Water Striders

insect water strider

Skri water walks over to me. “Lookit – those things are on the island again.”

The short-limbed creatures watch me from the shores. I do not bounce as if to play, do not acknowledge them. Instead I reach below the surface to grab a chunk of algae. “I thought nothing lived on land.”

“You know what the elder says?” Skri leaned in close. “She thinks they’re monsters.”

The materially-rich monsters move as if to avoid scaring us. There’s something knowing about them, something intelligent, but they’re absent the holiness of water.

I shudder. Nothing with a soul walks on land.

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This sci-fi flash was written for the November 7th Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Ranch. Water Walkers was the theme this week, and that made me think of water strider bugs. I invented an alien that is bigger, intelligent, and walks on water. The land creatures are supposed to be us treating the aliens like animals on a National Geographic.

Though I guess you could just read this as from the viewpoint of actual water striders, lol.

***Edit: I realized this also fit the prompt for D. Wallace Peach’s November Writing Challenge. Perhaps I will get off my lazy bum and write something special for it – but perhaps I will just let this one linger as my response. 🙂

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Blind Faith – Flash Fiction Challenge

green pine trees covered with fogs under white sky during daytime

The Story So Far… 

Vessix accepted her parents’ plans to sacrifice her to the gods after her father lost the vein of gold in the family’s small mine, since a blind person couldn’t support herself in their society. They left her at the temple where all the ill and infirm waited for the gods to come eat them, and Vessix remained at the altar with an ancient, dying man. Late that night, when the door to the temple unlocked and jangled open, the local god entered and ate the man who lay dying, but spared Vessix on the grounds that blindness wasn’t a death sentence. It took her home, gave her breakfast, clothes, a place to sleep, and a psychic duck as a pet. Now the duck urges her to escape and proclaim the god as false to the people of the town – will Vessix listen to the duck’s heretical words, or will she search for real truth? Stay tuned to find out!

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This was written for Joanne the Geek’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Story So Far, which has to contain a duck!  My story so far is based off a story I started but quit. The reason I quit was because it relied too heavily on Wizards of the Coast (D&D) copyrighted property, and it was destructive enough that I could even get in trouble for it as a fanfic. So I quit because I literally couldn’t share it. Still, this summary doesn’t contain those elements, but it does contain a duck!

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

Arecibo

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“Well, it’s definitely a message. It’s binary, very clear, quite ordered.”

The head of the agency tapped the desk.  “You have a translation of it?”

“Yes sir, we think it’s decoded.” She handed him a block. “There were 1,679 blips. If the message was purposefully sent, the number probably means something. Since it’s semiprime, we set the message onto a 23 by 73 grid and raised the grid spaces that were ‘on.’ The patterns clearly indicate a message.”

He swept a tentacle across the braille. “We really aren’t alone in the universe! It has the numbers one through 10, then a code of sorts. What’s it say?”

“Get your FREE bottle of male enhancement pills from Crazy Joe’s NOW.”

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This was written for the Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt #111, translation. The original Arecibo Message was a 23 by 73 binary message launched from the Arecibo Observatory as part of its opening ceremony in 1974. Intended to be a publicity stunt more than anything, the message was nevertheless an informative thing indicating the presence of life on Earth for anyone who might be around to receive it. But, knowing us, we’ll send another in a few years advertising penis pills, ’cause that’s the way we do.

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Strawberry Mint Lemonade

cold cool drink field

Jack sidled up to the bar where a single woman sipped her drink.  The shimmering lights of the disco ball moved over his face as he waved down a bartender.  “Whiskey.”  The bartender slid the glass over.

She bit her straw seductively.

“What’s your name?”

“Strawberry.” Her voice had a strange accent. “Strawberry Mint Lemonade.  Good to meet you, Whiskey.”

He chuckled.  “My name’s Jack – whiskey’s what I’m drinking.”

The beautiful woman tilted her head further than natural. “Is not saying of humans, ‘You are what you eat’?” She grabbed him by the wrist. “What does ‘Jack’ taste like?”

***

Did anyone expect something that wasn’t weird?  Also, I’m finding that I have several stories about a flirtatious meeting where the female ends up being cannibalistic or something like that.  I need to branch out a bit!

Anyway, this was written for the May 30th Carrot Ranch prompt, Strawberry and Mint.

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

 

Alien – #Haibun

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We appear diff’rent,
Yet our thoughts are indistinct.
Who here is alien?

