Edition 13

SQ 13 Cover

Notice: Retrofit of SQ Mag has been completed

Dear Readers and Writers

It took a lot of work, but we are happy to announce that all thirteen of our editions are now fully published in this, our new platform. We apologise for any inconvenience the delays have occurred, and especially to anyone who had created past links to particular stories or articles. This is a much more robust platform and we do not expect to have to move again.

Gerry Huntman
Publisher, SQ Mag

Edition 1: Navigator by Shane Ward


flag UKOn the eve of war, a Navigator is suddenly thrust into the path of the humans. Caught between a centuries-old lie and her own discoveries, Endora must reconcile her duty to her home and her yearning for the far reaches of space. A classical science fiction story about duty and trusting your own instincts. SY


Endora Toinette stood before her mirror in her quarters and stared at her own reflection, wondering if this was all life had in store for her. She had been born on her home world, Plaxes, and joined the academy to hone her natural skills to help alien species in space flight. It was an honour to achieve such status and now that she was assigned a place on the Tralaxion starship, she wondered if she had done right by joining this race and their battle with the Kronons.

For years, the Kronons have been spreading throughout this galaxy, spreading their propaganda and taking over alien worlds. Their target: her home world of Plaxes. With unlimited access to her race, the enemy would be able to use her people to pilot their mighty starships through the cosmos and tip the hand in battle.

They must not succeed.

The Kronons might be a powerful race, but they lacked one thing: the use of Navigators.

Travelling through slipstream was dangerous. Without the right route, any ship runs the risk of running into a planet, asteroid or sun. The Plaxians had remedied this hazard by allowing one of their citizens to travel and make instant changes to the flight path as they travelled through the cosmos. With the capability to project their soul several light-years ahead of the vessel, they could see dangers and make the appropriate course changes.

In the two-thousand year history of using the Plaxians, not one single starship succumbed to its doom. But as news of their talent spread throughout the Milky Way and beyond, they drew the attention of an ancient alien race, the Kronons.

Now the battle had begun for their freedom and way of life. Plaxians were not a defenceless race, and they fought anybody who threatened them.

Then the Kronons changed their tactics. They kidnapped Navigators from assigned starships and forced them to work. So far, they had taken over one hundred of Endora’s people and she was sure that the number would only continue to rise.

Now, as she stared into her own red eyes in the mirror, she could not help but wonder if this was all worth the risk. The Tralaxions were not a pleasant race and her only company was her friend, who had joined her for training.

Endora waved her hand over the sink and it began to fill with water. She made a cup with her fine, gentle hands and washed the cool liquid over her soft face.

She leaned on the sink, looking down upon herself. She watched her white robe flutter under the circulation of air and sighed, knowing it was time to begin her normal routine: dressing, eating and attending her duties on the command centre. She wondered what ship they were going to destroy today and if she was going to survive. She leaned over to the cabinet and picked up her headband. It was called the ‘Spirit of Wings,’ a symbol of her race. The gold hair band indicated that she was a fully-fledged Navigator, capable of guiding ships through slipstream. She looked at the pair of wings that symbolised flight and she slowly slipped the band into her purple hair, resting the wings above her ears. An emerald jewel heightened her abilities as it glowed faintly on her forehead.

With a wave of her hand, the cabinet opened and she slipped on two gold armbands that attached to her skin and changed the pigmentation of her clothing under her white cloak. She sighed again as memories of the crew raced through her mind. She did not like this assignment and the crew members were nothing more than thugs who would not say hello or greet her respectfully. But they needed her ability and her race needed their firepower to keep the Kronons at bay. She knew that one mistake with the alliance could turn the tide of this war and bring the enemy to her world. Her entire race would be enslaved and there would be nothing anyone could do about it. Space travel would be compromised and the Kronons would rule the galaxy.

