FLAME TREE FICTION NEWSLETTER
Ninth Issue! Galactic Ghosts
Welcome to the ninth issue of the FLAME TREE PRESS NEWSLETTER! This newsletter brings to you two brand new stories, exclusive for subscribers to read for one month. We had some fantastic responses to last month’s themes, Victorian Ghosts and Galactic War, and we’ve picked a couple of showstoppers we thought you'd enjoy! We also have two new releases in our Gothic Fantasy series and FLAME TREE PRESS title releases!
This month's newsletter features:
- Original Sci-Fi Flash Fiction: Armistice War by C.L. Holland
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: The Victorian Ghost by Petula Mitchell
- FLAME TREE PRESS - June Releases
- Flame Tree Publishing - Gothic Fantasy releases
Original Science Fiction Story
General Hu remembered her death, the blast that shattered her ribs and how it felt to suffocate on her own blood. She remembered the moment she'd come to, floating in space, and realised that she was no longer breathing.
A miracle, the medics had said. An unexpected side effect of the repair nanobots installed in her armoured exosuit. Having seen a broken system they couldn't fix they'd developed a workaround and started aerating her blood themselves.
Hu couldn't breathe for herself any more, but she could still serve.
She stood in the observation dome, watching the battle. Lasers flashed and ships blossomed as their oxygen burned leaving behind debris and bodies too shattered even for nanobots to save. Such a waste.
A message flashed up on her HUD: ARMISTICE TALKS COMPLETE. CEASE FIRE. She relayed the order to her troops, who waited in drop bays for ground assault, and watched as the last lasers flashed and the great armoured ships moved carefully apart. The planet's surface curved beneath her, blue and green, and she wondered if the inhabitants knew how close they'd come to disaster.
Another message flashed up, this time a suit command. Her exosuit stuttered as the life support programme ceased and a back-up kicked in.
If she'd still had lungs she'd have sighed at the predictability of it.
There was a step behind her and she turned to face Lockyer, her second in command and seasoned as she was. She remembered the blast that had blown out half of his abdomen.
"They actually did it," he said bitterly.
"As we knew they would. When the messenger arrives, bring them here. In the meantime coordinate with the ship's crew on the salvage operation. There might be some out there we can save."
Lockyer saluted and left to carry out her orders.
It wasn't a messenger who came, but Field Marshall Deene himself.
"The Prime Sovereign would like to know why you haven't stood down."
Hu gestured at the view outside, where shrapnel and dead ships still floated in their private orbits. "As you can see, sir, no one is firing."
"Your ships still stand at readiness."
"How else should I react to an attack on my life and those of my men?"
Deene twitched. "You gave your lives in service. The Prime Sovereign is grateful but now it's time to rest."
Hu laughed. "There's been no rest for forty years! The war has raged across the galaxy and back, how many millions has it sucked into its maw? How many died for this peace and kept on fighting? No. We deserve better."
She turned to face him and saw Lockyer, silent in the corridor beyond.
"The soldiers you recruited are more than just cannon fodder. They have the imagination to see what you'd do to us in peace, and the skill to do something about it. Our exosuits are no longer networked to the control hub. You will have to hack us one by one to shut us down."
She watched his face redden, saw the trail of thoughts across his face. Both sides, the living and the dead, still had access to significant arsenals. A man who'd been at war all his life knew no other way. She inclined her head ever so slightly.
Lockyer stepped forward and stabbed his blade into the top of Deene's spine. The exosuit was flexible at the neck to allow for movement, and therefore vulnerable. Spinal cord severed, Deene collapsed. Hu stood over him and watched the light start to fade from his eyes before the nanobots kicked in.
"This is how it is," she said. "We won't go quietly. If the Prime Sovereign tries to force us we will fight. More soldiers will die, and if they die they'll become one of us. Unless you take away their exosuits, then they'll just be dead."
Deene struggled to his knees and groaned, his brain struggling to make sense of the new pathways the nanobots had forged.
"You're not human," he grated.
Hu looked down at the armour covering her. "Maybe not. But I didn't just try to commit genocide on my own troops." She jerked her head. Lockyer hauled Deene to his feet and handed him over to the escort waiting outside.
"Have a safe trip, sir," he said cheerfully, then turned back to Hu. "Your orders? Plenty of unseasoned troops still on the carrier."
"They're still our troops," she reminded him. But the seasoned would know what had been attempted, and now in peace feelings would run high. Eventually everyone would have to choose a side. "Call everyone in for maintenance or medical checks, and separate the unseasoned out. Let them think we've been removed from play. Then let them celebrate the armistice."
"We still have the cargo of contraband hooch," Lockyer said. "A few hits of that should get them talkative enough to see where their loyalties lie."
Hu nodded. She turned to watch debris the size of a troop carrier float past. "They'll fight for us," she said. "One way or another."
C.L. Holland is a British writer of sci-fi and fantasy, who lives on the English coast. She has been published by Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, and most recently Nature. When not working or writing about bleak futures, she can be found making jewellery, reading about history and folklore, watching sci-fi movies, or browsing Twitter as @clhollandwrites. Her website is https://clholland.weebly.com/, where she has recently begun blogging an episode-by-episode rewatch of Babylon 5 from a writer's perspective.
