Wednesday, 21 October 2015


Ac’Dorraedas was a wood mage in a land that was his since the ice withdrew. His knowledge was legendary, his reputation grown since the long days past when he first stretched his limbs towards the skies. Around him younger voices spoke, seeking guidance as he once had.

He had learnt what he could from the elder ones, now long gone, who had once shared his grove.  But he still remembered their words, watch and listen, nourish and grow. And watch he had, even in sleep he had kept an eye open in the cold starlight. Then rising with the sun he dressed himself in clothes of green, performing the dance of the seasons, of life and death, until as night fell,  discarding his clothes, now soiled and ragged, he would fall again into sleep.
Oh those days of fire, full of vibrancy, of life accelerated, desire, hunger and creation. Ac’Dorraedas would weave his magic, his fingers clicking, his great arms swaying as he drank in the sun, faced the wind and felt the life giving rain. All manner of creatures sought his guidance, from the smallest to the largest, all were welcome, except one whose intentions were unclear.
Once it had been different he had been told, his kind's knowledge had been sought by them, his magic revered above all others. He was used to sacrifice of course. Between the wood mages and all others it had been understood, the giving of gifts, a payment required under thundering skies rent by lightning; blood spilled and flesh yielded as it had always been. He had understood the need. Revered his kind had been, their embrace required to protect the other's children from cradle, throughout their short lives and then returning to the earth. But things had changed, permission was no longer sought. Slowly at first and then quickening the grove had shrunk.
More voices seemed stilled and those remaining sought his magic, clinging to the folds in his ancient cloak and he sang lullabies to calm them. Fear not, we are ever here, our magic is strong, and yet he grew concerned and wove a spell of immortality and cast it about him around his feet.
During the long night he stirred and sleepily woke. The skies were wintry grey, no voices spoke to him, he sought them out reaching but nothing answered, all was dumb stone and baked clay or powdered rock set hard. The grove was silent; the grove had gone. He sensed the savage roaring sound, the acrid fumes and the teeth that cut deep, his story ended, Ac’Dorraedas fell and all seemed silent.

Death and life, the ebbing and flowing of tides, the turning of stars, a land eternal since the ice had receded. Come dawn as the light lengthened, the magic of old Ac’Dorraedas took root. Between the paving slabs the oak sapling pushed upward.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Apollo 18 - Part 5

“Get the hell away from me, leave me alone.” Commander Gordon shouted between sobs.
Outside the Lander, the creature that once was Gerald Carr hammered at the hatch. Gordon saw the latch move up and down, but due to the positive pressure inside the capsule, compared to the outside vacuum, it would be impossible for the thing to swing the hatch door inwards. Impossible for a human, anyway.
All around the Lander he now heard knocking and tearing as something tested the capsule. He heard a ripping sound as something tore at the amber coated foil that encased the descent section, felt the Lander judder as some unseen entity pounded at one of the legs. He wasn’t due to liaise with Vance in the orbiting CSM for approximately 15 hours, but would they have winkled him out by then? What if he entered a different orbit than Vance, would he have enough fuel in the retros to alter his orbit and dock? Once more he felt the Lander shudder and heard the screech of tortured metal. He looked out of the portal, beyond the foul animated remains of his dead comrade, something else moved within the cloud of dust that had followed him across the crater; something wholly alien like a huge crab with tentacles. If he didn’t launch now, he probably never would and everything, including Carr’s death would have been for nothing. Flicking switches he powered up the LSM and strapped himself in for take-off. The hammering on the hatch grew in intensity, he looked towards the portal, and there was Carr, his skeletal face staring at him from its empty sockets. Gordon extended his middle finger, flipping the bird at the monster, and hit the rocket switch. There was a roar and Gordon felt the acceleration as the Eagle left the moon. He half expected to be shot at once more, as they had been landing some six hours previously, but he smiled to himself as he realised the cloud of dust had covered his escape, in the weightlessness the camera from the rover floated past. Checking his trajectory and alignments he made slight alterations with the retros.

A sudden thought entered his head and he felt around for the bag attached to his utility belt, breathing a sigh of relief when he found it; inside was the data crystal he had found on the remains of the ancient Empress Pandora. Unstrapping himself from his chair he floated to the portal and looked down at the moon, already the Copernicus Crater was disappearing as his momentum took him away. Satisfied, he sought some much needed nourishment and water and secured himself once more to the chair. As he ate he pressed record on the bulky tape machine and related his report into the microphone.
“Eagle, this is Lightfoot. Dick come in.”
The voice from the Command Module crackled over the radio. Gordon blinked, realising he had fallen asleep. Setting the tape machine to one side he smiled as he replied.
“Lightfoot, this Eagle. Good to hear you Vance. I’m already in orbit. Turning on rendezvous beacon.”
The radio crackled white noise before Vance replied. “You said, I’m in orbit? Gerald?”
“He didn’t make it Vance…”
Once again there was a pause. “Understood. I see you, 12 km distant, approaching for docking. Let‘s get back home.”

Present Day NASA - Mars Science Laboratory

Curiosity Mission Coordinator Darren Brown turned off the playback machine, he looked solemnly at his superior, sat with him. Newly instated NASA Director Chuck Bolden looked perplexed and shell shocked, shaking his head in disbelief. “Jesus Darren, and the President knew of this when he appointed me? I’ve never even heard of the Apollo 18 mission.”
“All Presidents since Nixon have known of the alien presence on the moon, but we have only known the true nature of the threat since President Reagan’s tenure in 1981.”
“I don’t understand, the recording?”
“The recording, videos and data crystal – all the data from when Dick Gordon opened Pandora’s box - were only brought to earth in 1981 when the Space Shuttle Columbia rendezvoused with CSM Lightfoot in 1981, on her maiden flight. The remains of Vance Brand and Dick Gordon were also recovered.”

