Synnefo—which focuses on research and design in interstellar development—is now live.
The first article from the site—on future space policy—is available here.
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Assault lasers illuminate the Moon’s black sky. A shattered colony dome leaks oxygen as bodies flush into the vacuum of space. Another Luna Federation Agent shot dead, another shopkeeper-bot stumbles to die in a pile of its own liquefied processors.
Flashes of green and blue blistered from under the batwing doors of a supercharged stealth-rover. Droplets of blood forming and dancing in zero gravity outside the site of the latest in a string of robberies across Earth’s Moon.
In the expertly driven truck, a hardened, thin-faced youth, his hair matted with pomade, fires a Browning laser-rifle during the getaway. His accomplice, a deadly accurate side-gunner and thief, a striking beauty with crimson color-change-curls, usually smoking a cigarette, scanned their six, firing another machine laser, spraying green bolts to deter a pursuit.
The newly liberated nation of Tranquillitatis has been struck by violence again, for the 8th time this lunar year. Two brazen individuals, assuming the identity of Clyde Barrow & Bonnie Parker, embarked on a year-long crime spree, have hit another helium deposit and cryptocurrency mining firm.
Struggling to build a peaceful, prosperous, and safe nation after their Great Civil War, this latest murder of a Luna Fed agent, and large scale helium robbery is especially embarrassing. At a rover checkpoint between Mare Serenitatis and Dorsa Smirnov, Luna Federation agent, Kingston Jack, was shot between the eyes, straight through his space helmet, by a calm, cigarette smoking Bonnie, as the pair pulled to stop for the police barricade.
Jack, 110 years old, made the fatal error of leaning his head under the couple’s Tesla T Rover’s batwing doors, in an attempt to question the young drivers masked in a cloud of smoke.
Their criminality began last year, when a string of snail and mushroom farmers living near the original Apollo landings began reporting robberies and missing equipment. The largest lunar colony in the area, known as Armstrong Prime, became the site of their first openly brazen heist.
In The M-Voss CrytpoExchange on Washington Avenue, they shot and killed 4 guards, making off with over 1,000 Bitcoins, and various fractions of other alt-coins. The pair then briefly paused at a nearby bar, Torchy’s, to also rob some imported-from-Earth alcohol. Weighed down by their haul, the young hoodlums escaped in their camo-painted Tesla T, wings up, lasers blasting.
Apparently, the dangerous lovers reunited after small stints in separate lunar prisons. Clyde, originally known as Charles McRay, was sent away for stealing nitrogen and small artifacts from neighboring colony pods.
Bonnie, formerly Molly Xoa, sent away for withholding information about a murder involving a prominent Tranquillitatis Diplomat’s son.
She was 11.
Together, the self proclaimed new Bonnie and Clyde, are wanted for 27 murders, and countless robberies, kidnappings, network hackings, malware attacks, and laser battles inside pressurized colony domes with Luna Fed agents and local municipality police forces.
Bonnie, the titian-haired gunner, seems quite proud of her accuracy, as the laser pistol she uses shows a nifty digital display, tracking her hit percentage, and of course, number of headshots. At the time of publication, the counter read 7. Clyde usually handles the navigation computer, or manual guide stick when necessary, as Bonnie covers their daring exits.
So far this month they have struck several small targets, refueling center, parts labs, and various farms and storage houses. The smoke, or alcho-bars, they treat as way stations and safe houses, always acting like Robin Hood dispensing stolen cryptocurrency, either in food rations and drink, or direct payment.
In response to this latest killings of one of their own well loved agents, Tranquillitatis F.B.I are said to have laid roadblocks, as well deploying drone swarms to hunt and destroy the dangerous outlaws. But, as Bonnie & Clyde roll around in a stealth T Rover, with reinforced spiderweb Kevlar, a hacked driving computer, and bat wing doors that fly up as the start shooting starts, there may not be a more unstoppable force on the face of the Moon.
A victim of the deranged, yet charming criminals, was released after a brief kidnapping that aided in their escape after the slaying of agent Jack. Another agent, who was working the checkpoint with Jack, Martin Shelly, was dropped at a small refueling outpost unharmed.
Upon his rescue, he stated, “She told me no nice girl smokes cigars. Also, they told me to loose some weight.” After shaking his head for nearly one whole minute during his mental press conference, the Tranquillitatis agent went on to say, “When I was tied up in the back seat, she kept saying something about death and the wages of sin. I don’t know. But I swear, I am going to capture those little moonrats. Dead or alive.”
