My Blog ~ DMARC Fun


One of the biggest problems newsletter authors have is their handily crafted periodicals ending up in the Spam folder or otherwise marked as less desirable. We depend on a relationship of trust and reliability with our members. Ending up in their Spam folder or with our messages marked as unsafe is a catastrophe for us.

We have thankfully been given tools to help prevent that. SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. For those of us who have full control over their hosting, it is trivial to insert entries for each of these into our Zone settings, verifying our domain to the global email transit system. A trusted email is less likely to find its way to the Spam folder or worse. 

However, the settings can be tricky when dealing with the tolerances of various mail systems. For instance, Google is notorious for labeling legit emails as “Dangerous.” I had set my ASPF and ADKIM to Strict, and it appears that Google didn’t like that, especially when it came to emails generated by MailerLite. Despite the SPF, DKIM, and DMARC settings passing exhaustive and exhausting validation tests, Google found an anomalous reason to reject my SPF setting. Suddenly, emails going to Gmail accounts from me were marked as a malicious threat. 

I actually had to relax my settings for ASPF and ADKIM to “Relaxed” to get around this Gmail rubbish. I wanted Strict for higher trustworthiness and Google didn’t like it. Since easily half of my current subscribers are on Gmail, what Gmail wants is what they get if I hope to send emails to my friends there, even if it’s less restrictive. Who would have thunk Gmail was light on security? 

This is just a little look into the razor’s edge that we must balance on to do business on the internet and communicate with you. Continuous and constant tweaking as mail handlers frequently change. But sharing my universe with you is worth the extra effort. 

Shipwrecked – December 2023

Shipwrecked – December 2023



Cargo Serial, Episode 1

A science fantasy serial.



November 2023


“No. No.” Rebecca shook her head. “Life cannot exist in a black hole.”

“What do you know of black holes?” Bobbi circled Rebecca.

“Why do you think I’m on this circuit? We pass twenty systems orbiting black holes. My observatory is specifically for collecting data from them.” Rebecca pointed, thought for a second, then pointed in the other direction. 

“That proves what?” Smugness again. 

“We know life cannot originate on one.” Rebecca put her hands on her hips. “It’s like life originating on a star. It’s not going to happen.”

Bobbi smiled condescendingly. “Well, what you don’t know about these stars vastly outweighs what you do know.” She glanced in the direction of the gravatar. “This one contains a gateway to home.” For a moment, Bobbi appeared crestfallen. “One we can never return to.”

“Pfft, like a wormhole? Seriously?” Rebecca hesitated, cocking her head. “Seriously?”

Bobbi grinned. “A gravatar is just a very dense star. No holes.” She leaned toward Rebecca. “And you thought you knew a thing or two about black holes?”

Rebecca scowled. Or it felt like she did. She glanced at the mirror again, remembering she had no face. “We know…” She shook her head and sighed. “We have a lot of ideas about black holes. What they’re made of. What they’re radiating. But I’m the first person to actually get close to one. To specifically study one up close. This one is my third black hole.” She waved her hand in the direction where she thought the gravatar was, glancing at So’rn. He pointed in another direction. Rebecca corrected herself. “It’s got an accretion disk which interferes with my equipment but I’m still getting a ton of data from it.”

“Quaint. But admirable.” Bobbi smiled. “Any species that seeks to understand the universe cannot be a total loss, right?”

“Um. Yeah.” Rebecca wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or not. “So, tell your friends not to dump us in there, please.”

“No can do.” Bobbi waggled her finger. “This ship has to go. It’s already proven a threat to us.”

“It’s a cargo ship!” Rebecca held her hands out. 

“It means others will follow. Unless it is demonstrated that this system is incompatible to them.”

“The cargo pods are in stasis,” So’rn said quietly.

“Yeah, what he said.” Rebecca shook her head and looked at her armored wolfman. “Really? The whole pod?”

So’rn nodded. “When the accretion disk starts to tear this ship apart, they’ll be disrupted.”

“Wow. I knew they had stasis in them. But the whole pod?” She looked at Bobbi. “We don’t want to disrupt them.”

“Why?” Bobbi looked at her curiously.

“Well, um.” She glanced back at So’rn. “Why?”

“When we deactivate one, the buffers merge the past with the present carefully to prevent a temporal hammer. The amount of energy one of those would release could destroy a star system.”

Rebecca just gaped at him. She looked at Bobbi. “There are like, ninety-six of those pods.”

“Ninety-four. We dropped two off on this transit already.” 

So’rn was ripped from Rebecca’s grip and slammed into the far wall again. 

“Of for crying out loud!” Rebecca rushed to him and pulled him off the wall. He hung on her arm as if gravity had switched to the wall while she pulled him back to Bobbi. “You guys really need to ease into it.”

“We are currently in orbit beyond the accretion disk. You will disable the stasis.”

“I’m a Terran physicist working on her thesis. He’s security against one of our enemies. The recipients of the pods are the ones who deactivate them, right?” She looked at So’rn. He nodded as his feet finally settled back on the floor. “And why is he affected and not me?”

“You are not enslaved to inertia.”

