The Electric Owl – Chapter I

The Electric Owl (1982)

or

Bot Hunter

or

Do Bots Dream Of Bi-Horned Unicorns?

Electric Owl Red

a Ragle B. Gumm novel

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All owls are electric.

To a certain extent.

But what if they weren’t owls?

This was the subject of Aardvark Magnussen’s ground-breaking scientific research. Anything could be genuinely electric, in theory. This, however, had yet to be proven.

Until now.

Aardvark had made an electric owl and this meant that, not only was his experiment successful and he therefore possessed tangible scientific proof but now it was time for the next step.

“Damn this headache.”, he complained.

Perhaps he was overworked, perhaps it was the stress. After all, his horoscope had not been particularly encouraging for this month.

“You will find the key. You will not like what the key will unlock.”, it said.

Petal Pladd was a telepath, her head was literally bigger than most people’s. Her predictions were, unfortunately, never wrong.

A few Martian poppy seed pills should do the trick, he concluded. They’d put him right to sleep and he wouldn’t remember Pladd’s cryptic nonsense in the morning.

After popping five pills, Aardvark sat down, dimmed the lights in his laboratory and fell asleep quickly and quietly.

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Dick Richards felt nauseous.

He’d just awoken from a particularly unpleasant dream: he was pregnant with a bi-horned unicorn, he was bleeding inside and out. The blood was white, like milk, and smelt like trees.

He heard a faint sound, was it raining outside?

Looking up, he saw, in the distance, the faint blurred curves of a naked woman surrounded by steam.

His wife Nat was showering.

Ex-wife, he corrected himself.

“Where’s that goddamned Happy Sink?”, he thought. Lighting a death stick blindly, standing up with a wobble. He twisted the tap, set it to “perky” and closed his eyes.

“If you’re confused, hun: it’s the poppies. You took a handful last night. “, Nat said all the way from the shower pod. “We made love again. You should set that thing to “perky” next time. You were drunk.”, she added.

Too early for poppies.

Never mind. She was a quick dresser. She’ll be out in a minute.

Coffee.

Coffee sounded good.

He smiled a little, just thinking about it.

If only coffee was still around…
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Dick’s fly-bike was hovering higher and higher, but not fast. He was in no hurry to get to this next job.

Dick was a bot-hunter: he hunted bots, bots that got out of hand somehow. It didn’t help that they looked like anyone else, like flesh and blood human beings. They paid the rent, though, and the imitation-coffee. Three-hundred floor apartments don’t come cheap and neither do those rare artificial beans.

The client was Aardvark Magnussen, some crackpot Swede with way too much money and way too much power, Dick thought smugly. In a way, Dick owed his whole livelihood to Aardvark. After all, the latter did build the first bot and all bots since.

I’ve been cleaning his mess for years. I hate him. But let’s face it: without Magnussen, I’m nothing.

This depressing realisation left Dick beaten.

Why did I choose “perky”? Perky never lasts.

Dick had never been this high-up.

He didn’t even know that a fly-bike could reach the clouds.

So peaceful up there.

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The inside of Magnussen’s office was vast and nearly empty save for a single desk and a winged creature perching on top of it, silhouetted by the Sun.

I had never seen an owl, Dick realised.

Those eyes…

He could hear the sound of footsteps heading in his direction but somehow, he just couldn’t look away from the animal.

“Mr Richards.”, said the female voice coming from somewhere on the other side of the room.

“Yeah.”, was Dick’s vague reply.

“We weren’t expecting you here so soon.”

“That a real owl?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

“On what you mean by ‘real'”.

Dick gives her a puzzled look.

“And ‘owl'”, she adds.

This was a good-looking gal. The classy, sophisticated type. And she was looking at Dick with a mix of disdain and curiosity. Sad thing was: it was probably a bot.

“You’ll have to wait, Mr Magnussen is still… away.”, she instructed Dick bluntly.

“You got a name?”

“Emily. Anything else?”

There was that disdain again.

“No. I’ll just wait.”

Emily leaves the room as Dick sits facing Aardvark’s desk. The owl flies to the other side and lands on the absent inventor’s chair.

Date with an owl, there was a first, Dick thought as he lit up another death stick.

“You can’t smoke in here, Dick.”

Dick takes a quick look around the room: he is alone.

Did I hear something?, he wonders.

“It’s a bad habit and it bothers me.”

That voice again.

