VOLUME THREE NUMBER TWO FFFFF SSS FFFFF N N EEEEE TTTTT

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

1 +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+--+-+--+-+ VOLUME THREE NUMBER TWO | | ========================================== +___________+ FFFFF SSS FFFFF N N EEEEE TTTTT | ++ | F S F NN N E T | ++ | FFF SSS FFF N N N EEE T | | F S F N NN E T |_________| F SSS F N N EEEEE T /___________\ ========================================== | | BITNET Fantasy-Science Fiction Fanzine ___|___________|___ X-Edited by 'Orny' Liscomb <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> CONTENTS X-Editorial Orny The Acquisition, Part One Roman Olynyk 2100 and Counting Orny Narret Chronicles 4 Mari A. Paulson <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> X-Editorial Well, here we are! Sorry about the delay in getting issue 3-2 out, but I had to be sure the Narret Chronicles continued, and I'm sure you'll be pleased with this copy. We start off with the first part of a four part fantasy story by Roman Olynyk which I'm sure will captivate you. The next article is a short story idea I came up with which is interesting, although the copy in this issue is only a rough draft. The idea is: What if an alien came to a post-holocaust Earth and tried to figure out what went on, and came to the conclusion that automobiles were the dominant life form? Finally, we close with chapter four of the Narret Chronicles, which is drawing towards an enthralling climax! I'm sure you will enjoy this issue and the ones that will follow. In news, the seventh Thieve's World book has been released by Ace, and is titled "the Dead of Winter". This seems to be an improvement over the previous books, and will be reviewed in issue 3-3 of FSFnet. If you are looking for it, note that the old cover art by Walter Velez has been replaced by Gary Roddell. There is also a new Tekumel novel out by M.A.R. Barker and DAW, called "Flamesong". An earlier FSFnet had Mr. Barker as a featured author and reviewed the first Tekumel book, "the Man of Gold". Finally, Houghton Mifflin and Christopher Tolkien have combined once again to bring us a new work, called "the Lays of Beleriand". The book (available only in hardcover) contains several partial poems, but concentrates on the two major stories of the Silmarillion, the former being the Tale of Turin Turambar, and the latter being, of course, Beren and Luthien. The two are written as "the Lay of the Children of Hurin" and "the Lay of Leithian". There has also been renewed interest in a BITNET Diplomacy game. The game, marketed by the now defunct Avalon Hill Game Company, is a classic board wargame. Anyone interested in getting a game together (using standard postal Diplomacy rules) please get in contact with me. Well, enough is enough! Read on and enjoy! -Orny <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> THE ACQUISITION Part One: The Tavern Far to the east, in a land more cold than warm, was nestled the small village of Gorod. The village was situated on the plains, and it was surrounded by distant mountains topped with dense forests of hardwood trees. The people of Gorod were peasant folk. Stocky and fair-haired, they farmed the rich fields and plied their simple trades. Seldom, if ever, did anyone chance to venture from the village. More seldom, still, did they ever return. In the middle of Gorod stood a tavern of rough-hewn wood. The tavern was called the Antlers, for that was what hung over the doorway. The antlers were sun-bleached, bony white and porous, marking their age in seasons. Fare at the Antlers was meager. The only beverage served was mead. The mead was stout, however, and it was the best in the village. In the evening, as the sun went down, villagers would cease their labors and stop by for a brew and a meal before subsequently dropping off to a restful sleep. This pastime usually was limited to the younger folk who still had energy left after a day's work. Today, however, was different. The tavern bustled with farmers anxious to hear the latest reports. A monstrous sow, which only a few remaining elders remembered, had returned. The return of Kathryn was news indeed! Kathryn was far from being an ordinary sow. Some believed her to be a demon wrought by the curse of Baba Yaga. Others thought she was the reincarnation of Baba Yaga, the evil sorceress who had died more than a century ago. Still recalled in tales around the hearth, the tale of Baba Yaga was now considered as more of a children's story. This day, even men of stout heart shivered at the mention of Kathryn. From whence Kathryn returned, no one knew. When her foul temper suited her, she would leave the dark forest and raze the fields, burn the summer crops with her breath and ravage all in her path. The countryside was blighted. "Yeauh, I saw her!" said the Miller. "She was big as a bull, she was. Her mouth was full of big awful teeth." The Miller grimaced to illustrate the remark with his own jagged dental work. "Who's going to drive her away?" asked the farmer who first saw her. "I saw her too," added another farmer. "She spit out a fiery froth and set my rye ablaze. My crop is lost. What am I going to do?" "Someone should go after her and kill her," suggested another farmer. Nobody looked the farmer in the eye. Nobody even wanted to hint that he might wish to undertake such a task, for it seemed true; Baba Yaga had returned in some other form. "Who's going to drive her away?" Asked the same worried farmer as he wrung his hands. "Anyone who is