The End Of A Long Journey Nears

It all started over two years ago, when I still called Thousand Oaks, California home. I’d taken on the role as co-editor, along with Dawn Witzke, for Pluto in Superversive Press’ planned 12-book anthology series.

A lot has happened since then. Starting with, I moved to Nebraska, dealt with health issues (my own and other family members), damned near quit as editor (it wasn’t anything Superversive had done and the issue resolved itself quickly), dealt with a myriad of delays that no one could have forseen or prevented and then woke up one morning not so long ago to an email from one of the other editors that SUperversive was stopping the series after only releasing the first five (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars & Jupiter)

That was a fun morning. Realizing two years of work had been for nothing is not the way to start your day. But there was a silver lining. Superversive was open to allowing another publisher to step in and take over. Well, I just so happen to have a publishing house up my sleeve and after consulting with the other half of the Tuscany Bay Books’ dynamic duo, we took Superversive up on their offer.

red spiritual smoke on black background with copy spaceToday, the first payoff arrived:

Pluto, Tuscany Bay Books’ first release in the Planetary Anthology Series, is now live on Amazon for pre-ordering. The book will upload into your Kindle devices on Dec. 5th. It will also be available for free to all KU subscribers.

You can pre-order your copy right here: PLUTO

And check out the book trailer right here: PAS: PLUTO

Many thanks to the 21 authors who contributed these amazing stories to the collection and who hung in there along with me over these last two years:

Like So Many Paper Lanterns – B. Michael Stevens               

Time Out For Pluto – P. A. Piatt                                                

A Brush – J.D. Arguelles                                                           

The Pluto Chronicles – Bokerah Brumley                               

Bat Out Of Hellheim – Corey McCleery                                 

The Rainbow-Colored Rock Hopper – J. Manfred Weichsel          

The Heart Of Pluto – Christine Chase                                     

The Case For Pluto – A.M. Freeman                                       

Marathon To Mordor – Karina L. Fabian                                

Miss Nancy’s Garden – Jim Ryals                                           

On Eternal Patrol – L.A. Behm II                                            

Pluto Invictus – W.J. Hayes                                                     

Worst Contact – Arlan Andrews Sr.                                         

Ambit Of Charon – David Skinner                                          

Sunset Over Gunther – Frank B. Luke                                    

Adaptive Reasoning – John M. Olsen                                     

Judgment Of Anaq – Andy Pluto                                             

Life At The End – Jake Freivald                                              

A Clockwork Dragon – Allen Goodner                                    

The Collector – Declan Finn                                                   

Yes, Neil D. Tyson, Pluto Is A Planet – Richard Paolinelli   

 

Now its on to working on getting Luna ready for her release date. As soon as we have that information, we will post it here. For now, check out her amazing cover:

1k Serials: The Invited, Chapter 5

THE INVITED 

By Richard Paolinelli

© 2019 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

 

FIVE

 

In the week following Rogers’ death, Sinclair drove himself and his command. Every man able to pilot a fighter or a shuttle was briefed on his part of the mission. Anyone else left, save those needed to keep things running on Earth, was going through a crash course on hand-to-hand combat and would make up the assault force that would attempt to board Kustani ships.

By the end of the week, one hundred and twenty-six fighter craft had pilots. Twenty-six of them would make up Squadron Five with two support shuttles, one for the cold-sleep capsules and the other loaded with survival gear would join the little task force scheduled to launch, as Sinclair glanced at his watch, in less than a day. The remaining one hundred fighters and the seventy-two shuttles would link up with Earth Fleet’s seven heavy cruisers and three dozen support ships and launch what could be the final defense of Earth. With less than a day left, and having done all he could on Earth, Sinclair found himself back on Moon Base and heading for Iacola’s lab.

“Here you go Doctor,” Sinclair said, slipping a data disk from his jacket pocket and handing it to Iacola.

“Ah, excellent,” Iacola replied as he took the disk. “I’ll download it into the training program in a few minutes.”

“What’s their status?” Sinclair asked while looking over the rows of tubes, each holding one of Iacola’s super-clones. Sinclair counted over 200 tubes.

“They’re just awaiting their final programming and your message to them,” Iacola replied. “They should be out of the tubes and ready to go in three hours.”

“Good,” Sinclair said. “As soon as the last one walks out of the lab I want you and your staff to join General Blaine. He’ll be waiting on the last shuttle out of here for Earth.”

“Of course, sir,” Iacola said. “General, if you don’t mind, what did you say to them?”

Sinclair paused for a moment, looking at the disk in Iacola’s hand before answering.

“I told them everything,” he said. “I told them what they are, why they were created, what they’re being asked to do and why. I figured it was the least I could do. I never was one for asking a man, natural-born or cloned, to die without telling him why.”

“I understand,” Iacola said. “Is there any chance we might survive this?”

“There’s always a chance,” Sinclair said. “We might be able to pull out a miracle tomorrow, who knows. The only thing I do know is that we’ll go down fighting and either way they won’t win. We’ll give it our best shot Doctor, and we’ll see what fate has in store for us.”

Sinclair turned away to leave, but before he reached the corridor Iacola’s voice stopped him.

“Good luck tomorrow General,” Iacola said. “I’ll see you back on Earth.”

Sinclair looked back long enough to nod his head and left without another word. He spent the rest of the day prowling around the base, making sure everything was ready, watching as two hundred and thirteen super-clones boarded shuttles to wait for the launch and saw off Blaine, Iacola and the rest of the non-essential staff on the last flight back to Earth.