She walked out of the bathroom and made her way to the Mess Hall that looked just as creepy as the rest of the ship. Endora felt unsafe as she made her way down the passageway filled with dripping pipes and grunting noises. It was not like her home world, which was bright, clean and friendly. She felt a shiver crawl up her spine as she watched one of the creatures walk past her. Its unmoving eyes pierced through her defences and scrambled up her soul. She shook her head and wished the creature away. When she heard the footsteps fade away, Endora opened her eyes and only saw haunting shadows wobble from one side to another. She felt frightened and ran to the Mess Hall; she wanted her friend.

~~~

The Mess Hall was no better than the rust-ridden passageway she had cowered in. It smelled like ash and the recycled air made Endora feel completely out of place. She settled herself down on something that resembled a table and looked at the food cube that sat in the middle of her plate. It was all they gave her, and Endora felt her stomach rumble with disagreement.

Then a familiar voice brought a smile to her face.

“How do I look?”

Endora spun on her chair, filled with excitement. Calynda, who had graduated, stood in the open like a proud warrior. Her Spirit of Wings sat proudly on her forehead and the emerald glowed with the power of sight.

Endora shot to her feet, “Congratulations. You are probably aware that the academy will split us up. There is nothing more I can teach you and your skills have surpassed all my expectations.”

Calynda slumped down into her chair and examined the not-so-fancy food. “It’s not a prospect that I favour. This war has dragged so many species into conflict it’s a miracle we have not been invaded yet.”

“Our will is advanced, we can survive on our own, and it’s the other races that need our ability. Without it, they will be isolated in their own system.”

“Like the humans?”

Endora shot to her feet and placed an angry hand over Calynda’s mouth. “You are not to speak of the humans. It’s strictly forbidden.”

With a disconcerting nod, Endora decided to calm down and returned to her unappealing food. She fell into deep thought and it wasn’t until Calynda apologised that she returned to her normal self and realized the error of her ways. Her friend was young and everybody learned by asking questions. It was the way of the Plaxians.

“The humans have been around for a long time,” Endora began, fiddling with her utensil. “I still remember the history footage before it was forbidden completely.”

“I’ve never heard of the humans. Apparently they’re the only race unaffected by this war.”

“The humans are even worse than the Kronons. Luckily they’re trapped in their own quadrant of space and locked away forever. Without access to our race, they are practically concealed. They’re so brutal, nobody would even consider challenging them. Even the Kronons would never enter their system.”

“But we did trade with them in the past.” Calynda slipped back into her chair and felt the conversation was turning into a horror story.

“Yes we did, but countless Navigators were killed or…” Endora paused, remembering the footage, remembering the horrors she saw on the view screen. Her companions, murdered, mutilated, imprisoned and even used as slaves. How could the humans do such a thing?

“I’ve heard that it was all a set up; human freedom opened a new doorway to our race and our government rejected this claim.”

“That’s preposterous. The humans are nothing more than ani—”

Suddenly a distant bang erupted around them and the ship shook violently. The lights dimmed and everyone ran to their stations.

Endora knew that her assistance would be required on the command centre and surmised that the enemy had tracked them down. More vibrations shook the small room and Calynda fell towards the bulkhead wall and injured herself. Her Spirit of Wings headband fell to the floor and Endora rushed to her aid. Endora’s heart jumped as she quickly yanked some of the debris off her friend, kneeling down beside her.

“Endora, you must get to the command centre. The captain needs your experience, this ship needs you.”

“No!” Endora whimpered. She felt the tears trickle down her face when she saw that a bar had gone through her friend’s chest. “I can’t leave you. You’re the only one that gives me strength.”

“I’m sorry Endora, my—”

The words that flowed from her mouth, which always flowed from her mouth like water, stopped suddenly as her life force ended. The emerald on her head turned to an inky black as Endora held her headband. Endora yelled and moaned her sorrow to the sky and grabbed her friend who was soaked in orange blood. Her cloak that used to be warm and white turned into a damp orange. Devastating vibrations crippled the ship and the room plunged into darkness.

Endora could only hear the sounds of her own screaming, the sorrow in her heart and then, the silence.

~~~

The terror began!

Endora heard footsteps rush through the ship and saw the lights come on one by one. She knew the Kronons had boarded the ship and they would be gunning for her. She would be their prized possession. She rolled over and hid under a plate that had collapsed from the wall. She heard the attackers enter the Mess Hall and glanced at Calynda. They grunted and knelt down beside her. She understood their language; all Navigators had the natural gift to assimilate language at an unprecedented rate and important languages were always passed down from generation to generation.

“The Navigator is dead.” The creature, misty cream and held together in a suit, spoke in a hoarse tone that was neither alive nor dead.

“We’ve been told there’re two navigators on this ship. Capture the other one and don’t harm her. If you do, you will find yourself out the airlock.”

Endora felt the fear rise up into her temples and backed further into her hole, only to nudge the plate, accidentally creating enough noise to draw their attention. The creatures shone their torches into her face and Endora was blinded. She jumped out of the hole and did the only thing she could do.

She pushed the first creature to the ground and froze when she heard more troops running along the corridor. She needed to escape and even her limited training could not help her. She heard the familiar grunts and cries from the ship’s crew, who came to protect her, and Endora took advantage of the situation and ran towards the escape pods.

Familiar sounds of weapons indicated that the attack continued. She was terrified. She did not want to be a slave and if reports were correct, she would be used as a weapon to kill countless lives, lives she had vowed to save. She could not let that happen.

She reached the evacuation pods and slid down a small tube that wedged her inside a dark and stuffy life pod. As the hatch hissed shut, she was jettisoned into space and she watched the hodgepodge vessel take countless plasma bolts. Her pod spun around and every time she was able to get a view of the Tralaxion starship, it was being slowly blown to bits.

The entire situation enveloped her and she watched helplessly as the vessel she was entrusted to serve slowly disintegrated. She bowed down and felt the tears of warm water run down her cheeks. She failed, and now she would pay with her life. The life pod was the only one to survive and after being trapped in the dead of space for so long, spinning, she knew it was only a matter of time before her body gave out.

“Spirit of Wings.” She held Calynda’s headband in her hands, “I have failed in my duties to protect my friend and my ship. They all died because of me. I ask not that you spare me, but that you accept my friend’s soul into the pool of rebirth. Let her have the chance to serve as I have once done. Let her have the chance to serve for herself.”

