Star Runners: a New Book by Clayton J. Callahan

I have always loved the short story, once the foundation of a SF author’s career, it is still a beautiful art form that could use a little more room to breathe in this modern age. And I especially like when short stories share a connection such as in H. Beam Piper’s Federation or Keith Laumer’s Bolos: The Honor of The Regiment, and last but not least David Drake’s Space Dreadnoughts.

So, what the heck, I decided to write one myself.

Having written three novels in the Star Run setting, I decided to use that for the connection. After all, in each novel, I presented the reader with a fully formed universe much of which I only had the chance to refer to obliquely. In Star Runners I gave myself the opportunity to expand on those references in a way that is adventurous, humorous, dramatic, and fun.

I hope you appreciate this exploration of the universe and enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Clayton J. Callahan

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What’s New

Well, it’s been a while since I checked in so I figured I’d let everybody know what’s up. Right now I’m about 80% done with a project called Star Runners. It’s an anthology of short stories that spun off of my other science fiction works. Fans of Tales of The Screaming Eagle will get to find out how Ms. Coleen took the barracks that Kilroy and Burt left on Tarkan and turned it into the best damn bar in the galaxy. Also, questions like, “how did the Yang-He become a ghost ship,” and “How did Jack Galloway come to lose the Sundancer to the Public Protectors on Isis” will be answered.

Even if you haven’t read The Adventures of Crazy Liddy or Crazy Lucky a Space Romance, these stories should amaze and entertain. I hope to have this book available on Amazon by the end of February 2019.

Here’s a sample:

To Reach The Unreachable Star

 

Although taken for granted today, it is worth reflecting upon the miraculous speed at which Earth’s various nations recovered from the Doom War. In the space of a single generation, survivors came together and organized themselves into thriving communities and soon reclaimed much of what was lost.

Of particular note is the amazing speed at which North America jumped from a collection of subsistence farming villages to a spacefaring nation-state in a mere hundred years.

Excerpt from Gordon’s History of The Spacelanes

 ***

All the indicator lights read green.

Naomi took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. After fifteen months in the bunker, this was it. Air quality: acceptable, temperature: seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit, radiation level: safe. She looked down and to her right to see little Benjamin chewing on his finger like he always did when he got fidgety.  Fifteen months is a long time for anybody, but to a six-year-old, it was an eternity, and the bunker’s confinement probably felt as safe as the womb to him.

The stuffy bunker had been home, school, and playground to him. “Mom, do we have to go outside?” He asked.

She nodded, and the child went back to chewing his finger. They had been lucky. The only house she could afford when they moved to the area was an old two story that dated back to the 1950s and included a bomb shelter. When things got bad in the news, Naomi cleared out the raccoon nests and stocked up on canned food and other supplies. It proved to be a good move, but the bunker would not sustain them forever.

And besides, she longed for sunshine.

But Naomi also understood how her son felt; she’d been the same way twenty odd years ago when her family left Uganda for the States. She was only twelve at the time, and everything was new and scary to her then. Now, she’d been an American so long that going back to Uganda was simply unimaginable. Just like she couldn’t imagine what waited for her beyond the sealed airlock door.

Partly to buck up the boy’s courage and partly to buck up her own, she said, “It’s all right, Benjamin. We’re going to do this together, okay?”

The child nodded nervously, and she hit the release lever. With a hiss and a rush of air the door parted and the sun shown down upon her face for the first time since the bombs fell. For a moment, she just stood there, still as a statue, basking in the sunlight. Looking down, she saw Benjamin shielding his eyes from the glare but did not recoil from the light. She always knew her son was brave.

Together, mother and son took their first, hesitant, steps into the new world. It was not, however, an improved world by any stretch. The shattered remains of Atlanta, Georgia stretched out far as the eye could see, and her heart sank. The once gleaming towers of the Buckhead skyline now blackened and bent by atomic fire glowered at them in the distance. Closer to hand; their once pleasant suburban neighborhood now consisted of concrete foundations overgrown with Kudzu. Naomi marveled at how fast that wily weed had recovered from the apocalypse. Twisted pipes reached up for the sky like the arms of penitent men at the foot of some unforgiving deity. And the towers of man’s communications arrays? All were half melted and resembled hunchbacked giants lumbering for the grave. Even if anyone could hear them, calling for help was not an option.

The mother sighed. “Well, it’s more or less what I expected.” She reached for Benjamin’s hand. “Let’s take a walk, sweetie.”