I sure hope it’s not me. 

***

This was written for Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #94, ‘Indistinct.’  I invite you to think of alien both as space-alien or as an international alien.  I think it works for both meanings.

The Grave Planet

space

“That’ll be a day’s rations.”  I slid the broken toaster across the steel table to her.

No longer so dinged, rusty, and scratched, even a cursory glance showed the quality of my handiwork.  She picked up her goods and frowned.  “My neighbor said you fixed his for free.  Why are you charging me?”

I wiped my greasy fingers off on a towel that hung on a drawer handle behind me.  “A week ago I decided to be like the rest of you and make this place do.  Even if I want to go home, I can’t without the entire crew.  I’m not the captain, so I can’t just order you all to action.”  I tossed the rag back down, letting it swing against the cabinet.  “I have to start getting payment for my work.”

The colonist, until recently a science officer on our exploration vessel, took out her electronic notepad.  She tapped a couple buttons and smirked.  “Well, at least you’re finally coming across to seeing sense.”

“It’s not by choice that I’m doing this.”  I moved over to another bench, taking up a personal computer that someone had ripped from their old ship quarters.  I turned it around, trying to figure out how to fix it without the structure of the ship nearby.  “There was never a vote to colonize.  We just left the ship, and most of you didn’t want to go back once your feet touched the ground.”

She laughed as she went to the door of my little cave, holding her toaster tight.  “You’ll see that everything’s fine.  It’ll be ok – you’ll get over your fear soon.  There are no such thing as ghosts.”

Once the makeshift door closed behind her, I groaned.  At least she didn’t prod or poke fun, but her faux pity didn’t sit well with me.  I gritted my teeth and reached for my tools, giving extra care not to harm the computer I worked on.

My tool slipped out of my hand.  I tossed it against the wall.

This planet seeped despair.  The vegetation, though complex, grew small and weak.  The green leaves quickly faded to deathly brown, and the skeletons of ancient trees reached up only part of their old height.  The animals and alien creatures that had once inhabited this planet still haunted the place.  I could feel their malevolence with every breath, the grave planet entombed with the dead of an ancient race.

The breathable atmosphere, reasonable weather patterns, and similarity in size to our faraway home attracted us to this planet.  After years of traveling, searching, and living cramped inside our ship, the chance to stretch our legs and breathe the air of a planet once more was too much to ignore.

I should have voiced my opinions then.

I closed my eyes and took up my tool again, continuing my work.

***

“This is goodbye.”  My mother nuzzled up against me and pulled me in tight, close to her.  The scent of her perfume clung to my uniform.  “I’m so proud of you.”

I gulped.  After months of training, backing out now would never do.  “It’ll be ok.  I’ll be back home eventually, and I love you, Mom.”

She gave a brave harrumph.  I may come back home, but time dilation due to faster than light travel would mean she’d likely not be there to greet me.

Then again, I may not come back home.

She wiped her nose, removing the mucous.  “Don’t let any of the aliens kill you.  Fly smart, fly safe, and fly fast.”

I nodded and moved around her.  Smoke bellowed out of my ship’s engines.

“I’ve got to go, mom.”

She held me tight, planted her lips on my forehead, and I broke from her hold.

***

The rolling, dusty sound of the wind carried over the entry to my cave.  I listened to my door jar as the planet’s lonely voice whined for attention.

Rattle.  Ratta-rattle.

The repair business came in spurts.  During the next lull I needed to reinforce my door.  For now, I pulled my blanket up around me and crept out of bed.  The lights came on automatically, brightening slowly from a dull warmth to a more appropriate shine. The door moved more, but the lights banished the ghosts from my room.  I shivered, cool air of the night coming in through the cracks around my door.

Rattle.

I held the door still, and the rattling stopped.  An extra bar and the rattling would probably stop, perhaps a rubber gasket to seal from the air that came in.  I let go of the door.

Ratta-BOOM!

I jumped back from the door, starting a bit before I realized the noise couldn’t have been caused by my release or even my abode.  I flicked open the lock and pushed down on the metal latch, then pulled open the steel door taken from the room on my ship.

The colony – a collection of alien-hewn caves and portions of metal salvaged from our ship – appeared in good condition.  The colony’s lights remained off and dim for the night, and the air smelled as fresh as it had the first day.

