Cast of Wonders 314: Presumed Dead (Part 1)
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Presumed Dead (Part 1)
by Rick Kennett
Days later, while sheltering from rain that had lost its novelty, she decided the end had begun when George McClusky said, “So what do you suppose that is?”
That had been the moment. Everything leading up to it may have had a bearing, may have been a primer, but hadn’t been the trigger. Not the utter mental void of floating in space with only the whisper of her rebreather for company. Not when the McMurdo Sound disintegrated around her. Not even the battle itself.
Cy De Gerch slumped against the mushroom big as a tree trunk and closed her eyes to let another dizzy spell pass. The ghost of Jos Manxman would be appearing soon. She knew it. But right now she couldn’t stomach facing the spectre again, arguing with it again.
The rain continued to fall as it’d fallen for days without number, or so it had seemed.
Cy could barely remember the battle. It’d been too brief and too like several other recent fire-fights in its distant, impersonal violence. If she thought of them at all she found they were gradually merging into a single indefinite moment of fast numbers and white light in her head.
Except this recent one had nearly killed her. Twice.
A fit of shivering gripped her as she sat in the wet purple grass beneath the dripping mushroom trees.
She raised her head and yelled, “George!”
The rain continued to fall and no one answered. No ghost came to argue, came to stare at her with disapproving eyes.
All about her were the trees, the grass, the rain.
Who, Cy thought, is George?
Concentration brought him back to mind: George, the shuttle, and how — like everyone else — she too could sometimes be so very, very wrong.
She’d been drowsing in the jump seat of the shuttle, twitching against the harness, muttering to herself in a horrendous dream.
“Scanners … Scanners … Auxiliary doesn’t answer … fire virus …”
“Lieutenant De Gerch?”
“Fire virus … hull’s crazing …”
She awoke, the dream seeming to spin away into infinite distance, its noise of breaking metal, escaping air and dying humanity speeding up into a thin, shrill sound fading into silence.
A hand was lightly gripping her shoulder, right where a fading stain covered the red disk and insignia of the Martian Star Corps on her black tunic. Shuttle Pilot George McClusky, floating beside her in pale blue Terran Star Corps fatigues, pulled his hand away in an almost guilty fashion.
“I had hopes,” she said, “that my tunic’s cleansing bacteria would’ve chewed that blood out by now.”
The pilot rubbed his thick, gnarled fingers together, letting little flecks of dry blood flick off and drift through the zero-g air of the cockpit. “Sorry, ma’am. There’s a contact on deep range. In the event of irregularities I must inform any superior officer aboard.”
Superior officer. Cy cringed inwardly and made a derisive noise deep in her throat, an odd sound for a seventeen year old girl to make. She’d had her commission less than a year while Pilot McClusky probably had twice her lifetime’s space experience and was close to three times her age.
“How long have I been asleep?” Cy asked, stretching.
“Nearly five hours.”
“Where are we?”
“About halfway across the Alpha Electra system, ma’am.”
“Halfway.” That meant they were still several hours from hooking up with the troopship evacuating the garrison station at the edge of the system, now an isolated liability with the battle front crushing in, before jumping subspace the five light-day distance back to the Beta Electra system. “What have you been doing all this time, George?”
“Been in the passenger module running a few virtuals and holos, trying to improve my lot. Piloting shuttles only takes you so far.”
“No doubt. So what’s this irregularity?”
George hauled himself into the pilot’s seat, buckling in with one hand while pointing with the other to the deep range scan. There a small amorphous image tracked slowly across its face. Distance was just over two million kilometres.
“Meteor?” said Cy. “Space junk? Too far off anyway. You woke me up for that?”
“Would’ve woken you anyway, ma’am. You were having a nightmare.”
“I was back aboard McMurdo Sound, and we were dying again. Gravity was out, atmosphere was going, weapons wouldn’t respond. I was yelling down the combat link to dead people.”
“You were saying something about fire virus.”
“Jeez, was I? We spun out of subspace, expecting to start our war game with Moreton Bay in a safe and empty star system like Alpha Electra. Instead there were these three big Gloop cruisers. Right where they weren’t supposed to be. Did you know that?”
“Not in detail, ma’am. They just said go pick you up from Moreton Bay and I went.”
“I could’ve stayed aboard Moreton Bay and returned to Beta Electra in her. But with her subspace facilities wrecked she’d take too long. You see, the reason they’re in such a hell-fired hurry to get me back is because I’m a product of the Gartino Experiment.”
