FICTION: From DOOMTROOPERS, The Part When Gloriana Catches a Glimpse of Her Mother on the Ocean Floor

Episode 5

Aboard Apocalypso, Jasper and Negative and Ziff huddled transfixed over a monitor displaying a yellow dot that beeped ever earthward in an alarmingly sharp trajectory.

“Shit shit oh SHIT they’re coming in too steep!”

“Too fast,” Negative mumbled. “No chance.”

“Wrong, idiots,” Ziff said, feigning disaffection though his interest was keen. “They’re going to run out of ocean…”

The yellow dot went down beep beep beep…

Blur of fire, splash of crimson across the sky. The sphere shot long overhead like a finger stretching toward the distant horizon, reached the point where the ocean met the sky, and the hot sphere kissed the cold water in a massive eruption of spray and foam, kum-DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSH!

“Touch-DOWN!” Jasper howled.

“The term,” Ziff sneered, “is splashdown.”

“Bite me bitch,” Jasper snorted. “You sure it’s them?!”

“I’m sure it’s their Battlesuits, one can only assume it’s them!”

“Works for me.” Jasper swung around. “Helm! You got their cords?!”

“Aye, sir! Latitude four zero niner—”

“Save it, man,” Jasper snapped. “Let’s go get ‘em!”

Blue and white waves rose and fell, evaporated instantly against the burning shell of the sphere. The sky rumbled; there was a soft whisper of rain. The glowing sphere bobbed and lolled as coils of steam rose with a hiss.

Within, the scream of angels subsided. The electric fire withdrew. The fierce energy Gloriana had unleashed went shooting back inside her, a fury-driven host of phantom blades zooming at her clenched eyes—

Her eyes snapped open. Her pupils had returned, blue and cracked with a black hole at each center, eyes full of wonder, perhaps a little terror. She sucked air that wasn’t there.

The ocean rose and fell. The glowing skin of the sphere fluttered like the lashes of a sleepy infant, then vanished.

What remained of the Firing Chamber lay revealed as a massive black globe of Nytemare metal, cut and pockmarked with holes and severed sections where the sphere had ignited and sheared away everything beyond its fiery perimeter. And at once the black metal globe began to sink.

Water came surging into the Firing Chamber, water from every angle. Gloriana looked about, scarcely able to believe. This… this really is the surface of the ocean, right? We actually…

A wall of water surged, knocked her off her battleboots.

No time. Glori got to her knees in the fierce swirl of water, stabbed gloved thumbs into the underside of her helmet. The interior displays triple-flashed em release and there was an explosive blast of mini-charges at her neck. She wrenched the helmet up and off, Air! She panted. Her face was drenched with sweat. Her hair was a glossy blonde skullcap. She threw the helmet aside and splashed toward her friends. They lolled like mannequins made of driftwood in the frothy rush of seawater.

“Come on, Sasha! Time to go swimming!”

In a furious blur Gloriana ripped the Battlesuit from her staggering and semi-conscious friend. Bolts popped and broken plates flew as Gloriana peeled away layer after layer of reinforced armor until Sasha was down to her essentials and Gloriana slapped her twice, blurred stings across her face.

“Sash, wake up! Help Clive. Get his goddamn helmet off!”

The water was waist-high. Through the cut and severed sections the Atlantic sky was getting smaller, darker; their very heavy re-entry vehicle had a definite appointment at the bottom of the ocean. Glori turned, confirmed that Jack was awake and moving, slow and clumsy in the pummeling water, yet still reaching to blast his helmet clear from his neckbrace. Good. She grunted, reached down, hauled up Perry.

“Move it, trooper! The Edmund Fitzgerald is sinking, dude!”

She sheared Perry out of his armor even faster than she’d freed Sasha from her suit, mwaa-KRANG! and ka-KRENCH! and shum-rrakaarakka-RIIIIP! and when she was finished she gave him a good shake. “All hands on deck?!”

Perry’s head lolled, but his eyes focused. “Fuck yeah, Captain!”

