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Excerpt for Outposts of Beyond October 2018 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





Outposts of Beyond

October 2018




Published by Alban Lake Publishing at Smashwords




This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.




Contents

Short Stories

Well of Urd and Maligned Stars by Samantha Payne

Citizen Alpha by Eric Avedissian

The Mask of Niamh Diado by Priya Sridhar

Piano Recital by Francis W. Alexander

There Will Never Be Any More Solken Wine by K.D. Azariah-Kribbs

Rendered by Her Deeds by Dale W. Glaser

Magic Beans by Steve DuBois

Tree’s Last Mayor by Paul Williams

The Breach by Lee Clark Zumpe


Flash Fiction

The Many Lives of Swan Everly by Christina Sng


Poetry

Discoveries by Francis W. Alexander

Pick Up the Phone by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Ching Shih and Her Pirate Crew Attack a Cargo Ship Escorted by a Man-O’-War by Kendall Evans

Mesa by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Future Challenges to be Considered with Regard to Waste Management by Allan Rozinski

The Muse of Astronomy by Shawn Vimislicky


Features

My Early Twenty-First Century Rant by Kendall Evans




*

THE STAFF OF OUTPOSTS OF BEYOND:


OUTPOSTS EDITOR: Tyree Campbell

MANAGING EDITOR: Karen Otto

WEBMASTER: Bill Otto

ADMIN/FINANCE OFFICER: Karen Otto


Cover art “Vigilant” by Laura Givens

Cover design by Laura Givens


We highly encourage letters to the editor, and will publish some as a feature in future editions of Outposts of Beyond. Send them to albanlake@yahoo.com, and please put Letters in the subject line.


Vol. VI, No.2October 2018

Outposts of Beyond is published quarterly on the 1st day of January, April, July, and October in the United States of America by Alban Lake Publishing, P.O. Box 141, Colo, Iowa, 50056-0141. Copyright 2018 by Alban Lake Publishing. All rights revert to authors and artists upon publication except as noted in selected individual contracts. Nothing may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the authors and artists. Any similarity between places and persons mentioned in the fiction or semi-fiction and real places or persons living or dead is coincidental. Writers and artists guidelines are available online at www.albanlake.com. Guidelines are also available upon request from Alban Lake, P.O. Box 141, Colo, Iowa, USA, 50056-0141, if request is accompanied by a self-addressed #10 envelope with a first-class US stamp. Editor: Tyree Campbell. Subscriptions: $27 for one year [4 issues], $50 for two years [8 issues]. Single copies $8.00 postage paid in the United States. Subscriptions to Canada: $33 for one year, $60 for two years. Single copies $10.00 postage paid to Canada. U.S. and Canadian subscribers remit in U.S. funds. All other countries inquire about rates.




Discoveries

Francis W. Alexander


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A primitive civilization has been found.

It has an elementary form of transmission

coming from a planet in the Cinderella Zone

in the A9 quadrant of the universe.

We have translated their transmissions,

the most interesting showing events

like A Trip to the Moon

and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The beings are bipedal and of one color.

They are haunted by monsters

of all types and shapes

and are very violent

with crude primitive weapons.

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Upon our arrival to this blue planet

we see nothing like the transmissions.

Bipeds have never stepped on Mars.

The true monsters are bipedal.

There is a marvelous myriad

of colors among the bipeds

with primitive weapons that are evolving.

We conclude that these bipeds

may not ever leave this planet –

nor should they.




A Little Help, Please


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Poison Planet

By Jerry Neves



Aliens rule Earth. Humans are required to provide a tribute of workers. They’ll take Kiri Malik’s brother unless she volunteers in his place. She’s told she need serve only a year—a lie. Kiri is taken to a compound on another planet. The aliens, Centrarqs, treat their prisoners as slaves. Many die under harsh conditions. None ever leave. Escape is impossible because the atmosphere outside the camp is unbreathable.


But Kiri discovers there is nothing wrong with the atmosphere. She can escape, but to escape means being trapped on this planet with no hope of returning to Earth. She will soon die if she doesn’t leave, giving her little choice. Her escape leads her into the hands of another alien race native to the planet. They have a weapon lethal to the Centrarqs, but won’t risk coming out of hiding to use it.


For Kiri to ever see her family again, she must find a way to wield this weapon and throw off the yoke of Centrarq rule.