Finally, with eight hours to go before launch, Sinclair ordered everyone to get some rest. Setting a final briefing for ninety minutes before launch, Sinclair headed for his quarters to try to get a few hours of sleep.

He resisted the temptation to go to VR-Med and say a last goodbye to Tonia’s VR ghost. Like Rogers, he had visited her cold-sleep capsule before leaving Earth. He’d said goodbye then and took some solace that at least if the assault was a complete failure, she’d never feel any pain as the end came. Instead, he found himself in his bunk, staring at the ceiling and trying to force himself to sleep. He was still trying when the alarm sounded, telling him two hours remained until launch.

*   *   *   *   *

Sinclair stood on a gangway above the main shuttle bay, cameras sent his image to monitors stationed in every shuttle bay across the base. Men were gathered around the fighters and shuttles, making any last minutes preparations needed for the launch. As Sinclair appeared in the main bay, work around the base halted as the men waited to hear what he had to say.

Sinclair thought of all of the men in the fighters and the shuttles, wondering what must be going through their minds right now.  He didn’t wonder about the super-clones though.

They were built for muscle, programmed to do one job and one job only. Fight the Kustani. They had super-strength, agility and speed because those were the qualities Iacola had focused their growth on. Their brains were strictly for absorbing battle data and creating battle-tactics for their bodies to carry out. Because of this genetic-pushing, they had a life expectancy of one year. Sinclair didn’t expect any of them to live long enough to see the end of the day. Of course, he wasn’t expecting humanity as a whole to fare any better.

He thought of saying something inspirational, something profound, something to equal the stirring message Takahashi had delivered an hour ago near the end of the final attack briefing. In the end, he settled for simplicity.

“We have a job to do today gentlemen,” he said. “Let’s get it done.”

Striding down the gangway, Sinclair crossed the bay and entered the first shuttle lined up for launch. Sealing the hatch behind him, Sinclair spared a quick glance at the thirty super-clones jammed into the shuttle before slipping into the co-pilot’s seat.”

“General,” said the major seated in the pilot’s chair. “We’re ready to go when you are.”

Sinclair waited for the signal that all ships had been boarded, the bays were clear and ready for launch before giving the order to go. The shuttle hurtled out of the bay and headed for the rendezvous point. In less than an hour, he estimated, the final battle would be joined.

NEXT WEEK: THE LAST BATTLE

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1k Serials: The Invited, Chapter 4

THE INVITED 

By Richard Paolinelli

© 2019 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

 

FOUR

 

Rogers slipped out of the conference room unnoticed. He’d seen enough of the data while on the shuttle to discern what his friend had in mind and he knew there was no other way. But the other men inside that room would cling to one wild hope of victory and would never believe that Sinclair’s plan was the only option they had left.

Sinclair would never order a man, much less a good friend, to do what Rogers had in mind, but Rogers knew it was the last push Sinclair would need to get his plan approved. So Rogers quietly made his decision and slipped away. He headed down to the cold sleep chambers buried deep below the surface, making his way to the tube where his wife Julia slept.

Placing his hand on the cold, stainless steel tube, Rogers took one last look at his wife, said a soft goodbye and made his way to the fighter bay.

Within twenty minutes of leaving the conference room, Ken Rogers was in the cockpit of a fighter, hurtling toward the Kustani armada now positioned five million miles from the moon.

*   *   *   *   *

It had taken less time than he’d thought it would for the President and his advisors to begin to seriously consider what he was saying. The plan itself was audacious in its simplicity, but frightening in that their situation could have become so dire that it could be conceived and even be considered as the only viable option left.

Sinclair had bluntly walked them through it. Using Iacola’s super-clones all of Earth’s defensive resources would be thrown at the Kustani in one massive juggernaut.

Four squadrons of attack fighters would engage the Kustani ships in combat. Every combat-able soldier, led by Sinclair and the super-clones, would attempt to board as many of the Kustani’s main battle vessels as they could and lead an assault from within. The pilots of the transport shuttles, after dropping off the invaders, would then turn Kamikaze and fly their ships into whichever Kustani ships hadn’t yet been boarded in an attempt to damage or destroy as many ships as they could.

A fifth squadron would feint an attack on a Kustani ship before breaking away in an attempt to flee the solar system and head for the Kustani’s home system.

“Why there?” Blaine had asked at that point.

“Because they are going to be carrying half of our little surprise for the Kustani,” Sinclair replied. “Iacola’s staff has been working on a new weapon, but they were only able to produce eight of them. They are missiles, armed with what I can only describe as a devil’s brew of anti-matter and a few other bits of destructive nastiness that will trigger any type of star into an immediate supernova. I’ve already ordered four missiles to be loaded onto a platform and placed in orbit over the dark side of Mercury. Squadron Five will carry the other four.

“If our all-out assault on the Kustani fails and we can’t commandeer enough of their ships to use against them,” Sinclair continued, swallowing past a dry throat, “then the order to fire the missiles into our Sun will be given. The shock wave from our Sun going nova will wipe out the Kustani before they even know what we’ve done.”

No one in the room spoke, there wasn’t anything any of them could say as they all came to the same realization that Sinclair had been coming to for the last few weeks.

“Upon their arrival in the enemy’s home system, Five will fire their missiles into the Kustani’s home star from a safe distance,” Sinclair said. “If they see our Sun go, then they’ll continue on, looking for any world where they can set down and live out whatever lives they have left to them.”

“What kind of a life can a dozen or so men lead under those circumstances?” asked an advisor whose name Sinclair couldn’t recall.

