Nativity (Part 1)

A Galaxy Nativity in two parts by Andy Ainscough.

 

Prelude.

 

Lullay Lullay my little tiny child. Bye bye Lullay Lullay.

 

 

*

 

‘Any news from the camps?’

 

‘Nothing. Nothing new anyway.’

 

The two men stood on the edge of the rock crest surveying the darkness below. Apart from swirling mist that here and there stretched its cold fingers, nothing could be seen. Even the sky, with its map of stars, was black as scorched earth.

 

‘What are the current numbers?’

 

‘Fifty-thousand dead on the west side, before the quarantine. South tip has gone now, the wall reinforced, the few who remained left inside. We haven’t heard in weeks from Ureicia so we can presume there are none left. Since the containment has been released into the air, we have had no further diagnoses. Only the worst cases are still dying. A small mercy.’

 

‘No no, I mean the birth numbers. What are the reports?’

 

‘Ah. I see. Well, since First1 was discovered, not a single baby has been delivered.’

 

The two men stood for a second letting the words resonate through the air. A moment after a light appeared above them accompanied by a huge guttural whirring of heavy engines By the first man, A rope ladder hit the floor. He shook the other man’s hand and started to climb the ladder. After a few rungs he looked down.

 

‘Thank you Professor. Your work is much appreciated. Tell me what happened to Sir Balthar?’

 

‘He didn’t make it. Until we meet again Prime-Minister.’

 

The helicopter with the Prime-Minister of the planet Galthet disappeared into the night leaving the Professor in the warzone below.

 

Part 1.

 

A Desperate Wind

 

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen let nothing you dismay.

 

The village huddled together in cold winter air. They had heard a report was coming. An excited buzz ran through the crowd. A report meant something from above. From the Sector five parliament, perhaps even from the Galactic Commons themselves. After such long hard years, after the all the misery that the First1 disease had caused they clung onto that somewhere out there in the black night, there were people who could help. The Decade of Death is what the survivors had come to know it as. The decade where everyone died and no one was born. You could see it in the people. Not just in the clothes they wore, nothing more than layers of brown rags, but in their faces. Nearly everyone here was either in their twenties or thirties but they looked much older. The heartbreak had etched itself onto their faces.

A woman, with scraggy brown hair lumbered forward with what looked like a box covered in old sack. Another man, sporting a turban of soiled bandages, placed a crate delicately on the floor. The woman plonked the box on top and like a magician pulled the sheet from it. It was a television and the woman bowed to a humble cheer from the crowd. The man banged and banged upon the box until it spluttered into life. The screen fuzzy and dim showed a symbol, a star inside a human fist with a circle round the outside. Underneath was a countdown. 3…2…1…

A woman appeared on the screen smiling. You could tell she was a grey looking person even on the black and white screen. She had a sharp hook nose and hair cut close to her head. She smiled for a moment and then began to speak:

‘Greetings people of…’ She looked down for a moment off camera. ‘… people of the planet Galthet. I, Tabitha Might, Empress of the Galactic Alliance, was deeply moved by the plight of your people and the horrors that you must have experienced over the last ten standard years. Your leaders appealed to myself and the commons and in the circumstances tough decisions must be made. In light of the deadly nature of First1 we have decided to quarantine your planet indefinitely. We regret this decision but in a complicated Galaxy complicated decisions must be made. As such, I will inform you that no external individuals or powers can step foot on your planet. Take care and Goodbye.’

No help was coming. The villagers screamed into the night.

 

The Shining Light From Above.

 

A star, a star dancing in the night, with a tail as big as a kite.

 

The next evening, at the edge of the village, Paddy the Yowk-Herder saw a star appear in the empty and frozen sky. He looked around to call someone but no one was there anymore. Paddy had once roamed the fields with his two brothers but they had gone now. The plague had taken them. He still had his Yowks though who slept around him, keeping a quiet chorale of deep, animal snores. He brought his hand up to his eyes to look at the new arrival in the sky, but it was too bright and he turned away dazzled. Probably the last of the government escaping. The quarantine probably didn’t extend to them. He sat and leaned against one of the big animals, burying his head in its soft fur. It felt to him here, as if he was the last person left, not just in the village, but the world, the galaxy. There was no one there but him and Yowks to roam the fields until First1 came to him at last.

Paddy and the Yowks sat at the small rock lip overlooking the village, down below nothing stirred, not a cry or a light. Here in the winter, the village would normally be lit up with people dancing in the streets but there was no time for such things anymore. The curfew saw to that. Paddy was only allowed out for essential services. A phrase he always smiled at, he never felt essential before the plague came.

He leaned forward. There was a rustling, a movement in the dark below. Yes, he thought, there coming from the town hall was a person. They were moving along the walls with a hunched back and a big coat. Whoever it was they almost certainly didn’t want to be caught. He climbed down the ridge and looked further, the light from the sky illuminated the street. The figure emerged into the street and he knew who it was straight away. Magda, the witch from the forest, her hair a wild nest of green, her clothes mossy rags. She looked towards him, her wild eyes stared right into his just for a second and then she disappeared into the night.

 

*

Alanu, the Prime-Minister’s assistant stood waiting nervously in the shipping container that now stood for the ministerial offices. With a gust of wind from outside, in walked the Casperium, The Prime Minister. He was still dressed smartly, in suit and tie but there were stains on the shirt and mud along the bottoms of the trousers.

 

‘Prime-minister have you seen it?’ Alanu said.

 

‘Of course I’ve seen it you idiot. How could you miss it? Its right there in the sky.’

 

‘Yes sir, quite right sir.’

 

‘Any news from the Professor?’

 

‘Nothing as yet sir. The last of the trade ships have docked and gone, they have left some supplies but not enough.’

 

The Prime-Minister stopped and rubbed his temples. My life, he thought, should not have been this. The Christmas before it started, Galthet had been one the shining lights of Sector 6. He loathed the phrase because it was Ea1 condescension but it was an up and comer. An example of what the outer rim planets should be doing. Quaint but industrious. Fucking Ea1, he thought to himself.

 

‘Sir?’

 

‘Sorry, yes Alanu, could you make sure the –‘

 

The Prime-minister stopped. The screen on his desk crackled into life, after a moment, with faint wavering lines across it, appeared the face of the Professor.

 

‘Professor, it’s good to see you.’

 

‘You too, Caspar. Although I bring grave news.’ His face was white even on the faded screen.

 

‘How could things get any worse?’

 

‘I’ve been decoding a message in the sky. The message from Tabitha Might was wrong. Well it was a lie anyway. The star in the sky is ship, an empire class battleship to be precise. She said quarantine but she meant incineration. If we can’t prove that life will continue they’re going to burn the planet.’

 

The Witch from the Forest.

 

Then woe is me, Poor child for thee, and ever mourn and say…

 

Madge was not a witch, even though they all thought her so. She, and her mother before her had lived from the earth, from where they came and where they will return. Snaggle snaggle, snick snick, she whispered as she went, rubbing the dirt into her hands.  She approached the edge of the thick trees and fell prostrate to the ground. Anyone to look at her would be afraid, as many in the village were. Her hair was a nest, wild and full of twigs, across her face were two green streaks of moss, her teeth yellow like river fish. Snaggle snuggle, snick, snick, she said to herself again. She wore sack and leaves as clothes and from her arms hung feathers and hides of small tree-rats. She wailed a cry for her world to the trees, she mourned it already. The people were dying and so soon would the earth. The great moan echoed through the sky. She cracked her head this way and that until birds erupted into the sky. She wept for the earth but also for the people’s stupidity. If only they looked to the earth for their answers and not the hell-sky above. She cried until she made herself hoarse. She knew the earth and what it could do. Pain shot through her and she clutched her stomach tight. She cried most of all not for them, the people already on this earth. But for the child she was about to bring into it. For the last child of the planet Galthet at this Christmas time.

 

To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray…

 

 

 

 

The Galaxy Nativity will continue in Part 2…

 

 

 

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Homecoming

A Morven Glass story by Emma Geraghty.

 

 

It gets harder around this time of year. I guess it’s tradition. Things have changed over the years, but this time of year never gets easier to deal with. It doesn’t get cold out here. I know they have artificial snow and ice and all that shit on some of the more populous planets, but nobody bothers about it in Blokk. Heating bills are expensive enough without digitally induced weather.

I’d love to say I spend Christmas volunteering, that I give my time to those who actually would benefit. They’re always looking for help around Nep1 and the smaller settlements. I want to be a decent person, I’ve had enough Christmases that I could do it. But I don’t. I donate a large chunk of credit to a few places to assuage the guilt I’m supposed to feel, and then I leave. I’m inactive. And that’s fine.

I spend Christmas day in the space station that orbits Tanaka. My home planet, if I even have one of those. It’s primarily used as a hotel, a stop gap for interplanetary business people, so it’s relatively quiet around Christmas. I rent a room for three nights. I spend Christmas Eve asleep. I wake up early on Christmas day and order room service, I read in bed until mid afternoon, and then go to the restaurant. I sit alone and eat. The bottle of whiskey goes up in price every year, but it’s tradition, it’s all tradition now, just like the armchair nearest the observation window in the station lounge is always my place to sit with my legs tucked under me and my tumbler balanced on my knee. I look at the planet I grew up on. The thick clouds of dust, the cracks in the skin of the world where water runs in fast currents searching for a sea that isn’t there, and ocean that doesn’t exist. And the sky around it. The infinite darkness of space, the void, the emptiness, and I know there are hundreds of planets and hundreds of peoples and but I have lived out here for so long and it doesn’t go away. I let the homesickness overwhelm me. I drink more. Sometimes other people try to talk to me, other lonely souls looking for someone to raise a glass with, but most of the time I turn them away.

I tell Allory a half truth. She knows I don’t have family, but I tell her I spend Christmas on my home planet with some friends I grew up with, the one time we get together in the year. Which would be difficult, given the whole not-aging thing. There were – are, presumably they’re still alive – others like me, other Children of Lazarus, but I don’t know where any of them are. Maybe meeting someone like myself would make me feel better. Maybe they’d be insufferable.