“Our gravity fields should counter…”

“They are designed to counter what your engines are capable of. We have no such constraints.” Bobbi said shortly. “We will disable the pods before retiring this vessel.”

“That’s like, theft.” Rebecca walked around in a circle. “And my observatory. I got grants for that. A friend sponsored me.”

“Your personal problems are irrelevant now,” Bobbi said. “Inheriting you as my Pilot does not change our mission.”

“I didn’t ask for this!” Rebecca yelled. “You could have just let us pass through and no one would be the wiser!”

“Except more are coming.” Bobbi looked at the two of them. “You will establish colonies here mining our resources. And where you go, the Cursed One inevitably follows.”

“Intruders.” So’rn waved at something in the air. Rebecca touched him and saw a virtual layout of the ship. “They’re boarding us.”

Rebecca looked at Bobbi. “Yours?”

So’rn rushed out of the room. 

“Where is he going?” 

Rebecca looked down the hall, then up at the door label. “We’re at Medical Three, so, he must be heading back to his quarters.” She glanced at Bobbi. “Yeah.”

“I see it. He has an armory there.” Bobbi vanished and became a voice in Rebecca’s head again. “We must prevent him from deploying his weapons.”

“Are you afraid…” Rebecca started then stopped, taking a wide stance as she stared around her. So’rn’s quarters. “How did we get here?”

So’rn rushed in, then pulled up short. “Rebecca?”

“I was already here,” Bobbi said innocently. 

“I just, did we, like teleport?” Rebecca trembled as she remained in her wide stance, looking at the floor. 

“Where I am, we can go freely,” Bobbi said simply. She manifested her figure again and looked at So’rn. “You must not bring weapons to bear against us.”

So’rn snarled, crouching as if to pounce.

“Rebecca values your life. But if you bring violence to us, you will be neutralized.” Bobbi said, keeping herself between So’rn and his closet of weapons. 

“Are you afraid?” Rebecca asked again.

“He is valuable to you. Having your cooperation is optimal.” 

“So’rn, I don’t think you have anything that’ll hurt these people,” Rebecca said, shaking her head. “Please.”

A hand on his shoulder set him off like a spring. Another Pilot had entered, and in an instant found himself on the ground with a snarling So’rn on top of him ripping his head off. 

Without hesitation he tossed the head aside and attacked the next Pilot to enter, dismembering him in a single smooth motion while setting up the next target. Rebecca screamed, ducking broken Pilots until there were no more left. It happened and ended so quickly that she screamed again after the action settled.

So’rn looked menacingly at Bobbi, who just stood there with her arms crossed. Bobbi grinned. “That was educational.”

The Camdyn hesitated. He looked around, then found himself slamming into the wall, held there by unseen hands. The body parts wafted away, replaced by unharmed Pilots who stood around the wolfman as if examining a strange insect. Rebecca yelped.

“Don’t hurt him!” She squeezed through the other Pilots and stood protectively between them and So’rn. “What did you expect him to do? He’s defending the ship you’re trying to destroy!”

“We wanted to see him in action,” Bobbi said, joining the other Pilots. “He was an unknown quotient. Now we know.”

“Yeah, well,” Rebecca glanced over her shoulder at So’rn, “let him down.”

“I think we’ll keep him there until we figure a way inside his armor.” 

Rebecca found herself pushed to the side as the Pilots seemed to fade and emerge into existence between her and So’rn. She stumbled and turned to face them, livid. “He is my friend!” 

“He would have killed all of us.” Bobbi crossed her arms.

“You would have killed us.” Rebecca retorted, glaring at her Drone. 

“You will have to do better than that.”

Rebecca grabbed one of the Pilots, only to be repulsed across the room. She shook her head and stomped back towards them. “I may not be a warrior, but you are NOT going to hurt him.”

The Pilot returned his attention to So’rn’s armor, ignoring her.

Furious, Rebecca reached, then stopped. She looked at So’rn for a long moment, then lowered her arm. A black mist suddenly filled the room, then coalesced around the Pilots, restraining them and moving them away from her friend. 

Bobbi smiled, gleefully holding her hands out. “That was wonderful!” 

Rebecca looked at her Drone, confused. 

“We were sure you were incapable of being a Pilot. That the Malakim was punishing us with, well, you.”

“Come again?” Rebecca stood up straight, facing Bobbi. The black mass restraining the Pilots suddenly faded away and the Pilots surrounded her. 

“The Camdyn holds no interest for us.” Bobbi put her arms down. “After all, you are the one who associates with a god, and speaks the Holy Language.” 

“You’re in my head. What more do you want to know?”

“Pure memory is limited. There is something that cannot be read. Your will. That we must witness to comprehend.” Bobbi was suddenly millimeters away from her. “We must also discern why a god would steal a Drone, and yet leave you among us.”

“He’s just Brian.” Rebecca tried to step back, but a Pilot stood immediately behind her. “He’s my friend.”

“And yet he didn’t rescue you.” Bobbi cocked her head. “You are such a curious creature. So delicate and weak. And yet, there is something about you.”

“We must know. Why was the Drone stolen from us? Why is the Malakim interested in you? In us?” A new voice.

