Tales from Space 3 Excerpt

18 Nov

Here is a excerpt from We’ll Meet Again, the tale of how Anore Wrought managed to not only steal the cure for the weaponized plague that was killing her husband Victor, but rescued long-time friend and ally Nick Goodfrey from his captivity with rival Sindo Corporation.

You can find the whole story in Tales from Space: The Great Corporation War, available in 2018 from StarkLight Press.

This excerpt copyright 2017 Anthony Stark.

 

He came at her out of the darkness in the wide hallway, emerging from blackness like a wraith from out of the realm of the dead. Beside him emerged four other Sindo Corporation assassin-guards, all armed. They were unsurprising- he shocked her to her core. Anore was prepared for a fight, knew that the Sindo knew she was about to attack one of their three flagships for the files Wrought Industries needed so desperately. Sindo was, of course, expecting her to try to get the files- they contained the cure for the deadly engineered disease Sindo had given to Victor Wrought.

Anore Wrought was an exemplary fighter, with fast instincts and deadly accuracy; she had been ready for up to ten assailants trained in Japanese martial arts. Four attackers was dealable, but as she eyed their leader with his almost nonchalant stride and the small, cruel smile that played on the corners of his mouth, Anore was unsure if she could beat this fifth foe.

“Nick,” she addressed their leader, watching his face for some sign of recognition.

He held up a hand, and the assailants stopped. Cocking his head to one side slightly, he grew still, regarding Anore Wrought, the second in command of the single greatest foe to the Sindo Corporation.

He gazed at his opponent with even eyes. “I am not called Nick anymore,” he informed her. “I am now Raine.”

“You are Nick Goodfrey,” Anore looked at him, her eyes willing the android to break with his Sindo programming and remember her. His face was implacable, as she had seen it before, yet there was something wild, almost mad there now that sent a shiver through her, along with a sour spray of shame. He looked the same, yet the drawing of the artificial flesh around his eyes made him seem at once vicious and terrified. The way he had taken to holding his mouth contributed to this effect, with that small, mocking smile held there like a mask. His jaw had grown somehow, giving him a more imposing aspect, making Nick look as though he had gone from a wistful teenager to a hardened adult during his tenure with Sindo. It also added to the sense he was now more dangerous. Sindo had either dyed his hair or replaced it, from its original pale blond to a dark chestnut, almost black. The new color made him seem larger and augmented the sense of menace about him. His blue eyes stood out like topazes, framed by the dark crown he now wore.

Sindo had given him standard assassin’s garb- a dark, slim-fitting long coat with pants and a high collared shirt. Nick’s was deep blood red, the color of Sindo Corp; it signified him as the leader of his group. He wore highly flexible assassin’s gloves that Anore knew would allow him to increase his already formidable grip. He carried on his belt, only part hidden by the coat, a pair of long knives and a garrot wire.

“Nick,” she repeated.

Ignoring this assertion, he took a step toward her; his assassins obligingly stayed in their spots.

“You have come for the files encoding the antidote to the weaponized illness plaguing Victor Wrought,” Nick declared. He tilted his head to one side, his blue eyes glinting in the dim light of the hall. “Did you find what you sought?”

“He’s dying, Nick,” Anore explained earnestly, dropping her stance and holding her hands wide. “I have to try to save him.”

Nick’s jaw worked at this and his eyes flared vicious, horrible light. Anore froze, lifting her guard once more, swallowing hard. What had she said- was Nick so angry at Victor still?

Slowly, his mouth cracked from side to side, until he started to silently laugh with a broad, open-mouthed smile that alarmed her to her core. She had never seen him maniacal before, not in all their years together. After a few moments of silent paroxysms, he started to laugh out loud, wracked by a terrible mirth that made him bend forward slightly, his eyebrows raised. He laughed in her face, his eyes wide, his eyebrows high. Behind him, his henchmen laughed as well.

After an interval that held Anore galvanized in place, Nick regained his composure, straightening to his full height and running his hands down the hem of his coat to settle himself. Still smiling broadly, he inclined his head; the first gesture that she recognized as his own.

“Of course,” he said maganimously. “You couldn’t leave him for dead, could you?”

So it was hatred for Victor, Anore thought to herself. Forgetting her outnumbered state in hostile territory, she looked, exasperated, at Nick. “It’s not like I want to save his life,” she said. “It’s just- not fair.”

Uttering a sharp bark of the same laughter that had chilled her to her core, his eyes flashed again. “No,” he agreed. “Terribly unfair, what we did to him… and how could you let something unfair stand? You, champion of right and good.”

Anore squinted at this, unsure of what Nick was implying. “I don’t think I’m champion of anything, Nick,” she replied quietly, watching her android closely.

“But you are… good,” he said. “Most assuredly. The Wrought Corporation fights on the side of the angels, isn’t that so.” The corner of his mouth curled up into a crueler smile. “Victor certainly believes this- and you are quite convinced of your own moral authority.”

“I- we,” Anore stumbled, wounded by the spite dripping from his words. “We are good people, Nick- we are trying.”

“Well,” Nick said glibly, that same brutal smile playing at the corner of his lips, “If you are the good ones, then, that would make me… the Enemy,” he pulled up his gloves. “Wouldn’t it? You must return to Victor and save his precious life, to combat the unfairness of it all… and I must stop you.” He cocked his head to one side and raised his hands. Beside him, his henchmen took up their guards once more.

“Because, my sweet heart, you see- I am a villain.”

He twitched his fingers, and all four assassins set upon her. It was a desperate flurry of a battle, and Anore, shocked by the viciousness in Nick’s voice, the sheer wrath in it, lost precious seconds recovering. His assassins had her pinned up against the wall, having pummeled Anore despite her blocking of nine out of every ten blows with expert reflex. Their weapons were strong and relentlessly aimed, however, and she found herself sliding up the bulkhead of the ship, her limbs pinned. She watched, helpless to move, as Nick approached her.

“Let’s see,” he mused, eying her up and down, “where would I be, if I were a crystal drive?” He began to search her. Anore gasped at the strength in his hands, so determined compared to the old, gentle, subtle touch Nick had once possessed. Her eyes widened, shocked, at the unabashed sexuality of his touch as he searched her. He kept his eyes locked on hers as he ran his hands over every inch of her body.Nick had either learned that sexual domination was an effective tactic to use on prisoners, or had developed in extremely predatory ways for his time at Sindo Corporation. Either way, Anore had never been handled by Nick Goodfrey so roughly before, and it stunned her.

He ran his hand up her legs, feeling expertly and brusquely either on side of her thighs, then gripped her with fingers like iron, just hard enough to hurt, between them. He smiled thinly.

“We’ve searched everywhere else,” he remarked. “You’ve hid it in one of your holes- which would you like me to search first?” He ran his finger back and forth between her legs idly as he asked.

Anore crashed her head into Nick’s; one of the assassins lost their grip on her shoulder and she started to wrestle her left arm free. The thrashing destabilized the other three, and she started to slide down the wall.

It might have worked as an escape tactic, had Nick not hardly reacted to the blow to his head. Raising upright almost immediately, he saw Anore begin to slide down the bulkhead and, moving in, grabbed her with one hand and lifted her again to her position slightly above him. His hand was immutable around her neck and she started to choke. She stilled her thrashing- his hand could pop her head right off her spine, if it so desired.

“Nick!” she gasped around the purple spots rising in her vision. “Please-”

Smiling viciously, Nick graciously lowered her to the ground, his grip loosening just enough to let her breathe. He pumped his fingers into her carotid arteries, however, twice to show that he could not just suffocate her, but cut off her blood flow as well. Her eyes tearing, she looked up at him.

Pressing himself up against her, pinning her against the bulkhead with his weight most effectively, Nick raised his other hand to her mouth. His eyes never leaving hers, he pinched her jaw with his fingers until her mouth opened. Inserting his index finger, he swept her mouth. He even searched the back of her throat, which he did with a lingering gusto.

Gagging, Anore clamped her jaws down around the android’s finger. One of her molars chipped on the assassin’s glove that covered the digit. Nick laughed at her, his finger still in her mouth, tickling the back of her throat in vomitous circles.

“You don’t think I would be stupid enough to put my finger in your mouth unprotected, do you?” he chided. “How very little you think of me.”

Anore glared at him, trying not to gag. He paused, his smile fading slightly. He drove a second finger into her mouth and, after a moment and a near miss with vomit, pulled a small crystal out of the back of Anore’s throat.

“How disappointing,” Nick remarked, dropping Anore as the assassins grabbed her and re-pinned her to the bulkhead. He tossed the drive up in the air and caught it, winking at his prisoner. “I was so looking forward to searching the other two.”

He turned away from her, pocketing the crystal drive. Without looking around, he gave his final order to the assassins.

“Kill her.”

Anore’s eyes widened. She spat out a mouthful of blood from her tooth; it tasted like composite from the glove.

“Nick!” she cried. “Goddamn you!”

He stopped, and turned, looking at her with a face that was now more pinched than she had yet seen it. His huge blue eyes gazed at her, glistening.

“Already done,” he replied.