Tanaka is sand and stone, hard living, bad wages, difficult. A lot of people never leave, and even if they do they come straight back again whether they mean to or not. It’s a dustbowl, a sink hole, a non-place. It’s home. Was. My stomach drops and I knock back another gulp of whiskey. I miss it. I miss them and I dampen it down most of the time, but now, looking at my home planet, the longing comes back fierce and fiery, forcing it’s way through my veins. I indulge. I indulge in the emptiness in my chest, in the memories that slip over my eyes like old films.

The last Christmas I spent with them was the best, and maybe that’s just nostalgia, but it was the best. I didn’t know I wouldn’t spend another one with them. I was in my fifth and supposedly final year at the Institute and I was allowed three days off for Christmas, and I was home with my mum and my little sisters. I wasn’t well. They were trialling a new drug on us, I can’t remember what it was supposed to do but the side effect of insomnia was taking it’s toll. I slept for all of Christmas eve and took enough Klaxxon pills the next morning to match the energy of my sisters and help Mum in the kitchen. It was crowded in our tiny house. Hot. We played music from Ea1 that Mum bought on the black market and we opened presents and drank the wine we’d been saving all year and ate until our stomachs hurt and Astrid and Henna complained about there not being enough chocolate as if there could ever be enough chocolate for them, and Mirry got cranky because she’s five and is always cranky past bedtime, and Mum tells me off for spending too much money on a bracelet for her but I see her smile when I fasten the gold clasp around her wrist, and I can already feel the dread of going back to the Institute but I push it back and play games with the girls and watch films on the VirtuVid that Gran gave us last year and Mirry falls asleep on my knee and Henna and Astrid climb into their bed and Mum tells them a story and when they’re all tucked in, we sit together on the sofa. Mum asks me how I am. And I tell her I’m happy. And it’s true.

I should have stayed.

The whiskey burns my throat as I finish the bottle. I should know by now that drinking just makes things seem further away. I am so lonely. I don’t admit it, but it’s this time of the year, the time of the year when everything is about togetherness and family and love and sharing time with one another and it just reminds me that it’s gone, it’s all gone, all of what I used to have is gone and the loneliness seeps into my skin and I drink more, but it doesn’t help. I feel removed. I feel one step away from everyone. Like I’ve lost the sense of touch. The lights in the lounge are ambient, colours melting across the ceiling, and I miss Allory like mad. But not just her. I’m a million miles away from everyone I’ve ever loved, and it’s melodramatic, but it feels so true. If I was someone who cried then the tears would be coming now, but all I want is another drink and to be held. So maybe, when I’m sat at the bar, that’s why I let someone buy me a drink. He sits on a stool next to me and talks, and it’s clear that he doesn’t need any response to have a conversation, and this suits me fine. He puts his hand on my leg and I don’t push him away. We finish our drinks. I let him lead me to the lift and once the doors close he presses his lips to mine. He slides his hand under my shirt. I let him push me onto the bed and in my head I apologise to Allory, knowing that she won’t find out. And when I get out of his bed hours later, dressing silently so I don’t wake him, and walk back to my room, I know I should feel bad. I should regret this. But I don’t. I never do.

Better Than James Brown

By Emma Geraghty

This is set immediately after Captain RainCha and the Temple of Dreams, so make sure you check that one out first.

Galatic Co-ordinates: 15-01-01-01

Here are a few things that I would love to say. I would love to say that this is my first time inside a government cell. I would love to say it’s the first time I’ve been arrested in a public space. And I would love to say that I came quietly. But none of those things, in any way, are remotely true.

San Ya’s assistant took me in an outflier away from the cave of wonders, or whatever that place was called. I offered to stay and wait for RainCha, but to be perfectly honest I wanted to get away from there as quickly as possible. I was shaken up. Being teleported into a death race is not the kind of experience I was looking for in KrYstal100. And RainCha seemed to have a handle on things. Guy has an ego as big as his, he must be good for something. I think Valeiran could tell I was on edge. After a swift word with San Ya, I was in the tiny ship buzzing back towards Sector Four. Valeiran kept trying to talk to me. He had a very soothing voice. It didn’t do anything. I was seriously freaked. All that talk of worst nightmares… I just wanted to go back to Allory and get into bed.

The universe, as usual, had other ideas. Valeiran picked up the government fliers on the scanner about ten minutes into the flight. He didn’t seem panicked at all. I saw him start to reset the flight path, evasive manoeuvres, all of that. But I was tired.

“Just drop me at the nearest port.”

His brow furrowed ever so slightly. “We can get away, Morven.”

I shook my head. “I don’t want you getting caught up in whatever they’re trying to pull. I can deal with it. San Ya probably needs you wherever she is, or with whatever RainCha is dealing with. You seem pretty indispensable.”

He smiled his incredibly attractive smile, but for once my mind was too preoccupied.

“Seriously. Drop me. I’m good. I can lose myself in a crowd.”

Valeiran dropped me at Cymosa Port. Not the nicest place, but somewhere I could fade. Probably lay low for a day or two. Maybe they weren’t after me.

“MORVEN GLASS.”

Maybe they meant another Morven Glass. I kept walking. If I could just make it to the main street…

“STOP WHERE YOU ARE.”

I didn’t. I could hear them running towards me and resisted the urge to go for my gun. I rolled my shoulders, shook my head slightly, and dropped to one knee as one ran straight at me. His momentum landed him on my back and I threw him sideways. Back on my feet. Turned to face the other three aiming blasters at me. For a moment, I was tempted to go for them. Just to see if I could. But getting shot was something I didn’t fancy.

“HANDS ON YOUR HEAD, GET ON YOUR KNEES.”

“If I had a credit for every time…” I grinned, locked my fingers behind my head and knelt on the floor. There was quite a crowd now. The guard I sent flying twisted my wrists into cuffs and kicked me in the shoulderblades, sending me straight to the ground. I managed to twist slightly so I didn’t land right on my face, but it still fucking hurt. I was hauled unceremoniously into the back of the flier, a hood was pulled over my head, and we set off. Another grand adventure with the law for Morven Glass.

So now here we are. Or rather, here I am. In some cell in the pits of some government building, getting the shit kicked out of me because of someone else’s fuckup. If I ever see RainCha again, I might kill him. Or shoot him in the knee. Something along those lines.

“I told you, I don’t know where he is.”

“Don’t lie to us, Glass.”

“I’m not lying, you cretin.”

He sinks a fist into my stomach and I crumple. Or at least I would, if I could. The Gorbegs on either side of me keep me upright with iron grips on my upper arms. My feet are only just on the floor. I’m a little glad of the support, to be honest. Not sure I could stand on my own. These guys are good. The guard stood in front of me waits while I get my breath back. Very nice of him.

“I told you. I fucking told you. I got teleported to some weird Indiana Jones bullshit in the middle of arse-end nowhere. I don’t know where RainCha is. I never met the bastard before today.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“That’s not my problem.”

The guard smiles slightly. It’s not a friendly smile. I grit my teeth, waiting for the blow I know is coming, but even then the punch to the face takes me off guard. “It is your problem, Miss Glass. It is definitely your problem.”

I guess he’s right. I’m not sure it’s my fault, but it’s definitely my problem. I press my tongue against my teeth, checking if any have come loose. Miraculously not. What I should do is just relate the whole story to him in a calm tone of voice so he understands that I genuinely had nothing to do with RainCha appearing in the Galactic Senate and it’s just a huge misunderstanding and actually I’ve had a pretty rough day too and he’ll just let me go back home. But I doubt that would be the outcome. And I’m pretty sure he just gave me a black eye, so there is no chance of me co-operating whatsoever. Because I’m stubborn. And I’ve had worse.

He’s talking again.

“…we have no issue with keeping you here overnight, it would be so much easier if you just told us what we need to know. I don’t want to hurt you, sweetheart.”

I laugh. “Oh, fuck off. This is nothing. I’ve been doing this for a couple of centuries. I’m a child of Lazarus, remember? The kind of torment I went through for that, you’re not even allowed to come close to. This is basically a massage.”

“Listen-”

“Nah, you listen. I have told you what I know. I have not lied to you. I hardly know RainCha. I have no idea about the teleporter. I am not the droid you’re looking for. So you might as well just let me go, because this little spa day is just wasting everyone’s time.”

The guard doesn’t seem to know what to do with this information. It must usually be a lot easier than this to interrogate someone, and for the second before he hits me, he looks genuinely irritated. He slaps me hard across the face and my head snaps to the side. I taste blood in my mouth. I count to three and grin up at him.

“Come on, honey. At least buy me dinner before any of that kinky shit.”

——-

It’s dark when I come round. It’s dark and I am in a lot of pain and I am pissed off. I never asked for any of this. Not this time. I allow myself a moment of self pity before getting my shit together. I pull myself into a sitting position against a wall. Everything hurts. I do an inventory. It’s mostly ribs and kidneys and stomach and face. Nothing broken. Maybe a rib or three. Black eye, probably. Split lip, definitely. Huh. My nose isn’t broken. That’s nice.

I’m pretty sure I can hear breathing nearby. I give a low whistle, the universal call and response signal. Someone whistles back.

“You awake.” The voice is heavily accented. “Thought you dead.”

“Sadly not.” I squint into the darkness but can’t make anything out. “How long was I out for?”

I hear them shrug. “Time unimportant. You human?”

“Mostly. You?”

“Vespin.”

I don’t know if they want a conversation or not, but my brain just isn’t up to it. I hope I haven’t been down here long. The last time I was in a government cell, I didn’t get out for a week. I don’t think I could do that again.

In the darkness, I can let myself think. It’s something I try not to do too often – I’m all hard exterior and wisecracks and old pop culture references that people don’t understand. Not that much room for real thoughts. It’s a miracle I’m still alive. Old age doesn’t apply to me, but I have had enough injuries that I should have been dead long ago. Maybe that was something else they did to me at the Academy. Superior healing power. Or maybe I’m just stubborn. I don’t know. That’s the thing with being alive as long as this. You don’t care any more. Or rather, you do care, but in a different way. I have seen too many loved ones die to care freely. I don’t let people in, I close myself off. To people. To situations. To everything. Nothing is new any more.

So when something shakes me up, it really shakes me up. Getting teleported into that canyon, for example. That has never happened before and I had no idea how to react, but my default is survival and I’ll be damned if that’s the way I was going to go. The fates have other ideas, I guess.