“Ultra. Help Sasha with Clive, he’s way screwed up!”

Gloriana spun Perry around and shoved him toward Sasha. The water churned, chest-level. Sasha had successfully removed Clive’s helmet and upper armor. Perry grabbed at something Gloriana couldn’t see, then he half splashed, half swam to Sasha’s side, and together they began to tow the semi-conscious Clive toward the nearest opening. Glori turned to Jack—

Jack still hadn’t removed his helmet.

His gloved hands clawed desperately at his neck and jawbone, fingers splayed and pushing, pushing.

Damn it, and damn her! She’d forgotten; Jack’s Battlesuit was fucked!

She lunged toward him but a sudden canopy of water fell over her, smashed her under the surface with a hard slap of Atlantic blue. Roar of bubbles and crushing cold; the submerged chamber was thick with broken wreckage, wires and cables curling like eels.

Gloriana pushed through the freezing clutter with desperate strokes, boots and armor suddenly heavy like rocks lashed to her legs. She grimaced, knived through the hard water toward the blur that was Jack, and there was a blast of escaping pressure.

Jack ripped his helmet free. Even under the frigid water his face was gaunt and handsome and strong; his eyes locked with hers and he reached toward her, his lips split with defiant teeth. Glori seized his hand, pulled. She wrenched Jack up. They kicked furiously, they swam blind toward one of the submerged holes of the Firing Chamber, a blue circular window with a descending ceiling of black. Gloriana shoved Jack out before her. They surfaced amid broken gasps and sharp Atlantic waves, the lolling shadow of the sphere behind them.

Sasha and Perry splashed nearby and Clive coughed. The sky rumbled with thunder. The ocean swelled, lifted the troopers up, threatened to sweep them apart. Gloriana struggled to stay afloat in the dragging tug of the body armor. She forced her tired legs to kick and kick.

“Y-you—” Jack started, spurts of seawater dribbling from his mouth.

“No, you,” Gloriana said. She reached toward him, gripped his chestplate. “Get naked, man.” But it was far more difficult getting Jack out of his suit while she doggedly treaded water, waves slapping her repeatedly in the face, her head falling again and again under the surface. “Damn it! Shit!” She pressed both knuckles together, pushed her fingers through the seams and plated sections, then ripped the Battlesuit both up and out. She peeled Jack out of his armor even as she kept him from sinking like a stone, thinking without cessation I can do this I am Gloriana Blitz I can do anything

The final plates fell away. Jack was free of his suit. She pushed him off and he splashed away clumsily.

My turn, Gloriana thought, and she dug gloved fingers into the space between her reinforced collar and the pale skin of her throat, she was ready to tug with all that remained of her strength when Jack’s eyes turned sudden saucers and he lifted his bare arm out of the Atlantic chop and he spurted a warning that sounded like “GWOWY—!!”

Sasha screamed.

Behind her—

Gloriana had only removed her helmet.

She was still in full body armor.

She turned. The waters sucked past as a vast shadow fell. It was the looming hull of the Firing Chamber in its final gurgling plunge. The metal globe rolled over her like a giant black marble and the blunt edge of the hull struck her hard, the blow of a hammer to the bell of a cathedral. Gloriana wanted to cry out in pain and surprise but couldn’t because her mouth was full of water and everything was black and roaring and cold, massive weight pressing, pinning her limbs, forcing her down, no no but consciousness slipped…

Then she was sinking, arm over arm, a marionette cut from her strings and there was no light, just the roar in her ears, relentless, a river, a waterfall, the end of everything. And. It was. Okay. She thought. Beside her the sphere of metal spun slow and dreamlike toward the lush sandy bottom. Gloriana fell and fell in the black. She wanted… She wanted… Oh, it was okay. She’d pretty much done it, this wasn’t too terrible of an ending. The metal globe struck bottom with a thud and a deep reverberation, crunching coral and kelp as it rolled like a disgruntled giant, then settled with a deep hollow groan. Glori’s head tilted, lolled. And she hit the ocean floor as if she were a heavy metal puppet, sand rising in a soft plume.