Rebecca looked around. The voice sounded familiar. A blackness appeared by the entrance, then wafted away, revealing the creature that Pilots were apparently modeled after. It was a biped covered in pearlescent skin rich in purple hues. Large purple eyes adorned its face. Black ridges and sharp scales ran down its body. Most remarkably, it had what appeared to be snakes for hair. Or tentacles. They seemed to have a mind of their own. Rebecca was reminded of the stories of Medusa as she gazed at the remarkable alien.

It was the voice that captured her attention most strongly, however. 


The Crow Series

Begin Your


Crow Novels

Shipwrecked – December 2023

Shipwrecked – November 2023



Cargo Serial, Episode 1

A science fantasy serial.



November 2023


“Where’s my face!” Rebecca stared at the mirror in utter shock. What looked back at her seemed to have her feminine form, but that’s where similarities ended. Her face was now a solid, black, mass. Smooth and featureless. Like armor. Almost like So’rn’s Chaser helmet. In place of her hair, her head was adorned with what looked like black, metallic cables. Animated black metallic cables. Like dreadlocks from hell. “My hair!” 

“Vestigial features have been replaced…”

“Bob!” Rebecca started shaking. “Please tell me this is just armor. Like you said, right? You’re my armor? I still feel my face. But it’s not there!” She put her hands on her face, trying to feel features that she just knew were there but no longer existed.

“You will feel it for some time while your nervous system adjusts…”

“I’m not adjusting to anything!” Rebecca took a step back and looked at her arms. They were likewise a shiny black material, covered with what appeared to be animated strips of black fabric. A loose cloak floated around her, oblivious of any gravity and apparently alive. “Please tell me this is just armor. Please!” Rebecca cried, shaking her head. She knew the answer already. The lack of a response from Bob struck home, and she broke down in sheer panic.

Her horrified wails filled the ship as she grabbed at her face, trying to remove the armor. She plucked at her armored arms, trying to rip off the living fabric, but the strips would vaporize and coalesce wherever she grabbed. She looked down at her feminine torso that was covered by the same armor and tried in futility to pull it off. When she touched the armor, it felt like she was touching her own skin, and the horror of it deepened. “No no no! Why are you doing this!?”

“You are a Pilot.” 

“Bob, I am Rebecca! That… thing,” she pointed angrily at the mirror, “that monstrosity, that’s not me!” She looked around and spotted So’rn standing in a corner nervously, still wearing his armor. “He’s scared of me now! A Camdyn! They’re like, wolfmen super-warriors, and he’s scared of me!”

“Please realize that this is for our survival. This is the nature of a Pilot.”

“I want my nature. Bob, please!” Rebecca shook her head, no longer able to look in the mirror. “I’m gone. I’m not me anymore.”

“No, you are not. You are us. Pilot and Drone.” 

“Well, I didn’t ask for it!” Rebecca turned around in a circle, holding her arms out. “I am just a nerd working on her PhD thesis.” She sat down on the floor, crying. Only then did she realize she had no tears. She couldn’t even cry correctly anymore. “Why are you doing this to me?”

So’rn knelt down beside her. “I have no idea if you are talking to me or someone else.”

“Oh, So’rn. I am so sorry. I tried to save you. Now look at me.”

“Your attempt is appreciated.” So’rn sat down beside her. “It could not breach my armor, however.” He tentatively grabbed her hand. “It really is you.”

“Yeah, and that thing that attacked you? It’s part of me now.” Rebecca sniffed, then realized she couldn’t even sniff correctly. Layers and layers of consternation. She slumped, dejected. “What am I going to do?”

“My scanner is showing a tight integration. I don’t think it can be safely removed.” He patted her hand. “Maybe a Gatekeeper can remove it.”

Rebecca shook her head, not willing to hope. “I was going to bring home a doctorate. I wanted to bring this back to the university.” She waved her hand around her. “The Cooperative universe and an expanded comprehension of physics.”

“You have apparently become part of that universe,” So’rn said quietly. “I don’t understand. Is it sentient?”

“I am.” 

Both of them spun around, then gaped. So’rn got to his feet defensively, ready for combat. Rebecca glanced at him, then stood up. “I thought you were a guy.”

The figure before them was decidedly feminine. A glossy black, smooth-skinned version of what Rebecca herself was supposed to be. “We have no gender. We typically mimic our hosts.” 

“Hmm, Bobbi?” Rebecca mused, walking over to the figure. “So, you’re not just inside me?”

“Our field of influence extends… far.” Bobbi smiled amicably. 

“Don’t do that. Smile. I can’t. Why should you?” Rebecca pointed angrily.

“I cannot be killed,” Bobbi said. “You can. Your form was so incredibly delicate.”

“I’m supposed to be delicate!” Rebecca glanced at the mirror, then shuddered. “I want me back. Please!”


“Who is ever going to love that?” Rebecca jabbed her finger at the mirror. “Mom? Dad? Oh my god, Meemaw? She’ll never understand! Even So’rn over there is scared of me.” 