And then there’s Allory. It’s been over two years already, and I don’t want it to end. I’ll have to tell her at some point, that I don’t get older, and then she’ll want rid of me. Which is fine. Or there’s the alternative story line, where she says it’s fine and physical appearance doesn’t matter and she wants to stay with me forever, at which point I’ll leave. Because it doesn’t matter if she’s strong enough. I’m not. I can’t watch her get old. I don’t have it in me. When I got out of the Academy, ten years after enrolling, after all of the experimentation, I went back to my family once. And that was it. I knew that if I stayed with them I could see my little sisters grow up. But then they would carry on growing. They would pass me, their big sister, and they would grow old and time would take them away from me. I don’t know if I had nieces or nephews or anything like that. Better they thought I was dead than knowing I was… well. Weak.

Shit. This got real. I guess I should be feeling close to tears or something, but unless it’s physical pain I generally don’t cry any more. Physical pain or a vintage movie where a dog dies. The bastards.

I lean my head against the wall and close my eyes, trying to get the images of my family or Allory or Marley and Me out of my head. I can hear the Vespin breathing near me. They sound asleep. There’s an idea…

Bright light wakes me, and for a minute I think I have died and crossed over and I am a little put out. But then I realise that a door has opened. Not a metaphor. A physical door to the cell has opened and guards are coming in. They motion for me to get up. I can’t. My body has seized up, so when they grab me under my arms I yell out in pain.

“Give me a minute, fucking hell lads.”

I try to get some life back into my limbs. Slowly, slowly, I get to my feet, using the wall for support. This is really difficult. My eyes haven’t quite adjusted to the light. One of the guards grips my upper arm and walks me to the door. Wait. Where are we going?

“Gonna be honest with you boys, I don’t think I can take another interview. Someone else can have the job.” I’m babbling a little. This doesn’t happen to me. What the hell, Glass? Get your shit together.

“Someone’s collecting you.”

If that’s supposed to reassure me, it doesn’t work. Just don’t let it be a lawyer, I can’t handle that, not right now, not when I’m already injured, who is it, what-

But then I’m already out of the door and I see who’s come for me. Allory. All business suit and angry expression, a look of fear flashing across her face when she sees me. I must look gorgeous. The guard lets go of me and I fall against her. I press my face into the shoulder of her jacket, my fingers gripping her arms. She holds me for a moment, lips pressed to the top of my head.

“Come on. We’re leaving.”

She signs some forms, muttering about lack of professionalism and the legality of everything, and helps me walk slowly to the lift and up to her flier outside. She straps me into the passenger seat. There are guards watching. I have a look at the building we’ve just come from. It seems like a single storey storage job, but that’s definitely just a hologram. I’m normally on the lookout for details, little snippets of information I can use or at least something to make a decent pun with, but I don’t have the brain power. The events of the last few days – hours? Weeks? I genuinely don’t know, and that scares me. But anyway, they’re catching up with me. Allory gets in the pilot seat and revs the engine, taking off slowly. She doesn’t like talking when she’s flying, so I lean back against the headrest and take a moment to look at her. Really look at her. Take in the angle of her jawline, the tension in her knuckles as she grips the controls, the small strands of hair that have escaped her bun. I’ve never told her that I love her. I can’t say it now though – I have been hit in the head too many times recently for it to come across as sincere. I feel my eyes begin to close.

“If you die now,” I hear Allory say in a measured tone, “after all the strings I had to pull to get you out of there, I will kill you.”

I open my eyes, smiling. “Al-”

“And I am aware that sentence is illogical, but let me explain.” She types some new coordinates into the navpad. “If you die, I will hire all the best scientists to bring you back, I will spend every scrap of money I have to resurrect your ungrateful self, and after your first few minutes of consciousness, I will shoot you in the head. So keep your eyes open.”

“Aye aye captain,” I respond, and am rewarded with the smallest of smiles. “Where are we going?”

“Hospital.”

“Allory, I don’t-”

“Have you looked at yourself in the mirror recently, Morven? You’re a fucking mess. I have no idea what they did to you, and I don’t want to know because I am already fighting the urge to turn around and burn that place to the ground. You said you’d be home three days ago. You promised. And I know you’re tough and you can fight, and I know your job is dangerous, but you keep your promises and when you didn’t show…” She shook her head sharply. “I’m taking you to the hospital. I want you to heal properly. Not your usual couple of days bedrest and then back to work. I’ve had enough of your bullshit with that. You hear me?”

I nod. “I hear you, Allory.”

“Good. Now, shut up and let me fly.”

I keep my eyes open all the way to the hospital. My heart starts beating faster as soon as I catch sight of the place, but I breathe slowly and will myself to calm down. Medical facilities have always terrified me, ever since the Academy, so it’s a testament to Allory that I actually make it through the doors and past reception. I get given a robe to change into while I wait for a doctor to see me. Allory has to help me. Fucking hell. I can’t remember being this bad in decades. Fuck RainCha. Fuck Lavatio Bron and his mirrored suit and his sand snakes and fuck Tabitha Might and her slap happy guards. I get examined and poked and tutted at and I do a lot of metaphorically biting my tongue until finally I get put into a bed and injected with some sort of sedative. Allory kisses me lightly on the lips as I drop into blissful unconsciousness. I don’t want her to leave. But the whole world is slipping away.

Dreams. Memories. Everything white and chrome and sterile smelling and it’s just a needle. You’ve done it before, the side effects with this one are minimal. Are you looking for an escape route? There are guards everywhere, and I know you might fancy your chances but eventually one of them will stun you and bring you back here and we’ll give you the drug anyway. Don’t be a pussy. That’s better. No, not your arm. This one goes straight in the spine. Scared, Glass? Didn’t think so. There. All done. Brain spinning. Everything hurts. His face turns into Mum and San Ya and Allory who smiles and pushes a needle into my temple and I am in so much pain and I’m crying what’s wrong with you? You’ve been through worse but that means fuck all if you don’t take it as far as you can go. It’s just another year or so. We’ll make sure your family are safe. Who knows what would happen to them if you decide to drop out. Not a difficult choice, is it?

I wake in a cold sweat, heart thumping so fast I feel like it might re-break my ribs. Panic attack. I close my eyes tight and focus on my breathing. I’m getting out of this place. I try to rub my eyes, but I can’t move my hands. I look down. Handcuffs? Are you fucking serious?

“WHY AM I IN HANDCUFFS?”

Allory’s head appears round the door, eyebrows raised. “Why are you shouting?”

“Why am I in fucking handcuffs?”

“Because otherwise, you’ll try and discharge yourself. Which you are completely allowed by law to do. So I handcuffed you to the hospital bed.”

I press my head back into the pillow and close my eyes tight, willing myself to calm the fuck down. The sheer ridiculousness of the situation hits me. I start to laugh. It hurts, but not as much as it did before. Must be getting better. Allory comes over to the side of the bed.

“You know, I kind of like you in handcuffs. Once you’re fully healed up, I’m going to…” she bends down and whispers in my ear. My eyes widen in surprise. I think I’m blushing. Wow. She pulls away, a look of pure innocence on her face.

“Whoa.” I shake my head in disbelief. “Now I know I love you.”

Now Allory looks surprised and I panic because that is completely not what I meant to say. Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit. 

“Weird timing, Glass,” she says. Then she shrugs. Smiles a little. “Get some rest. I love you too.”

She walks out of the room and I breathe a sigh of relief. That went so much better than it should have done. Huh. The universe had other ideas, I guess.

The Runaways

By Samuel Edney

Galactic Co-ordinates: 89-13-05-01

Suggested Soundtrack: See Spotify Playlist at end.

Beep. Beep. Beep…

URGENT MESSAGE SENT FROM COLONY SIERRA TWO-NINE, REGENCY CLUSTER BELT SEVEN; The zealot families have overthrown the government and authorities. The colony, no… the planet… everything is in disarray. Fire engulfs us, everywhere. Send immediate help. Please, for the love of God, have mercy. Send as much help as you can muster… They are coming. The darkness is coming. It is hungry. It wants to eat us all… they are coming.

***

Through the lenses of dusty and rusting old binoculars, Mica looked down to the base of the hill. A compound; a metal fence surrounded it, floodlights shone down on the tarmac. Atop the tarmac, a dropship, fuelled by two crew members in orange overalls, and guarded by a squad of five soldiers, clad in dark blue. Two of the soldiers stood at the gate, letting in the last of a convoy of civilians, draped in rags and stumbling through.

‘Is it still there?’, Cassy asked from below.

‘Yeah. But not for long’, Mica replied. She lowered the binoculars, hooked them back onto her belt, then climbed back down to the room below . ‘Reckon we still have about a half hour.’

The cottage was old, ruined, the bricks covered in moss. The roof was merely a frame, and several holes punctured the walls. Mica jumped down onto the grass and leaf covered warped wooden floor, and sat down. Cassy packed several items into a backpack; two bottles of water, several small food ration packs, and an old star map. Mica pulled her own backpack to her, unzipped it and began to check the contents inside, placing the binoculars in.

‘You ready?’, Cassy asked. Fiery green eyes looked up at Mica through dark brown hair. Her chiselled cheeks and jawline punctuated the default look of stern judgement she harboured wherever her gaze fell.

‘Of course I am… why?’, Mica asked.

‘Your hands are shaking.’

Mica looked down. The bottle of water she had in her hand shook. She put the bottle back in the bag, clenched her fist, tried to make the shaking stop. ‘Well, you don’t look entirely calm either.’

‘Of course I’m not’, Cassy said, ‘You think this is easy for me?’

‘It isn’t easy for either of us.’ Mica zipped up her bag, put it beside her. ‘You never actually told me why you’re doing this with me.’

‘I’m not doing it with you, I’m doing it for me. You just happen to be here too’, Cassy spat.

‘You asked me to be here,’ Mica said, ‘Those are half of the supplies I manage to scrape up in your bag.’

‘Don’t lecture me.’

‘I’m not, I just…’, Mica stopped. She didn’t want to insult or offend the only sane person she knew was left on the planet besides her.

Cassy zipped up her bag, put it to one side, ‘I know. And… I know we don’t know eachother that well. I’ve never really known anybody that well. Just my family, who… who helped orchestrate this whole mess.’ Mica looked at her, scared but curious. ‘Which is why trust isn’t one of my strong suits,’ Cassy continued, ‘Never trusted anyone, and no-one ever trusted me. That’s why I need to get away; because maybe someone, somewhere else, might trust me… and I can learn to trust them too.’ Cassy looked at the floor, refusing to meet Mica’s gaze.