She lay still.

She lay on her back, unmoving for long seconds, her eyes open.

Then she sat up.

Bubbles of air clustered at the corner of Gloriana’s mouth. She lifted her face, pale in the black and green, her short yellow hair flowing like a slow motion candle. Her lips parted. Strange, there was no need for air, no need to breathe. Glori looked around. It was midnight at the bottom of the ocean but still, she could see…

She saw the verdant submerged landscape with its rolling hills of sand, jutting crops of black rock, its fabulous plants. And now Glori smiled. It was beautiful. So quiet. The living Earth, still here, still alive. Her heart felt finally at peace.

A light approached. Bars of blue shot past a stalk of kelp, soft and incandescent. Something was burning, shimmering, a light in the dark. It was the glow of crystal, the shimmer of a diamond.

Gloriana frowned, tried to decipher what she was seeing: was it a chemical discharge, a piece of wreckage, a bit of the star she had rode down from the sky? The soft light came closer with soft definite steps, bare feet blue on the ocean floor. What—

Gloriana starred.

A woman with ice blue skin stood tall and regal at the far end of the oceanic plain.

Gloriana's mom revised_FINLAY

The tall woman at the bottom of the ocean wore a simple dress of gossamer and silk. Her long white hair flowed like wheat in a gentle wind. The woman’s eyes were ancient in a face resplendent with eternal youth and undying beauty, eyes that looked upon Gloriana with uncomplicated love. The woman held a trident in her right hand, a straight staff in her left.

Well done, the woman told Gloriana without speaking. The amber eyes were bottomless with affection. Now the real battle may begin

Gloriana wanted to ask, “Who.”

She wanted to plead, “Why.”

But there was a sudden pulse of static in her brain, the shriek of an alien frequency, her fatherhermotherherfatherhermotherherfatherhermother and Glori’s hands went to her head, teeth clenched hard in pain. And as quickly as it came the pain passed, slipped away. Glori shook herself, and the woman was gone.

The spot where the woman had stood was empty, a bare spot in a garden of kelp and coral and the disintergrating bones of a trillion fish.

Gloriana lowered her hands, lowered her eyes with… not regret. Nor disappointment. She didn’t have a word for it. It was a piece of her heart that had been missing for so long she had learned to accept its absence as a condition of existence. It’s all right, she told herself with only a little bitterness. The vision was gone. And now something else was coming.

A shadow fell like a sheet pulled over her face.

The waters pulsed with the thrum of a mighty engine.

With slow and sullen eyes, Gloriana looked up.

Apocalypso loomed above her, bow tipped toward the surface, straight shaft of the hull stretching long and powerful, distorted blur chopping at the stern.

Gloriana gazed up at her submarine, scarred ship of a hundred battles—and she realized there would be a thousand more battles to come. The submarine would be her shield and her lance, a sleek deadly chariot she would ride through darkness to victory. She would rally her soldiers. They would mend their wounds. Despite the spectre of radiation that promised nothing but inevitable death, they would stand at her side and together they would drive the enemy from their home. The wounded Earth would bloom again. Apocalypso. The submarine hung above her, waited like a sword ready for her hand. She would rise. She would fight. And she would win.

But now Gloriana’s lungs felt ready to burst.

It was time. She gripped her armored neckplate, grimaced, pulled. The neckplate broke with a muted snap. Layers of armor came free in a soft yet violent frenzy. Black steel and white flesh—the chestplate fell away. The nipples of her breasts were pink and swollen. Her long legs flashed pale as she pulled off the big heavy boots. At last she was free; Gloriana shoved upwards in a shaft of bubbles, bare feet flapping hard, bare arms and legs pumping as she swam with powerful strokes toward the waiting silhouette of her ship.

And the woman at the bottom of the ocean watched with sad eyes and a whisper of disapproval.

