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Authors: Vaughn Heppner

Strontium-90

BOOK: Strontium-90
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SF
and Fantasy Books by Vaughn Heppner:

 

DOOM STAR SERIES

Star Soldier

Bio Weapon

Battle Pod

Cyborg Assault

Planet Wrecker

Star Fortress

Cyborgs!
(Novella published in
Planetary Assault
)

 

EXTINCTION WARS SERIES

Assault Troopers

Planet Strike

 

INVASION AMERICA SERIES

Invasion: Alaska

Invasion: California

Invasion: Colorado

Invasion: New York

 

OTHER SF NOVELS

Alien Honor

Accelerated

I, Weapon

 

LOST CIVILIZATION
SERIES

Giants

Leviathan

The Tree of Life

Gog

Behemoth

The Lod Saga

 

THE ARK CHRONICLES

People of the Ark

People of the Flood

People of Babel

People of the Tower

 

DARK GODS SERIES

Death Knight

The Dragon Horn

Assassin of the Damned

 

OTHER
FANTASY BOOKS

The Assassin of Carthage

Elves and Dragons

 

Strontium-90

(A Science Fiction/Fantasy Anthology)

 

by Vaughn Heppner

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by the author.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

 

Contents

 

Thirteen Science Fiction and Fantasy stories by Vaughn Heppner! Many have been previously published in various magazines and print anthologies.

 

The Cockroach Diaries – It’s survival of the fittest in the distant future.

 

The Living Totem – Making magic the hard way.

 

Strontium-90 – Inter-Solar war at its trickiest.

 

The Scarlet Woman – She’s Death’s own harlot.

 

Quantum Metaphysics – What color is your soul?

 

Thule – Vikings should beware of drinking enchanted cups of wine.

 

Braintap – Breakout therapy is risky business.

 

The Oath – Bargaining with a devil is never what it seems.

 

War’s End – It isn’t always a good idea to start at the beginning.

 

The Flower Girl – “Don’t sniff the purple lotus, dear.”

 

The Rationalist Response – Use the freaking transporter—like this!

 

The Cup of Attila – The Scourge of God has one wedding too many.

 

The Dialogue of Kong and Socrates – Even a cybernetically-enhanced, time-traveling gorilla needs some philosophic help now and again.

 

The Cockroach Diaries

 

Lunatic science or stunning boldness, what are we to think about the cockroaches’ last achievement, or about their findings on the moon? The diaries of Doctor Ix Deeb, the Chief Director of their Science Ministry, are troubling indeed. I publish his last entries with unease. Yet we must unfold this mystery before the mystery returns and destroys us all.

Supreme is the Eternal Hive!

Science Officer C-357, Batch 14,001, Number 2244-0003

Bitter Lakes, Continent II

***

123,674,237,203rd Solstice +31 Days:

Military Situation

The ants broke through the Hik Defenses yesterday, but our counterattacks drove them back. In the Bitter Lakes region, all enemy assaults failed.

------

Although the present situation may lead one to different conclusions, I believe that cockroach civilization has scaled the highest heights yet seen on Earth. One may reasonably ask, however, what about the all-conquering ants?

It has been my oft-stated view that aggression and high war-skills are not necessarily the only signs of great culture. True, ant society dominates both Polar Regions, and they control seventy percent of the warmer and more agreeable continents. It is true, as well, that they have crushed the last ratfolk fortresses. Yet what can one expect from fur-covered mammals? They lack stamina and are easily hampered by radiation—but I digress.

Ant culture, as far as we know, is strict, rigid and highly motivated. What they lack in technology they make up for in sheer numbers. On the last cockroach-held continent, ants already number in the trillions. Conversely, cockroach numbers have dwindled. Where once we boasted trillions, now a mere hundred billion are left. Unlike ant culture, cockroach civilization upholds the individual—but we are also losing the war for Earth.

Enough morbid thoughts. Let me write rather about our stunning conquest of space. Cockroach technology has put a fleet of satellites around the Earth. From such untouchable heights, the warmasters launch thermonuclear weapons against ant strongholds. It is all that keeps the disciplined ant hordes from swarming our last continent. Unfortunately, we’ve learned that underground ant factories build missiles and crude space vessels to challenge our new supremacy.