“They didn’t make it?”
“No. CSM Lightfoot suffered a catastrophic accident whilst taking up geo orbit. It was tragic, they almost made it home; they were true heroes, not just for America but for all of humanity; their story, however, their sacrifice remains uncelebrated. The bodies of three homeless men of similar builds were released to the relatives of the astronauts; the official story was that all three died in an accidental capsule fire while training on earth.  The mission itself had been launched in secret and no knowledge of the true nature of their deaths was ever revealed. Back in the 70’s, prior to the internet, such a cover up was possible. As far as anyone knows, the Apollo mission was halted due to financial constraints after Apollo 17. Now however, in an age of free access to data and hackers we are facing a severe problem of controlling information. Not for nothing has the President gained executive powers to shut down the worldwide web if required. Obviously such an action would be the last resort; in the meantime we keep on questioning the mental state of sources revealing data.”
“What data, and what has this to do with the Curiosity mission?”
Brown stood up and poured two cups of water from the water cooler, passing one to the Director. He sighed before continuing. “We analysed the data crystal and other operatives confirmed the information that had been relayed to Gordon. Mars had indeed once been a home to humanity prior to a global nuclear bombardment by extra-terrestrial forces. We had to be sure. Viking orbital missions saw the Face on Mars but we managed to discredit whistle-blowers; it was merely shadows and the psychological phenomenon of Pareidolia.”

Bolden took a sip of water. “I take it we’ve found further evidence.”
“Indeed, we’ve found remains that are difficult to explain as natural geological features…”
“Such as?”

“Statues and wheels. The statues can be put down to Pareidolia, but the wheels, no. Meanwhile the orbiter has focused on the moon Phobus…”
“The monolith?”
“Exists, yes. Its a massive boulder, differing from the surrounding geology, some 238 m across.”
“We need the information written upon it. Are our planetary jailers still active?”
“We avoided the moon as we thought that was where their main observation post in the system is. The recent Chinese, Jade Rabbit, probe was destroyed soon after landing, although the authorities there said the probe was merely in a hibernation phase. We have tentatively warned them but they are intent on a home grown manned mission. I hate to think what the outcome may be…”
“Are our jailers elsewhere?”
“Yes, our recent Dawn mission photographed a base of some kind on Ceres, a large moon in the asteroid belt.”

“But are they on Mars?”
“The Curiosity Rover photographed this.” Brown said, handing a photograph to the Director.

“My God… the tentacled crab, as described by Gordon! I don’t know, I just can’t…”
“It’s a lot to take in Director, I know. If will you excuse me, I had better get back to sifting the newly arrived data.”
“Of course Darren, of course. Those poor men though, to have come so close to safety and die so close to home, its tragic. What was the nature of the accident they experienced?”
“It’s revealed on the recording from point 548, I warn you it’s not easy to listen to. I will speak with you soon Sir.”
Brown shut the door behind him while Bolden fast forwarded the digital counter to 548. Soon the long dead voices of Gordon and Brand, and the insistent beeping of alarms, filled the room.
“What was that explosion?”
“Oxygen levels are plummeting, what the hell happened?”
“We’re venting gas, the paneling outside has ruptured, hang on, what the hell?”
“What can you see? What is it? Life support is failing!”

“There’s something moving in the gas. Oh my God, its… its CARR…”

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Apollo 18 - Part 4

The nightmare that once had been Gerald Carr shuffled forward, its gloved hands reaching out. Commander Gordon backed away from the animated corpse. He had seen Carr die with his own eyes, exposed to the cold and vacuum of space, beside him in the Lander. He could retreat no further as he felt the Lunar Rover against the back of his legs, his hand reached back to steady himself and found the handle of the spade in the tool compartment, he gripped it tightly. He swung it, hitting the dead astronaut in the side, tearing the fabric of the suit that barely contained the vacuum swollen flesh. The creature staggered and Gordon swung the spade again, in an upward motion this time, catching the rim of its open helmet, knocking the monstrosity backward in the low lunar gravity.

The force of the blow had an equal reaction on Gordon, forcing him backward he fell into the Rover. Instinctively, not waiting to swing his legs inside, he grabbed the joystick and pushed it forward. The rover trundled away gathering speed, pushing up clouds of dust that hung in the airless void before falling slowly back to the moon’s surface. Gordon didn’t look back, eager to put some distance between him and whatever had possessed Carr.
He pulled backward on the stick and the Rover slowed to a halt. Assessing the situation he checked battery power on the rover, it would be touch and go if it could get him back to the Lander, but looking at his oxygen gauge his recent exertions had used much of the precious gas up. He was a good distance away from the Lander which was hidden amid the hills and mounds of the southern part of the Copernicus Crater, beyond the ancient crashed craft. Fearfully he looked up then and looked at the northern edge across the smooth expanse. He felt terribly exposed to whatever had tried to destroy the Eagle as it had landed.

Under the rim of the crater were the structures, like buildings, he had seen, the dwellings of humanities' jailers. He could see clouds of dust beginning to curl from the surface in front of them. There are no winds on the moon. Whatever resided there was coming! He quickly sat in the Rover and strapped himself in. He threw the joystick forward and it picked up speed, as he swung it in an arc and headed south as fast as he could.
He turned the Rover camera to look behind, he needed to record and log as much data as he could. He felt his heart hammering and his breathing sounded laboured. He forced himself to breathe slow and steady; he had to conserve what oxygen he had. The aches, both in his body and stomach, reminded him how tired and hungry he was. He hadn’t eaten or drunk fluids for hours now; adrenaline alone had been keeping him going.
The site of the wrecked craft lay to the east of him and he turned the joystick to edge towards the area of hills, estimating where the Eagle was and avoiding the unnecessary use of battery power climbing and weaving among the valleys and mounds ,that had been the feature of his journey northward.  With 30% battery remaining he pushed the joystick left and headed into the undulating moonscape that concealed the lander. He looked left towards the north, the clouds of dust was halfway across the plain. His oxygen gauge showed he was down to 10%, soon he would begin recycling the CO2. He climbed a slope and in the distance he saw the glint of the amber foil that clad the descent section of the LSM. He felt a surge of hope as he strove to concentrate on navigating his way through the hills and valleys, but he felt so tired.
He had lost 2 hours in the crashed craft looking into the data crystal; he remembered the dream-like journey it took him on, from Earth’s orbit to Mars. Mars… and yet that ancient Mars was different, not a red desert, but green and blue with cities and pyramids. There was something else he recalled, from the edges of his mind, something on the Martian moon Phobus. It was a monolith and written upon it in hieroglyphs and symbols were star maps, a myriad web of wormholes linking the system of Sol with the stars beyond. That was it, the secret, the key to interstellar travel; the knowledge lost when humanity was bombarded back to the Stone Age long ago.