Gloriana's mom revised_FINLAY_Crop copy

Original art by Paul DiNovo and Virgil Finlay

Ω

Okay, NOW I Can Hawk Copies of the DOOMTROOPERS Paperback with a Clear Conscience, as the Interiors No Longer Look Like Ka-Ka

Doom final_cover-_2020_shadowRe-paginated for your reading pleasure! 287 pages of literal Earth-shattering fun, fun, fun! The interiors look… decent. The art falls where it should and the text is much more pleasing to the eye. Functional/appropriate gutters, too. So, yes, constant reader; I urge you to go forth and purchase DOOMTROOPERS.

Clive _1Art by Christina Chen

Ω

 

 

They Look Pretty on the Outside…

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…but no so much on the inside. There are formatting errors and the type in the novels is so small as to be unreadable. But we are far from discouraged! We will get it right. In the meantime, don’t buy them.

(Well, you can. If you really want to. I can’t un-publish them at this point. But I’d warn draxfans against it. They can’t be un-published, but they can be improved.)

Ω

Button, Button (We Went a Little Crazy With The Button) and Other Entries…

What button, you ask? Why, this button, right there on the amazon KDP control panel.

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“Create paperback.” So innocent. We’ll get to The Button soon enough. But first…

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Entry! It’s not only the last day of the year but the last day of the decade. Many folks on the web are creating best-of lists, as well as lists of accomplishments and lands visited, books published and goals attained. (I see nary a list of BIGGEST REGRETS or WORST MISTAKES, etc. Just sayin’.) Anyway, I’m not going for any of that. I’m just offering a few snaps of December 31 2019, like The Sun, above, and my current bureau shelf, below.

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My kids are glorious, yes. But boy, the extant hardcopy Drax library is woefully thin, even when spiced up with the Barsoom Design business card (like, big deal). Which brings us to the…

Entry! Button, Button. Oh that damn button.

Create_pprback_button

No, it’s not black and red on the Kindle Direct Publishing control panel but that damn button sure burned a fiery red mark in my brain for the last week and a half, during which I prepped files for paperback editions of no less than three of my books, second time around for DESCENT and first-ever for DOOMTROOPERS and the poems, ALWAYS APOCALYPSE.

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The reason? Well, pure vanity, obviously. But also the simple desire to produce physical copies of works that still matter to me, physical copies that I can give to my kids, maybe kind and indulgent friends. I simply miss making books. And evil amazon’s print on demand service is stick-stone-stupid; clumsy, but easy to use and each copy costs only pennies to produce. Besides, as much as it might seem I’m looking backwards, I really am inspired to move forward…

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… and complete unfinished major works…

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…so, Entry! Here’s to the 2020s, here’s to The Future.

So mote it be.

Ω

And In Yet Other News…

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… the paperback edition of DOOMTROOPERS is now available via Evil Amazon. You know you want one! Assuming you don’t mind a few glaring pagination goofs, that is. Repeat after me: “Thank you Amazon Robot Typesetter.”

Ω

Jesus Christ. It’s the “Dark Queen” from the end of DOOMTOOPERS Book 1

Furio Tedeschi Dark Queen Doomtroopers

Yeah, I always imagined her as “Hel,” with giant fucking branches coming out of her head.

Image by Furio Tedeschi. Apologies for fast crappy photoshop.

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Available @ evil amazon. 99 cents. Cheap!

Ω

Happy FALL Rewind: “Rod, you holding anyone good, man?” [nsfw, 17+]

“Well, who you looking for, kid?”

“The dream girl. I’m still looking for the right dream girl. From a story. Jesus, I come every Monday.”

“Oh, right, you. Hey! Weird cat trying to groove on the feel-bad babes. That’s a special crowd, boy. What’s the matter, kid? The other stories no good? Those sad tragic dames still don’t do it for ya, huh? Huh? Huh punk?”

“She keeps changing. In my head. I keep looking. It’s strange. So, Admiral! What’s the op? You holding any good merch this week or not?”