I voted, of course, to divert funds toward an exploratory space fleet. Surprisingly, knowing his ideological bias, the Chief of the War Ministry voted likewise, as did the Chief of R&D. It’s miraculous the number of spinoffs that come from space technology. Perhaps the others understood that. In any regard, a fleet of deep-space vessels were constructed and sent to the moon. Premier Yk Tik-ik herself ushered me into her office several days ago, belying the rumor that she was dying. She showed me the moon photos. Her legs trembled and her antenna quivered with anxiety.

I scanned the photos. Only when I saw the cockroach moon-rovers beside the monstrous space vehicle did I realize the utterly gigantic size of the alien spacecraft. Truly, the alien ship is an artifact of supreme wonder.

Bold unto the point of rashness, Moon Commander Ti Xeeb and his exploratory team mounted a month-long expedition up and into the alien artifact. I saw the photos. Incredible. There were controls and chairs for creatures thousands of times the size of cockroaches.

I told the Premier that the Moon Commander’s information would shake the scientific community. Her antenna quivered and I knew she understood. She told me to harness the scientific interest. That somehow we must use this against the ants.

I told her I understood. But do I? What I’ve learned has led me to believe that the Earth was visited thousands of years ago by gigantic, intelligent creatures. (I dare not call them monsters, although their size is daunting in the extreme.) The scientists and I will thrash out this new information. It may be our last hope.

***

13,674,237,203rd Solstice +39 Days:

Military Situation

The Hik Defenses were breached by swarming ant armies. Deep penetrations into the rear areas bagged them millions of civilians, which they held as hostages. The Premier made the only decision possible. Thermonuclear launchings halted the ant advance.

------

The Scientific Council talks madness. Members argued that the alien vehicle originated on Earth millions of years ago. What nonsense. We’re aware that long ago a catastrophe occurred on Earth. Thousands of species perished. The fossil record shows that. How they died is still a mystery. Do the council members believe that a culture that built such a vast ship could vanish
without a trace?

An obscure cult-follower argued that the fused
‘bones’ found in rock strata from that distant era were part of the inner structure of these aliens. That is ill reasoning. Yet it shows cockroach openness that we allow such talk. It would be impossible for creatures of that size to produce ‘bones.’ If it were possible, I asked, why doesn’t the Earth contain such creatures now? No. The ‘bones’ were fashioned in factories for reasons we cannot fathom.

I knew the moon photos would bring hysteria.

***

13,674,237,203rd Solstice +45 Days.

Military Situation

The war goes badly. As we expected, the ants launched a massive space armada. Although Space Command destroyed almost the entire enemy fleet, the ants knocked out our satellites. We can no longer afford to send a new expedition to the moon.

------

I have been given a troubling challenge. Doctor Riz z’Di, the highest-ranked member of the Science Council, came to me yesterday and proposed an intriguing test. I will accept his challenge and pinch this
‘bone’ heresy by the thorax.

His offer was this: At the Ixville Underground Museum are crystal boulders. As is well known, many of the crystals have been cracked and insectile creatures removed from
them. Unknown to me, but known to Doctor Riz z’Di, is that blood samples have been found in the proboscis of these well-preserved insects. Doctor Riz z’Di tested the blood. The samples were similar to ratfolk blood. And… the incredible fact that somehow missed me was that crusted blood was found aboard the alien artifact.

Doctor Riz z’Di thinks he has a match. He wishes to analyze the blood down to its alien DNA and then inject a ratfolk embryo with it. If, and I realize the idea is ridiculous, the blood aboard the alien vessel matched blood in a millions year-old fossil, it would prove that the ratfolk are decedents of these aliens.

I have agreed to Doctor Riz z’Di’s experiment. We are the cockroaches after all, even if his political ideology is absurd.

***

13,674,237,203rd Solstice +91 Days:

Military Situation

The Bitter Lakes region was devastated by chemical attacks. The ensuing ant assaults swept our defenses. We had some successes in the Rikk metropolis, capturing four ant headquarters and destroying ten thousand attack-rovers.