She glanced sideways to see if the term registered with him. Apparently it hadn’t. His expression was a question mark.
“Basically, George, I’m a genetically engineered piece of ordnance designed to meld with and enhance Martian fire control systems. I’m also my ship’s executive officer and astrogator.”
“Do you? I barely understand it myself sometimes. Seems Terran Command couldn’t pass up the chance to evaluate a Gartino slotted into the weapons systems of one of their own ships. So I was lifted from my frigate Utopia Plain to the Terran cruiser McMurdo Sound and told to go play games with another of their cruisers, Moreton Bay in the Alpha Electra system. They got their weapons evaluation out of me all right.” Cy’s thin lips curled in a grim smile. “When those three Gloops turned up out of nowhere I scorched two of them before we were ripped apart. Moreton Bay got the third.”
“Yes, ma’am. And in a few hours we’ll join the troopship, and you’ll be heading home to your own ship.”
She glanced at him, wondering if all Terran noncoms talked like favourite uncles. “Yes. Where I can do it all over again when the Gloops attack that system in a few days or a few weeks. No one knows when but it’s coming. You know, there were only six survivors from McMurdo Sound. Five Earthies and me, the borrowed Martian. A war game conducted safely behind the lines.”
She let the bitterness roll out, not caring. Her fellow survivors, the five Earthies, were filling in for battle casualties aboard Moreton Bay now making the slow sub-light journey back to repair facilities in the neighbouring Beta Electra star system.
“What’s the course of your contact?” said Cy.
“Relative two-seven-zero by zero-one-eight.”
“Bring it up on 3D. Show the vectors.”
Millions of kilometres of space around them came up at eye level as a holographic cube a half metre on a side, shot through by two yellow lines not yet intercepting.
“Still too far out for analysis?” said Cy.
“It could be a big meteor … but we’re nowhere near the asteroid belts of this system.”
George increased the scale of the hologram cube. “There’s an M/K type planet coming up: Alpha Electra 4.”
She barely glanced at it. “No, nothing planetary. Maybe it’s debris; something from our fight with those Xenoid ships. Something flung out on the right orbit could be swinging this way by now. Maybe a piece of McMurdo Sound or Moreton Bay. Or even one of the Gloops we scorched.”
“Or a body?”
“Morbidity, George,” she corrected him like a very proper aunt. “Not good for a solo shuttle pilot.”
“Not so much solo, ma’am. Those positions on the lower deck are usually filled, so I often have company. This is a military transport, after all. Dragging empty or with a single passenger such as yourself isn’t usually … well, you know.”
What do I know? Had there been a note of resentment in what he’d just said? She suspected he’d already been snug in the troopship evacuating the garrison station when he was ordered — or had he volunteered? — on this mission: to drag empty for seven billion kilometres through potentially dangerous space, from one side of this star system to the other, to meet with the damaged Moreton Bay, then return with only a single passenger. A Martian, an outranking youngster, a test tube creation, an oddity all round.
After a moment he said quietly, “Could it be a body?”
She shook her head, her short black hair frizzing in the zero-g. “No. Whatever it is it won’t be organic remains. They don’t …” She hesitated, glancing at the blood stain on her tunic. “They don’t stay in one piece after a neutro’s distortion wave hits. And that’s to say nothing about prolonged exposure to hard vacuum.” She gave him a quizzical look. “How is it you don’t know this? You’ve been around space longer than I have.”
“I’ve been in transport most of my career. You know, pottering about the backwaters, mostly around Sol and some of the closer stars. I’ve never seen a deader — even though this shuttle’s designed to double as an ambulance.”
“Sure. Those couches in the passenger module all have medical hook-ups. There’s also a fully equipped surgical locker.”
I wonder if … “About a year ago,” said Cy, “I was injured in the asteroid belt near Mars and picked up by ambo-shuttle. Wasn’t you, was it, George?”
“No, ma’am. Not me. I’ve never done ambo work, nor want to. That sort of thing takes you to where it’s happening. This is the nearest I’ve ever got to the front line, and even at this distance it scares me.”
“You don’t look it.”
“Neither do you, ma’am, and you’ve been closer.”
Cy chuckled. “We’re at the front now — or could be. McMurdo Sound and Moreton Bay thought they were in safe space. To be honest, when you turned up I was really expecting something a bit more — I don’t know … armoured?”
“I wish we were armoured. But this was all they could spare. The troopship’s captain simply requested a pilot for a bit of ferry work, so I put my hand up.”
