Taken From Space Gang: COMPLICITY
It was a small ship, but as it rounded on the planetoid and fired, it was obvious it packed a powerful punch.
‘We’ve got to stop them,’ said Ulrika Fayn as she guided B-mover 14 into scanning range.
Hercules Brown agreed, wishing he could get more out of the sonic drive.
There were six ships in all, constantly pounding the planetoid, and from previous reports of their journey, and from what they could see from scanners, it was obvious they were Envin.
‘I hope they put up a fight,’ said Tox, raising his bald, blue head. ‘I’d love to kill lots of Envin.’ He was making final adjustments on the sonic cannon, his favourite toy.
Brown sighed. He was aware of the Envins; had come across them before. Small, avaricious aliens, their elf like faces hid the ruthlessness of these space pirates. ‘Easy, Tox,’ he said. ‘There may be a good explanation.’ Then, to Ulrika: ‘Any sign of habitation on that planetoid?’
‘Negative,’ said Ulrika. ‘They seem to be bombarding a barren planet.’
As they came closer to the Envin fleet Brown opened channel. ‘This is the Space Rangers, cease your attack immediately.’
An Envin appeared on the monitor. His elf featured grimace was different to how Hercules Brown knew them. The arrogance, the cynicism was gone, replaced by what appeared to be stark terror. ‘Leave us, Space Ranger,’ he said. ‘This must be done. You must not interfere.’
At that the screen went blank. Meanwhile, time after time the ships came in line with the planetoid and fired.
‘I think it’s time we acted,’ said Tox, feeling comfortable in his firing position.
Brown thought a moment. ‘They’re frightened,’ he said.
‘Good,’ said Tox.
‘No. I mean really frightened. Turning to Ulrika, Brown said: ‘Scan the planetoid again. There must be something down there.’
‘You’re right,’ she said, shortly.
An image flashed up from the surface. The mounds were unusual, about a metre high and round. The whole surface seemed to be covered in them.
‘What are they?’ Brown asked.
Ulrika accessed the ship’s computer. Seconds later, an analysis appeared. They were horrid little creatures, ten legged, two centimetres in length, and capable of surviving deep space drift. But most important to Brown was the fact that they were deadly to Envins.
‘It’s obviously a Nest,’ said Ulrika.’
‘Yes,’ agreed Brown. ‘But not just any nest. According to this, the Envins are sure there’s just one, from which they all migrate. They account for about 30% of Envin deaths, and it looks like they’ve found the centre of the whole species.’
‘No wonder they’re determined to destroy them,’ said Ulrika.
Tox sighed. ‘I suppose that means we can’t destroy the Envins,’ he said.
Brown didn’t bother to answer. Instead, he said: ‘Ulrika, scan their ships for lifesigns.’
‘Oh Overmind,’ she eventually said. ‘The bugs are in space, chewing into their ships. About half the Envins are already near death. It’s a life and death struggle out there!’ she said.
At that moment, alarms went off around the ship.
‘What’s that?’ asked Brown.
‘They’re on our hull,’ said Ulrika.
Moments later, the first of the bugs bore through into the ship and began moving towards the crew.
‘They’re disgusting,’ Ulrika said as Tox and Brown dispatched them with low level sonic blasts.
‘Well that’s decided it,’ he said. ‘Ulrika, we’re going to help them.’
Tox sighed once more, but realised where his duty lay.
And with their superior weaponry, they soon pounded the nest to extinction.
Later, the Envins gone, Tox said: ‘Such a shame.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ asked Brown.
‘We could have had a weapon against the Envins,’ he said.
As Tox finished, one of the bugs crawled from a corner, still alive. The crew turned to look at it. Tox continued: ‘Here’s our chance. Think about it, Brown – a real weapon to frighten them into stopping their piracy.’
Brown took one look at Tox before taking out his sonic gun and blasting the bug away.
‘Why did you do that?’ asked Tox.
‘Because,’ he said, ‘if I have the choice between occasional irritation from pirates, or using biological weaponry to cause genocide, I’ll choose irritation every time.’
But as Ulrika Fayn engaged sonic drive and B-mover 14 cruised away, they realized genocide was exactly what they had done.
Taken From Newton 2: SPACE SHIP VIRAL
Newton 2 sat behind his desk and relaxed. He loved this place. Around him were walls covered in books – the classics of Earth and the planets in the Graveyard Sector; great scientific and religious tracts; encyclopedias and mammoth histories. And every one made of paper with real printed words. Such things seemed to have gone out of fashion, replaced by holo-volumes. But Newton 2 loved the feel of books, and loved the mind calculations made whilst reading them.
The study was the centre piece of what he called his castle. He had fallen in love with the small mountain in his early days on Angeria, and vowed that if he ever returned he would build his home atop it. And he had. Before he would even take up his post as a Decider, he built this retreat. And he came to it whenever he could – to read, and with a profusion of scientific apparatus, to experiment on the remaining mysteries of the universe.
He had just arrived back from one of his missions, and as he sat there, he thought of the implications of his present work.