fool enough to follow her back into the forest will never return," commented another. The door to the tavern opened and a wobbly-legged figure wended its way around the oaken benches to find a seat near the kegs. "Yeauh, that's a fact," sneered the Miller as he eyed Banewood staggering through the door. "Maybe our Shaman can fix her one of his spells. Kathryn'd get so dizzy that she might burn herself into a hole!" Everyone laughed at the Miller's remark and at their stumbling Shaman, who had been attempting to induce a vision by smoking some hebona. Banewood still reeled and talked to the air as he tried to pour himself a draught. Everyone laughed again, forgetting Kathryn for the moment. The apprentice Shaman sat with his mead and weathered the jeers brought on by the Miller. Banewood wondered why he came to the Antlers rather than stay at home to sleep off the effects of the powerful smoke that he had used for divination. He found a quiet seat far from the burly Miller and sipped from his flagon of mead. His head cleared slowly. Banewood recalled his latest trance, a flying vision through the forest to what appeared to be a dilapidated hovel. From the darkened door peered two crimson eyes - eyes that haunted Banewood for the remainder of his trance. Kathryn could hardly be forgotten. She was black and as large as the largest bull, just as the Miller had described. From her mouth, which bristled with large and irregular teeth, she could spew a cloud of caustic vapor that ignited objects it came in contact with. The fact that Kathryn's eyes were red brought on the notion that she was really Baba Yaga. When she had lived, Baba Yaga was known for her blazing red eyes which defied description. They shone of their own light - a bright, bloody red glow. Tales of her sorcery were numerous. She was known to fly and to take on animal forms. In any form she took, she worked solely for evil. Never actually seeking mastery over men, she controlled them only long enough to bring them to ruin. As an outcast throughout her life, Baba Yaga came to hate humans or any reminder that life was good. To the inhabitants of Gorod, Baba Yaga seemed to live far beyond her years. As time progressed, she made fewer appearances, but her evil work continued through lesser genii who were under her mastery. Eventually there came rumors of her death. Her demise was never confirmed, for no one had ever approached her dwelling within the dark forest. Whenever a marauding beast met its end, it was with the anticipation that it might have been Baba Yaga in one of her forms. Deathly visages, the skins of wolves and bears and a large stuffed owl adorned the tavern wall, silent reminders that the black forest was never far away. When the wide doors opened again, they offered Sod the plowman to the gossiping crowd. Sod was dressed in the brown, earth-crusted clothes of a farmer. He was richly tanned and had the muscular heaviness as befited his trade. Within his brow, his eyes were deep and clear. They sparkled with a life seen in few other faces of the village. This time, worry lines corded across the plowman's brow. Sod went to Banewood and sat before the smiling Shaman. In his hands, Sod carried a burlap bundle, which he placed carefully on the table before Banewood. A crowd gathered as Banewood unwrapped it. Silently and soberly, Banewood lifted the cloth and revealed a sword. Before the wide eyes of the gathered crowd lay a sword of unsurpassed beauty. It was about two cubits long, but it had the grace and balance of a finely wrought instrument. The sword had the gloss and weight of a material more like porcelain than metal; it rang clearly when struck. Unadorned, the hilt was of a hard, white material which shone immaculately. The edge was keen. Sod looked as amazed and perplexed as Banewood. The strong but unassuming plowman gazed steadily at the sword. The two, sword and person, appeared almost as if they were measuring one another. "The sword looked just like this when my plow turned it up." Said the plowman, breaking the silence which had accumulated. At once, theories were offered as to the possible origin of the sword. "It looks like it was made by magic," Said a farmer. "It was probably made by Pollocks," snarled the Miller, who washed his remark with a gulp of mead. The Miller, who seemed spiteful of everything, resented his life and occupation, and he thought that everyone should share his bitterness. To the Miller, such crude remarks were an anodyne for the harsh realities of life. "The sword is crafted as if it is beyond age," Banewood countered. He shot a reproachful look at the Miller. "Yet it looks as if it might have just been forged." It could have been made by the Ludki, he thought silently to himself. The Ludki were a legendary race of little people fabled for their craftsmanship with metals. They were reputed to be peace-loving, Banewood said "For those who believe that the present holds the greatest marvels, I say: Look again and consider this ancient treasure! There is some timeless magic within it." The Shaman felt more power emanating from the strange weapon than he stated openly. His knowledge of lore extended far beyond the simple life of Gorod, yet he was at a loss to determine the history of the sword. It could have been crafted by the Ludki but... his knowledge was incomplete. Banewood was a loner. He was twice orphaned: once by his parents who perished in a blaze, and once by the Shaman who'd adopted him, only to die himself several years later. The Shaman