My name is Kent Wayne and I’m a Space Cowboy.
Way way back in the 22nd century, humanity began weaving together string theory akindras and iterating them into various forms, eventually paving the way for a marvelous new blend of magic and science: technomancy. Shortly after we colonized Mars in the 23rd century (and here I’m talking about a real civilization with families and culture, not a ragtag group of people hanging out in some shitty little life-support construct), our leading technomancers came together and created a Fantasticality Engine; a possibility-distortion device that allowed us to rewrite reality and break the laws of general relativity. Subsequent advances included spin-entangled communications and, of course, the ability to travel faster than light. Discovery piled on top of discovery, and eventually, humans were able to travel comfortably through the vaccuum of space in nothing but our birthday suits. Our brains have evolved to link directly to the Fantasticality Engine as resonance conduits, so people have now become purified channels for technomantic manifestation, rather than bowing before a near-obsolete religion once known as “physics.”
Our lives were once dictated by logic, but they are now fashioned by pure imagination.
I’m ambling around on my vacuum-scooter with nothing on but my Old Earth cowboy clothes. Chambray shirt, wrangler jeans, bandanna across my face (not only does it look cool, but it serves a filter to keep stinky gasses out of my nose), 10-gallon stetson hat…you get the idea. My v-scooter looks like a craggy series of alloyed juts that has two sleek, metal wings extending out from its sides. A pair of zero-point thrusters flare up every so often on its back end, scooching me through the peaceful black of the Milky Way. I’ve got an enchanted revolver strapped to my hip that fires weaponized concepts, but it’s been an age since I’ve had to slap leather. I’ve only drawn three times in anger, only had to fire once. It was a low-down cattle rustler trying to steal one of my tardigrades. Lemme tell you—people may tolerate that kind of nonsense in the Inner Reaches near the supermassive black hole where all the city-folk live, but around here in the Outer Rim, that’s a quick way to get yourself roped to the back of a Starskimmer and drug through an asteroid field. Som’bitch was lucky that I killed him quick.
Herding tardigrades—that’s how I make my living. Yep, millennia ago they were little extremophiles that could survive in space for a few weeks if they were lucky (if they were REALLY lucky they could go into cryo and hitch a ride on a comet or some such, and travel between planets), but now they’ve grown as big as a decent-sized hippo. My herd ain’t that big—only 150 head—but it’s plenty enough to keep my occupied. Most cowboys work in teams, but I prefer to go solo. Sometimes I get a little help from the level 3 AI on my v-scooter, but it’s mostly just me. That’s just how I like it.
Working alone means I get to indulge my peculiar taste in music without anybody hassling me. Sure I like the classics—I’ll sing just as loudly as any cowboy when “Country Boys Can Survive” starts playing—but I cannot tell a lie; I’m a sucker for Ms. Mariah’s Christmas songs, as well as most tracks from Taylor Swift’s 1984.
I’m whistling along to Sophie Hawkins’ “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover,” and pushing my tardigrades along the space-time fold that I’ve instantiated using the Crowlian Standard attached to my v-scooter. Yeah, Crowlians are a bit old-fashioned when it comes to folding space-time, but they’re durable as hell, and don’t need that much maintenance. Suits me just fine.
The Crowlian tesser-engine folds space-time into a shining track of blue that stretches out before me and my ‘grades (basically it works like this: stay on the track and I’ll get to my destination within a matter of days or weeks. Stray off it and I’m back in general relativity, where even if I punch up to light speed, it’s still gonna take a hundred thousand years just to cross the Milky Way alone, never mind travel to other galaxies). Other S-T folders come with perks like holographic infotainment, in-journey seminars or massages…hell, with some of ‘em you can even warp the fold itself; you can make the track look rainbow, or customize it with whatever radiation-weave catches the missus’s eye. I’m a simple fella, so I stick with blue. No perks, no frills. Just me and my ‘grades.
My lead ‘grade Bess starts mooing in consternation, and I pull my v-scooter up to her. She’s flailing all eight of her stubby legs, thrashing her head back and forth, issuing a long lamentation from her tubular mouth.
“Whoa, Bessie, whoa! What’s the problem girl?”
A second later the rest of my ‘grades start mooing and thrashing. This isn’t good—frightened grades could wander off the fold and get lost in general relativity. Something’s spooking my herd, but damned if I know what it—
Then I see ‘em: rustlers. They’re wearing black clothes, black hats, and black bandannas tied around their faces.
There’s two coming in from the left, one from my right. Fine by me—I’ve got a pair of bullets for each of you gamma-snorters. I whip my six-shooter up to my ribs, the flat of my left hand ready to fan the hammer. Technomancer scrollwork etched across the barrel and grip blazes to life; it looks like luminescent Elvish, if you had to put a label on it. I pull the trigger and fill hyperspace with the thundering reports of custom, mind-loaded philosophies; they look like nebulae of symbols that zip through space in gyrating bundles. All six of my shots miss. I curse, spin the cylinder out to dump my casings, and the rustlers return fire. Evil shards of bladed tentacles expand from their guns, spinning toward me in snarling tangles.
I said goddamn! These yella bellies have loaded their guns with Emo-poetry!
One of the rounds rips through three of my herd, sending bloody shards of ‘grade every which way. Four others leap off the track and get lost in general relativity. Two of them gets hit by a slashing storm of mind-numbing shit-poems, and they just outright explode. Even if I survive this, there’s a good possibility these bastards are gonna kill my whole goddamn herd.
So I reach down to my v-scooter satchel, take out my eReader, and open it to Echo. Magic flash.
Six weaponized concepts appear in the cylinder of my revolver. I catch a glimpse of em before I flick my gun closed. Steak, protein powder, squats, Batman, Barbarian Warriors, cigars…
Hells to the yeah. My gun just got loaded with All That is Man.
The rustlers fire again, sending a fresh volley of poetic bullshit screaming toward me. Just like a Sergio Leone western, my eyes narrow, my gun raises, my left hand lifts above the hammer, ready to fan with my palm as I unleash hell…and all is still for a single, perfect heartbeat.
And then I fire.
As their demonic rounds come spinning toward me, the muzzle of my gun bursts with iridescent fury. I see the light-limned outlines of cigars, Batman, and other cool concepts shoot from my barrel, then rip clean through the emo-poetry. There’s a hideous screech before each shit-poem fades into the aether, and my rounds keep going, blowing through the rustlers. One of them has time to scream; the rest just explode in a mess of charred organs and bloody mist.
And for one blessed, hanging second, I hold the pose. Glittering, multi-colored smoke drifts up from my enchanted barrel.
Then I raise the muzzle to my lips and blow the smoke away. I spin my gun twice, and slip it back into its holster.
The ‘grades settle down and I start whistling again. New tune this time.
“I’m a cowboy. On a steel horse I ride…I’m wanted…Dead or alive….”
Are you a space cowboy who just wants to herd his tardigrades and avoid being accosted by some no-good rustlers? Not a problem! Get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle #kindle #kindleunlimited #sciencefiction #scifi #books #novel #book