Agent Shelly’s quote was later redacted by Federal authorities, saying the agent only meant to think dead or alive, not mentally broadcast his own personal opinion, which is understandable given the agent’s recent trauma, or so says the Tranquillitatis Fed Press Corps.
After an explosive riot caused by co-conspirators working on the inside of the Hartford Lunar Prison, and the subsequent escape of over 100 high level convicts aided by Bonnie and Clyde, induced the Commonwealth of Colonies to offer up a 1,000,000,000 $M$ reward, in Tranquillitatis Goldbacks, for the capture of “the most dangerous desperadoes on the Moon.”
Public opinion is split, as many colonists on the Moon sympathize with these hard scrabble youth, their rebelliousness, fearlessness. And, Luna Citizens may even be envious of their quick trigger fingers. Bonnie and Clyde were outcasts, colonist orphans, a burden on a hostile rock.
A young Clyde, reported to refrain, “They may hate us together, but they can’t stop us.” While Bonnie has used her celebrity to call out local police and political figures, “You’re hardly doing your job. You ought to be home protecting the rights of poor folks, not out chasing after us!”
These young members of a burgeoning new nation on the Moon are seen as Tranquillitatis’ dark side, a perfect example of Luna Craziness, otherwise known as Space Madness, an often cited reason Earth politicians do not want those on the Moon to govern themselves. But perhaps, these two criminal kids have grown too fast, seen too much, private prison abuse, murder, rape, kidnapping. All before 15 years of age.
Tranquillitatis Sheriffs have been more brazen in there intentions, “We’re shooting to kill, I’ll tell you that.” So informed us, Mare Serenitatis Sheriff, Weolo Manchester. “The John Dillinger Bot Gang is unimpressed with these two school children, playing a very dangerous game, and I have to say that I for once in my life agree with a criminal robot.” He went on to describe the latest activity and progress by Federal and Local law enforcement.
“These criminal terrorists will get hunted down. They just struck near here, on Montes Caucasus, hitting another local cryptomining vault. 100,000 supercomputers at near zero gravity, in the cold of space. Supercharged AI assisted algorithmic mining. You can see why it was such a tempting target. It has been reported that The Bonnie & Clyde gang siphoned off millions. Information about their next target has been telepathically leaked, and Tranquillitatis agents are in pursuit. There has been a warning issued to remain indoors and be on the lookout for the young couple with well manicured hair. Last seen heading toward the penal colony near Lons Vista 7. And again, rumor has it, to free their siblings and friends held there in the work camps…”
The Sheriffs mental press conference was cut short, local programming resumed. Here in Armstrong Prime, at a local coffee shop, the patrons can be heard discussing the youthful bandit couple, speaking in hushed tones of reverence about the duo’s vow, they will not be taken alive.
My sources here on the Moon, with access to Tranquillitatis Police and Governmental RSS feeds, have informed us that the stealth Tesla T was last seen visible for just a moment on the route 99 darkside highway, between New Vegas, and Lacus Somniorum.
Witness reports from automated vehicles traveling in the same direction describe the vehicle as a leopard striped floating affair, bat wings up, Clyde in the front seat, cigar and Browning Laser Rifle in hand. Bonnie, cigarette and pistol. Their doors were seen closing, and the vehicle vanishing into the charcoal horizon toward the Lons Vista 7 Penal Colony.
You’ll see him at night, when the moon shines its beam
Tall, gaunt, inviting, his face so serene
Oh, he’ll whisper so sweetly, kindly words shall inspire
The fickle, black beating of hearts grim desire
No eyes to his face, all the better to see
The wretched behavings of those such as thee
Burnoose’s fell strides, his hands shall embrace
The wicked, then dragged to a most fearful place
So listen up all; whores, brigands and rakes
Tread not in night when the eyeless man wakes
So tuck up to bed and shutter the moon
And pray that He leaves you to rest in your gloom
The sky was dark as the carapace of the beetles which scurried hither and thither beneath the flinty, scattered boughs of the gnarled and dying trees as the man moved over the khaki hillocks of the endless moor, the traveling lamp unshuttered the world in its eastward descent unto oblivion as if following the lonely soul in his argent passage. Wind-chaffed and weary, that solitary figure trudged over a low slope and descended liken to the effulgent sphere above him as a scattering of sheep ran zig-zag about him, fleeing off down the incline to congregate about the fires of some aged vaquero. The cowherd bivouacked in a stony vale, buttressed all about by a high semi-circle of tors that girded he and his odd-baying wards from the buffets of the world. To the left of a fire-pit which had been hastily constructed and ringed about with the scarce, ashen sediment of the moor stood a diminutive palfrey, outfitted with naught but a loosely strapped saddle-cloth and whisp’d reigns of hair.