had only just begun the long task of training his apprentice. When the Shaman died, Banewood was left with only his master's books and the roughest of outlines to follow in his quest for the greater knowledge. Because Banewood continued on the road to knowledge with no guide, a task never attempted before, he would often err. The apprentice would sometimes find himself wandering alone in a stuporous haze brought on by smoking some of the strange concoctions left by the Shaman. Once, the Shaman lived, Banewood had a guide to help him through these tortuous visions which helped to give a Shaman his knowledge and opened the secret doors of power to him. Now alone, Banewood faltered like a man blind. His acquisition of power was slow and unsure. Banewood noticed how well the sword fit the hand of the plowman. When Sod hefted it, the sword moved easily, as if it were pliant with the wishes of its wielder. When the crowd at the Antlers had all viewed the sword, the conversation turned to the possible use of the sword against Kathryn. They talked of what damage such a sword could do to its victim. Each offered his opinion of a sufficiently brave fellow, one other than himself. A challenge to one's manhood was quickly answered by bluster and puffery but not by a volunteer. "Yeauh, maybe our Shaman could fix up one of his..." "Shut up!" Came the unexpected response from the usually demure Banewood. The Miller sat transfixed, his hand at his throat, unable to utter a sound. There was silence. "What did you do to him!" Yelled one of the Miller's companions as he started to lunge for Banewood. At that instant, the room resounded with a loud bang and the splintering of wood. One of the large oaken tables lay on the ground, cloven in two. The lunging man stopped in his tracks and stared in disbelief. Sod, still holding the sword, blushed. His only response to the crowd of farmers was a firm, "I'll do it." Comraderie again filled the air. Fresh kegs were tapped and toasts were offered to Sod. Men normally distant to Sod hugged him to show their admiration for him, to bask in reflected glory and to wish the best of luck to the doomed fellow. "Yes, with such a weapon, one could take on Baba Yaga herself!" said a distant relative to Sod who wondered of his own claim to the doomed man's land and oxen. Sod left the celebration early. He needed to sleep and to ponder the consequences of his decision. "What had happened?" he asked himself. He had been fondling the hilt of the sword when the near fight had broken out. He had been weighing a decision to seek the monstrous sow and had made his resolution as the Miller made his last remark. Sod had only thought of stopping the incipient brawl by slapping his weapon down on the table. It was a common method of gaining attention. Now he found himself alone on a vain quest. Sod the plowman lived alone in his hut of modest means. The modesty was of twofold nature: Sod spent his long days in the fields and his nights resting from the day's labors, and Sod's livelihood as a plowman brought him only a meager subsistence. Sod enjoyed his occupation, for he knew he must make the best of his situation; chances were that it would be for life. The physical exertion of guiding a plow did not demand a similar mental exertion. Therefore, Sod spent his working time dreaming of other lives and other worlds - noble dreams in the mind of a simple man. In Sod's fantasy, he would roam the kingdom as a knight errant, working deeds for glory and profit, for surely people paid well for such special services. These were mere dreams, however, and Sod realized that he possessed neither the ability nor the courage to live the life of a hero. And now what was he to do? He was commited to a suicidal quest on the basis of momentary courage. What could he say? He found a strange and unique weapon and that weapon offered itself as a chance, a fleeting opportunity that must be seized and used at the instant it was offered. Sod was unaccustomed to making such hasty decisions, but equally, he was unaccustomed to receiving opportunities. Sod the plowman dropped off to sleep, still clutching his new sword. In the early morning Sod awoke to the usual sound of birds chirping outside his dwelling. He had already packed the meager belongings he wished to take on his journey. Crafting a makeshift strap, Sod girded the newfound sword to his side and stepped outside to begin his journey. He almost stumbled across a reclining figure. "Banewood! What are you doing here?" "Waiting for you. I'm going with you," Banewood said as he limberly rose without the aid of his hands. A satchel lay at his side and a quiver full of arrows hung across his back. The old Shaman's longbow was gripped by Banewood's left hand. "Don't you realize that this is going to be a dangerous trip? Few venture into the forest to return again." "Yes, I realize the consequences. I have a knowledge of the trees, and besides, two can travel safer than one." Banewood didn't mention that he'd already decided to attempt the quest himself. Sod slapped his new comrade on the back and silently thanked his luck that he would have a companion on such a fateful journey. Together, they marched down the dusty path that led away from Gorod and across the fields. On their walk they passed by stooped women already gathering herbs from their gardens. A few men were working in the fields. The men stopped momentarily to wave to the departing travelers. The night's comraderie was worn and forgotten. If they had talked about