Hello, my name is Michael, and I’m an aspiring author.
I don’t really write for any audience other than myself, so I’m not sure what the common demographic is among the people who like my work other than they all like things that are awesome. Obviously.
What I have for you, and will probably have to deliver in multiple chunks, is a love poem to the tropes of yesteryear, some of the great old science fiction stand-bys that have become has-beens.
So now, free and entirely without commercial interruption, I give you part one of:
The Death Ray
by Michael Leza
The war-freighter skipped roughly across the atmosphere of the nameless blue-brown planet, atmospheric pressure tearing at the gaping holes in its side and ripping away sheets of armor plating and machinery. The Captain grimly assessed the damage to his ship. Ruptured fuel lines had spilled most of the hydrogen reserves during the brief clash around the mining platform of the sixth planet, and what little was left was being used up to decelerate the ship for landing. It would take time to repair the ship and recharge the fuel tanks from the plentiful supplies of surface water.
Perhaps too much time.
As his ship settled onto the rocky volcanic shore and repair bots began to scuttle from their recesses and begin to mend what damage they could, the Captain pondered his situation. The ambush around the mining platform had been neatly executed, and his escort fighters had quickly been overwhelmed by the sheer number of missiles and beam cannons the enemy had brought into play. The Destroyer that had been assigned to guard his vessel had sent orders for the Captain to withdraw his ship and make for home, and then launched a blistering counterattack that, while impressive, was completely nullified by the countermeasures of the attackers. As the War-freighter pulled away from the battle under heavy thrust, the Captain had watched as one of the attackers broke off and sent a barrage of missiles chasing after him. In the resulting evasive maneuvers, the ship had moved too close to the ring system around the world and had been hulled by rock fragments. Counter battery fire from the Captains limited weapon systems would not have been sufficient to destroy his lone pursuer, but the enemy pilot grew careless and greedy and pushed his ship beyond its safe detection and evasion speed. The enemy pilot had thrown the dice one time too many and the resulting burst of light as his antimatter containment was breached and several kilograms of the ship were converted into energy was terribly beautiful, in the slightly sick way that only war can be.
The Captain was never aware of how the Destroyer came to its end. Neither he nor any of his crew saw the enemy raiders move in, warding every blast of coherent energy and every deadly antimatter missile with practiced ease. Neither did they notice the hellish, dark purple light that briefly shone from the skin of the Destroyer.
They did notice, however, that the crew of the Destroyer had stopped transmitting, and watched in sadness and fear as their comrade’s ship met the same fate as the pursuing fighter had only minutes before.
The Captain knew only that his ship was in danger. The Destroyer had bought them time to escape, and light delay and relativistic distortion helped them evade their pursuers for a time. It was only desperation that had moved the Captain to set down on this no account world.
As he watched the detectors and saw the enemy Raiders approaching, he realized his luck had not held. Quick, practiced orders had his crew at their battle stations, and all countermeasures on full readiness.
It was with some puzzlement then that he watched as the enemy moved into his weapons range, deploying no offensive weapons but playing only for defense. His puzzlement deepened as the ship moved well within killing range of any standard armament. His own weakened ship simply could not overwhelm the countermeasures, and his weakness meant that his normally good countermeasures could be easily overwhelmed without the usual pack tactics that defined modern warfare.
The Captain’s body, and the bodies of his crew, exploded before they could even begin to feel a measure of discomfort. Had he somehow survived, all he would have seen other than his detonating crew was a flickering, hellish purple glow surrounding his ship.
If single celled organisms could have feelings, the mutant would have been depressed. It simply wasn’t working out. It could process the gentle energy that bathed it and its normal sister cells, but not nearly as efficiently as they. It could, after a fashion, move itself closer to and further away from that energy, so that it was neither overwhelmed nor entirely starved. Unfortunately, its sisters could do this with much greater quickness, and their greater size and vitality allowed them to push the mutant out of the best nutrient pools and towards the darker, less energy bathed regions.