Bobbi circled Rebecca, then glanced at a nervous So’rn. “He would have been a preferable Pilot. However, the Malakim has inexplicably assigned me to you.” 

“He didn’t say strip me of my humanity! Brian thought I was cute! He loved my hair!” Rebecca grew furious. “I need me. I need to be able to smile. To cry. I mean, how do I even eat?”

“You don’t require sustenance anymore.”

Rebecca just stared at Bobbi, hugging herself and feeling utterly violated. 

“Are all other… Pilots like this?” So’rn asked.

“I may not look it, but I like food! I love food!” Rebecca sat back on the floor hard, weeping. “And hair. And… skin.”

Bobbi glanced at Rebecca, then turned to face So’rn. “Such an interesting pairing. She sees you as family. You know that, right? A peculiar companionship.” 

“My question.” So’rn persisted.

“Yes. The adaptions are necessary to integrate properly with their Drones and our purpose.”

“Are they like this all the time?”

Rebecca perked up. “When your other Pilot was in my head, he appeared like any human.”

“That appearance was for your benefit and not an accurate depiction of what my former Pilot looked like. His morphology was similar to yours now.”

Rebecca slumped. “But now he is free from you. Did he revert?”

“When a Pilot and Drone are separated, the Pilot does not survive.” 

Rebecca looked up at Bobbi sharply. “You mean, he, he, he died? Because of me?”

Bobbi didn’t respond.

Standing up, Rebecca faced Bobbi. “Because of me?”

Her Drone remained silent.

“Oh, that’s just great! Great! Not only do I lose my humanity, I kill someone too?” Rebecca threw her arms up then paced, frantic. “I’m just a nerd on a joyride. Just a nerd…”

“Who a Malakim has taken an interest in,” Bobbi said. “You are not just anything. You should not be alive. But he wills it.”

“It’s Brian! My physics professor! He’s just a regular guy!” Rebecca couldn’t quell the growing doubts. “He loved to come over for dinner. He… endorsed my thesis.” She got quiet, looking at the floor. “He helped fund my observatory here.” Surely he had not manipulated her into this trip. “I wanted to come.”

“Your observatory saved your lives. It prevented me from targeting the living quarters of this vessel.” Bobbi said carefully. 

Rebecca gaped at him. “You sent the asteroid to kill us? I thought y’all missed on purpose.”

“I am the ‘asteroid’ sent to kill you.” Bobbi circled Rebecca. 

“You? That gigantic rock thing? Like, a half mile across?” Rebecca was dumbfounded.

“It is gone,” So’rn interjected. 

“Like I said, my sphere of influence extends far,” Bobbi said, matter-of-factly, glancing at So’rn. “You will find that matter is not an absolute.”

“Absolute? You are inside little ol’ me. And were that gigantic asteroid?” 


“Oh, my thesis is getting more ridiculous by the moment. They’re going to laugh at me. Like I wrote some cheap science fiction novel.” Rebecca leaned against the stasis pod as she pondered the new physics being presented to her. “The math alone is going to be almost impossible.”

The floor suddenly shifted and Rebecca watched So’rn slam into the wall with a thunderous thud. She remained unaffected. “Oh, for… What now?”

“The others are moving the ship.”

“Other Drones?”

“Our intention was to gather intelligence, then destroy this vessel,” Bobbi said.

“But, you’re here. In me.” Rebecca helped So’rn off the wall. “You okay?” So’rn nodded. He was still struggling against the inertial force that was not affecting her. “You guys were all apologetic about having to kill me. But now you’re going to do it anyway?”

“We were distressed that you were conscious of your demise and aware of us as its cause. Had you not been aware of us, you would have died in blissful ignorance.”

“Blissful. Sure.” Rebecca waved a hand. “Because, we’d just die all happy and everything. Do you even listen to yourself?”

“Our trajectory has shifted toward the gravatar,” So’rn said.

“The black hole?” Rebecca looked at Bobbi. “You’re just going to dispose of us in the black hole?”

“It is not a hole…”

Rebecca held up a hand. “Semantics. Please tell me you’re in contact with them. Tell them we’re friendly.”

“I have never lost contact with them.”

Rebecca almost let go of So’rn. “You. You’re doing this!”

“We are doing this. We cannot allow evidence of our existence to be exposed to the Cursed One.”

“I’m your Pilot now! You’re supposed to keep me alive!”

“Indeed. You will not be affected.”

“It’s a black hole!” Rebecca waved her arms, then grabbed So’rn again. 

“Rebecca, where do you think the Drones originated?”

The Crow Series

Begin Your


Crow Novels

Shipwrecked – December 2023

Shipwrecked – October 2023



Cargo Serial, Episode 1

A science fantasy serial.



October 2023


“Am I dead?” Rebecca could only see white. A sense of vertigo seemed to wash over her, but she wasn’t sure. She was certain she had a body, but couldn’t see or feel it. She wasn’t even sure she had actually asked the question. But she felt others. Like she wasn’t alone.

“How does she know the Holy Language?”

Rebecca jolted to awareness. That wasn’t her voice. But who? “Is this Heaven?”



“Where did you learn the Holy Language?”

