Brad Astra

Brad Astra (2019)

BRAD

a Karl Sagan novel

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Brad Pitt was in space.

He wasn’t cold or hot, wet or dry, happy or sad.

He simply was, in space.

He had never been to space before, or even thought about space in any real way, but he knew it was a thing.

As one of the top 58 stars in Hollywood, his finances allowed for such a vacation. George Clooney had once told him about space, since he had been there twice and enjoyed talking about it. According to George, space was “Fine. Not a big deal, really. And pretty cheap, considering.”.

Brad wondered what that meant, but he also didn’t really care either way.

Why had he come here?

Of all the places to spend one’s time, why space?

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The shuttle had taken off without a hitch, without much of the excessive shaking you would see in a typical science fiction film or TV show.

Once the atmosphere was left behind, Brad treated himself to an overpriced Mars bar. It was in a tube, but it was, indeed, a Mars bar. Brad wasn’t particularly fond of chocolate, but he didn’t hate it either. Or even just liked it an average amount. He just knew it was food and food could be eaten by stars of the screen.

The tinted windows inside the shuttle cabin had switched over to reveal the blackness of space and Earth’s vast blue mass. Brad could see sparkling things he knew to be stars, which were probably far away.

Gasps, claps and other demonstrations of wonder were heard in the busy cabin.

It was just like watching a movie in the theatre at some swanky premiere, but with more space.

Brad noticed something: it was a hand waving in the air, somewhere in the cabin. He looked at it for a moment. The seat belt sign was soon turned off and the hand went down. Brad sucks another Mars bar tube chunk as he hears a voice calling him.

“Brad! Did you see me? I was waving.”

He looked up: it was Sandra Bullock, the star of While You Were Sleeping and Speed 2: Cruise Control.

Brad knew to smile right there.

“Can you believe this? Isn’t it a hoot?”, she continued, applying lip balm.

Brad thought maybe a response was appropriate here, since Sandra was looking at him and saying stuff.

“You’re here.”, Brad said simply, smiling again.

“Right? What made you take the leap?”

Brad shrugged.

“You’re funny.”

Sandra looked towards the shuttle window, Brad did the same.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

Brad couldn’t see anything he hadn’t seen before: Earth, stars etc.

“Is that normal?”, Sandra asked, perturbed, “Is that normal?”

She had turned to one of the shuttle attendants, who responded with a facial expression Brad had definitely noticed in a movie before. One of those comedies where people say things and then the other people raise their eyebrows, no doubt.

The seat belt sign was turned on again and the Captain’s voice filled the speakers.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please calmly regain your seats.”

“Fuck.”, Sandra said bitterly as she walked back to her seat.

The Captain continued.

“We are currently experiencing intermittent technical blackouts so you may expect some mild disruptions as we endeavour to fix this as quickly –”

The speakers and lights abruptly turned off.

Brad saw the Earth was small now. Maybe it was closer before?

“Can you believe this bullshit?”

Brad turned to his left to find Ryan Gosling talking to him.

“First the wifi’s slow and now this?”

Brad nodded because sometimes people do that.

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Some time passed, mumbles mumbled all around the still darkened cabin.

The Earth was very small out there, now.

A seat belt click several rows behind Brad and then raised voices near the back of the shuttle got his, and many others’, attention.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium star Natalie Portman was arguing with the shuttle staff. One attendant was in tears. Brad sucked more Mars bar as Gary Sinise and Jodie Foster intervened.

Natalie Portman had slapped the crying attendant after they’d confirmed that the shuttle was drifting in space. They had politely asked Natalie to remain calm while they resolved this issue.

“Imagine making Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium just to be talked down to by some random. Unbelievable.”, Ryan Gosling said, genuinely outraged.

Brad had not seen that film, though then again, maybe he had.

The cabin was calm again. Amy Adams had smoothed things over by threatening the attendant with a lawsuit they could never possibly win. The staff had left the cabin, promising to return with more answers.

Space was all black, now.

They had drifted away from the Blue Planet, Brad thought. This was a thing that had happened just now, Brad also thought.

To his right, projectile vomit suddenly flew out of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang‘s Val Kilmer’s mouth, landing all over the window.

“Someone’ll clean that up.”, he said, dripping.

The cabin now smelled of Chardonnay and yeast, but mostly vomit.

In the distance, somewhere past the back of the cabin, significant clinking and clonking sounds whirled and clacked, rocking the cabin sharply.

Jake Gyllenhaal, who was sitting next to Ryan Gosling, lifted his eye mask.

“Are we in space yet?”

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Brad could see something floating in front the shuttle, though he couldn’t make it out very well due to all the vomit stains.

“Is that an escape pod?”, Ryan wondered.

Brad shrugged.

In the back, Natalie Portman was up again, this time hammering on the cabin door.

“What the fuck?”, Sandra Bullock exclaimed, looking at the pod.

Everyone now faced the front of the ship where the escape pod was floating, slowly getting further and further away.

“Is… is that the help?!”, Jake Gyllenhaal whispered to himself but loud enough that Brad could hear, “Why do they get their own ship?”

