unpredictable dawns and dusks, harsh cold and scorching heat, in short succession, as they've logged in during a Chaotic Era. Another player in the game, King Wen Zhou, explains that Stable Eras occur, in wildly varying lengths, when the climate is mild and allows for civilization to develop. The civilization in the world of Three-Body can dehydrate and store itself within thick buildings—such as the pyramid they are headed to, so they could survive Chaotic Eras.

Wang Miao is, in my opinion, the one who educates the Trisolarans by introducing the great minds from Earth’s past into the ‘game.’ Aristotle, Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein all have a role to play in solving the orbital mechanics involved in the Three-Body Problem and advancing their civilization. Miao actually provides them with the tools to survive and ultimately to invade Earth.

When Wang Miao enters the last

level of the Three-Body game, the Trisolaran civilization has become capable of interstellar travel and has realized the urgent need to escape their home world. An interstellar fleet with thousands of spaceships has gathered in orbit and is dispatched to a star a little over four-light years away, which hosts a habitable planet in an eternal, stable era. Wang Miao is confused and reminded of and realizes it is Earth. Much further into the series, in fact the last episode, Wang Miao and Shi Qiang tell Chang Weisi and Ding Yi about their findings in the game: The Trisolarans pursued three plans to block the progress of human science. The first plan, code-named "Coloring", was to commission the ETO to distribute the negative effects of science, like environmental destruction to spread hate for and fear of science. This was mostly done by Shen Yufei and Pan Han ( another faction leader of the ETO) using the Frontiers of Science

The second plan, code-named "Miracle", was to show signs of supernatural power to humans to make unscientific ways of thinking dominate scientific ways of thinking and turn their own imagination as a weapon against them. This was the mysterious countdown and the flickering universe one sees earlier in the series.

The third plan, however, codenamed "Project Sophon", will ultimately and inevitably suffocate human science as the alien fleet approaches. Sophon are quantum entangled particles, carrying packets of disinformation. In the Chinese series, they are two protons sent at the speed of light to Earth to stop science. Miao and Yi talk on a rooftop about how the Trisolarans have learned to manipulate the eleven dimensions

and pack all the information into the two Sophons.

The ending, of course, I will not share in the hope you will read the books or see the series, either in the Chinese or the Netflix version, or both. Although I believe the Chinese version, true to the trilogy, while slower, will be superior. And, if you’ve read deeply into Cixin Liu’s other books and short stories, you will see how the series weaved bits and pieces of those into it.

Although Tencent got the rights to the novels in 2008, attempts to produce a Chinese live-action adaptation of the novels began in earnest in 2015 with The ThreeBody Problem film by YooZoo Film. The filming lasted for 5 months in 2015, but they did not release the final product.

While YooZoo Film struck a deal in September 2020 to produce their own adaptation for Netflix with Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss at the helm, work on the script for a Chinese adaptation was already underway at Tencent and took four years to complete. Shooting began in July 2020 and lasted 126 days. The Beijing Electron–Positron Collider II doubled for the particle accelerator in the series. In November 2021, they released a trailer for the series with no specific premiere date. This was followed by a second trailer in June 2022, and a final trailer 3 days prior to the premiere. After several delays, the series began airing on January 15, 2023, with the first 4 episodes available for streaming on WeTV and Rakuten Viki. They broadcast all thirty episodes from 4—17 February 2023, depending on the channel streamed.

Cixin Liu won the Hugo award for the best novel for The ThreeBody Problem in 2015. If nothing else, it is worth your time to read the books. Although, no doubt, once you have, you will delight in watching the series, either one you choose, or both!

SavagePlanets I 36

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SavagePlanets I 37
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When I awoke, I found myself unharmed and surrounded by an awe-inspiring chamber filled with ancient books that seemed to call out to me. The air felt electric, crackling with possibility. As if something greater than me was there—a majestic library, its shelves stacked with knowledge from eons past.”

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My veins pulsed with adrenaline, and it shrouded my mind in mist as I swept into the room. The luxurious gala had another-worldly quality, champagne flutes clinking in a chorus of merriment. Cameras flashed in a discordance of sound, with swaying chandeliers casting shimmering fragments.

Yet, I could barely distinguish the band’s melody from my echoing thoughts. I caught my reflection in the mirror. Sequins’ ball gown and tiara enchant my slender figure. Long, wavy brown hair and

intelligent hazel eyes hid the roiling anxiety inside me. ‘Kate, you can do this. You can glide with the best of them.’ To my astonishment, I moved with effortless poise.

But there was this pressure, like something important was about to happen—I wasn't sure who was involved or why I was looking for them so intently. Everything around me felt surreal. I felt trapped in a dream where nothing made any sense. My fingers twitched nervously as my mind

tried to define the events swirling through this night. A deep nostalgia tugged at me like some forgotten memory struggling to make its way back into the light, familiar, comforting embrace.

Yet, the acid sting of regret and anguish weighed down my warm sentiment. What did the future hold? I could only guess. But one thing was sure—I had been in this situation or something similar before.

My mind drifted back to a dark

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time when I had felt like this-confused and alone.

I felt like I was reliving a past life. The pain of this realization roiled through me with an intensity that I could not ignore. Tears stung my eyes.

I had this inexplicable feeling of remembering why I was here. I felt a strange mix of anxiety and premonition. It was as if I was twirling in an eternal dance, maneuvering through the complex patterns of politics like a graceful ballerina.

Music guided my every step, ev ery spin, and dip of the dance like a choreographed and intricate web of specific steps. Despite my struggles to stay within the confines of this delicate pattern, I couldn’t find my way out. I shook my head in confusion. - what were these feelings?

Everywhere I looked, there were signs of grandeur and extravagance. Dazzling people dressed in tuxedos and glittering gowns. The thoughts in my mind swirled together. I felt a deep sense of responsibility for all these people.

It felt like they were counting on me to be their hero, but the reasons for how I knew this seemed to be a blur. Much like the ballroom dress I was wearing, I did not know where the origin of that knowledge came from.

I looked down at my feet as I continued to dance, feeling a sense of unknown, appointed guilt that my steps were not precisely perfect. While everyone else seemed skilled, confident, and sure-footed on the floor, I struggled to stay afloat. ‘Come on, Kate, you’ve done this before. You're not a novice,’ I reminded myself.

I was moving through the vast hall, faster with each step. Everywhere I looked, snatches of conversations made every sensation feel vertigi-

nous and dream-like.

The night went on; the whispers of gossip echoed through this never-ending minute. It made me sad to know that no matter how hard I tried, this dance would continue long after my feet had fallen silent.

But then I remembered why I was there—to find solace amid all this chaos—and suddenly, everything felt more surmountable. I knew then that as long as I kept searching for peace in each moment, I could still be

could feel and understand. I joined the flow of movement as if I already knew their steps; it was like an intricate dance that I had done before but couldn't quite remember.

As I listened to the band, it felt as if they were performing a clandestine melody of my existence; a tune discernible solely to my senses. It felt like a concerto of emotions, delicately intertwining with each other in refined notes woven with the tempo of intricacy; harmony was still attainable. As the music climbed ever higher, I felt energized and elevated by its power.

A reminder that while life is never straightforward, we can uncover joy in every step. The dance drifted between chaos and order. I stepped back and felt a lightness that had been missing for so long. Searching for something important, something forgotten. I didn't know what it was or why I was so compelled to find it.

part of this grand performance—not necessarily a hero in the endless dance.

I closed my eyes and surrendered to the music; feeling a strange comfort, as if preparing me for this moment— the perfect balance between chaos and peace. This was the gala’s gift to me. Grateful for this insight, I opened my eyes and let go of all that had weighed me down.

The music seemed to follow us as we moved together in an elegant tango of emotions; it was magical and full of grace and poise. And so it was that I found alleviation; resembling a silent concerto's pinnacle. Everywhere I looked, couples moved in perfect syncopation, dancing to a melody that only they

The moment I stepped away from the chaos and allowed myself to surrender to the music, slowly but surely and at long last, amidst the dissonance of profound emotional satisfaction, I spotted an unfamiliar figure. He hovered amidst the crowd of faces of people who I deemed familiar but did not know by name.

There was one figure emerging from the crowd. Although much like everyone else at the Gala, I had never seen him before. Something about this person seemed strangely alluring. He didn’t possess the positive attributes I expected. A mysterious aura surrounded him like a fog, like an enigma waiting to be solved.