A rush of panic ran through her, and she hit out blindly with all four limbs at once. She found the grip on her loosened, and Anore grabbed a stick from one of the assassins and started swinging madly. Nick watched from a polite distance, his head cocked to one side. The assailants struck her again and again; her ankle was possibly broken, her ribs bruised or fractured, her cheek and skull cut and bleeding. Yet, in the end, Anore walked out of a pile of four bodies and took a staggering step toward Nick Goodfrey.

He raised an eyebrow. “Excellent work,” he commented.

“Thank you,” she spat out another mouthful of blood. Wearily, she sighed, wincing as her ribs pinched her for it. Beleaguered, Anore took a guard stance. “Come on, then, let’s do it.”

She was surprised to see Nick’s brow furrow with concern. For a moment, his face softened, and the fell light left his eyes.

“I don’t think this is a fight you can win, Anore,” he advised her softly.

“I have to try,” she replied, coughing slightly.

His face grew cold again, and his jaw clenched.

“Why? Why try for him? Why is it him you save?” His voice cracked. He looked her up and down. “You yourself are in imminent danger.”

“Because,” she said slowly, thinking about it, really thinking about why she was doing all this for Victor. It wasn’t love, that was laughable. It wasn’t a paladin-esque sense of justice, no matter what Nick thought. It was… it was…

“Hope,” she said at last. “Hope.” She looked up at him from her hunched half-guard and smiled around her bruises. “Nick, do you remember the last thing you did as you were getting ready to leave- when Victor sold you to Sinclair?”

Nick had been walking slowly toward Anore, ready to initiate the fight at her slightest motion. He stopped now, looked at her sidelong, eyes narrowed.

“I waited at the airlock,” he said, unsure.

Anore, her eyes alight, grinned. “No, not just that,” she wagged a finger at him. “You started to sing. I was trying not to cry, and I couldn’t find a way to get Victor to take it back… and I was starting to cry, and you sang me a song.”

Her voice faltering, her breath coming in gasps, she began to sing:

“Let’s say goodbye with a smile dear,

Just for a while, dear, we must part.

Don’t let this parting upset you,

I’ll not forget you, sweetheart,”

She had to pause between lines, and closed her eyes once with pain and memory, not caring that Nick could use those brief moments to strike.
As she started to sing, Nick’s face gave a great twitch, and he paused in his slow advance. His hands lowered slightly, and as Anore watched, they started to tremble.

“Hope, Nick,” she said. “You gave me hope…you sang it over the radio. I think you must have kept singing it even after we got out of range, because the signal faded in and out, and I could hear it.”

His eyes were shining preternaturally, and he smiled slightly, genuinely. “I sang it until your ion drive signature faded,” he said. “I can’t- I can’t remember the words of it, though.” He looked in Anore’s eyes, unsure, confused, heedless of their mortal situation. “What was the song?”

Anore’s brow furrowed in sorrow. Nick had always had such a memory for songs. What had happened to him here? She wondered.

Slowly, gingerly, she started to sing, her arms moving from a guard to an embrace.

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when,

But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

Nick’s brow worked, and tears spilled down over his cheeks. Shocked at the sight of tears on the android’s face, Anore watched them trail down his face in wonder. When he had left her, Nick was unable to cry. Yet here he was, weeping, quivering all over as though slowly freezing. She started to smile, nodding, and beckoned him to her, still singing. He began to stumble toward her, his head bobbing slowly in time to the words as though trying to understand or remember them.

“Keep smiling through, just like you always do,

Till the blue skies chase those dark clouds far away.”

His eyes were locked on hers, his mouth quivering. As though fighting through some great curtain of Shadow, he started to sing. His voice was wan, and sorrowful, but sounded more like Nick Goodfrey than anything he had yet uttered.

“And won’t you please say hello to the folks that I know,

Tell them I won’t be long,” he said, stepping to Anore further, raising a hand gently toward her face.

“They’ll be happy to know that as you saw me go, I was singing this song,” Nick continued, starting to recall the words more strongly. As he did, he started to smile in a way that filled Anore’s heart with a poignant happiness that made her throat clench.

“We’ll meet again,” she continued, and this time Nick sang the rest of it with her. His hand touched her cheek, and he looked at her in wonder, as though seeing her for the first time. His brow furrowed, and he faltered in the singing, as though he wanted to ask why she was injured.

Anore sang louder, more earnestly. She only had him by the slimmest thread of this song, and if he shook that loose, she might not get another chance to escape. She took him in her arms, and held him tight. To her surprise, Nick melted effortlessly into her embrace, resting his head in the crook of her neck like a small, exhausted child. His breath puffed coolly on her sore skin as he sang with her. His arms wrapped themselves around her; behind her, Anore could feel Nick pull off the assassin’s gloves one at a time and drop them on the floor. His bare fingers pressed against her shoulder blades with a fervent but gentle pressure.

She finished the stanza as she grabbed what she needed out of her pocket.

“Elle,” he said, using the name she had used when they had said goodbye. His voice was soft, and sad, and wistful.

“Nick,” she said kindly, raising the EM stun wand to his neck. She stroked his dark hair and kissed his ear. “My Nick Goodfrey.”

He lifted his head to look at her, a small, kind smile on his face. Anore caught just a glimpse of soft, sad eyes before they widened in shock and betrayal at the sight of the wand. She might have been wounded, but her reflexes were still good; she jammed the wand into the port at the base of Nick’s skull. Even though the port was closed, the jolt of stimulus sent Nick into a system crash. Uttering a pathetic cry that was clenched off by the seizure that overtook his vocal chords, Nick stiffened for a moment, then crumpled to the floor, lifeless.

After something like a wand to the neck, Nick would have to be restarted and given a complete diagnostic. It would take days, possibly weeks, for any random system to degauss itself inside Nick and begin the reboot sequencing on its own. He would not have days, even, before Sindo people came and packed him off to be rebooted and reprogrammed, this time with even less chance of failure to kill.

But she wasn’t going to leave him in this hallway; no one was restarting Nick Goodfrey but Anore. She grabbed the crystal drive out of his pocket so it wouldn’t fall out as she drug him to the airlock. She hadn’t come all this way to lose the antidote now. Stooping like an old woman, Anore took Nick by the wrist and began to pull him the fifty feet to the airlock where her shuttle was lurking. Limping, listing, panting and pausing frequently to catch her ragged breath, Anore pulled Nick’s corpse straight, then tugged it down the hallway and into the airlock. With a whoosh, the spare air expelled itself into space as her shuttle broke away. It was soon lost against the gulf of stars, headed back to the Wrought Industries war cruiser, and home.

Announcing New Galactic Armed Forces Novels!

14 Nov

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We’re pleased to announce that not one, not two, not three, but FOUR new GAF novels are coming out in the winter of 2017!!

First, the LONG-awaited sequel to Dalton’s Daughter, the saga of Lieutenant Sasha Wheaton, is set to arrive in December of 2017. In it, you can read about Sasha’s troubled time in Galactic Armed Forces training camp and her eventual exile to the worst company in the Forces- Detach Detachment. Included in this edition are Sasha’s first-hand account of her trysts with transportation magnate Howard Donovan, as well as her encounter with one of the biggest Verily Wrought stalkers in the Galaxy!

Check out GAFmainframe.com all this winter for excerpts and content available only online, including the InQuotes magazine article that first broke the story of the Donovan/Wheaton fling.

Second, by popular demand, we have a novel featuring some of the long and storied history of the oldest android in the Galaxy, Nick Goodfrey. Long attached to the Wrought Family, Nick Goodfrey is the only being who served in both Corporation Wars, and was listed before his disappearance as the most Infamous in the Galaxy.

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In The Androsian Question, we find Nick standing before one of the most serious tribunals in the Galaxy, a Hearing-in-Council, defending his creation of a race of beings using prohibited technology. These events take place shortly before his disappearance and feature a young Verily Wrought- and now you can read the story not just from Verily’s childhood remembrances, but from Nick’s own perspective!

This story was chosen from a poll of GAF fans as the number one piece of backstory they would like filled in- read The Androsian Question in January 2018 to find out not just what was behind the Hearing-in-Council, the cure for MVD introduced on Miller’s Planet, but what exactly did happen to Nick Goodfrey… and if he still exists.

Third, we have The Arkellan Treaty,  a collaborative novel set in the GAF present. Captain Verily Wrought of Detach Detachment is sent with his soldiers to the dual planets in the Arkello system to avert an interplanetary war. In this novel we find out more about Galactic singing sensation Consin Arkadie, as well as more about the mysterious cloning guru Patrick Long. With segments contributed by Van Fleming, Will Norton, Leanne Caine, Mandi Millen, Jason Pere and more, this collaborative novel expands characters in the present day GAF timeline like Bev the Indorian, IUS Agent Aric Drakes and Galactic Prime Minister Quetzal Ferguson.

 

Last but certainly not least, we have a second installment in the history of Nick Goodfrey and Anore Wrought. Tales from Space: the Great Corporation War is an anthology of tales that fills in the nine hundred and fifty year timeline of the First Corporation War. Started by Old Earth corporations like Goodfrey Industries, Sinclair Corp and Hoshido Concern, this abominable millenium-long battle encompassed every quadrant of the Galaxy and nearly resulted in the expulsion of the human race from the Galactic Association of Globes and Asteroids.