She closed her eyes and went into a deep meditative state to conserve air and she prayed that the distress signal could attract the attention of a friendly race.

~~~

A small blip pinged on the dashboard and it brought Endora out of her meditative state. She found it hard to see clearly after so long. It had been a week. But the vessel she saw outside the canopy wasn’t anything she’d seen before. The vessel’s long, sleek, dark hull reflected the light with such perfection that even the distant stars twinkled off the black glossy surface. Its total length was five times the size of the vessel she served on and its forward hull appeared like a battering ram that was aiming straight for her! She could not manoeuvre the pod out of the way; she could not send a signal. Endora covered her eyes and screamed for salvation.

After a moment, Endora was still alive. She was not in space and she still felt the air fill her lungs; albeit dirty, recycled air. Without knowing if she was alive or dead, she slowly lowered her arms and looked out of the canopy. To her astonishment, her pod had been towed into a lightly lit launch bay and she felt the high-powered lighting sting her eyes.

She saw no one outside; she saw no sign of life. The hangar looked well-built and the walls cleaned to perfection. She did not recognise the ship’s design and this alien race might be a first contact situation.

Hissing erupted all around and Endora knew that the room outside was being pressurised. She clutched hold of Calynda’s Spirit of Wings and prayed that this race was an ally.

She clutched the Spirit of Wings and sank even further into her chair…She saw the aliens coming. She knew exactly who they were. Her terror had just escalated to a level she’d never felt before. She wished the Kronons had captured her and she began to feel the tears drip down her face. Her life was over; she was trapped on a human ship!

~~~

Footsteps pounded on the hull of the vessel and Endora activated her intercom and listened to their chatter as they tried to pry open the hatch.

“Looks like we’ve rescued a Navigator.”

“Navigator, what’s that?”

“You don’t know? They pilot starships through slipstream. We used to use them five hundred years go before they split.”

“Split! Does that mean she can take us back to Earth in time for the Super Bowl?”

“Robert, shut up and hand me that blow torch. Her air is running out, we need to get her out of there!”

“Damn, she is pretty. I’ve never seen a Navigator before.”

Endora watched as more humans rushed into the bay. Their yellow suits and helmets reflected the light, dazzling her as they finally pried open the hatch. She dug her fingers tightly onto her friend’s gold headband and ignored the pain of cutting skin. She watched the humans swoop down inside and drag her out.

Endora showed her defiance to the bitter end. She wiggled, struggled, panicked and allowed her soul to go into complete freefall to get away. She counted six men and once she was in the open, she swung around, kicked the nearest human in the face and sent everyone flying like a disturbed nest of wasps.

Humans surrounded her on all sides and she had nowhere to go; her life pod was under her feet and her stained cloak weighed her down. She unclipped it from the neck and it slumped to the floor. All she was wearing now was a white undergarment, black skin-tight trousers and white boots.

She jumped down and made her escape. She did not know where she was going, but even a ship this big must have a life pod or shuttle.

She ran into the shadows, blew past beefy men and even kicked a few in the face for a chance to escape. But it was a woman with a barrel chest, huge arms and twice the size of her that finally put her down. Endora fell to the ground in a shattering thump, unable to move.

She saw the woman standing over her, her vision slowly blurring. She appeared huge for a human, with grey hair and a face that would make an enemy cry for its mother. She bent forward, smiled and said in a deep rumbling tone. “Now, now,  Navigator. There’s no need to run amok, you’re safe with us now!”

Endora drifted off to sleep.

~~~

In shining light we weep to fly, in life itself we love to see. In out of body we see the sights from the bow of our ships, our souls travel from the future to the past. In the speed of light we guide and secure, the path of hope and the wings of life. Spirit of Wings the symbol of our race, the guide for other beings. In the meaning of life, we are the guardians; we are the guardians to guide through flight. We are the Plaxians. We are the Navigators.

Endora gasped and slowly swept away the words that rained down through her mind and became engulfed in light that lit the room. She felt the impact of fresh air and became overwhelmed with dizziness. She felt the warmth of the sheets and the emptiness of the room. The light was pure white and not the sickly yellow she’d grown used to on the Tralaxion ship. Then she realized that she was still on the human ship, a prisoner for the taking. But why would they place me in the medical ward?

She turned her head in the direction of the door and slowly lifted herself up. She saw her clothing on the chair beside her bed and noticed how clean and pressed it was. She didn’t expect that! Why would the humans look after my belongings? Then it dawned on her. The humans are trying to trick me!

She heard tales about how sly the humans were and the terrible deeds they inflicted on their enemies and Navigators. But the rumours about their ships appeared greatly exaggerated. This ship did not look like the work of darkness; it looked like a creation of life.

“Ah, looks like sleeping beauty is awake.”

A chill ran down Endora’s spine as she recognised that deep thunderous voice. She turned her head and could see the same heavyweight woman who had clobbered her. She sat in a chair that looked like it would buckle under her immense weight.

“I demand that you take me to the captain.” Endora understood that even the humans must obey the wishes of a Navigator because dragging their home world into a conflict would be unwise. However, the woman did not budge from her position.

“Really? And what makes you think the captain would want to talk to you?” The woman’s white hair glowed under the pure white light and Endora felt small compared to her hammered fists.

“You’ll take me to the captain if you know what’s good for you.”

The heavyweight woman laughed and then continued. “You have fire in that soul, I grant you that. Could you at least say the magic word? I thought you lot were supposed to be polite.”

“There is no kindness to the likes of you. We all know the acts of terror the humans committed five hundred years ago.”

The large human woman stood up and the chair plopped to the ground and tumbled over. “Lady, I wasn’t even born five hundred years ago. And the last time I checked, you dragged us into your damn war.”

“I’m not some second rate pup that you can convert to your side. I know what happened and I will not fall to your kindness. Now let me speak to the captain or you’ll be sorry.”

The woman let off another hearty laugh and left the medical bay. Endora felt her rage swell up and despite her training to control such feelings, she could not help but toss her cover onto the floor, unwillingly exposing her half naked body to the individual that just happened to walk past. He blushed, closed the door and trotted off. Endora slipped into her clothing and felt the blood rush away from her cheeks. Her skin may be pure white, but bright red cheeks was not the Plaxian way.