------

The experiment proves fascinating. Perhaps I’ve been wrong about the alien. Already the embryo is many times larger than one of the ratfolk. The Premier awarded Doctor Riz z’Di with the Medal of Excellence.

I think perhaps that I’ve judged the War Minister too harshly as well. It was he, after all, who first backed Doctor Riz z’Di. I ate lunch with the War Minister and we spoke intimately. He asked me to see the Premier and suggest to her that we use scientific methods against the ants. He suggested, too, that the Premier was overworked, taxed until she no longer reasoned as clearly as in the past.

That was an absurd comment for one who truly knows the Premier. I understood the War Minster to mean that such a possibility could occur far in the future. I learned that he along with several other ministers had spoken with the Premier. They suggested she choose a warmaster whom she trusts, and make him Warleader Supreme. It would take the weight off her exoskeleton, the War Minister told me. Adroitly, I waved my antenna in possible agreement, but left my position unstated.

The area in which I agreed was in the use of the alien embryo. If the embryo grows to a commensurate size, as the moon artifact suggests, then why not produce an army of aliens to attack the ants? Such a project delights me. I yearn to beat back the ant hordes. Science is the only answer left us.

***

13,674,237,203rd +201 Days:

Military Situation

Day after day, the suicidal ant airforce breaks through our fighter screens and firebombs or chemically sprays vast housing tracts. At the same time, enemy attack-rovers converge on the Tik-ik River. We must make our stand there.

------

The Construction Minister complained today that the alien fetus takes up incredible underground housing space.

It’s true that the fetus is big beyond our most nightmarish dreams. It’s also incredible that some scientists still cling to the belief that creatures such as these once lived on the Earth. Are we to believe that gigantically monstrous creatures overran our world? Show me the evidence. There is none. Only the towering ant mounds compare to the alien’s height. Yet even the artifact on the moon dwarfs the tallest ant structures. No, although the DNA is similar to a ratfolk’s, I find such talk absurd.

On a more scientific note, we tire in our efforts to keep the fetus alive. Uncultured fungi processed through the feed tubes sent the fetus into spasms. Only de-radiation of the nutrients allows us to feed it. Naturally, the Food Minister complains about the fetus’
s voracious appetite. We await the hatching, wondering how the alien will react to our surroundings.

I have built a mental image of what a world with these monsters would have been like. I do this to show the absurdity of the view. Firstly, with grown aliens eating their vast quantities of food, the civilization could have numbered
no more than twenty billion. I cannot envision a society of technological sophistication with such paltry numbers.

Because of the sluggishness of the fetus, and its huge size, I believe that it originated on a less dense planet. At Earth-normal gravity, the alien would barely be able to move its limbs. The biomechanical problems would be legion.

I weary of this senseless analysis, and I also wonder if the alien will prove helpful in our struggle against the ants.

***

13,674,237,203rd Solstice +225 Days:

Military Situation

The War goes badly indeed. Ant hordes converge on the capital. Underground struggles rage daily. Reports have trickled in that ant submarines push back the crabs. The ants will soon rule Earth, despite our world’s four intelligent species. Our only hope is the recent successes in antimatter theory. Environmentalists tell us of the horrid damage the antimatter bombs would do to the Earth. Perhaps they’re right. I do not know.

------

The alien was born today. It lived only four hours outside its birth sac. Conjecture is that the normal air-mix killed it. Like a mammalian ratfolk, the alien proved weak, without inner strength.

What was the alien artifact on the moon? It’s difficult to know. The quick death of the alien has dashed the Earth-origin theory. Clearly, it couldn’t survive on Earth. Perhaps we’ll never know what happened in the distant past. Yet like the ratfolk, the fetus is clearly alien to our environment. I believe, along with Doctor Riz z’Di, that the ratfolk were offshoots of these aliens, colonists that fled a dying world.

Yet we too die.

***

13,674,237,204th Solstice +12 Days:

Military Situation

This will be my last entry. The ant hordes slaughter us. The Premier, together with the ministers and a key constituency, are about to leave the Earth and head into space. A secret fleet was built for this contingency. What will we do if we meet the giant aliens? At this point, all I know is that the ants have conquered the Earth, but perhaps the cockroaches will yet inherit the stars.

 

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