“They’re leaving us! Are they leaving us?”, Sandra Bullock was now red-faced, sweating profusely, “What the fuck is going on?”.

Natalie Portman, meanwhile, was still kicking the cabin door, pushing back anyone getting in her way.

“Maybe they’re coming back with a rescue ship?”, Ryan Gosling posited, not fully onboard with his own suggestion.

Brad shrugged.

The pod was now but a dot in the deepness of space.

With a loud crash, the cabin door finally burst open thanks to Natalie Portman’s custom made Alexander McQueen steel-toed high boots.

“I fucking knew it.”, she said, looking at the empty cockpit, “They’re gone.”

“I could see it in their eyes”, Jodie Foster added, “Their celebrity-hating eyes.”

A barely audible scratching and thumping sound had persisted ever since the door had been kicked down. Gary Sinise noticed.

“Do you hear that?”, he said, “What is that? Where is it coming from?”

It seemed to be coming from inside the cockpit.

Natalie Portman walks up to a nearby door, puts her ear to it for a moment, then proceeds to knock it down with one carefully placed kick. Out of the closet falls out a man, an older, well-kept man, like a newly chopped tree. With the whoosh of his landing came a brief yet pleasant aroma. A Georgio Armani fragrance crossed with coffee, cheap, very cheap coffee.

It was George Clooney.

George was completely tied up, with a ball gag in his mouth.

“George?”, Gary Sinise promptly untied the Oscar winner.

A crowd had gathered at the back of the cabin, by this point. Only Brad and a visibly too drunk to stand Val Kilmer remained seated.

Sandra Bullock walked up to George.

“George? What are you doing here?”

George removed his ball gag and pulled out a small bottle of Tiffany’s Mouthwash from his suit jacket’s inside pocket. A few swishes, a gargle and a swallow.

“There I was, in the Platinum VIP cabin, when I overheard two shuttle servants talking about their plan to leave us stranded. I was on my way to the Platinum VIP washroom. I confronted them and, just like that, they drugged me, gagged me and, next thing I know, I’m in the dark not holding a champagne flute.”

Amy Adams then said what everyone else was thinking.

“There’s a Platinum VIP cabin?”

“Is Tom here?”, George asked, ignoring the question on purpose.

“Hanks?”, Ryan Gosling replied.

George chuckled.

“In the Platinum VIP cabin? I don’t think so. No, I meant Cruise. Is Tom Cruise here?”

Everyone was silent.

“Darn. They must have got to him too.”

“Brad Pitt’s here, Mr. Clooney. Sir.”, Chris Pratt suggested, bowing respectfully.

“Brad? Brad’s here?”

Clooney passed through the crowd with ease. It parted organically, just like in biblical times but real. Yes, this all really happened.

“Brad! You old dog! Boy, am I glad to see you.”

Brad looked up.

“George Clooney.”, he simply said.

“Riding with the mortals, huh? That’s hilarious. You are one funny guy.”

Brad recognised the word funny because he’d heard it very recently so he smiled.

“Listen.”, George continued, “You remember when I took you on that VIP tour of NASA?The shuttle flying simulator? The one I couldn’t try because Clooneys don’t drive, they get driven?”

Brad shrugged.

“Brad, you aced that thing! You moved us all in Meet Joe Black, now I think it’s time for you to move us all again. Back to Earth. What do you say?”

Brad turned to space and stared.

A full minute went by as the entire cabin remained silent, save for Val Kilmer’s snores.

Tom Cruise’s corpse floated by.

“Ok.”, Brad finally said placidly.

“That’s the spirit, old chum.”

George hugged Brad. He then sprayed some perfume on the vomit nearby and on Val Kilmer, who had just woken up.

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Brad had been piloting the shuttle for over two hours.

George had been sitting in the co-pilot seat, telling Brad of his travels, encounters with world leaders and how he told his wife he was doing a Peter Jackson movie. Amal couldn’t stand that man: smelt like he took the subway, which he did. Anyway, she wouldn’t approve of him going to space again because it was bad for the environment, which was a thing she actually cared about and George only cared about in spirit.

George loved telling that story.

“You know, Brad. I feel like we connect, you and I. Always have. We should make another Ocean’s. It’ll be fun, plus it’ll make up for that spin-off.”

Brad was silent yet he looked uncharacteristically solemn. George noticed this new emotion. Even on the big screen, he hadn’t seen Brad deliver such intensity.

“What’s up, Brad? You seem… different.”

Brad remained silent, at first. George couldn’t quite put his finger on why, but he felt anxious in that moment. Maybe it was all that complimentary espresso, maybe not.

“We’re broken.”, Brad said sombrely, without elaborating.

After a beat, George ventured a candid question.

“Something wrong with the ship?”

Brad sighed.

“You can’t see it.”, he started, “They can’t either. Had to be done.”

George didn’t really know what to make of this.

“Look, buddy, if you need to take a rest for a minute, I could take over for a little bit. Watch over the auto pilot or… ”

Brad shook his head, as if to say “you don’t understand”, and was silent again. George was now nervous. He hadn’t felt this nervous since the dividing window between him and his limo driver got stuck.