~~~

The door from the medical room opened up into a large passageway that was surprisingly warm. She saw no guards on the door and assumed that she was not under some kind of arrest or a prisoner. Still, she needed to find the captain of this vessel and demand her release.

The strange looks came in a succession of stages; it appeared that humans had either forgotten what a Navigator looked like, or the attire she was wearing drew too much attention. But it was the open room that completely caught her off guard. The ship was travelling in slipstream…without a navigator!

Then, as she walked closer to the balcony that overlooked the entire ship, she was mesmerized at the strange fog and dust that climbed across the hull of the ship, but didn’t touch it. She was completely confused.

“I-I don’t understand. How can humans travel in slipstream?” Endora muttered to herself.

A voice of a human male spoke up over the hum of the ship. “The ship’s computer is very advanced. All data on objects that are bigger than a small asteroid is fed into the computer and an appropriate route is calculated. The ship’s shield takes care of the rest.”

“Shield?” Endora had never heard of this technology before.

“Yes, it collides with small objects and keeps the ship safe. After your race abandoned our species, we developed powerful technology to travel through the stars.”

Endora watched as the human encircled her, looked deep into her eyes and smiled. “Do you know you have beautiful eyes?”

Endora turned away to hide the blush she could feel growing on her cheeks; not even a single alien tried to flirt with her before. It was unheard of, a new experience to her.

“We-We-I-I-” Endora could only stutter, lost for words. All those years of training, the fights she’d seen and the disgruntled, unexpected looks the last crew gave her had not prepped her for that comment. She felt embarrassed. And she was only a Navigator. The human race was not what she expected.

“Why did your race abandon us?” the human asked.

“We did not abandon you. It was your appalling behaviour that led to our withdrawal.”

“Excuse me?”

“She’s referring to the Omega incident that happened over five hundred years ago,” said a third voice that boomed around the open observation room. Endora recognised that voice and the young officer stood to attention and saluted.

“Captain.”

Endora stared in awe; the heavyweight woman with a barrel chest and arms the size of cannons was the captain of this vessel. Her footsteps boomed along the metal plates and her smile etched its way across her face like a canyon.

“You’re the captain?” Endora asked, her voice soft and unthreatening.

“Oh please, no need to change the attitude little lady. You can talk to me like you did before. I found it rather…soothing!”

The captain walked over to the railing and looked over her titanic ship that soared through space, blasting away dust and asteroids with its shield.

“What are you planning to do with me?” Endora asked. It was the only question she could think of.

“We’ll return you to your home world once we stop a conflict.”

“Stop a conflict?”

The woman craned her neck over the railing and appeared to lose herself in the awe-inspiring view. It took a good five seconds before she finally spoke.

“Yes. A civilisation, important to us, is about to start an unnecessary war and I’ve been instructed by the Earth military to stop it at all costs. You should have a ring side seat…Endora.”

Endora backed away from the rail and stared in disbelief, how did this human know her name?

“Endora…That’s a beautiful name too,” the young man interjected.

“Robert!” The captain’s voice changed from a strong motherly tone to one of shadowy terror. “Why are you here? Return to your station!”

Endora watched the young man scatter around before legging it out of the room.

“Sorry about that Endora, he has a thing for Navigators. You have my permission to clobber him if you wish.”

Endora looked away and continued, adding defiance to her voice. “How do you know my name?”

“You were talking in your sleep…and about the loss of your friend.” She walked over and extended her hand. She held Calynda’s Spirit of Wings. “You dropped this on the floor when you disabled twelve of my men.”

Endora took the headband and felt the emotion of her loss too much to hold in. A small tear dripped from her face and she turned towards the outside view. A huge rock must have hit the shield because the ship vibrated and the stars had turned to a brown haze for a second.

“You’re welcome to stay onboard. We could do with a Navigator.”

“Thank you, captain, but I’ve heard quite enough. I’ve been informed about the terrors of your race and I can tell that you are trying to win me over.”

“Endora, you got it all wrong.”

“Enough…once you return me to my home world I will submit my report to the academy and they will decide if the human race has changed from its harsh ways. There’s a terrible history and I will not be swayed.”

Endora felt the ship jump out of slipstream and the fog that covered the shield changed into a view of Armageddon. Thousands of capital ships all lined up in formation, ready to start a war. Endora could do nothing but watch as the ships faced nose to nose with each other ready for battle.

“W-What are we doing here?”

“We are going to stop a war between the Telarains and the Veenons. As a representative of Earth, it’s my duty to put an end to the planet dispute before lives are lost and this sector is dragged into turmoil. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve work to do.”

“W-What’s your name?” Endora asked rather loudly; she had to know. This was something she’d never experienced before. An outside race attempting to stop a war! How’s that possible? Just what are the humans doing? Are they monsters like my teachers say?