Movement above me made me look upward.  Something in the sky, far up above me, sparkled.  It streaked quickly down and the flames grew in intensity.  Somewhere, probably a few miles to the southeast, the source of the light probably landed.

Quickly I receded into my abode, blanket still wrapped around me.  The lights turned themselves off when I clicked, and I fumbled blindly on my tables.  Eventually I came across an old, metal tube, and clasped it.  I expanded the telescope, now certain I had the right object, and returned outside.

I looked up, the last of the fiery remains in the sky, and trained my sights on it.  I turned the ancient tool, focusing the light in the lenses, and blinked.

“No.”

Ghosts or no, the ancient whispers of the windy planet were the least of our worries.

I moved the scope to the right, left, up, and down.  I closed it shut with a snap, then hurried to the Captain’s cave.

***

I held my breath.  Though not as solid as portrayed in pop culture, the rocky barrier at the outer edge of the solar system loomed large ahead of our ship.

We kept the lights, both internal and external, off during this perilous part of the journey.  Even the heat that kept us alive and that was emitted by our computers had a chance of giving us away, but this was our best and possibly only chance.

“I don’t see them,” she said, her voice a mild, hushed whisper.  She closed the shutter on the window, what little light that came from stars instantly cut off, and handed back my telescope.  I held it tight, glad to retrieve my heirloom.

I wanted to peek out the shutter.  I wanted to chance looking through the glass, but I knew the risk we’d taken by opening it in the first place.  “They haven’t said anything yet.”  I put the telescope in my bag, removing its temptation.  “If the aliens were going to stop us from leaving the system, you’d think they’d have shown up by now, right?”

I could hear her move, perhaps with invisible answer.  “The first ship we launched came back saying we’d all be killed if anyone left.  ‘Stay home, spaceman,’ they said.  What if that was our only warning?”

“Then we’ll know if they spotted us because we’ll be dead.”  I swallowed, then reached a hand out to her.  “I told my mom not to be afraid for me, but I’m scared now.”

“Me too,” she said.  “I just wanted to explore the universe.  I don’t want to get in some alien’s way or colonize a planet they want for themselves.”

I heard her choke, a sound larger than what we were allowed right now.  “Sometimes I wonder if signing up to explore for the rest of my life was a good idea.”

I took her and clenched tight, letting her know I was there for her.  “We’ll come back home.  We have to, if we want to give our knowledge back to our people.”

“It won’t be home anymore.”  I heard her sniffle, felt her shake.  “Everyone we love will be dead by the time we get back.  We may just as well never return.”

I paused a moment, the released her and gave a nice rub.  “Aww, don’t say that.  That’ll mean the aliens have found and killed us.  The ship’s well put together, and we’ve got plenty of mechanics to keep it running.”

She cracked open the shutter again.  “Running…”

***

“You can’t be serious.”  He blinked his eyes.

I reached to his computer and dimmed his lights, hoping nothing leaked from his office outside.  “The computers picked up the explosion.  I saw the falling debris, and I used my telescope to see them.”  I released my breath, then took in a new one.  “The aliens are here.  I saw their ships – beautiful, like arrows – and they’re fighting above us.  If they finish battling each other and notice us, we’re dead.”

The captain brought up information on his computer.  I leaned over, seeing that it was data from the listening posts, and that the microphones had picked up the explosion.  “I asked electrical to reduce power production and all the computers to keep the lights off until morning.”  He pointed to me with a pencil.  “Tomorrow, you lead an expedition out to the debris field.  I want to know what kind of aliens are fighting above this planet, and if there’s  a chance they’ll come back.”

I nodded.  “Yes, sir.”

***

I felt the ground – it’d been years since the last time I’d done so – beneath me.  The radiation stung slightly, but I’d live.  Nothing a few med packs couldn’t handle, nothing a bit of soil treatment wouldn’t cure.

I breathed in deeply, then took a step further.  The air sat heavily in the lungs, whipped wickedly over the ground.  Twisted metal spiraled upward, melted into useless chunks that corroded and rusted.

Shaped stones sank into the ground at even intervals, tightly packed together.  I scanned further out, the field of dirt and unnatural carvings continuing out as far as I could see.  Behind me was the same thing, a few larger, stone monuments erected in the empty field.

I walked to a cave.  The square entry, hewn from a marble, no longer housed a door, but it could be repaired.  It smelled musty and ancient inside, but these cave-like structures could easily provide shelter for a few days.

I coughed and turned on my flashlight.  The cave walls were lined with drawers, each tiny and labeled with a faded, scratched tag that glimmered in a fools’ gold alloy.  I took the handle only to break it off, but the lock – mechanical, simple, ancient – had similarly degraded.  I pried the drawer open, and dust flew out at my face when it soon fell clattering to the ground.

Ashes.

***

I trembled.  The debris field burned hot with fire, the explosion destroying several of the thousands of endless tombs that covered the grave planet.  My team held close their lanterns, carried tightly their rations.  The wind whispered and wailed hateful sounds, cautioning against error now.

I reached down and pulled up a piece of duller metal, finding it still warm to the touch.  Underneath the soil had been scorched.  I sighed and picked it up, putting it in my bag.  “The pieces are too small in this area.  There’s nothing we can learn from this.”  I looked to my small team, each of their faces fearful.  “Get as much metal as you can.  We can use it to repair our ship.  I’m going to go a little further, see if there’s something bigger.”

“But what if the aliens see us?”

I spat on the ground.  “This was always a bad idea.  Always.”

I marched up the hillside.  Tombstones – definitely tombstones, definitely rocks that marked the placement of alien bodies – lined every inch and crevice.  In the sides of the mountain, where it was too steep to place the larger stones, the ashen drawers were carved.  Bones, degraded textiles, meat, and alien jewelry sat in coffins that my feet tromped over.

At the top of the hill, I saw the largest mass of the ship.  It sat in flames in the next valley, so I waved my team on.  “Careful,” I said.  “Take cover if anything moves.”

The cockpit of the tiny, alien ship glowed red with lingering heat.  Nearby, made of what seemed to be a strange, brown leather, was a piece of furniture that I had to assume once held the alien’s body.

It wasn’t burned, but nothing sat there now.

My heart throbbed quickly.  “Scatter,” I ordered.  “Get back home.  The pilot survived, and the colony’s too close by.  We’ve got to liftoff.”

One of my troop shook her head.  “They’ll see us.  We have to hide.”

“We can’t send back a message.  We have to go-”

All of us clung to each other as we heard movement.  Metal rattled, and strange lungs coughed.

A body rose from the wreckage.  It was tall and slender, walked on two appendages, and used another two appendages to remove some of its clothing.  It cut a parachute off from its back and shook out a last, bulbous appendage that was topped with fibers.

What had to be eyes, white with dark, circular centers moved rapidly.

I chirped, whining, scared.  I felt the tentacles from my friends clench me tighter.

The alien grunted and pulled an object from its hip.  I recognized the creature’s brown, peachy skin from descriptions given by our species’ first captain.  The alien pressed a button, then spoke, “I am Captain Bill Aster of the 502nd battalion of Terra Nova.  How dare you defile our home?”

My friends shoved me from our pile, squelching as my body – bulky, compared to the alien’s, and brilliant orange – spewed forward as representative.  “It wasn’t our choice,” I said.  “We just wanted to explore, just see what was out there.”

“I recognize you.  You’re some of those curious little aliens, from iota sector.”  The machine translated a laugh, but the eerie sound the alien made in the background caused me to shiver.  “Those dirty rat bastards from New America reported that they’d told you to stay home, and you disobeyed their unusually wise advice, didn’t you?”

I wrung my tentacles together.  “Is it even fair to keep us jailed? Confined to our home planet?”

“Out of all the planets you could have settled, is it fair you chose Earth?”  The alien stepped forward, a tiny appendage pointed at me.  “This is the planet every species but yours spawned from, and it’s the planet to which our dead of Terra Nova deserve to be buried on.”

“It’s ok,” I protested, waving my tentacles in surrender. “We’ll leave! I swear!”

“I don’t let the New Americans live or die here, not if I can help it, and those mongrels can claim genetic heritage to Earth.  You think I’m going to let some dirty alien away with defiling our graves? With disrespecting our dead?” It reached the empty hand to a new object in it’s belt.  “I hope you don’t have blood, otherwise it’s going to spill all over our soil.”

“No, please, we didn’t mean any-”

But ghosts can only whisper and hide, and the tales of the dead – even my own – only blow over the fields and tombs of the grave planet.

The Gluzzlebups’ Parade of Nations

Space

Warning, I guess: this is quite morbid.  

The announcer put its lips to the microphone.  “Next, we have the United Statesians!”

A three-toed alien named Gluzurr held the head of her bounty high and licked her lips.  Plump cheeks belied the delicacy of Gluzurr’s kill.

“And the Chinese!” the announcer bellowed.

The crowd gaped at the corpse on Boolan’s flaunted staff.  The meal had kept a fine diet.

“Next, we have Furrazh with a Zambian!”

The Zambian representative of choice had been flayed perfectly to show off the marbling of the athletic muscles.

“What a lovely parade of nations!” the announcer cast.  “Let the feast begin!”

***

This was written for the September 20th Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Ranch.  I had to participate this week because the Carrot Ranch challenges aren’t going to be back until November!  

I felt the warning at the front was warranted mostly because the prompt was way, way more cheerful than I think I managed to convey.  

Mystery Challenge #1 – Sample Collection

I’m going to do all of the raynotbradbury Mystery Challenges this week!  The first challenge is to choose three objects in my kitchen and write a mystery story involving them.  I chose an infrared thermometer, knife, and a plastic zipper bag.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not quite so creative as to create a mystery story that includes a George Foreman grill or an Animal Pak.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce Sample Collection.

***

The spacesuit felt bulky on Lieutenant Kilkelly’s fingers.  He held out the infrared thermometer and pulled the trigger to scan the surface of the station.

It didn’t take long to find what he’d been looking for, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary to his eye – just the thermometer.  He took the laser indicator off the hot spot, then returned it just to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.  Once their fears were confirmed, Kilkelly spoke into the microphone just below his chin, “The sensors are working.  I found it.”

“What’s wrong with the hull?” Captain Popovich asked.  Her voice was thick with a Russian accent, but Kilkelly hadn’t found her treasonous yet.  In fact, he’d come to rely on her quick thinking and brilliance several times before.  “Can you make the repairs?  We don’t have much time, if he sensors aren’t faulty.”

Kilkelly saved some of his thruster fuel by pushing himself lightly from the bar on the station’s airlock.  His training and previous EVA’s had given him plenty of practice, and he was able to bring himself to a perfect stop just next to the hot spot.  He examined the area, then tilted his head.  “I… I can’t see anything wrong, Captain.  The insulation’s definitely still there, ceramic seems intact.  Hull plating looks flush.”

“The computer is behind that panel.  We can’t have it heating any further.  Lieutenant Laghari, is there anything on the inside that could be causing the problems?”

“No,” Laghari answered swiftly.  “The computer’s working normally.  It’s definitely coming from outside.”

Kilkelly put the thermometer back in its holder, then took out his camera.  He snapped a picture of the plate and sent it to Popovich and Laghari for analysis.  Immediately after he put the camera up, he thought he saw something.  “Captain,” Kilkelly spoke, “I… I might be going crazy in this cosmic radiation, but I think I just saw the hull sparkle.”

Popovich waited a moment.  “I just got your image.  Could you describe this sparkle?  It didn’t show up on the picture.”

“It’s like a firefly.  The hull just glowed, then stopped.  I’ll try to-”

The hull sparkled again.

“I just missed it a second time.  It’ll happen again, I’m sure-”

“We don’t have time to waste, unfortunately,” Laghari spoke.  “The computer’s at critical risk.  Hell, man, I’m fanning it by hand as it is.”

Popovich sighed.  “Scrape whatever it is off the surface and try to collect a sample if you can.  You’ve got the replacement hull plating – take the old one off and put the new one on.  If that doesn’t fix the problem, we’ve got bigger issues than whatever it is you’re seeing.”

Kilkelly didn’t need telling twice.  He took out a knife and popped the hull plating off.  He unscrewed the screw that held it in place, then placed it in a plastic bag he’d brought for refuse.  As soon as it went inside the bag, the intermittent blinking stopped.  “It won’t blink inside the bag,” Kilkelly said as he zipped the plate up.

“Don’t care,” Laghari said.  “Temperature in the computer room’s already started to drop.”

“Get the replacement back on the hull,” Popovich ordered.  “We’ll look at the sample when you get back.”

Skilled Kilkelly screwed the new hull plate in without any issues and popped it back into place, then pushed off the hull back to the air lock door.  He entered the lock, repressurized, and brought the sealed zip bag immediately to the lab where Popovich waited.

She ran an instrument over the top of the bag.  “I’m getting a radioactive reading.  There’s some really strange radioactive isotopes, something I wouldn’t have expected in orbit.”