The stranger looked on a while and then adjusted his leather belt and heavy pack, his shoulder o’er thrown and looked to the storm-wall building up in the far-flung distance and then back again and made haste to the camp seeking harbourage from the ravishment encroaching.
Small flickering tongues of flame hacked away the shade from the rocky outcropping and illuminated the face of the beasts and men alike and for a brief spheres-turning all was silent save for crackling stutter of burning wood and the muted shuffling of the graze-beasts upon the heath.
The vaquero looked the stranger up and down and then bade him to the warmth of his shelter, the invitation, readily accepted.
“What queer business brings such as thee to this long-forsaken vale?”
The stranger set himself down beside the fire and warmed his aching bones and then turned to his benefactor with a countenance both dire and faraway, as if he were intensely enveloped in the contemplation of something from a time long past or yet still to come.
“No business but chance. I make pilgrimage to Caer Tor, but upon my way my horse didst fall; eaten by ague. So, with a heavy heart, I put sword to spine and ended the sorry beast’s suffering and continued on my way afoot; this barren waste the last obstacle o’er which I must leap to reach my kinsmen’s warm embrace, they unprimed of my arrival.”
The cowherd nodded as if sense had been made of the thing and some semblance of trust both established and reciprocated.
“Thou mayst call me, Ealdwine.”
As the stranger took the old man’s hand and shook it firmly he spoke with something liken to shame frittering about his dulcet tones.
“Curious name that, such that it sounds not of this thede, nor any other.”
“That alone is a story in the retelling.”
“The isolation of the moor doth unfix the tongue from its rightful wagging – but worry not, I shan’t pry. Thy business is thy own and thine own to keep.”
“I mind not, old man, but would thank thee for the comfort of thy wild-twinkling foyer, the effulgence of the firmament, for all its dazzling brightness did little to gird me from frost’s fell grasp. Hark! Hear ye that sound?”
The old man half turned upon the old log on which he sat, cocking an ear in the direction of the wide, outer dark. Then he shook his hoary head and returned his attention to the wayfarer.
“Nay, I hear nothing.”
Ealdwine leaned closer to the stranger, his grizzled visage demon-like in the interplay of dark and flame.
“There are always noises upon the heath. Sounding with great regularity, not all tricks of a frightened mind at that. There are skinks, efts, wild dogs and shrews and grouse and geese, adders and crickets aplenty. Oftimes the big-horned rams from the far mountains loose themselves from that stony prison and, wayward, wander in quizzical vexation about this lonely place. Wild hearts beating with the echoing confusion the land sings aplenty. Upon such happenings, I see them stray into the marsh which stretches like a great and black-blooded gash across the earth at the far southern end of the moor, like a wound from some titian’s own brand. If so they stray, they will invariably fall prey to the silent monster with maw eternal-arced and hunger endless and strain against the bog-hold, crying out, strangely human, into the fire-pitted welkin where nary an ear but mine can hear tell of their sorry plight. At last their rangy heads and heaving flanks will vanish beneath the sinkhole and with that disappearance so to do their cries subside and all is at once, silent and severe.”
Gunvald, sensing the old herder sought his fear, crossed his thick and iron banded arms about his cuirassed chest and raised a brow.
“Canst thou not aid the poorly beasts?”
“Fools errand that twould be, none but a scion of God could navigate that blasted place with sureness of foot. The first false step means death, to man or beast. For there is naught living that can escape that fetid pit when once it has thee in its soggy grip.”
“Tis a fine thing then that I am no horny ram.”
“You should not make light of such turnings, for there is a ordering to things beyond our comprehension and a truth it seems to me that those who scoff at the plight of that whom The Creator hath deigned to snatch away laugh also at Him, for is not such cessation but part and parcel of his plan? What greater sacrilege could there but to scoff at the very pathing of the world. So take heed, traveler, thy laugh at thy own peril for thy laugh unto the very face of God.”