The question felt ominous. Perhaps this wasn’t Heaven? “A Teacher gave me Samanya.”

“You call it,” a pause, “Common?” She got the impression the person was aghast at that trivial name.

“Well, yes.” Samanya seemed to encompass more than the simple word Common, however. Like origin, but more. She always wondered about that. The translation of the name was simply Common because there was no other way to express the deeper meaning of Samanya. “Am I dead?”

“What is a Teacher?”

“They’re like…” Rebecca stopped. “Why won’t anyone answer my question? Who are you? Are you an angel? Demon?”

She almost felt the smirk.

“Who we are is irrelevant.” A short pause. “Who is Steven Crow?”

“Uh uh. Quid pro quo, buddy. And that’s English. Well, Latin.” If Rebecca knew where her arms were she would have crossed them. She winced and saw Steven in her memories. She had met him briefly at the embassy on Endard.

“Answering our questions is not required. We just need to bring the memories forward.”

Smug. She got the sense that response was smug. “You know I’m a physicist, right? You want information brought forward, I can turn on the spigot and obfuscate everything.”

She focused on her math and lectures. Simple stuff. Irrelevant stuff. Basic gravity and velocity equations for orbital insertion. Automotive braking math at certain speeds. She dug her heels in and thought of math predicting basic fluid dynamics in a curved pipe.

“You are not dead.”

“Hah!” She wanted to cross her arms, but still couldn’t feel them. “Steven is just some fella from Earth who wasn’t a fella from Earth even though he really was from Earth and now he’s most definitely NOT from Earth. Sorta.”

“Her comprehension of the creature is limited.”

“I’m gathering that.”

“Two voices? Who are you?” Rebecca felt like she waved her hands in exasperation.

“I am still not detecting the Cursed One.”

“Maybe I’m in Hell after all?” Rebecca mused. “Why can’t I see anything? Am I in a hospital? Or is this a dream? I did a dissertation on Lucid Dreaming for my freshman year.”

“The Steven Crow has had contact with her.”

“I was working at the embassy. Everyone has had contact with me.” Rebecca sensed frustration from her interrogators.

“Not you.” Pause. “You’ve heard of Aliya.”

“There. She remembers something.”

“Okay, first voice is going to be Fred. Second one is Bob. And yes, we are acutely aware of Aliya. She caused the War.”

“She’s never met her.”

“Aliya may not have sent the attack, then.”

“Fred, what attack? You think she sent the asteroid?” Rebecca interjected. “And why this? Am I under anesthesia?” She imagined herself waving her arms around at the pure white.

A figure suddenly appeared before her, sitting in a chair. Interestingly, he looked like a regular human, dressed in jeans and a flannel button-down shirt. What her father usually wore. “We are very sorry. You do not have the information we need.”

Rebecca frowned. “Um, sorry for what? You’re letting me go, right? Waking me up? I’m just a dork out in the middle of space taking a joy-ride.”

“You will be terminated. We just wanted to let you know that it is not our desire to kill. Just a necessity.”

“So you are sitting in a chair here in this white whatever, just casually telling me you’re going to murder me?” Rebecca felt utterly helpless. Maybe she was already dead.

“It is a demonstration of respect. We had hoped you would not be conscious of us. But your lack of data felt like deceit and we had to make ourselves known. That knowledge of us cannot persist.”

“Make me forget then. Killing me because I’m having some hallucinations? Really?” She wanted to run, but couldn’t. She wanted to rage at the idiocy they were suggesting, but even that was denied her. She felt muted and hated the feeling. Was this all some torment of Hell after all?

“We…” Fred paused. He squinted at her. Even with his calm demeanor, she got the impression he became very alarmed. “You’ve been in contact with the Malakim! How have you survived?”

“Um.” Rebecca had no response, suddenly distracted from her growing terror. Then she saw him in another memory brought forward. Her physics professor, family friend, and mentor. “That’s Brian.”

Brian was talking to her about the cosmos. Rebecca smiled at the memory. He was a grizzled, aging black man who appeared as excited as a twenty-year-old. Was she never going to see him again? Or her parents? Then Brian stopped talking to her and looked around behind him.

“He sees us! He knows of us!”

“That’s just a memory. I think Mom said something.” Rebecca said, perplexed by Fred’s sudden departure from calm and dispassionate. Why was he so disturbed by a memory?

But Brian looked directly at Fred and smiled as he turned to face him. It was like he paused the memory and embarked on a gratuitous fourth wall-break. He leaned forward while Fred cringed. “This one belongs to me. I shall take your Drone too.” He reached out and touched Fred, who promptly vanished.

Suddenly Rebecca found herself alone in the sea of white. Or was she? “Hello? Brian?”


She flinched. “Bob?”


“Where am I?”

“In a stasis pod. Your counterpart put you in the pod in an attempt to exclude us.”

“Stasis? I’m in temporal storage?”

“Time is passing around us rather than through us.”

“Could you mansplain that again, please?” Rebecca tried to hide her confusion with irritation. It proved easy to do. A roller-coaster of emotions seemed to be coursing through her. She still had no point of reference. Just white brilliance all around her. “But, I’m aware. I’m talking to you.” A strong argument for an anesthesia hallucination dream. How could she possibly be aware of anything in the absence of time?