It had begun over a week ago when Dr Fresco had visited him. ‘It’s a severe problem,’ Fresco had said. ‘One of the Lustacean moons has had to be quarantined. I’m not sure what kind of virus it is – I’ve never seen anything quite like it. And it is so virulent that conventional medicine just doesn’t seem to affect it.’
Newton 2 had spent several days examining the virus, and he, too, was at a loss to explain it. The Lustaceans were a promiscuous species, tall, thin, and not particularly good looking. But they secreted certain pheromones that made them highly sexually attractive. And he was convinced that the virus was in some way associated with their practices. And it was vital that the virus was combated, for if it spread to the planet proper, then the Graveyard Sector would lose its most popular recreational resort.
As the great scientist he was, failure to identify the virus did not preclude cure, and it was because of Newton 2’s extensive knowledge in many areas that Dr Fresco had come to him.
Finally, after a few more days of work, he recalled Fresco to his castle. ‘Please watch the view screen, doctor,’ he said as he settled down in his chair.
A new form of space craft seemed to appear before them, and as it flew, it came across zillions of bodies, which Fresco identified as the virus, but much larger. As the ship approached, it fired beams from every angle, and the virus seemed to glow, become almost machine-like itself, and began reflecting the beams to attack its own kind.
Eventually, before Fresco’s eyes, the virus became inert.
‘I don’t understand,’ said Fresco eventually. ‘Is this a metaphor that we should in some way approach the virus as if a great space battle?’
Newton 2 smiled; handed the doctor a small vial. ‘What you have just seen is not a metaphor, doctor. It was a highly magnified reality. Rather than fight the virus chemically or biologically, I decided to fight it physically. The ships exist. They are minute nano-technology ships, and there are millions in that single phial.’
Dr Fresco held up the phial and was amazed.
The following day the doctor and Newton 2 flew a shuttle to the Lustacean moon. The Lustaceans on the moon had lost their zeal, and were clearly ill. It was Fresco himself who injected just one Lustacean from the phial, and sat back and waited for the ships to work.
Soon a glow seemed to come from the patient as the great battle went on within his atoms, and as battle raged, and as the virus transformed itself to kill its own, the nano ships became a technological virus in its own way. And the glow spread from one Lustacean to another, and exponentially among the entire population of the moon.
At one point, passing freighters reported back upon the magnificent phenomenon of the actual moon beginning to glow, and within days the virus was dead.
On their return to Angeria, Space Commander Nulyn recalled Newton 2 to Space Station Tiryns. ‘A magnificent idea, Newton 2,’ he said. ‘You must pass on the technology you used for the benefit of us all.’
Newton 2 shook his head. Said: ‘You mean so you can manufacture it as a weapon.’
Nulyn retained his blank expression, as Newton 2 knew he would.
‘I’m afraid not, space commander,’ he eventually said. ‘Medicine is medicine, and a weapon is a weapon, and the two must never meet or we face our extinction.’
‘And if I insist?’
‘Then you’ll be disappointed. I worked it into the program that the ships would self-destruct when their mission was complete. And they destructed themselves with the same finality as I destroyed all my notes.’
Taken From Old Space Dog: PRIMEVAL DESIGNS
Old Space Dog relaxed in the huge chair, an Angerian mead in his hand. He adjusted his black leather eye-patch, pushed back his unkempt, white hair and took a long drink.
As usual, he had found an audience, even as the buffet awaited them in the reception lounge of the Lustacean Homeworld. He thought of the pleasures people enjoyed in the Sector with this tall, almost mesmeric pleasure-seeking race.
‘Of course, I remember when Earthers first came here,’ Old Space Dog said. ‘Their pleasures were even greater then – before …’
Memories flooded back to him of his youth, exploring this new Sector, involving himself in all manner of adventures, legal and illegal. He came back to the present – noticed some of his audience heading off to the buffet, which was no good at all.
He coughed, loudly. Continued: ‘And my friend and I were among the first to sample their ways.’ The audience was immediately back – the myths of their early ‘ways’ were legend.
‘As soon as my friend and I arrived, two Lustacean females smiled and seemed to lure him away – which, as you can imagine, was not difficult. And I was left to experience the eroticism of this place by myself. And I can tell you, it was dangerous at times, very dangerous.’
Someone interjected: ‘There are stories of …’
Old Space Dog raised him hand to stop him. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I’ve heard the stories.’ A dullness came to his one visible eye. ‘I’ve seen it for myself.’
He remained transfixed for many seconds before continuing: ‘It was many hours later that I again saw my friend; at least, in part. It was obvious he had “gone all the way” with the Lustacean erotic ceremonies. And it was with a sickness in my very stomach that I put my plate back on the buffet table, and left.’
And for once, as indeed it had been that night, Old Space Dog kept his mouth firmly shut.
Taken From Ulrika Fayn In Overmind: ULRIKA AND THE MYSTERIOUS LADY
Ulrika Fayn was a star traveller from the future who became trapped in the universal mind. This was such a strange experience, she didn’t know whether she was real, or a thought in the mind of some storyteller. But regardless, she simply had to think of being somewhere and she was.
One day she found herself in a dusty room and in the corner was a mysterious lady of undefined age. The lady seemed melancholy so Ulrika asked her what was wrong.
