The second story in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 is by Gene Mederos. Born in Cuba and raised in Brooklyn, he wrote his first story in second grade. Mederos received a BFA in Theater from the University of Miami and has worked as an illustrator, graphic designer and various odd jobs including a seven year stretch at the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in NewYork City. In 2007, he discovered filmmaking and currently teaches editing and filmmaking at the Santa Fe Community College. Most recent stories in print include the stories “Moons of Blood and Amber” in the Tangle XY anthology published by Blind Eye Press, and “A Touch of Frost” in the Space Horrors: Full-Throttle Space Tales #4 anthology published by Flying Pen Press. He can be found online at Facebook or via his website at http://lostsaints.com.
BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?
Gene Mederos: I was in the Space Horrors anthology and I like the imprint, it hearkens back to yesteryear.
BTS: Tell us a little about “The Thirteens.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?
GM: At the core, the story is about tolerance for diversity, even toleration for the intolerant. It’s an old Sci-Fi trope, that the only thing that will unite warring parties is a bigger, badder alien or even the unknown. As for the inspiration, I have friends from the extreme left to the extreme right, politically, so it wasn’t hard to craft the mindsets for the characters.
BTS: You’ve contributed to multiple anthologies in the Full Throttle Space Tales series. Are they tied to this story in any way?
GM: They nominally take place in the same universe, one where physics is not as abridged as on Star Trek and Star Wars, but faster than light travel is available, and about two hundred years in the future.
BTS: How’d you come to be involved with this series?
GM: My friend Trent Zelazny put me in touch with David Lee Summers who was putting together the Space Horrors anthology. It’s all about who you know…
BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?
GM: I’ve always loved stories, and am always telling stories. It was a natural progression to start writing stories to share with others that way.
BTS: Where’d your interest in SFF come from?
GM: Comic books, the original Lost in Space and Star Trek, and the first musty hard cover edition of Dune I found at the local library.
BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this universe?
GM: Yes, as a vehicle, or a common canvas, not necessarily with any of the characters already seen in print, but cameos are fun.
BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?
GM: I have lots in the works, lol, most writers do. I’ve submitted a story to Bad Ass Fairies 4 which I hope they’ll publish, and am hunkering down to write an extreme planet story for another anthology, and I have the requisite novels. But I believe mastery of the short story form is a prerequisite to a good novel, so I consider myself still in training.
Here’s an excerpt from “The Thirteens,” Gene’s exciting story from Space Battles:
Nestled deeply in the foam mattress of the semi-luxurious hotel suite her rank afforded her, Captain Andromeda Sax was sound asleep when her com went off. The double pulse told her it was something important enough to warrant a secure connection. Even less than half awake her hand automatically flew to the spot on her jaw below her right ear. She pressed the small stud embedded there under her skin.
“Captain, a bogey has entered the system,” the officer of the watch on board her ship, La Espada de la Libertad, informed her.
That could have been anywhere from four to six hours ago, depending on which of the outer system beacons had first detected
the incoming ship and transmitted the alert. A bogey was a ship that did not, or could not, transmit a valid ID code. It could be a smuggler, a legitimate freighter with a screwy comp—or it could be the enemy. Sax allowed herself a small smile; after all, there was no
one around to see it.
“Recall the crew, priority one.” That gave the crew ten minutes to
get back aboard the ship. She spared one last glance at her room. Aquarii
Station was on the frontier, but it still managed to offer most of the comforts
of the more cosmopolitan stations of the home-worlds. Accommodations
on La Espada were much more austere. She smiled again.
Five minutes later she strode onto the bridge. She hadn’t really had
time to dress, just comb her short-cropped jet-black hair and throw on
her officer’s greatcoat, but the voluminous garment covered her from
neck to ankles. And if anyone noticed she was wearing slippers instead
of boots, they wouldn’t dare comment on it. The guards at the
door snapped to attention. The crew on the bridge was all in uniform
and seated at their stations. She always kept a full watch on duty while
the rest of the crew took liberty.
“Inform the stationmaster we are launching to investigate,” she instructed
the com officer, then requested the general hail. “Emergency separation from
Aquarii station in T-minus four minutes.” That was sure to make the stragglers
scramble, for anyone left behind would have to fend for themselves out of
their own pocket. Stations were notorious for separating crew from their coin,
and the community service often imposed to pay off a debt was the most odious
of station maintenance work. Some of the crew would not return, for the
ship had its own share of odious duties as well as providing a greater chance
of getting killed. She’d deal with any of those persons when she returned. She
never thought ‘if’.
“Release hook-ups,” she ordered on the mark.
“Hook-ups released,” the officer at conn replied. She heard the
usual chorus of clicks as everyone strapped themselves in.