Silence filled the room. Filled the cottage. Filled the whole world around them. Mica searched for a reply to break it up. ‘My family are all dead.’ Cassy started to look back up. ’At least, I think they are. I haven’t seen them since Resdun Square. Lost them in the crowd. Then…’, Mica paused, lost in the memory, ‘There was an explosion. Fire. Fire like I’ve never seen. As if, a dragon had swooped down and let loose all it’s might and… and fury.’ She stopped again, Cassy looked out at the forest, and the night sky. ‘I searched for three days, went further and further; ten blocks, twenty, thirty, even to the edge of the colony. Never found a trace.’

After a moment, Cassy looked back at her. ‘I didn’t know.’

‘Well, now you do,’ Mica paused, ‘Listen. Maybe, when we get out of here… just for a bit, until we both… you know… find our feet… we can stick together? I’m not saying forever, but…’

Desperate for the stammering to cease, Cassy grabbed her bag, and stood. ‘To be honest, I wouldn’t count on it.’ Mica looked at her, then away, feeling slightly insulted.

The rumble of an engine came from outside, drawing both girls attention. Cassy, hunched down, stuck to the walls, moved into the living room. She stopped at the window, scanned the road leading up to the cottage outside. Overshadowed by trees and bushes, it was pure darkness. Cassy stared into the abyss, occasionally glancing in each direction. Nothing, but the sound of the engine grew louder every second.

Then, the darkness began to illuminate. The engine growl accompanied a pair of headlights curving around a bend ahead of the cottage. Cassy stuck to the wall, peeking over the flaking paint of the windowsill. Within a moment, the headlights straightened out and shone directly onto the cottage. Cassy jumped back so as not to be seen. The beam of white light burned onto the face of the cottage for a moment, then disappeared. She peaked round again.

A pickup truck had come to a stop outside. The bulbs of it’s headlights cooled as they died down. The rusting door on the driver’s side creaked as it opened, a pair of fur clad boots kicked up leaves as they struck the ground.

A bony hand wrapped itself around the frame of the door, slammed it shut. Another held a metal pipe. They were attached to the long arms of a tall, thin figure, clothed in cloth rags. For a head, it donned a mask; made from a real bull’s head. The figure began to walk; towards the cottage.

Fear filling her mind, her heart, her very soul, Cassy retreated to the back room, swept her bag up from the ground. ‘Time to go’, she said, careful not to show her fear to Mica.

‘Now?’, Mica asked.

‘Yes, now!’, Cassy snapped.

Mica grabbed her bag too. The two girls swung them over their shoulders, then began to climb through a hole in the wall next to them, Cassy first to go. Just as Mica exited, the sound of the front door being kicked to pieces rang out. Mica looked back to see the figure in the doorway. Before she could even register what was happening, Cassy grabbed her, then pulled her through the gap.

***

The two girls ran, kicking their way through the forest, occasionally tripping over tree trunks protruding from the sap coated ground, the momentum of sprinting down the hill forced the loss of control of their pace. Cassy glanced back to the cottage; stood in the spot they occupied mere moments ago, the bull headed figure stared at them. Then, it disappeared quickly into the darkness behind it.

‘Was that a zealot?!’, Mica shouted her best through her wheezing.

‘Not now, focus on getting to the dropship!’, Cassy called back.

‘I want to know why—!’

The two came to a stop, forcefully slamming into a tree. Cassy turned to Mica, bragged her by the straps of her backpack, ’Listen to me right now, because I’m not going to stop and come back for you if decide to get bogged down in wanting to know why that thing is chasing us. I am getting to that dropship, and if you want to be there too; forget about the zealot’

Mica stared into Cassy’s green eyes, nodded, shaking again, more visibly next time, unsure whether through fear or still regaining herself from the momentum of sprinting down the hill. Cassy let her go, turned around and began to search for the compound guarding the dropship. Just between the trees she could see the illumination from the floodlights. ‘Looks like we’re pretty close,’ she said, ‘But we can’t stay on rough ground, it’ll take too long. We need to find our way to the main road.’ She looked back to Mica, who had turned and was staring back up at the cottage, now some distance away. ‘Mica’, Cassy said.

Mica turned to her, a lost look in her eyes. ‘Sorry, I just… this is it isn’t it?’

‘This is what?’

‘We’re really leaving.’

‘Well, yes that’s the point of all this’, Cassy said, confused.

‘I know… it’s just hit me now’, Mica started to tear up, but she didn’t entirely understand why.

Cassy rolled her eyes, ‘I’m going to leave you, here and now, if you’re starting to falter already.’

Mica shook her head, ’Don’t worry about it’, she said, a stern snappiness to her tone, ‘I’m here. Lets go.’ She made to move, but Cassy pulled her back. ‘What are you doing? I’m ready, now you’re not?’

‘Shut up,’ Cassy whispered. She listened to the sound of the woods around them. Birds chirping, the leaves rustling in the slight breeze; and the sound of engines. More than one. Cassy’s eyes widened. ‘Run. Right now. Run!’

The two broke into a sprint yet again, this time steadying themselves slightly as they progressed down the hillside. Cassy kept her attention focused on the light projecting from the dropship compound. Mica kept her attention on Cassy; the further they went, the darker it seemed to get, the shrubbery and foliage around them becoming more dense,clawing at them, as if to pull them into the trees.

Up ahead, Cassy spotted a clearing, ‘Open road!’, she shouted back.

As they approached, Mica spotted something in the corner of her eye; headlights. Not just one pair, but several. ‘Left! To the left!’, she screamed.

Cassy turned her gaze, just able to make out the outlines of the truck from earlier, being followed by other cars and trucks. She looked back ahead, gritted her teeth, and ran harder.

They reached the road; a wide dirt path that dropped further down into a ravine on the other side. Cassy stopped, scanned her surroundings. To her left, the road looked to curve left and back up the hill. To her right, a straight line, leading directly to the compound’s gate. Mica screeched to a halt beside her, kicking up dust. The chorus of growling engines grew. Cassy grabbed Mica, pushing her ahead as they ran.

Focusing her attention, Mica looked up and ahead, laying her gaze on the dropship and the crew and civilians starting to board it. She locked on, the sight of escape and near freedom from the lunatics chasing her, and the fire that she remembered engulfing everything she had known, spurred her pace. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Calm and determined. She could feel the blood pumping through her veins, the wind rushing past her ears drowning out the oncoming engines and the rising panic nature of Cassy’s shouting. All Mica could see was the dropship, and the future it could bring.

Just a little further.

The sound of a deep, guttural scream snapped her out of her trance. She skidded to a halt, whipped back around. Mica laid eyes on Cassy, several yards behind her, being surrounded by four vehicles; three pickup trucks and a small car. Cassy stopped too, hidden behind a veil of dust kicked up by the vehicles now encircled around her.

Cassy searches for Mica, disorientated by the sudden blockade now facing her. She found her, a fair way aways down the road, staring straight back. She tried to muster a call for help, but as the doors to the trucks and car opened, seemingly, and eerily, unanimously, she found no use of rhetoric. Instead, her green eyes lost their fire, replaced with terror, stared longingly at Mica, begging for help.

Mica didn’t move. She just looked on. Then to the dropship, then back to Cassy. She thought about what Cassy had said to her, back on the hill, and how she was met with a stunning indifference back up in the cottage after trying her best to provide some amount of comfort. It didn’t take long for her to make a decision. Avoiding meeting Cassy’s gaze, she turned towards the compound, and ran once more.

Cassy watched the outline of Mica’s body disappear into the lights, and felt something all too familiar to her; crushing betrayal. She paused, stared at where Mica was.

A body blocked her line of sight; towering over her, the bull headed figure that chased them from the cottage. Cassy looked up into the hollowed out eye sockets of the mask. Fiery green eyes stared back, ‘Brother.’ The figure grunted through the mask.

The slamming of a door from behind her drew her attention. She turned slowly, now surrounded by rag-clad figures, all wearing animal heads as mask. Closing off the circle, holding an axe, a man wearing a wolf head. Cassy took a deep breath, focusing herself on the situation at hand. She stared directly at the wolf, ‘Father.’ The wolf headed figure said nothing. Cassy looked around at each individual figure. ’Well? Come on.’ She raised her fists. From the circle, wielding hammers and pitchfork, two assailants approached. They were hesitant, put swung for her. Cassy dodge, then swung back, knocking the hammer wielding ‘Pig’ away. The pitchforking wielding ‘Sheep’ stabbed at her torso, but Cassy darted left, took hold of the pitchfork, and wrenched it from the Sheep’s hands, using it to knock the figure away.

Cassy was light on her feet, pitchfork in hand, skirting around the group, trying to keep a watchful eye on all of them, but failing to do so. ‘Come on!’, she screamed, ‘Get it over with you sick fu—‘

A deep thud, followed by a grunt and the spitting of blood, Cassy was knocked to the ground. The Bull had driven the metal pipe into the back of her head. Pig and Sheep returned with rope and a bag in their hands, respectively. Cassy tried her hardest to pull herself up, spitting more blood into the dirt.

The rope was wrapped around her wrists, the bag pulled over head, and she lifted up. Cassy felt herself being thrown into the back of the pickup truck. The sound of two pairs of feet joined the clanging of her body onto the metal, followed by the percussion of opening and closing doors. In the darkness, she tried to get a sense of balance, desperately searching for detail through the dark fabric as to where she might be. The growling of the engines started up once more, and Cassy felt the vehicle lurch and start to move.

A bright beam of light pierced through the bag, blinding her. She could hear several howls of surprise and protest, followed by a deep boom of twin engines, and the gusts of air that they kicked up. The bag flew off of Cassy’s head, and she stared up at the underbelly of the dropship. Next to her, the Pig and the Bull were writhing; taser rounds lay in their chests. They fell from the pickup and onto the dirt road.

Cassy blinked repeatedly, struggling to stay conscious, but everything began to turn blurry. From the dropship, five indiscernible outlines of dark blue slid down ropes to surround the pickup she struggled to find her feet in. She could hear the muffled shouting of orders.