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Included within are a variety of snapshots of life during the War, including:

  • how Victor Wrought traded Nick Goodfrey to Sinclair Corporation in exchange for his life
  • the making of the Pleiades androids that still inhabit their eponymous star systems today
  • the COMPLETE story of how the infamous “Dancing Robot” incident occurred in deep space, following one of the most bloody battles of the War
  • the eventual return of android Nick Goodfrey to the Wrought family, and the circumstances of the first bioweapon used on the head of a Corporation
  • the real story behind why Nick Goodfrey kidnapped every CEO of each warring Corporation and held them captive on Telamer V

Also included in this fabulous, illustrated anthology are the original images from news articles of the era, as well as magazine excerpts from Galaxy Today, InQuotes and Quasar.

Look for this title toward spring of 2018, available in paperback and collectible, full-color hardcover editions from StarkLight Press.

Check in later this week for excerpts from all these titles!

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GAGA Crime and Punishment

3 Jun

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Following the end of the Second Corporation Wars in 2920, the GAGA established a well-defined criminal justice system with clearly delineated approaches to crime and punishment.

The GAGA assembly drafted a Galactic Citizen’s Bill of Rights with a section dealing with citizen rights and criminal activity, entitled Rights of the Galactic Citizen. In one of only four unanimous votes of the GAGA Assembly, it was determined that the main drive of the GAGA was to create and maintain effective, productive citizens with access to basic amenities of life through the GAGA, and to ensure that citizens could be made as productive and effective as possible for the duration of their natural lives, then determined to be 120 years. As part of this declaration, minimum levels of mobility, health, nutrition, access to amenities and freedom of opportunity were laid out.

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In addition, the GAGA Criminal Defense Committee laid out in 2924 a then current list of crimes along with a table and flowchart of rehabilitation entitled The GAGA Criminal Rehabilitation Flowchart.

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This document is updated every five years, following Galactic vice-presidential elections. In it are laid out a comprehensive list of crimes, the ways in which such activities reduce the effective productivity of the citizen and a list of possible causes for, and remedies to, the underlying discordances that caused the criminal activity.

The Committee was able to, with relative certainty, come to fairly strong determinations of the reasons for criminal behaviour due to the long exposure of its citizens to a variety of different environmental situations. With over a thousand years of data to collate, psychiatrists, doctors and other specialists had come to understand that in addition to the age-old pressures of hunger, dearth and addiction, there were also various environmental causes for a pre-disposition to crime. These included exposure to the wrong kinds of electromagnetic, geomagnetic and celestial energies, buildup of various heavy metals in the body, exposure to various micro-organisms, chemicals and other substances. The GAGA also realized that what was a healthy and conducive environment for one individual could be a suppressive and toxic one for another, leading to criminal mis-behaviour that was largely due to misplacement of the individual.

For this reason, Galaxy-wide baseline psychological and physical evaluations were made mandatory starting in 2930. Children were evaluated with scanning technology shortly after birth to determine the scope of their baseline physiology, basic receptiveness to conditioning/creative thought, predispositions for certain conditions and relative susceptibility to various exo-environmental forces.

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Every seven years, citizens were given re-evaluations to mark out their continued development and try to find ‘stresses leading to criminal activity’ and remedy these before they turned to transgression of the law.

The system, while effective in limiting a great deal of crime, was not infallible. Resources were often pinched at certain times, leading to ‘lost generations’ in the GAGA. These individuals were more predisposed to transgression activities, and fell into the Galactic Universal Rehabilitation (GUR) wing of GAGA resources.

The GAGA Criminal Rehabilitation Act was established with the aim of “determining the definitive cause of criminal activity in the individual” with an eye toward “redirection of the individual’s energies, using re-education and relocation to allow the transgressor to maintain as full participation as possible as a Galactic citizen.” As part of this, the GUR was created to take criminals convicted by GAGA courts and rehabiliate them into society. Any citizen of the GAGA received two rehabilitations and relocations for their grevious crimes. On the third crime committed on the GAGA’s Grevious Crimes list, the individual would be taken to a prison colony for use by the GAGA itself. These colonies were generally harsh but humane, although several notable degradations are on record.

During the first rehabilitation process, the GAGA’s complete physio-psychological evaluation would be examined. The Flowchart was consulted to determine if any environmental stresses, toxic buildups or other physiological abreactions had occurred. If this was found to be extant, then the GUR would remedy them, re-evaluate the individual and prepare them for reintroduction to society. If any psychological issues still remained- counter-productive conditioning based on the aggravating factor, abusive habits etc- then re-education, conditioning and behavioural therapy were given.

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Once the individual passed secondary evaluations, they would be re-introduced to the GAGA. This involved giving the individual a new identity card and placing them in a new sector of the Galaxy. Restrictions on travel, work and other activities stayed on their permanent GAGA file- these restrictions prohibited the individual from exposure to the stressors that induced the crime.

Over 85% of criminals thus rehabilitated stayed contributing citizens and had no further criminal activity of note.

The remaining re-offenders, once convicted of their secondary Grevious Crime, would be sent back to GUR facilities. A secondary physio-psychological evaluation would take place, and remedies were applied. More intensive re-education and psycho-social rehabilitative measures would be taken, including aversion chips, cybernetic implants and neural stabilizers to prohibit certain negative activities. Once the individual passed a secondary examination that proved them ready for re-habilitation, they were again re-introduced to GAGA society, this time restricted to certain sectors/quadrants of the Galaxy, dependent upon the indivudal’s environmental limitations.

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On the third transgression, individuals were given a final GUR re-evaluation and a definitive diagnosis for their recidivism was delivered. These criminals were sent to work camps and GAGA outposts on the edge of the Galaxy, either to work in basic labor units for GAGA resources, or as ‘place-holders’ on the frontiers of the Galaxy, to stake GAGA claims. Life was remote and assistance minimal, but the GAGA would still check in every few months with evaluators for compliance to Rights of the Galactic Citizen Act. Although most asteroid work camps and remote colonies functioned within baseline parameters, corruption and smuggling were rampant; as a result, sometimes the level of care fell well below GAGA standards.

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GUR and GAGA workers had the right to comandeer any camp or colony that was sub-par and rectify the situation, up to and including taking command of it. Any officials of these camps that were found guilty of transgressions leading to the poor conditions were themselves charged with criminal violations and entered into the GUR system.

 

An Evening with Nick Goodfrey, Part 3

18 Apr

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In this final installment of GNN Reporter Sam McCoy’s historic interview with Nick Goodfrey, we learn a bit more about the end of the First Corporation War and the attitude of the Telamer regarding the human-created conflict. Nick reveals more about his role in the creation of the Armistice, until the interview is suddenly thrown into disarray…

S.M. After that, why don’t you tell us a bit about how you came to be the Telamers’ liason and lead negotiator for the Armistice that ended the First Corporation War?

N.G. Certainly. In 2745 I was part of the GoodWalker Corp forces in the Beta and Alpha quadrants. With increasing alacrity the two largest combatants-

S.M. This would be the Goodfrey- Walker Yang Conglomerate and the Sinclair Hoshido Gupta Concern, yes?

N.G. Yes, an excellent command of Combat History, Sam. These two warring groups had begun a rather logarithmic increase in weapons development and production. Any semblance of development of planets had been all but abandoned during the middle of the twenty-seventh century. Planets were farmed for any and all resources with utter disregard for sustainability of either the planet or the system of which it was a part. Stars began wandering into other solar systems, their planets all having been mined to smithereens, leaving them rootless. Mass disasters were common. The survivors of these began being farmed into space station colonies where they were often put to use as protein synthesizers or organ generators.

Nick shifts slightly, his ease of manner falling away, replaced with a straight-backed, arch style of reporting. I cannot directly discern this, but I believe what he is telling us makes him angry.

S.M. What do you think about the state of the Galaxy in 2745?

N.G. I think it was a travesty of everything the humans promised the Telamer they would achieve as inheritors, and a gigantic hypocritical devastation. Humans had become the Maitre- less technologically advanced, true, but nevertheless completely ruthless about conscripting alien races, pristine worlds and resources to their own, introspective purposes.

S.M. Introspective is an interesting choice of word, Nick. Explain.

N.G. The humans at the time had completely forgotten that there was anything else in the Galaxy other than their precious Corporation superstructures. Babies were born into the Corporation and died for the Corporation. They gave blood, organs, flesh, waste to the Corporation. They were the bacteriophages in a gargantuan war against the Galaxy itself. Humans of the era did not stop to see the Galaxy around them, or any of the races or peoples in it. They merely continued along with a script that existed solely in their minds. The fact that they continued it in a Galactic fashion utilizing immense swathes of resources makes it none the less an ultimately introspective venture.

S.M. I see. Interesting understanding, again, Nick. Please continue.

N.G. The Telamer had been willing to indulge their newly adopted heirs in their war for a time. They knew that not everyone in the GAGA would take to these upstart humans, so fresh to the Galaxy and given so much power. The Telamer trusted the integrity and the decency of the human animal, and for the first two hundred years or so, they more or less believed that this was merely a shudder in the Galactic timeline as the GAGA acclimatized itself to human dominion.