Either Dick was losing it or someone was playing an elaborate prank on him. Neither pleased him much.

“Whoever this is: mind your own business.”, Dick said to the room.

“Oh but it is my business.”

Dick now started losing patience.

“What in the…”

“Death sticks aren’t good for you. Believe me.”

Just then, Dick’s attention turned to the only moving being near him: the owl, who ruffled its feathers and turned its head towards him just as the voice spoke. Quietly, Dick extinguishes his cigarette on the desk, watching the owl as he does it.

“Thank you.”, the voice said.

The owl blinked.

It couldn’t be…

“Mr… Magnussen?”, Dick asked.

“Yes.”

“What have you done?”

“We mustn’t speak now.”

“You’re…”, a stunned Dick interjects.

“My experiment is not complete, we will speak later.”

“W-word is you’ve made a bot. I’m looking for it.”, Dick persists.

This time, there is no answer.

Dick sits back, looking at the owl in disbelief just as Emily walks into the room. The owl promptly flies over to her and sits casually on her shoulder. Dick stands up, still stupefied and points at the owl.

“That owl!”

“I suppose you’ve figured it out.”

“I knew Magnussen was eccentric but I would have never expected he’d do something like that.”

“It’s all in good fun, Mr Richards.”

Dick takes a second to stare at her in puzzlement.

“In good fun?!”, he asks incredulously.

“The possibilities of bot technology are endless, that’s our motto.”

Dick shakes his head absently, he doesn’t reply.

“Maybe I could take a message?”, Emily suggests politely.

The owl defecates on her, she doesn’t react.

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Dick Richards is standing outside a noodle stand in the rain, chewing on a chow fun enchilada looking morose. He opens the newspaper to find several advertisements relating to space travel, promoting inter-planetary migration.

“The very idea…”, Dick thought, “Fleeing like cowards when we’ve got a perfectly good planet right here.”

Dick always believed in fixing one’s own world before contemplating another. He chews down some of that soy sauce and cheese and dumps the newspaper on the counter. He feels a slight tap on his shoulder.

“Vous have a rendez-vous, old bugger.”

Dick recognises the voice: it was Jacques Smith, another bot hunter. Dick could never stand the guy, or understand him with his confusing French Cockney accent.

Still, the man technically outranked him.

“I’m eating.”, Dick threw in a deadpan tone, before turning back towards the counter.

Jacques this time places his hand on Dick’s shoulder.

“Drole, sonny Jim. Le Commissaire wants you, innit?”

“The Commissionner?”

Jacques slyly grabs Dick’s chopsticks and proceeds to eat one of his jalapenos.

“Oui.”

Dick makes a face.

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Look out for Chapter II soon.

Only on wethemindthinkers.wordpress.com

WWV

WWV (2006)

WWV

a Lazarus Pitt novel

Written at the same time as Max Brooks’ “World War Z”

Extract from Chapter XII

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The war had begun.

It had begun and now it was.

It was and now it remained.

Would it ever end?

We didn’t think so.

Maybe our squadron was just being particularly pessimistic. Or perhaps we were right to not be hopeful. The things we’d seen, experienced, could still not be explained and none of us could see a bright future on the horizon.

Doomed.

Joining the army wasn’t an easy decision. Don’t get me wrong, there was never any bad blood between me and Uncle Sam or anything, it was just the idea of going out into the unknown and facing potential death I couldn’t get over.

Then they came flying in.

This was an enemy like no other we’d ever faced before. Now, not only our country was at stake but our entire world! There was no way I could have just sat back and watched it all happen live on CNN, without doing anything. What if this was the end? What then? What kind of life would I have led?

No. If they want this planet, they’ll just have to go through me.

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Where am I?

The whole point of this covert operation was to invade the enemy base not hide all around it and lose each other. There I am, stranded in this ghost town, with no means of communication and no direct support.

That’s just great.

All around me are seemingly empty barracks. They had built a wall around the base on top of which their soldiers fired at us relentlessly. I had to see one of them, I had to see what we were dealing with.

I approached one of their soldiers, who was lying dead next to his weapon and, to my surprise, I found a young woman, not in uniform. Actually, she was naked. Naked and covered in blisters. Not only that but both her wrists were attached to the very machine-gun she was firing from.

Why?

Then I heard it: a rumble coming from inside one of the nearby tents. I ready my weapon instinctively and start walking towards it. Whatever was in there, it was safe to guess it didn’t want me around. Then again, what if the rest of my team somehow went ahead of me and took refuge in one of the tents?