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Well of Urd

and Maligned Stars

Samantha Payne



All who lived in the nine worlds of Yggdrasil’s roots, from humans to gods, were subject to the Norns who dwelt within the Well of Urd that rest beneath the great ash tree at the center of the universe. Urd, what once was, Verdandi, what is coming into being, and Skuld, what shall be, carved the destinies of children into Yggdrasil’s bark and watched destiny take shape. The three sisters served as consults to the mighty Odin, Allfather of the Gods, in preparation for Ragnarök, the fall of humanity. While Odin and many of his children would not be spared once Ragnarök came to pass, through guidance of the Norns, Odin could ensure the survival of the mortals who worshipped him. One man and one woman would be spared. A chosen set, whose destinies would cross through infinite lives.

He was hers. He’d always be hers. Her gold eyes were like spring to his cold core. He’d not been unfeeling before her, he’d been angry and violent, as was the nature of the God of War and Skies, Týr, but she evened his temper. She, Líf, a mortal woman from the realm of Midgard, had captured the heart of a god.

Týr had been injured in battle, prepared to face a warrior’s death and ascend to the halls of Valhalla when he fell into Líf’s grace. He stumbled through the trees, his hand pressed against the wound in his chest, and entered a clearing where a woman sat hand stitching a dress made of linen. Her hair was a fair shade of hazelnut and brushed the top of her shoulders. Over her dark dress she wore a hooded pelt. She set the cloth in her hands down and rushed to Týr’s side as his knees crashed to the earth and he collapsed.

Her voice was calm as she lifted his head onto her lap and looked down at his wound. “Are you alright?”

Týr’s eyes were shut tight in pain. He’d hoped to die unseen. He was a God of War and though he would die in battle with honor, he would rather spend an eternity in Helheim being ripped apart by hounds than be seen as weak in front of one measly woman. Týr smacked Líf’s hand away from him. “I’m fine.” He sat up and attempted to stand but his feet wouldn’t carry him. He fell onto his hands and knees and Líf knelt in front of him.

“Let me help you.”

Before Líf could set her hand on Týr’s shoulder he looked up at her with a narrow glare in his blue eyes. “Keep your human filth off me.”

“Human filth? Are we not the same?” He appeared human. His long, black hair cascaded over his shoulders onto the ground. He wore a grey tunic and what remained of a red half-cape pinned to the shining armor on his shoulder by the large linked-chain that draped diagonally across his chest and back. He dressed strangely and his hair was uniquely dark but that didn’t mean he wasn’t human. When she touched him his body was warm like hers and he bled as mortals did. How could he be any different than she was? “Even if you aren’t human, you’re still hurt.”

“Just go back to your garment making and leave me be, wench.” Týr’s demeanor remained unchanged even as his blood dripped between his fingers.

Líf never heard someone speak with such irritation. It was like looking at a wild animal. His words were harsh and with his lips drawn back and snarling she could see his teeth. The canine on the left side of his mouth was sharper than its mirroring partner and she found it charming despite his aggression. She returned his anger with a smile and cupped his shoulders with her hands. “Human, animal, it doesn’t matter what you are,” she paused and used her teeth to rip the sleeve of her dress. “I won’t watch you die.”

Týr let go of his wound and grabbed her wrist. “Animal? How dare you! I am a god!”

“Well, god, sir, you’re bleeding.” She forced her wrist free and tore the shirt of his tunic so she could better see his wound.

Týr was both surprised and irritated by her candidness. No one had ever stood up to him before. He was respected and feared but she didn’t care who or what he was. She did as she pleased. He attempted to fight her off one last time but when he went to remove her hand from him she caught his wrist. “Release me.”

Líf looked up from Týr’s wound and met his gaze with hers. “The more you talk, the more you bleed. So please, be quiet.”

Her hand was warm and small, he could’ve easily overpowered her, even in his regretful state but he froze. His jaw went slack as he stared into her eyes. They were gold like honey and determined. Týr had never lost a fight, even the frost giant that had wounded him perished, and yet, he surrendered to her. He felt no shame in defeat, but something else…sadness when her eyes left his and tranquility in her hands.


Týr found himself in Midgard more than he liked to admit after Líf insisted on saving his life. She’d used the copper needle and thread she’d carried with her to close his wound and watched over him as he recovered. It took mere hours for Týr’s body to heal after the wound was sealed and once it had he left Líf without thanks and returned to Asgard. The thought of her drove him mad. He wanted to thank her and he didn’t understand why. He never thanked anyone. He never had reason to. He’d been resolved to die but she ignored his wishes and saved him anyway, so why should he thank her. Despite his doubt and insecurity, he tried every day, for weeks, to approach her and failed. She’d turn his way and he’d dive into bushes just to avoid her noticing him. He felt like a fool.