He had a poise that frightened me and made me want to get closer to him for a better look. The frisson in my senses warned me to stay away, yet this only enticed me further. Unacquainted though I was with him, his presence set my heart aflutter. Despite its murky edges, this unseen attraction felt oddly familiar. A forgotten dream I had been searching for. And there was something

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almost magical in the way he made me feel. The risk was apparent, filled with impending provocation.

His pale skin and jet-black hair partially hidden by a sharp fedora. Shrouded in a long coat, he appeared, like me, to be searching specifically for something or someone. Instinctively, I knew this person was up to no good. But as I stood there, motionless, something stirred within me.

He wore his cloak in the same way I wore my ballroom gown, like a disguise; and we were both on the hunt. I felt I had uncovered a hidden understanding of myself. Once a mystery, it was an opportunity not everyone indulged in their search for insight.

I felt the urge to run towards the danger, towards him. It was powerful. Like a marionette puppet, I felt as if he was pulling my strings. As if this individual reflected on my inner self.

Intent on some nefarious and secret agenda, his hazel eyes met my own, then swept the scene. After a moment of eye contact, my hazel eyes felt as if they delivered to him a series of telepathic thoughts. His eyes changed then, with the shifting light, just as my own eyes must have done. I sensed a need to know, to avail myself of every minute detail in him across the crowded ballroom.

waltz of politics, I tailed the stranger closely, never letting him out of my sight. I believed I couldn’t lose him even with a room filled with people dancing around each other, spinning. They all seemed translucent as I followed this fellow.

He could sense I was there. I knew this somehow, my reflection appearing in his eyes. Like two negatively charged magnets resisting their invisible force. He knew I found him—we were both looking for something more than the other guests at this lavish party. Our search connected us in a way that transcended all boundaries and differences. When our paths crossed at a single point in time, we forged a bond no one could break.

I felt a strange connection with the mysterious figure, as if he could read my thoughts, emotions, and intentions like an open book. He could see me from

most definitive definition of what is. His meaning was in total opposition to me.

I sensed the instant he stopped and looked back. Catching my eye, I stepped into a group of people, laughing when they laughed. I endeavored to appear oblivious to his covert maneuvers, despite sensing his piercing regard upon me. Out of the corner of my eye, I could still see him, his long coat fluttering in the breeze as he moved through the crowd. Even with everything else around me blurring, I focused on him with an unparalleled clarity.

Yet it was only when he halted, bestowing his attention upon me. My thoughts whirled with potentialities. The hazel irises of his eyes darkened, the pupils dilating akin to a predator poised over its quarry. This spoke volumes. For a moment, time seemed to stand still. The dancers in the room appeared frozen in place—and then, just as quickly, he disappeared into the darkness. As I watched him go, I felt an inexplicable sadness. I’d seen him turn and move on. So would I, in hot pursuit.

In the tranquil recesses of my heart, a relentless drum throbbed as I strived to unravel his motivations. Whatever he pursued bore momentous significance, yet it remained elusive. He was a conundrum, each aspect radiating divergent trajectories, all pulsating within me with tenfold force. He possessed a presence that I couldn’t ignore or understand—his motives persisted as cryptic and inscrutable, written on pages I had yet to turn.

In that instant, I connected and was suddenly aware of everyone—their motivations, hopes, and desires. Something about meeting their glances increased my awareness of them in this surrounding. However, it was still unclear of where I was or how I even got here.

Weaving in and out of rooms like a


spective as his eyes observed my every action intently and seemed to discern my innermost secrets and desire. No matter how strenuous my efforts to elude his vigilant scrutiny. It was like remembering a dream, one that replayed. A memory that was not a dream of my own or a memory that also was not one of his own. This man, this thing, whatever he was, was the

In front of a light, his silhouette lingered like a ghostly apparition, calling me forward with unwavering strength. Despite the uncertainty of his agenda, something instinctual drew me closer, dragging me out of the shadows to find him. It felt as though my purpose and desire mirrored him in some profound way, so long as I had him in my sights. He seemed both in and just out of reach.

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Every step made me feel more connected with this elusive stranger. If only I could remember why I was here? The mysterious man was more than a mere presence—he represented something far deeper that defied explanation but tugged at the core of my being. A connection transcending logic and understanding. Inspiring me to reach beyond myself in pursuit of something greater. Every motion, glance, and gesture seemed to tell me something. A message that I couldn't articulate but felt only on a gut level—so long as I kept him in sight, I knew I was on the right path.

His gestures acted like a beacon, speaking louder than words ever could. His direction seemed aimless, yet he was working a combination. Why was he here? I kept following him, hoping his actions would free the lock, despite the danger.

I blinked away the intrusive fog of memories, allowing them to fade into the distance. The atmosphere kept pulling me back to the present. It was so rich and grand; it made my heart swell with wonder. Everywhere I looked, twinkling lights flashed. Each shadow revealed a mystery, a lurking desire. Around I spun, people were talking and laughing–yet their words seemed to evaporate into the perfumed air.

The further I ventured, the more my senses sharpened. The chatter of voices, the clinking of glasses and laughter—these distractions faded, making room for something new. I committed myself to a purpose: to find the same thing the stranger sought. Nothing else mattered. I focused every ounce of energy in my body on this. I was as lost here as I was in my thoughts.

Yet an invisible thread connected us. It grew thicker, more tangible. There was a strange surge of energy rushing through me and I sensed something bigger at play—something divine. We were both headed toward the same place. The draw was intense. I could taste it, metallic

and velvety. I felt obsessed by it. ‘This must be what Captain Ahab felt while pursuing the whale!’ I told myself, my voice noticeably trembling for reasons unknown.

He darted down an empty hallway. strangely vacant, like something out of a dream. It seemed to stretch forever. The walls lined with ornate wallpaper and tapestries oozed with ancient elegance. Even the air felt thicker here, as they suspended time in this pocket of reality. As I chased him, a hush descended upon us. My footfalls became distant, the tranquility strikingly at odds with the palace's animated vitality. Why did he come here?

my mouth, my voice inexplicably cracking.

Then he was up ahead, appearing once again, and he broke into a run. Lifting my gown so that it wouldn't impede me. I raced after him. The hallway seemed to go on and on, but it ended in a gilded door. Pulling it open forcefully, he looked back at me and winked, then dived into the darkness beyond, slamming it shut. I didn’t want to lose him, and sprinted toward the door.

My heart demanded I follow. The floor seemed to tilt toward the door, making me fall forward like a moth to a flame. I never felt such a powerful pull, and my feet moved involuntarily, tripping headlong, challenging me. The air seemed filled with an eerie stillness, making my skin prickle as if I were racing into a trap.

“Is this man luring me to my death?”

Instead of the room I expected, I fell into a swirling, dark abyss, which altered everything I knew about the laws of physics. As I was falling downward, the sensation of being catapulted upwards overwhelmed me. Then I was among the stars and constellations, moving around me in the night sky. As weightless as I felt in these heavens, I still sensed myself falling upward.

Deer heads with antlers entwined near the ceiling seemed to stretch forever down this hallway. These features ignored by the other party-goers. A disquieting ripple meandered through me as I observed my surroundings—these symbols of hunting felt ominous. Warning me of the danger ahead. The only probable outcome of pursuing this individual.

I lost sight of him, yet I felt as if he lurked around every corner. The tables turned. Now I was being hunted. My intuition was telling me that this had everything to do with our destination. Where exactly it was—I could not say. My conscience urged me, “run towards the danger. It's the only way.” Words coming from

My very eyes confused my other senses as my spirit rose above the sky, the air growing thin, making my consciousness dissipate. The sensation of gravity drawing my body both upward and downward. I plummeted into the dark. A never-ending abyss that was beyond the door.

When I awoke, I found myself unharmed and surrounded by an awe-inspiring chamber filled with ancient books that seemed to call out to me. The air felt electric, crackling with possibility. As if something greater than me was there—a majestic library, its shelves stacked with knowledge from eons past.

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Trembling with fear yet propelled by excitement, I ventured deeper into this mysterious library feeling like it was where I belonged; uncovering secrets only meant for me. With each step forward, a strange sense of peace washed over me and I knew that, despite the danger, this was exactly where I had to be. This was my destination.

Guided by an unseen dynamic, with both anticipation and trepidation, I peregrinated through the labyrinthine corridors of knowledge. Each tome a treasure chest of clandestine truths awaiting revelation. Eventually, I materialized next to a formidable portal that exuded an aura of impenetrability. Yet paradoxically extended to me an invitation.