“It’s Xanthia. Enjoy the show. This might take a while.”

~~~

Just what was the captain thinking, dragging her own ship into the middle of someone else’s conflict? This was one of the many thoughts Endora had as she stared out of the mess hall window and saw the deadly cannons pointed at the Earth ship. For some reason, Endora overheard many people discussing the meeting that was to take place onboard this ship. Two superpowers had agreed to come onboard and discuss the matter in a bid to stop a war.

She felt intrigued and wondered about the true accuracy of her own history involving the humans.

However, none of that mattered. Endora could not get rid of the image of her friend dying in that invasion, someone she had trained and lived with for many months. She could not forget the horrible sight of the aliens either, nor the idle discussions she’d overheard in the human Mess Hall.

She did not understand the concept of love, and it appeared that relationships and feelings might have been the reason for the Plaxian and human conflict. It was a complicated matter and one she did not understand. But the more she uncovered the truth, the more her government’s story could have been fabricated. But she had her training and all she cared about was returning to her home world with Calynda’s Spirit of Wings.

~~~

As the day progressed to its end, she was given her own quarters and her stay on the human vessel was uncertain. Endora wanted to perform her duty to her lost friend and do what she was born for, to navigate starships through the vastness of space. The experience resembled art and freedom, a feeling unmatched by nature. She flew with her father once and experienced the out of body bond that allowed her to steer the small ship through the cosmos and back home. It was a momentous achievement and nothing could compare to the bond a Navigator could have with a ship while steering its crew to safety.

A call disturbed Endora from her idle thoughts, she was summoned to the command centre—as the humans called it—and she quickly made her way, using the computer as a guide.

Upon entering the command centre, she was partly overwhelmed by its sheer size and soon noticed the captain leaning over a console in her usual grey uniform with her strong features visibly noticeable under the fabric. The young ensign looked like a small insect under her huge, muscular frame.

“You called for me, ma’am?”

“Yes, I did.” Xanthia stood straight and Endora felt her sharp eyes pierce straight into her soul. “We’ve settled this little incident and currently inspecting the departure of all the ships. After that we’re going to your home world to return you to your people.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“I thought you might be pleased. However, our star charts are vague for your local star system and it would be dangerous for us to travel through that area in slipstream without the data. So it’ll take five years to take you back to your planet on sub light engines.”

“Five years.” Endora almost felt her feet collapse under her. She thought the humans would have some data. But the captain had not finished her conversation.

“However, if you connect with this ship and guide it through your system, we should be there within two hours.”

Endora stared at the captain and felt anger slowly trickle through her veins again. She vowed never to connect with a human ship and this was exactly what she was trying to avoid. But she had no choice. Connect with the ship, or travel for five years.

“Just so you know, we’ll not be spending five years travelling to your world. You can direct us there now, or you can be dropped off at Earth. It’s your choice.”

Endora had no choice and the captain knew it. This could be the turning point in her life. Once a Navigator has bonded with a ship, they normally develop some connection that would be hard to tear away from, a unison between Navigator and machine. But she heard stories about terrifying ships created by the humans. The dread she would feel and the unrelenting hate that would follow.

Again, she had no choice. She stared at the captain and made sure her look of scorn was as powerful as her red eyes. She was about to be tainted with human ingenuity and hatred, something she would have to live with for the rest of her life. But she had to return Calynda’s Spirit of Wings to her parents.

She stepped onto the navigation interface and placed her hands onto the dashboard with the touch pad underneath. She did not require a direct connection, just contact. She closed her eyes, touched the control panel and felt her soul drift into the machine. The immediate effect was intense, unlike anything she’d experienced before. The force was so powerful she backed away from the console immediately.

“T-That’s incredible…T-This ship…It’s…”

“So you like my ship, yeah?”

Endora made a rude noise with her throat and went back to the console. “Your ship is impressive. I will give you that.”

Impressive was an understatement as she allowed her soul to connect with the very essence of the ship again. Human presence had charged the vessel with energy and she became lost in the brightness of complete freedom. Harmony was all around her and it contradicted what she was told time and time again about the humans. That they only possessed darkness and destruction. But this starship was the ship of dreams and its speed was not fully used. Without a Navigator the computer could only pilot the ship at minimal speed.

She wanted to fly; she wanted to use this ship to its full potential. She reached out to the forward hull and drifted into the depths of space. It was so easy; Endora flew past the stars and discovered the safest route. With the ease of her will, she activated the star drive and the vessel went into slipstream with such fluid grace that she did not feel the horrible jolt the Tralaxion vessels created.

In a moment of bliss, she swayed and danced among the stars with such power and freedom, she felt the immense push of the ship. She was able to steer it anywhere she wanted and with the engine only powered to forty five percent, this was the fastest she had ever been. She wanted more, she had the need for speed.