Suddenly, she felt herself being lifted into the arms of a solider; one of the guards from the compound. He was young, with dark hair and glasses, a name tag sown onto his vest that read; ‘JOSH’. She and him began to rise, darkness beginning to fill her peripheral vision. Cassy’s attention turned to the dropship she rose to meet.

A pale hand stuck out as she was carried onto the rear ramp, and the face of Mica met her.

Then, darkness.

***

The distant sound of generators humming. The dark began to illuminate. Someone was next to her, touching the back of head with something soft and wet. In the distance, a distant voice spoke, crackling slightly; a radio broadcast ‘… with a flash of purple…appeared in the Senate… Tabitha Might…’

Cassy awoke to the sight of a green suited medic tending to the wound on the back of her head with a cotton bud. He drew back, inspected the blood, brought out a bandage from a pack wrapped around his waist. Around him, a grey coloured room. She was laying on a bed. To her left; a window. Outside of that, the blackness of space, punctuated by stars. To Cassy’s right, Mica sat in a chair, looking at her.

When she came around fully, Mica smiled, sat beside her. ‘Hey. You’re alright. Just relax and don’t move too much’, she said, ‘Took a helluva hit. But you’ll be fine, apparently.’

The medic packed his things away, nodded, then left the room, turning off the radio as he did so. Cassy blinked again, focusing on the same outside of the window. ‘Where are we?’, she asked.

Mica stood, moved over to the window. ‘We’re in orbit’, she smiled again, ‘We made it’.

Cassy managed to pull herself up enough to look out of the window. The planet’s

surface came into view; there were large patches covered in fire, with others covered in

lights that, one by one, started to go out. Cassy looked away, stared straight ahead.

Mica moved away, ‘I’ll let you get some rest’, she said. She started to walk towards

the door.

‘Mica’, Cassy said. Mica stopped, looked back to her. ‘About you sticking around.’

‘Yeah?’, Mica asked.

Cassy paused, searched for the right words. ‘Maybe, for the near future anyway. And… thank you’, she said.

Mica nodded, meekly smiled, then exited. Cassy looked back outside the window, and pondered over what may happen next.

 

Callout for Submissions

Galaxy is Changing.

 

From the start Galaxy has been a world building platform invested in creating a living, breathing world through art.

 

We want everyone to join us in this journey.

 

I want to introduce a new Galaxy leader, Emma Geraghty, Penguin shortlisted writer and theatre maker with the award-winning Powder Keg. Together we are launching a new format for Galaxy to create a platform for all kinds of sci-fi art. We envisage Galaxy as not just a writing blog but a multi-media platform, to share and promote a diverse range of artists.

 

Come along for the ride.

 

If you have writing, scripts, photography, videos, music – anything we want to support you in the creation of it and then help you promote it afterwards.

 

 

Submissions.

 

With this in mind we our opening submissions! We be having our first new-format volume in September and in line with our relaunch the theme will be:

 

BLAST OFF!

 

Obviously we’re looking for stories. Short stories or vignettes, planetary descriptions, segments of script – anywhere up to 4,000 words. But we’re also looking for artefacts.

 

Artefacts.

 

We are looking for examples of anything. This is the space for videos, songs, imagined academia, comics, drawings, art – the universe is your oyster. Small or big anything goes.

 

 

Send your submission to galaxyscifi1@gmail.com by 20th August and we’ll let you know if you’re going to be featured soon after. Please include a title for your work and whatever name you want to be credited under.

 

You’ll be creating pieces as part of a larger universe. That means:

 

  • You can use characters from other pieces.
  • You can pick up story threads and keep them going.
  • You can go to previous locations and use them again.
  • You can tell ‘the other side of the story’…
  • You can fill out back stories or mythology.

 

If you want to try any of the above ideas, then please let us know first. Nobody wants to step on anybody’s space boots. Drop us a message and we’ll help you connect the dots.

 

 

Callout for Artist/Illustrator.

 

We have a specific callout for an artist or illustrator who may be interested in bringing some of our characters and locations to life. Please get in touch for more info.

 

 

Welcome To Galaxy.

 

Millions of Planets. Billions of Lives. Infinite Stories.

 

Stay Cosmic,

 

 

Andy and Emma.

 

 

Starlight, Camera, Action.

By Andy Ainscough

 

GALACTIC CO-ORDINATES: 02-01-04-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: See spotify playlist at end.

 

In all the roles I’ve played I think this is my greatest. It is finally me and just me alone. I am in this moment, truly me. Is that acting? Is it actually realizing who you truly are? Everyone thinks it is someone else. They are so used to seeing a character every single day. When they really see you, it is someone else entirely.

Here at the opening of my new film, with the assembled paparazzi of the galactic empire, they see me for the first time.

It was always the two of us, all through our lives. The two of us. The golden pair. So beautiful, so perfect, how could the Galaxy not love us? You’ll know me, of course, Branta Carlile, and my brother, Brent. I think when I clock it up we’ve done over a three hundred films together. We’d churn them out one after another. Starring roles, cameos, characters we’ve done them all. It started, as all these things do with a mother. Our mother, Farbrisia Carlile, was born in the slums of Nep1. She was a tall, heavyset woman with a fierce stare. We never knew our father, I don’t think she did really but we did know he was an illegal. We were born glowing and glittery. We were supremely healthy with two crops of lush golden hair. Our cherubic faces had cheeks just a tad too rosy. My mother knew whoever our father was – he was an enhanced human and she saw the chance of a lifetime.

I think we were six months in our first film. Nothing huge, some kind of holoart where the history of the galaxy was represented by two babies swimming through goo. Our enhanced brains work better than normal humans so I remember it well. The cold, viscous goo, my mother looking over the vat as the hover strings pulled us through. Before out ‘big break’, she used to take us down the docks where the commercial cruise liners stopped. She knew how beautiful we were and if she held us over the barriers, one day someone would need us. She was right – one day they did. How different a life we would have had if Farbrisia Carlile was less ambitious. If she could have loved both of us the same. If she could keep us for herself rather than show the whole galaxy. How better our lives would have been.

After a few more roles, we were picked up by an agency and were relocated to Ea1. I remember my mother’s over exaggerated sighs of relief. She had been on at us for months about the darkness of Nep1. The darkness was sending our enhanced skin shades of blue and we needed to get further into the solar system to get back our golden glow. I didn’t mind, I would have quite liked to have gone blue. But we boarded the shuttle bus to Ea1 and never looked back. I will never forget my first view of the Capital. Earth, as it used to be called an age ago, had lost all semblance of a natural object. It was a sphere of chrome and gold, glass and diamond. Giant antennae punctured its surface. HoloAds the size of countries flickered in the solar sky advertising perfume and housing developments in the 02. On the top, at the north-pole, was the golden senate building, its vastness even visible from space. One day I would meet her, the sneering witch-like Empress Tabitha Might, but then I just imagined her scuttling around in there like a rat.

From then on, we were the darlings of the galaxy. But it was always my brother who came first. Even swimming through that goo at sixth months old, he swam first. Not only have I had my life robbed by my mother but my brother too. In the posters he would be in foreground, me always behind. Why? I was more beautiful, hell I was more talented. After a while I admit it, the rot set in. The way he was treated was so different. I remember once, a dreadful film, some faux western starring Lavitio Bron, well before the disgrace. Lavitio, his face morphing into a soft elfin man as he approached us, went straight up to Brent and graciously congratulated him on something and then walked straight past me. Nothing at all. I was the biggest star in the galaxy and I couldn’t even get a hello. Well the jokes on him now. Look it up.

The endless flashes continue – will they ever stop taking pictures?

My mother was the same, she always doted on him, the golden boy. Once, we were up for the same award at the Grants, he won of course. She said to me after, ‘You were second out of the womb, this is your place to be second best, be pleased for your brother, he is the one who deserves the spotlight.’

She died in a gambling den on Triisk. After a string of reality tv show appearances, the chem.pills finally got her. I saw her just before she fled to sector 6, her eyes green and glazed, she barely knew who I was, she said ‘you, woman, where’s Brent? Brent Carlile, I’m his mother you know.’

When I got Triisk, I searched and searched for her. I wore a veil and pretended I was her staff. Eventually a janitor in one of the hyper casinos said her body had been thrown in the gravity compactor. They said she had choked on her own vomit. Too much chem., a door Gorbeg said sadly. I searched those god-forsaken places for her. On my own. Brent stayed in the Capital with his friends. When I told him, he looked a me for a moment, in the middle of a gaggle of people all drinking champagne, and then said ‘ah man, that’s a shame’. She loved him so much, more than she ever could me, and he didn’t care. He didn’t care at all. The press showed endless footage of him in black mournfully walking through the holopark with a black rose. Staged, just like everything else, it was staged.

From then I just kept thinking about it, a life I could have lived. Away from my tragic mother, away from my horrible brother. Where I was the star because I was kind and beautiful. Not because I caught some of the light in somebody else’s shadow. I had to do something about it. I had to break free of this role given to me and become the one everyone remembered. Because of something I did. Me.

The paparazzi click and click and flash and flash. Somewhere in the distant I hear teleports and the thud of boots. I heave him up a little, my brother, he is becoming heavy in my arms. This is the role I will be remembered for. I killed him just behind the door, stabbed him through the neck. We were due to make the announcement of our latest venture so I though I would make it mine. They’re right to take pictures. Take as many as you want. The blood that stains my white dress is congealing and starting to smell. I clutch his body and stare forward smiling. Me, in my final role as Branta Carlise, the biggest star in the Galaxy.

 

Captain RainCha and the Temple of Dreams

by Andy Ainscough

 

SUGGESTED FOMER READING: Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon, Vol.1, Story 4 + Captain RainCha and the Child Prince, Vol.2 Story 3.

 

GALACTIC COODINATES: 12-05-06-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: See spotify playlist at end.

 

 

Oh boy. This is not good. Really not good. There’s no religion or self-help book that can make see the good in this. Oh boy not one. I can see why people wanted the damn thing so much if it did this. Fuck me, this is a bad guy’s Christmas.

 

Okay so as usual – I’ve got me some explaining to do. Let’s roll back a bit. Let me tell you how I came face to face with the Galactic Empress Tabitha Might.

 

Cue titles. A montage of purple weasels. Me looking handsome. Slow motion pulling out of guns. Etcetera etcetera.