He felt a violent jolt and he opened his eyes. He had fallen into unconsciousness and crashed the Rover into a boulder. He unstrapped himself, he felt so tired. He yearned for cool air, if he opened his helmet just a little to... He blinked and looked at his oxygen gauge, it was in the red. He felt dizzy and nauseous. Up ahead was the Lander, there were two of them. He blinked again dispelling the blurred image. He realised he was experiencing CO2 poisoning. With one last effort, he fell out of the Rover, grabbing the onboard camera and stumbled towards the amber coloured oasis. The space between him and the Lander yawned wide, he willed himself onward as his head throbbed in pain.
Reached out his hand felt the smooth metal of the steps and he hauled himself up, his hand found the latch, through the blurred blindness and waves of nausea. Pushing it open he fell in and pushed it shut behind him. His weakening hand found the oxygen tap and turned it. A hissing sound began to build as the vacuum was filled. Unclasping the helmet he lay on the floor as he drank in the life giving oxygen. He gave a prayer of thanks but on the periphery of his hearing he heard the tapping of tiny objects peppering the hull of the lander. With an effort he hauled himself up to look through the viewport and with a shiver of fear realised the dust cloud was now wreathing all around. Emerging from the dust cloud, the husk of Carr dragged itself toward the steps.

To be continued

Monday, 14 September 2015

Apollo 18 - Part 3

In the silence of the airless moon all Commander Dick Gordon could hear was his own ragged breathing. Between each breath his visor would mist momentarily. The novelty of the low gravity had long passed, as he bounded across the barren wastes of the lunar landscape. He had already fallen over twice, the last time his visor had narrowly missed some jagged rocks. He had since endeavoured to take care; one crack or a tear in his suit and he would suffer the horrific fate that befell Carr, the pilot of the LSM. He had no choice but to keep following the tracks of the rover leading north away from his landing site and the crashed half buried ship.
He realised that he was panting. He had to control his breathing; he would be using his oxygen up too quickly, he glanced at his oxygen gauge, three hours’ worth remaining. He had contemplated returning to the wreck of the ship, but thought better of it. There had been a breathable atmosphere in the mausoleum chamber that he had triggered. Returning there it would be a refuge, then a prison, until eventually it would be a tomb and he would join the mysterious woman there in deathly repose. Despite his exertions he felt a shiver of fear run the length of his spine.
Who was that woman and why was she in a crashed craft on the moon? She was a terrestrial; she looked human in every way. At least he had the crystal with him. He had looked in it but for a moment and yet had spent two hours lost in the images it relayed into his brain. It was some form of data storage device that interfaced with the brain directly through his eyes. He had been immersed in its visions. But what it told him made no sense. Humanity had once been a race of star-farers in the distant past? Mars had once been green? It was impossible, all of it. Impossible? What of the woman? What of the ship? What of the unknown presence which had harassed previous Apollo missions and attempted to shoot down his own Eagle lander? The ones who had killed Carr? Now he knew why Vice President Ford had been so on edge prior to the pre-flight quarantine.
The tracks wound up a slope, obviously the rover had struggled for grip in the thick lunar dust. Now was a chance to make some progress, he bounded at the slope and took giant strides bouncing upward. He felt the sweat cling to his back as in pushed himself on, as the slope grew steeper. As he crested the ridge he was on all fours crawling up. Any semblance of self-control was lost as he climbed, sobbing and panic filled; he was never going to see the earth again, never feel the wind rain upon his face.
Just when he was at his lowest, hope returned anew, there was the rover parked on the summit, but also came a wave of fear as he saw who the driver was. Stood still, with his back to him, his sightless eyes looking northward, was Carr.
Gordon stood in fear and shock; he had decided to leave Carr on the moon, meaning to bury him on his return journey to the lander. Ideally he would have taken his dead comrade home but the body had swollen to twice its normal size when Carr had been killed by the vacuum. Gordon and his colleague, Vance, in the Command Module would never have been able to get him through the docking hatch joining the LSM and the CSM. He had put Carr’s helmet on and lowered the man’s glare visor to spare himself looking at the man’s ever staring eyes. Yet now he stood, facing the sun, his oxygen umbilicus hanging uselessly behind him, like some grotesque shop front dummy.
“Ger Gerald?” Gordon stuttered, half whispering into his mouthpiece.
Horribly, he heard the earphones crackle into life. “You were warned,” grated the voice similar to Gerald Carr’s yet not; speaking through swollen and frozen flesh. “Your race must pay the price, the debt is still unpaid.”
“The price?” Gordon asked. That which once was Carr stayed still, his back turned to him.
“Long ago you walked amid the stars, as gods you thought of yourselves, conquerors and overlords; humanities’ web trapped many. How the galaxy suffered under your tyranny, lifeforms and cultures eradicated as you sought to mold the galaxy to your image. The Great League was formed, the war was terrible. Countless numbers died as ships burnt around a myriad of stars. You were chased back to your home planets, yet still, in your arrogance, you refused to yield. Two planets were rendered uninhabitable, only at the last, your cities reduced to rubble, your race almost eradicated, did your empress accept terms. You were a handful, grubbing an existence out of the dirt; would be gods now brutish and bestial. Your Empress, Pandora, was permitted to seek exile beyond the edge of space, yet others in the League took exception and she was shot from the skies as she left your world, to crash on this rock. We have kept watch ever since, lest you dig yourselves from the dirt and look to the stars again. You should not have come here, you were warned.”

Carr turned then, his visor was open, the flesh of his face burnt by direct exposure to the sun, his mouth drawn exposing his teeth, his eyes boiled black; he advanced on Gordon, his hands reaching out.
To be continued...