Faster and faster…She reached her hand forward into the cosmos and the human vessel supplied all the power, speed and will she ever wanted. It was incredible; Endora had never felt excitement or freedom like this before. Humans were no monsters, humans were not creatures of darkness, they were the very essence of life and her history about them felt like a lie. Why? Why did my people forsake this race? She closed her eyes and allowed the light from the Spirit of Wings to guide her home.

~~~

Endora arrived back at her home world filled with unrelenting energy and excitement. She wanted to work with the humans; and she was completely mistaken about them. With their negotiation skills, and the kind return of their own navigator, the government agreed to a meeting.

But Endora, she had the most painful task of all. She stood to the entrance of Calynda’s parents’ house and clutched her friend’s headband. She would have to tell them the terrible news. She would have to hand over Calynda’s Spirit of Wings, something that should never be done at such an early age. Endora wondered what terrors her family must have endured, knowing that their child was out amongst the stars, putting her life on the line to protect their home world from the Kronons and their brutal regime.

Endora could not find the words to describe the details of their daughter’s death. It was something all parents would want to hear, but the secret she knew was far too terrified to explain.

Still, as she stood at the steps to the crystal door, she remembered all the good times and braced herself for the sorrow she would inflict on a family. I’m sorry, Calynda died valiantly sounded formal, not from the heart, she would have to think—and quickly—as the doors opened.

Endora extended her hands, clutching the Spirit of Wings. Calynda’s mother reached out and accepted her daughter’s symbolic headband with a weary hand and Endora did not have to say anything. She sensed the loss of Calynda’s family, and slowly walked back into the shadow of the house without so much as a word.

Silence was the biggest killer and Endora would never forget the look of helplessness on that woman’s face. She expected Calynda’s mother to cry or yell at her, but she did nothing. Lost in limbo, Endora could do nothing but walk back to the academy.

~~~

The walk back to the academy had been more troubling than before. A weight was on her mind and there was nothing to justify her actions. She went to Calynda’s home, not only to hand over the headband but to seek forgiveness from the family. They did not forgive her.

The first sign of trouble came when Endora was tossed into the judgement chamber to explain her actions. According to the data sent back to her home world—before the Tralaxion ship was destroyed—it stated she’d left her post before the second navigator could take over. This, of course was not correct because she was given permission to.

It soon surfaced that Calynda’s parents had gone through the footage and decided to put an act of grievance against Endora. She was then turned over to the elders to stand trial for dereliction of duty, after the humans had their turn.

Endora watched the beefy captain stand her ground and defend her decision and innocence of the past. They did not listen. She spoke her mind.

“If you think I’ll hand my ship over to a bunch of thugs than you got another thing coming. I returned your precious little Navigator and what did I get in return?” She waved her beefy fist at the elder. “A bunch of weirdoes storming out of the building arresting us. Is this your way of greeting guests?”

The elder remained seated inside his womb-like cloak and peered down at the desk-mounted screen. He appeared more engrossed in the text than Xanthia’s comment.

“Are you listening to me?”

She did not get a reply.

So Xanthia carried on, her tone changed, confident. “You might not be listening to what I’ve been saying but perhaps you’ll take note on this. If I’m not returned to my ship within a few hours, my vessel has been ordered to open fire on your military defence grid. I expect your enemies would find that a perfect opportunity to invade.”

Xanthia placed her beefy hands on her waist. Waiting for an answer

“Your idle threats don’t scare us, human. You’d be wise not to attack us.”

Xanthia stared directly into the elder’s eyes and put that theory to the test. She raised her left hand and spoke into her WristCom. “This is the captain, locate the nearest target of opportunity and disable it.”

Xanthia heard a confirmation and then all hell broke loose.

The entire defence grid must have been activated because the COM channel went dead and the court hall blacked out. In a state of panic everyone erupted and fled to the nearest exit. Xanthia grabbed her team and used this chance to leg it out of the hodgepodge courtroom. She noticed Endora moping in her location and extended a warm hand.

“I doubt these jerks will let you fly again. Come…”

Endora’s future looked bleak. From doing the right thing, her people turned against her, and for what? To set an example?

It would stand to reason that her own people would have told lies about the humans. Endora knew that she would never fly again and would probably be imprisoned for negligence. The hand from the human captain was like a guiding light that called for her.

She stretched out her hand and accepted the invitation. Before she knew what happened, the beefy captain swung her over her shoulders and ran off to the shuttle.

“Put me down, I can run…”

“Not yet, I need the exercise.”

People ran in all directions and Endora saw a rain of plasma from out a passing window…

“Is…is your ship attacking our world?”

Xanthia stopped beside one of the windows and looked at the hail of lights in the sky.

“Don’t worry, those are only firework balls. We’ve got to go; once they discover the firework balls are harmless, your people will be gunning at us.”

The distraction seemed to be progressing. Thousands of slow moving projectiles hovered over the metropolis and the glowing crystal buildings reflected the bombardment in dazzling patterns that almost resembled a rainbow. Xanthia knew they had only a few minutes before the firework show began and once that happened, the distraction would be over and the authorities would realize they were tricked.

They made their way to the shuttle and took off into the path of the incoming projectiles. The local fighters were so busy destroying the projectiles—thinking they were missiles intent on destroying the city—they failed to notice the lone shuttle escaping. Once aboard the titanic starship, Xanthia wasted no time in leaving.

Xanthia sat on the command deck of her mighty earth ship, reeling in the sacrifice of goods they’d used to escape Endora’s people. Displayed on the main screen, dazzling displays of fireworks lit up the sky above Plaxes’ capital city. The fireworks were amazing; different colours blew out in spherical patters followed by an encore of complex numbers, patters and symbols. The captain could not hide a slight tear that crept out of here eye

“I hope your people appreciate the expensive show I put on for them.” Xanthia stated, emphasizing the word expensive and lapsing into silence.

“I’m detecting a ship heading our way.” Endora announced as she took her place on the command deck.

Xanthia heightened her tone. “Didn’t I say those fireworks were expensive?”

“I am sure my people appreciated your lovely patters in the sky.”

“A woman should have the choice not to use expensive things. Who used them?”

Everyone averted the captain’s gaze and worked frantically at their workstations.