Líf knew when Týr was nearby but she didn’t acknowledge him to spare him the embarrassment. She wasn’t sure why he insisted on following her around but she sensed he meant her no harm. She found it endearing but eventually could not stifle her laughter and forced Týr out into the open. He kept his distance but she recognized the sound of his clumsy steps and turned around out of habit.

Týr was so absorbed in thought he didn’t react fast enough. Their eyes met for a moment but Týr still attempted to hide and ducked into the shrubs nearby not realizing they were filled with thorns. “Son of a whore!”

Líf approached the brush laughing and looked down at Týr who was pulling thorns from his hand. “Now is that any way to talk about someone’s mother.”

Týr kept his eyes focused on his palms. “My apologies, I didn’t realize there was a lady present.”

Líf extended her hand to Týr. She didn’t mention him following her. She could tell by the way his eyes avoided her he was self-conscious. If she didn’t know better, she would’ve figured Týr to be nothing more than a normal man.

Týr shook his head and stood without taking Líf’s hand. He dusted his pants and stepped over the shrubs to stand before her. He had to tell her. He had to say thank you. He’d faced giants the size of nightmares, he’d spilled enough blood to fill Midgard’s oceans with it, and he had done it all without flinching but thanking a mortal woman terrified him in ways he did not recognize. “I’ve been looking for you.”

Líf smiled. “Oh? What does a God of War need of me?”

Týr grew increasingly nervous. He turned his head back to the bushes behind him and noticed violet flowers growing amongst the thorns. He plucked one from its stem and looked at Líf. “I wanted to thank you.” He took her hand and flipped it so her palm was facing up and set the flower there. “Thank you, for saving me.” Her hand was warm, like it had been when they met. His hand lingered on hers and his heart raced.

Líf looked from the flower to Týr. For a God of War, he was gentle. His exterior was rough and vulgar but his calloused fingers held her hand so delicately—like he was afraid he’d break her—that she couldn’t help but think he was protecting his own fragility behind his behavior. Líf tucked the flower behind her ear with her free hand before turning her palm against his. “Thank you, God of War, for letting me.”

“It’s Týr.”

“Ah, the God of War.” She titled her head into her smile and squeezed his hand. “I’m honored you set time aside for me. I am Líf.”

All he wanted to do was set time aside for her, but as he remained by her side he found there was never enough to spare. Mortal days were short and like most things, this irritated Týr, but it didn’t stop him from traveling across worlds to see her. Nothing would stop him.


They met as they always did, in the clearing where Líf first found him, and sat beneath the tree there. The days had grown warmer since their first encounter. Týr’s Asgardian garments were far too lavish, causing him to stand out when he accompanied Líf to her village. On his list of things mortals did to irritate him, staring was near the top. To spare both Týr and her village Líf made him a set of clothes to fit in with humans; a sleeveless shirt and linen pants, simple and plain. He’d pulled his hair into a ponytail to keep the heat off his neck. On his arm were bandages from a battle he’d faced earlier that day in Muspelheim, the primordial world of fire, and home of flame-giants.

Líf touched the bandages gently with her fingertips. “Is it bad?”

Týr shook his head. “No. It’s merely a burn. It will heal.”

Líf set her hands on the ground between Týr’s legs and leaned her face near his. Her forehead nearly touched his and she looked up at him with an upturned brow and a frown. “Every time I see you, you’re hurt. You have to be more careful.”

Týr was startled by her sudden proximity to him. His face felt warm and his throat tight. He stammered. “I’m sorry.” Why was he apologizing? What had he done wrong? Why was he so nervous around her all the time? He didn’t understand any of it, but he liked it. He wanted her to stay there, near him.

Líf tilted her head slightly, surprised by the sudden redness in Týr’s cheeks. “Are you blushing?”

Týr looked away from her. He tried to come up with excuses but he stumbled over his words until he hid behind false frustration. “Of course I’m blushing. I’m a man and your chest is nearly bare. Are you trying to torture me?” He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.

Líf looked down briefly. “I’m sorry. I thought you might like this dress.”

Týr brought his full attention back to her. “I didn’t say I didn’t like it.”

Líf smiled. Whenever she caught Týr acting nervously he veiled his true feelings with annoyance and bravado before pouting. She was always surprised by his innocence. He’d seen death so many times she expected him to be jaded and completely closed off, but instead he responded like a child until he understood his state of mind.

Týr flicked Líf’s forehead lightly, waking her from whatever thought she’d left him for. “Why are you smiling like that, seductress?”

Líf laughed and pressed her forehead to Týr’s. “Because I love you.”