“We’ve always had an anti-virus that would keep the women alive,” Sinclair said. “But they’d never be able to have children. So, we’ll have the squadron made up of twenty married men and send along a support shuttle with the capsules of the men’s wives and as much survival gear and supplies as we can pack into it. If they find a place, they set down, revive the women and enjoy whatever time they have together for however long it lasts.

“At the very least, we’ll have prevented the Kustani from ever doing this to another race of beings somewhere else. It’s not much of a legacy, but as far as I can see, it’s the only one we’ve got other than being just another victim of the Kustani.”

It was a bitter pill to swallow and it wasn’t going down easy.

“Surely there’s something else we can do beside mass suicide?” the aide seated to the right of the President asked.

Sinclair opened his mouth to try to convince them that this was the only way when the door burst open and an out-of-breath corporal flew into the room.

“General Sinclair,” the man gasped out. “You’re wanted in CIC. Colonel Rogers has stolen an attack fighter and is flying toward the Kustani. He isn’t answering hails.”

Stunned, Sinclair looked to empty spot where Rogers usually stood during these meetings. He’d never seen Ken walk out, but with a sudden dread, he knew exactly what his friend was doing and why as well. As he followed Blaine, Takahashi and the rest of the cabinet out the door, Sinclair cursed fate for bringing the Kustani down upon them and placing his friend in a position where he’d need to sacrifice himself in this way.

He saved the worst of his curse for himself, for becoming the man who was about to let his friend sacrifice himself without at least trying to talk him out of it.

*   *   *   *   *

By the time Sinclair entered CIC, Blaine was roaring into a mike at the fighter rapidly approaching the Kustani blockade. Judging from the shade of dark red Blaine’s face was turning, Ken wasn’t answering. Sinclair calmly walked up behind a communications officer and asked for a position update.

“He’s about three minutes from the nearest Kustani ship,” the man replied. “They’ve launched a small intercept group at him, contact in two minutes.”

Blaine tossed away the mike in frustration and vented some of his anger toward Rogers at Sinclair.

“Get him back here Sinclair!,” he shouted.

“Son, mind if I borrow your gear for a minute,” Sinclair asked the comm officer, who quickly handed Sinclair his headset.

“Ken,” Sinclair said into the mike after donning the gear. “What are you doing?”

“I figured out what you had in mind and it seemed that you could use a little help,” came the reply after a few seconds had passed. Blaine’s face turned another shade darker, but he held his tongue.

“That I could,” Sinclair said, ignoring Blaine. “But I had planned on having you lead an assault team.”

“Figured as much,” Rogers replied. “But I’m a pilot, not a ground pounder. Besides, I’m guessing there’s still some debate over your plan, folks down there not willing to see the forest for the trees and all that.”

“You could say that,” Sinclair whispered.

“So I’m thinking you need a little demonstration to get the green light to get the job done right?”

“Yeah, that’s about right.”

“He blew right through them,” came an outcry from a tracking monitor behind him. “He never engaged their intercept! General Blaine, he has a clear path at one of their ships!”

Sinclair forced himself to look on as the blip representing Rogers’ ship bore down on a Kustani battle cruiser. More intercepts were launched, but it was clear for all to see that they wouldn’t be in time to stop Rogers.

“Is he insane,” Blaine exclaimed. “He can’t do any damage attacking a cruiser with one fighter!”

“Fighter bay,” Sinclair said, switching to another channel on his headset. “What is the payload of Colonel Rogers’ fighter?”

“Standard weapons plus one thermonuclear missile,” came the quick reply.

“That won’t do him any good,” Blaine said. “We’ve fired nukes at them before with no effect.”

“He isn’t going to fire anything at them General,” Sinclair said softly, switching back to Rogers’ frequency.

“One minute to intercept,” intoned the com officer.

“Ken,” Sinclair said.

“Yes, sir.”

He couldn’t say good luck, it wouldn’t crawl past the lump in his throat. Rogers listened to the silence for a few seconds, smiled and sent one last message back to Earth.

“Understood, Duncan,” he said. “Give’em hell, pal.”

Less than a minute later, with every weapon on board the fighter armed, Rogers powered his ship straight into the engines of the Kustani cruiser that had led the assault on Mars. At first it appeared that the huge engines of the cruiser had swallowed the fighter whole. But within moments a chain reaction of shudders shook the vessel until it suddenly exploded, taking a

smaller support ship and several Kustani fighters with it.

Sinclair watched the two blips intersect then wink out. Once the reports of the destruction of the Kustani ships came in, CIC erupted in cheers. He couldn’t blame the men for cheering, there’d been precious few victories in the past decade, he just couldn’t bring himself to join them. Instead, he handed the headset back to the officer and walked over to the President who, along with Sinclair and Blaine, were the only ones not celebrating.

Sinclair stood silent in front of the two men, there was nothing else to say after all, and waited. Takahashi waited as well, until the cheering had died down.

“General Blaine,” Takahashi began. “You will take command of Moon Base and evacuate all non-essential personnel. Once Dr. Iacola and his staff have finished their work and the assault is launched, you will evacuate everyone else back here.

“General Sinclair, you have command of all Earth defense forces. Get everything you need and launch when ready. You have full and final authority with one exception. I will give the order to fire those missiles when, and if, the time comes. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Sinclair said, with Blaine following suit a second later.

“Proceed, gentlemen,” Takahashi said. “And may whatever gods there are have mercy on us all.”