I tap the end of my rifle on the ground three times, pause for a moment, then repeat. This was our code, our way of alerting each other, of letting us know that one of us was near without attracting unwanted attention. This time, there was no reply.

Whatever was in there: it wasn’t one of us. And it was, most certainly, hostile.

One Mississippi…

Two Mississippi…

THREE.

I run in, spouting out orders:

“Get down! Get down! Hands on the gr-”

Empty.

I move in further into the tent, as I try to decipher what could have possibly been the source of the sound I had heard when suddenly, the ground breaks under me.

My heart tightens.

My rifle: gone.

I’m falling.

Darkness.

The fall wasn’t too deep but deep enough that the landing cracked my knee. Struggling not to scream, I promptly bite my sleeve. If this was a trap, I had to buy some time, gather my thoughts before the attack. The pain was intolerable. I had also scraped my arm during the fall and I could tell by the moistness on the other sleeve of my uniform that I was bleeding.

I fumble around the darkness for my rifle.

Finally: I reach it.

I shakily stand up and start limping forward, down a deserted, unlit corridor. I start to feel dizzy, sick, but I push all of that aside in my mind. All that matters is the mission. I’m expendable, I know that, but if this is some sort of underground lair I’ve discovered, it’s my duty to make sure I bring as much carnage and panic to the place as possible.

And just like that, I saw something lying in front of me I wish I had never seen.

It was Smithey.

My teammate, my brother.

What have they done to you?

There he was: lying on the ground face down with the bottom half of his body missing. Gnawed off, it seemed.

Oh Smithey…

We were gonna raise chickens together.

I approach my friend, get on my good knee and turn his body around to face him when, suddenly, his eyes open.

“V…”, he said.

“Smithey! Y-you’re…”

“V…”

“What is it, Smithey? Tell me, I’m here!”

“V…”

Smithey died in my arms just then.

What could he have been trying to tell me?

A name, perhaps?

I knew I couldn’t stay there any longer. I had to go forward, move on with the mission. I say a quiet prayer for my old friend and keep on walking.

Those bastards are gonna pay.

Still limping, the pain more unbearable than ever, I finally reach some sort of large storage area: long, flat rectangular boxes, everywhere. Boxes upon boxes just sitting there, in the dark. Weapons? Missiles?

What were these monsters plotting…

I step closer to one of the boxes and go to lift its lid, making sure to keep my gun pointing in the right direction. I start lifting the lid when I hear a voice calling me from the corridor I had just walked from.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you”, the voice warned.

I promptly look up and, upon seeing a shadowy figure standing in the distance, I point my weapon at the stranger with every intention of shooting.

“Get down on the ground! Now!”, I yell out nervously.

“It is unwise to shout.”, was the calm reply.

The dark figure steps forward.

“Stay where you are!”

They stop.

“Don’t step any closer. I mean it.”

“I mean you no harm…”

The silhouette steps forward once again and I shoot. This causes no reaction whatsoever.

“Now you’ve done it.”

Some of the boxes around me start moving.

“What are you?”

Finally, out of the shadows, walks a familiar face.

“General Lohman?”

“That’s right, soldier. I’m a night-walker. Always have been.”

“But… Smithey…”

“Smithey got sloppy. We’re attracted to sound, we love it. Can’t get enough of it. Couple of misfired gun shots in the dark, that’s all it took. They jumped him, tore the poor bastard in half right there and then.”

“What the hell are night-walkers?”

“We live in shadow, we feast upon the blood of those who try to come between us and our destiny. The world belongs to us, soldier, we are evolution and nothing will stop us.”

“You’re wrong. You’re a mistake, a failed experiment. We’ll win.”

“You’re a good kid, soldier. Resourceful. I have a proposition for you: help us. Be our eyes during the daylight hours and you will be spared. I can guarantee that.”

“Then what? Say I help you: what will be left for me? I’ve seen what you do to humans when you’re done with them. ”

“You’re far more valuable to us than you realize. If there’s one thing we night-walkers will always need, it’s humans. I organised this personally, I wanted you to find us, I wanted you here. You’re the best we’ve got, soldier. Think about it: it makes sense.”

I look at the monster and smile.

“You’re right.”

I start applauding the General as loud as possible and, in a heartbeat, I see his hopes of a human mole shatter in a thousand pieces before him. The boxes around me rattle, shake and finally burst open sharply, like overcooked raviolis.