Týr’s heart slammed against the cage of his ribs. She’d caught him off guard. She was always doing that. He never knew what to expect from her. She was persistent, spontaneous and sweet. How could someone like that ever love him? “You what?”

Líf took Týr’s face into the palm of her hands. “I love you, Týr.” She pressed her lips to his.

It happened too quickly. Her lips were there and gone before Týr could figure out what to do, but when she pulled away, she smiled the way she always did. Because she loved him. She smiled for him. Because of him. Týr’s nerves subsided. He was sure of himself the way he was in battle. He placed his hands on Líf’s shoulder and pulled her toward him, him toward her, and kissed her. He held her tightly, his lips lingering against hers until he felt short of breath. When he finally pulled away, he cupped her cheek in his hand and smiled. “I love you too.”

Líf settled against him. She sat between his legs and leaned her back against his chest. She played with the strands of his hair that fell over his shoulder.

Týr wrapped his arms around her waist and rest his chin on her head. “Líf?”

She glanced up at him, still playing with his hair. “Yes?”

“If I’m going to stay here with you in Midgard, there’s something I’d like you to do for me.”

Líf turned to meet his gaze. Her eyes were resolute and she nodded. “Anything.”

Týr looked from her to his ponytail. “Will you cut this stupid mane. It’s too damn hot here.”

“Coming from someone who just waged war in an inferno.”

“Yes.”

Líf laughed. “I don’t know that I’m qualified, but I can try if you’d like. If you promise to stop being so reckless when I’m not around.”

Týr took her into his arms. “I suppose I can try.” Týr had spent centuries with no regard for others or himself, but Líf had centered him. He understood why he’d apologized for his injury then. Líf loved him. She worried for him. He worried for her. He owed it to her to be careful. To protect himself and her. To protect what they had. His life had never mattered, to die in battle was to die with honor and celebrate in the halls of Valhalla for all eternity, but suddenly the promises of Valhalla felt empty. Death scared him because his life, his peace, was in Midgard with her.


In order for Týr to travel between worlds and reach Midgard he had to cross the Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, guarded by Heimdall. Heimdall knew all. He saw all and heard all. He could hear grass as it sprouted from the earth and could see into both Midgard and Asgard without leaving his home at the edge of the rainbow bridge. Senses likes his were required to guard the Bifrost. He was the first line of defense for Asgard. Ragnarök had been foretold by the fates for many years and the responsibility of warning the gods of onslaught when the time came was his.

Heimdall sensed Týr before he made it to his side of the gate. He dreaded seeing him. He’d let Týr do as he pleased, but things had changed. He stood on the opposite side of the golden gates leading to the Bifrost and swallowed his anxiety when Týr approached. He stopped nervously braiding his long, red hair and tossed the braid over his shoulder.

Týr wore a smile, something Heimdall still found odd. Týr was hardly happy, but since meeting Líf he’d changed. Heimdall hated to take that away, but he had no choice. “Afternoon, Týr. I see you’ve changed your hair.” Týr’s once lengthy black hair fell in uneven layers along his neckline. The right side of his hair stopped just above his chest while the left hit just above his collarbone. Heimdall knew small-talk would hardly stop Týr, but he’d try anything to avoid telling him the truth for as long as possible, no matter how miniscule that time may have been.

“Yes, Líf’s doing.” Týr stopped in front of the gates, expecting Heimdall to open them. His smile faded when Heimdall refused to move. “Heimdall, what’s going on?” He hadn’t sensed it on his approach, but now that he could see Heimdall clearly, he noticed the sweat on Heimdall’s brow and the tension in his hands.

Heimdall avoided eye contact. “I’m afraid I can’t let you return to Midgard.”

“What!”

Heimdall turned his back to the gate and Týr. He couldn’t face him. Heimdall more than anyone understood Týr’s loneliness. He spent his days alone, away from the other gods, protecting the Bifrost. He considered Týr a friend, but rank came before friendship. “The fates have spoken, Týr. The woman you’ve been seeing, Líf, is one of the two Midgardian saviors.”

Týr knew what that meant but he didn’t want to believe it.

Only two humans would be spared from the devastation of Ragnarok and based on what Heimdall was saying, Líf was one of them, and the other, her male counterpart, Lífthrasir. Though Heimdall did not face Týr, he couldn’t blind his all-seeing vision. He wanted to block out the horrified look on Týr’s face. He closed his eyes tight, trying to immerse the image in darkness. “Líf and Lífthrasir are meant to restore Midgard. The fates carved their destinies into Yggdrasil’s oak long ago. No matter how much you love her…she belongs to someone else.”


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