So you did volunteer. “Why?”
He thought for a moment, then said, “It’s the job, isn’t it. I mean, if not me, who?”
“Is that the only reason?”
“Well … I’d asked to come out here after working the solar system so long, so I thought I best make myself useful.”
“You asked to come out here? To the front?”
“I felt I was getting in a rut stooging about the solar system. Anyway, deep space pay is far better. I have a wife and two children to support. And a house still to pay off. An old-fashioned place, it is. Solid brick like they haven’t made for a hundred years or more. So here I am, making a change, making some better money.”
Cy pondered on this, thought on her own reason for being at the front, one she’d never chose as George had been allowed to choose. She said, “With your work within the solar system have you ever been to Mars?”
“Yes, ma’am. Six or seven times to Styx City Starport.”
Cy smiled patiently. “No, George, Styx City isn’t Mars. Styx City is a huddle of starship hangars pretending to be a habitat. The best thing going for it is the SRC, not to be confused with the MSC.” She tapped the insignia on her tunic.
“Styx Recycling Corporation. What on Earth you’d call ‘Waste Management.’ On Mars there’s no such word as ‘waste.’ There just isn’t. Mars is the Arcadia and Amazonis Plains pocked with craters, Mariner Valley stretching like a wound quarter way round the planet, the rocky maze of the Southern Chaos and the Labyrinth of Night, the snows and majesty of Mount Olympus. It’s fearing the rising dust and always knowing where your oxygen mask is. It’s thirsty water bores and deliberately plunging ice asteroids, great red vistas and penny-small Phobos rushing backward through a pink-brown sky … and, George, I really wish you’d stop ma’am-ing me. The only reason I outrank you is because seventeen years ago I was mixed and cooked in a genetics lab to be an integral part of a ship’s weaponry system. I’m young enough to be your daughter. In Earth years, that is. In Martian years I could almost be your grand-daughter.”
The Earthman smiled. “And what am I in Martian years … er … um …”
“Cyleen. Cy for short.” For the first time since boarding she had a really good look at George McClusky. She saw in him now not as a means to an end, not just a pilot of a military transport, but someone with history in his face and with eyes that must’ve seen a hundred planetfalls, a thousand light years of travel and a hell of a lot more of life than she had. The type that did up his tunic neatly but left his hair uncombed, the sort found in every army anywhere, the backbone of the Corps grown old in the service. “Twenty, George. In Martian years you’d be twenty.”
“It’s been a long time since I was twenty.”
“Come to Mars and be twenty again. We’ve got longer years and shorter gravity. You grow taller and live longer.”
“I’d like to, but I wonder how I’d adapt to frontier living.”
“Frontier living? Really, George! We’re not a bunch of colonies anymore. We don’t recycle our pee through home-made stills. There’s millions of people on Mars now. We have cities and towns — granted, they’re mostly underground, they use artificial gravity, and we do have to be careful with water and air. But just wait till we rebuild the atmosphere, unlock the water from the soil and bring in ice from the asteroid belt.”
“What is it your people say? ‘God made the Earth, but the Martians made Mars’?”
Cy wrinkled her nose. “Not one of my favourite sayings. Sounds too much like … what’s that word that means ‘pretending to be brave’?”
“Yes. Bravado. We’ve barely begun terraforming. We’re still a long way from making Mars a habitable world. And we’re still reliant on Earth more than we’re willing to admit. On the other hand we’re way ahead of Earth in the military use of human genetic engineering.” She pulled a depreciating face. “Not that that’s anything to be so proud of. By the way, George, you never heard any of this from me.”
George looked at her askance, then diplomatically turned his attention to the deep range scan. “So what do you suppose that is?”
“Oh, some piece of space junk. Won’t come within a hundred thousand K.”
Days later, while sheltering from the rain, she decided that the end had begun there; and that, just like everyone else, she could sometimes be so very, very wrong.
Cy took off her backpack and pillowed her head against it. The soil smelt of mould and the purple grass and trees smelt sour. Both were more a fungus than real grass and trees — short pulpy strands carpeting the ground and large soft-trunked uprights flaring with black streamers something like branches. For convenience she called them grass and trees, although throughout her life on Phobos, on Mars and in space, she’d had scant experience with either. At any rate she was not thinking straight. She needed rest. Rest from walking, rest from the rain and rest from the dead girl who followed her.
In spite of her mediscan prognosis that first day back on the beach, her periods of dizziness had not diminished; in fact they now seemed to be hitting with sharper regularity.