 

Now I love myself a party. Who doesn’t? And I find myself in one of the hottest gigs in sector 4. And we all know sector 4 is the coolest sector. I know Joe will be salty but you’ve just gotta have a change from time to time. Its Friday night standard as I walk into KrYstal100 and the place is LIT. Its full of illegals, unregistered, humans, Fal-taps, Gorbegs – essentially if there is a biological oddity in the damn wide universe it is represented here. People dance around the crystal formations that grow out the ground up to the cave roof. A cross species slap-band funk the freak out in the corner hitting the crystals and send sound waves rumbling through the floor so you can feel it in your nethers. Oof that’s some good funk.

Oh yeah –we’re in a cave. And the place is run by living crystals. Sorry, just to get you up to speed.

 

Anyway. I’m not here strictly on pleasure. That would be ridiculous. I’m here to catch up with a business associate of mine.

‘Come on Ray she’ll be there later,’ I say and usher him away from a particularly sleek looking silver-back. Oh yeah my mate Ray is here too. He’s a highly evolved Gorilla but now works as a courier and my professional getter-into-troubler.

I walk across the dance floor snaking my hips as I go. They all love it. Or if they don’t they just haven’t seen it yet. At the other side are the private booths. Each one is carved into the rock face and lined with a different colour crystal. People like it – I think it looks like a fucking sweet shop. Alas. Me and Ray cha cha to the nearest one. A big, nasty looking Gorbeg in a begrudging tuxedo stands with his hand on an inevitable red velvet rope.

‘Name.’ It says blankly. Literally not a hint of emotion. The wall looks more passionate.

‘Woah calm down hot stuff,’ I say.

‘Name.’ the living wall says.

‘Okay okay no need for a speech handsome. Captain RainCha and Ray.’

Its huge hands remains unmoving on the rope.

‘Full names.’

 

Uh oh. Noooooooo. Don’t judge me.

 

‘ How did she get my full name? Ugh fine. Captain Horatio Alveron RainCha and Ray, full name. Ray the Bonso.’

 

What can I say – my parents were Hippies. End of Story. Fine.

 

‘In you go.’

 

Here she is. If I wasn’t such good friends with her I’d spend all my time running away from her. This bitch is crazy. But I love her. She’s tiny and this time she has a immaculate bob haircut in her trademark sleek black. She sits, with her tiny legs dangling over the plush sofa her hands folded and her lips pursed.

 

You guessed it – it’s only San Ya, proprietress of the largest black market in the Galaxy.

 

‘You late,’ she says unmoving. We shuffle in next to Valeiran, San’s Fal-Tap assistant and two radioactive looking drinks teleport onto the table. Told you this place is cool.

 

‘Hey San, sorry hun, we went to that new planet in the 02, tried to flog some of Ray’s old stock but it turns out its been overrun with green goo monsters. Who knew?’

 

‘Half galaxy knew RainCha. Idiot. But tell me did you get it? Shadow-board is it yours?’

 

Cut-Scene. So it turns out I’m wanted by some pretty bad guys. They’re really bad actually and not very pretty. Anyway, they knew everything about me – including that recently I got some let’s say superpowers courtesy of a bunch of undiscovered purple space weasels. Long story. But annnnnyyywayyy. I had to get a little do-hikkie that essentially deleted my name and face from every database in the galaxy.

 

And it motherrrfuckin worked. Yea.

 

‘Yes San I did indeed get the shadow-board.’

 

‘Show me, show me now.’

 

I’ve had the shadow-board, actually a rock that produces weird black smoke embedded in a sick necklace that is totally dope. I delve into my shirt and carefully hold it out towards San.

 

‘Fuck me San!’

 

She immediately yanks it off its chain and clutches it in her tiny hand. A series of magnifying glasses spin round from over her had and onto her eye.

 

‘Needed closer look. Necklace very frivolous.’

 

She stares at it every which way and gasps occasionally.

 

‘It is very beautiful. I wonder how works.’

 

‘No idea – I just know that it does.’

 

Besides me I can hear Valeiran purring. His tail is edging towards the shadow-board.

 

‘Do you think San,’ he says sexily. I’m sorry he’s super sexy even for a cat. ‘Do you think San it is one of the Unnawri?’

 

Oooo what is this?

 

‘The Unnawri?’ I say and look at Ray. He raises his eyebrows. I can practically see the credit signs rolling in his eyes.

 

‘Very possibly Val. RainCha you are a scoundrel but a useful one. Tell me have you heard of the Unnawri?’

 

Clearly not. What’s wrong with her?

 

‘No San as I have literally just expressed I have not.’

 

‘Sarcastic boy. You stop. The Unnawri are powerful artifacts from the Sofiva Empire. Beautiful and dangerous. They have been lost for millennia. But we think they are still out there.’

 

Ah. The Sofiva. Before the human vermin infected the galaxy a wise and powerful race called the Sofiva built a benevolent empire across it. Or so the story goes. They were like gods and angels. Built like humans but stronger and lither. Their never fatigued or aged. They were said to have cracked the code to eternal life. But they disappeared. Suddenly and definitively. Then the humans moved in. Any scrap of Sofiva evidence is worth millions and millions of credit. So you know people want them you know?

 

‘It’s not – you’re joshing me. the shadow board is a…what was it an onion?’ Ray says and laughs heartily. God love Ray.

 

‘Unnawri. Stupid Bonso,’ says San in a very roundabout fashion.

 

‘Do you know where the rest are?’ I say.

 

‘As soon as we had an inkling, San and I started doing some digging. If the shadow-board is an Unnawri then the legend is real and the rest will be out there. We have located a contact. A soothsayer of a kind called Pref Terin. We feel he may be able to help us find the rest.’ Valeiran says so softly and gently I practically fall in love with him.

 

My stomach suddenly drops. I mean I already kind of knew it but it just hits me all at once you know? If this is one of the most valuable objects in the galaxy then there are people gonna want it no fear. Suddenly all across the room I feel eyes looking at me. Are they? Who knows?

 

‘San,’ I say. ‘I think we just head back to the market. Get the shadow board somewhere safe.’

 

She understands my meaning and nods to Valeiran.

 

‘Yes. Good idea. Come Idiot Captain. Bonso. We will go. My ship is outside.’

 

We slide out of the booth and the enigmatic Gorbeg lets us out without a smile. Our motley crew slips through the crowd. I make sure the weasels are inside. For once they conform. A woman bumps into me – she has an old fashioned t-shirt on. A man with some kind of lighting sword – she looks hard as nails. She stares and me for a moment and then for longer at San Ya. I’m not offended, everyone knows San. I mean the woman might know me, I’m not bothered. Am I? Oh who cares?

 

The night is full swing. The music bounces off the crystals. Drinks slosh around. Different species, who probably shouldn’t, neck in the distance.

 

Then. No kidding. Total Silence. No joke.

 

I’m stood in some kind of spotlight. A huge blinding light from above. The rest of the club is frozen. San Ya next to me points at the exit like a statue. Valerien remains sexily still. Ray is honestly pulling the most hilarious face. I take a picture obv. But still what the hell is going on?

 

This is where things get a bit weird. There’s a voice. From god knows where. Perhaps it is God – I don’t know but here it goes:

 

‘CAPTAIN RAINCHA YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN…’

 

I knew it. I knew I was the messiah. Something just told me you know?

 

‘YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN FOR A RACE.’

 

A race? That’s not savior of the galaxy. So mad.

 

‘…A RACE TO THE FINISH AND A RACE TO DEATH. AT THE END LIES THE TEPMLE OF DREAMS WHERE YOU’RE GREATEST DESIRES WILL COME TRUE.’

 

Inevitably, that’s when I teleport.

 

So back to the present for a little interlude. Ooo nice word. Interlude. This is by far the worst shit I’ve been in. And I’ve been in some proper shit before. Tabitha Might does not look happy. And as I look over my shoulder, neither does the collected representatives of the Galactic commons. Anywho back to the story.

 

So I’m teleporting. I’m hoping I land in a nice warm bed, or a soft, flower laden meadow. But oh no, I land IN MID AIR and fall to a stone floor with a ‘oh fuckin hell’

 

It’s darkness but I’ve got a stone floor so that’s something. I whip out Scratchy out of my arm. It sniffs the air and looks at me quizzically. ‘I don’t know hun either,’ I say. It raises one of its tiny claws as if to say oh I have an idea. Suddenly it grips with all its might and glows a bright purple. I look round. The purple light does nothing. Just illuminates more darkness beyond.

 

Then I have an idea. I whip out all eight weasels and push as hard as I can. Purple light fills the air. Oh shit, I’ve got this wrong. I can feel a fizzing up and down my air. Damn things can never get it right. I can tell they’ve mistaken light for raw power. Children and animals people, never work with children and animals. So suddenly I’m a mini bomb ready to blow. And blow I do. Watch it.

 

I was in a prison or a box. I know that because the weasels have only gone and blown the bloody doors off. Well and the walls.

 

I’m on a podium in the middle of an oblong stadium. Either side are huge crowds in the stands. They’re jeering and shouting and waving betting slips. These are not your usual San Ya’s market fodder either. You know people like me, a bit sketchy but a good heart really. These I can tell are proper underground scum. There’s some I can see who are banned from the market. There are slavers. I can see men sat with species in chains round them. There are huge monsters taking up tens of seats. Unregistered and terrorists. If the Empire found this place they’d have a field day. Me on the other hand… Beside me are others on more podiums. An old battle hardened Fal-Tap with a scar down his face. A young Gloosha with a set of mean spikes on her head. A huge Gorbeg with a cyborg arm. A human – wait, I think, it’s the woman from before, the one in the vintage t-shirt. What’s she doing here?

 

A platform floats up in front. Oh no. No, no. Not him. Anyone but him. I’d recognize that missing tooth anywhere. Lavatio Bron.

 

Firstly I owe him money but that’s besides the point. Mainly this guy is a sleezebag of the highest order. He used to be the darling of the galactic network. Show on every channel, appearances in every sector attended by millions. But after some rather, what I can only describe as… unsavory business transactions the man fell from grace. I saw him hosting a club night on Triisk a few years back. Some dead end gig, with a few tired old strippers. Seems as though the man has landed on his feet though.