The Telamer began to realize that the war was feeding on itself in the closing months of 2698. With the contact with the ((((((((((((((( race, humans had begun to develop the first viable HyperDrive engines since Niles’ regrettable experience with his otherwise exsquisite drive. They had another whole quadrant now to explore- the Delta quadrant was more than enough space for all the races of the GAGA to expand unchecked for over 6000 years. Even at the rate the Corporations were expanding. The Telamer breathed a sigh of relief. Soon the Corporations would get the results of the first surveys back and relinquish their greedy, megalomaniacal hold on the rest of the Galaxy. There would be no need to fear for resources.

When the fighting promptly moved into Delta Quadrant, the Telamers’ worst fears had come to the light of day. Humans would not cease their fighting now that their needs were met for tens of generations to come. They were fighting because of an intrinsic competitiveness, a greed, a selfish egotism that seemed to be ingrained in their very fabric of being. The Telamer watched as the secret Corporation research outposts popped up in first sounding-Delta quadrant. They watched as the first truly horrendous weapons of mass system destruction were developed, using the rare minerals and elements, heavy gravity and anomalous magnetics inherent in this most dangerous part of the Galaxy.

Nick sets both of his feet on the ground, knees together, feet touching. He clasps his hands in his lap. He looks more like an android now, less of a man. I wonder if he unconsciously has stepped away from the human mannerisms he tries so hard to include in his repertoire, out of an urge to separate himself from that which he is describing.

For the first time, humans began to wield weapons that rivalled that of the Maitre.

S.M. And they did nothing good with it.

N.G. Nothing good at all. The Telamer were stunned to see that the humans neither realized they had become their once slave-masters, nor did they have any interest in taking these dangerous, but undeniably effective weapons, and using them against the Maitre. This was, of course, part of the original design of the Telamer in choosing the human race for its successors. The Telamer had been destroyed by the Maitre and now that they were in the autumn of their species, they could not stop their foe from Galactic rampage. The Telamer hoped that the humans, beaten down by the Maitre, would one day rise up and strike them down- not just for humanity, but for the Telamer. The Telamer had, after all, saved humanity and Old Earth from complete annihilation.

S.M. It would seem to be a sensible conclusion- the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

N.G. Yet the humans in the opening years of the 28th century did not see that truth. They had all but pushed the Maitre out of their mind. So battle-hardened were they from three centuries of war that no human mind could conceive of a struggle more dire than that into which they were born. The other Corporate group was an immediate threat; the Maitre were a fairy story told to children.

S.M. Or something you knew about.

N.G. My knowledge on Earth’s history was relegated to the nursery at the time.

S.M. I see.

N.G. Now that humans had the opportunity to revenge themselves and the Telamer, to stop the relentless Maitre incursions into peaceful systems and planets, humans chose instead to fight each other. To fight each other as the Maitre fought each other, and everything else. This was not the Galaxy the Telamer sent the humans out to make. It was a nightmare version of the Earth the day the Telamer arrived- beaten, destroyed, polluted, enslaved, withered and diminished- and it was being played out on a Galactic scale by the very people the Telamer wanted to redeem it.

S.M. So how do you come into the story, Nick?

N.G. I was summoned from my post in the upper echelons of the Intelligence division of Goodfrey-Walker Yang in last sounding Alpha quadrant to go to Telamer V. No explanation given. Merely a message from the Telamer: “Nick Goodfrey is to report to GAGA High Council immediately”.

S.M. What did you think when you received the message?

N.G. I thought it was a remarkably shrewd maneuver on the part of the Telamer. Either Goodfrey-Walker Yang would offer me up obligingly to the GAGA, thus bowing their majestic head to its authority, or it would refuse to lose its greatest intelligence asset.

S.M. Thus breaking the charter humans formed with the Telamer back in the 22nd century.

N.G. Yes, breaking it and thrusting it aside forever. If they refused, the Telamer would declare the human corporations Enemy, and destroy them as they had the Maitre on Earth. I had imagined, as I heard the message, that a very similarly difficult choice had been given to the Sindo Gupta side.

S.M. Had it?

Nick offers a rueful laugh. It almost seems like a blush colored his cheeks for a moment. I make a note to ask him if he could blush after the interview is over.

N.G. No, not at all, as it happened. The Telamer only wanted to speak with me- they had nothing at all they wanted with the other Corporation alliance.

S.M. That must have been quite impacting when you found that out.

N.G. It was, deeply. I had been used tactically for nearly four hundred years by this point, far longer than I had been used as a helper to humans, or a servant, or an assistant.

S.M. That’s something I hadn’t thought of- you spent most of your formative years at a human war, fighting for things that made no sense to you. Yet you had to participate.

Nick stares at me quietly for a moment. His eyes glimmer, but his face is still placid and still.

N.G. That is quite true. You are the first human who has ever noticed that fact, Sam. Thank you.

S.M. It must have been quite the horror, really, to go from being the pinnacle of achievement of Thordin Goodfrey, a hope for the future, to being a glorified battle computer.

N.G. An endless, destructive game of chess that kept destroying more of the spark of life Thordin hoped I would continue. It was not a happy time for me.

A pause. We regard each other with what I hope is a new rapport.

N.G. I was given permission to go from Charles Goodfrey-Walker, CEO of the Corporation. But not before I told him I would leave regardless of what he decided; the Telamer had called, and I had made a promise to them to heed. This promise had been programmed into me by Thordin Goodfrey himself when the Telamer first arrived on Old Earth. No one yet had been able to undo the work Thordin had left me with, for good or for ill. It could have been prudence, but I believe that Charles let me go at that point purely to avoid having to explain how I had defied and escaped his edict.

S.M. Did you return to work for Charles Goodfrey-Walker when you were finished your business with the Telamer?

N.G. No. He died during the course of the negotiations.

S.M. Do you think Charles’ death had any effect on the process of the negotiations that ended the First Corporation War?

N.G. Indubidably. He would not have stopped- it would have taken direct intervention on the part of the Telamer to end the war, which would have destroyed what tenuous rapport that still existed between the humans and the Telamer. The GAGA would have fractured apart into various factions; very similar to the situation in the distant past, before the GAGA’s inception.

S.M. There is some speculation that his daughter, Astarte Walker, murdered him. Do you think there is any truth to that, Nick?

Nick gives a wry smirk.

N.G. Patently absurd. Wherever fate works serindipitously to the advantage of good, it seems humans will always gather to concoct consipiracies.

S.M. But how can you be certain- were you with them when Charles Goodfrey-Walker died?

N.G. No. I was in transit to Telamer V.

There is something about the stillness in Nick’s face, and the blankly open stare that makes me say:

S.M. You didn’t kill him, did you, Nick?

N.G. Heavens to Betsy, Sam, what a dreadful idea.

We stare at each other for a moment; yet another stalemate in this fascinatingly frustrating interview.

S.M. What happened to you when you arrived on Telamer V?

N.G. I was greeted by Adam, the leader of the Telamer, who I had not seen in some time. He thanked me profusely for coming, and we sat together by the Fountain of Peace for the afternoon. At one point, the Telamer servant animals brought us high tea.

My curiousity at my guest’s homicidal tendencies is eclipsed by the jaunty idea of the ancient Adam sitting in the spray of the Fountain of Peace offering a slightly less ancient android a cucumber sandwich. I laugh.

S.M. That’s an amazing image, Nick. What a shame no one ever captured it!

N.G. The Telamer frowned on paparazzi even then; Telamer V has always been one of the most private places to be for most of humanity’s time in the GAGA.

He pauses, then looks wistful.

N.G. I would have liked to have a photographic record of that afternoon, though. It was an amazingly cleansing experience, after the rigours of long combatance.

 

S.M. I can imagine. What did you discuss, if I might ask?

N.G. Of course. Adam wanted an entire accounting of what I had seen and done during the Great Corporation War. He wanted an unbiased dissection of the approach and psychology of both sides, their methods only insofar as I had seen, and the characters of the leading players.

S.M. My God, I would love to have a transcript of that. It would be an historical marvel.

N.G. Perhaps one day I will tell it to you- you might make a book of that.

S.M. It would be your book, Nick- I would just be the scribe.

Nick offers me a coy smile. He winks with his left eye at me.

N.G. You bring out the shades of my past in more color than I care to remember them these days.

S.M. Fine praise, Nick. Can you paraphrase what you told Adam that afternoon?

N.G. I told him how tired I was, of the fighting, of the petty machinations that were played out on this vast stage of ours. I told him, in essence, that the power of the Galaxy had gone unchecked in human hands and was now out of control. I told him about the casual disregard for the fineness of natural construction, i.e. How the humans obliterated the delicate and the complicated creations of the Galaxy with equal gusto in their heated struggle for domination. I told Adam that Charles Goodfrey-Walker was a psychopath with self-sabotaging tendencies and a grudge against his foes that stretched back to the early days of the Corporations’ conception in a way that was utterly direct as opposed to an inherited or learned behavior. I told him that the Sinclair family had fallen upon decadence and cared only to increase their income to keep in stride with their spending and obviate their crimes; that Hoshido had been mad at the start and his children were no longer human but forms of genetically spliced cybernetic devices. I told him that Yang and Gupta had only formed alliances with the others out of mutual hatred of each other and a desperate urge to supplant the established players and prove that they, too, could be at least as conniving, consumptive and heedless as they who had formed the benchmark for such behaviour before them.