NEXT WEEK: The Final Battle Nears

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If you enjoyed this series and would like to help keep it going as well as help keep my podcast, A Scribe’s Journey, going please feel free to leave a tip on my PayPalMe. There’s no minimum required amount, just whatever amount you feel this weekly series is worth. Thank you!

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Like what you’ve read so far? Be sure and sign up for Richard’s newsletter, “Postcards From Infinity“, and if you’d like to become a patron you can do so right here. Any amount you choose will be appreciated and will help keep this blog, these weekly serials and Richard’s podcast, “A Scribe’s Journey” up and running. Thank you for reading and for your support.

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1k Serials: The Invited, Chapter 3

THE INVITED 

By Richard Paolinelli

© 2019 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

 

THREE

 

Sinclair pulled open the hatch, stepped into the chamber and closed the hatch behind him.

Within moments the sterile, empty bay before him transformed itself into a virtual-reality replica of his mountain home down on Earth, the way it was before the Kustani had arrived in the solar system. Brilliant sunlight poured down from clear, deep-blue skies to reflect off the blue lake and the thick forest of trees between it and the Sinclair house above. Changing out of his uniform, Sinclair slipped into his favorite robe and walked outside onto the deck to breathe in the clean air and take in the scenery below.

“Duncan,” a voice called out from behind him, as a pair of arms wrapped themselves around his chest and warm lips nuzzled his neck. “It’s been too long.”

Even before he turned he knew what he would see: His wife Tonia, a woman almost as tall as he with creamy mocha skin and warm brown eyes that matched the color of her hair. Standing there before him, dressed in a robe that matched his, he could almost imagine that the last ten years were nothing but a bad nightmare.

Almost.

While his senses were fooled into thinking that this was reality, his mind knew all too well that none of this was real and he could never fully lose himself in this computer-generated fantasy. Never once had he addressed the illusion by his wife’s name and no matter how many times the computer prompted he never told it that he loved her.

To him it would be a betrayal to his wife, trapped on Earth inside a cold sleep chamber from which she might never emerge, and he just couldn’t do that to her no matter the justification. So he would talk to “her” for a brief time, set aside that it was a device built to harvest sperm, camouflaged as his wife, he was making love too and get back to work.

“You look tired,” it said, massaging his shoulders. He could feel fingers kneading sore muscles, smell the jasmine that was her favorite scent.

“It’s been a bad day,” he replied. “It’ll probably get worse.”

“Why?” it asked, pressing her simulated body against his in a way that was almost the same as Tonia would.

Almost.

“The war isn’t going well,” he replied. “I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever win.”

“If the alternative is losing and that is not an acceptable option,” she said, drawing closer. “Then perhaps you need to find an answer in between the two.”

They made love then, not in the frenetic way the soldiers had, but with passion as Sinclair forced himself to go with the program and suspend reality long enough to complete the procedure. But that last comment stuck in the back of the head and just as they finished a thought born of pure desperation laced through his brain.

“It’s not about us winning anymore,” he whispered. “It’s about not letting them win.”

“What?” she said, puzzled.

“Thank you,” was Sinclair’s reply, followed by a quick kiss. “Computer, end simulation.”

The faux Tonia, house and Earth quickly faded away. Sinclair ducked into the bay’s shower for less than a minute, donned his uniform and exited VR-Med so fast that Iacola never knew he’d left.

*   *   *   *   *

The trip to Earth had been swift and silent, save for Sinclair’s pounding of the passenger’s comm panel’s console keys. He’d steamed into the shuttle bay, bounded up the ramp and into the shuttle, barked out to Rogers to get going and no interruptions before settling in front of the console.

He didn’t say a word after that and was out of the shuttle fifteen seconds after Rogers had settled the craft down on the landing pad in front of the President’s office in San Francisco. Rogers was hard-pressed to keep up as Sinclair stormed his way through the crowded corridors.

There seemed to be an electric charge surrounding the General and everyone in his path saw it and quickly got out of his way. Rogers didn’t know what had happened back on Moon Base, but whatever it was, it had created a different General Sinclair. One that had some purpose in mind and, whatever it was, had every intention of seeing it through. Rogers hadn’t seen his friend like this since before the Kustani.

Arriving at the President’s conference room, Sinclair didn’t hesitate, plowing right past a loudly-protesting aide the General barreled past the closed doors and into the room filled with the President and his top advisors.

“General Sinclair,” said a surprised President Takahashi, “you’re early.”

“Yes, sir,” Sinclair replied, walking over to the podium directly across from the President’s chair and displacing a lieutenant who had been delivering a war update.

“Dismissed,” he snapped, hooking a thumb at the door he’d left open behind him.

“Sinclair,” barked General Blaine, the commander of Earth defense and one of the President’s cabinet members. “What the devil do you think you’re doing. We need that war update…”

Sinclair, keeping eye contact with Takahashi, interrupted his commanding officer.

“No, sir,” Sinclair began, “we don’t. The war’s over.”

“What the hell are you talking about Sinclair?” Blaine demanded. “Unless the Kustani just magically disappeared, we’re in a fight for our lives.”

“We were, General,” Sinclair said, still looking at Takahashi. “And we lost.”

The entire room erupted in protest with demands for Sinclair’s arrest being drowned out only by the shouts for his head. Amid the storm there were three islands of calm.

Rogers stood in stunned disbelief, sure that his friend had finally snapped under the pressure, unable to speak a word of protest much less support while Sinclair held his position across from the President without speaking another word in his defense. Takahashi, who had a reputation for calm that made Budha look like a raving lunatic, held Sinclair’s gaze for a full minute while ignoring the protests. Only when he slowly raised his hand for quiet did the room finally settle down.