La Espada was now completely on its own power, air and water.
Sax strapped herself into her chair.
The station’s magnetic clamps released the ship and she imagined
the hiss of air as the powerful propellant tanks pushed them away
from the station and felt the familiar tug as the gravity provided by the
station’s rotation gave way to the gravity generated by the ship’s sudden
acceleration. She felt the weight ease an instant before the conn
announced they were standing clear of the station.
“Full sail,” she ordered. The most insane and courageous members
of her crew were the riggers. At her command they jetted out in EVA
suits along the masts and struts to unfurl the giant micro-thin solar sails.
The riggers claimed watching the golden sails catch the rays of the sun
was akin to a religious experience. She’d never seen the phenomenon
herself, but figured it must be quite a sight if it could induce one to hurl
oneself into the void to see it.
Acceleration under sail would increase slowly, but surely.
“Begin rotation,” she ordered.
“Beginning rotation,” the engineering deck replied on the ship-wide
hail, the only warning the crew would get that up and down had to be
taken into account again. The sound of the engines that rotated the cylindrical
ship within its frame of struts and masts starting up did not need to
be imagined. It reverberated and shook throughout the ship. Fortunately,
once the ship began to spin at speed, inertia was maintained by magnetic
induction and the engines would be almost silent.
The captain felt herself sink ever so slightly into the cushioning. A
thought, via implant and wireless transmission, was all it took to make
the chair turn slightly on its horizontal axis. She, like the crew, enjoyed
the automated, computer guided functions on the ship while she
could. During battle, with the comp taken offline, everything had to
be done manually. The navigator’s station came into view and with it
the senior nav officer, Poole. This was the one crewmember she would
never leave behind. As she understood it, the ship ran on numbers, and
this was the man who crunched them when the comp was down.
Poole raised his head from his displays, as if he could feel her
scrutiny like a sensorite. Like all the human beings from his planet,
Cygni-I, his skin had a slight blue cast and his hair was colorless.
These obvious and innocuous signs of the genetic modifications
undertaken by his ancestors to survive on their relatively oxygenpoor
world were all that the Purists needed to hate Poole’s kind. Sax
thought them fools. If anything, the Cygni were far more dangerous
for what they had done to their minds.
“Have you correlated a course, Mr. Poole?”
“Let’s have it then.”
Immediately, a heads up display appeared before her, La Espada’s
course outlined against the current layout of the system in a bright
certain blue. Lines shaded from yellow to green showed the most
probable courses of the bogey, extrapolated second by second as more
sensor data came in from the beacons arrayed throughout the system.
She was pleased to see that the most probable vectors would intercept
with her ship well above the plane of the ecliptic, where there would
be plenty of fighting room, if necessary. She knew that the universe
was more empty space than matter, but to her the Aquarii system had
always seemed cluttered with asteroids, comets and other debris.
Debris that could damage her ship.
She willed La Espada to go faster, and closed her eyes to imagine
the nonexistent creaking of the rigging and masts as light pushed
the solar sails out against the star’s pull on the ship. She’d been on a
sailing ship once, on the oceans of Maravilla, before the Associated
Worlds lost the Lalande system to the Purists. Someday, she meant to
win that world back. But since the faster than light engine could not be
used anywhere near a star’s gravity well, the ship could go faster only
as they got farther from the star. She could order a burn, and kick the
ship up to her full speed of a hundred kilometers per second, roughly
a third the speed of light. But if she were headed for battle, she would
be wise to reserve all the fuel in the tanks for maneuvers.
It would take a little under thirty hours for the ships to meet, and
there was much to be done. “Steady as she goes,” she ordered Poole
as she turned her chair to line up with the exit from the bridge. This
brought Augusto Lo into view. His bronze-brown skin was a few
shades lighter than the captain’s, his eyes and tousled hair darker. He
was actually earth-born, yet had rejected the Purist philosophy and
immigrated to an Associate world as a youth. He was slouched at his
usual station at the rear of the bridge, his eyes half closed, his head
resting on his fist, his other hand fiddling idly with the buckles on his
disheveled jumpsuit. To all appearances he was oblivious to what was
going on around him. But it was all an act. The captain knew that the
‘State Liaison Officer’ never missed a thing that happened on the ship.
So she wasn’t the least bit surprised when he came up behind her in
the corridor as she waited for the lift. The guards wouldn’t stop him from
coming after her like that, after all, they ultimately answered to him.
“Odd, isn’t it?”
She raised an eyebrow in reply.
“If I’m not mistaken, that bogey is following the same trajectory
as the last Purist ship that attacked this system.”
The captain nodded. “Yes, I’d noticed that.”