She squinted over her shoulder, watching the black foliage trees and purple fungus grassland easing in and out of focus. Jos was not tramping up behind her. Not that that meant anything. Jos, a pretty auburn-haired girl dead nearly a year, had been coming and going since the beach, possibly earlier on the raft after the shuttle sank. Hard to say. She could just as easily snap into existence right now beside her. Sometimes she spoke and sometimes she didn’t. Cy didn’t know which was worse.
Time and tide, she thought, wait for the dead — no … no, time and space. That’s what I mean. Time and space mean nothing to the dead.
She was drifting again, something else she’d been doing more frequently.
Back on the beach — however many days ago that was — she’d smelt the rain just before it’d started. It was an odd talent for a Martian to pick up after so short an exposure to weather. It hadn’t rained on Mars for a billion years and, despite ongoing terraforming, probably wouldn’t again for decades to come.
There was mud on her boots. There’d been mud on her boots for days, yet she looked at them now as if for the first time, with the same sensation of novelty. Hadn’t she said something about mud to someone not all that long ago? Something about ordnance and not having ever seen mud in her life? Who had she said that to? George?
“George!” she called into the rain. “I don’t know shit from mud … but I do know these things. Oh, yes, I do know …” She trailed off, unable to remember what she meant by ‘these things.’
Silently, suddenly, Jos stood in front of her, seeming to Cy’s fuzzy thinking to tower like a Titan, her head of auburn hair lost in the tumbling grey sky, though she was only sixteen and probably a little below average height for a Martian girl. She’d been sixteen when she died, huddled in an egg, hit by a rock, thrown to the four winds of space.
She squatted, clad in the same blue and white cadet vacuum suit she’d been wearing that day a year ago on that training flight into the asteroid belt just beyond Mars. Across the left breast the metallic label Josephine Manxman was clean and bright. Equipment clips gleamed against the blue fabric.
It occurred to Cy that the name tag was always bright, the clips always gleamed, whether under cloud or in darkness.
Does the sun always shine where you are now, Jos?
“What about the beacon in the Charlie-Sierra cairn?” said the ghost.
“I’m not going to activate it.”
“So you keep saying. Why?”
“Why! Why! Why! I’m only interested in the cairn’s survival gear, not its rescue beacon.”
“You have to tell them you’re alive.”
“Stop harping, Jos!” She sat up, glaring at the apparition — then slumped head and shoulders to her knees, pain throbbing above her eyes. “You were never like this when you were alive, even when we disagreed on things. Jos, you were always an enthusiastic desert trekker on Mars; why don’t you go off and explore this planet and leave me … Oh, Christ, listen to me, talking as if you really exist. Jos, dearest heart, figment of my delirium, listen to me then vanish. I’m officially missing, presumed dead. Good. So be it! It’s my chance to start again, live life a little closer to normality.”
“This is not normal,” said Jos, gesturing to the landscape of alien fungi.
“Neither is life out there,” said Cy jerking a thumb upwards. “In fact it’s not even life. It’s just an existence I was created for.” She raised her face to the ghost, reaching out to cup Jos’s cheek as she’d been wont to do when Jos was alive, feeling nothing save the cold rain on her fingers. She dropped her hand away.
“You know what you’re doing is wrong,” said Jos. “You’re deserting.”
“I am not deserting. I didn’t plan this.”
“No, but you were quick to seize the moment when it presented itself.”
The moment? Cy thought. When had that been? Back on the raft? When she had first begun to see the ghost?
Recent memories cascaded past her mind’s eye: the destruction of McMurdo Sound; floating alone in space with infinity all around her; being picked up by Moreton Bay; transferring to the shuttle; talking to George – “This time we’re not bluffing,” she remembered telling him. More destruction; pain and darkness; tearing into the atmosphere, white flaring plasma engulfing the hull; crashing into the ocean; rising too slowly from the depths; alone and adrift once more.
She said, “Is this my conscience talking now? Shouldn’t you be wearing a white robe and halo for this role?”
“You’re lucky to see me like this rather than how I really am.”
Cy looked at the pretty ghost wearing the blue and white vacuum suit and, remembering how she’d died, silently agreed that she would not want to see Jos as she really was.
“You were never a shirker,” said Jos. “Not when I knew and loved you. Why now?”
“Give me a kiss.“ Cy slipped her arm around the Jos’s neck, and lunged forward. She fell into the purple fungus grass, a few blades of it in her mouth, her arm bent beneath her, grasping nothing.