“I assume, General,” Takahashi began, “that you have not taken leave of your senses?”

“No, sir.”

“Then perhaps you would share the reasons behind your view of our situation?”

“Certainly. We know that ten years ago the Kustani arrived in our solar system. We know they are a race of marauders that have conquered other planets and systems the same way they are attacking us and that no other race has attempted to make contact with us,” Sinclair paused long enough to upload the information he’d been working on in the shuttle.

“As you all can see,” he continued. “Even at our most liberal estimates, with no assaults against the Kustani, we have about six months of ships, supplies and manpower left to us and then there will be nothing standing in between Earth and the Kustani. In short gentlemen, we’re out of gas and there’s no cavalry coming over the hill at the last minute to save us. The war is over. We lost.”

Total silence and he’d expected little else. There was no arguing with the facts and the facts were very bleak indeed.

“We already know the Kustani won’t accept our surrender or any peace overtures,” Blaine said. “So what do you suggest? Just sit back and let them run us over?”

“No, sir,” Sinclair replied. “I said we lost the war, I didn’t say anything about letting the Kustani win it.”

“I must confess to being a little slow in my advanced years,” Takahashi said mildly. “But if we’ve lost the war, how do you propose not letting the Kustani win?”

“I’m sure you’re all aware of the concept of the scorched earth policy,” Sinclair replied. “What I propose is more along the lines of a scorched solar system. If we have to die, then we take those bastards with us.”

NEXT WEEK: Chapter 4: A terrible sacrifice.

 

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If you enjoyed this series and would like to help keep it going as well as help keep my podcast, A Scribe’s Journey, going please feel free to leave a tip on my PayPalMe. There’s no minimum required amount, just whatever amount you feel this weekly series is worth. Thank you!

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Like what you’ve read so far? Be sure and sign up for Richard’s newsletter, “Postcards From Infinity“, and if you’d like to become a patron you can do so right here. Any amount you choose will be appreciated and will help keep this blog, these weekly serials and Richard’s podcast, “A Scribe’s Journey” up and running. Thank you for reading and for your support.

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Been Kinda Busy

Aside from the weekly 1K serial series, you’ve probably noticed I haven’t been posting here. Well, the featured image above should be a major clue as to why.

A couple of years ago, Superversive Press announced that they were releasing a 12-book Planetary Anthology Series. They got five out – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter – but a series of events cropped up and a few weeks ago they made the tough call: It was time to shut the series down.

The good news is, they were open to allowing another publisher to step in and take it over.  Well, I happen to be a big supporter of this series and I have a chance to be in seven of the books.

TBB_WEBSITEI also happen to a co-owner of a publishing house – Tuscany Bay Books – and after consulting with my partner, we decided to step in and take over the series.

In a perfect world, we could start with Sol and work our way in order all the way out to Pluto. I’m sure this will not come as a big surprise to you: It ain’t a perfect world.

Thanks to Amazon, we won’t be able to re-release the first five books under our label and with new covers until February. Three of the books have either been ready for some time or has just become ready to go to print. So instead of making those editors and authors wait another three months on top of the year or more they’ve already waited we’re moving forward.

It’ll be out of order – but even Superversive was going to jump out of order if they had kept the series – and it’ll only be a total of 11 books (Dark Luna is out, but the stories intended for it will still run in Luna) but it will be done.

Pluto will be our first new release, followed by Luna and then Uranus. By then, we should be able to start releasing the original five. Once those are out, we will release Sol, Saturn and Neptune to complete the 11-book series. The order of the final three has not yet been determined.

It’s been a little chaotic over the past ten days, as you can imagine. And my schedule just changed dramatically. For one, I’ve withdrawn from two non-sci-fi anthologies I had planned to submit to in order to clear my schedule. I will still be releasing the third book of the Timeless series, Odin’s Runes, around Thanksgiving and I hope to get Book #4, Empire of the Golden Dragon, out by the end of the year.

But some other projects have been moved back on my calendar. Getting a series like this completed is a huge task, one of the reasons why Superversive made the decision they did.

That being said, I am excited about the chance to finish it. There are over 150 stories by dozens of authors – some you know, some you haven’t had a chance to read yet and a couple of new writers making their debut. Every volume is filled with incredible stories of sci-fi and fantasy that will make you laugh and cry and some that will do both simultaneously. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

You got a look at Pluto’s cover above. Check out the front cover for our next book: Luna, edited by Declan Finn.

Woman Climb Up Stairs to Fantasy Moon Heaven, Fairy Girl in Nigh

1K Serials: The Invited, Chapter 2

THE INVITED 

By Richard Paolinelli

© 2019 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

 

TWO

 

“We aren’t going to win this time, are we, Duncan?”

It wasn’t a question. There were no hysterics, not from Ken Rogers. A simple statement of fact and try as he might, it wasn’t in Sinclair to repeat the same drivel spooned out by the War Ministry’s Press Department. Keep up the fight, hold off the Kustani until a peace accord can be reached, or intervention from another race forces the Kustani to go away or some other such damn nonsense.

“No,” Sinclair said, sitting back in his chair with a heavy sigh. “No, we’re not, old friend. It seems that all we may have left to us now is to die well.”

To die well. God, what a horrible epitaph for a planet. How many other planets left behind in the Kustani wake had nothing more to be remembered by than we died well.