Slowly, George leans into the controls. His hand nearing the joystick Brad was currently manning.

“It’s been a long day, buddy. I’ll just –”

Brad turned to George so fast, the latter was startled. Brad’s eyes were now glowing, a light blue colour. His pupils were gone.

“BROKEN!”, Brad’s voice was louder, deeper and somehow projected an echo. It was nothing like George had ever heard. He promptly sat back as Brad faced the front once more.

“We’re not going back, are we?”, George finally concluded, his heart beating at double speed.

There was a long silence. Only for a few minutes, yet it might have lasted hours. George couldn’t tell anymore.

Brad lifts his left arm and points ahead.

There was something bright. Far, far on the horizon, if you could call it that.

George was afraid but he also inexplicably felt relief. Like a weight was about to be lifted off his shoulders. A weight that had been getting heavier and heavier for many, many years without him noticing.

His Rolex was spinning out of control.

Brad smiled.

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More from Karl Sagan soon.

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Daughters Of Uranus

Daughters Of Uranus (1974)

Daughters Of Uranus

a Gustav Belland short story

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Uranus was fertile.

And so they were born.

Out of Uranus, our fate was sealed and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it.

The search for extraterrestrial life had reached its peak in the early 3000’s when scientists invented a teleporting device powerful enough to project human beings onto other planets. By recreating the Big Bang in a contained environment, Man discovered the source of life: the first cell, which scientists called “The Seed”. It is this Seed which paved the way for the creation of the Explorium, a gate capable of allowing a person to travel to distant lands without the need for a spacecraft.

Some planets proved problematic: Mercury was hot, Mars was boring, the Moon wasn’t a planet.

Dr Fredrick Thomson led the expedition to Uranus, assembling a team of capable astronauts and explorers with the common goal of unlocking the mysteries of the ice planet once and for all. Among them was Sharon Lang, an expert on Uranus, playboy astro-physicist John Tucker and decorated space traveller Rick Kirkstrom.

The team would enter Uranus and bring back samples.

Who knew that such a simple mission could go so wrong?

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It was a Sunday morning, Dr Thomson had assembled the departing trio in his office for a final meeting before sending them through the Explorium.

“Thank you for coming.”, he said in a welcoming tone, “I’m sure you all can’t wait to get going!”

“I went to the bathroom, so I’m happy now!”, John replied confidently.

After an awkward silence, Dr Thomson continued.

“This mission should be straight-forward but nothing is straight-forward with science. I wanted you all to keep that in mind, when you’re out there. While we have been fortunate enough to learn a lot about other worlds, we have never penetrated Uranus and there is very little we know about it.”

“You expecting some nasty surprises up there?”, Rick asked before Sharon also showed concern.

“Is there a problem we should know about?”

Dr Thomson smiled.

“There is nothing to be worried about. I simply urge you, all of you, to stay focused on the mission at hand. Distraction is dangerous, in space.”

Rick and Sharon share a slightly puzzled look as John picks his nose.

Shortly after the ominous meeting, the team were standing next to the Explorium in their full space gear facing the leader of the United States who, in the spirit of an impromtu photo op, had agreed to wish the crew well on their adventure.

“Have a beautiful time up there, folks. And I mean that, I really do. I got a lot of astronaut friends, a LOT of astronaut friends, believe me. I know astronauts. Nobody knows astronauts better than me. You guys are great. Have a great time up there. I mean that.”, was President Frump Jr.’s obligatory speech.

Everyone shook hands, pictures were taken and Dr Thomson stepped forward.

“This is it: you are about to be the first people to step inside Uranus. Make us proud and be careful.”, he said.

After a countdown, the Explorium was turned on and the crew was soon walking through the pink, jelly-like portal.

If only they had known…

Sharon was the first to walk on Uranus, the others soon followed.

“It’s cold over here, what the fuck?”, John said.

“John, do you realise that those are now the first words ever spoken in Uranus?”, Sharon responded with a cold stare.

“What’s your problem?”

Sharon shakes her head and keeps walking.

Around the explorers, nothing but ice, wind and fog. White hills and mountains on the horizon and, in front of them, a blank canvas. The sky was electric blue with a slight greenish shade.

“We have reached Uranus, over.”, Sharon spoke into her receiver.

The response was a broken buzzing, no discernible word.

“God damn it.”, she complained.

“What’s wrong?”, Rick asked.

“Audio’s out. I can’t hear a thing from back home.”

“Maybe they’re busy and shit.”, John remarked.

Ignoring John’s last comment, Sharon and Rick keep on walking through the slippery, violently cold environment. Eventually, they come to a large puddle. A thick brown liquid is oozing out of a circular cracked hole.

“Let’s take a sample and get the hell out of here.”, Sharon decided, “I don’t like this one bit.”

Sharon hands John a small vile.

“We need some of that mud: go get it.”

“Why me? I’m an astro-physhism!”, John complained.

“Your father’s an astro-physicist, you’re a rich kid with shit for brains. Now go get the mud before I tell everyone you shit your pants yesterday in the cafeteria.”

“Yes ma’am.”, a beaten John replied, picking up the vile.