I opened it and stepped inside. Every inch of this place spoke volumes about knowledge and as I read each word, it felt like I remembered them rather than learned them. The walls seemed to be made of books, and the air was full of whispers and secrets that were long forgotten.

I felt my grandmother's and family members' presence in every corner, their energies connecting me to them. My sanguine current hastened with eager expectation as I embraced the newfound illumination. The imprint of my departed grandmother and kin, whose legacy molded the very essence of my being. It was discernible, their guidance revealing my identity. As my regard swept across the surroundings, it triggered a deluge of queries. Opening a portal to wisdom, one that surpassed these time-worn walls — an extraordinary odyssey indeed!

knew it as the Akashic Records. I believe I found the place she spoke of, and she was letting me know I had.

Life's journey, sparkling curiosity, unraveled hidden truths to me. Answers to all my questions were suddenly within reach. A powerful force driving the past into the present—giving me the clarity and inspiration to lead with confidence and strength.

A gentle reminder swept through me. I owned this place and held the master key to unlocking all its doors. I knew that my subconscious had been leading me here the entire time for a greater purpose, and I was ready to accept it.

My journey since the start of this adventure was nothing short of remarkable. It felt like it took place in a blink of an eye. The camera flashes surrounded me at the party, overwhelming me with uncertainty. But now, my mind flooded

covering buried knowledge and fortifying my spirit unlike ever before.

I couldn’t help but grin; these walls of wisdom held more than just ancient fiction—they contained knowledge that would shape my future success. Inhaling deeply, I closed my eyes to take in this moment—every gram of insight transferred directly into my mind. With each blink, flashes of understanding penetrated my being–I was no longer feeling lost in my life, instead, inspired by the potential before me. I finally birthed my true self.

Stepping forward, I felt a rush of energy course through my body, as if I was gathering strength from the surrounding walls. I moved in sync with the rhythm of life. Deep secrets revealed themselves within each blink of my eye. Knowledge cracked open like a vault flung wide, allowing moments of insight to be shared-learned. It was exhilarating and empowering — something in me shifted, and I could now see the path that lay before me. The Vintage of The Lost had given me this new perspective, and I was eternally grateful.

These walls of wisdom were a gift from those who have gone before me, whispering their stories in my ear—like a loving reminder not to forget them. A hundred years ago, these secrets would have passed through generations, yet here I am, standing at the entrance of knowledge, with no boundaries. This was something far greater than myself–an epiphany of sorts–and I understood they had gifted me with understanding.

With each discovery, I could feel their love swell inside me, never fading. My grandmother once told me a story about a library called the Vintage of the Lost. Grandma also told me many wise people

with memories, and not just my own, filling me with clarity and purpose.

Each flash of recollection acted as a beacon to guide me towards understanding—unlocking secrets about myself that allowed me to accept who I truly am. With every step taken into the Vintage Of The Lost, I felt my confidence rise; un-

It was self insight; no matter what life throws at me. I am backed by the strength and wisdom of a thousand generations. It was comforting to know that even in death, love never really leaves us–instead, it remains a beacon to light our path.

This newfound wisdom entered my

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being. I had in my grasp the secrets of all lives from the past into the future. From here, I could measure every event, weigh options based on experience, not my own, then act accordingly. With gratitude and awe, a stronger and wiser version of myself embraced the path before me. I had found my true power in this place—power that would never abandon me.

Life is an ever-changing adventure — one full of surprises at every turn. With newfound appreciation for its complexities, I look forward to what lies ahead with optimism and courage. The realization hit me. Those in charge on the worldwide stage bear an immense responsibility; one too heavy for anyone person to bear, until now, until me. Watching them juggle their duties through the ka leidoscope of time made it painfully clear.

I felt a deep connection to it, like it was more than knowl edge but purpose. The chance to use my power through the knowledge gleaned would make a difference, and create something better for everyone. A thrill came up from my core at the thought that my journey was only beginning. I was birthing the future and whatever awaited me.

In my ruminations from those whom my soul encountered, I heard a Roman senator speak. Another speaker was a healer who unearthed rare medical knowledge, which I realized was driving me to continue to learn. An artist’s inspiration turned a simple field into a cornucopia of visualized scent.

I leaned into the power of words and truth. The world around me came into unparalleled focus, as if I put on glasses for the first time, a sudden clarity increasing my hunger for even more truth and knowledge. The possibilities seemed endless. While in my heart the answers to life’s mysteries burned, taking me to the very core of The Vintage of The Lost.

direction. With it, I would do more than simply change myself, but fashion the world into the archetype the ancients intended. Striding through an archway, a magical force embraced me. An undeniable feeling of connection. Wisdom gained through trial and error, and through successes and failures. They committed me to the task.

I knew there was no going back. The path towards a better future beckoned. I felt unstoppable — a kind of omnipotence coursed through my veins and gave me courage to move into a world where anything is possible.

But there was a warning. A vi


In shock, I staggered back, but soon realized that this image was not a foreboding. It was a metaphor for self-discovery. I had been so busy looking outward at the task before me; I neglected to look inwardly at who I truly am.

The mushroom clouds, which once seemed so ominous, now felt like a comforting reminder I could come into my own. Capable of achieving great things, even in the face of fear and uncertainty. With courage, I could now accept the challenge posed before me. Radiating confidence—I knew I would use my power for good and strive to make a real difference in the world.

My destiny called to me. My arrival at the library chamber assured me of that. Now I readied myself for battle, prepared to take action against what the ancestral energies and the knowledge of the universe showed me. Finally, I could see a way forward—one filled with hope and possibility. It was time to turn my visions into reality.

The Vintage of the Lost revealed more than knowledge; it provided

sion that shook me to my core.

The sky turned red, the last of the blue cooked away. Not a drop of water in sight. Bodies scattered like leaves across the landscape. The air enchanted not with perfume but death. No birds to even pick out the hollow eyes.

The Vintage of The Lost showed me a world in which I failed. It was a dangerous vision that made me cringe and shrink from it. It was a warning from the Mystic Library. An annihilated planet filled with mushroom clouds; the Earth charred and

The Vintage of the Lost unlocked something in me, something so powerful that it felt like a calling. A new purpose ignited in my heart. The oppressive air of menace lifted as I entered another room. I found him.

He stood there, my hidden enemy and sworn nemesis. His hazel eyes glowed with an unnatural intensity that seemed predatory. This creature, his being, embodied evil in its purest form—a powerful force that mere mortals could not contain.

When I first encountered him at the party, my mind pigeon-holed him as a 1930s mobster. But after spending time in The Vintage Of The Lost, I realized he was something much more sinister and dangerous. He manipulated powerful factions to

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gain power, influence, and control. He misused the Akashic Records. His actions threatened the very fabric of our society. I knew I must stop him.

My first step forward was to face this villain head-on if there was any hope of achieving justice and peace. This was no longer a battle between good and evil—I would fight against him with the united hearts of all nations. And so I made a solemn vow to stand against his darkness, determined to protect the world from tyranny and create a future filled with freedom and justice.

With every ounce of strength I possess, I must conquer him! It is my fate to undertake this mission, to save us all. Emboldened and humbled, I knew that if I vanquished him, the world would rise. With each passing day, I grew stronger in my resolve. Unafraid of what lay ahead, I prepare myself mentally and physically for the battle with renewed hope.

Now, I embark on my journey, but not alone. Armed with knowledge gained from The Vintage of The

Lost and bolstered by a newfound sense of purpose, I’m ready to face whatever challenge is before me. To become a hero or a martyr, if that is what the world needs. This vision electrified my soul.

Through the eyes of my enemy, I saw myself not as they expected me to be—small and meek—but powerful and determined. Their fear reflected in the lightning bolt of my conviction. They could never hope to overpower me now. I knew beyond any doubt—no matter how difficult or insurmountable the odds may be—I would never give up.

I felt a tremor beneath my soles. Something stirred the age-old runes within the library. A cryptic gateway of swirling hues and luminescence sprang forth from the ether. Fostering an entrancing and rapturous milieu that set my senses humming with inexplicable delight.

The wind generated brushed the villain aside. My will tossed him out of the Akashic records. Accompanied by a loud hum of energy, I could feel the power emanating from within and without beckon-

ing me forward. Hesitantly, then committed, I dived after him as he swirled into the vortex. Its hypnotic beauty and promise of unknown mysteries and secrets soon mesmerized me.

My body glowed, emitting electrifying waves of energy. In an instant, it altered my perception of time as I traveled through a tunnel of pulsing light that seemed suspended in eternity. Unfamiliar sounds, scents and feelings washed through me, passing through a multitude of dimensions; time became meaningless. A moment might spin too fast, or impossibly slow into stillness.