this journey and their reasons for going, Banewood and Sod would each have realized their similarity. Banewood's quest for knowledge was proceeding slowly, much too slowly. Still, Banewood felt that he knew as much as any man in Gorod about the ways of their world. Banewood knew that something had to be done about Kathryn. If Gorod didn't offer a means to the solution, then maybe the answer lay elsewhere. Sod, on the other hand, was not on a quest for any knowledge - he was instead trapped in the occupation of the plowman. His work had dignity, though, and Sod felt good about it. The sword changed Sod's outlook, though. He felt that fate was offering him some sort of opportunity - that given the means to accomplish something, he must seize the opportunity and act upon it. Somehow, it seemed that the sword was capable of slaying Kathryn, and all it took was the resolve to accomplish it. -Roman Olynyk <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> 2100 AND COUNTING The Ivory is in orbit around a planet named Foren-4. Once this planet was home to an indigenous sentient species, but they are now extinct. Had the invention of FTL drive come a mere few decades earlier, I would be supervising the first contact between sentient life forms. Maybe we could have helped them avoid their extinction somehow. But now I am in charge of a group of archaeologists and anthropologists, sifting through the dust that has gathered about the bones of this once-great civilization. Physically, the natives of this planet seem to have been mechanical in nature. They were quadrupedal, and made primarily of rare metals, which would indicate a synthetic nature. It is too early to venture a hypothesis as to the origin of this species, but I would guess that they were created by an elder race as robotic servants who, for some reason, outlived their creators. From my several expeditions to the surface, I have come to several preliminary conclusions which shall be discussed in the following report. At a site the team visited in a place called "Detroyt-Michigan" we found evidence supporting the hypothesis that the robots are constructed by other nonsentient species of robots. There is no evidence of an organized religion, and there are several reports of large communal graves, called, in the vernacular, "junkyards". There is very little evidence of a political system or hierarchy, though evidence points to a system of self-government and equality. Whether this leans towards anarchy or democracy is unknown at this point, although further research is at this moment being conducted. There is, however, a vast number of observable social phenomena. The entire globe is crisscrossed with broad avenues for travelling with laws to govern them. I found an example of the organization of these ways at a junction of two streets, where there were lights which flashed "DON'T WALK" when it was unlawful or dangerous to continue, and "WALK" when it was safe. This observation led me to the conclusion that there was a global organization of the race. The roads often pass by majestic views and natural phenomena, indicating that there was a distinct respect for the natural environment from which the race developed. At one site I came across a large area where individuals could gather for social interaction and entertainment. These areas, called "Drive-Ins" have been found in several locations on Foren-4. At other sites have been discovered large tracks where the robots could run around and keep themselves healthy. The names "Daytona" and "Indy" have been preserved as names of favorite tracks. This indicates that the robots were concerned with their well-being and perhaps enjoyed sports. It seems that the race had also developed a sense of beauty, for at several sites have been found structures where what were considered the most physically attractive members of the species were displayed behind large glass windows. These "showrooms" were often placed close to the walkways, so that individuals could walk by and admire the beauty of the species. Very little has been determined about the language of the natives, though two important facts have been interpreted. Firstly, the language was written, as the walkways that cross the globe often were decorated with large signs bearing messages that we have yet to interpret. Also interesting is that the robots communicated in very high frequencies, in the range of radio waves. Unfortunately, very little has been determined concerning the family structure of the natives, though there is a little to go on. At most sites, the individuals lived in small buildings called "garages" in nuclear family groups of usually no more than three individuals. At this point, I feel that the civilization at Soren deserves much more study, as we have, in this mission, only been able to grasp the most obvious facts about the race which once inhabited this planet. I would hope that this expedition will be extended for an indefinite period to gather more accurate and in-depth information. -Orny <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> NARRET CHRONICLES Book the Fourth Samo landed Narret-1 as they requested, in hanger-81, which was not surprisingly full of anxiously awaiting scientists, and waited for further instructions. The scientists, mainly aerospace engineers, with a few astronomers thrown in for good measure, gathered around the ship, some of them speculating how the ship was propelled, others eagerly awaiting an explanation from Samo. close!! Well, I guess I