Silence slammed into the room leaving two men, friends for over three decades, unable to find the words to pierce it and bring some sort of comfort to the other. At length, Sinclair fell back upon duty to break the oppressive silence.

“Tell Westbrook to have my shuttle ready to go on Pad Two in half an hour. I’ll want you to pilot it, so get yourself something to eat and meet me there. Inform Commander Johansen that he’ll have command until we return.”

“Yes, sir.” Rogers turned to leave but stopped short when the intercom buzzed for attention. The damned thing hadn’t been the bearer of good news lately and neither man was expecting that trend to end anytime soon. Sinclair shot a quick glance at Rogers before snapping open the comm.

“Yes, what is it?”

“General Sinclair? I’m sorry to disturb you at this hour, sir.”

“Not a problem Doctor Iacola, I was preparing to leave for Earth Base. What I can do for you?”

“Well you see General,” the Doctor began, obviously struggling to find the right words. “It seems there’s been an oversight in Medical Records…and I’m afraid that you’re a few weeks overdue sir.”

Distracted and impatient to get underway, Sinclair snapped out a reply, “Overdue? Overdue for what, Doctor?”

There was a long, uncomfortable pause on the other end of the comm. Sinclair still couldn’t figure out the purpose of this conversation but Rogers had and, knowing Sinclair’s reaction when he found out, suddenly found Sinclair’s map of Moon Base utterly captivating.

“Well, Doctor?”

“VR-Med, Sir.” The Doctor’s tone said he too knew what Sinclair’s reaction would be

and he wasn’t looking forward to it either.

“Doctor, I’m due to meet the President in four hours,” Sinclair began sharply. “I don’t think he’d appreciate being held up while I visit VR-Med. You’ll have to reschedule for later.”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible, Sir.”

“I beg your pardon, Doctor,” Sinclair’s voice had turned ice cold and razor-sharp.

Rogers had to give the doctor credit, he stood his ground where most men would have turned and fled as far from the General as possible.

“Regulations Sir, especially since you are going off base. If something should happen to you we would lose a sample and as you know we are in desperate need of as many diverse samples as we can get.”

“We’ll just have to chance it then,” Sinclair reached to snap off the ’com but the Doctor’s reply brought him up short.

“I needn’t remind the General that regulations give me the authority to have Security escort you to VR-Med.”

“Blackmail Doctor, was that a required course at University?” Sinclair shot back. “I see then. I’ll be there shortly, Sinclair out,” Sinclair cut off the ’com before the doctor could reply.

“My apologies Colonel, it appears we’ll be leaving in ninety minutes instead of thirty, please make the necessary arrangements.”

“Yes, sir,” Rogers replied, trailing out of the office behind his commanding officer. The two men’s footfalls echoed eerily in the empty grayish-white corridor. At length, Rogers realized that his friend was muttering under his breath, but the words were impossible to make out. Acutely aware of Sinclair’s mood, Rogers braved a question.

“Was there something else, sir?”

Sinclair stopped short, causing Rogers to veer sharply to the right to avoid a collision.

“As a matter of fact, Colonel there is. You can report to VR-Med and I’ll go get the shuttle ready. What do you say?”

I knew I shouldn’t have said anything, Rogers thought. Fortunately, Sinclair spared him from coming up with a safe answer.

“Never mind, Ken,” Sinclair began with a wave of his hand. “I know I have to do this. I just don’t have to like it. Damn Kustani. It wasn’t bad enough they’ve set out to annihilate our world, they had to resort to biogenetic warfare as well.”

It was one of the Kustani’s first shots in the war. Somehow they had introduced the human race to a fast-acting, highly contagious virus. How or when they had done it was still a mystery, but its effects were undeniably devastating.

Within six months every human being on every colony and every base, even on Earth itself, was infected. The males were the carriers but the disease’s real target was the females of the human species. It was the perfect attack, one the Kustani had used many times before from what little they knew of their foe. Kill off the females of a species and you kill that species’ ability to reproduce. Eventually, through attrition, that species dies off.

No cure had ever been found, but six months after the disease had claimed its first fatality a stop-gap had been introduced. To prevent total disaster, it had been decided to put as many women into cold sleep as possible. The priority had been women still young and able enough to bear children.

Two million women had been placed into cold storage, an impressive number by anyone’s standard until it was measured against the nearly five billion women that had been alive before the Kustani had arrived.

With a fraction of the women in suspended animation and the rest dead or dying, it was left to a little less than four billion men to hold off the Kustani. At the death rate of the time, Earth had little time left before all of the men would be dead.

By harvesting and storing eggs from the women prior to cold sleep and from those who hadn’t yet perished, Earth’s scientists had used cloning to keep Earth supplied with male soldiers to defend her. While the scientists had stored as many eggs as they could, they needed sperm from natural-born males, sperm from cloned males produced one clone per egg, while the natural-born sperm was able to produce six.

Thus was born the VR-med labs. With only a little over a million natural-born men still alive, each was required to visit VR-Med for sperm extraction on a regular basis. The scientists who created VR-Med had managed to kill two birds with one stone. Knowing that some form a sex life, even a computer-generated one, would be healthier for the men, they created a virtual reality program so sophisticated, that the men would believe they were really having sex with their spouse, or any mate of their choice.

Sinclair was realistic enough to accept the necessity of VR-Med, but he was still old fashioned enough to deeply dislike it. Sinclair and Rogers quickly made their way to the base’s medical section and entered the VR bay.