S.M. … so, why didn’t the Telamer just ice us all summarily right then and there, over tea?

Nick chuckles. He returns to his more engaged posture of legs crossed, fingers laced over a knee. I wonder in distraction as he begins to speak if I should tell him that it would look more natural if he mastered a slight slouch.

N.G. I wasn’t telling Adam anything he didn’t know already; the Telamer are incredibly perceptive of psychology, even over great distances. And besides, my deposition was not a judgment against the species as a whole, but the acts and motivations of a few of you.

S.M. What did Adam think of everything that you told him?

N.G. The night came on as I spoke; a great lavender bowl settled upon us punctuated by an exsquisitely gentle, sighing breeze. Adam grew cold, or perhaps he wished a few moments to digest everything I had told him and was reluctant to send me away while he considered it. At any rate, he asked me to help him inside to his chambers, and while the animal servants tidied the remains of the tea, the old Telamer leaned on my arm as I walked him into his quarters.

S.M. It sounds as though Adam likes you very much. That’s high praise from the fellow who single-handedly saved humanity and brought us into the GAGA.

N.G. I believe we share a special friendship, yes. We both are thrust outside the sphere of action in this life, due to circumstances we never could have controlled. Yet we both must continue to act in it, in some way. I like him, too; he’s a very funny individual.

S.M. I’ve heard he has a wicked sense of humor.

We paused for a moment, thinking of the ancient, lined face and liver-spotted hands of the enigmatic and immensely powerful Adam.

N.G. After we settled in his deep and cozy chairs, he told me what he wanted from me now. “You’re going to put an end to this fiasco, Nick,” he told me.

Nick takes on the voice of the Telamer leader as he tells me his words from so long ago. I am delighted by the android’s impersonation, and clap a hand to my leg in approval as Nick continues.

N.G. I did not think to question him, nor to dispute my ability to do so. Adam was at that time the closest to my programmer of origin, and so his words resonated with me practically as closely as the directives of Thordin would have done. It was a reality- the war was going to end now.

What is your timeline for the end to these hostilities, Sir?” I asked him.

As fast as you can do it. I want it finished. We have the legislation in place to deter these crazy bastards from trying again, and to dissuade future humans from trying the same feats of megalomany. But we can’t end it. You know the case, Nick, you know these people. You know their ways and their wherefores. Do what it takes to stop it- but I want one thing.”

Nick pauses, and he cocks his head to one side as though reacting for the first time to the statement of the ancient alien.

N.G. “What is that, Sir?” I asked him.

You know who has abandoned their humanity- bring them here to stand trial.”

S.M. Wow. That’s pretty heavy coming from the Telamer. A direct edict, huh?

N.G. Yes. In that one, short statement, I understood that the Telamer had decided to make an example of anyone who turned their back on the essential essence of what had made humanity the inheritor of the Galaxy. The Telamer were resolved in their decision to make a lasting example of these men-gods who had sacrificed what made them redeemable for the auspices of Empire and immortality. It was a decision that altered the course of humanity’s progress as a Galactic species, and forever changed its fate. I had my orders. Now it was time to carry them out.

S.M. If I had been in your shoes, I would have been damn tempted just to conk the players on the head and bring them right to Telamer V immediately.

Nick laughs again.

N.G. The thought certainly did cross my mind, albeit for a moment. It could have been done. No aspect of the security protocols of any of the Corporations was beyond my comprehension at that time. But, as I’m sure you have realized as well, despite the satisfaction such a course of action might bring, it would not serve as a narrative the Galaxy could use to stomp out the fires of war.

S.M. Do you know what had Adam so riled about certain of the players in the First Corporation War?

N.G. I believe the information he had been given by the race of the Lodestones, and the events surrounding their liberation of several planets from the yoke of the Corporations, was instrumental in Adam’s decision. Watching this placid race of long-lived beings first be roundly attacked, then pursued, then turned into wanted beings, then finally being amalgamated into the Galactic consciousness through the burgeoning inter-Galactic Media system, was enough to turn the Telamer to the idea of example- and revenge. Perhaps certain of the players in the Great Corporation War had become so similar to the Telamer’s hated enemy, the Maitre, that it was necessitous for the Telamer to exact a punishment. Perhaps the deplorable manipulation of the Lodestones and the Corporations’ firm refusal to admit an error on their part, rather to absorb the Lodestones into a fabrication of Corporation propaganda, was enough like the manipulations of the Maitre to demand recompense. It was a combination of these things I suspected to have driven Adam to instruct me to hold the players for trial. No matter the motivations of Adam and the rest of the Telamer, he was happy to give the instruction, and I was happy to carry it out.

I open my mouth to ask a question about how exactly Nick was able to so seamlessly engineer the delivery of the recalcitrant Corporation leaders to the waiting hands of the GAGA court, but am interrupted by a shuddering groan that vibrates up the chair legs and into my bowels. The station is drifting. From somewhere deep inside the structure, I hear a horrendous rending noise.

N.G. The station has suffered an impact, Sam. Hang on.

S.M. Wha-?

I mumble this incoherently as the shaking gives way to a jarring shift in the Z axis. My chair falls over and I collapse onto the floor behind me. Nick, experienced in adaptive space travel techniques as he is, merely stands to his feet as the motion rattles his chair across the room.

I try to scrabble to my feet, but I cannot seem to coordinate my motions. I try to press on the carpet with one hand, but the carpet projects my hand away; the other hand it pins to the ground. My one leg is left oscillating in a rhythmic pendulum manner, suspended about a foot off the ground, while my other foot is also stuck to the floor.

Nick Goodfrey approaches me, walking awkwardly and with stiff, slow motions, but able to function where I seem to have become a fly caught in half of a web. He stops at my side where I am flailing awkwardly on the floor and tilts his head down to look at me.

N.G. The gravity generator has been shorted out, old chap. You won’t be able to stand using common methods.

And the Winners Are…

18 Apr

Here are the winners of our GAF Mainframe short story contest!

Late last year, GAF Mainframe launched a flash fiction contest about alien artifacts. Entrants had to submit a short, short story about any GAF character interacting with any alien artifact.

We had some truly awesome submissions, some of which were published on GAFMainframe.com . From these entries we have chosen a few lucky authors to win our grand prize!

These winning authors will have their flash fiction published in the long-awaited Tales from Space 2, due out later this year.

Our winners are:

Van Fleming for his piece about IUS Agent Aric Drakes

Sharon Flood for Pvt. Susu Frid’s Bastet figurine find

Jenn Spaulding for adding to Pvt. Puff Errington’s backstory

Will Norton for his deep space cowboy adventure

Congratulations to our winners!

 

An Evening with Nick Goodfrey- Part 2

12 Apr

meteorite

N.G. Clever. Correct.

S.M. Anore Wrought spent quite a few years exploring the Galaxy with you, onboard a Wrought Industries scouting ship. Why did you both do such a low level job for so long?

N.G. It is a trick of the media that makes you think exploration is low level. It is the calling of each living being to explore- we were doing all that we could to embody that. For a time.

S.M. Was it your idea to explore, or were you following your mistress… if you don’t mind the expression.

Nick bows his head slightly to Anore Wrought’s memory.

N.G. I don’t mind at all. I did as she bade me.

S.M. Is that due to some programming, Nick? Or were you in love?

Nick laughs out loud, his face pointing at the ceiling as he does. His laughter is like the rest of his motions- perfect, well-rounded, too precise. There is no way to detect in its ebbs and flows the flavour of emotions that Nick is undergoing; there is no ebb or flow at all. Yet, as I behold this android surprised into laughter, there is something humble and ultimately human in what I see.

N.G. Oh my no. Absolutely yes.

Nick eyes me carefully as he sees my face light up.

N.G. To both questions. Both answers for both, my friend.

I pause, considering.

S.M. An erroneous inference again?

N.G. Heading there, but based off of my own indistinctions, I’m afraid. Terribly sorry, old chap. The answer to both questions is not at all and completely.

I abandon this line of questioning, realizing Nick has unwittingly illustrated to me the border between love and fate. I can no more ask him if love can be programmed into him, or if an indelible feature of his being can lead him to love, than I can ask him of any of us.

S.M. What was your most harrowing time on the exploration circuit?

N.G. We met with a slowly encroaching electromagnetic lifeform that corroded our brainwave signatures, which threatened the deaths of us both. I had never experienced degradation before, and I’d like to never again.

S.M. That was on Spylex, correct?

N.G. Yes, in the Gamma quadrant, trine sector E. It was a calculated risk that saved us.

We had to jettison an escape pod filled with four times’ the amount of fuel- they still used fuel in those days, rather than cells- and hope we made it out of the atmosphere. The Harrier, our scout ship, had to be abandoned there. When we had accomplished this first task, we had to try to signal a ship in the distant HyperSpace trails to divert to intercept us, before Anore’s oxygen ran out. In the end, I made a makeshift stasis pod to conserve her air, out of supplies we had managed to take from the ship. We were eventually rescued by a GAF supply transport.

S.M. So you saved Anore’s life on that occasion.

N.G. I would rather recall the story for the fact that Anore saved me, from certain disintegration. My cognitive faculties faltered before hers, mine being almost completely communicated to my system through electromagnetics. Anore’s, having the redundancy of a chemical network and an electromagnetic one-

S.M. You mean her human brain?

N.G. Yes, and her nerves. And an electromagnetic one, was able to withstand the onslaught for a longer period of time. I was relegated to a weakened, childlike state. It was she who developed the plan and stocked the pod for escape. I still recall the terrible feeling of watching her, helping her awkwardly as I could, and not being able to fully comprehend her actions.

Nick blinks once, harshly. I see him face the true terror of his existence.

N.G. It was not until we had escaped high altitude orbit that I returned to myself. I was then able to construct the stasis device for Anore with alacrity and ease.

S.M. Amazing! How long were you in the pod with Anore in stasis?

N.G. Six weeks. She had twelve days of oxygen left at her then current consumption rates.

S.M. Were you signalling the shipping lane all that time, Nick?

N.G. No, after the first seven days I abandoned that, as we had taken that time to spread the signal radially as far as was feasible. After that I installed a magnetic lens on the pod’s steering jets. This enabled us to move with a remarkable speed toward the main gap in the shipping lane, the Corvus Nebula.

S.M. Did you leave the pod to install it?

N.G. No, that would have evacuated the air. I was able to install it from within the pod. At one point, however, there was just the thin layer of titanium ceramic between ourselves and deep space. Precision work was essential.

I nod, thinking of this terrifying situation that was worthy of a planetbuster movie, being played out by two icons of the GAGA. After a moment of watching these desperate scenes in my mind’s eye, I return to the interview.

I see Nick is waiting for me, polite, patient, with a peaceful expression at odds with the fraught story he was describing. I set aside the shame of having lapsed into reverie during his brush with death. Nick neither appears to mind, nor does in reality; he does not require the same kind of attention from an audience while sharing such a terrible thing.

S.M. I can imagine. You said it was a GAF ship that picked you up?

N.G. Yes. The Kirby.

S.M. Did you ever serve in the Galactic Armed Forces?

N.G. Yes. Twice. Once during the Second Corporation war. It was called the Galactic Armed Federation Forces then. The second time was during the Maitre Incursion in Beta Quadrant.

S.M. What made you join the GAF during the Maitre Incursion? Were you ordered to do so by Wrought?

N.G. Not at all. Victorinus would have rather I stayed and helped to maximize the profit margin for him. I was sent to fight on the front lines to gather intelligence on them. Their attacks and defenses.

S.M. Because your processors take in all information provided around you and keep it on file indefinitely.

N.G. Yes. I was widely regarded as the most reliable intelligence gathering asset at the time. This was more the case given the fact the Maitre presence and weapons instill hyperparasympathetism in most biological life forms.

S.M. You mean they scare the shit out of us.

Nick laughs again and raises a hand, signifying condition.

N.G. Yes, but they impose the state upon you. Among their many crimes that go unpublicised I would add the crime of biochemical rape. Your bodies are forced to do things that you do not wish them to do.

S.M. That’s very true… I hadn’t thought of it like that before.

N.G. I would say that forcing a biological organism to perform in an exhausting manner, contrary to its free will design for action, should be one of the worst crimes in the GAGA. I see the effect it has upon you humans, and it is devastating.

S.M. I think, if that were made law, that every advertiser would have to be put in jail, Nick.

N.G. I rather think they should. Most residents of the GAGA no longer possess their own opinions on their surroundings.

S.M. Which brings us back to the message of, and in, humanity.

N.G. Yes, exactly. They have a message that is no longer being expressed correctly. They have, in fact, mutated.

S.M. You have a singular way of looking at things, Nick.

Nick gives the ghost of a smile.

N.G. Someone once told me that, as well.

S.M. Who was that?

N.G. Howard Donovan. During a monsoon on Rigel 19.

I laugh out loud at that. Nick Goodfrey smiles along with me.

S.M. That brings me to another important subject: the people you’ve met. Most of our watchers no doubt are very envious of your many associations… The Wroughts for one thing. Howard Donovan. Patrick Long is your latest friend, yes?

N.G. I have been doing some consulting for Patrick’s corporations, yes.

S.M. What have you been doing for Long?

Nick smiles gregariously. He inclines his head.

N.G. Now you know I really shouldn’t discuss that.

I nod in return. Check. I change the subject.

S.M. I think the most interesting thing for me about your long, long list of friends and associates, Nick, is the ones you knew first- just because of their historical significance.

N.G. Yes, I have found a great many people are hungry to know about what Earth was like before we spread to the stars. I seem to detect some minor jealousies that I have such a record of Those Days, while the history of them has been lost to humans.

S.M. Can you tell us a bit about your creator, Thordin Goodfrey III? You call him your father, yes.

I search Nick’s face and demeanour for some sign, crafted or otherwise, that might relay what he thinks about the mystic figure of Thordin Goodfrey III. I find nothing. I might as well have asked him about the weather.

N.G. Yes, for he called me his child, and always treated me as a son, never a machine. What would you like me to tell you of him?

S.M. That’s one thing, for starters. Goodfrey was not burdened by technophobia.

N.G. No, hardly. He was not a fanatic about the technology he was developing before the Maitre Invasion; he was merely practical. If a thing could be done and it could be done for the good, then he did it.

S.M. Like creating you.

N.G. I like to think I have brought some good into the world in my time here, yes.

S.M. Goodfrey had no children of his own, is that true?

N.G. No. His wife died early in his life, and he never recovered to marry and procreate anew. This fact was part of the reason he opened the school for advanced children. Thordin took that inner tragedy and projected it outward, made it a goodness for the world, instead of a tragedy for himself. He once told me that if you eat your pain, you have a bitter meal alone, but if you offer it to the universe, it turns into a satisfying banquet shared with friends.

S.M. He sounds like a very positive person.

N.G. On the contrary- he was a very existentialist, desolate human being. He seemed always as though he were the single most tired being that had ever lived; yet his feet moved him ever onward through the creations he was meant to make. He was like a man on a long and dreary pilgrimmage, though he did find certain aspects of life rewarding.

S.M. I think people would be surprised to hear that about him. The publicity materials from the time and today’s mythos about Goodfrey III make him out to be a positvist champion of the human spirit.

N.G. I’m glad that’s how he is perceived. He was that, exactly, in the core of himself. But wound around that were so many coils of coppery, thick disappointment and grief- not just at his own personal tragedies, but those he saw around him every day in the world of the era- that Thordin was a positivist in a completely detached, cerebral manner. It seemed as though hope for life was the last of a series of habits he was extremely reluctant to break.

S.M. Do you know what it was that had obscured his latent humanism?

N.G. Many things- but I think fundamentally he was born into a world on the brink of falling into Shadow, and he was tasked with trying to find a way out.

S.M. That’s a very spiritual thing you just said, Nick- do you believe that someone ‘tasked’ Thordin Goodfrey with saving humanity.

N.G. I don’t believe he did save it- nor was that what I said.

S.M. Erroneus inference again.

N.G. I’m afraid so, old chap. Thordin, though damaged, was the strongest and most intact humanist on Earth at the time. He gathered other people with sparks of life to them, and together they managed to ride out the great Darkness the Maitre brought, then bring life back to the human race.

S.M. How did he do that? With technology?

N.G. Not exactly, although he did explore the limits of what technology might do to continue the spark of life, should humanity extinguish it.

S.M. Were you a part of that exploration, Nick?

N.G. Indeed. Thordin wanted to know if life could only exist in a biological form. I was the early culmination of that experiment.

S.M. Do you think Goodfrey thought the experiment was a success?

Nick gives that micro pause that lends him a bit of added humanity. He blinks his brilliant eyes.

N.G. Yes. He said as much.

S.M. This brings us to the First Corporation War. What was it like to see the Maitre single-handedly destroy humankind, then see humankind turn on itself barely 300 years later?

N.G. Unsurprising.

My mouth dropped open at that point. I had been expecting no doubt some heartfelt communication from the past, a rousing speech; a burning philippic. A Marsellaise from the valiant days of humans’ greatest struggle. What I got, like most of the interview with this unseating android, was a complete and total derailment.

Nick laughed quite unselfconsciously at my shock. I fought back an instantaneous urge to snap at him- the heartless machine, how dare he mock my…

…naivete.

I felt my ears burning, but I laughed too. Nick was right. What should I expect, exactly?

N.G. I’m sorry if I offended you.

S.M. Don’t worry about it. Why don’t you expound on your statement a bit, Nick?

Nick cocks an eyebrow.

N.G. If you’re certain.

S.M. Yes, please.

N.G. By 2300, humanity had taken its place in the Galaxy, no longer one nation ruling over others of its kind, but a single race sitting at the right hand of the grandfathers of the GAGA. They were unrepentant in their dominion, certain that there was no stopping them- their methods, their creations, their money, their profits… they had the Right, and they used it.

Nick took a moment here to recross his legs and settle himself again in the chair. I realized that he had come to read the micro-motions of his human companions, injecting these pauses in his otherwise relentless dissections of the world around him. I cast a thankful glance his way- if he hadn’t given me a moment, I might have had my head explode. Or popped him one.

N.G. You have no idea, really, of the profound arrogance that possessed mankind in those days, in the pre-dawn of the Great Corporation War. The second war was really just an afterthought- a pale shadow of its predecessor. That is why I still refer to it by the interwar designation of “Great”, for great it was. Great and terrible. The full brunt of the war machine of every corporate effort was turned wholly toward the destruction of its counterparts. War droids, massive ion thruster powered warships, lazer cannons and shotguns, powers and incendiary devices and sonic pulse weapons… things that rended humans apart, deconstructed them on a molecular level, used on hundreds of millions of people. It was four hundred forty years, seven months and twelve days of catastrophe on a Galactic scale.

 

I sat motionless myself this time, paralyzed by the even shine of Nick’s eyes as he held me in his gaze.

N.G. Would you like to hear one incident I witnessed in that time? Perhaps your audience would like to hear about it.

S.M. Yes, I would like that, Nick.

N.G. I was piloting a mid-size battle cruiser for Goodfrey Industries- the ‘good guys’, as your history recalls. We were playing a cat and mouse game with a Sinclair-Hoshido cruiser twice our size. We had two Goodfreys on board, and this was at the point of the war when things had become vicious, symbolic and personal. Obliterating two of the Goodfreys would be worth the sector wide step up in conflict, so Sindo thought. This was in 2478.

I was piloting around and back behind the outer layer of asteroids in the G-54-8-B quadrant- these were created from the destruction of the G54 colony seven years before. I was taking my time, giving Sindo just enough of a sensor read to follow where we had been, but not where we were going. This had been going on for the past twenty eight hours. Victor Goodfrey came up to the bridge to enquire about our progress; he had left instructions that we should harry the Sindo ship and try to see if we could trap it for a clear kill ourselves. Such was life during the Great Corporation Wars.

I informed Victor of our progress and he was reviewing the pilot record so far so he could get a better idea of my strategy. While he was reviewing this, his sister Elle came aboard the bridge to join us.

Sindo had a read on us; our sensor array pinged, which indicated the impact of their high frequency scans. I piloted around behind an errant asteroid, cut the ion engines and used only enough thrusters to keep up squarely out of the Sindo ship’s scanner array.

This particular asteroid was a larger chunk of the G54 colony. There were pieces of debris floating all through this asteroid field; it was a dangerous place to be. There were houses, hovercars, bibles, cups and saucers, clothing and toys, half an apartment block, all miraculously intact despite the planetary destruction. The pilot record had been examined, and Victor and Elle were drawn inexorably into the navigator’s enclosure at the front of the ship to view the detritus of the colony as it bopped against us and floated past.

We three watched, fascinated, for fifteen minutes as the pieces of lives floated beyond us. Victor leaned out into the enclosure to watch as a family bible, bound in white leather, was incinerated by the thrusters. Elle stood behind my chair as she was wont to do in those days, watching the silent ballet of destruction float past.

With a sudden, dull jolt, the navigator’s enclosure was rocked by an impact. We three looked to the ten o clock position-

Here Nick raises his head to see the mystery object that had impacted the enclosure over twelve hundred years ago. His eyes focus on the object that would have been just on the other side of the molecular diamant glass they used in those days, only about four feet above his head. I watch, entranced, as he continues.

N.G. Victor gave a shout and jumped back. Elle gasped, and put her hand on my shoulder.

Still looking up, Nick mimes himself adjusting the thruster slightly on the corners of the steering mechanism floating in front of him, then he places his hand on his shoulder, with just enough space for a small woman’s hand between his and the material of his crisp, dark suit.

N.G. A frozen body had connected with the enclosure and become lodged there, bound by the static charge of our low power deflector shields and its own icy membrane that covered it. “The body of a man, in his early fifties, I would judge”, I remarked to the Goodfreys.

He floated, bound in our field, frozen underwear iced over his middle aged hips. His eyes had exploded long ago and his eye sockets had grown beautiful crystals of ice that projected out of his face by three to four inches. His mouth was locked in a rictus, an eternal scream. He slowly floated down toward my field of vision in the navigator’s chair.

Nick’s gaze turns slowly to face me again. I expect to see his eyes far away, beholding the ancient scene from the past millenium- but his eyes lock on mine, and he offers that small, sympathetic smile of his. I feel my face, and realize that he is right to do so. It would appear I am wearing an aghast expression.

N.G. I tapped the thrusters to shake the man off of our shielding. He popped free, and started to rotate slowly, falling toward the asteroid with precarious slowness. It was then the sensor array pinged. Victor was always happy to be distracted by the chase and he brought the display up in front of us. The Sindo ship had stumbled directly in front of us, at close range. It was directly on the other side of the asteroid.

Fire!” Victor ordered, slamming his hand down on the back of my chair. “Get those sonsofbitches!”

Nick took on the voice of a man long dead- he sounded the way you would think a rich, American man would have sounded back then. The accent is strange coming out of this person sitting across from me. Perhaps it is the dissonance, but I decide there and then that I no longer like Victor Goodfrey, one of the heroes of our history terminals from school.

Elle objected. “No!” she cried. “You’ll hit him- we can circle around and get away.”

Victor had other ideas. He crouched to meet my eyes. “Fire, Nick- that’s an order.”

Nick turned to his left to look into the eyes of his dead… owner? Handler? Boss? I force myself to take a breath.

N.G. I verified with Elle that this was the course she wanted- I was instructed to take both of the childrens’ orders into account by my previous employer. Elle threw up her hands and walked away.

I fired, full sonic and lazer cannon blasts dead ahead. The silent, solitary corpse erupted in a perfectly spherical corona of flame, and then the asteroid exploded outward. The Sindo ship was rocked by a thousand projectiles, cracking through their defense shields, cutting vast holes in their hull. New corpses joined the ashes of the former resident of G54 colony, but only for a moment, for the lazer cannon and sonic shredder caught up with them before they could leave the shadow of the ship. Many of them were still writhing, their eyes still intact, when the inferno of controlled photons and crushing sound struck them.

Nick laced his hands around his knee. He might as well have been telling me an anecdote from the Brandenburg North Country Club. He gave a small smile.

This was one incident I have recorded from the Great Corporation War.

Somehow I find my voice.

S.M. I think one will do for now. Thank you for sharing.

N.G. Of course.

S.M. Wow. I think I need a minute.

Nick inclines his head kindly and looks out the window. A placid spaceport, with obedient shuttles and jump jets queuing for entry to the station. Everyday life. I regroup and continue.

An Evening with Nick Goodfrey

9 Apr

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In the first of our multi-part interview series, we dig up from GAF Mainframe archives an interview with the oldest resident of the GAGA, android Nick Goodfrey.

Made in the early years of the 21st Century by tech legend and leader Thordin Goodfrey III, Nick Goodfrey had survived 15 centuries and change by the time he was interviewed here by Sam McCoy of Galactic News Network.

At the time, the now iconic Sam McCoy was a young reporter, just getting his footing as lead interviewer for GNN. Nick Goodfrey, although he shared sound-byte opinions from time to time, had not sat down for a formal interview with anyone in thirty seven years. When McCoy and Goodfrey found themselves on the same space station, Nick accepted Sam’s offer to do an interview. It was the last formal interview with Nick Goodfrey.

Two and a half years later, Nick disappeared. Although Verily Wrought and Howard Donovan spent a considerable sum of money on a Galaxy-wide search for him, no trace of the android was ever found.

We offer therefore this final interview with the Galaxy’s only link to its pre-Maitre history- An Evening with Nick Goodfrey, Part One.

As I sit down to talk with Nick Goodfrey, I am struck by a certain paradoxical quality that hangs around this remarkable individual. There is, of course, the peculiar timeless youth and symmetrical perfection of his face; the simple economy of his movements reveal this young man is indeed an android.

Despite his eternally youthful appearance, or perhaps because of its uniquely unmarred quality, there is an air of inconceivable age about him. One cannot be in the presence of Nick Goodfrey without being aware that this android is one of humanity’s only links to our Old Earth past. He witnessed the world before the Maitre invasion; he smelled the acrid smoke from the destruction that blanketed the globe. Nick Goodfrey encapsulates all the greatest achievements of mankind, not through his construction, but through his accomplishments.

This android was one of the first men to travel faster than the speed of light.

He was present in the first entourage of humans to visit Telamer 5.

He was the second resident of planet earth to explore all four quadrants.

He fought in both Corporation Wars, and was instrumental in bringing about the completion of the First Corporation War.

He invented the stasis pod for his father, Thordin Goodfrey, which is still in use today.

He developed the earliest human cloning techniques.

He was friend to the most powerful people in the Galaxy. The list goes on.

 

As he sits and settles himself in his chair, there is a certain idealized quality to these self conscious twitchings that belies not just his silicone and quantum processor fabric, but this ancient air. It is clearly a learned habit, but one fine tuned to perfect all it wishes to convey. There is just enough shifting to indicate human discomfort at the straight-backed chair. There is the not quite unconscious tugging at his pants to indicate his face should be perceived as handsome and not pretty, and finally a perfectly executed sigh at the end as Nick Goodfrey turns his attention to me, his interviewer. A perfect pantomime of a man who, though busy and perhaps slightly harried, has decided to truly commit his entire attention to this interview.

One thing Nick Goodfrey has not perfected in his mastery of human body language is the messiness of its idiom. His head turns to me with a precision that indicates he has oriented precisely on my locus in relation to him. Not a mote of extra energy expended. His eyes are focused on me without taking in my particulars. He already did that the moment he entered the room, his fast circuits recording everything about me for future reference.

There is also nothing in his mimed motions of humanity that indicates he is in the least bit nervous about the interview. In my years of reporting, I have never encountered an interview subject who has agreed to a multi-hour interview and not had the tiny tick of nervousness in their heart. My current subject’s completely placid face, regarding me with the polite attention of a parent at a child’s concert, makes me nervous. It underscores the immense age looking at me with such perfect blue irises. It reminds me that this man is not just a perfectly tended Brandenburg celebrity, but is a machine.

It is there I start.

 

S.M. Thank you for joining me today, Mr. Goodfrey.

N.G. A pleasure, Mr. McCoy. And please, call me Nick.

S.M. Nick- tell us what you think when people call you a machine.

Nick cocks his head to the right an iota and, after only the barest of pauses, answers.

N.G. I think that we are all machines, Mr. McCoy, and that this individual has noticed that fact about me, which makes him smarter than many of his cohorts.

S.M. Do you find the designation in any way derogatory.

He offers me a smile that slices the heart it is so sympathetic regarding the simplicity of my morals. Two questions in and I am already cut to pieces.

N.G. I am aware that people find it derogatory, and occasionally use it as such. However, nothing is derogatory to me- I don’t keep those sorts of value structures. When I find the word used in such a way, I understand that I have helped that individual to understand their nature more completely.

S.M. How do you mean?

N.G. (smiles with more broad satisfaction) I have helped them to see that they are human.

S.M. You feel that humans are largely unaware of this fact?

N.G. I do, Sam- may I call you Sam?

Nick gestures at me with a precise wave of his hand in my direction as he crosses his legs and leans the precise amount into our conversation to indicate he is earnestly speaking to me. I start to feel a little as though I am going mad, trying to discern the emotional motives behind these carefully crafted movements. Reminding myself that, as Nick does not have emotion as such, and as Nick propels himself with efficient, precisely machined servos and parts, I should not let the practised perfection of his motions offput me. The fact he has taken the time to perform these rituals of human interaction is a memitic offering of the connection my mind is turning over and over, trying to second guess. I snap back to the question.

S.M. Of course, please.

N.G. I do feel humans are largely oblivious to much of the facts of their reality. You are daydreamers, fantasizers, fanatics and imagineers. My father, Thordin Goodfrey the Third, was all of these… he made me from all those qualities, and I merely live in the world he helped create. But each of you is a bubbling cauldron of energetic possibility, careening around the galaxy with your own shock wave of preconceptions about yourselves, and you rarely have time to think about the container it all comes in. The container is you, and you are the contents. The medium is the message, so to speak.

I laugh, entranced by the lilting path Nick’s thoughts have taken us down. Where his form and his motions fail to comfort, his mind and his equally lilting, spirited voice at once draw me in and delight me.

S.M. If humans are all that, then what is the message your distinct medium, your container, has for the Galaxy?

N.G. Be at peace with the world and be in it. First see, then do. What you please, what pleases you.

S.M. A very hedonistic message, I’d say.

Nick holds up a finger. His eyes sparkle with an almost human impishness.

N.G. Is it? It takes a human most of his life to determine what actually pleases him. Drinking and fornicating may seem pleasurable, yet the consequences are draining and defective for him. Asceticism kills his soul. A simple life leaves him yearning for the stars, and the stars leave him pining for the trees. And when one does find what pleases, do the consequences feed back into one’s spirit, and leave it nourished?

S.M. Very good points all. A slippery message, now that I think about it.

N.G. I’ve been told I’m a slippery sort.

S.M. Would you say this message applies to you, or do you merely convey it?

N.G. I would say it most definitely does… just as all of your messages as the remarkable, wroiling humans you are apply to me. We speak to each other.

S.M. Who has told you you were a slippery sort?

A more guarded smile from Nick greets my question this time. He sits back in his chair, and this time he does a much better job at feigning the human quality of consideration. I could almost believe he was doing it- but if so, there must be a phenomenal quantity of material for his mind to consider before responding.

N.G. Several people, most notably Anore Wrought.

He pauses, almost on the verge of saying something else. It occurs to me that he leaves the famous personality’s name out there as an offensive; he made a tactical decision to leave it out there between us, unaccompanied, as a lone target.

S.M. You had a lengthy association with the Wroughts- tell me how that came about.

N.G. I was in the service of the GAGA Special Commission on Corporation Control, debriefing the Commission on the last Corporation War and my observations therein, when I was called to the Beta Quadrant to mediate a sector-wide peace between Wrought and Palfer, Sinclair-Hoshido Corporations. Though infuriating to Victorinus, he nevertheless respected my tactics and approaches. I convinced him to take the peace to the entire quadrant, and once he had seen the positive effects of this, he convinced me to convince the GAGA to end the war of the Beta Quadrant terms. He couldn’t help but like my methods, and he hired me on after that.

S.M. You fulfilled a number of roles during your tenure at Wrought Industries, didn’t you, Nick?

N.G. Indeed. Everything from nanny to butler to tactical pilot to engineer to personal assistant. There are many roles in between.

S.M. What did you think of working with Victorinus Wrought?

N.G. I thought he was an immensely obdurate man, and one of incredible energy. He never listened to my message, however… and ultimately I had to leave his service.

S.M. Your message being that he should be in the world and be at peace with it. To see, then to do, and do what truly pleases him.

N.G. Yes.

S.M. How do you think he failed to listen to this message of yours, Nick?

N.G. He never loved his family as he should. Also, he was not in the world, and so was content with blowing up large, undifferentiated sections of it.

I take a moment, shocked at the candour with which Nick Goodfrey speaks about the foibles of the Galaxy’s most dangerous and influential man. I choose my next words carefully.

S.M. You feel Victorinus Wrought was not aware he was a human, alive in the Galaxy.

N.G. He was one of the most indistinct humans I have ever met.

S.M. Yet most people would describe him as being full of purpose, of knowing what he was about.

N.G. He can know what he is about, and not know anything about what he is, or where he finds himself. Or what is of true value to him.

S.M. It was rather famously reported that you blamed him for Anore Wrought’s death.

Here Nick offers me a twitch of a smile around the corner of his mouth.

N.G. I said that Anore Wrought would still be alive if Victorinus had listened to her. To say I blame him for her death is an erroneous inference.

I think for a moment before agreeing.

S.M. That’s true, isn’t it? Our human energies, careening around again.

Nick Goodfrey smiles inscrutably, a dash of that same infinite sympathy on his face again. He says nothing. The Anore Wrought offensive was a good red herring- a vast powderkeg of possible expose, ultimately leading to a dusty quote from three years ago. And very hard to crack back into that nut again. Gamely, I try.

S.M. You also knew Anore Wrought, for a good many years, too.

N.G. Yes. We were very close.

S.M. There’s been a lot of speculation about that- why were you so important to her?

Nick gives a shrug. It appears quite natural, a mixture of guarded, chagrined and at a loss. He laughs.

N.G. I never really knew… she seemed to find some comfort in me. I infuriated her, and I’m not sure she ever really got over her technophobia, but- I was just there.

S.M. In a way Victorinus was not.

N.G. Her hairbrush was there for her in a way Victorinus was not.

The statement surprises a guffaw out of me, as well as the holo crew. We all blush and glance around ourselves, guilty after sharing in such a secret as laughing at the Great Wrought.

S.M. Suffice it to say there was no love lost between you and Victorinus Wrought.

N.G. The man decommissioned me on two separate occasions. I don’t appreciate that.

S.M. Is that why you left his service?

Another shrug. Infinitely ambiguous. Nick looks skyward. Impossible to tell if it is as artificial as the eyes that do it, or if in the discussing of this subject, he has found a human soul.

N.G. I stayed as long as I did for Anore. There was nothing after she left.

S.M. Not even Verily Wrought? I understand you and he were also close.

Nick smiles a smile that seems, at least to me, to be sad.

N.G. We were- I helped to raise him. I have only been Uncle Nick the once… yet it is my understanding that an uncle does not have the same power over the child as a father. And so, left alone, we three would never get along.

S.M. So you left, rather than tear the family unit apart.

N.G. I shut the inner airlock, rather than let the entire ship be scuttled.

There is a pause. Nick Goodfrey looks at me with eyes that are fierce and shining. If it were possible, I would say I had hit a nerve. After a moment, he continues.

N.G. Besides, Verily was able to handle himself in the Galaxy.

S.M. May I infer from that, that Anore was not?

N.G. No, I wouldn’t bother with that.

S.M. Eroneus.

Nick winks at me and smiles.