As John approaches the puddle, Rick starts filming the surroundings with a small camera and Sharon gets on one knee to examine the frozen ground. Suddenly, she sees something move under the ice.

Startled, she stands back up.

“Rick!”

“What is it?”

“I… saw something.”

Sharon then tries to contact Earth again.

“Come in Houston, come in Houston. This is Sharon Lang. I have encountered a life form. We are coming back now, over.”

She turns back to Rick.

“We gotta go.”

“What about John?”

“Oh right…”

She turns to the puddle but John is nowhere to be seen.

“John…?”, she whispers.

Without warning, the ice breaks underneath her and she crashes through the ground screaming. Rick starts to run towards her.

“Sharon!”, he yells.

Noticing the cracks on the ice, Rick stops running and takes a few steps back. He stands there for a while, silently, not knowing what to do. The only sound is now Rick’s heavy breathing and the wind around him.

“Sharon…”, Rick says under his breath, with a lump in his throat.

The ground starts to shake.

The puddle bubbles.

“My god…”

Brown liquid promptly shoots out of the puddle like a geyser. Rick watches, in shock, as the mud falls back down turning a lot of the ground and the astronaut himself brown.

“Come in Houston… come in Houston…”, he mutters into his microphone, terrified.

Once again, faint static is the response.

Out of the puddle a sphere slowly pushes through: it stays floating in mid-air above the hole for a moment before flying towards Rick.

Rick starts to run back towards the portal and the brown sphere follows unhurriedly. Rick runs faster and faster, slipping and sliding on the ice.

“Come in Houston! Request assistance right now! I am being pursued by a… an unknown life form!”, he speaks into his mic in a panicked tone, out of breath.

Nearing the portal, Rick eventually slips and falls on his front, cracking his helmet a little in the process. The sphere quietly picks up pace. Noticing this, Rick stand with great difficulty and starts to run again. He soon realises the sphere is about to catch up to him and he runs faster than ever before, dropping his camera to allow himself more room.

He finally leaps into the portal and lands back safely on Earth.

On the laboratory side of the portal, Dr Thomson leaves his seat and runs up to Rick.

“Oh no…”, he says to himself, concerned.

A few other men run to Rick and help him sit up, Dr Thomson tries to see who is inside the suit as the helmet is cracked and covered in frost.

“Who is this? John? Is that you?”, he said, “Where are the others?”

Not getting an answer, he signals to one of the men to remove the helmet. The obstruction is quickly disposed of and a hyperventilating, pale Rick is revealed: his hair has turned white.

“Rick! It’s me: Dr Thomson. You’re home! You’re back! It’s alright now.”

An oxygen mask is placed over Rick’s mouth.

“He’s trying to say something…”, Dr Thomson remarks.

Rick, who is breathing a little better after a few seconds, pushes the mask away and gets nearer to Dr Thomson.

“Shut… it… down!”, he struggles to say.

A cloud of horror lands over Dr Thomson’s face: he stands up.

“Shut down the portal! Now!”, he yells.

But it was too late: the sphere suddenly pushes through the Explorium and, in a few seconds, it is on Earth, floating above a group of scared, confused technicians and scientists.

“What do we do, doc?”, an assistant asks, frightened.

“I don’t know…”, Dr Thomson replies.

A sound booms out of the jiggling sphere, everyone covers their ears.

Rick finally stands up, holding the oxygen mask to his face, inhaling.

The sphere bursts.

The brown liquid splashes over the people, the walls, the floors, the ceiling as a thick smoke and a foul stench fills the entire room. Those who didn’t pass out are either coughing or holding a handkerchief to their mouths.

Two glowing silhouettes appear in the middle of the room.

The smoke finally clears to reveal two young bald women, fully naked. Everyone looks up, without saying a word. The women scan the room quietly, intensely.

You could hear a pin drop, at this point.

Without warning, one of the women speaks in a strange accent.

“We are Uranus.”

There’s a beat.

The other woman opens her mouth: countless brown bubbles fly out.

The bubbles stick themselves onto the bodies of everyone in the room, turning every individual into a large brown sphere.

Rick picks up his helmet and quickly walks up to the main control panel.

“What are you doing?”, Dr Thomson asks with desperation in his eyes.

“I’m ending this.”

Rick activates the Explorium before slamming the control panel with his helmet over and over again. Dr Thomson attempts to stop him.

“You fool! You’ll kill us all!”

“We’re already dead, doc. Look around!”

The control panel short circuits and the Explorium partly bursts out of the magnetic field holding it together: it is now a vortex sucking everyone into it. Rick and Dr Thomson grab onto the edge of the control panel as the people around them, some of them brown bubbles, start flying into the pink, fleshy spiral. The two women struggle to remain standing and they are soon sucked in also along with all their loose bubbles.

“I can’t hold on for much longer, Rick!”, Dr Thomson yells out.

Rick tries to move along the control panel in order to reach the wiring going up to the generator. With his right hand, he goes to pull one of the wires but his other hand slips. Luckily, he manages to hold onto the wiring, which he starts to dismantle.

“Help… me!”