The bay held six stainless steel chambers, each with its own array of indicator panels and monitors surrounding the entrance hatch. Four of the chambers were in use, the fifth’s hatch was open and was being serviced by a pair of technicians while Doctor Iacola stood in front of the sixth’s main control panel.

Another technician was engrossed in watching the virtual orgy in progress on the third chamber’s monitor and failed to notice Sinclair’s arrival. Only after the monitor faded to black, indicating that the occupant inside was finished and was about to exit, did the technician turn away from the screen.

“General, sir!,” the man exclaimed, startled.

“Enjoying the view?” Sinclair tilted his head, indicating the now blank monitor.

“Well, uh, no not really, sir,” the man stammered as the occupants of the four chambers exited behind him. “But I have to make sure the monitors are working for the recordings.”

“You record what goes on inside these things?” Sinclair’s voice was colder than the vacuum outside of the base. Rogers winced in sympathy as the young man struggled to find a way out of the General’s wrath.

Fortunately for him, one of the men behind him came to his rescue.

“Yes, Sir,” he said, putting on the black and gray uniform that identified him as a pilot, the white block lettering above the heart identifying him as Lieutenant Baker. “We pretty much all do. Sometimes we even trade programs and the guys record themselves with the other guy’s girl.”

“And none of you have any problem watching your wives and girlfriends with other men?” a surprised Sinclair asked.

“No sir,” one of the other men, a sergeant, replied. “It’s no big deal, it’s just a computer program. It isn’t like we’re really cheating on them or anything like that.”

“I see,” Sinclair replied dubiously with a shake of his head. “Very well then. But if I were you gentlemen, when we bring those women out of cold sleep, I’d make damn sure none of those recordings ever saw the light of day again.”

“Aye, sir,” all the men sheepishly replied in unison.

“Alright, get out of here before I start feeling like a 17th Century Puritan. Dismissed,” Sinclair said, turning back to the technician.

“I trust my wife isn’t part of the library and there aren’t any ‘recordings’ lying around that I need to be concerned about?”

“No, sir,” the man squeaked.

“Very well, I think you have a short circuit on the other side of the base that requires your immediate attention,” Sinclair said.

“Yes, Sir,” the technician said, scurrying past the General and quickly followed the four soldiers out into the corridor.

“What the hell are you smiling at,” Sinclair said, turning just in time to catch the grin on Rogers’ face before his old friend could remove it.

“I was just thinking,” Rogers jibed, without missing a beat, “that perhaps a change of pace was just what the General needs.”

Stone cold silence and Sinclair’s infamous scowl was all the reply Rogers received.

“Right,” Rogers said, moving toward the corridor. “I think I’ve got a shuttle to preflight.”

“Do tell,” Sinclair replied dryly, allowing only a ghost of a smile to pass across his face when peals of laughter from his friend made their way from the corridor and back into the bay.

“Ah, General, there you are,” Iacola said, only now realizing Sinclair had entered the bay. “Everything is set up to your specifications, you may begin whenever you are ready.”

Sinclair strode over to the hatch and grasped the handle to enter.

“But before you go in,” Iacola added. “I have that report regarding the cloning program that you asked for earlier. We have enough material to produce about three dozen of the new super-clone species in less than a week’s time, but it would completely drain all of our resources to do so. We would not be able to make any more clones of any kind after that.”

“And if we don’t make the super-clones how much longer can we produce normal clones,” Sinclair asked.

“About six months, sir,” Iacola replied dourly. “Either way, we’re running out of material and time. We have more than enough sperm supply, but we only had so many eggs left to work with and we have no way to replenish the supply and continue producing the clones we need.”

“I thought as much,” Sinclair said. “Thank you, Doctor. I’ll let you know when, and if, we’ll proceed with the super-clone program. For now, let’s get this over with so I can get to Earth.”

Next Week: Chapter 3: A harsh truth.

 

*     *     *     *     *

If you enjoyed this series and would like to help keep it going as well as help keep my podcast, A Scribe’s Journey, going please feel free to leave a tip on my PayPalMe. There’s no minimum required amount, just whatever amount you feel this weekly series is worth. Thank you!

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1K Serials: The Invited, Chapter 1

THE INVITED 

By Richard Paolinelli

© 2019 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

 

ONE

 

“I mark a bittersweet anniversary today in a way that none of us could have ever anticipated. Who could have known that 15 years ago, when mankind first ventured out of the solar system, we had started a countdown on our very existence. How could I have known then that I was commanding a mission, not to the stars, but toward Armageddon instead.”

– from the journal of General Duncan Sinclair, January 13, 2125, the tenth year of the Kustani siege of Earth

 

A high-pitched buzz pierced the silence of General Duncan Sinclair’s office. His dark, chiseled features, which had led many to describe him as roguishly handsome, scrunched into a scowl that he aimed directly at the intruding intercom.

Setting down his stylus, the same pen he’d carried with him on his ill-fated mission beyond the solar system, Sinclair closed his journal and pushed it aside. With a sense of foreboding, he activated the intercom’s receiver.

“Sinclair here, go ahead Westbrook.”

“I’m sorry to disturb you, sir,” the apologetic voice of Sinclair’s aide began without any surprise at his superior’s clairvoyance, “but you said you wanted to be informed if we heard anything from Mars.”

Mars Base had been silent for over three days now, having gone quiet without so much as an explanation or a “mayday”. The sense of foreboding increasing in leaps and bounds, Sinclair steeled himself for his aide’s next words.