“Bitch,” she muttered, spitting out bitter purple fungus.
She sat up slowly so as not to trigger a new dizzy spell. “Why am I imagining you like this, Jos? You’re acting like such a … a froob.”
She grimaced at the word. She hadn’t described anyone as a froob in years. It was a kiddy word, used by green trainees. She wasn’t a trainee anymore, she wasn’t a kid. She was seventeen and a lieutenant in the Martian Star Corps —
“No! Not any more!” she told herself. Not any more. All that ended when George McClusky had said, “So what do you suppose that is?”
She peered about the trees, half-fearing, half expecting to see the ghost again. Jos would return when she felt like it. There was nothing Cy could do about that because clearly she, Cy De Gerch, was out of her mind. Another very good reason never to go back to her old life.
She laughed, sounding a little crazy even to herself.
The rain increased, forcing its way through the treetop streamers.
Normally water in large amounts was a novelty for a Martian. Here on this planet, a thousand light years from the solar system, the sight of falling rain and the sensation of water on her face and dripping through her hair had long since lost its magic. Now they only made her cold and miserable. She needed shelter. To rest and medicate.
She rummaged about in her backpack, looking for chocolate. This was just about the only thing she’d brought away with her from McMurdo Sound. That and pictures in her head that flickered like a train of thought disrupted. The Xenoid beams slicing McMurdo Sound amidships, the ship shuddering gigantically. Herself clawing at the weapons console, hands dragging her away, someone saying, “They’re dead!” and she saying quietly and emphatically, “No! No! I have targets!” Somewhere in the background the groan of the hull crazing and breaking up with fire virus.
Then soft drifting for unknown hours, infinitely all around. Only the whisper of the rebreather to tell her she was still alive.
So Moreton Bay found her.
At least the chocolate was supplementing her rations till she reached Cairn Charlie-Sierra and all the groceries therein. Afterwards, rested and perhaps with some sort of shelter built, she’d raid a few other survival cairns, maybe set herself up as a self-supporting farmer. She’d use the cairn’s protein converter to alter native vegetation into something a human could eat, and grow her own food from the cairn’s hydroponic kits. She’d live in the sun, not hide in the dark, not shoot on command, not be shot at; be her own person, do in her small, personal way what spreading humanity was trying to do in its big, ugly way.
There were enough rations in the pack to see her through to the cairn. Though … didn’t half of these belong to someone else?
Her head buzzing again, she looked about the trees, across the purple grasslands beyond.
The rain tumbled through the black fungus streamers, dripping.
She snapped off some chocolate and let it melt in her mouth, savouring it, feeling better already. Admittedly Earthies did have some saving graces. They made crap starships and she could never understand their battle tactics. But they made such lovely chocolate.
She fished in her tunic pocket for the cairn compass, attuned to the location signal of the cairn at co-ordinates Charlie Sierra, the nearest. The arrow on the compass screen still indicated slightly south of west. The distance read-out was down another twenty kilometres from the last time she’d checked. When was that? That morning? Yesterday? It’d been three, four, five days — she wasn’t sure anymore — since the beach, since the raft, since the shuttle went down in that alien ocean. That she’d been walking for quite a time was all she knew, mostly through lightly forested grasslands. Sleeping when the too swift day was done or when exhaustion or blackouts took her. Never waking fresh, always just as tired, cold and wet, awakened by incoherent nightmares. Sometimes nibbling from her rations, sometimes checking the flashing compass, continually followed by the accusing dead.
Something plopped onto her leg. For a mad instant she thought it was Josephine touching her the way she sometimes had. Instead something like a cross between a lobster and a tarantula sat upon her knee, a little larger than a hand, all eight legs gripping lightly, its claws and eyestalks elevated, the orbs blinking up at her.
“Hello,” Cy said with barely a twitch. “Hey up there.” She rapped her knuckles against her head. “Can’t you dig up something more imaginative? Spiders are too conventional.”
She brushed the supposed delusion away, only to hit something solid and rubbery. A claw jabbed, stinging the back of her hand as the creature tumbled from her knee, scuttling into the undergrowth.
“Damn it!” Cy half stood, losing the creature to sight among the bushes. On the back of her left hand was a small break in the skin and a trickle of blood. She broke out her medikit again and put on an antiseptic patch. The stinging subsided. A check of the wound with the mediscan found no trace of venom.
The spider crawled back into the open and peered at her, its eyes glistening atop their elevated stalks.