Dr Thomson loses his grip and starts to fly into the portal just as Rick successfully turns off the power. The Explorium and its vortex disappear. Rick falls to the ground and turns around: he sees only the bottom half of Dr Thomson’s body wiggling around in a bloody mess.

Rick takes a deep breath, stands up and leaves the empty room.

He walks around the corridors of the building aimlessly, as if in a dream. He looks around the rooms and finds no-one, had they been sucked in as well?

Wanting to get some air, maybe smoke a well deserved cigarette, Rick exits the building. He is surprised to find completely lifeless surroundings, with nobody in sight. Cars have their doors open but no drivers or passengers.

Rick feels a cold wind blowing.

And then…

A snowflake.

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More from Gustav Belland soon.

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Edelweiss Space Magic

Edelweiss Space Magic (1963)

Edelweiss

by Simon Simmons

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119 years ago, on Planet M, the unthinkable happened.

When young Edelweiss awoke on the first Tuesday of February, she had no idea that this day would change her deeply, forever.

Number 85, her mother-droid, had just finished making grey berry pancakes and had called her down for breakfast.

“Today. Is. Now.”, 85 announced.

Floating out of her silky pebble bed sheets, Edelweiss slowly made her way down the rocky stairs and into the gravel kitchen, her long, flowing white hair glistening softly in the low gravity like a sea nymph coming home for Christmas.

“85: give me syrup.”, she said.

85’s mouth opened, liquid flew out.

“85: stop syrup.”

85’s mouth closed, the syrup stopped.

Just as Edelweiss was about to take her first bite of 85’s pancakes, the Magenta Siren rang. It rang all over the house, all over the city, all over M.

They had returned.

They were the Magicians: strange beings from another world, from the skies, come to Planet M, no doubt, to enslave its people. That was the general belief, anyway. 6 years prior, a Magician ship crash-landed, its crew was lifeless, dead, but judging from the amount of artillery and technologically advanced death machines they had brought with them, their intentions seemed clear: destroy and colonize.

This time, the M-ians were ready.

On Planet M, different sirens meant different things: Cyan meant “GOOD”, Gold meant “HIDE” and Magenta meant “GATHER”. “Gather” called all the M-ians to rally together at a specific point on the planet surface and expunge a foreign, potentially harmful entity together.

The Magenta Siren had never rang.

The last time the Magicians had landed, they weren’t perceived to be a threat at first so Cyan rang. The M-ians hid on the other side of the globe and waited for further instructions. It was only later, when it was deemed safe to inspect the crashed ship that those instruments of death were found.

Edelweiss was almost there.

She was nervous but ready, whatever danger lay ahead, she would tackle it with all the might of a thousand Suns.

When she arrived at the meeting point, she saw nothing except her people and rows upon rows of  father-droids, all aligned around a single vacant point.

Could this have been a false alarm?

Just then, she saw it: the enemy ship.

It was small, shiny and it was landing.

“Activate. Cloaking. Device.”, said the largest and most silver of all the father-droids.

All droids suddenly opened their mouths as transparent beams of transparent light blasted out converging into one single point high up but still far below the Magician ship. The cloaking device was a precautionary measure. As long as there was still a chance that the imminent threat at hand could turn out to be benign, the attack would wait.

Any sign of a weapon of any kind, on the Magicians’ side, would, of course, suggest antagonism and prompt instantaneous retaliation.

“Charge. Eye. Beams.”. the droid leader commanded.

Edelweiss and her M-ian brothers and sisters therefore began charging their eyeballs with pure energy. A simple blow from all these eye beams at the same time would annihilate any foreign object. The cloaking device had made the M-ians and their droids invisible to the Magicians.

Now there was only waiting.

The ship was close, very close, even closer now.

Edelweiss’ eyes were starting to hurt.

It landed.

What felt like an eternity passed by before the doors of the ship shooed open. The first Magician to exit looked nothing like those before him: bulky, white, round.

It was like an oversized child.

Words were heard, in a strange language, but they were too faint for anyone to hear. No sign of a weapon as yet. They were floating but not like the M-ians, their steps were clumsy and pathetic.

Were these Magicians children?

Underdeveloped versions of their predecessors?

Or had their predecessors, in fact, travelled back through time from their own future?

After all, the original ship had looked much more advanced than this one which, come to think of it, certainly had a much more primitive, fragile structure to it.

Danger!

The Magicians were holding something, it looked sharp.

The head droid raised his arm, readying us to release our beams should his arm come down in a single clunk.

But something seemed out of place.

These Magicians could barely walk, how could they possibly harm us with a weapon this visibly flimsy and inferior?

The item in question was soon planted onto the surface: it was a small pole with some sort of fabric attached to it.

Was it a bomb, a peace offering or some sort of random decoration?

This kind of odd behaviour continued until they finally picked up some rocks, returned to their ship and eventually disappeared into the skies near-silently.

The M-ians were signalled to stop charging their eye beams. Edelweiss closed her eyes and the intense pain she was feeling began to subside. When she opened them again, everyone had gathered around and over the object left by the Magicians.

It appeared to display stars.

Stripes and stars.

Whatever this meant, one thing was sure: they came twice and they would come again.

And when they do: we’ll be ready for them.