 

Let me just paint you a picture of how much a bellend this man is. He’s wearing a suit made entirely of mirrors so you can’t help but look at him. His dyed black hair is slicked back in the most enormous greasy mullet you’ve ever seen. His face is conventionally attractive I guess. But anyone would say that. He’s had morph-surgery. His face literally moulds itself to your own particular attractions. It’s the weirdest thing you’ll ever see, but my does it get your loins going. Ugh I hate him. It’s the tooth, the missing canine, that’s the only way I can tell it’s him. Oh and his smug fucking grin.

 

He’s whizzing round on a grav-platform clicking his fingers at the crowd. They cheer and I can tell a wave of unusual feeling hits their privates. Eventually, with a flash of fireworks he hovers centre stage.

 

‘Welcome one. Welcome all!’ His silky sickening voice booms over the stadium.

 

‘OI!’ I shout being a nightmare to show proceedings. ‘OI LAVATIO’

 

‘I see you’ve all made it from your various prisons you beautiful lot.’ There’s a roar of laughter from the crowd. He can’t hear me the bastard. Right I’ll show him. There’s a rise of purple fizz in my throat.

 

‘OI LAVITIO BRON WHY THE FUCK AM I HERE?’ my voice echoes around the stadium thanks to a little fire from the weasels.

 

He stares at me for a minute shocked and then smiles lizardly.

 

‘Well well, ladies gentlemen, other designated existences introducing Captain RainCha and the bad boys of the purple moon!’

 

There’s a roar from the crowd. Cool, the name caught on. Anyway. He swings along the line the Fal-tap first.

‘Terrance Grenn, Mercenary. Adventurer of the 6th sector, watch out for those claws.’ Then the Gloosha, ‘Bloge, heir apparent to the Sea of Harmony. Gonna get in trouble for that one.’

He bypasses me and heads to the gorbeg. ‘Oh boy, don’t get on this one’s wrong side. It Karvax, Grand Champion of the Sector 6 gladitorial games. Finally last but not least. Its her, a child of Lazarus – Morven Glass herself. I, on behalf of my employer welcome you to the Sancta Canyon. At the end of this treacherous path lies the tomb of dreams. Inside, legend has it all your dreams can come true. The first one there will find out its wonders. The others – well they will die.’

 

There’s a Cannon fire. I guess that means – oh shit. GO.

 

So I’m running that’s for sure. And so are the others. It’s a race I guess that’s what you do right? Terrance Grenn whizzes past me, a trail of blue behind him. He’s got grav-boots on that’s not fair. I want Grav-boots. The canyon is narrow but huge. The vast, sandy walls tower above me. As I run the roar of the crowd becomes less and less. This shit is creepy. There is a crash from behind. It’s Karvax, the huge Gorbeg, he shoves me to the side. Painfully from the floor I watch as he leaps into the air and plunges his arm into the rock face. He propels off it and into the adjacent wall. He’s going over the top! Bastard. Well two can play at that game.

 

My arms glow purple. Oh yeah baby here we go! I zoom into the air like a rocket. The energy from my purple weasels tingles all over my body. Sandra busts out of my outstretched arm and dances to the music. Oh what music you ask? I’m playing funk music in my head obviously.

 

Anyway.

 

I shoot up past the canyon edge and from here I can see the whole outstretched map. The canyon is like a deep gash in a rocky wasteland. It snakes on and on until out of the sand a mountain rises. Along the slopes there are cracks with deep green energy throbbing out of them. Well that’s obviously the place. Right then off we go.

 

Oooo. There’s something in my ear. It’s a bee. Wait no its not. Is it? Ah. It’s buzzing. Shit. What is that? Bitey pops out over my shoulder and peers in – it shrugs and then disappears.

 

‘Captain that you my friend?’

 

Is it God? Surely not. I thought somebody disproved him years ago.

 

‘Can you hear me Captain?’ I think I’m having a religious experience.

 

Its Ray. Ray is speaking into my ear.

 

‘Captain its me Ray. Can you hear me?’

 

‘Shit yeah I can – how are you doing that?’

 

‘Oh I put an audio chip in your ear months ago. No biggie.’

 

‘No biggie you fucking weirdo! What you snuck into my room and then gave me an inside piercing. I’m outraged – can you tell I’m outraged? Who does that? Why on the moons of Sa1 did you do that?’

 

‘I dunno maybe in case you got lost or kidnapped or teleported out of a bar right before my eyes. I dunno. Something like that.’

 

Hmmmm. I guess. Okay I suppose. Still mad though.

 

‘Where are Captain?’

 

‘Lavatio Bron has me. But it’s not him running the show I don’t think – he’s just hosting it. They’re getting me and some others to race to a ‘temple of dreams’ or some shit.’

 

‘Ughhhh Lavito Bron is the worst.’

 

‘I know right?’

 

‘Never heard of the temple of dreams. Did he give you anything else?’

 

‘Erm…the Sancta Caynon. I’m hovering above it now.’

 

I can hear him typing. From the background I hear a barked shout. Ah he’s at San Ya’s.

 

There’s a rustling screech – I think a microphone has been pulled away.

 

‘Captain its me San Ya.’

 

‘Yes I can tell it’s you San. You have a distinctive voice’ Like a gar-claw being pulled against moonstone.

 

‘You in sky yes?’

 

‘Yes why?’

 

‘Get down – get down – back into canyon.’

 

‘Why –?’

 

Oh. Oh I can see why. How did I not spot it before? The sand is moving. And I don’t mean just with the wind its literally moving up and down like waves. I can still see Karvax running along the dunes. Oh yeah there it is. A huge monster like an eel but MASSIVE rises up through the sand and swallows the mercenary in one. Shit. Suddenly on shoots past me on the left. I dodge. Then on the right. Bollocks. They block out the sun with enormity. Enormity. Good word Captain. Sorry.

 

‘Captain what happening? You are on the planet Cracktar, home of the desert snakes. Get back in canyon.’

 

‘I’ve realized San. Little busy. One min.’

 

I shoot downwards. Karvax must have sparked a feeding frenzy. The bastards are everywhere. It’s a storm of teeth and slobbering terrible, sandy breath. One rises up in front, I blast it with energy. The purple shot bounces off its grey-brown hide. Okay so can’t fight them. They’re all around shooting up through the sand wrapping and writhing round me. There! There’s a hole I funnel the energy into my feet and blast across as quick as I can. It’s closing and quick. Come on weasels. Sandra appears in front of me with a face as if to say we’re doing our bloody best. I push harder.

 

Yesssss. I did it. Of course I did right? I zoom out of the nest of giant eels and into the sunlight and shoot down into the canyon, back where I started. Just as I pass the lip I see the writhing monster mass slither back into their sand-sea. This place is gross.

 

‘I’m out. I got back in the Canyon.’

 

‘Good. Desert snakes very nasty. Eat you one bite. No hope.’

 

‘Thanks San. Good talk. You anymore info?’

 

There’s another buzz in my ear.

 

‘Ray here. The Sancta Canyon is rumored to be home to the Temple of Dreams like you said. It’s a burial place of an ancient king said to house an ancient treasure. Lost for an age though – not a surprise against this shit- hole of a planet. We are straight up sector 6 here my man. Uncategorized to shit. Look there’s not much info apart from a message found on an ancient hardrive.’

 

‘What does it say?’

 

‘Face your worst nightmare to find your greatest dream.’

 

Oh boy that doesn’t sound good.

 

Alright Alright. It can’t be that bad. How would anyone know what my worst nightmare is? I’m pretty sure I don’t know what my worst nightmare is.

 

‘I have placed tracker on you. Get going. We are on our way. But you can’t look like you’re not playing game. They kill you dead. Go now.’ Says San in my ear.

 

‘God hell San I’ve just escaped a nest of giant sand eels give me a break.’

 

She’s right though. I start to run down the canyon. It’s strangely empty. There’s no plants anywhere, no scuttling animals. Nothing. Not even a few stray rocks. I stop for a moment and wipe my hand along the side. The dust comes away and there’s metal underneath. A grainy metal as if its really old.

 

‘San, Ray. I don’t think this is a canyon.’

 

‘What do you mean man?’ Rays says.

 

‘I think this whole place is the tomb.’

 

‘I can scan it from you audio chip.’ There’s a clicking of keys and a buzzing of loading screens. ‘Oh boy Cap you’re right. This place is massive. The sand must have moved in afterwards. It’s like you’re on the last assent of some huge mountain.’

 

‘Are you here yet? Can you get me?’

 

‘Nearly but we can’t get down too close or the snakes will get us. Get to the temple up ahead and we’ll pick you up from there.’

 

Knew it. I just knew no matter what I’d have to make it to the temple. Behind me I hear a chug of a jetpack.

 

‘Can who get you?’ A voice says. Its slippery and sarcastic – I like it. I turn and see the woman from the crystal club. She lands on the floor with a light thud and holds out a gun.

 

‘Woah there hun,’ I say. ‘Let’s not ruin our first date with laser blasters eh?’

 

She laughs, cocking her head back. ‘Not my type, I’m afraid,’ she looks me up and down. ‘So go on then Captain what’s your party trick?’

 

‘What was your name again?’ I say stalling. I like her already but I can’t yet work out if she’s going to kill me or not.

 

‘Morven, Morven Glass. I’ve heard your name before, mainly in Salty Joe’s, mainly paired with a few choice expletives. Go on then tell me, why you here?’

 

Ugh, I have to do this like literally ten times a day.

 

‘I crash landed on a unregistered moon and became host to some purple energy weasels. They make me kinda fly and blast and shit. No six pack though yet. I thought that’s what super powers did but apparently I miss out? Just my luck.’

 

‘You’re shitting me. Weasels? You’re having me on.’

 

Now this is the bit I enjoy. Because quite rightly no one ever believes me. I spin on one foot. As I move through the air, with a flash of bright fuschia, eight weasles appear on my arm and wave at my new friend Morven. I grin.

 

‘Ok. Ok you’re telling the truth. Shit that’s cool. The weasels though not the spin.’

 

‘Go on I’ve shown you mine, you show me yours.’

 

She sighs. ‘I’m a child of Lazarus.’

 

I knew my face dropped. I knew it. I couldn’t help it – a bloody child of Lazarus.

 

‘So you… so…’

 

‘Yes. I don’t die. Pending injury at least. I won’t ever…run out.’

 

‘Whoa cool.’

 

‘You’d think wouldn’t you…’

 

She puts down the gun and squints at me. ‘You’re not a bad guy are you? You’re just a big idiot man?’