“Nooooo!”, Lohman cries out as the cavernous ghouls jump towards me, their fangs wet with hunger.

It does make sense.

There’s nothing like the sound of a deceived vampire.

Nothing.

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More from the iconic Lazarus Pitt soon.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.

Star Trek Into The Darkness – Fan-Fiction

“Star Trek Into The Darkness” (2012)

Into the Darkness Poster

a G.J. Adams pre-imagining 

Written 6 months before the release of the motion picture “Star Trek Into Darkness”

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Extract from Chapter XIV:

“The Last Generation”

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The Enterprise had come to an abrupt halt, in space.

Where was John Harrison’s ship? Was it somewhere else?

The USS Defiant, which Harrison had acquired seconds before entering the black hole,  had pierced through first and although the Enterprise had promptly followed, the rival ship was gone. Now the Enterprise was floating aimlessly over an unknown planet in an unknown corner of the universe.

They had gone into the darkness and now there was only darkness.

On the bridge, Captain James T. Kirk sat and pondered.

“Spock, any thoughts?”, Kirk said finally.

“Several, though seeing as it appears we are currently marooned on the other side of the galaxy, it is very likely that none of them will qualify as valid.”, the Vulcan answered.

“Indulge me.”, Kirk said playfully.

“By going through the black hole, space and time could have been affected. If you remember, my older self, in a similar situation, found himself travelling back into time.”

“What are you suggesting, Mr Spock?”

“It is possible that John Harrison, by piercing through the black hole first, landed the Defiant in another space, in another time entirely.”

“Fantastic…”, Kirk said sarcastically.

“I fail to see the positive aspect of this theory.”

“Sarcasm, Spock. Look it up.”

Spock raises an eyebrow and quietly judges Kirk. Meanwhile, Uhura, who had been working on confirming the ship’s current coordinates, intervenes.

“Captain, I believe I’ve found the Defiant.”

Kirk promptly stands up and walks to the elevator, instinctively opening up his communicator.

“Chekov, prepare to beam us onto the Defiant.”

“Aye aye, Kieptain.”, was the thickly accented answer from the communicator.

Uhura stands up and walks up to Kirk, concerned.

“Captain, I wouldn’t beam onto the ship if I were you.”

“And why is that, Uhura?”

“The ship has crashed onto the surface of the planet below. We don’t know how bad of a state it’s in.”

“Then I’ll beam down around the crash, walk in and search the ship.”

Dr McCoy, who had been quietly listening to the conversation from a corner of the room, walks up to Kirk. He looks worried, angry and sweaty.

“Jim, you can’t be serious! For all we know John Harrison was devoured by Glorbs and they’re still hungry!”

“Bones, Harrison is genetically enhanced and virtually undefeatable, I’m sure he’s fine.”, the Captain replied calmly.

“But what about you? You’re about as genetically enhanced as a Romulan boar!”

“I know”, Kirk replied with a smile, “That’s why you’re coming with me.”

“For god sakes Jim, I’m a doctor not a…”

Mr Spock promptly intervenes.

“Captain, may I offer a suggestion?”

“Don’t worry, Mr Spock, you’re coming too.”, Kirk turns to Sulu, “Mr Sulu, you have the conn. If we’re not back in an hour…”

“Yes Captain?”

“Warp the Enterprise out of this god forsaken place.”

Kirk, Spock and McCoy proceed into the elevator as a single tear rolls down Uhura’s cheek. And Sulu’s.

In the transporter room, Kirk approaches a nearby red-shirted security officer.

“Jones, is it?”

“Yes Captain.”

“You have been equipped with a working phaser?”

“Yes Captain.”

“Good, you’re beaming down to the planet surface with us.”

“What’s my mission, Captain?”

“Survival.”, Kirk said simply.

Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Jones get ready to beam down. A worried-looking Chekov prepares to activate the transporter.

“Ready Kieptain?”

“Energise.”, was Kirk’s reply.

“Wery good leck, yentlemen.”

A single tear rolls down Chekov’s cheek.

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The crew beam down successfully.

The planet surface is an unfriendly setting to say the least: a sea of sharp blue rocks with harsh, freezing winds and geysers of red ash popping out of the occasional crater. A Starfleet ship is close by, lying half-crashed into the ground and therefore barely recognisable. It looks worn and completely out of use. The crew approach the ship carefully. Kirk sets his phaser on “burn” and burns an entrance into the ship.