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More from Simon Simmons soon.

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The Red Moons Of NeOrion – Final Chapter

“The Red Moons Of NeOrion” (1968)

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Norman L. Brisbane short story

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CHAPTER VI

“The Council”

Through the salivus, Krepp found The Observatorium’s core.

He’d been in laboratories before, but nothing like this. For one thing, this wasn’t a laboratory. It was in fact The Sky Council’s meeting room complete with reverse-dome-shaped table, chair balls and the high-powered telescope used to take note of new lunar developments. All that was missing was The Council itself.

Oddly nervous, Krepp slowly approached the telescope with the intention of looking through it and finally seeing the moons.  That intention soon gave way to the action itself and just like that, Krepp was face to face with that which had ruled over him from the day of his birth.  The moons were inside him and he loved them. He knew that now. He was home, he was happy, he was in love. This is what his entire life had been building up to and it had all been worth it. They were so beautiful: so peaceful, so round, so red. Just as he’d pictured them, more round even. He could hear wet sounds all around him but nothing could ever prove more worthy than this moment and he wasn’t going to let anything, not even a sound, get in the way of his eternal happiness.

“That smell again…”, he thought.

Perhaps he should allow his surroundings a second of his time, after all, he could always look back at his moons whenever he pleased now he was here. Reluctantly, Krepp looked away from the eye-piece and turned back to the table which, to his surprise, was not quite as bare as he recalled. Sitting all around was The Sky Council. At least, what looked like The Sky Council. It was strange, Krepp was surrounded by councilmen and yet the room still felt empty somehow.

The members of The Sky Council looked like wet statues: they were near-static, their skins had a silver shine to them and they were dripping with what could only be described as grey things.

“You’re not The Sky Council.”, Krepp said bluntly.

Suddenly, at the center of the table, a silver shape began to materialize. Like a large, bubbling grey tear at first, it soon started taking on a more familiar form.

“Chief Skyman…”

“No Krepp, I am not The Chief Skyman. But then, you already know that.”, replied the entity.

“Who are you?”

“I am The Chief Skyman. I am The Sky Council. I am a vessel through which your world fuses with mine.”

“I don’t understand your talkings.”

“I believe you know me under another name: Expanseon?”

Krepp made no attempt to hide his confusion. As the entity noticed the drool trickling down Krepp’s chin, it spoke again.

“I have come to merge. But only with true believers. Then, and only then, will the process be complete and my work will be done. Only then will the moons take me back into their rocky bosom.”

“Why am I here?”

“You are the last. You are a true believer and your soul will serve us, and the moons, well.”

Without a word, Krepp climbed over the table and was now facing the entity.

“Take it back. You can’t speak for the moons. That’s not allowed.”

The entity smiled proudly, even as Krepp attempted to break its neck. It not being fully solid or fully liquid, it could not be brutalized in this way. Not knowing what to do, scared, Krepp started to run back to the hole but it was too late: it had already closed in on itself. Lost and confused, Krepp was now attempting to snap his own neck but in vain. The entity was now merging with the other entities around the table to form one large silver ball which started floating quietly towards a panicking Krepp.

“Leave me… leave me alone. This is wrong, this is all wrong!”

An otherworldly voice, like a dozen voices all speaking at once through a thin metallic shell, now emanated from the faceless shape, booming around the room.

“Be not afraid, believer, we mean you no harm. This is, and has always been, your purpose. Accept your fate and your people’s fate, Krepp, this is why the moons sent us.”

“The moons… sent you?”, Krepp asked sheepishly, looking up at the ball.

“That’s right. And now, the moons are ready for you. For us.”

His initial fears withering away with every passing second, Krepp finally understood. The moons were never getting closer: we were getting closer to them all along. Expanseon was a gateway, a force pulling us in.

“I am ready.”, Krepp said, “Take me to the moons.”

Little by little, the ball entered Krepp.

Short flashes of Ham and Shp naked peppered his mind as his body, his soul and everything else gradually merged into the Expanseon. It was an almost instantaneous ceremony.

In the blink of an eye: Krepp was no more.

An immense earthquake followed, shaking the entire planet and killing most of its population, the Expanseon had finally wrapped itself around the entirety of NeOrion’s core. Acting as some sort of gravitational plug, The Observatorium and its pole started pulling NeOrion closer to the  moons. The Expanseon ball which contained what once was Krepp among others had launched itself accross the skies forming a direct link between the planet and its lunar relatives. The growing heat and the change in mass crushing the last of the NeOrionians, it was not long before fire took over the entire planet.

NeOrion was no more.

Meanwhile, on a nearby planet, a young-ling awoke from her slumber and approached a nearby window. This being an underwater planet, the window was made of water. Her male parent had just swam into the room after feeling an unexpected wave.

“Father?”, the young-ling asked, “What’s that up there?”

“Those are the moons, my child, the red moons. They protect us.”

“Why are there more now?”

“It is not for us to understand, young one. The red moons have their way.”

This concludes Norman L. Brisbane’s “The Red Moons Of NeOrion”.