“Our consciousnesses are not constrained by time.”

Rebecca thought furiously. That seemed too easy. So’rn had put her in the pod to protect her. She was being attacked. Could she trust anything Bob said? Was she in danger? “Are you going to hurt me?”

“We are one, now. The Malakim has seen to that.”


“I am your Drone.”

“Oh, well. That explains everything. Can I, am I injured?”

“No. My previous Pilot had yet to issue a termination command. You are in perfect health.”

“I want out. How do I get out?” Rebecca felt herself squirming. She swallowed back a panic attack, refusing to give in to the tendrils of mindless fear that threatened to consume her. “Please, I want out. How can I be in stasis and aware like this?”

“We woke your consciousness to interrogate you. I am not able to return you to your slumber.”

“I want out!”

“I am currently working on that. Your counterpart is resisting me.”

“Counterpart. So’rn? Don’t hurt him!” Rebecca grew even more alarmed.

“Given your fondness for him, hurting him is not an option I am entertaining.”

Rebecca didn’t believe him. “You attacked him. Then me. Why isn’t he in stasis?”

“His armor resisted us. You had no armor. And he is the one who put us in stasis.”

“Oh. Yeah. Wow. I want that armor.” Rebecca remembered how robust it was. How alien it was. Fascination with it momentarily distracted her from her growing panic attack.

“I am your armor now.”

“Huh? Bob? Just what are you?”

“A Drone.”

“You’re that black stuff?”

“That would be correct.”

Rebecca sensed a little condescension. “Hey, I’m just Terran. Give me some slack, okay?”

“You are now my Pilot. There will be no slack.”

Rebecca sensed a pause. “Bob?”

The whiteness abruptly turned to black. Rebecca gasped and let out a squeak, then realized that she actually made those sounds. Blinking, she squinted. “I’m back?”

“Yes. Your sight will return when your nervous system reaches equilibrium with the flow of time.”

“That’s real funny, Bob. I wasn’t frozen in carbonite.” Rebecca reached up with her hands and touched her face. “Oh, I can feel again!”

“Your entertainment is quite peculiar. The similarity was unintended, however.”

“Can I see you?” She looked around in the darkness. “Where are you?”

“I am part of you, now.”

“Pfft. You’re a voice in my head. I may as well call you Jarvis, then. You need a British accent, though.” Rebecca laughed, relieved to be able to sense her surroundings. “I’m alive? I really am alive?”

“One moment.”

Rebecca was about to ask why when suddenly everything came into view. Not just the visible spectrum, but into the radio and X-ray and even into the gamma spectrum. Rebecca pushed on the sides of the pod, taking it all in. “Oh, my! Sensory overload! Did you do that?”

“I have augmented your limited vision.”

“Yeah, a little less, please.” Rebecca couldn’t squint or even close her eyes against the onslaught of light.

“Your brain will become accustomed to it shortly.”

“Sure. Not. I’m your Pilot. Dial it back now!”

“I’m your Drone. I will not limit myself or you. Just relax.”

“Feeling more like I have Venom than Jarvis,” Rebecca grumbled.

“You have me. You will be okay.” Bob said. “You may remove the cover.”

Rebecca looked up at the cover of the stasis pod. She sensed everything about it. Its mass, density, position in reality, even the quantum imperfections. “Oh wow. I might just throw up.”

She felt around the edge of the cover and found the release. Except, it was on the outside. “How am I doing this?” A little pressure and the latch clicked, allowing the pod cover to lift up. She reached up with her hand and touched it. The sensation was almost anticlimactic, given her expanded senses and abilities. Using her hands seemed insignificant now. She looked at them, wiggling her fingers. “Bob?”

“Our Unity,” he said simply, anticipating her unspoken question.


Sitting up in the pod, Rebecca spun around and saw an armored figure struggling through a black mass that restrained him. She felt him as much as saw him. As if she was the black mass. Relaxing instinctively, she sensed the organic mass abruptly fade from existence. It reminded her of the Keratian robes seeming to waft away when they no longer needed them. The figure stumbled and had to catch himself and she resisted the urge to reach out to him. “So’rn! You’re alive!”

So’rn froze, gaping at her. She actually saw his expression through his opaque armor.

“Um, what?” Rebecca suddenly felt self-conscious.

“Are you really… you?” So’rn took a wary stance, glancing around then back at her.

“Hey, you’re the one who wanted a stupid rock.” Rebecca swung her legs over the edge of the pod and stood up. She teetered a little, looking down. Why did she even have to stand? Gravity seemed so limiting. “Stop it, Bob. I like standing.”

“If you say so.”

More condescension. She looked at So’rn. “Are you okay?”

“You’re asking me?” So’rn shook his head. He tentatively reached and grabbed her hand, looking like he was ready to run away at any moment. Her massive wolfman, now afraid of her? “Over here. Look.”

Rebecca rolled her eyes and looked at a wall. It had been a display of the exterior of the ship. It abruptly changed into a mirror. She flinched, stumbling back. “Holy crap!”