Friday, 11 September 2015

Apollo 18 - Part 2

Dreams of recollection; he was back with Vance and Gerald in the pre-launch briefing. Good old Gerald, why did the sight of him make fill him with sadness…
The Vice President put down his pipe in a shaking hand. “It is mankind’s destiny to reach to the stars, gentlemen; ever since our ancestors first looked up in wonder. So we take our first hesitant steps and find ourselves warned off, in our own backyard? We need to know more of what these beings are; any data will be valuable beyond measure.  Much rests on what you can find out; perhaps the future, not just of America, but of the entire human race…”
Commander Dick Gordon woke with a start, his head throbbed from the blow he had recieved but he was unable to rub it encased, as he was in his astronaut suit, a mist formed in the inside of his visor. Then he remembered. The hull breach! Gerald!

All was silent. The Lander was at an angle, his pilot Gerald Carr had been forced to land the Eagle rapidly amid the uneven hills and mounds that marked the southern half of the Copernicus Crater. According to the clock he had been asleep for 40 minutes. Gordon released the straps that held him in his seat and stood. The warning lights were still blinking, despite beginning to coat in ice. He flicked switches and turned off the taps feeding oxygen into the compartment, it was only venting into space and he was being fed air from an umbilicus. He sighed, now to assess the damage that took his colleague’s life.
Gerald Carr sat, his eyes frozen over, dark red ice was around his mouth from when his lungs had violently ruptured. Inside his suit his body had swollen, while his head and face had turned blue as the oxygen had reversed dissolved from his tissues. At least it had been quick, but Gerald’s last look of resigned panic in his last moments would haunt the Commander forever. However long that might be, of course, it all depended on the state of the breach.
Beyond his lifeless comrade he saw where the breach had occurred, from the collection of items that had been thrown towards it as the atmosphere has rushed towards the vacuum. It was a cluster five, small punctures. The blasts that had lit up the darkness as the Eagle had descended must have thrown debris at it, piercing the hull. He’d heard how previous micro punctures had been repaired by duct tape. He found a roll in a storage locker and carefully covered the holes, before spraying a quick curing resin over his repairs. He had to find out if it had worked. He opened the oxygen tap and waited. Gradually on the edge of his hearing the sounds of alarms began to be heard. He heard the hum of the atmosphere filters and knew his repairs were holding. He shut off all the alarms, his eye especially on the atmosphere warning light, it stayed extinguished. Slowly he removed his helmet and breathed deeply. There was a smell of burnt gunpowder in his nostrils, the smell of the moon.
He ran a quick systems check, the ascent motors seemed undamaged, he would be able to escape the moon’s surface and rendezvous with Vance in the orbiting CSM, it would be 20 hours before the Command Module would be  in a position to dock with the LSM. He could sit out the next few hours?
As well as the burnt gunpowder aroma he smelt something else, the metallic tang of blood. He picked up Carr’s helmet and fitted it. He slid down the antiglare visor, hiding the man’s ever staring eyes. The man would be alive now if he’d worn the helmet during the descent but then again it was the man’s skill that had controlled the rapid descent, so maybe they would have crashed and they’d both be dead anyway. They’d come under attack by whatever was at the northern end of the crater. He’d seen structures, like buildings, as well the half buried outline of a vast ship. He didn’t want to go out there alone but he would have to check the lander’s leg which felt like it had buckled on landing. He looked at Carr’s body and imagined trying to manoeuvre him, ballooned and stiff with rigamortis, through the hatchway into LSM. Should he take him home if possible?  How rapidly would he decompose in this environment, would he infect the air as he rotted, the microbes using up valuable oxygen? He decided to leave him on the lunar surface. He disconnected the umbilicus and attached the life supporting backpack to his suit. Closing his helmet he turned off the oxygen taps and vented the capsule, equalising the pressure with that of outside. With an effort he opened the hatch and hauled Carr from his seat.

Outside the lunar landscape shone bright as the sun bore relentlessly down on the airless world. With the low gravity he was able to remove Carr from the capsule relatively easily. He closed the hatch and looked around.
The Lander was on a southward facing gentle slope on a landscape of hills and odd shaped mounds, as if the ground was folded and wrinkled upon itself. He opened one of the bay service doors on the amber foil coated descent module and brought out the rover. It only weighed 1/6th of its weight on earth. Gordon unfolded the vehicle and secured it with the restraining bolts. He strapped Carr into the passenger seat. From another storage bay he collected a camera, spade and bags. Climbing on board, he drove off, weaving in and out of the valleys between the mounds, working his way north. As he went further the ground grew higher and the valleys gradually disappeared, he steered the rover up a slope and it was then he saw it.