More mindthinkings coming soon…

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The Red Moons Of NeOrion – Chapter V

“The Red Moons Of NeOrion” (1968)

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Norman L. Brisbane short story

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CHAPTER V

 ”Into”

He felt so light as he finally stepped onto the dome, it was like flying but on the ground.

The Observatorium was so high up that Krepp felt as if he’d travelled to another planet altogether. All around him was sky: quiet, peaceful sky.

It was like FLYING.

What a feeling. There was something unique, religious about this place. Krepp understood The Sky Council’s solitude and, for a moment, he hesitated. Would the moons approve of his rebellious actions? Would he be punished for his disobedience? No. He was meant to make it to the Observatorium. His presence was no accident. If he had made the moons angry, surely they would have reacted by now. Taking a breath, he entered the dome.

Luckily it wasn’t locked but then again, why would it be?

Why would there be a lock?

Why would it be closed?

Why would it be open?

Krepp felt light-headed. He wasn’t thinking straight. It was as if he had changed, somehow.

The Observatorium walls were humid and soft. It was like entering a long-forgotten underground cave with a smell like no other and a taste salty enough to give the tongue something to think about. Krepp had never felt anything like it. There was little to no light source to speak of as he walked down that long, seemingly endless, corridor and not a sound. There was no such peace anywhere else on NeOrion, Krepp was sure of it. Could it be that he had finally found his home? His nest?

His womb?

No sooner had that thought entered his head that he heard a wet, ambiguous sound coming from the entrance he’d just penetrated. He promptly turned around to find that the entrance in question had been replaced by more wall: he was locked in.

“No matter. The moons have their way.”, he thought.

Krepp finally reached the end of the corridor and, to his surprise, he found no door, no branching path, nothing. Only that smell, getting stronger and stronger. Not so strong that it could be called overpowering but certainly impressive. It had a near hypnotic quality which both attracted and repulsed Krepp. Just then, a hole opened up in front of him: the wall was literally pulsating open before his eyes.

What a sight.

Over the hole was a delicate, transparent film.

Salivus. He’d recognize it anywhere.

What was lying beyond this sticky portal? What did it all mean?

Without hesitation, he stepped through.

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Look out for Chapter VI where Krepp’s adventure finally concludes on Wednesday 29/08/12

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The Red Moons Of NeOrion – Chapter IV

“The Red Moons Of NeOrion” (1968)

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Norman L. Brisbane short story

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CHAPTER IV

 ”Over The Schlouds”

The Observatorium was a vast structure to say the least.

Higher than any other construction on NeOrion, The Observatorium looked down on the physical and up at the spiritual unknown. Like a gateway between two worlds, its position ensured a clear view of both the red moons and their loyal subjects below. The Observatorium stood on top of a pole, its roots branching out deep below the ground like thousands and thousands of very hard tentacles.

“Oh Ham, how I miss you.”

The pole was made of a rare metal called Expanseon, a metal born out of a meteorite which plummeted on NeOrion several centuries prior. It arrived on the planet in a thick liquid sphere under a near impenetrable layer of space rock. At first, the new element was feared as those who came in direct contact with it would find themselves engulfed by it instantly: it fed on them. And that’s what it was doing below the surface, feeding and feeding, slowly wrapping itself around the planet’s core. The NeOrionians learned to solidify and control Expanseon over time by starving it and then shaping it with wooden pieces of wood, made of wood. This is how the pole was achieved.

With wood.

Krepp was remembering The Observatorium’s history as he flew his law-pod higher and higher through the schlouds. The moons had sent us this gift, this alien technology which in turn we used to look back at them. Maybe Expanseon was their way of warning us, maybe this was their plan all along…

Krepp’s law-pod was finally over the schlouds, level with the rotating turett. The Observatorium indeed rested on the pole but the dome-shaped location was also mobile in that it could spin around on itself, giving us a more complete understanding of the moons’ circumference.

“Beautiful.”

Krepp was moved by the sight of this shining, sparkling monument. It was a true symbol of the moons’ unlimited power and he was, for the first time in his life, well and truly happy. As he landed his law-pod over the dome, he couldn’t help but think that he would be the first NeOrionian to venture up the pole in centuries. The Sky Council had lived in complete isolation ever since it was founded in order to preserve the sanctity of The Observatorium. But with these new moon developments, Krepp felt drawn to that place. The moons were calling him, and he would answer them.

Directly.

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Look out for Chapter V on Monday 27/08/12

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The Red Moons Of NeOrion – Chapter III

“The Red Moons Of NeOrion” (1968)

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Norman L. Brisbane short story

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CHAPTER III

 “Pod Pursuit”

Krepp’s earvision tablet vibrated, but he had been avoiding all calls from that morning onwards. He should have checked the bubblepod’s viscosity levels beforehand: the vibrations were not doing the flight any favours and Krepp could not afford a pop at this point in time.

He had to answer it.

His palm nearly on the tablet receiver pad, Krepp notices something in the bubblepod’s reflector. It was a blinking bubblepod. This was not a good thing. The authorities were after him and he had to lose them, but how?