Gunvald furrowed his brows and then adjusted his belted scabbard such to bend better towards the heat and there a moment refreshed himself and then straightened and addressed the old man.
“Thy words well become a man of your occupation. Tis rightful that men of the earth should, with their deeds as with their tongue, extol it.”
“Yes. But ye yet say naught pertaining to the truth of it.”
“It is not for men of my station to interpret such eldritch things. I’ve not the brain for it and, lacking the intelligence, lack also the words. My voice is in my sword for redder conversations than this.”
“A soldier then?”
“Aye. Hark. Again I hear it.”
Before the old man could speak three vast shadows subsumed the rocky outcropping and footed there, three men, feral eyed and brigandined. There was between them several swords and daggers, all of which reflected like ghostly fires neath the cool sheen of the shrouded, waning moon.
The cowherd and his compatriot rose with suddenness, Gunvald’s hand flying instinctively to the leather-bound pommel of his gilded blade, gifted him by his father, late. He drew the blade in the same instant and stepped forth with a fencer’s feline grace, eyes steady as poise, emotion cold as the brand which glinted orange with the low-crackling fire.
“Put that away afore ye hurt yeself,” a pudgy member of that ratty trio mouthed with a wide, sinister grin.
Another, the shortest and ugliest member of that threesome, a hunchback, swiped the air with his weapon, a cudgel as loathsome as the visage of its wielder, which caused the sheep to bah-bah and retreat civilly to the very edges of the high, stone cliffs.
“Looks as if we’ve a froggy one! I’ll take him myself and to our master bring his head!”
“Silent and still be the both of you,” Thundered the tallest member of that sordid corp, a man some thirty years of age, angular of face and form, he wielding a grain scythe in his leather-strapped hands.
Gunvald knew not the providence of such beings but their intention was plainly writ; the Narrow War had made many such fell creations, the ungainly trio being but lesser manifestations of the insurrections twisted deviance. Their movements furtive. Eyes more beast than man.
“You must excuse my friends, tisn’t oft we chance upon such ill-girded company.”
Gunvald smiled fractionally.
“So you think.”
“So I know.”
“Try me then, brigand, and may Marta bless the better man.”
Malefactorous, the night-stalker advanced hesitantly across the muddy ground, well-slicked with welkin-mourn, farm scythe held awkwardly before him, as if it were some mighty polearm. All the while the thief drew forth Gunvald moved nary an inch, his eyes and bones and blade fractions of a singular whole, still as the stone surrounding. At the last, as the dread-scythe arced through the air with a furious humming, the soldier tore himself from his rooted shade and feinted the blow with the mid-side of his great-brand and delivered a sunderous riposte that severed the brigand’s arm from its socket.
A faint mist of red fluttered through the air like tiny moths from some otherworld of dreams and portents and landed upon the ground as the gory limb flopped down beside them like a huge and malformed fish. A startling howl tore from the rouges’ throat, as if it were his soul that had been rent from the body rather than a mere arm, the sound resounding throughout the high towering outcroppings and fading up into the night as if suffering were drawn unto the dark.
The flock bah-bah-ed nervously and stomped their hooves as their Shepard starred on, wide-eyed but resolved.
Gunvald turned to the remaining cretins who paused a moment, looking to the triumphal warrior, clad in moon-glint mail, then to the leaking appendage that still clutched the scythe and then to the man to which the arm used to belong, some seven feet away, flat on his back, writhing like a punctured horseshoe crab, his agony so great that nothing now but muted moans escaped his wide spaced maw, lips flexing like roiling bait-worms fresh off some fisherman’s hook.
With a startled cry the felonious duo turned tail and fled off into the night, their lanky shadows odd-angling under the skies auspicious glow, shortly thereafter wholly swallowed up into the hazy outer null. Gunvald made to swiftly follow but was held aback by the vaqueros cry, “No! They fly to the marshlands. Heed my words: Let them fly, no man can traverse such cursed terrain under the pall of night!”
Gunvald nodded and watched them fade off into the wide sea of black and then exhaled heavily, as the old man looked mournfully towards the dying thief.
Then all was sheep-call and bird-caw and fire-hiss and the hideous bleating of a lost and dying soul.