“But that approach gives you, the defender, the weather gauge. The
bogey has to expend fuel to fight the same solar wind that La Espada
has at her back, filling our sails, leaving it less fuel to maneuver. These
were decisive factors in our victory against the last incursion.”
Again, the captain raised her brow.
“And your superior skill at command and tactics, of course,” he
amended with a small grin. Sax smiled in return, more because of his use of
the archaic term ‘weather gauge’ than his sardonic compliment. “Everything
means something,” he said in return.
“Then figure it out,” she said, after pausing for a moment to visualize
her deck number.
Lo nodded. “Nice slippers,” she heard him say as the lift doors
An hour before intercept the captain was touring her ship as she
was wont to do before a battle. And she had no doubt that there would be
a battle—the bogey’s course was lining up exactly with the last Purist
ship’s incursion. A statistical impossibility, Poole had assured her.
So this ship was using the last ship’s comp data, possibly retrieved
from the latter’s logs, which would have been downloaded into a locator
beacon before the ship went into battle. It made no sense to her,
but then, she thought the whole Purist agenda made little sense. She
entered the rigger’s loft in the core of the ship. Since the ship rotated
around the core, there was no gravity in the long, cold cylinder. It
was the perfect place to store cargo, house the ship’s engines and, of
course, the riggers.
A rigger spotted her and snapped to attention, his elongated
prehensile toes grasping a length of cable to steady himself. He
was blond and blue-eyed, not too bad looking, with a crooked nose
and a wry twist to his mouth that suggested he was always smiling.
He was tall and thin, his arms and legs of equal length, with all twenty
digits being equally dexterous. His name was Jaller. He’d served on
her ship for the past four years and she knew him to be brave, loyal,
and kind. And even though the rigger’s section of the core was only
partially heated, he was naked, as was their wont. Diversity. The idea
and the reality that the Purists condemned as unnatural.
She drifted among the riggers, male and females both, for no few
minutes, praising their courage, thanking them for their service and
exhorting them to battle. Despite her duty uniform and her boots, she
still managed to skillfully make her way in Zero G among the giant
web of cables that the riggers called home. Their ancestors had destroyed
their world in a paroxysm of industrialization that had seen the
world laid waste in just six generations after colonization. The riggers
had been forced to evacuate onto space stations and ships and had
during the centuries of the sundering, when all of humanity’s worlds
had lost contact with each other and faster than light travel had been
abandoned, modified themselves to live in micro-gravity.
Members of no fewer than five of the existing seven modified human
races served on her ship and of the remaining two, the Aquarii had inadvertently
made themselves highly susceptible to space sickness and the folk of
Twobit were devout pacifist.
Her last stop on her tour was always the medical deck. Doctor
Stures was a sensorite, his people hailed from the dust-cloaked planet
of Gliese 876, Umbra. The world was metal poor and had erratic
magnetic fields so technology had been difficult to maintain.
Without much artificial illumination, the people of that world had
modified their other senses to compensate for the gloom. His skin
was blue-black with raised oblong bumps that ran from his hairline
to his jaw. She knew them to be receptors, allowing the doctor
to feel minute changes in temperature, in air pressure and displacement,
even vibrations. His eyes were hidden behind a band of dark
glass, to protect them from the ship’s bright illumination. He greeted
her in his usual way.
“Ah, Captain, in excellent health I see.” And by see he actually
meant by smell, by feeling her body temperature and by hearing her
heart beat in her chest. “All is in readiness for the coming battle.”
She had expected no less. His people were sensitive by nature and
design, but they were also pragmatists. He wasn’t one of those medical
officers who questioned the need for battle.
“We don’t know that the bogey is hostile—” she began to say.
“Pshaw,” the doctor interjected. A liberty he could take here, on
his deck. “From what I’ve heard, how could it be anything else?”
“Indeed,” the captain said, raising her brow. News travelled fast
on a ship. She believed the ancient term was ‘scuttlebutt’. Satisfied
that her ship was in order, she headed for the bridge.
As the captain stepped onto the bridge, the ship’s executive officer,
Commander Ortencia, saluted and left. The XO’s station during battle
was located close to the core, half the ship’s length from the bridge, a
hopefully safe distance from anything that might happen to or on the
bridge. The commander would monitor all activities on the bridge from
there and issue orders in support of the captain’s activities during battle.
In exchange, Major Drummond, the Captain of the Guard, took a station
on the bridge. When ships sailed on oceans his troops would have been
“We are coming to transmission and targeting range,” Poole said.
“Furl sails, retract masts,” she ordered the riggers. “Advise the
ship and begin viral transmission,” she ordered the com officer.
She waited until all decks had acknowledged.
“Take the computer network offline, Mr. Poole.”
A few seconds later she saw the board at the Armscomp station
“Bogey firing missiles!”
Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here starting now (preorders end April 17).
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