The earvision tablet still vibrating, Krepp suddenly got an idea. Pushing down on the accelerator, he flew the pod faster than ever before. The blinking law-pod was close behind, moving closer and closer the more salivus Krepp’s trembling pod was excreting. Forcibly freeing himself from the safety magma holding him seated in the pod,  Krepp assumed a crouching position before letting go of the accelerator suddenly. Seeing Krepp stop all of a sudden, the law-roaches applied the brakes in their blinking pod. No sooner did they stop close to the pod ahead than its bubble popped and Krepp leaped out of it landing through their own pod. Promptly and without hesitation, Krepp snapped their necks before restarting the law-pod, which had instantly re-bubbled, and flying off into the distance.

Was this the beginning? Was this the end?

Something in between?

Krepp’s mind was racing.

He knew more pods would come and this time, luck might not be on his side. Swallowing the last of the law-roaches, he soon looked up to see the giant pole leading up to The Observatorium.

He was almost there.

Look out for Chapter IV on Friday 24/08/12

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The Red Moons Of NeOrion – Chapter II

“The Red Moons Of NeOrion” (1968)

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a Norman L. Brisbane short story

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CHAPTER II

“Ham, Lover”

Krepp entered Ham, his mate.

Their bodies now one, it all started to make sense. Krepp suddenly knew what he had to do and how to do it. Noticing Krepp’s shrinking interest, Ham looked up at him with concern.

–        “Where are you, Krepp?”

–        “I’m here.”

–        “No. Not all of you.”

–        “I’m sorry. It’s the moons…”

–        “Oh. Them…”

Ham enters Krepp.

–        “I’ll take your mind off those silly moons.” She said, her tentacles flapping from side to side.

–        “Don’t say that…”

–        “It’s true! And to think some people actually believe we need them…”

–        “Don’t…”

–        “Where’s the science behind that? That’s what I wanna know!”

–        “Please…”

–        “Give me any evidence that…”

Climaxing despite his efforts, Krepp snaps Ham’s neck.

“What has happened to us all?”, he thought, “Where are our values? Have we forgotten what the moons did for us? Giving us life, giving us light?”. As Krepp stood up, Ham’s lifeless body promptly pulled out of him and fell near the bed, the tentacles still flapping up and down. Looking out the window, Krepp could see the moons, the sound of the tentacles still resonating against the solid floor behind him.

P-loomf p-loomf…

P-loomf p-loomf…

P-loomf…

Nothing.

He had nothing left. Only the moons.

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Look out for Chapter III on Wednesday 22/08/12

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The Red Moons Of NeOrion – Chapter I

“The Red Moons Of NeOrion” (1968)

a Norman L. Brisbane short story

CHAPTER I

“The End”

The moon was red and hard, and so was the other moon.

Krepp had never seen the moons this way, it frightened him.

NeOrion was a world in peril. It was a dying planet, in fact. The red moons of NeOrion had kept the planet alive for aeons: their warmth, their energy, their pulse meant life could explode all around. But when “THE CHANGE” occurred, all sense and logic became a thing of the past. Fear now reigned among the NeOrionians: the moons were getting lower and closer. How long until they vanished altogether? Or even worse, made contact.

How long until the end?

Looking up at his people’s impending demise, Krepp swallowed his fear and thought: “I can’t be afraid, the moons have their way. Who am I to distrust them?”.

–          “I hate the moons!”

–          “Don’t say that, Shp, it’s not allowed!”

–          “I don’t care: I hate them…”

Not knowing what to do, Krepp snapped Shp’s neck.

Shp was Krepp’s sondaughter (for hundreds of years the sexes had merged into one unisex on NeOrion). The penalty for speaking ill of the moons being worse than instant death, Krepp had spared Shp much discomfort. Besides, with the end so near, what did it matter? He thought.

It was on the facevision box that Krepp had first heard about “THE CHANGE”. In fact, that’s how most NeOrionians heard about it. NeOrion’s unique facevision channel, Channel A, had spread the news in the early hours of the morning. The Observatorium’s Chief Skyman had produced evidence that the moons were, indeed, beginning to orbit NeOrion and according to his calculations, the chances of them resurfacing were, in his words, “highly unlikely”. Further studies to determine how long NeOrion had left were still being carried out but so far had proven inconclusive. Impact or desertion would be the cause of the planet’s death, this was a definite, but at this stage The Sky Council could only speculate. More specifics would no doubt surface soon.

Shp’s body having finally been cooked and eaten, as per the old ways of the Moon Elders’ sacred scrolls, Krepp once again started thinking about the end. His days, or even hours (who knew?) were numbered, what was left to do? How to best make use of his remaining time on NeOrion?

Look out for Chapter II on Monday 20/08/12

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Welcome, MindThinkers.

Greetings.

Here at We, The MindThinkers, we bring you the best forgotten/unknown sci-fi short stories from the best forgotten/unknown sci-fi writers out there.

Tales of space and other things, such as space, are here for your personal entertainment: read, dream, finish what you were reading, spread the word.

MindThinkers, this blog is for you.

We will be releasing short stories one chapter at a time starting with Norman L. Brisbane‘s classic “The Red Moons Of NeOrion”, a tale of faith, belief and bubbles.

Chapter 1 is coming soon.

So long, MindThinkers.

For now.