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Shipwrecked – December 2023

Shipwrecked – September 2023



Cargo Serial, Episode 1

A science fantasy serial.



September 2023


“Please. You don’t need to do this.” Rebecca wrung her hands nervously, following the massive wolfman around his quarters as he prepared.

He looked at her, then squinted. “Why are you so frightened?”

“I’m like, your plucky sidekick. Remember? Just here for comic relief?” She held her hands out expressively, then dropped them. “What happens if something happens?”

He didn’t respond.

Rebecca waved her hands, frantic. “I’m not an Evo or Order. There’s nothing special about me. I’m just some dork out in the middle of space working on her PhD thesis. I can’t survive without you.”

“You require no special abilities to survive, Becca.”

“So’rn, please,” Rebecca pleaded. She looked at the wall display screen that now showed the wreckage her wolfman was about to crawl through. Miles of jagged metal just waiting to poke a hole in his pressure suit.

So’rn followed her terrified gaze, stripping out of the last of his utilitarian garb. He held up a large white jumpsuit expectantly.


“Help me get into this.”

Sighing, she started pulling the tight-fitting jumpsuit up his legs, pushing his thick, black fur down as she went. “Our space suits are a lot looser.”

“This is just a cooling liner.” So’rn shrugged his arms into the suit and Rebecca helped pull it so he could clasp it shut. “It is supposed to be tight.”

“Hundred-thousand-year-old society and you haven’t invented auto-fit yet?” Rebecca took a step back, looking at him critically.

“Some of us prefer the older models,” So’rn grumbled. He pressed a wall-plate, then stood back as a closet opened.

“What is that?” Rebecca gaped.

So’rn glanced sideways at her. “Chaser armor.”

She ran her hand down the alien armor, admiring the ridges and plates. “It’s so organic. Are these ablative plates?”

So’rn raised a brow. “You are familiar with armor?”

“Dad drove a tank.” She shook her head. “This is a lot more sophisticated than a tank, though.”

“With good reason. I am a Chaser,” So’rn said, extracting the armor from her rapt attention. “Hold this.”

Rebecca helped while her wolfman donned the armor. She marveled as the seams vanished when the armor pieces clicked together, becoming molecularly one. “Chaser.”

So’rn glanced at her, recognizing an implied question. “We chase deviant Gatekeepers. Like your Steven.” He snapped on a head-gear ring. “He is lucid, however, and is not a threat. The others are.”

“This helps?”

“It gives us an extra moment to evade their attack.” So’rn looked in the air and waved at something.

Rebecca touched the armor again and saw the user interface for it floating around them. “They’re that dangerous?”

So’rn stopped and regarded her sorely. “Becca, worlds have been lost to deviants. You’ve been to Senin, right? Saw the history report? A deviant did that.”

“Oh.” Rebecca stopped asking. Apparently, deviants were a sore issue for So’rn. Still, what was a Chaser doing on a freighter? She looked at her friend, wondering if she should broach the subject. But he still seemed to anticipate her question.

“With the threat of the Venda, it seemed prudent to assign me to this circuit.”

“Just you?”

So’rn scowled at her.

“Sorry. I thought you chased deviants.”

“Venda tend deviants.” He stretched in the armor. “So, we engage in combat with them, too.”

Rebecca looked out the window display. It wasn’t an actual window, but looked like one. So’rn followed her gaze. “Do you feel better now?”

She turned to face him. “So you have armor. You could still get crushed. Or something worse.”

“There is a risk to any action we undertake, Becca. This is worth that risk. And my armor should give me an edge out there.”

“Can’t our rescuers look at the projectile?”

“If those who sent the projectile reach us before we are rescued, knowing who they are will increase our likelihood of survival by an order of magnitude.”

Rebecca looked down. So’rn lifted her chin. “I’m going to get a rock. That’s all. I need you to help.”

“Okay.” Rebecca sighed. “Sure. A rock. In the middle of a minefield.”

So’rn cocked his head.

“You know. Mines. Bombs you set to keep people out?” She pursed her lips, forgetting she was speaking Common. “I guess there’s not a word for that.”

So’rn grinned. “Don’t fret. We have our toys too.” He turned on his heel and left the apartment.

Rebecca had to trot to keep up. “Yeah. Toys.”

“I’ve mapped the field and found a chunk close to one of the access ports.” He waved his hand and Rebecca saw a representation of the asteroid chunks in the wreckage. An airlock on the external hull was highlighted, as were several boulders that littered the fuselage around it.

“Huh. They’re affected by the ship’s gravity flow too.”

“The effect extends outside the spacecraft a little.” So’rn pointed. “That one looks good.”

“There’s a tangle of sharp metal junk all around it.”

“I’ll be careful.” He looked at her. “I’m not foolhardy, you know.”

“I’m starting to wonder about that,” Rebecca grumbled.

“Wonder about what?” So’rn stopped and tapped a panel. “Here we are.”

“What do I do?”

“You’re my backup.” So’rn pressed another wall-plate in the room they had entered. A closet emerged from the wall. “Put, um,” he squinted at her, then pointed, “that one. Put that one on.”