‘You’ll know soon enough,’ replied the lady.
This intrigued Ulrika so she asked what she meant.
‘Oh, it’s a great adventure when you first get trapped in Uni-Mind,’ she said, ‘but after eons the excitement wears off and the fantastic becomes routine, and soon you realise you haven’t been given a gift, but become imprisoned. I remember once, when I was young and nearly got out of Uni-Mind, I actually spoke of my fantastic adventures to someone. If only I could communicate to him, now, how terrible the adventure becomes.’
Ulrika was worried by this, and realised she might be right. Maybe, she decided, it was time to think about how to escape. And as the rationalist she was, she decided to try to get into the mind of the person the lady had spoken to – see it from his perspective.
‘Do you know his name?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ replied the lady, ‘Carroll – Lewis Carroll.’
Taken From Young Nulyn: THE DAWN OF SENTIENCE
Being a Decider can be a decidedly thankless job. At once a policeman, a community leader, even a kind of scientist, the Deciders tried to bring order to the frontiers of human colonisation of space. Often those frontiers could be a dangerous place – and at others, an infinitely fascinating one. And nothing was more fascinating, in my early days, than my dealings with the Slothy.
Perhaps, if these large, slow, hairy beasts had remained as they were, they would never have had so much tragedy. But then again, as the staple diet of the Angerians, what kind of a life was it to be herded, killed and eaten? But when did the Slothy first show their differentness?
I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. Folk tales existed among the Angerians of Slothy occasionally leading lost Angerians out of the wilderness. The central tales spoke of the then savages purposely faking being lost so as to allow a Slothy to help them back to their village. But it was a ruse, the Slothy being trapped and ending up in the cooking pot.
As for myself, I first realised there was more to the Slothy the day I was trying to cement relations with a local Angerian clan. They were rounding up a small herd. It was a kind of test of friendship whether I would help. ‘Sure,’ I said, and so it was that I raced here and there on my sonic scooter, trying to keep them together. But it was only seeing them in terms of an outsider that I saw the Slothy themselves seemed to have scouts – smaller Slothy who shadowed the herd, giving gutteral signals which seemed to provide responses in the main herd.
‘It has been happening for some time,’ said an Angerian in the camp that night. ‘Our skill is declining since humans arrived. We’re no longer able to round them up like we used to.’
But I couldn’t help thinking it was the Slothy who were getting clever. The Angerians just couldn’t see it.
It was a while after that that a homesteader came to see me. ‘Someone is stealing my stores on a night,’ he said, ‘and I want you to do some thing about it.’
That night, I camped out close to his homestead, waiting.
In the middle of the night I heard the slight rustle of an intruder, and through my night vision lenses a saw a Slothy raise itself on two legs and manipulate a barn door, gaining entry.
It seemed to pick just what it wanted. And when it had gone, I followed it. It went to a cave, and inside, it had created a proper family group, including a hierarchy. This was not, I decided, some dumb beast.
I started studying the Slothy then – their life in the wild, reports of them from the past; I even did a study of a dead Slothy. And what became clear was that certain physiological things were happening, changing them from the past. Their brains seemed to be getting larger, their pelvic bone more universal, permitting them to walk on two legs, and their claw was changing to allow more manipulation; even an opposing thumb was beginning to evolve.
I sent my first report to Earth then, demanding closer investigation. This species was becoming sentient. And I had nightmares of the agony they must be going through, realising they were about to be butchered.
My next real contact with the Slothy came one day when I was scooting after raiders. I’d chased them into the wilderness, and I was just about to catch them up when a lucky blast hit me.
I was lying there close to death for I don’t know how long.
When I came round, I was in a cave, and this big hairy face was looking at me. I thought I could see concern on its face. Looking to my wound, it was covered in a concoction of leaves, and to my surprise, it was healing. The Slothy stayed with me for two days, and then just departed. This departure coincided with the time I was fit enough to get back to civilisation.
I contacted Earth regularly after that, telling them this species was sentient. But I could get no one on Angeria to agree with me. Which was obvious. Both Angerian and human hunted or farmed Slothy. Everyone ate Slothy. A big part of the local economy was Slothy based. And their representations to Earth even stopped a scientific team coming to test them.
I cried for the Slothy. But then something happened that saddened and heartened me at the same time.
It was a homesteader who first came across the construction.
It was large, and it was rudimentary, made from loosely fashioned branches and a mixture of mud. But there was no doubt at all that a Slothy family had built themselves a home.
I guessed there’d be trouble, so I camped out near to them. And sure enough, an angry mob from the town arrived, demanding the structure be destroyed. I refused to allow it, and the mob set on me – beat me up. When I came round the building was destroyed and the mob and Slothy were gone.
I raced back to town just in time to see the head Slothy hanged. Close by was the rest of the family, soon to be herded out. And as I approached them, I noticed something quite remarkable.
It was hard to find emotion in their faces, but if you looked hard enough, you could find it. And I found it.
These Slothy had just seen their leader killed, but there was a sense of happiness about them.
I couldn’t understand it – at first. Then it hit me. Their leader had been hanged – killed as a person, not an animal.