“Yes, I know I hit you,” said Cy, “but I didn’t think you were real. Pardon me. I’ve not been well.” She tilted her head to one side. “Take me to your leader?”
The spider made no movement, but continued to stare.
“There’s not supposed to be any land animals on this planet. So what does that make you? Perhaps more to the point, what does that make me? Despite the nip you gave me I might still be breezing. Maybe … maybe I never made it out of the shuttle. It’s sinking and I’m lying under a pile of wreckage, laughing as the sea comes pouring in because I’ve realized at the very end how absurd my life has been. Squeezing out of the hatch, drifting in the raft, washing up on the beach, this search for a survival cairn with Jos and … and you, my little furry friend, whatever you might represent to my dying unconscious — you’re all just bits and pieces of my escape fantasy.”
She closed her eyes.
“Wake up now, Cy,” she told herself. “Wake up, face reality and die.”
She opened her eyes. She was still under the black fungus trees, it was still raining but the spider was gone. Removing the antiseptic patch, she found a faint red welt.
Cy stood. It was time to move on.
As they neared the top of a ridge, the rain easing to drizzle, Jos said, “What do you have in your backpack, Cy?”
“As I know what I have in there,” said Cy, keeping her eyes averted from the sunlit and bone-dry figure walking beside her, “I don’t see why you’re pretending you don’t know as well.”
“Let me guess: Medikit, rations, canteens, laser.”
“Where did you get them?”
“Where did I get them?” Cy stopped and faced the spectre. “What sort of froob question’s that? It’s George’s panic bag.”
“There’s a molecular scalpel in there too, isn’t there.”
Cy started off again.
“A molecular scalpel isn’t part of a first aid kit. Cy? Are you listening? It’s only found in operating theatres and ambo-shuttle medical lockers.”
Cy continued up the ridge, only to pull up short again with the ghost now in front of her.
“Why the scalpel?” Jos persisted.
“I didn’t even know there was such a thing on board.”
“Yes you did. George told you about the medical locker on the lower deck.”
“I have no recollection of picking it up.”
“You were thinking fast, thinking ahead when you picked the scalpel up.”
“It’s my training to think fast.”
“Training you’re now turning your back on.”
“Yes! Training in pinpoint destruction at enormous ranges and the genetic engineering that makes me so damned good at it! Even makes me revel in it! I resent – oh god how I resent – this meddling in my genetic make up. But most of all I resent being brought into existence for just that purpose.”
“What would you rather have been?”
“My poor self-pitying Cy. Do you think you’re the only one to ever go to battle stations?”
“You can’t talk, Jos. You died before you knew what it was all about. Besides, you always had a choice. I didn’t.”
“With the molecular scalpel you can painlessly remove the locator chip behind your left ear.”
Cy started up the ridge again.
“And when you do,” Jos persisted, “they’ll never find you. Right? Cy, am I right? You can’t explain grabbing the scalpel from the shuttle if desertion wasn’t already in your mind.”
“Maybe it was already in the bag. Maybe it was George’s.”
“Yeah, right. Blame the dead. We make perfect scapegoats.”
Ignoring the ghost, Cy topped the ridge – and saw.
Both girls gasped, Jos then disappearing like a forgotten thought while Cy stood on the crest, staring down the other side in shocked amazement.
A vast yellow plain stretched before her, and as far as could be seen it was littered with the wrecks of hundreds of steamships.
About the Author
Rick Kennett has had horror and SF stories published in several magazines, anthologies and podcasts including Dunesteef, PseudoPod, and Cast of Wonders. He won two Parsec Awards for podcast stories in 2013, a year that also saw the publication of his novel The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. One of those Parsec Awards was for Cast of Wonders Episode 71, Now Cydonia, one of the several Martian Ranger Cy De Gerch stories.
When not toiling at the day job in the transport industry, he can be found wandering cemeteries – necrotourism – or working as the podcast reporter for the Ghosts & Scholars M R James Newsletter.
About the Narrator
Marguerite Kenner (she/her) is a California transplant living in the UK city named after her favorite pastime.
She runs Escape Artists with her partner Alasdair Stuart, and practices as a technology lawyer in London. She loves to voice minor characters in podcasts and play video games, often where people can watch.
Her contributions to genre fiction include being a 2021 Hugo Award Finalist, editing Cast of Wonders from 2013 to 2019, project groups for too many industry orgs to count anymore, community organising, mentoring, and teaching business skills to creatives.
You can follow her adventures across various social media platforms.