“Captain.”

“Yes, Mr Spock?”

“Based on the Defiant’s damaged structure, I can hypothesise that it did not crash recently. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“We must have skipped over a few years when we… entered the black hole.”

“A few years or many.”

“How many?”

“Approximately 40 years, Captain. Also…”

“Yes?”

“Whatever ship this is, this isn’t the USS Defiant.”

They all think about that for a moment and finally enter the ship.

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Inside, the unlit corridors reeked of old. It was like nothing had passed through them in decades. Spock is scanning for lifeforms.

“Report, Mr Spock.”, asked Kirk.

“I have only found a single lifeform.”

“Harrison…”, the Captain said quietly to himself.

“Perhaps. Whoever he or she is, they are located on the bridge.”

“Damn it, Jim!”, interrupts McCoy, “What if it is John Harrison? He’s indestructible! What can we possibly do?”

“Bones, you forget his position. He has… nothing. He is lost… on an… unknown planet in an unknown time. Why… would he resist arrest? I, for one, believe he’d welcome a ride.”

“I concur.”, Spock confirmed, “Logically, Harrison would have more to gain by accepting our arrest peacefully than by setting up an unmotivated attack.”

“Open your eyes, you green-blooded son of a bitch! Nothing about any of this is logical! He’s not logical. He’s a demon!”, McCoy yelled out mindlessly.

“You’re letting your emotions get the better of you, Doctor. May I suggest you rethink your previous statements.”, Spock warned with the quiet sternness only a Vulcan can express.

“Why you…”

“Alright, you two, enough bickering.”, said the Captain, “We’re on a mission here. Focus, for crying out loud!”

McCoy grumbles something inaudible and remains quiet for the rest of the walk towards the bridge. Spock goes back to scanning.

They arrive at the door leading to the bridge. Kirk turns to the rest of the crew.

“Set phasers to “stun” but prepare to switch to “kill” on my orders. Jones, come with me.”

“Me, Captain?”

“No, the other Jones. Yes you!”, Kirk replied, sarcastic.

They approach the door after changing the settings on their respective phasers. It “shhhhh’s” open. Inside, is a foul stench like nothing any of them have ever experienced, except Dr McCoy, whose experience conducting autopsies made the smell almost smellable. Around them, the skeletons of what used to be the ship’s crew pepper the bridge. They approach the Captain’s chair, which is turned back the other way.

“Jones?”

“Yes Captain?”

“Turn that chair around for me.”

“Y-yes Captain.”

Jones gets close to the chair and turns it around. He is suddenly shot by a phaser and dies instantly. Kirk, Spock and McCoy point their phasers at the person responsible: a very old man, aged 80 or 90, bald, thin, British, well-spoken and tired-looking.

“You can lower your phasers, gentlemen, mine is now… powerless. As am I.”, he said.

The old man drops his phaser.

“We will drop nothing. Who are you?”, enquired the Captain.

“Captain, I believe this is the man we are looking for: John Harrison.”, explained Spock.

Kirk turns back to the man dramatically.

“Harrison? Is… is that you?”

“It is I. Captain James Tiberius Kirk, it has been a very, very long time.”

“It certainly appears that way. What happened to you?”

As he answers, Harrison is weak and struggling with every word.

“I have lived a life beyond the one I once possessed. After entering the black hole, I was picked up by a ship. Starfleet. It was the future. Suddenly I was not superior, I was… not stronger and smarter than most. I was a dinosaur. I lived a life at the heart of Starfleet, my expertise allowed me to go up the ranks relatively quickly. I rebuilt myself. They gave me the Enterprise.”

“The Enterprise? They… gave… you… the Enterprise?”, asked a shocked Kirk.

“Not the Enterprise you know. I became the most respected Starfleet Captain since… well, you. But after a particularly feisty battle with the Borg, I was thrown off-course and landed here. Where I remained for decades.”

“The… Borg?”

“Advanced race of leather-wearing intergalactic… oh never mind. They are irrelevant.”

“John Harrison, you are under arrest for your crimes against Starfleet back on Earth and for attempting to manufacture a war between us and the Klingons.”

John Harrison laughs before coughing uncontrollably. Kirk turns to McCoy and nods: knowing exactly what he is thinking. The doctor promptly walks up to Harrison and scans him.