“What do you think it is?” Kilkelly asked.

She shook her head.  “There’s no way to tell.  Whatever it was, it vaporized part of the bag – see those holes?  I think the carbon dioxide breakdown products, even at such low pressures as you find in space, killed it.”  She slid the sample into a vacuum chamber.  “We’ll probably never know, not entirely.”

Kilkelly swallowed.  He wished he could have saved whatever was on the panel.  “Sorry, Captain.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Popovich said.  “Sorry’s for whiny Americans and astronauts who don’t get to return to Earth once their mission is done.”  She patted him hard on the back.

“I guess.”  He looked longingly at the vacuum chamber.  “I can’t help feeling that we were invading on its territory, not the other way around.”

Popovich nodded.  “Then you’ll get over it.  You Americans always do.”

The Zookeepers

On Sundays, I respond to prompts I find on other blogs.  Though it wasn’t a prompt in the usual sense, I found this post from Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand to be thoroughly fascinating.  I hope the stories promised on that blog are excellent, just as I hope you enjoy this flash fiction.  I hereby conclude my month of animal stories with the most potent animal of them all – humans.

Narrash squinted at the faraway zoo, adjusting its telescope to see through the cloud cover.  “A bit stormy on the planet today, Verrant.”

Verrant nodded.  “It’s thoroughly out of the ordinary.  Something must be going wrong.”  With a couple swishes of its plumbiuns, Verrant examined the sanctuary.  “Hmm… runaway chemical reactions, rising global temperatures, massive levels of toxins, and… radiation?  This is a relatively new captive space, one wouldn’t expect to see this for millions of years!”

Narrash nodded and put away its scope.  “I think we should just give up trying to capture this species.  It’s obvious they just shit all over their planet until nothing can live there ever again.”

“But they’re so cute.  Their little eyes, their little noses, their baldness save for the patch on the top of their heads!”

“You want to open this exhibit to the public?  You want to commit to being zookeepers for this craphole?”  Narrash booted up the engines.  “If you want to do that, do it with a different partner.  I’m giving up on the humans.”

Verrant slurtened and shifted the computer’s specs.  “We gave them everything they needed at the outset, so it’s possible they can clean their mess up.  Maybe I’ll check on the in a few centuries.  Just to see if they survived.”

“You do that.”

The ship turned around and blopeeted into deep space.

***

The Hurrith Planetary Enclosure Company was sued soon after for neglect in the care of its charges.  Several cages were found to lack basic needs, and the abusive relationship between keeper and charge went unreported for millennia.  All those who read this missive can claim their piece of the settlement by calling the law offices of Herrngutturtengeim today. 

Announcing a Beta Read Opportunity

The Mercury Dimension

“Murder isn’t becoming of aliens.  That is why we must be Death now.”

For a limited time, I invite you to peer through The Mercury Dimension to a plane where humanity wields the vilest of talents.  Beta reading sign-ups are going on now and will continue until the end of June.

Unsure of whether The Mercury Dimension is worth your time?  Read the summary below!

The Sovereigns of Tsanur, a wealthy race of tree-like people, want their colony at Beta Seven Sarix destroyed and its memory erased.  In return for conducting genocide, the Sovereigns promise the humans what they want the most: revenge against the Shadows, the race that long ago attempted to poison humanity in its interstellar cradle.

In answer to the Sovereigns’ call, the Admiralty sends the warship Victurus along with its shapeshifting Commander, the verminous alien Russus.  Upon her arrival at the planet, Commander Russus finds no reason to exterminate the Sarixians, and she questions the intent and value of the Sovereigns’ deal.  With no authorization to participate in diplomacy and the offer of the Shadows dangling in front of her, she has an uphill battle if she wants to convince the Admirals and the governments of Earth to refuse the Sovereigns’ deal.

Words of encouragement from my Alpha-Readers:

I definitely binge-read this. That is my tendency, but I will take breaks on books if they’re not good.  I didn’t want to take a break from this!

— Meg

It reminded me of classic science fiction, like Asimov or Clarke, but it had a lot of interesting, new pieces, too.

— Brian

I look forward to hearing from you!  Remember, sign ups are here.

The image is based off the ESA/NASA Hubble Telescope’s Return to the Carina Nebula.  If published, I expect a different cover – this one is mostly to advertise the Beta Read.