“I only move quality. But for you? This week, we’re moving some Drax, Simon Drax of the dooom-punk and the Dormammu. First up, whoa, she’s a pistol! Mori Kim Marr from Exit Vector. She’s a handful, tiger! Happy only when blind stinking drunk with the VODKA. Very bad attitude and real, real easy on the mass-destruction trigger-finger, she destroys Heaven by accident, and that ain’t half. Mori’s a pistol. Good price, too. Mori comes for free. Just like death.”

photo manip W Ryder by The Creep in the AD 

“Not bad, pops. Who else you got?”

“Ooh, we’re going to have to go up several floors for our next tragic dream story lady, you jazzy brat. Our next girl’s very high maintenance. Gloriana Blitz from DOOMTROOPERS has the weight of a broken world on her bare shoulders! Another big drinker. Daughter of a GOD! Leader of the last kids on Earth! My god, when this girl cuts loose, you’re going to need to run, you’re going to need a bomb shelter. On Pluto.”

illustration by Jo Chen

“She seems a little a bright and loud.”

“Well, yes, she’s a cartoon. But a very heartfelt cartoon, friend.”

“Anyone else?”

“The best. A Saint, touched by God and the whole hot sticky Catholic mess. Catherine Marie Merrin from A Very Fast Descent into Hell.

And the crazy beat behind the counter in the shop of bottled dreams continues, “Catherine from Descent is the best heroine and the best dream girl, because clearly, she’s too good to be true. She really is a Saint, and consequently a little daft in the head, but we’ll get to that. Catherine is generous and brave and heroic and clever and cunning and loyal and she has an exceptional high tolerance for pain. She will not eat the last cookie. She will let you control the remote. She will give you more than her share of the blanket. She will be mindful to never hit or hurt the twitchy weak spots in your flimsy male ego. She has consideration for all, even obnoxious, terrible people nobody likes. There is something wrong with Catherine’s brain.”

He taps his head. “Neurologically. Something wrong. Like a psychopath, only reversed. Catherine can’t shut off the empathy. Her sensory input is like the ocean. She had a difficult childhood. She was massacred on the playground. Her mother was afraid. Her father wasn’t there. Everyone thought Catherine had a learning disability. She stayed inside and read a lot of books. She stayed back twice. It did not help. She decided she would become a Nun and give herself to God. But that didn’t work out, because the world went to Hell, fast! And it was literally in that free fall of total societal collapse that poor chemically-impaired Catherine Marie Merrin underwent a seismic and irreversible change: the girl learned the word ‘No.’ And not just a schism of character, an irreversible before-and-after—no, no, not just that, my young friend—she found a mission. Saint Catherine found a mission. Saint Catherine must slay the Hollow Priest. She must overcome everything, even when all are against her, even when she’s tied and burned at the stake on the first page of this bottled bad dream, later beset by a demon, and finally flung on a slow tidal wave of undying flesh—”

“Hey, heavy! Very Dormammu. How much is she?”

2.99 @ amazon. 99 cents at B&N, iTunes, Smashwords! Plus the usual joints. But this one…”

“Relax, old man. Sold.”

Ω

Yes, it’s only a commercial. Apologies to the Shade of Rod Serling.

 

END OF SUMMER SPECIAL, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: “DOOMTROOPERS” and “DESCENT” Now 99¢ at BARNES & NOBLE, iTUNES, and SMASHWORDS

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It will take a day (or so) for B&N and iTunes to catch up, but you can purchase digital copies of these “spectacular” books at Smashwords for less than a buck right now.

Carry on, wayward sons and twisted daughters, and everyone in-between.

Ω

In Celebration of World Book Day, DESCENT and DOOMTROOPERS are FREE Today @ Smashwords

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24 hours only! Tell your friends, enemies, pets, neighbors, everybody.

Drax at Smashwords

Ω

DESCENT | DOOMTROOPERS — Free @ Barnes & Noble, Now Until October 1

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No bullshit: these books look best on the Nook, I swear to Christ. Free at Barnes & Noble until October 1st. Tell your friends and such, you know. You’re beautiful. “Beautiful!”

By this time tomorrow, the Wave Engine will be restored. And then I will be warping out of here.

Ω

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