“My god, Jim. He’s dying!”, was the Doctor’s diagnosis, “We’ve got to get Harrison back to the Enterprise at once!”

“Leave me! I am dead already. I have been left buried alive for a reason, to pay for my crimes.”

“That’s for a court to decide, Harrison.”, Kirk defiantly explained.

Harrison starts staring at Kirk with a deadly serious expression on his face, never blinking once throughout the following revelation.

“My name is not John Harrison. That was only a smokescreen to conceal my true identity. Back when I was a heartless killer with nothing to live for, with no code to live by. My… name… is: Jean-Luc Picard. I… am the Captain of the starship Enterprise. The starship you are now, as we speak, currently, at present, right this second, standing in.”

“No, it can’t be…”

“I only ask one thing, before I go where many have gone before me.”

“Yes?”

“Tell my wife I love her. She’s in sick bay, growing babies for dinner.”

A cloud of blankness passes over Picard’s eyes and his heart quietly stops, never to beat again. McCoy scans him promptly.

“He’s dead, Jim.”

A single tear rolls down McCoy’s cheek. Kirk turns to Spock.

“Spock, I want you to keep scanning for lifeforms. If you missed Picard’s wife, there’s a chance you might have missed others.”

“Agreed.”, the Vulcan agreed.

“Bones, come with me.”

Spock starts scanning around the bridge as Kirk and McCoy exit towards sick bay. As Spock walks towards the ship’s smashed screen, he steps onto something crunchy. He looks down to find what appears to be some kind of small air-filter for someone’s face.

“Fascinating.”

A single tear rolls down Spock’s cheek.

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On the way to sick bay, McCoy starts sweating more than ever.

“What’s troubling you, Bones?”

“Did… did he say his wife was growing babies?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“TO EAT?!”

They arrive at sick bay and point their phasers forward, before walking through the door which awkwardly “shhhh’s” open. Again, they are suddenly faced with a horrendous stench as they notice the room is filled to the brim with babies in glass jars. Thousands upon thousands of babies in jars.

“Mrs Picard? This is Captain James Tiberius Kirk, of the starship… well,  Enterprise. But not this one, the old one.”

They hear a lower-pitched voice than they were expecting.

“The legendary James Tiberius Kirk?”, was the reply the Captain received.

“I… suppose.”

Just then, a male android walks in from the back of the room. He is naked but only the top half of his body still has human skin graphed onto it. The rest is all metal and wires.

“Welcome, Captain. It is an honor.”, the android said politely.

“Who are you?”

“Data Picard. Formerly Data.”

Data holds up a twitching, drooling half-grown wet baby.

“Care for a bite?”

A single tear rolls down Kirk’s cheek.

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G.J. Adams’ “Star Trek Into The Darkness” can be found in most second-hand bookshops, behind several other books. More Star Trek fan-fiction coming soon.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.

The Mountains Upside Down – Chapter III

“The Mountains Upside Down” (1863)

a Gilles Vorace novel

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Extract from Chapter III:

“Downwards And Upwards”

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We had finally begun our climb down to the top of the mountain.

Dr Niemendorf had been right all along: the mountains upside down did exist!

Hektor Wiendelstein’s journal was not a fake nor was it a collection of demented ramblings which was certainly good news for the expedition. What lies at the peak of an upside down mountain, deep underground?

We were about to find out.

-“Dr Niemendorf”, I inquired, “What of the air down there?”

-“Young nephew, use your mind! Typically, a mountain peaks at the purest and lightest of its air. Therefore, since our journey already begins at the top, we should find a vast pocket of fresh oxygen right at the foot of the mountain. The freshest, most delightful air you could ever breathe. After that, it’ll all be downhill from there.”

-“Surely you mean ‘uphill’.”

-“Hush those mindless queries and corrections.”

-“But doctor”, our Finnish lumberjack friend Raskkattan started, “We five, we not enough. Maybe more people is better, no? Danger!”

-“Balderdash! A group of five abled bodies with working limbs and capable, functioning brains is more than enough to secure a safe and productive expedition.”

-“But we drop!”

-“Drop? Absurd! If my calculations are correct, and they are, once we have slid our way through to the mountain’s base, reverse gravity should kick-in just in time to guarantee a smooth upside down walk all the way to the top!”

-“But…”

-“‘But-but-but’, be quiet man! Keep your concerns to yourself and leave the science to those of us who are indeed qualified to discuss such intricate matters. Me, for example. Now carry this pig.”