Feet following the path of a broken sidewalk, they took in the fresh, unfiltered air and watched the birds flitter about. Benjamin’s eyes were wide, his face wearing the expression he wore when she took him to the zoo two years ago.

Naomi’s feelings warred within her. She wasn’t sure whether she should be happy or sad. The elation of finally being free of the bunker battled with the depression that arose upon seeing her world ruined by short-sighted and stupid men. Men, whose imaginations looked no farther ahead than the next election cycle, and whose stewardship of the world was eclipsed by the next quarter’s profits. Why people followed such-stuffed shirts always puzzled her. But they did, perhaps because believing the golden promises of blowhards was preferable to them at election time than facing the hard truths of a world in crisis. And now, there were no profits, no elections, and no hopes—just the current crisis of simple human survival as faced by the cavemen of millennia ago.

The world was dead, and she wept for it.

Naturally, she didn’t intend to. After all, Benjamin was watching. “What’s wrong, mom?” the child asked.

“Nothing, I’m fine,” she lied through her tears.

Benjamin squeezed her hand and then moved in front of her to block her stride. “Mom, what’s wrong?”

She could never successfully lie to her son, and she knew it. The kid was unnaturally bright for his age and approached life in a very measured and rational way. He’d spent the last fifteen months taking apart and putting back together every tool and device in the bunker, determined to discover what principals made them work. He read books two and three grade levels above his age group. And he knew how his mom worked, inside and out.

Benjamin was an extremely smart boy.

“This is…was the monorail stop where I used to wait for the number fifty to take me to work at the Hartsfield Space Center. You remember? I used to wear a blue uniform to work every day?”

“Yes, you were a nurse with the flight surgeon’s office. I remember you liked Dr. Bill a lot. He was your boss.”

“That’s right, Sweetie. He came here from Texas after they succeeded from the US. He helped transfer the NASA clinic from Huston to Atlanta when our spaceport was just starting up. Anyway,” she sighed, “it looks like I won’t have to worry about missing the monorail again. Funny, I used to hate getting out of my nice warm bed and rushing off to work. Now, I’m sad I’ll never do that again.”

Benjamin looked at the twisted metal and burned over concrete that had once been a transit stop. “You could go to work again. It will just be different.”

She fought back her anger, the child didn’t mean to be insensitive, and she knew it. But hard reality left her little room for parental finesse. “Honey, look around. There’s not going to be any work at the Space Center ever again.” She shook her head. “I just hope the colony on Mars survived. They may have enough infrastructure up there to carry on without support from Earth. But we’re not going to be sending any more ships into space. And all the sleeper ships are going to be arriving at distant stars soon. But when they wake up from cryo, their transmissions home will fall on deaf ears. There will be nobody to answer the phone if the phones are all dead, right?”

Benjamin sat down on the stairs that lead up to the monorail station. He chewed his finger, and his eyebrows scrunched together. Naomi knew he was concentrating but had no idea about what. This was a problem well beyond any six-year-old child and certainly beyond a grown woman of thirty-five. The stars be dammed, she had more immediate problems to deal with. Back in the bunker they still had enough food and such for a few more months, but by winter she’d need a new source of sustenance for herself and her boy.

She cast her eyes about, hoping to find something that would aid in their survival. In the distance, she saw a dozen or so wooden shacks. Structures like those would never have survived the blast that leveled Atlanta. Therefore, she reasoned, they must be new. Obviously, somebody else had survived the Doom War and that somebody or somebodies could probably use a nurse. It’d be a long walk, but she and Benjamin might make it to the shacks by nightfall. Looking closer, Naomi saw a man step out of one of those shacks. He looked in their direction and waved, and she dared to feel hope in her heart.

“Mom, we can do it. We can go to space and tell them we’re still here and everything’s will be all right.”

“What?” Naomi couldn’t help but laugh. “Child, see those shacks over there?”

“Yes,” Benjamin replied. Then he looked where his mother was pointing and said, “What about them?”

“Those shacks might have people who can help us. See the man waving now? But it’s a long way off. It will take maybe a couple of hours to walk there. Mars and the star colonies are a lot farther off than that, child; millions and millions of miles away. We can’t get there, Benjamin.” She let a smirk cross her lips. “It’s much too far for anybody to walk.”

Then Benjamin smiled. “Then we’ll just have to run.”

 

The End