At length, Gunvald turned to his fallen foe who instantly began, once more, to shriek unto the vaulted sphere of night. His eyes bugging into enormous disks, strange-lit by the dancing flames of the softly crackling fire. Just as swiftly the man’s howling was silenced by the point of Gunvald’s blade piecing his armor and heart, there pinning him to the ground as he wriggled like some great and misshapen insect. Then his eyes rolled up in his head and a final gasp of breath escaped his mouth, issuing high up into the moist and roiling air. Then nothing but the clacking of hooves and the whistling of clay-scented wind, raving out over the great and scoured ambit of the rain-washed plane.
At length Gunvald, put his boot to the silent brigand’s chest and pulled free his bloody brand and then bent to the dead man and from his head cut a thick and charcoal lock of hair. He moved from the site of execution to the firepit and knelt before the red, closing his eyes and uttering a strange mantra unto the dancing embers, as if they’d ears to hear it.
What has gone, is what is come.
And from my hands, I give to yours.
That which is rightfully owed.
His life to your light, now and forever unending.
Give us both your pardon.
Let him keep his rest.
May your light engulf the world and every other.
When the soldier had finished his prayer and tossed the lock of hair into the fire and watched it burn with keen intensity, as if revelations would speak in shocking tongues from beneath those puffs of thin, gray smoke. When they did not he rose from the ground and set himself down upon one of the flat stones which the vaquero had hauled to the pit to keep himself well clear of the ground as he warmed his old bones. The vaquero looked to the knight a moment, then the fire, then the knight and spoke, his voice uneven, afeared.
“The hunchback mentioned they’re master.”
Gunvald nodded vaguely and gestured towards the old man for something to drink for which he was rewarded with a flask of sour, salty rice-wine. The soldier grimaced but downed it all the same, feeling a hot sensation in the pit of his stomach. He leaned over the flames, cradling the flask between his heaved gloved hands and addressed the cattle-herder with deadpan seriousness.
“Likely to me it seems that such those that fled were but part of some larger band. Raiders. From the hillands. Long have they warred with Tor. The nature of the conflict lost to the annals of history and the sands of time. T’would be unwise of thee to tarry.”
“Aye, they were at that. Though lonesome it may appear to thee, across the bogland there is green grass than this. It is there I’d graze my woolly friends were there space to do it. Alas, the land is owned and off I’d be run in not half a minute. Greedy land owners to the south and bloody thirsty raiders to the north, such is my plight, traveler, so much as it might behoove me to pack up and flee, I’ve no where to go.”
The vaquero fell silent a good long while, his eyes cast to the flames, as Gunvald took the information in solemnly and stroked his burgeoning beard as if in meditation. When at last the old man raised his face from the fire there was great sadness in his eyes.
“Ye didn’t have to kill him.”
Gunvald paused a moment and then met his elder’s gaze with dark amusement shinning in his steely eyes.
“So even thee questions the order of the world. Thee, thyself said it twas paramount to a question of the very nature of God. Is this your project, vaquero?”
The old man, shocked by his own hypocrisy, fell silent and did not respond. The soldier continued on, heedless.
“Of course it is, what else could it be. It is the project of any and all sane and questioning men. It was this very project that led me to reject The Eternal Being, for such a presence, he who is eternal, all powerful and everywhere at all times and places is said to lack in nothing – a fatal error, he lacks in one thing and one thing alone, limitation. As such there is none to bear witness to He, none to say that He is this and they are that. A being beyond witnessing is thus a being beyond our ken.”
“A warrior-poet. How singular. Yet you keep to Lady Marta?”
“The Prayer of the Dead you mean? Something my mother taught me – an old habit. Nothing more. Nothing more.”
With that silence fell once more over the stony outcropping as a chill wind swept in from the norther mountains, bringing in its wake a dreadful downpour that washed the blood from the body of the arm-less brigand and carried it out and down the trough of the encampment to puddle in the sodden moor. In that fetid broths reflection were the wings of a dozen crows who cawed madly and scrapped the sky with their metallic talons and torn off in wide wheeling circulations through the closing storm-wall as thunder and lightening fell upon the plain and redressed the world in the garments of the mad.
Their cries were like lamentations.
For the dead. The dying.
And all those still to die.
Sample from my forthcoming novel, Tomb of the Father, provided for the purposes of critique and commentary.