“Captain, you should concentrate on the incoming ship.”

Xanthia sank into her chair and mumbled under hear breath. “This crew is expensive as it is! You’re paying me back Endora, every last credit.”

“We should go captain.” Endora highlighted as the battleship came into view.

“We better get out of here then. No point in starting confrontation after that expensive lightshow.” Xanthia gave Endora a sidewards glance and continued. “Looks like you’ve settled in nicely. Let’s go before they start to open fire.”

Endora replied in a professional manner. But in her heart, she was a lost woman, abandoned by her people and now fleeing her past. She tried to do well, but that only made things worse. She didn’t want a life with the humans.

She touched the control panel, and with the captain’s order, the ship vanished into slipstream and away from her old home. Perhaps one day, when the dust had settled, she could return. But for the moment there was much to learn from the humans, a past that was dredged in lies and needed to be rediscovered.


 

Shane Ward first discovered his passion for writing back in 2003 when he began writing for fan-fiction. After a shaky start and positive reviews he decided to knock on the doors of some editors to publish his work in magazines and other professional websites. He’s been writing for many years now and he can still be found writing stories for his favourite TV shows, but he now concentrates on telling personal stories and attempting to become a professional novelist. Shane would also like to thank Ernst van Rijn, Anna Karwowska and Dana Beehr who offered their beta reading skills to improve this story and offer enjoyment to the reader.

 

Edition 1: Bone Park (Windscreams) by Bruce Memblatt

flag USWhen disgraced doctor Avril Chase wakes in a park, he thinks his guilt is finally driving him mad. But the reality is far worse–the world is ending in a most gruesome way. Surreal and horrific, Bone Park will make you flinch at the slightest of breezes. SY


Avril couldn’t say how he wound up in the park or how it all began. He hadn’t slept in a week, perhaps it was more. But more baffling he couldn’t account for the rips in his shirt or the holes in his shoes. Did he drink that much last night at Reno’s? There was a dry spot under his feet. He assumed he must have slept there because the rest of the grass was wet and the park was empty, and he had that groggy malaise that told him he’d slept recently. Beyond the gate he could see people walking along Sixteenth Street, umbrellas bobbing in the wind. Avril Chase was too spacey, and too confused to think it all out. He took a few steps towards the edge of a dirt clearing under a rusty set of swings, and his eyes fell over more he could not explain.

Whispers of the past, the last wind, the breeze that swept it all away flew past him unnoticed.

A sliver of a bone jutted out of the dirt. There was no question in his mind that it was a human bone. Being a doctor, even if he had lost his license, Avril knew about bones. A rainy day, an empty park, inexplicable rips in his clothes and shoes, and a bone sticking curiously out of the ground. He wondered if he’d somehow woken up in a George Romero film. Would the next surprise be the undead creature (that was formerly attached to the bone) rising to take a bite of his arm?  He should be scared, maybe he should be terrified, but he wasn’t. A strange curiosity grabbed him, along with a queasy, cautious feeling in his stomach. Maybe sleep deprivation acted as a buffer to fear the way scotch acted as a buffer to everything.

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Edition 1: No Free Parking at Journey’s End by Louis Baum

flag US“No Free Parking at Journey’s End” was second place prize winner of the 2011 Story Quest Short Story Contest. Louis Baum paints a bleak far-future universe, with twists and turns that are well crafted, and a masterful sense of irony. GH


Forty-one years, and now it was at an end. It was hard for Leo to believe. It was like a beautiful dream that once awake you try and hold on to, but whose ghostly substance disappears in the morning light like an evaporating mirage. Only strangely this dream was not fading with sober wakefulness. Instead, every day now, his cherished vision was being made more real, emerging from out of the realm of wishes and growing more solid in its yet opaque flesh.

He was on the cusp.

He was on the cusp of achieving the lifelong ambition of his deceased father, and in turn, the goal around which his entire life had centered. For the last few weeks he had been giddy and had done each hour’s tedious tasks with a big idiotic grin on his face. And yet his patience, which had been eternal his whole life, seemed to expire all at once in the last couple of days. He could not wait. After all, it was not much of a life to live one’s entire existence in space.

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Edition 1: Neighborhood Watch by Jennifer Solomon

flag USWhen kids start to disappear, local menace Jaden points the finger at his odd neighbors, the Spragues. Will he be able to stop them before there’s another friend on the menu? A classic thriller, but wait for the twist… SY


Jaden Conner-Sterling was an awful little boy. Not to his parents, perhaps, but certainly to most of the world. He was eleven; too old for his actions to be considered cute, and too young for them to be considered dangerous. He was smart in a sly sort of way; too small to be a bully at his school, he instead used his fast wits to become a lackey to the older, stronger kids.

It was Jaden who came up with the nickname “Fetus Face” for the soft, fleshy fourth grader named Douglas, and “Crotch rot” for the pretty, but extremely shy, Marilyn. When his friends found a dead cat by the side of the road, it was Jaden’s idea to put it in a used Chinese takeout bag and stow it in the locker of an Asian student named Takumi. “Enjoy your runch!” the gang shouted as the young boy (Japanese, not Chinese) tried not to cry.