Raskkattan should have known better than to argue with Uncle Niemendorf. He was as stubborn as an owl and, more often than not (by that, of course, I mean always), he was completely, surprisingly right. My uncle handed the bulky Scandinavian the pig and, after wrapping a long piece of rope around a nearby tree, started his descent.

Raskkattan followed, his porcine disciple firmly tied to his chest, like a real boy. Olaf was next, the weak-minded child was scared out of his wits, contesting throughout: “Why did he have to come?”, “Why couldn’t he go home instead?”, nonsense of the sort. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to be part of such a ground-breaking discovery? I tied up the boy promptly, from neck to toe, filling his mouth with cranberries to keep him quiet, and lowered him down with the others.

The ungrateful tick.

It was to be Lady Seitenstreifen’s turn when she turned to me, her stunning figure in that all-too complimenting dress of hers, hardly suited to an adventure such as this one might I add, heaving towards me, like a bag of cherries, and asked:

-“Do they have napkins down there?”

Not knowing what she meant and for fear of sounding foolish, I immediately agreed with her. Puzzled, she nonetheless smiled and followed the rest of the group down the crack. Good thing I remembered to tie her rope to the tree in time, she had forgotten and a lesser gentleman could have lost himself in that magical smile of hers.

She truly was a special breed.

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The climb down was torturous.

Impatient, Uncle Niemendorf intermittently yelled instructions back at us. The pig, no doubt deeply disturbed by the events, squealed uncontrollably, Raskkattan muttered what could only be Finnish profanities on and off, young Olaf crying hot, bitter, childish tear the entire time, Lady Seitenstreifen complaining about the absence of a working powder room (poor, sweet Lady Seitenstreifen, I could bury my head in her) and me, unsure about where this unsympathetic road would lead me.

Respect? Fame? Fortune? Death?

Time would tell.

-“My uncle, how much farther down until we reach the mountain?”

-“According to Hektor Wiendelstein’s journal, we should be approaching the base of the mountain somewhere between now and later.”

-“Later as in after some time has passed?”, interrupted Lady Seitenstreifen, with a voice so soft and cushiony I felt instantly wombed by its motherly comfort.

-“Precisely”, simply replied my uncle.

This was going to be one long climb.

-“You have water?”, Raskkattan asked the doctor with a thick Helsinki accent, so thick it must have weighed at least a couple of inches.

-“‘Vwahtier’? I suppose you mean ‘water’? Fool, you imagine I would undertake such a monumental undertaking without packing enough water for us all?”

-“No, but it’s good you have.”

-“I don’t ‘have’ it now, of course. I had to drop some weight on the way down in order to perform my leader duties to the best of my abilities so what I couldn’t drink, I discarded. But not to worry, as long as I am hydrated, the group should enjoy a safe journey with me, its leader, in top physical form. Besides, the water will no doubt be waiting for us down the mountain thanks to good old, trusty reverse gravity.”

-“Surely you mean ‘up’ the mountain, Uncle Niemendorf!”, I playfully jested.

-“I loathe the very fabric of your being and, furthermore, your face.”, was his, I felt, somewhat harsh, reply.

A sudden move by Dr Niemendorf sent all of us swinging and sent Olaf face-first into the rocky walls which surrounded us, cracking his skull on a sharp piece of granite. He died on impact. The blood pouring out of his little head angered my uncle but provided Raskkattan’s pet pig with enough fluids to keep it alive and squeal-less for some time.

The circle of life.

-“I tire, lets set up camp here!”, Lady Seitenstreifen suggested as Olaf’s motionless corpse hung puppet-like right below her small, delicate feet.

Suddenly, and without warning, the rope snapped and we started our long tumble down this mysterious, upside down abyss.

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More extracts from Gilles Vorace‘s “The Mountains Upside Down” will come soon.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.

Introducing Gilles Vorace

Little known French science fiction writer Gilles Vorace was a contemporary of legendary author Jules Verne. Not only that but they grew up together in Nantes, went to the same boarding school and used to share stories, along with Jules’ brother Paul.

Their friendship, however, ended circa 1864 when Vorace vehemently accused Verne of stealing his novel “The Mountains Upside Down” to build his classic “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth”. Vorace never forgave Verne, whose take on the situation amounted to this quote:

“The man is unhinged.”