It was vast, at least five times the size of an aircraft carrier; a half buried cylindrical craft. It looked like it had crashed into the crater eons ago; forcing the lunar rock and dust forward to form the wave like ripples and mounds that stretched southward. He switched on the camera and swallowing hard drove the rover down to where a huge gash lay in the side of the craft.
Climbing out of the rover he approached the breach in the hull of the craft. He switched on his helmet mounted lights and entered the ship. He found a corridor and continued deeper into the vessel; unnervingly he saw patches of lunar dust on the floor making odd shaped footprints. He was not the first being to enter this wreck. He switched on his tape recorder so he could describe what he saw.
“This is Commander Richard Gordon; I’m heading southward into the vessel, hopefully I will find some form of bridge or cockpit. The vessel is far larger than any human made space craft and yet… its dimensions suit the average human. I can see handles and grabs which would be useable by human hands. It’s in a state of perfect preservation in this airless and water less environment. I can only guess at the age of this craft, there are symbols like hieroglyphs on the walls. The area ahead is blocked by a tangle of fallen spars, I can proceed no further however this looks like a hatchway.”
Gordon grasped the handle; it fitted a human hand perfectly. He turned it and the door effortlessly swung inward. He checked his oxygen and battery levels, he had approximately 4 hours remaining, ample time to get back to the capsule using the rover. His lights flashed over the chamber which he was in. There was a central dais with a long box like structure upon it. The box had tubes running from either end of it, into the floor and upward to the ceiling.
“I’ve entered a chamber of sorts, I’m going to investigate the dais.”
A sense of dread filled him as he saw the interior of the box. It was a cask with a glass or Perspex cover. Inside he saw the body, the body of a human female. She had an olive skin tone and silver hair in dreadlocks. Her body was in a perfect state of preservation as if she had just fallen asleep. Her hands were joined on her chest holding a crystal.
“Subject is a female, humanoid. I will see if I can open the cask. What the?”
As soon as his hands touched the cask the crystal began to glow. Lights flashed on in the room, he went to turn away but he saw the door shut and he heard a hissing outside his helmet as the vacuum was dispelled from the chamber. He turned back to the cask. In the gentle light the woman was beautiful, as almost divine perfection. He noticed that the Perspex cover had retracted, the crystal was now shining bright. He reached down and delicately took it in his gauntleted hand.  It seemed to glow and looked as if images were moving inside it but he couldn’t see close enough through his visor.
There was atmosphere in the room but he had no idea of knowing what its composition was. Swallowing hard his hand reached to his helmet and the locking mechanism of his visor. He clicked it open and closing his eyes gingerly raised it and breathed in. He sighed in relief and opened his eyes.
“Atmosphere in the chamber is now breathable. I will record as much as I can.”
He held the crystal up closer to his eye; it pulsed with a blue tinged light. As he examined it he felt as if he was being drawn into it, as if time stood still. He was floating in space; he saw the blue and green earth spinning below him, a ship similar in size and shape to what he was in gently cruised past him. He was swept along with it, past the moon, past the weirdly green world of Mars with its seas and pyramids and onward to space beyond, to a hundred worlds where men and women lived, an empire amid the stars.
“Is that what once was? What happened to us?”
He looked at his watch, two hours had passed. He needed to get back to the lander. He put the crystal in a bag, lowered his visor and stepped from the dais. He heard the cask shut behind allowing the goddess to sleep once more. He heard a rushing sound and then silence as the air was vented from the room. He grasped the handle of the hatch and hurried along the corridor back to the breach and out into the bright sunlit crater.
A sense of panic filled dread gripped him. The rover had gone
To be continued

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Apollo 18 - Part 1

April 1973
“Houston, approaching Copernicus Crater, initiating landing procedure in minus 90 seconds.” Commander Richard Gordon looked out of the viewport as the Mare Insularum raced beneath the Eagle Lander.
The radio crackled in delayed response. “Roger Eagle, please be aware that due to the height of the surrounding mountains you will be out of radio contact until the Command Module, Lightfoot, crosses the horizon. However it is advised to maintain radio silence at all times until lift off. Remember your mission is to record images and take soil samples and liaise with the Command Module in approximately 21 hours. Do not stray from your mission parameters.”
“Understood Houston, see you on the other side, Eagle out.”
“Roger Eagle. God speed to Apollo 18, Houston out.”

The radio subsided into a hum of white noise; Commander Gordon flicked the switch to silence it. 
Gerald Carr, the pilot nodded his approval. “Thank you Dick, that noise freaks me out. Well, we’re on our own now.” 
“It’s even worse for Vance,” the Commander replied, “When he takes the CSM into the dark side he will be the loneliest being in the universe.”
“He hopes…”
Carr grunted. “I still can’t believe the orders we were issued hours before take-off; I thought I was following in the giant steps of Armstrong.”
“You are, don’t you think the earlier Apollo missions saw strange things? They were recorded but the knowledge was never made public. Even Neil saw stuff, have no doubt about that. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here; Apollo 17 was put in the utmost danger by its chance discovery when it overflew Copernicus.”
In his mind’s eye the Commander remembered the briefing, he and his crew had been summoned to the secretive meeting with NASA Director James Fletcher and Vice President Ford just prior to their pre-flight quarantine. The Vice President’s face was ashen and he was wreathed in smoke as he nervously smoked his briar pipe. The Director played the recorded observations that Apollo 17 had made. He read the report that the Astronauts who had landed had been observed by humanoid entities and that the Command Module had been buzzed by unidentified craft that were clearly under intelligent control. The crew were originally supposed to spend 3 days on the surface but when their parked rover was destroyed by non-human hand, they quickly abandoned their base.  They then saw the photos that the Command Module had taken. The buildings and structures and of the large, half buried craft that lay, seemingly abandoned in the Copernicus crater. He remembered the words of the Vice President, his hand shakily holding his pipe. “These entities are clearly hostile; they are warning us away from our moon. We need to know why.”
Back in the Lander the Commander turned to the pilot. “You’ve seen the photos, think you can land in that hilly area?”
“Yes Dick I can do it. I wondered why I was trained to approach at a low trajectory. I guess to be as subtle as we can? Entering final approach vector.”
The Commander reached for his helmet and snapped it on. He flicked switches as he co-piloted the Eagle. He looked at his companion. “Gerald, put on your helmet.”
The pilot shook his head. “I can fly better without it. It’s bad enough having to wear these gloves; I need to be in tune with the bird. Ok here’s the Crater’s rim, engaging radar.”
“Check, damn we’re mere meters above these mountains; we’re coming in too fast!”
“relax. Hitting retros, five second burst.”
The Eagle shook as the retro rockets burst into life, slowing the craft. Carr skillfully swung the Eagle into an upright landing position and frantically looked for a clear landing site amid the hills and mounds of the southern half of Copernicus. Concentrating on his job in hand he didn’t notice the Commander scanning the area. 
“Sweet Jesus the reports were correct. There are buildings set into the northern rim. Gerald put us down, I see movement to the north, we’ve been seen. Get us down, now!”
Carr wrestled with the controls; the Eagle twisted this way and that. “The auto-pilot is engaged, it needs to find a clear landing site. You don’t know that they’ve seen us, I kept us low amid the hills. I can’t take us down too quickly…” 
Through the viewports the inky blackness turned brilliant white and the Lander shook. Alarms sounded and lights flashed. The Commander looked out of the portal northwards as the Pilot flicked switches trying to silence the alarms. “Manual Override, take us down, now, that’s an order.”
Carr, visibly shaken, nodded. “Starting rapid descent. Disengaging autopilot. Landfall in 10 seconds, “9, 8...”
He was interrupted as another flash lit up the outside of the Lander and strident sounds of alarms overpowered the roar of the retros.
“We’re under attack! They’re detecting us somehow.” Carr shouted. “It’s the RADAR…”

Carr’s scream and all other noises ceased abruptly as the hull breached, exposing the interior to the vacuum of space. The Commander looked on in horror as he saw Carr try to catch his helmet that shot towards the rupture along with other loose items. Strapped to this chair the struggling Carr’s body began to swell contained with his suit. The dying man’s eyes met the Commander’s one last time, their stare eternal as Carr’s eyes, nose and mouth instantly froze over. Carr’s face and close cropped scalp turned blue as the oxygen in his bloodstream reversed dissolved and his struggling ceased. The Commander quickly turned off the radar and two seconds later the Lander crashed heavily. He felt one of the legs buckle with the impact, his head slammed against the interior of his helmet and he knew no more. 
To be continued.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Planet Fall

“Somebody do something about these ants, I thought this was a hermetically sealed bunker ?” the woman said, brushing away the insects that  gathered around the coffee rings on the desk.
“They get everywhere Madam President. Apparently ants have more effect on the entire globes’ ecosystems that any other organism, even ours’. I heard one theory that an alien intelligence would view them as the dominant lifeform on earth,“  the servant said, placing the coffee on the table. “I’ll see if we have any insecticide.”
“Thank you Abby, that will be all for now."
Alien intelligence? Yes indeed. President Helen Clayton took a deep breath, as the enormity of what she had to impart to her fellow Americans and the world beyond hung over her, leaden and crushing. She had been in touch with the heads of state of her allies and the Presidents of Russia and China. Ever since the standoff at the Spratly Islands there had been a return to a cold war that threatened to burst into open conflict at any moment. She had grown used to the constant bellicose rhetoric from the now aged President Putin (dictator of Russia in all but name) with regard to the Ukraine and the usual national assertiveness from President Jinping of China, forever pushing against their geographical neighbours. Such nationalistic attitudes seemed of little import now, although the two carrier fleets were still positioned within striking distance of the South China Sea. Despite the decision of issuing joint communiques there was every chance that a hothead in the PLA would use the coming chaos and distraction for personal and nationalistic gain. On the walls plasma screens showed live feeds of the panic beginning to grip humanity.
The President looked up from her carefully worded script, sipped her coffee and looked over her half-moon reading glasses.  She had the greatest speech writers at her disposal; the most expert specialists in cognitive linguistics and Psychoanalysis, yet none could cushion the impact of what her chief scientific advisors were telling her.
She turned to her Security Advisor, Donald Robertson and the NASA liaison officer Dr Davina Newman. “It shows no sign of altering course or of replying to our communications?”
Dr Newman shook her head, “Mrs President, the signal from Comet 67P remains the same. Our colleagues at ESA are constantly monitoring for any change with the Rosetta probe and there has been no change in the singing comet’s song, or a change in direction since it put itself on a collision course with Earth.”
“Has this ‘song’ been translated as yet?”
“Negative Madam President,” the Security Advisor said grimly, “Despite running it through numerous binary algorithms, as yet it has not yielded to translation.”
“Yet it’s transmitting to earth?”
“Indeed Madam President,”  Dr Newman chided in,” We picked up the signal from behind  background Neutron Star bursts back in 1985. They were growing in intensity and very soon were found to be adopting an unknown mathematical pattern. Fortunately this was back in the 80’s prior to the explosion of the internet. With use of HAARP we were able to mask it to the great degree; not before the Soviets had detected it. Fortunately the USSR was in its death throes at the time however hardline Communists passed on the information to China…” Dr Newman looked at the Security Advisor, unsure about continuing.
The President drummed her fingers. “Well? It’s a little late in the day for secrets now don’t you think?” She glared at the Security Advisor. “You were in the CIA, Mr Robertson, what do you know?”
He sighed. “Indeed it is Madam President. When the signals were first detected we were in the midst of the Cold War. Your predecessor Ronald Reagan had initiated the Star Wars policy by way of looking into the possibilities of guarding against extra-terrestrial threats under the guise of global security. This policy continued under Bush Senior but the costs were spiralling. The Clinton administration toyed with making it public and introducing the idea into popular culture with shows like the X Files etc,  especially as  the signal was getting stronger and beginning to overpower the HAARP blockade. Under Bush Junior more investment was thrown at the HAARP technology, strengthening it by use of adding Aluminium and Barium into the atmosphere by the use of the so called Chem Trails. We covered our tracks by first denying this was happening and then, in deep code encryption, stating that this was to counter global warming. This was later revealed through WikiLeaks to the Conspiracy theorists and thereby doing our job for us. However…”
“This had the effect,” Dr Newman said helping her colleague, “Of creating a residual hum and also these trumpets of the apocalypse – much loved by internet conspiracy theorists.  Not to mention causing health issue in soils and water supplies across population centres. ”
“So,” the President said, “Far from reducing panic it created panic of its own?”
“This coincided with Iraq and the worsening Middle East situation. We were able to blame this toxification of soils and aquifers on Fracking which became popular as if freed our energy policy from that area. Meanwhile our European allies had launched the Rosetta probe in 2004 so we could get a measure of this Comet; our own space resources were tied up in building a defense grid coordinated with ISS.”
“Talking of conspiracy theorists what about this explosion of crop circles, are we behind that as well?”
Robertson and Newman looked at each other. “No Madam President,” Dr Newman answered, “ That isn’t us. That is way out conspiracy tin-foil hattery. They are made by pranksters.”
“But they globally all have the same fractal design, even those in the canopies of forests”
“Just dark web paranoia and mischief Madam President; CGI creations, nothing more.”
“I’m glad to hear it. So why can’t we activate the defence grid?  Mr Robertson?”
“It’s not ready is the simple answer,” Robertson answered, brushing an ant off his trousers. “The comet wasn’t due to intersect with the Earth’s until 2018, however…”
“It changed course when Rosetta launched its Philae lander, “Dr Newman answered. The pictures it collected were extraordinary; it soon became clear it was no comet, but an alien construct built to mimic one. There were structures hidden among the rock and ice. “
“A mimic?”
“Yes, like insects and arachnids do on earth: caterpillars evolved to look like snakes, spiders like ants, drone lies like bees, that sort of thing.”
“Why does no-one know this?”
“The ESA cut the live feed. The story was that the probe had gone into hibernation as Philae was in a canyon out of the sunlight to power its solar cells.”
“So here we are. An alien spacecraft is about to crash into the earth. Its impact will cause a global massive extinction event.”
“It is due to make planet fall  anywhere along the Tropic of Cancer, “ Robertson answered, “To counter any unrest, after you make your announcement we have instigated Operation Jade Helm; this exercise will rapidly be converted to impose martial law in the southern states in the target area if required.”