Jaden was clever enough to modify his behavior among adults, though he didn’t fool everyone. His math teacher, Margaret Leonard, for example, watched him like a hawk. Forty years of dealing with unruly children had given her sharp instincts, though she was no longer fast enough on her feet to catch him in the act. Jaden referred to her as Grandma Moses. His neighbors across the street, the Fitzgeralds, had caught him chucking stones at their bird feeder. His parents reprimanded him vaguely, and Jaden was careful to check that the Fitzgeralds were out before resuming his target practice.

His parents, David and Laura saw Jaden in a different light. In their eyes, he was a highly intelligent, inquisitive little boy.

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Edition 1: The Witness by Laura Haddock

flag US“The Witness” was third place prize winner of the 2011 Story Quest Short Story Contest. Laura Haddock is a newcomer to published fiction and the Story Quest judges noted a high level of maturity and polish in her writing. “The Witness” is, in many ways, a classic sci-fi, but projecting readers into a court-room drama, with a most interesting twist. GH


Of course there are ethical implications.

First, the procedure may never be used on children. The filter of childish perception would only confuse. The intellectually disabled are excused as well. And there is no “off” switch. It is understood that the court will wait respectfully for the duration. I think the record is six minutes.

From the beginning there were promising results with Alzheimer’s and neural trauma patients. The mechanical apparatus buzzed day and night in the research centers, with no shortage of volunteers. Once those crafty engineers discovered that the brain could be manipulated to reverse the erasure process—that memories could be rebuilt—there was no turning back.

I don’t know who first thought to use the machinery on corpses, but he must have been one macabre SOB.

Even now, most REBUILD subjects remain incoherent or don’t even revive. One of my own first cases filled screen after screen with gibberish until he finally powered down. After my “Mr. Harrell, I am prosecuting attorney Jack Sullivan,” I saw the lines scrolling at a frantic pace, saying nothing at all.

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Edition 1: Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

flag US

 Reviewed by Mysti Parker


cover The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning.

From this memorable opening line, Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus”, is more than just a good book. It’s an experience.

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Edition 1: Toxic Sludge by Tom Ribas and Lee Lackey

flag USWhen waste takes over, it’s left up to the animals to preserve the forest. Will Rat, Frog, and Badger be able to defeat The Sludge and save the world as we know it? A fantastical story of a future where our filthy past finally catches up with us. SY


In a hollow den of glass and steel, blue and black shadows spread across holes and hallways leading down divergent paths; they stood exposed under rows of effulgent fluorescent lights.

Badger motioned to hurry, dark eyes darting. Dim esoterica on the walls stretched to the edges of his abnormally keen vision, panes revealing no signs of the enemy. He held the machine gun tight in his piebald paws; he smelled vividly the acrid stench of pollution.

I’m trying.” Rat’s claws clattered and fumbled against the primitive electric lock on the metal crate. Her eyes were wide and frantic; she knew what would happen if they were to be caught. Sweat formed and ran down her nose, on the palms of her hands, onto her fingers, making them slippery. The other two shifted in place the longer they were forced to wait. Every second that passed made them more and more afraid.

With an audible click and hiss, hydraulic rams moved inside to open the crate and show the stash of ammunition within.

Got it—I got it.”

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Edition 1: Rationalized by Larry Hodges

flag US“Rationalized” was the winner of the 2011 Story Quest Short Story Contest. Dystopian short fiction has a long history, the modern era examples stretching back to the late 1940s, and some of the best science fiction fall into this sub-genre. The judges of the Story Quest contest determined that Larry Hodges’ piece, Rationalized, took a fresh approach, and carried a clear and brutal message. Hodges, a seasoned wordsmith, asks the question, what do I do if the odds are overwhelmingly against me? I’ll leave the answer to those who read his short story. GH


How niceto feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.
~ Kurt Vonnegut

It had been a long Saturday morning, but the training was over. Now Dr. Bruce watched Jeremy and his friend Lara as they played games and drank lemonade. Both actions were illegal.

He took a sip of the chemically-created lemonade he made himself. It was a break from the dreary diet of nutricubes and water, the only approved food or drink allowed or needed. He wondered if actual lemon trees still existed.

Jeremy came over. “Dad, where’s the puppy?” he whispered.

They’d “borrowed” it from the puppy farm.

“I kept it a secret like you asked, but when are you going to tell us what it’s for?”

“Soon,” Bruce said.

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Edition 1: Nullus by Mitchell Edgeworth

flag Ausralia

Traversing the Nullarbor can make you think you’re alone in the world. But this time, it’s not just a feeling. An Australian twist on apocalyptic fiction that’s sure to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. SY


You didn’t think you’d have bad weather in summer, yet here are grey skies lying sulky over the Nullarbor in the middle of February. Nothing you can do about it. You take the tent down and stow it in the panniers before straddling the Kawasaki and continuing east. With luck, you might hit Ceduna before nightfall.

At Balladonia an Irish backpacker serves you coffee and a sandwich, and looks wistfully out the window at your bike parked by the petrol bowsers, the clutter of occy-strapped luggage teetering on the rear of the seat. “You take carr on dat boike, all right? Just take it easy.”

Ravens flutter and croak in the spindly trees at the edge of the road. The flat and barren landscape is broken only by the occasional road sign or ruined farmstead. You gear down every time a road-train approaches, lowering your head so the whoosh of displaced air doesn’t pick you up off the bike. At 120 kilometres an hour, the buzz of the engine levels out as a steady drone. The frigid wind picks out the exposed bits of skin between helmet and jacket. Still, the weather holds out.

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