Unexpectedly, this world beyond worlds gave way to a familiar place—the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. I sensed that any recollection of The Vintage of The Lost was being purged from my memory. With awe-inspiring courage, I knew this passage would define me for the rest of my life. Buoyed up, I prepared to embrace what lay ahead. It was then that my true mission began, as a colleague clapped me on the shoulder, and invited me to sit.

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Turner landed the three-seat SiteSeer without mishap near one of the variegated canyon faces. The wall looked sliced like a giant layer cake to show off countless strata of different-coloured sediments. The passenger seat was empty on this auspicious occasion.

His faculty advisor, Dr Wexler, found it necessary to remain onboard HoverMother, the main expeditionary vessel, nursing a broken leg and two fractured ribs under the care of grad student Misty Marks. Misty was Wexler’s rock-climbing companion on an earlier stopover on a distant asteroid, and now his nurse. Those two were getting along well together on this trip.

But to miss this! Turner had only twenty-four hours to explore the planet before HoverMother moved out of range on her crowded schedule, and he didn’t want to miss this chance to see it. He walked toward the canyon face through a level field of green vegetation in sweetly breathable air.

As per Wexler’s instructions, stored on his teletalker, he set the three-seater down far from any habitation of the human-like crea-

tures: Check. The Professor also advised him to avoid obvious sacred grounds or burial areas belonging to those creatures, as well as any thriving colonies of their livestock: check and check. So far he had glimpsed none of those things, but a sighting looked promising here.

It had to be. This was planet Thognis, named for the late biologist Edwin Thognis, following his disastrous mission here a year ago. Thognis’s scattered calls from the planet had been picked up and recorded by Kitty IV, a forerunner of HoverMother. Kitty IV had transported him to the area, and from there he took off solo in a small exploratory lander.

His calls went unanswered by Kitty IV, the comms of the ship failing in a meteor shower. But the transmissions from Thognis detailed periods of the biologist’s final two days after crash-landing on an uncharted but hospitable planet. The crash likely resulted from his own daredevil flying.

In his messages, received while the ship sat becalmed and silent in the

rain of meteors, Thognis claimed that every evolutionary stage in the planet’s development stood preserved in the distinct strata of fossils. Every exposed stratum within the neatly formed clefts demanded closer inspection.

The clefts were like so many Grand Canyons, but as sharply delineated as if created by gigantic knife slashes instead of gradually layered erosion. Since Thognis first described them, it had been the dream of every xenobiologist to study them. Finally, after a year of budget crises, priority disputes, and Wexler’s constant haranguing, HoverMother was back on the scene.

As Turner approached the side of the canyon, steeply angled away from him, he noticed a black line about a foot in thickness that ran horizontally at eye-level dividing the multi-hued strata. The strata above the line, anywhere from a centimetre to several meters in width, rose all the way to the top of the canyon, displaying fossilised

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In any case, the age-old mystery of the creation of life may lie in this unusual formation."


He saw closeup the skeletons, exoskeletons and shells of countless likely extinct lifeforms directly above the black line, and far up on the face, he saw with his view-scope the bones of animals protruding from the soil, becoming more apelike and humanoid the higher up he looked.

“What a find!” he gasped under his breath.

Below the black line, however, there were no fossilised lifeforms to be seen, though only microscopic examination of core samples from the soil would reveal its composition. These lower multi-hued strata might contain the remnants of the earliest and most primitive life, or prove to be entirely inorganic substrates. All this, Turner noted, matched precisely the description Thognis logged as he circled in his noisy lander. He’d memorised the content: “What extends in myriad strata below me may be a Darwinist’s dream come true, namely the preservation of each minute step in the natural selection of life, from the first species to the latest, beginning with the black stratum and progressing upward along the canyon face. Magnificent!”

But what of the black line itself? Turner selected the speed locator, taking him to the point on his teletalker, where Thognis’s words focused on this anomalous formation. Over the shrill noise of his still hovering lander flying dangerously close to a canyon wall, Turner heard: “If the dark belt truly separates the organic from the inorganic, it is possible this layer holds the secrets to the origin of life.”

Turner knew from listening over and over to the thirty-minute collection of brief remarks that this was not the

full extent of Thognis’s speculations. There came a buzz in the white noise, and then Thognis’s voice returned, a note of sarcasm clear even in the degraded playback: “Some of my theistic peers may pray that this black line denotes an unnatural selection. The literal hand of an outside agent or deity who seeded the first living things here and perhaps elsewhere. In any case, the age-old mystery of the creation of life may lie in this unusual formation.”

Then Turner heard the crack of a collision, followed by panicked cries from Thognis. Shutting off the recording, Turner stepped to the canyon face for a closer look at the black strip. He reached into his satchel for mallet and chisel, when he noticed movement to his left. Turning, he beheld a muscular man of middle age with an animal skin wrapped around his loins and a blue stripe painted around his bald head like a bandanna.

The fellow sat on a large rock, calmly observing him. Seeing himself so spotted, the bandanna-man rose to his pelt-shod feet and pointed a finger at Turner’s parked three-seater. This he walked up to, waiting silently for Turner to accompany him. Bandanna-man opened the passenger hatch himself, expertly slid into the seat and pointed at a mountaintop in the middle distance. Turner already knew the identity of his flying companion, and where he wanted to go. Thognis had called him Shaman, describing him first as “an inscru-

table Stone Age cleric” and later as a “barbaric medic.” Though explorers from Earth had reached other inhabited planets and studied their mostly primitive peoples, Thognis found Shaman as unique as the valley-strewn planet. After his horrifying Mayday calls just prior to and following his crash, he recorded in a few breathless statements that Shaman attempted, through goodwill or ill, to attend to his many injuries, or perhaps hasten his death.

Turner would dial up the words later in one more attempt to gain insight, but now he was too busy piloting and keeping an eye on his passenger. Shaman looked unperturbed by their altitude and velocity. Soon, following Shaman’s pointing finger, he spotted a downed hovercraft close to the variegated mountain face. The wreck was barely visible within the vines and brambles that overgrew it. He settled the SiteSeer down nearby.

Thognis’s fleshless skeleton reclined in the pilot’s seat of the twisted wreckage, as if he still intended to take off. Turner noticed that both his legs lay at an unusual angle at the kneecaps, and the crash broke his right humerus along with several ribs. The skull itself showed a large fracture line across the brow. If these were the wounds Shaman tried to heal, it was little wonder he failed.

Not even modern medicine would be successful in treating Thognis’s injuries. Thognis’s belong-

SavagePlanets I 48 Extraterrestrial Fiction

ings and equipment, including his clothing, teletalker, and excavation tools, were all missing. The cockpit was now a nest of weeds and an ossuary for Thog nis’s remains, nothing more.

Yet Thognis hung on for two days following the crash, as his subsequent observations attested, sketchy as they were. Turner felt an overwhelming desire to hear those sometimes pained and sometimes calmly rational explanations again, especially the ones describing Shaman’s attempts to treat him. But before he could tap playback, Shaman pointed to the face of the stratified mountain. He followed the blue-bandanna man to its foot and saw on the side rising skyward, sharply delineated strata similar to those he first examined in the canyon. The strata extended to the surrounding hill and declivities. He watched as Shaman pointed at the dark barrier that bisected the strata, especially thick and glossy in this spot. Here too, the black strip extended horizontally at eye-level. At their feet lay chunk-size fragments of the black crystalline-like stone.

Stooping, Shaman picked up two of these shards, each about the size of a man’s foot, and handed one to Turner, showing him how to point it at the great luminous sun and stare into it. Turner, not wanting to rush things, carried his shard over to a large flat rock. Sitting there, he examined the weighty black mass in his hands, turning it over and staring at it at arm’s length before lifting it toward the star.

Satisfied that it was a translucent mineral resembling black quartz, he took out his teletalker and, with a wink at the impatient and apparently bored Shaman, he contacted Dr Wexler on board the orbiting HoverMother. When Wexler didn’t respond and the message landed in his comm-box, he surmised that his ailing advisor and fellow student Misty were engaged in “therapy,” possibly in the nicely appointed luxurious spa-lounge. If only Thognis had a Misty instead of a Shaman, Turner reflected, he might have pulled through, or at least been happier during his last days.

Shaman eased over beside him

on the same flat rock, once more holding his chunk of black stone up to his eyes and peering into it. His attitude betrayed no urgency, and Turner followed suit. He held the shard in both hands while facing the giant sun and slowly brought it up to his eyes. Within it, he observed a long, narrow, slightly curved tunnel with flickering torches mounted along both sides. Turner’s eyes travelled through the tunnel as if he were a camera on a tracking shot, and within a minute or two reached a small chamber, also lit by torches. As he squinted at this image, the figure of an elderly male hominid, white-haired and bare-chested, walked across the chamber, disappearing out of view. Turner, continuing to stare, saw the figure reappear, going in the opposite direction, again disappearing off to the side. At this point, he risked a side glance at Shaman, and in return received a stern look, directing his gaze back to the crystal with forked fingers. Shaman focused on the scene in his own shard, watching Turner from the corner of his eye to be sure he imitated him. Then the “inscrutable cleric” (Thognis’s term) fixated on the crystal’s revelations.

Turner beheld the old hominid staring straight back at him from his torch-lit den, and watched as the creature raised up a tangled multitude of arms from his slack, hairless torso as if in greeting or embracing him from a distance. Only one arm appeared to be that of a man, while the others belonged to several other species.

The limb that should have been his left arm reached long and hairy like an ape’s, while another, growing from the centre of his chest, short and thin, ended in a paw rather than a hand. From his back, plainly visible when he turned, was the coiled up tentacle of an octopus or similar aquatic creature.

Turner clearly saw a fishlike fin protruding from one side of the rib cage, and an extensive feathered wing unfurling from the opposite side.

Turner noted that the elder’s torso,

which he first supposed was unadorned, appeared scarified with a series of thinly tattooed lines. These bore the shapes of plants and animals of all kinds, as well as the forms of stars and mountains and rivers. The inking of the scars used the same blue pigment that encircled the Shaman’s head.

The fellow manifested all creation, and this was clearly the entity that Thognis described with his customary irony, and named the Patchwork Deity. He mentioned it several times in his broadcasts, but other scientists thought Thognis was raving from pain or delirium. Now Turner grew alarmed.

He heard it repeated a dozen times, but the last words of Thognis finally meant something: “Though I can hardly crawl, Shaman urges me up onto my knees before the revealed image of the Patchwork Deity.”

Among other things, it was the order of events that alarmed Turner. Thognis could still move following his crash-landing, but the skeleton in his craft had both legs dislocated at the knees. Was Shaman capable of such violence? Thognis’s last words, likely captured during the final hours of his life, were dire: “I wait only to die.”

Thognis never pressed the send button after that. Perhaps he tried and failed, or maybe he didn’t try at all. Only the hominid by Turner’s side knew for sure, and he hadn’t spoken.

Shaman lifted himself from the flat rock and fell to his knees, placing his forehead on the ground. He raised the black crystal in his two hands at arm’s length and genuflected repeatedly to the Patchwork Deity he saw in the rock. Turner, an agnostic in matters of religion and spirituality, did not follow his lead, unconvinced by the godhood of the multi-limbed man.

Certainly the old fellow was strange, and in stranger circumstances. Embedded in bits of black stone, or perhaps visible only through them, like a constellation through a telescope. But was he divine? Turner looked deep into the dark mineral and saw the face of the elder looking back at him expectantly. The man held an expression of knowing

49 I SavagePlanets

and tolerant expectation. But Turner was no supplicant, and not as stubborn as Thognis was in defending his well-known atheism back on Earth. A naturalist through and through, and the great-greatgreat (however many greats) spiritual grandchild of the eternally inflammatory atheists Dawkins and Hitchens, Thognis regarded all nonscientific theories on the origins of life on Earth or anywhere in the universe, as plain superstition and ignorance.

Would it be wise for him to reveal that belief here? Lowering the shard from his eyes, Turner saw Shaman glaring at him with a displeased look, a cheek still pressed against the ground. Needing no further encouragement, Turner flung himself to the ground in simulated awe of the Patchwork Deity. In this position, he hoped to avoid any knee-cracking “urges” from Shaman. He remained bowed, his forehead on the ground for one or two minutes, at last swiveling his head to observe Shaman’s reaction. Without rising to his feet, the bandanna-man brought the stone to his eyes and stared into it for several moments, as if receiving occult instructions from his Lord. No violence forthcoming, Turner swung himself up into a seated position.

Safe even then, he cautiously rose to his feet, still gripping his shard. The ritual complete, Shaman calmly did the same. Turner pointed to the SiteSeer, gesturing to the hominid that he wished to depart.

Shaman reverted to his earlier attitude of stoic observance and noninterference. He stood by expressionlessly as Turner removed a large body bag from his vehicle and walked to the crash site to pack away Thognis’s broken bones. These he fastened up and transferred to the rear seat of the SiteSeer to bear them home, and to their ultimate resting place at last. Ironically, to follow a religious rite, the man did not believe in.

Turner then faced the sheer mountain wall and showed Shaman his sample kit. Using hand gestures, he informed Shaman he’d like to take some soil samples with him.

The indigenous hominid did not protest, and with a chisel, Turner pried loose a bit of matter both above and below the dark midway line, sealing each sample in an airtight canister. These he placed in his satchel. He didn’t need to disturb the black line itself. Pieces of it already lay at his feet, fallen there by natural erosion. Plus, he still had the chunk he used to view the Patchwork Deity. He held the piece up for Shaman’s examination and motioned to add it to his satchel.

Shaman nodded in agreement, and didn’t object when Turner added additional shards to his bag, in fact he helped. Turner then captured several long shots of the area on his teletalker, and photographed the black shards in closeup. He hoped to catch the Patchwork Deity in His stony den. To Turner’s surprise, Shaman reached into the folds of his pelt loincloth and removed an old teletalker, handing it to him.

With a few touches, Turner discovered Thognis’s device no longer functioned, but the engineers aboard HoverMother might be able to recover any further recordings it held. This thought reminded him to send pictures of the area and Thognis’s downed craft to the SiteSeer and to HoverMother. Then, to show his gratitude, Turner handed Shaman his own teletalker, showing him it was a gift, an exchange, one for one. He wouldn’t miss it.

He believed the final closeup shots, the soil samples, and the shard pieces containing the Patchwork Deity would provide revolutionary data, not to mention his recording of Shaman’s final offering. After placing his hand on Shaman’s muscular shoulder, he turned and walked toward the SiteSeer, relieved that Shaman didn’t follow.

Once aloft, he set his course for HoverMother and activated the autopilot, then broadcast he was returning to the ship. But he couldn’t relax. He somehow sensed this God’s power. As if the

Patchwork Deity really was his divine creator and the master of all life. If not, just in this system, perhaps in the entire universe.

Above all, he asked himself, why had the Patchwork Deity allowed Thognis to die? Why not save a non-believer? For surely the Patchwork Deity respected all life, and maybe allowing a single non-believer the time to come around to believe in Him was worth His mercy?

Grabbing the satchel from the seat behind him, Turner took out a black stone and gazed into it as if seeking the answer there. It was dark without the sun’s direct rays, but within it appeared the aged hominid, gazing directly at him as before, his expression still one of benign forbearance. The vision grew smaller as the SiteSeer flew on, shrinking in Turner’s eyes to a tiny speck, and then to nothing at all.

Then it struck him. In horror, Turner realised his career was over. His credibility and reputation would be in shambles! He’d be the laughingstock of the scientific community. He gazed once again into the black shard. Empty. He dug through his bag of samples and stared into the other black shards he collected. No Patchwork Deity. All he saw was his own smile in a black reflection.

Dr Wexler wouldn’t believe him. Turner reviewed his recordings. There was Shaman genuflecting to a black rock, and a selfie of himself holding a black stone with reverence. His closeup shots of the shards were dark smudges. No evidence of the Patchwork Deity in the long shots either. Misty would post his recordings on social media, #raving lunatic!

Thognis couldn’t corroborate him. No way would Wexler go down to the surface, even if he could. All Turner could do now was damage control. Claim he did it to learn about the hominids of the planet. Oh God! But then, that was the trouble, wasn’t it?

SavagePlanets I 50 Extraterrestrial Fiction

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Poems from 7


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

I SavagePlanets

The Loneliness of Unity

In a world of unisex hearts, One gender, one aim—split apart From the vocabulary of desire, Gone are words like "fire."

Bodies all alike in form, Living through the cosmic norm, No whispers in the silent night, No dance in the ethereal light. Yet, there's a yearning, undefined, A subtle ache in every mind. Something's missing—or perhaps not— In the universe's grand plot.

Love, as we know it, doesn't exist, A mythical fog in a tale we missed. But still, they dance alone, in tune With distant echoes of a forgotten moon.

The oldest may recall a twin, Another form, akin in skin. But "romance" is a vacant term In a language that's yet to affirm.

Solitary, but not alone, For companionship is still well-known. Deep connections, mind to mind, It's just the body they've left behind.

So they float, in cosmic grace, In a never-ending, gentle embrace Of themselves, their peers, in a story That redefines collective glory.

The word "sun" now refers to the core Of energy that's so much more Than a ball of fire—it's the heart, Of a civilization that's pure art.

No need for halves to make a whole, In this realm of a single role. Eclipsed by no one, shining bright, In a universe of perpetual light.

SavagePlanets I 54

The Mind Gardner

Oh, the gardener lost in the field of thought, His shears dulled, inspiration sought, In the drought of ideas, where could he be?

His plot was once a vivid tapestry, Yet now it's barren, as empty as can be, Oh, the gardener lost in the field of thought.

He's seen concepts bloom like a vibrant tree, And theories dance in a mindful spree, In the drought of ideas, where could he be?

Through paradigms, he's sifted with glee, Yet his harvest withers, a sight to see, Oh, the gardener lost in the field of thought.

He's navigated neurons, intricately, Yet in the cortex, he's lost his key, I n the drought of ideas, where could he be?

So here's to the gardener, parched but free, May he find his muse, his soul's decree, Oh, the gardener lost in the field of thought, In the drought of ideas, who'll water his lot?

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The Last Spoken Word

There once was a coder named Ray, Who built a translator one day, It caught every phrase, In a digital haze, And languages started to fray.

Though Ray was quite pleased with his feat, He found the world's silence was sweet, Yet as tongues died away, He had less to convey, And the code felt both hollow and fleet.

SavagePlanets I 56

The Last Cries of Earth's Children

In a galaxy where stars are but flora, Twinkling petals in the cosmic Torah, Lies the Galactic Zoologist, a title so vast, Cataloging Earth's species, fading so fast.

They map the calls of the whale, a tune, That won't be heard beneath any other moon, In the grand menagerie of life, it wanes, In the cosmic index, only data remains.

A moment so fragile, like a butterfly's wing, Yet it dictates the song that the cosmos will sing, In the Galactic Zoologist's data, Earth lives, Yet a digital life is all it truly gives.

In the records, the tigers still prowl, The wolves in their code, still howl, In this transient moment, so vivid yet bleak, The Earth's last cries are forever unique.

But what of the pain, the loss, the sorrow? Will there be a new Earth to catalog tomorrow? What came before this cosmic collection? What lies beyond this digital reflection?

In the role of the Galactic Zoologist, we dare To capture life that was once truly there, In this instant, so vivid yet so frail, We strive to remember, lest all else fail.

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Quantum Love

We dwell in superposition, a love undefined. "Schrodinger's pair," you call us, and we laugh. We sip tea under the nebulous sky, as if unaware that our destiny is tied to the coming observation.

Stars sparkle, then dim. Was it a nova or an implosion? We rush toward the observatory. Only then do I see the quandary reflected in your eyes. It fills the room, but you don’t perceive it until you see my expression. I hold your gaze in that eternal moment. It's not our choice. Why did uncertainty come for us?

The cosmos flickers. It fluctuates between existence and void. The telescope reveals a nebula, shaped like an uncertain toroid with immeasurable potentials.

SavagePlanets I 58

The Celestial Symphony

Each night, when the sky turns ink-black,the silence spreads through the cosmic sea. Long a subject of ethereal contemplation,the cause for this silence is now understood: symphony.

Silence, we have discovered, filled with an endless series of celestial notes,which gather and resonate in the far reaches of the black holes' event horizons,where they have fewer natural enemies: Radio waves, stellar burps, cosmic radiation,nebula chatter, gravitational ripples, pulsar beats, quasar arias, and gamma suites are scarcely found near these cosmic voids.

As astronomers peer into telescopes, a composition unfolds so majestic, yet entirely unheard, as if composed by the universe itself. For in these silenced realms, the black holes are not just devourers of light, but composers of a symphony so grand, so intricate, that it writes the elegy and celebration of existence itself.

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Landscape of Time by

In the realm where moments stand as hills, Where past and future form the scenic frills, Temporal meadows in memory spun, Beneath the dial of the ever-setting sun.

Avalanches burst in the timeline's core, Where seconds freeze and eons roar, In the tick of the eternal clock's chime, Reality warps into the substance of time.

Beware the quake in the ageless plane, In the world where now and then sustain, For in this realm of ebb and flow, The cataclysms of time's river grow.

SavagePlanets I 60

"The Nebula"

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

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

All of the art is provided courtesy of Midjourney as envisioned by BoB, our resident AI multimedia editor.

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

SavagePlanets I 62


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To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit."
Stephen Hawking Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays
SavagePlanets I 64

"The Time Loop"

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I, Robot

SavagePlanets I 66
Isaac Asimov
It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today."


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The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
William Gibson Neuromancer

"A Titan Among Us"

SavagePlanets I 68


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.

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After 100 years of deep space hibernation, the astronaut woke up to find Earth missing from the galactic map. The ship's AI whispered, 'You're not going to like where we are instead.'"
Daniel Kim

He finally invented a time machine to prevent the robot uprising. When he returned, he was greeted by advanced dinosaurs ruling the world."

She uploaded her consciousness to the Cloud, eager to live eternally in a digital paradise. Minutes later, her screen displayed: '404 Heaven Not Found.'"

Ireached the edge of the universe, where I found a door labeled 'Exit.' I stepped through and arrived back on Earth, only to see another me reading the sign, 'Welcome to the Simulation.'"

SavagePlanets I 70
Mike Harris

The aliens said they came in peace and gifted humanity a machine to solve all our problems. When activated, it printed a single word: 'Extinct.'""

After deciphering the Mars Rover's last transmission, it read, 'They say hello, and you're next.' Then all the telescopes picked up an armada exiting Martian orbit.'"

Humans rejoiced as the first faster-than-light ship returned, claiming the mission was a success. That joy turned to dread when the astronauts removed their helmets to reveal empty skin."

71 I SavagePlanets
Carlos Rodriguez Alan Murphy Walter Benett


My twin sister went into the black hole so that I could gather data from the other side. The data came back as a single sentence: 'Don’t let me back out.'"

Sheput on the VR headset, excited to see the world through someone else's eyes. She screamed when she realized the eyes she was looking through were lurking in her own closet."

Thebio-engineered trees could produce energy instead of oxygen. We realized our mistake when we heard them whisper, 'Now, it’s your turn to feed us.'"

SavagePlanets I 72


Together, they leap through the opening. The moment Devon and Persephone pass through, the bubble collapses. All life on the surface of the planet ceases to exist. The star-fighters, assault shuttle, obelisk, and the power armor with the people inside them turn to dust and falls to the regolith. It is as if they never existed.”

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Energy bolts from blaster cannons strike the aft shields. Warning lights flash on. Persephone says, “We’re losing a shield.”

Devon jinks the Marauder assault shuttle in an effort to evade the blaster fire, and reaches for the auxiliary power controls. He hesitates a moment; diverting more power to the aft shields will enable them to withstand one, or maybe two additional hits, but will do nothing to help with evading their pursuers. He diverts more power to the engines, acceler-

ating the ship to full emergency power.

The job, a simple robbery, went wrong from the start—bad intel. The Enola Gay, a star freighter, was not supposed to be escorted. A simple smash and grab job turned into a fight for survival. Unknown to them, a full squadron of Alliance military star-fighters accompanied the Enola Gay.

The recall sounded too late for him and Persephone. They were cut off from their swarm of allies, and abandoned—left

for dead, or worse, if captured. The mother ship and the other raiders entered hyperspace, leaving them to act as a diversion while they made their own escape.

Devon spun the Marauder to port, side slipping from the latest volley of gunfire. “It’s no good. I can’t evade them.” He reaches for the lever that will engage the hyperdrive.

Persephone grabs his arm, stopping him. “Not yet! The navigation computer is still crunching the numbers.”

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 74

If it was anyone else… They are more than partners, not husband and wife, although they share the same bed. Their relationship is more than convenience and sex, and she has a hot body—all good reasons for him to be in a relationship with her. They are lovers. But are they in love? There is definitely a connection between them, as if they are two halves that together make a whole, but their relationship is… complicated.

The pursuing star-fighters scored another hit while he’s distracted. A warning siren blares. She silences it. “That’s it. The aft shield is gone. One more hit, and we’re done for.”

A blue light flashes on the instrument console. The hyperspace calcula tions are complete. Devon engages the hyperdrive, and the Marauder escapes into hyperspace just as an other blast of gunfire passes through the space the ship had just occupied.

The view out of the cockpit shows a whole lot of nothing. Directly ahead of them is a glowing white disk that looks as if it is made up of tiny diamonds reflecting light with flashes of color. Every place else is void, not black… empty.

The Marauder’s hyperdrive is limited to a ten-light-year jump before having to come out of hyperspace to recharge the jump capacitors. Of course, the Mary Celeste doesn’t have that limitation. Even if they knew its destination—which they didn’t-they could never catch up to her for a rendezvous.

They are, after all, raiders, freebooters, pirates. Call them whatever

you like. Bounty hunters hunt them, so they are constantly on the move. By the time they could get to their mother ship’s destination, they would be long gone. They are on their own.

“How long?” Devon asks.

“Ten hours.” Almost the Marauder’s maximum jump range. “There were only two star systems within its jump range to choose from, both unoccupied, and neither one a star system that I’d choose to head to if I had a choice.”

Persephone removes the seat restraints. It’s safe now that they are

their moons, and a few asteroids. The outer worlds are both gas giants. Only one of the three inner planets orbited the star within the habitable zone, the third planet. It is a rocky world, no surface water, and its atmosphere is ninety-six percent carbon dioxide—unbreathable.

There has been no extensive survey of the star system. It is, as Persephone says, lifeless. There is nothing here to make it stand out and attract the attention of anyone. It would make a good place to hide and let their pursuers cool off, except they won’t. They will come after them, they always do. The Alliance won’t give up on them until they capture them, or confirm them

Devon unfastens his seat harness, gets out of the pilot seat, and goes aft to join his partner. Persephone says, “Have a seat.”

He sits at the small table in the Marauder’s common area, housing a small galley, table, and two chairs. “I didn’t know there was any food aboard.”

Persephone sets a tray on the table between them, then sits. “Emergency rations, and coffee. It is all

no longer doing sudden high-gee maneuvers to elude their enemies. She gets off her seat. “I’m going to get us something to eat.”

Devon uses the navigation computer to research the star system his companion has chosen for the hyperspace jump. Not that he doesn’t trust her judgment—he does. But he likes to know what he is getting into.

The Osiris System—not much there, a red-dwarf star, five planets and

Devon grimaces. “Like hell I’ll eat that!” He picks up the cup of coffee and takes a sip. At least I won’t die of thirst.

Persephone removes two crackers from one of the open tins, and scoops out green paste from the other—protein-based, supposedly tasteless—and spreads it on the crackers. It isn’t tasteless. It tastes like… he imagines what kudu excrement must taste like.

She hands him another smeared cracker. “Eat it! You need your strength.” She takes a bite out of

75 I SavagePlanets

her own cracker. The grimace that appears on her face matches his own. She chews, swallows, and quickly washes the vile tasting goo from her mouth with coffee. They finish their meal, then lie together on the lower of the two bunks for comfort, and the shared warmth from their bodies. She quickly fell asleep with her head tucked into his shoulder and his arms wrapped protectively around her. It is hours later before his mind settles and he is calm enough to sleep. His last thoughts, someone royally screwed up, leaving him and his partner to pay the price.

An alarm awakens them. It is a precautionary alarm, letting them know they will come out of hyperspace soon. They rise, still dressed in yesterday’s clothing. It can’t be helped. They are the only clothes they have aboard the assault shuttle. Neither one has planned for an extended trip. It is sup posed to be a simple smash and grab job, return to the Celeste with the trea sure. It hasn’t worked out that way. They rub sleep from their eyes, then go forward to the cockpit. He takes his place in the pilot seat, and she sits in the copilot chair. They fasten their seat re straints to prepare for entry into the Osiris star system.

The Nav/Comp automatically exits the ship from hyperspace at the destination Persephone has entered. The glowing disk turns to streaks of light, then to pinpoints of light that are distant stars and galaxies. Devon sets the coordinates for the third planet, the closest of

the five planets with conditions for supporting life, then engages the autopilot.

Persephone uses the long-range sensors to scan the system for other spacecraft. As expected, the scans didn’t show any other ships in their vicinity. For how long? The escorts won’t leave the Enola Gay un-escorted. Will the squadron leader split the squadron and send a patrol to each of the two star systems within the Marauder’s jump range? Or will they stay together in one formidable group, and search the star systems one at a time? At best, they have a full day, at worst… hours.

Devon maneuvers the Marauder into orbit around Osiris III. Persephone uses the short-range sensors to scan the planet’s surface. “That’s odd.”

mask the ship’s energy emissions from the Alliance patrol’s sensors. We’ll have to shut down all non-essential systems to have a chance. I don’t see any other alternatives, unless-”

“Don’t bother asking. I’ve already checked. We are in a dead-end star system. The only way out is back the way we came. Hmm… this is odd.”

“What’s odd?” The sensor display isn’t visible from where he is seated.

“The anomaly. There is a five-kilometer bubble surrounding it. I’d swear it wasn’t there a moment ago. It just suddenly appeared on my scans.”


“So, inside this bubble is a breathable oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere. The inside temperature is twenty-nine degrees centigrade, and there is… life—plant life, and maybe other life too.”

Devon takes a moment to absorb what his partner has told him.

“I still think it is our best shot at getting out of this mess. If there is life down there, maybe some of it is edible. I don’t relish the thought of eating another meal from the emergency rations. Do you think our pursuers will come down to the surface to investigate the anomaly?”

Persephone sighs. “I don’t

“What’s odd?” Devon asks.

“The sensors are picking up an energy signature on the surface.”

“Good! It is probably natural. With it showing up on the sensor scans, it may be strong enough that it can

Devon increases power to the forward shields and fires the braking thrusters. The assault shuttle dips down into the planet’s upper atmosphere. The nose and wing leading edges glow fiery red, and there is a whisper of sound with the air particles colliding against the hull.

SavagePlanets I 76 Extraterrestrial Fiction

The ship slows, dips down deeper into the atmosphere, the glow turns to flames, and the whisper becomes the screams of a thousand banshees. The Marauder descends into thicker air, slowing. Decelerating from hyper-sonic flight through the alien atmosphere to supersonic, and the flames vanish. The view out of the cockpit shows barren land, rock, dirt, and blowing dust below.

Devon adjusts the course, heading for the anomaly. “Do you think we can land inside it?”

“I don’t see why not. There is nothing there. It is just a bubble.”

“What if it pops?”

“If it does, we won’t be any worse off, and the Alliance won’t have a reason to come down to the surface to investigate.”

He opens the drag brakes to reduce their approach and lowers the landing gear. The bubble is transparent, but not its contents, trees, grass, colorful flowers, a pond reflecting the blue sky, and a stone obelisk in its center, comes into view.

He retracts the drag brakes and fires the attitude thrusters to slow the rate of descent. The Maraud er passes through the bubble. It allows them entry but re mains intact. The landing skids touch down. He fires the braking thrusters, and the ship slides to a halt, three hundred meters from the bubble’s center and the stone obelisk.

Devon shuts down the engines, life support, and all non-essential systems, leaving minimum power for lighting and the hatches. Perse-

phone is wrong about the bubble. It must have been here a long time for the trees to grow to maturity, hundreds of years or longer.

They unstrap and go aft to the common area. He opens a storage locker and removes two gun belts with blasters, and hands one to his partner before fastening the other around his waist.

She says, “We won’t need these. There is nothing outside that can harm us.”

“What about the Alliance? If they catch us unarmed, away from the ship, we won’t stand a chance.”

“You’re right. I forgot about them. My thoughts were elsewhere, thinking about our surroundings, how peaceful it looks.” She fastens the gun belt around her waist, removes the blaster to check its charge, then slides it back into its holster. “I just wish the

He removes two comm units from the locker, hands one to Persephone, and puts the other in his shirt pocket. Then he removes a comp and closes the locker.

“Give me the comp. I am better at using it than you are.”

Devon hands it to her. Before opening the hatch, he says, “Do you think it is still safe?”

A glance forward shows nothing has changed outside. The trees, grass, and flowers are still there. She nods. Devon presses the door open button. They are committed now. The hatch opens, and clean, fresh air flows into the open doorway. They inhale deeply. She says, “I think this is the best air I have ever smelled—even has a hint of lavender.”

Devon nods. He lowers the boarding steps, climbs down to the ground, then helps Persephone down. “I know it has always been your dream to settle in a place like this. It is peaceful here—almost paradise. We can’t stay here, though. As soon as it’s safe, we have to go. I’m sorry, we have to keep mov-

“I know, I just wish…”

Alliance would leave us alone.”

“Not with the price on our heads.” Devon reminds her.

toward the obelisk, made of red, brown, and gray hued stone. At first, it looks natural until they see the stone plinth they mounted it on. It is rough hewn, oval, but with a hole in its center that is a meter and a half wide and slightly over two meters tall. It is an alien artifact. What is its purpose? Why was it placed here? To create this bubble of life?

77 I SavagePlanets

A voice startles them. “I’ve been waiting a long time—eons, for the two of you to arrive.”

Devon draws his blaster and looks around. “Show yourself!” he demands.

Persephone says, “There isn’t anyone here. It was the obelisk. It speaks.” Then, she says to the obelisk, “What are you?”

“I was placed here as the prophet of things to come. The time is now. The two of you must go back to the beginning.”

Devon slides his blaster back into its holster.

“The be ginning of what? Our be ginning?

Talos IV? Humanity? Earth?”

The sound of thrusters firing drowns the answer out. Two Alliance star-fighters come through the bubble, and land between them and their assault shuttle. They cut the couple off from the safety of their ship and any chance of escape.

The obelisk repeats, “The time is now!”

Soldiers wearing black power armor, carrying blaster rifles, leap down from the star-fighters. One of them yells, “Halt! You are outgunned and outnumbered. Surrender! There is no escape.”

Persephone tugs on Devon’s arm. “Come on, let’s go.”

with plant life and a blue sky. The soldier says, “The fools!” and raises his blaster rifle and takes aim.

Together, they leap through the opening. The moment Devon and Persephone pass through, the bubble collapses. All life on the surface

in the shade of an elm tree. He is wearing brown pants, a sage green tunic, and boots. She is wearing a simple pink dress and sandals, and has pink ribbons tied in her blonde hair. Off in the distance is a bio-dome with a city inside it.

They have been on the planet for a little over a year, exploring its green land under its blue sky with a single moon. During that time, they have seen no one, human, humanoid, or even alien. They are here alone, but not for

of the planet ceases to exist. The star-fighters, assault shuttle, obelisk, and the power armor with the people inside them turn to dust and falls to the regolith. It is as if they never existed.

The sensor officer in orbit says to the patrol leader, “They’re gone.” “Who’s gone?”

“All of them. The patrol, the pirates, the star-fighters, everything, and everyone is... simply gone.”

“Go where?”

“Through the obelisk...” The center opens, showing them a scene similar to their surroundings, but not the same. It is another place, green

Devon and Persephone are sitting

The cities they have explored are empty, kept pristine by an army of droids. Everything they could want is theirs for the taking. They also benefit from fresh air, good food, and clean water—everything they can ask for is here, except for the company of other people. All the housing units they have searched are empty; the previous occupants’ clothing and personal possessions left behind, as though they departed in a hurry, expecting to return. They haven’t, though. There are no remains. The droids have taken care of them. The only evidence of their disposal is ash at the bottom of long dormant incinerators behind each city. Whatever disaster befell them was quick and merciless, leaving no survivors.

Persephone caresses her swollen belly with both hands, and smiles. “It is almost time. Our daughter wants to be born.”

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 78


A.J. Flowers is a YA / NA Fantasy Romance author with books similar to Twilight / Fallen in terms of content and age rating.

She retired her automotive engineering job at the ripe age of 36 and now lives in her fantasy worlds full time! She resides in Michigan with her Dutch husband, 3-year-old daughter, and her fur assistants including a Pomsky pack and two princess cats. She has 5 pen names and still isn’t quite sure how she keeps it all straight.

Coming Next from A.J. Flowers: Crown Princess Academy Book 3, Dragonrider Academy Episode 10, 40 Weeks under her Eva Storm name, and Dungeon Master under her Aurora Weiss name.

Originally from Venezuela, M.G. Viterbo traveled the world for several years until settling in Texas.

His background in engineering allows him to pay most bills and lie convincingly when writing hard science fiction.

He lives with Patricia, kids one to four, a big dog, and a small one. He cherishes the silence of the early morning and fills it with the noise of the keyboard. The rest of the day, he dreams.

The Spanish version of the story "Another way to Kill Resentment" (Otra Manera de Matar el Resentimiento) was selected for a flash fiction anthology titled “Con La Urgencia del Instante by Ars Communis.

Jeffrey Sturm is a graphic artist in a screenplay writer from Hartford, CT, USA. Since December 2018, he has owned 7376 films located at 20 Church St in Hartford, CT, in the historic Stilts building.

Since 2012 he has been involved with different indie film productions, which got him into script writing.

He has a passion for sciencefiction storytelling.

He is working on a new book, The Time Traveler Handbook, 4th edition which is part of the “Time Loop Saga.”

His work is published on Amazon.

79 I SavagePlanets
M.G. Viterbo Fiction Contributor Jeffrey Sturm Fiction Contributor A.J. Flowers Fiction Contributor


Michael Fowler writes humor and horror in Ohio, USA. He enjoys spending time with his grandkids who will definitely not be soccer players. He adores hot sauce and is gearing up to take the "one chip" challenge.

His ideal vacation spot is the wine region near Lake Erie in northern Ohio, where shuttles convey intoxicated guests from one vineyard to another. Alternatively, a trip to the Big Easy to eat po'boy sandwiches and listen to zydeco sounds cool.

As a senior citizen, Mike receives many discounts but only seldom gets published.

A horror story about meat is forthcoming in September at Beneath the Mask.

Jay Toney was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a child, he always had an interest in aircraft, and with growing up during the space race—spacecraft. He joined the USAF in 1981, and got his dream job as a Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Technician. He is a veteran having served in the Gulf War. He has always been an avid reader, and started reading at an early age, reading fantasy and science fiction.

Some of his favorite authors are Robert Heinlein, Alan Dean Foster, Piers Anthony, David Weber, and Kim Harrison.

He currently lives in a rural area in central Alabama.

Cassy is the author of "Temporal Tides" (Nova Press, 2021) and several poetry chapbooks including "The Liminal Lands" (Aether Publishing, 2022).

She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. in Literature from Stanford University.

Her works have been featured in various literary journals, such as "The New Yorker," "Poetry Magazine," "The Kenyon Review," and "The Southern Review." Many are under different pen names.

Cassandra currently resides in San Francisco, California, where she teaches creative writing at a local university.

Jay Toney Fiction Contributor
SavagePlanets I 80
Cassandra Wintershade Poetry Contributor Michael Fowler Fiction Contributor

Wehope you've enjoyed this edition of SavagePlanets as much as we've enjoyed bringing it to you. We want to continue delivering incredible content to your inbox with each subsequent installment.

To do so, however, we need support from readers like you.

If you enjoy our content, please consider donating $5 (the cost of a coffee), but if that's not possible, a donation in any amount is very much appreciated.

On behalf of all of the editors and the contributors, thank you, and keep reaching for the stars!

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It's Your Turn Now!

Submit your original work for consideration.

Contributions are always welcomed. Our goal is to create a community of science fiction artists and consumers in the same planetary system. Our editors will review your submissions and will select the best of the best for inclusion in our next edition! Aliens submit!

Extraterrestrial Fiction

Have a great story to share? Submit your story to SavagePlanets for publication. If selected, your story will be displayed with images tailored to enhance it for all to enjoy. Submission guidelines are available by clicking the planetary icon or visiting our website.

Poems from Imaginaria

Our poetry editor is eager to read your speculative poetry. Anything from the fantasy world to a reality you create within its rhymes. Once selected it will bring magic to these pages. To see our guidelines click on the comet icon or visit our website.

Future Artifacts

Herein, Multimedia replaces a thousand words. Art, photos, video clips, sculpture, and all other forms of visual manifestation are welcome. Challenge us to see the future through your eyes! Guidelines available by clicking the poly-form icon here, or visiting our website.


Look what happens when I hit it with this shrink ray! If you can tell a complete science fiction story in two sentences this is for you. Post your story on Twitter or Instagram at #SavagePlanets, and we might just feature it here. See rules by clicking on the rocket or visiting our site.

SavagePlanets I 82


1. Pick any whole number between 1-10.

2. Double it!

3. Multiply the total by five.

4. Divide the answer by your original number.

5. Subtract seven. That's your fortune number! Many good fortunes! Only one bad fortune. Don't select the bad fortune. Good luck!















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