“Ok, all is in place. I had better make my announcem…”
“Madam President!”
“Yes Abby, what is it?”
“This has just arrived,“  the servant said handing the President a printed email.
President Clayton read the email, her already pale features drained even more so of blood. “My god…” she said handing the email to Dr Newman.
“What does it say?” Robertson demanded.
“It’s a report on the transmissions from 67P,” Dr Newman answered, “They were run through a fractal program and they gave a formic based pheromone message. The Fractals matched the crop circles.”
“What was the message?”
“One word; eradication!”
“Formic? Isnt that…?
On the walls the plasma screens flashed and flickered as they all began to show the same image overpowering all other transmissions. It was a face, insectoid, ant-like.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Character Blog Hop

I've been invited to introduce one of my characters by Paula Lofting

I would like to introduce you to the fictional Commander Rendroc Kaziviere. When he first appeared before me on the page he seemed a predictable baddie, but he told me more about himself and I gradually began to respect and then like him. He is one of the main protagonists in my Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow fantasy series. His is an alternative world where creatures fantastical and prehistoric live beside modern animals and where magic is real. The technology of the time is of the late medieval to Renaissance period, but with a twist. Alongside armies with pike and matchlock muskets, naval ships are powered by huge clockwork engines. it’s a bit similar to the genre “steampunk” , but I prefer the term “clockpunk” to describe this world!


I first introduced Kaziviere in my debut The Sun Shard, he is a commander in the Taleeli Empire; the power that holds sway over The Summerlands. The Summerlands were an area peopled tribes of men and Flint Folk (Neanderthals). For centuries these peoples had shared the Summerlands and resisted the incursions of the Taleeli’s - a warlike people from the Island of Cyria to the south. The Summerlanders successfully remained independent until the Empire discovered their “black powder alchemy” and inflicted a terrible defeat upon them some two and a half centuries previously. The victors had actively exiled the Flint Folk (whose religion and magic the Taleeli's despised), driving them over the Hailthorn Mountains to the cold lands in the far north . The Empire was now looking to embark on a campaign far overseas to the south and uses its Northern Holdings (the Summerlands) as a source of wealth, materials and levies for its armies and fleets. War between Taleel and its rival, the age old empire of Acaross to the east, is almost a certainty.

The Sun Shard followed the story of newly recruited levies who found themselves under the command of Kaziviere. Kaziviere is first seen as a handsome yet cruel and aloof man. He looks down upon the Summerlands and its peoples and is keen for his tour in the Northern Holdings to end so he can return south to proper soldiering. He kills a captured Flinter priest and cuts the tongue out of a levy who dared question him and threaten mutiny. However during a skirmish and later on in exposing treason we find that Kaziviere is a very capable commander with a profound sense of honour and responsibility to those he commands. 
Unwittingly he has been used as tool of this treason, which causes him to question his self righteousness and beliefs. During a battle on the streets of the provincial capital Kaziviere’s life is saved by two of his Summerlander levies, including the one who’s tongue he removed. Without realising it, he becomes highly protective of the Summerlands and its peoples, as without their help, and loyalty to him personally, the treachery would have prevailed. He falls in love with the northern woman, Tamzine, who aided him. Her love helps him come to terms with the changing situation, but in his heart he carries a heavy burden of guilt over the cruelty he once casually dispensed to those he once thought below him.

In a final showdown it is only the love he carries for Tamzine that proves to be a stronger magic than that which threatens to consume all around him. He casts down the living god of Acaross - the Messiah of Shadows - into the well of souls (a magical portal) but in doing so is transported far from the Summerlands.

There's is much more of course and that can be found within the pages of The Sun Shard.

In my sequel - The Dead Gods - several threads take the story further; as the war clouds are gathering an expedition is launched to try to find out where Kaziviere has gone. We find Kaziviere alone, with only vague memories of what he once was, on the far fringes of the empire of Acaross, enslaved and now fighting for his survival in a gladiatorial ring. It is only the vague memory of Tamzine, who's name has now become his word of power, that keeps him alive. His memory gradually returns and he learns more of the nature of,  his now mortal enemy, the Messiah of Shadows. He must find a way back; to warn Taleel of the forces they face, to help his new found friend and fellow slave, Nurarna, and of course to be reunited with Tamzine.