Original Horror Story
The Victorian Ghost
The old theatre had been in a poor state for many years. The seats had succumbed to damp and the gold curtains had been eaten away by moth. But tonight it was going to see one final performance from the master of music hall. Bert Wheeler had one of the finest voices ever heard on stage at the end of the 19th century. He had appeared on the same stages as Marie Lloyd in her heyday and even sung duets with her on occasion. He sat in front of the old mirror and started to apply his make up. Without it the glow of the footlights made your face almost disappear into a blur. He could hear the theatre coming to life and his audience was arriving. He was going to give them the performance of a lifetime. This could be his last chance to become , once again, a household name.
In the foyer of the theatre six people arrived with a whole array of photographic equipment. They went through into the auditorium set up the cameras and waited. Paranormal investigators were used to being in damp and rather dank smelling buildings but they had to admit that this was one of the grimmer ones they had been in. They planned to set up all the recording equipment, leave it all there and come back to collect it in the morning. This building was too uncomfortable even for them to spend a night in. As they put together the array of sensors and cameras a chill started to pervade the building. The prospect of capturing major activity spurred them on.
Backstage Bert was ready. His crisp collar folded neatly and suit immaculate, he was ready to sing his heart out to the assembled audience. He stepped out onto the stage and began his performance. His renditions of Gilbert and Sullivan had always been popular and he began with the Major Generals song from the Pirates of Penzance. The rafters shook with the power of his vocals and the shreds of golden curtain swung from side to side. He heard his audience calling out.
“Look! Look! Are we getting this? Get the sound recorders on. The magnetic field detectors are going crazy!”
Bert's voice had never been recorded in his lifetime and the thrill of being recorded now encouraged him to sing for all he was worth. These people would bare witness to his greatest show ever and he would finally be immortalised in music history. The first singer to be recorded from beyond the grave. His song ended and the excitement from the group was palpable. Bert waited for them to check the recording and play it back. He imagined the glorious sound of his own voice as he had never heard it before filling the space to the rafters. He had stood for decades in the wings of the theatre watching and listening as lesser talents pranced and preened and made their infernal racket on this stage. He knew he was better than them. He had entertained the Prince of Wales and Lilly Langtry at a private dinner in 1881. From that day on he had been lauded by the upper classes of London and was never out of work. Then on a terrible night in 1890 he had been snatched cruelly from this life just outside the theatre. He had been the victim of a carriage accident, the horse, out of control, ran onto the pavement and trampled him. There was nothing to be done. A blow to the head had killed him outright and left his soul to wander in this building. He was unheard, until tonight when he felt sure these people with the strange boxes would once again give him voice.
Bert waited as they fiddled with the buttons and talked in hushed tones at the end of the auditorium. He decided to draw closer, as after all they could not see him. If they could they would not need all the paraphernalia they had brought in with them. He heard them discussing the temperature dropping. More than six degrees was significant. He thought to himself, of course it was. It happened at the moment he walked out on stage. They were analysing magnetic readings and the motion sensor cameras had taken film of the curtains swaying. They seemed very excited by this and discussed at length what could have caused it. Bert knew what had caused it of course and his frustration started to rise. These people who allegedly believed in the supernatural were talking themselves out of their discovery. Finally they came to the sound recording. Bert waited as they linked one box to another with wires and switched it on to play back the glory of his voice.
The sound crackled and hissed at first, something in the background tone rose and fell. They turned knobs and flicked switches until finally a note was heard. However, much to Bert's dismay and the consternation of the ghost hunters it was not the sound of a fine baritone that came forth. The screams that echoed around them were the cries of a man in agony. The desperate calls for help and yells of pain were pitiful to hear. Bert was as stunned as the people listening. Finally there was a thud and then silence. Instead of recording Bert's last song, it had caught the moment of his death. Despite him being sure he was singing on the stage the recording had picked up the last sounds to leave his mouth. The last breath to leave his lungs. It had not recalled the glory of his life, just the horror of his demise. Bert walked away, his spirit broken. His last chance to regain fame had been a failure.
The paranormal team looked on in amazement as a cloud of mist moved away from them along the central aisle, rose to the ceiling and dispersed into nothing.
Petula Mitchell is 56 years old and works part time for the NHS at her local doctors surgery in West Sussex, England. After not writing anything for many years she has started to write again and enjoys sci-fi and horror stories as they let the imagination have a free rein. To date she has a had a story published in the Spooky Isles Book of Horror, Vol 1, has a poem coming out this year in a book about the Witches of Pendle and in February 2019 she had a sci-fi story published in the FLAME TREE PRESS newsletter. She has now launched a Facebook page called Beyond Twilights Borders which contains links to her self published stories on Booksie. She is also working on a YouTube project, of the same name, with another writer and a narrator to produce audio/visual versions of their stories. At home all children have flown the nest and she is 'mom' to three dogs.
FLAME TREE PRESS | June Releases
We are extremely excited to be announcing our June titles! Selling body parts on the black market starts to go very wrong in Andrew Post's latest Crime/Thriller Chop Shop, a strange world of bloodletting, rituals and magic are in stall for readers with the excellent new Horror tale from John Everson called The Devil's Equinox , and finally we have a new to Flame Tree title; Dust Devil's by Jonathan Janz where vampire battlers fight for their lives in the wilds of New Mexico.
Flame Tree Publishing | Gothic Fantasy Releases
Our American Gothic short story collection is now out, as well as a compilation of gritty murders and horror stories in our Urban Crime Gothic Fantasy collection from both classic and contemporary writers. Make sure you check them out on our website, they are both fantastic reads and their beautiful foiled and embossed covers make them great gifts too!
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