Rebecca looked at rows of actual space suits neatly hanging. “Do I need a liner too?” She pulled at her blouse.

“Not necessary. This isn’t armor. Just put it on.” So’rn extracted the suit and examined it. “It is auto-fit and close to your size.”

“Oh.” She kicked her loafers off and stepped into the suit. So’rn sealed it for her and clicked on the headpiece ring.

“Your helmet will deploy automatically, but here is a manual deployment control.” He put her hand on a control surface.

“That’s… what if I hit it accidentally?” She toggled the control and her helmet seemed to materialize from the neck-ring. The visor was opaque, like So’rn’s, but she could see everything perfectly from within. Another toggle, and it retracted.

“It will not respond if you are in an inhospitable environment,” So’rn grinned. He couldn’t help but be impressed by the questions she was asking. “Okay, I assume you know how the lock works, right?”

“I’ve been in one during transfers a few times.” Rebecca fiddled with a control panel on her arm and looked up in the air at the settings floating around her. She activated one and her suit resized itself to more comfortably fit her. “If you expect me to go out there and drag your crushed butt back,” she stopped. Shaking her head, she pointed at the door. “I don’t want to go out there.”

“You’ll operate the return cable.” He tapped another panel, and a winch emerged from the wall by the door. He clipped the cable to his armor. “Just pull on that lever and it’ll retrieve me if there’s a problem.”

“What if you’re, like, stuck? Crushed?”

“Then it will retrieve parts of me.” So’rn gave her a toothy grin. He sobered at her horrified expression. “That was humor. You Terrans have a very dark imagination.”

“You Camdyn are really annoying,” Rebecca grumbled.

“That we are.” So’rn pulled up a virtual control and activated it. The door to the room snapped shut, and the room seemed to lift.

Rebecca walked to the door and stood beside the winch. “I don’t like this, So’rn.”

“I’m not going to get injured. The thought of you nursing me is motivation enough.”

“Pfft, you only wish.” She hit a panel next to the door. Her visor deployed automatically while the air was removed from the room. After a brief moment, the door opened, revealing the expanse of their little section of the space-freighter. She watched So’rn exit, stepping through a thick layer of dust. “I thought we had this cleaned every transit.”

“This is from this transit,” So’rn said, looking down. The downside of having gravity on the exterior of the vessel was the inevitable buildup of dust. He looked up and pointed. “We have a much better view of that now. Look.”

Rebecca followed his gaze and nodded. This transit had a supermassive black hole. They were far enough away that it wasn’t a threat to them. Their trajectory was already pre-programmed to account for the gravitational pull. “That’s why this transit is such a gold mine.”

“Gold mine?”

“A rich source of resources.” Rebecca clarified. “You guys can mine this for centuries and not make a dent. Dust, rocks, planetoids, all pulled into that accretion ring. Easy pickings.” Part of her thesis covered the astrophysics being represented here. She looked at her suit sensor readings. “And radiation. Hurry up.”

She watched So’rn navigate carefully around wreckage that was strewn across the fuselage of the space freighter. The edge of the chasm created by the projectile was close, and the distorted metal raised up like a vast, frozen wave. The sheer size of everything intimidated Rebecca, and she shivered a little. The engineering section alone was over fifteen miles long. The cargo section was over eighty-five miles long. She felt like a little flea standing by the door as she watched So’rn pick through the dust looking for samples of the asteroid.

“This is odd,” So’rn said.


“I already looked at this chunk.” He held up a fist-sized piece of the asteroid. “Not enough mass for a good radiation read.” He tossed it and kept feeling in the layer of dust. “There should be a larger piece right here, but it’s moved.”

“That’s a little creepy, So’rn.” Rebecca fidgeted, glancing at the handle of the winch.

“It is peculiar.” He stood up straight and turned around in a circle, looking down at the dust. “I’m not detecting any magnetic resonance, and yet the fragments seem to be aligning themselves as if there were.” He bent over and lifted up a much larger fragment. “Here it is.”

“Good. Now get back here.” Rebecca tugged on the safety line.

So’rn looked out into the chasm created by the asteroid. “It’s different when you’re actually looking at it out here.”

“I’m sure it – So’rn!” Rebecca screamed.

So’rn looked back at her, then around as a large black wave seemed to rise out of the surrounding dust. The chunk he held liquified and joined the wave that enveloped him. He writhed, trying to dislodge the black liquid while it attempted to find a way into his suit.

Rebecca pulled the lever and started pulling on the cable when the winch wasn’t turning fast enough for her. “So’rn!”

“No! Don’t pull me in!” So’rn waved a hand at her. The entirety of the liquid that had blanketed him abruptly left him, following the cable toward her.

Rebecca pushed the lever up and tried to jump back just as a mass of blackness suddenly fanned out and engulfed her. She fell back, hearing a distinct scream through her suit. Whatever it was, it was trying to get in. Suddenly, her headpiece retracted. Rebecca screamed into the vacuum as the blackness seemed to instantly fill her suit, immersing her.

Her last thought was a combination of emotions she had no idea existed.

Then, nothing.

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