Finally, Vorace’s “The Mountains Upside Down” is seeing the light of day and We, The MindThinkers are here to bring you several extracts from this unique piece of work.

An extract from Chapter III is coming soon only on We, The Mindthinkers.

The Rice Farmers Of Kryoc – Chapter I

“The Rice Farmers Of Kryoc” (1965)

an Ebert E. Bert novel

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Extract from Chapter I:

“Kryoc, World Of The Damned”

ImageRice.

That most valuable of commodities. That sweet ivory nectar.

Men would kill for it, men would die for it. For a taste of its small, supple, pillowy bosom. For with rice, as with all things, a darkness shadows a valiant purpose.

There was a land, thousands of miles across the galaxy, a land where rice was all.

That land was Kryoc.

A minute planet far within the Tichbar system, in between Koryoc, Kloryoc and the Seven Moons, Kryoc was made of rice. Or, rather, its bumpy, white, shaft-like hills were. At the core of every hill, of which there were an infinite horizon, lay miles upon miles, tons upon tons of the milky substance. It was a peaceful land where the Kryokees lived without conflict. For the Kryokees, the hills were sacred, none would ever dare betray their purity.

Without them, the Kryokees were lost.

Kylias* provided the people of Kryoc with all they needed. Rice farmers would travel to Kylias and there, they would carry home a calculated amount of Kjii* which would feed their families for years. But the Hargyans, a race of rice-seekers from a nearby star system, whose planet neither needed nor deserved rice, had infiltrated Kryoc with the intention of extracting all the rice from the sacred hills to use as currency across the universe, for that rice, the rice buried deep inside the Kryokian hills, possessed a crystal-like fragility and a taste purer than the sky itself. It was also extremely rare and, of course, extremely valuable. Even more so than the rice the farmers grew.

When the Hargyans came, with their weapons, their advanced machinery and their greed, the Kryokees, not being a warring people, had no choice but to cooperate. The Kylias had been drained almost entirely and the rice farmers became rice miners, working to extract the rice from the very hills they worshipped and protected. Soon, the Kryokees would have no choice but to rely on that very rice but by then the Hargyans would have no doubt gained global control over it and it wouldn’t be long before a famin would hit the Kryokees, a famin from which there would be no escape.

A small group of Kryokian rebels, The Kryad, was believed to exist but what could they do? The Hargyans were fierce and their army was far superior (there was no such thing as an army on Kryoc).

Rebellion was futile.

Or was it?

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The Talarians were peacekeepers, scouting the cosmos for conflicts in the hope of resolving them as best as possible. Their mission had been approved by the United Federation Of Space, Planets And Intergalactic Activities (UFSPIA) aeons ago and they were a respected race throughout the galaxy. The Talarian elders had prophecised the Kyokees’ doom and now their ship was approaching Kryoc.

In the Titanus*, the elders were seated.

A young Talarian soon entered.

To say young Hazar, son of Razar and Shazaria, of the 2nd Talarian Kingdom, was a beautiful soldier would have been an understatement: he was radiant. Like a star. His long, flowing blonde hair shone impressively and smelled like the finest Stign* in Glornar*.

“Young Hazar”, said the oldest of the elders, “You have proven your worth. Through rigorous training and exemplary displays of honor and intelligence in the face of battle, you have made us all proud. You are the son of your father who in turn was and remains the son of his. Your mother is your mother and you are her son. Hazar is your name. And now… rise.”

Hazar rose.

“You will be sent to Kryoc, where great evil has befallen its people”, the wise one continued, “We, the elders, have foreseen the most bleak of futures for the Kryokees. But, as you know, we only see what might be, not what must be. You will find The Kryad, guide them, share with them our ways so that a great injustice can finally be put to rest. Go now, young Hazar, and may the rice guide you.”

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*GLOSSARY*

Kylias: A lake of white, milk-like liquid used by Kryokian farmers to help grow their own rice.

Kjii: The white, milk-like liquid found within the Kylias.

Titanus: A large meeting hall at the heart of the lead Talarian ship.

Stign: Flower creature known for its powerful, unmistakable scent. Stigns, when crushed, are believed to bear aphrodisiac properties (if ingested anally).

Glornar: Region of the 8th Talarian Kingdom. It is mostly populated by Stigns. Most Talarians who have entered the region, have never returned. Those who have returned, remember it fondly.

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More extracts from Ebert E. Bert’s “The Rice Farmers Of Kryoc” will come soon.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.