“Sensors show six patrol fighters Earthbound. We’ve confirmed they’re part of the Mars Base detachment. We haven’t been able to establish radio contact,” the aide paused uncomfortably. “It looks like they’ve taken a lot of damage.”

As we had feared and much more, Sinclair thought bitterly to himself. Even Lieutenant Westbrook, who always found a way to put a positive spin on any situation, was struck silent. Mars Base was the keystone in Earth’s defense, if it had fallen to the enemy then the demise of humanity was all but sealed.

“Dispatch a fighter wing to escort them in and inform me when they arrive,” Sinclair said, somehow managing to keep an undertone of defeat from creeping into his voice.

“Colonel Rogers has already done so,” Westbrook paused, this time even more uncomfortably. “In fact, he recommended that we increase our alert status before he left,” Westbrook added a quick, but quiet “sir” waiting for the impending thunderstorm to strike him down.

But the storm never broke, much to his relief. Even though both men knew that it was against standing orders for either Sinclair, as the commanding officer of Moon Base, or Rogers, as the base’s Wing Commander, to lead a mission like this, Rogers would know how important the information the Mars’ pilots carried was. He would undoubtedly have a logical explanation for his personally seeing to it that they made it back safely.

“I see,” Sinclair said quietly. “Very well then, have the Colonel’s relief put us on DEFCON Two and tell the Colonel to report to my office along with the Mars’ pilots immediately upon their arrival, Sinclair out.”

Sinclair snapped off the intercom before Westbrook could get out a “Yes, sir!” and contemplated his journal. He’d begun writing the thing on his twentieth birthday for reasons he’d long since forgotten. At the end of every day for twenty-four years he’d logged in every event, good or bad, that had left a mark upon his life. As he placed the leather-bound volume in its designated slot in his desk, Sinclair couldn’t help but wonder how many more events were left to be included in the journal and if anyone would survive long enough to ever read them.

Colonel Ken Rogers led four of the six pilots into Sinclair’s office, the other two had been wounded fighting their way off of Mars and were getting treated in Med Bay. Rogers had known his old friend and commanding officer had been under a great strain lately, they all had to some extent over the last ten years, but seeing the dark circles under his eyes and the weariness in Sinclair’s face shook Rogers. It looked like Sinclair had aged another decade since he’d last seen him at the morning briefing. The report he was delivering wasn’t going to improve things either.

The pilots gave a brief, but devastating account of Mars Base’s fate: The complete destruction of the military and civilian populations, buildings and nearly every piece of equipment on the planet. Only a small number of the smaller fighter ships had gotten away, none of the evac shuttles had cleared the ground before being destroyed, and had joined up with the last two battle cruisers left in Earth Fleet in full retreat from Mars. With communications jammed, the fleet was trying to slow down the enemy’s procession toward Earth, sparing only the six fighters to warn Earth Defense Command. The Fleet Commander, an old friend of Sinclair’s, had sent a private message with the flight leader, who ended his report by handing Sinclair the disk containing the message.

Sinclair took the disk, somberly dismissing the pilots. Rogers stayed behind, waiting for the door to close behind the last man out before addressing his friend. He knew how much Sinclair blamed himself for the current situation and no matter how much he disagreed with Sinclair’s assigning that blame to himself, he could certainly understand why he did so.

Sinclair had commanded the mission that had dropped the beacon out in deep space, inviting any and all species of the galaxy to drop by Earth and say hello. The theory at the time had been that any species advanced enough to attain deep space flight would be inclined toward peaceful contact. So the theory said. But instead of a benevolent race, Earth was being called on by the Kustani and if any race could be said to be evil incarnate then it would be the Kustani.

A dozen years ago the Kustani had made first contact with an Earth exploration ship, with tragic results. The Earth ship had been completely destroyed, all hands aboard lost, and the two species had been at war ever since. For the last ten years the Kustani had encircled the solar system, gradually contracting the ring, much like a giant fishing net, into an ever-tightening circle around the inner planets.

Earth, still in its interstellar flight infancy, didn’t have the resources to break the siege. All Defense Command could do was to slow down the Kustani and hope for a miracle. That hope, along with most of Earth’s resources, were fast running out.

“I checked with plotting before I came here,” Rogers began. “The Kustani stopped their advance just a few million klicks on the other side of lunar orbit.”

Standard operating procedure for the Kustani, a race of beings with humanoid-like bodies with gourd-like heads the color of pumpkins and eyes of milky gray that reminded Sinclair of his worst childhood nightmares, keep the pressure on the defenders and watch base by base crumble and fall. Tighten the circle, increase the pressure on the defenders, sit back and wait for the next line of defense to collapse.

Now all that stood between the Kustani and the Earth itself was the Moon, a base staffed with a few thousand soldiers, and what few ships remained of Earth Fleet. Barely enough to hold off the Kustani for long should they decide for one last push, Rogers thought bitterly.

“We aren’t going to win this time, are we, Duncan?”

*     *     *     *     *

Next week: Desperate times call for desperate measures.

*     *     *     *     *

If you enjoyed this series and would like to help keep it going as well as help keep my podcast, A Scribe’s Journey, going please feel free to leave a tip on my PayPalMe. There’s no minimum required amount, just whatever amount you feel this weekly series is worth. Thank you!

*     *     *     *     *

Like what you’ve read so far? Be sure and sign up for Richard’s newsletter, “Postcards From Infinity“, and if you’d like to become a patron you can do so right here. Any amount you choose will be appreciated and will help keep this blog, these weekly serials and Richard’s podcast, “A Scribe’s Journey” up and running. Thank you for reading and for your support.

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