shouldn't expect much from them, being as belligerent as they are. Still, you'd think they would have at least begun to think in binary instead of that awkward decimal system of theirs. I'll have to suggest it to them before I leave." thought Samo. Time to make an entrance, Samo thought as he changed the polarity setting on his daser-dewelder. Using this as a laser cutting torch, he opened the door to the craft. A flood of dazzling brightness the likes of which no one had ever seen rushed into the hanger, momentarily blinding everyone in the room. "I'm sorry about that." Samo said as he stepped down from the spherical craft, "It's one of the affects of trans-universal travel, when a body full of darktron radiation undergoes a matter-anti-matter reaction, then that radiation gets converted to light, provided it isn't turned to pure energy and is vaporized during the light-warp of course." "It's effect should last only a few minutes, but you those of you looking at the door as I opened it may be seeing spots for a short while. It is generally considered about the same as looking directly at your sun for a moment with the unaided eye." "In the meantime, I'm sure you must have some questions. I shall entertain a few of them now if you like. However any questions pertaining to why I am here must and shall be floored before an international forum." "I'm sorry gentlemen, but Dr. Ht wont be able to answer your questions just yet," interrupted Colonel Roberts as he entered the hangar. "He has to go through the post-flight debriefing procedure that is undergone by all intercepted aircraft, being an alien makes no exception." What am I saying? Of course it makes an exception, he thought to himself. This is crazy!! "Dr. Ht will be available to answer all your questions after he answers the Air Force's questions, and he addresses the United Nations. Arrangements are being made at this hour for a special, secret meeting of the United Nations, in response to your request. Now Dr Ht. if you'll come with us we'll go to the debriefing room." "I'm sure you realize how very irregular this situation is, we're doing the best we can to have this meeting organized, but not all of the countries are as eager to respond as you may have thought." "Oh, don't worry about the others, I have the feeling they will be coming," said Samo. "We have several questions for you and, given the circumstances, I hope you can see why we feel we need to ask them. This shouldn't take very long, please bear with us," said Colonel Roberts. "First of all," began Captain Phillips, "Will you state for the record once again where it is you come from and why you're here?" "I come from the Planet Sunaru in the Narret System, by a technology much more advanced than your own. The Narret System is a stellar counter-part to your own solar system, within the counter-universe. My home planet is the Planet Amrif Arret. It corresponds directly to this planet, Earth. I am here because we believe you humans have pushed the threat of global nuclear war to the brink of a disaster of cosmological proportions. What your people have failed to realize is that there is an entirely contrary universe out there, ours, which is the exact complement to your own universe. And, quite simply, those things which you choose to destroy here will also cause their complement in the counter-universe to be destroyed. My people will not sit back and watch our complement world destroy us, our peace, our prosperity, all that which we value highly. Thus it was decided that I should be sent to give a warning to the human race, and do whatever I deemed necessary to preserve peace here." "Secondly, what is it you want from the United States, officially?" "On my journey here, which takes light some 16 of your years within this universe alone (for us it is faster) I studied the history of your world and found no concepts of virtue and moral wealth greater than those noble statements recorded in your Declaration of Independance, and your Constitution. I therefore sought to begin seeking peace amongst those who value it most greatly. It was simply logical, I assure you. I thought, and still think your people will be most receptive to me, and to my necessary appeal for peace." "Very well, you've made your intent very clear Dr. Ht. We are prepared to let you have the forum you requested, this very afternoon. Until then though our scientists would like to give you a complete physical to determine if you're undergoing any serious side-effects from--" "At the risk of sounding a bit facetious, I hardly think any of your physicians could be called competent in examining me. Primarily since they don't know what my 'norm' is. Honestly, how can they expect to determine whether or not I'm undergoing any side-effects? Obviously then, what they really want is to stick me full of needles and try to make some heads or tails out of my AND molecular structure. So, why didn't you just ask that in the first place? I can provide them with all the necessary data from my ship's bio-log computer, and a small blood sample to verify the truth of my data. Isn't that what they really want?" "Yes, I would imagine that would suffice. Any knowledge you can give us about your people would be of great use and be much appreciated." "Good, then no needles will be necessary. If there's one thing I can't stand its a bunch of curious physicians sticking needles in every appendage of my body. I hate needles..." -Mari A. Paulson <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank