The anthology is appropriately themed around stories dealing with worlds other than our own, with a great mix of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal tales.
I'm really impressed with the work all of the authors and editors at ASMSG did on this project, and couldn't be more proud to have the chance to contribute to such a fantastic final product!
Read on for an excerpt from the beginning of The Bad Seed, then head over to Smashwords to get the anthology and find out what happens to Commander Alton Ramses and Phoenix!
THE BAD SEED
Erin McDowellCelestial Date: 2568.12 A.E. Voidskipper Phoenix – Candidate planet Alpha Calantari
Commander Alton Ramses Mission Log:
Phoenix AI reports estimated arrival at Alpha Calantari in ten hours; this will be the fourth world we have visited in the twelve years since leaving Earth.
…Three worlds that ultimately proved incompatible for colonization. Three worlds that failed to save the human race. The experts told us that it could take decades to find a suitable planet, if not longer;
I struggle to remain optimistic, but some days it just feels…impossible. I continue to recuperate from injuries sustained while escaping from the Maltaran Hive World four days ago. Another six hours in the regen pod should have me back to full health before arrival at the next destination.
*Addendum to prior mission report: Apparently, the Maltaran drone venom has the additional side effect of extreme hallucinations, lasting twelve to twenty-four hours; now that I have recovered and upon further review, there were never any pink pterodactyls or unicorn bodybuilders on the Hive World.
Gliding silently toward the landing spot indicated on his sensors, Alton marveled at the city below. A floating metropolis the size of a small continent, it was an impossible combination of technology and nature. Everywhere he looked, the planet’s twin suns cast complicated dual shadows across buildings made of smooth woods and stone, melding with bright LED lights and shining metal alloys, all hovering in the clouds over this alien landscape.
The city consisted of numerous separate pods, each miles in diameter, arranged in a rough hub and spoke pattern, with a large central area consisting of greenways, common areas, and water features. Elevated walkways radiated out from the hub, leading to a wide array of structures. The buildings varied widely, from skyscrapers nearest the hubs, made of gleaming metal and glass soaring hundreds of feet from the clouds below, to rows of plain stone one and two story buildings lining the outer rims of each pod. As Alton skimmed by on his way to the landing site, he let out a low whistle. “Is it just me, Nix, or do those buildings look like they grew in place?” The artificial intelligence had become his sounding board during their travels, often providing valuable insight on their missions. He glanced down to a small cluster of brown and black stone buildings that reminded him of a shopping center back home, “I mean, they just look so…organic.”
“You are correct, Commander, in that I cannot detect seams and joints that would be common with most construction methods used on Earth. Also, I am detecting byproducts of photosynthesis, so it would seem that at least parts of the buildings are indeed organic.”
Alton shook his head at the thought of living buildings combined with modern technology, but his thoughts were interrupted as Nix informed him they would be landing in two minutes.
Thrusters hissed quietly as the Voidskipper drifted to a gentle landing on the edge of the central hub of the largest pod. An octagonal stone dome with black ironwood doors a dozen feet high rose in front of him. Even before the ship had fully settled, the quicksilver metal canopy slid back soundlessly, and Alton lifted himself from the pilot pod. Running a hand over his non-reg, salt and pepper stubble, he listened to the click and ping of the cooling Voidskipper shell mixing
with a buzzing undertone that he couldn’t immediately identify. Dropping to the ground, he surveyed the platform and the huge dome facing him.
The platform beneath his ship was between the dome and one of the greenways. It appeared to be smooth granite, white with silver streaks throughout, yet somehow…alive. There was a light coating of some type of purple dust on the ground, and his foot sank slightly with each step, cushioning but never leaving an imprint behind.
“Nix, what is the atmospheric makeup again?” Alton murmured, knowing his comm implant would automatically open the channel to his ship AI.
“Oxygen level is dangerous at thirty percent, and nitrogen is twenty-four percent, but your nano-cells have compensated; you may feel slightly unbalanced for a few minutes, but no long term disorientation is expected.” The slightly lilting female voice he preferred for the AI replied with clinical precision. “Atmospheric pressure is below Earth norm, while gravity is slightly higher due to a larger planetary core consisting of an incredibly dense, unknown substance.”
Alton knelt down, running a finger through the light coating of purplish dust as he looked across the platform to the large ebony doors gleaming in the sunlight. Striding toward the doors, the smell of rotten eggs washed over him. “Sulfur, huh? Anything our systems can’t filter out, Nix?”
“No Commander, I am already replenishing my storage tanks.”
“Great. How long before the engines are recharged?” Nothing dangerous had shown itself yet, but Alton wanted to be ready for a quick getaway if needed. This world looked promising; but then again so had the previous planets, initially.
“At the current rate, the Void Engine will be fully charged in eighteen hours. We can jump thirty minutes after that.”
Running a hand along the smooth surface of the door, Alton searched for some type of handle or other method of opening it. “And our passengers are resting comfortably?”
“All twenty cryo-pods are functioning at optimal efficiency, if that is your implied question. All of the colonists are in a state of cryo-sleep hibernation, so they have no awareness as to the comfort of their surroundings.”
Grinning, he pressed a small, swirling, dark brown bump resembling a knot of burl wood, blending into the rest of the black door. It depressed with a quiet click. “Well, I don’t guess I can get into too much trouble in less than a day, right Nix?”
“History prevents me from confirming your assessment, Commander.” The AI sounded smug for a machine.
Alton laughed as the doors parted slightly with a tiny hiss of equalizing air pressure. “Fair enough,” he said as he peered through the gap between doors, “so we check out the area, make sure it’s safe, and then start waking passengers. Sound good?”
“Given that the city appears to be abandoned, yet still functional, a thorough safety scan and analysis will take less than eight hours, not including the time required to investigate unknown factors.”
Shadows and dim lighting obscured the view beyond the doorway as Alton strained to make out details. “Picking up anything here, Nix?” He pulled the closest door open a few more inches.
“I have a fairly complete map of the surrounding buildings in the immediate area, which I am uploading to your cerebral display. My sensors are picking up slight anomalies several blocks away, but I am unable to pinpoint their cause or exact nature.”
Alton peered between the doors, “Well, sounds like something I should take a look at, since I have some time to kill.”