The Dead Gods is currently being edited and will hopefully be released this summer. Some excerpts, background information and concept art can be found at my Facebook author page: Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A Flawed Perfection

“And you say this area is how large, Russell?”
Russell  Lawrence smiled at his superior. “In the cosmic scheme of things it is tiny, but in human terms it is vast; we estimate it is over one billion light years across.”
“One billion light years of complete void?”
“Indeed.  We first noticed it when analysing data from NASA’s WMAP satellite…”  
“Excuse me, the WMAP?”
“The Wikinson Microwave Anistropy Probe; it mapped the Cosmic Microwave Background. This area appeared to be a cosmic coldspot, containing little residual energy from the Big Bang. We studied it in detail and there were no radio emissions from that area; no galaxies or clusters, nothing.”
“An area of Dark Energy perhaps?”
“Not even that, Director. Dark Matter can’t be seen but betrays its presence through microwave radiation. It even seems to slow photons – light particles – which pass through it.”
“Then what can this area be?”
Russell shrugged his shoulders. “A flaw in the universe? At this stage we just don’t know…”

“It’s exquisite and priceless, where was this diamond found?” the Jewel Appraiser held the huge crystal, his loupe lens to his eye.
“It was found in an ancient Egyptian temple, of around 2700BCE at the beginnings of the Old Kingdom.” The Archaeologist answered.
The Appraiser laughed. “I’m sure. But who cut it? This must be over 3100 carats and it weighs over half a kilo. It is unusual not to have been alerted to such a jewel, when it is sent to be cut from its rough form.”
“It was discovered in its present state.”

The Appraiser looked up at the man, a disbelieving look in his eye. “No it wasn’t. This jewel has been cut and polished to near perfection, just look at the facets, each the same size. Besides are you telling me that this diamond was cut over a thousand years before the iron age? And then just left in a pyramid?”
“It wasn’t found in a pyramid, it was found in a previously unknown building complex.”
“And you just stumbled upon the site?”
“No. We followed the Piri Reis map. “
“Should I be aware of this map?”

“It dates from 1513 and belonged to an Ottoman Admiral; Piri Reis. It is only a fragment and yet shows parts of the world –lands around the Atlantic Ocean - in extraordinary detail. It is said that a certain Christopher Columbus may have seen it prior to his voyage of discovery. It is said to be a copy from a Ptolemaic copy chart in the library fire at Alexandria. The whole map has a spider web  of compass roses superimposed upon it.  When we converted it to a modern map , using a computer programme, the centre pinpointed where we found this relic.”
“It just can’t be,” The Appraiser said, “This is no relic, the cutting is near perfect.”
“Near perfect? You’ve said near perfect twice now.”
“Yes, here I’ll show you,” the Appraiser said handing over his Loupe Lens. “You’ll need maximum magnification, but if you look just to the left of centre you will see a dark area. Do you see it? It’s quite amazing in itself; there seems no foreign body or anomaly causing it. You can see it from all the different sides, no light can seem to pass through it.”
“What can it be?”
“Even in something as perfect as this, there is a flaw, shall we use stronger magnification and have a look?”

“And you say this area is how large, Russell?”
Russell  Lawrence smiled at his superior. “In the cosmic scheme of things it is tiny, but in human terms it is vast; we estimate it is over one billion light years across.”
“One billion light years of complete void...”

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Cradle will Fall

-Rockaby baby on the tree top -

The Titan Star Trawler nudged closer to the bloated heliosphere, swinging the particle nets behind the ion engine driven craft.

“It appears as though there is a spike of solar activity,” the helmsman said in his semi-electronic voice. “I would recommend a course correction to account for the incoming gravity wave and the drag caused by the increased mass we are towing.”

“Stay on this course for a while longer Helmsman,” the Captain replied in his similar half organic drone. “Are we nearing the desert world?”

“Yes Captain we are following its orbit, however…” the Helmsman’s answer was interrupted by an insistent beeping of an alarm. He reached and switched it off, as his cranial feed was given data from the Star Trawler’s sensors. “We can tarry on this orbit no longer Captain, sensors indicate that the heliosphere is entering a period of expansion and will consume the desert world at any moment.”

-When the wind blows the cradle will rock-

The captain’s voice emitter made a strange eerie sound, like a grating sigh. “Very well, take us out one half AU now, but keep parallel with this orbit. We will make another orbit of the star to take advantage of the coming mass expulsion, not to mention the metals available from the destroyed planet.”

“Very well Captain,” the Helmsman replied, adjusting the course, taking the Trawler further out. The ship began to shake violently as the engines fought the gravitational effects of the bloated star on the ballooning particle nets and their increasing mass. More alarms sounded and the helmsman’s organocyborg  digits moved furiously  on the naviboard.

-When the bough breaks-

“Helmsman!” the Captain said in concern as more lights flashed warnings about compromises to the hull integrity.

 The shaking gradually subsided as the hum of the ion engines increased and compensated for the increased drag. The Helmsman voice emitter gave a cackling rattle as he laughed; one by one the alarms began to terminate their warnings. “That was close it appears that the star is expanding as we speak. But thanks to my skill we will see Titan again… and I’ve saved our haul!”

The Captain’s voice emitter did not echo the Helmsman’s humour. “If we… you had lost our haul then you may as well exit the airlock and join the star yourself.” The Captain reconsidered his reprimand.” But well done. Yes we shall see Titan again.”  His synthiorganic mind wandered then as he recalled the beauty of the reflections of the Ringed Mother in the methane polar seas of his home world and yet, his species original Eden had been…

“Are we parallel with the desert world yet Helmsman?”

“We are catching up with its trajectory, but it is about to be hit by the heliosphere and we will have to erase it from our star charts.”

-The cradle will fall-

The desert world gone? It had not always been the wasteland it now was. Legends spoke of water in abundance. “Open the blast doors, Helmsmen, Iet's see its demise.” The plastisteel doors opened turning the interior of the craft red. The red giant was now burning iron, its hydrogen fuel long since depleted; it was in the long drawn out stage of stellar senility. It dominated the view screen as its churning surface approached the tiny speck of the desert world.

-And down will come baby-

The Captain felt an immense feeling of sadness. His voice emitter croaked “I would see this with my own eyes.” He took off his facial plate. Amid the tubes and amalgam of flesh and machine his grey eyes blinked as they adjusted to the filter free vision. He felt the strange sting of tears as precious water began to issue from his eyes.
“Cradle and all.” He said solemnly as the planet was engulfed.


“Its nothing Helmsmen, just random thoughts that have been in my mind since waking from stasis.” In his dreams there was a hidden memory passed down from clone to clone in the invitro tubes; a world of green and blue where ships once plied seas of pure H2O. “Titan wasn’t always our world, you know? Once we were fully organic and came from that very place, long ago. It was once called Earth…”