Of all the starships in the Terran Space Fleet, the I.S.S. Mercury is probably the unluckiest ship in history. Not once, not twice, but many times over, the same hapless crew – give or take a few dozen casualties – on a supposed voyage of deep space exploration, stumble into the weird, wake the creepy and trip over the downright terrifying and possibly even supernatural…
The Time Saving Agency liked having fresh agents on the job, who had a clear mind and steady hand. After all, time travel wasn’t for the faint of heart. The pay was good enough, but as Johnathan Scrooby decided long ago – even if he didn’t get paid for it, the thrill alone was payment enough! Then again, the TSA realized they couldn’t afford to have disgruntled employees with the power of God at their fingertips, so the pay was very, very good indeed!
Returning from an evening in Mars City spent visiting relatives he didn’t know he had, Timaset Skooch arrived at the local space port to find his new acquisition stolen. A few minutes later, the crew of his slightly run-down loderunner “Celeste”, returned from a nearby pub, blind drunk, puzzled, and now unemployed as well.
Deanna was just another third-rate colony in the Terran Empire – and it was pretty much as boring a lump of rock as could be expected. That is, until Gary Beck, aka Beck the Badfeller ran over an obsidian crow with his jeep on the highway to San Fedora and didn’t have a spare tire. Things pretty much went down hill from there.
Troubled times had come to the small Terran Colony planet of Deanna – and having amusing names for its sun (Ramalama) and two moons (Ding and Dong) hadn’t made this quaint little world immune to bad things…
Revenge. Getting even. Fighting back. Whatever it’s called, it’s supposed to warrant two graves – or at least, that’s how one old saying went – usually, in the case of mere mortal Human beings. In the case of the Human race as a whole, it was less about that and more about survival.
“The Next Room” (and “Duck Blind”, the companion-story to this novella) tells part of the same larger story of opposites from the perspective of a different set of characters in different dimensions and times!