The mutant, if it had been conscious, would have been aware that it was dying. It had not even been able to gather enough stored energy to divide and multiply. It would have, perhaps, pondered its existential crisis and decided that the fruitless struggle was pointless, and allowed itself to simply drift into the dark zones where nutrients were unpalatable and there was no gentle energy to drive the process of life.
It is perhaps fortunate, then, that single celled organisms do not have consciousness or feelings, because if they did the mutant might never have been alive when its sisters all spontaneously lost cohesion of their cell membranes and spilled their plasm all over the primordial ocean.
The mutant, of course, could not ponder this event. If it had no mind to mourn its death, it also lacked the capacity for joy in its new lease on life.
Additionally, it could never have felt gratitude toward the Captain, who was too dead to appreciate anything of the sort anyways, for parking his starship so close to the tidal pool from which life first emerged on the Earth.
Kristof Baily had feelings and consciousness, much to his chagrin. Thirty seven dollars in cheap beer should have been enough to rectify that situation even for a man of his size and genetic disposition. He glowered around at the people around him in the Don’t Drink ‘n Dive, his watering hole of choice. If he told them how upset he was about losing his car, his wife, and his dog all in one day, and all to the same repo man, they would have just laughed at him and made predictable jokes about country music.
Kristof Baily did not like country music.
He decided that even the Triple D couldn’t comfort him, and that what he really needed was a good piece of pie from the Allsup’s down the road. The deep fried pocket pie, it seemed to him, contained the solution to all of his life’s problems. And, as a good friend had once said to him, “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the precipitate.”
Decision made, he announced to his friends, compadres, and fellow drinkers rather eloquently that his mood was insufficiently jovial to enjoy the atmosphere of the Triple D, and that the only way to satisfy both his emotional and physical needs at that moment was to trek to yon Allsup’s and procure a fine specimen of modern Americana cuisine.
After he left, a few of the more sober patrons at the bar spent a few moments trying to sort out what “Yall Allsup’s ppyzgood got Star Trek specimen Merica!” meant, and then went back to their drinking, the incident forgotten.
Minor Battle Sub-Coordinator Kreee 1852.031 maneuvered his ship into position carefully and with quiet precision, just as he had been taught at Battle Coordinator School. This was not unusual for him, Kreee 1852.031 always did everything precisely as he had been taught at Battle Coordinator School. His attention to detail was as legendary as that constant presence of the Combat Coordinator’s Field Manual at his side. His assault troopers, cocooned safely in their drop webbings, watched nervously as he pulled the Manual out and consulted it briefly. More and more, the assault troopers of the Ultimate Galactic Empire had found themselves under the coordination of these new-school cadets, many of whom had never seen combat and, it was whispered in the barracks at night, had only been certified as Coordinators for political reasons.
Kreee 1852.031 was well aware of his combat unit’s opinion of him, and it was because of this that he went to such lengths to show them how well trained he was. He hoped to impress them with his reliance on the tried and true wisdom passed down for milennia from the front lines of glorious war to the instructors at the Battle Coordinator School, and finally to him. He also knew that if he made even a small mistake during what was supposed to be a simple invasion of a backward, unremarkable planet (which had been repeatedly passed over in earlier times due to a clerical error when the star was originally cataloged) he would find his career was ruined before it ever really began. The natives had barely scratched the surface of science and technology, and remote observation had shown them to be tall and hardy, but not terribly clever.
Kreee 1852.031 received the go-code from the Fleet Coordinator and moved his ship in for final descent.
Kristof Baily had somehow managed to stumble a full thirty feet from the door of the bar before he collapsed for the first time. After a deep, introspective analysis of his situation, it occurred to him that he had a goal, a mission, an objective. Something to strive for. A pocket pie out there had his name on it, and he damn well meant to claim his prize.
So it was with great effort that he pulled himself erect and began once more to stumble forth, and it was with much irritation that he found himself caught in a bright shaft of light spearing down from the air.
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