 

‘Oh absolutely.’ I laugh.

 

Unfortunately at that point, right behind us, they decide to make another apparence, missing us by mere inches a giant, bloodthirsty sand snake burst through the wall. Fuck’s sake.

 

Ok just imagine the next bit accompanied by a rocking bass solo right?

 

I shoot up into the air. Morven’s jet pack bursts into life. Snake after snake is busting through the walls. We dodge and duck and weave. These things are nasty you can tell by their bloody awful breath. I wonder if the snakes came with the temple or came afterwards? Shit no time. The canyon is getting darker as more and more of the beasts criss cross the expanse. They’re bursting through and diving straight back into the other side.

 

‘Morven if we can get to the temple at the end my friends can pick us up’ I say blasting a snake down through its open mouth.

 

‘Who are they?’ She says running along the length of another.

 

‘What the hell does that matter?’ I say and swoop under another big bastard.

 

‘I’m not getting in some spacecraft with someone I don’t know. You could be slavers or something!’ she hovers for a moment and expertly takes out the eyes of one snake sending it writhing to the ground.

 

‘We’re not Slavers! My friend is called San Ya, she’s okay.’ I mean I wouldn’t stretch to good. The canyon is writhing with the buggers. Up ahead I can see the floor rising. We’re getting near. I send out the weasels. Each one along a different snake. They scamper along quickly down the great mottled backs.

 

‘Whoa you mean the San Ya, okay it’s a deal. I’m coming with you.’

 

Down below I see Blooge the royal Gloosha caught in some huge teeth like trap on the ground – definitely dead. That’s going to cause some international incident I know it.

 

‘In 10 seconds M, Get by side and fly forward.’

 

‘Yes Captain,’ she’s says, still sarcastically.

 

I wrestle away from my current snake and look forward. The weasels are all in position along the side.

 

‘NOW!’

 

There’s a flash of purple and a great explosion. We hurtle forward at lightning speed. I can hear rustling the snakes are coming to. The temple is up ahead I can just see it. Whoa shit shit. Its Terrance Grenn the fal-tap mercenary. A snake bursts out and eats him in one.

 

‘Keep going!’ We push harder and harder until we tumble out onto a flat stone surface and everything goes deathly quiet.

 

‘What the hell just happened?’

 

‘The weasels exploded. Made a brief pathway for us to whizz through. They saved us.’ I say.

 

‘Oh I’m sorry I guess.’

 

‘Oh no…they’re not…’ Out pops Sandra from my shoulder and winks at Morven. ‘They’re multi-talented.’

 

Okay the next bit is where things get weird (okay weirder). Something unexpected happened and I’m not talking about Tabitha Might. Let’s just say I didn’t enjoy it.

 

Behind us, presumably with no food sources, the snakes retract into the walls. We came through a force field I felt the tingle as we passed. Up ahead is the tomb. It’s a squat, square pyramid. It’s hard to tell if it’s made of stone or metal – it’s like a combination of the two. All over it are strange carved symbols. They are faded though and their edges are blurred. This thing is ancient.

 

‘Cap we’re here but couldn’t get through to the ground – we see you’ve made it though.’ Ray appears in my ear. ‘You’ll have to fly up from here something is blocking our lifter-upperer.’

 

‘Transit beam Ray, its called a transit beam.’ I say without thinking. The tomb is entrancing its like being a dream even looking at it. ‘There’s a force field here. But it seems to let people through. I’ve made a friend – we’re bringing her too.’

 

‘Okay fine. Come on then.’

 

I drift forward towards the tomb. Its like I’m being pulled along. I can fell Morven beside me doing the same. What’s inside there? What did those goons at the stands want so bad that they set all this up? In the middle is a gap of a door. We stand in front of it and just stare. I feel like I’m underwater. Everything is blurred at the edges.

 

‘Cap, come on, we can’t stay forever.’

 

‘Sure sure.’

 

We stare at the open mouth of the door as if it is a piece of beautiful art. The blackness inside changes slowly. It swirls and curves into creamy passages of white. They twirl like rivers bending into whirlpools until the shape of body appears. The body gains detail, the end of a vague arm flexes into fingers. A soft face takes on softer features. It is like a human, but beautiful, more beautiful than any human could possibly be. And taller, and more graceful. Out of its back, slowly two great wings unfold. Is it an angel? Oh no did I get eaten by a snake? Am I dead? Well if so Morven is too – ha. The Angel, with all its features in place opens its mouth and begins to speak.

 

‘Welcome weary travelers. We are the Sofiva and welcome to our temple. One may pass and one may leave. Through this door is your worst nightmare and your greatest dream. Only those who are worthy will have both.’

 

Well what do you know? As soon as the Sofiva are mentioned here they are. Well fancy that.

 

The words snap me out of my trance. ‘Yeah I can do without either. We’re going hun.’

 

‘Yeah sorry strange hologram lady. We’re off.’ Morven says.

 

We both blast off upwards but of course slam into the now solid force-field roof.

Shit. A little sore we both look at each.

 

‘I’ll do it.’ We both say at the same, clearly both secretly and absolutely wanting to.

 

‘I’m protected. The weasels they’ll keep me safe.’

 

‘From your worst nightmare?’

‘Ha maybe not. But a nightmare – you must have lived longer than I have Morven, I’m sure there are more nightmares for you than me.’

 

She looks at me for a moment and then turns away. ‘I’m not sure of that. Your eyes Captain, your eyes tell a different story.’

 

‘Go. I’m protected. I’ll be fine.’

 

She turns and then with a huff jumps and hovers in the air. ‘Fine, but its my turn next okay?’

 

I nod and smile weakly. She launches upwards through the force field and I am alone. It hits me suddenly – that feeling of being alone – but it isn’t an alien one. Before Ray, before San, hell before Salty Joe I was alone. After the army, before I found out that greedy people only get greedier, back when I was hanging out on the ice planets of the Thex system and hopping between the asteroid ruins of the last edge of the galaxy, I was alone. I feel it here again like an old friend. Even though my friends hover above the force field they may as well be a universe away. Only the door is there now and whatever stands beyond it.

The Sofiva stands to the side and gestures me in. I walk forward through the door and into utter darkness. I know what is coming. I can feel it. If the Sofiva was right than it is my worst nightmare is coming, and my worst nightmare is something I have already lived. Predictably the door closes behind me with a grind. Slowly but surely I hear in the distance the pounding rhythmic march of many feet. They are getting closer. I try to run but in the darkness I go nowhere. Up ahead a child appears. I don’t know his species but he turns from green to red quickly as if alarmed. He runs through lush green trees shouting for his mother. Shouting for anyone. The marching boots get closer and closer. He screams and runs. Others appear, more children playing out on the forest. They are glowing red just like the first one. The marching people pass by me – they are soldiers, decked out in full space gear. They looks like robots, faceless and terrifying. I know they are human though because one of them is me. Suddenly they stop and bring out the guns off their back. I collapse to the floor – Sandra emerges and cuddles my arm. They cock the guns and aim into the forest. I can see the glowing red of the children just for a moment and then it fades away.

 

Yep. They got it right. My nightmare relived. After that I never went back.

 

At the present Tabitha Might is opening her mouth as if to speak – but we’re in slow motion right? So let me finish off my yarn.

 

I sit for a moment curled up in a ball. There’s a tap on my shoulder, I raise my head and see all eight weasels looking at me with tears in their eyes.

 

‘Don’t hate me,’ I say. They don’t, they all come and nuzzle my legs. I don’t deserve them. The room, now the projection has gone is just a small stone space, with nothing in it. They must tap into your mind and project it back at you. Horrible but effective I guess. In front a panel opens into another room and light pours in. I get up and slowly walk through.

 

My god the Sofiva were keeping this close to their chest weren’t they?

 

Inside is a glass room. Literally all of it glass. Or I think its glass. There are beautiful sculptures of impossible creatures laid on delicate plinths across a huge carved floor. The ‘windows’ must be holograms – each one a different scenes. On one side lush green fields, another a snowy mountaintop. The furthest side is as if we’re in deep space, a galaxy of stars for the taking as if painted on a canvas. My open mouthed gawp is interrupted for a moment by a voice that I had all but forgotten.

A painful jolt shoots through my head accompanied by a scratchy changing of sound connection.

 

‘Ahhhhhh Captain – forgotten about me had you?’

 

Ah yes, my old enemy The Owner. Of course – how could I forget? He’s after me for a few things, not including selling him some dodgy sheep and stealing the shadow-board from under his big fat nose. Anyway.

 

‘I bet you were wondering who put this all together weren’t you?’

 

‘No,’ I say. ‘Obviously it was you dumbass.’

 

‘Well… oh fine. Well we have the place surrounded. You’re little buddies have scarpered. Get the artifact. There in the centre. Get it and bring it to meeeeee.’

 

His voice is so annoying I can’t even. I just can’t.

 

I guess I have no choice.

 

On the central plinth is what looks like a heavy ring. Is this it? A bit of old metal. As I grab it I feel that familiar tingle. But boy is it powerful.

 

OH MAN IS THAT GOOD.

 

So that’s you to speed. I touched the artifact and it teleported me here – the galactic senate right in front of Tabitha Might. I mean talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire? Oh shit I guess slow motion is over. Back to the present. Tabitha Might raises her finger and points it at me:

 

‘GET THAT MAN!’

 

I’m not worried. Scratchy just winked at me. The weasels have a plan. As I say it again that doesn’t sound so good. The weasels have a plan? Oh god I’m going to die.

 

Guards emerge from everywhere. I feel an odd stretching sensation over my body. As if my head is halfway into warpspeed but my arse isn’t. What is happening? Ugh this is horrible. I’m being pulled downwards. The guards step back shocked.

 

Oh wait- I’m not being pulled downwards. I look at my hands. They’re tiny little purple claws. I knew I had more powers – I knew it! I can transform into one of them. At least I hope I can transform back – we’ll have to see. Anyway for now I better run. I scamper along the floor of the senate and jump headfirst through the Empress’s chest and out the other side. I wave a tiny claw and disappear into the labyrinth of Ea1.

 

A cliffhanger. A cliffhanger indeed.

 

Now that was quite an adventure and it isn’t over yet…

 

Tune in next time. Stay cool.

 

Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon.