Author Archives: Mark Gardner

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University.

Moonrise CH55 – Hold Still

[2283 words]12 floors below…

Joaquin carried out the unfinished motion his body had started dragging him two steps into an empty space where a second ago Anne had stood. He looked around confused.

“Did what I think just happen?” Kid asked, waving his hands up and down in the air testing to see if they were in slow-mo.

“That Silas guy, that was his thing, manipulating time. Dos mio…” Nightwave ran his fingers across his chest.

“He took Anne! Sonofabitch!” Joaquin swore kicking a trash bin to spill its contents. He could hear footsteps outside; see black clothed shadows move around. “We got Prowlers outside. Shit, how did this happen, yo? We was so close!”

“Apparently we weren’t. We fell right into the trap.” Quake shook his head in disbelief.

“Andy, can you hear me? Andy?” Joaquin touched his ear not finding the alien host previously safely tucked there. “He took our earpieces out.”

“Holy crap!” Kid exclaimed. Joaquin was about to no shit him when he saw that Kid wasn’t talking about the earpiece. He was looking at the elevator. It was coming down.

“Guys…” Kid called, voice trembling.

Nightwave and Quake saw the point of interest.

“Something’s coming,” Joaquin observed not liking the turn of events, Anne taken away, Betty alone, Massey racing with time. They were too divided.

“It’s more than one thing. It’s a lot more,” Kid blurted.

Through his eyes a hundred tiny objects were moving above their heads spiraling down the insides of the walls. If they listened closely they could hear some metallic clicking becoming louder with the decrease of floors.

The elevator doors opened with a “ding” revealing three figures. A black clothed woman stepped forth first, black nailed hands holding her sleeveless long coat tightly closed. She blew them a kiss before throwing the coat open relishing at the shock Joaquin and his team showed.

Two dozens of small robotic tarantulas with red beady eyes sprinted toward the four, tiny metal claws clinking on the floor, crooked metallic fangs snapping tirelessly at their ankles. Identical metallic creatures spilled down the stairs in a wave, slipping and regaining balance, hoping over one another and back on their sharp legs.

Kid pulled his baseball bat out swinging at the jumping critters, bashing them to spare parts but more kept coming trying to dig their eight claws into his shoe. He somersaulted to a clear spot and kick-flipped the nearest incoming spider, lifting it into the air and battering it. The ones that he broke apart reassembled themselves back up.

“They’re too many!” He screamed while swinging madly.
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Moonrise CH54 – Critical Error

[3196 words]Anne shut the door to the server room behind her. She walked over the cables that snaked across the floor, heading toward the scrawny girl sitting in the chair. She flinched at the sight of cables running in and out of the girl’s skin. This abuse was intolerable. Globe’s grasp over the poor girl was absolute. The silent super couldn’t resist, and she submitted to Globe’s every whim, turning on her own people.

The girl’s voice came from her host in breathy whispers, boosted by the digitalized sound system. Her on-screen avatar’s lips moved in sync with the words.

Anne froze.

“I know he thinks I should die. I heard. When he thinks I sleep, I listen. Don’t…shut… Me…down.”

Anne looked up at the central monitor and saw the super in her natural world. A glitch ran across his worried 3D face.

“Why do you think he wants you dead?” Anne demanded. “It wouldn’t benefit him.”

“He…talked the night before. I am to be…sacrificed. For…You.”

Anne’s lips turned to thin red lines, and her brows furrowed at the hacker girl’s cryptic words. She sighed deeply. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I can’t let you live, as much as I hate going along with Globe’s decisions. I can’t let him exploit you.”

“I won’t…tell,” Sindi pleaded.

Anne grabbed the thick black cable hooked to the side of Sindi’s head and pulled hard, popping it out of the hole, canceling the connection to the girl’s brain. She gathered the cables constricting Sindi’s body and yanked them free too. The central computer system crashed, going to a blue screen, and lines of binary code raced madly across the sister screens. Could those be Sindi’s last words?

Sindi sat limp in her chair. Anne was done here. She slipped from the dimly lit room, wincing at the stink of burnt cables, and stepped into the white corridor.

Quake’s first shock wave hit the building. Even though the building was reinforced against earthquakes, she felt the tremors through the soles of her feet. She jumped into the elevator and pressed the button for the foyer. From her red purse she pulled out the earpiece and placed it in her ear.

“The hacker is down. Coming your way. How is Team Joaquin doing?”

“Quake is doing his thing to scare the crowd off,” Massey explained.

“While I’m in the elevator, perfect,” she joked as the doors closed. “Andy?” she asked, waiting for the reply.

“Team Andy, it’s only fair. It’s getting empty outside, people are heading to safety, but there’s serious Prowler movement.”

“Alright, keep me posted.”

Anne stepped into the lobby cautiously, pulling her red revolver from the concealed holster under her dress. The mosaic floor in whites and greys, spelling a capital elegant “G,” glittered with broken glass from the expensive chandelier that had crashed during the quake. Some amount of evacuation had taken place; there were no civilians here, no receptionist or security personnel. The entry floor was eerily quiet.
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Moonrise CH53 – Undiscovered Perfection

[2970 words]When Joaquin’s eyes unglued from the half-assed sleep he had, awkward dreams dissolving into smoke as he awoke, he found Andy staring down at him. He groaned, unready for the two of them to go mano-a-mano about the night of the fire.

“Shit man, why are you up so early?” Joaquin mumbled sleep slurred, looking at Andy’s watch, the glowing digits showing 7 AM.

“I can’t really sleep when I’m nervous or excited.”

Joaquin propped himself up on his elbow, hand massaging his stiff neck. The bar was slowly coming to life, gentle stirs in the far end, dark silhouettes gliding soundlessly between hushed words. He ran a hand over his short-cropped hair.

“Listen man, I know you’s mad at me for leaving you and runnin’ off but-”

“I’m not mad at you, Joaquin. You did what you had to and besides if you’d stayed you would have been caught and paraded before Globe. Your friends would’ve never come this far, probably wouldn’t have stayed alive for long either. This here would have never existed. I’m envious of you. You got to be what I’ve always dreamed of. A hero. You did well.”

Joaquin was speechless. “Am I Hero Number One now on that list of yours?”

Andy gave a cheeky smirk remembering the little tease they’d shared when they first met. “You are. Top of my list. C’mon get your ass in gear.”

Joaquin found the old detective sitting at the bar chatting with Dante. By the dark circles under his eyes he could tell Massey hadn’t slept. The nervousness and sleep deprivation had spread over to Quake, Nightwave and Kid, faces sullen on the nearby sofa. Only Betty shared the glimmer of excitement Joaquin and Andy had.

“Did you get your police buddies to join in on the fun?” Andy asked.

“Felix, er Officer Wallas will be waiting with some of the guys. He vouches for them. I think nearly gave him a heart attack when I called. Probably owe him two dates and a dinner by now.”

Joaquin noted she was in better shape today, some or other prospect of fulfillment and closure clearing her mind off inner demons.

“Let’s go kill Globe,” Joaquin said rising them up to their feet.

* * *

In the early morning the air was thin, a breathtaking chill filtering through their nostrils bringing in the dust scented rain vapors. The imprint of the tremulous weather muddied and clouded over the city stretched above their heads, a 360 giving them the sense of scale between their hunched figures throwing morning o’clock shadows against grey buildings, drying off their facades and the ominous tower across the city. Its windows absorbed the weak sunrays bursting through the grey dome to make them appear as if they were just catching fire, waiting for the wind to blow and carry it to consume all.

“What a day to die,” Quake cast his eyes up to the gloom.
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Discord, by Katy Haye

Beth forgot her past. What if there’s nothing to remember? Beth has spent six months at the remote Steptoe House in the English countryside and still can’t remember a single thing from before her car accident. The doctors say that’s normal. They say traumatic brain injuries heal at their own pace and insist the music therapy they prescribe to their patients is the key to recovery. But something is off at Steptoe House and Beth can feel it. There’s a wrongness there — a discord between what is and what should be. Strange voices echo down the halls at night and shifting shadows beckon. And Beth doesn’t dare tell anyone she’s been talking to ghosts. So, when new patient Toby arrives, she’s relieved to find a friend she can trust, a confidant to share her ghosts with. Plus, he’s really cute. Together, they will tackle the mystery of Steptoe House and uncover more than either of them ever bargained for.

I saw Discord, by Katy Haye on Netgalley, and I decided to give it a try. I’ve read some really interesting sci-fi lately with protagonists with memory loss and/or brain damage. It’s interesting to see how different authors handle this serious issue in society – even in future societies. I don’t know if this is because I’m finally graduating this May with a mental health undergraduate degree, or if I’m just a weirdo.

Not to worry, Discord is an easy read for many age groups. The story just doesn’t make sense for about the first two-thirds of the book. Not in a way that I couldn’t follow the narrative, but in a way that the narrative just confounded me. Elements that I read were just a little bit off, and my expectations were constantly challenged. It was as if I were an anthropologist that had all these ideas of how a story should be, and then I got to experience the story, and many of my ideas didn’t quite match up. I was close, but not exact.

Any way, enough rambling. Discord is an odd story. I totally dug it, and some of my complaints about teen angst and relationships are likely due to the very small suite of characters. One you read the reveal, and the oddities make sense, Discord is a cool sci-fi foray, and for 99-cents, you should pick it up for a read. I’d read the sequel, Dissent, when it comes out in just over a week. I’d rate Discord four stars for a rather interesting method of storytelling.

Katy Haye spends as much time as possible in either her own or someone else’s imaginary worlds. She has a fearsome green tea habit, a partiality for dark chocolate brazils and a fascination with the science of storytelling. When not lost in a good book, Katy may be found on her allotment growing veg and keeping hens in order to maximise her chances of survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar catastrophe (you never know!).


Moonrise CH52 – Death at Breakfast

[3100 words]Massey turned to Anne sensing she was about to start this whole thing and there was no stopping it back. “I have to get Denisha out of there. I’m not risking her life.”

Joaquin watched the exchange between Anne and Massey, saw pity in her eyes, a base emotion she never offered to anyone.

“She’ll be there, she’s always there by his side day and night.” Anne bit on the last part frowning at the suggestion it made. Massey was tight lipped. “You’ll call her tomorrow and tell her to leave before we engage.”

“Wait…tomorrow?” Quake looked over to Joaquin then back to Anne.

“Yes. Is it inconvenient for you Mr. Quake? Since we’re talking now, all eager to sink our teeth into the problem I figured we use the closest opportunity. Forgive us for talking this over before we came. Frank, Andy and I came up with a little plan.”

“Tomorrow there will be a conference right in front of Globe’s doorstep. He’s fond of those. There will be a lot of people, supporters and haters in equal dosage, but a big crowd nonetheless. If you do your thing and stir things up, Anne can secure a way in,” Massey explained.

Anne picked the back pocket of her jeans and fished out a piece of paper. On it she had drawn a close representation of the tower and its levels. “Forgive the crude drawing I did it in the car on the way here. Much easier with makeup. Anyways, Globe sits at the top, that’s where his control room is, where he sleeps, eats and shits. He’s protected there, secure. We’ll need to dismantle him step by step to get there. The tricky part is there’s a detection system mounted on the front door of the building, no unregistered super goes in or out without that thing alerting the FBI and therefore the Nightprowlers. The entire tower goes into lockdown within 60 seconds. However, I’m authorized to switch that alarm off. If Quake can create a 30 second distraction and Nightwave another 30 seconds of blackout, I’ll be able to turn it off and pretend it’s misbehaving on account of your peculiar abilities. Globe will be able to restart it manually from his control room but once you’re inside it won’t matter. The building will go into lockdown after another 15 seconds.”

“Won’t that draw too much attention? A supers attack at a rally?”

Anne smiled at Betty. “The people in the crowd will be fine and they will get to go home with some fright in their system and a story to tell. Besides we’re aiming for the cameras.”


“Massey did say you were born to be a cop, Officer Patterson. Always with the questions. It’s because they need to capture the moment when Globe is exposed as a fraud.”

“But won’t he be dead?” Kid joined in.
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The Sully Award Winner!

Friend, co-conspirator, and all-around great human being, Kate Loveton won a writing contest!

Source: The Sully Award Winner!

Unknown Horizons, by CJ Birch

The moment Lieutenant Alison Ash steps aboard the Persephone, she knows her life will never be the same. She will never again watch the sun rise over the asteroid belt, never again see Earth from a handheld telescope, and never again see her family. In less than three weeks, the ship will dock at the Posterus and begin the most important journey humankind has ever undertaken. More important than discovering fire, creating language, or even abandoning Earth to live confined in biospheres among the asteroid belt over 100 years ago. What Ash doesn’t expect is that by keeping her recent memory loss a secret she is jeopardizing not only the Persephone’s mission but humankind’s launch of the first ever generational ship. Nor does she anticipate her attraction to Captain Jordan Kellow, but both will change her life forever.

When I saw Unknown Horizons on NetGalley, I figured I’d give it a go. When you start a book with the ending, it has to be epic to pull it off. Unknown Horizons didn’t manage to pull that off. It’s still a fun read, but the ending left me scratching my head. The protagonist wasn’t likeable at all, but I think that was done by the author intentionally. Upon further reflection, many of the characters were unlikable. But, it somehow seemed to work as a story. There’s plenty of conflict to move the story along, and the science fiction tropes are fun. Unknown Horizons is a fast read, and I’d like to check out the sequel. I saw that it’s on Wattpad, but I’m an e-reader kind of guy, so I’ll wait until it’s available in that format.

I waffled between 3.5 stars and 4 stars for Unknown Horizons. The narrative is definitely different, almost fractured. In the end, I’m rating it 3.5 stars. Perhaps after reading the second story, I’ll revise my star rating up. CJ Birch is a talented debut sci-fi author, and I’ll be checking out more of her stuff as it becomes available.

CJ Birch has a number of degrees, certificates, and diplomas from various establishments (some more reputable than others), all of which have nothing to do with what she does for a living. After spending a few years ruling out jobs, she finally settled into video editing for a company in Toronto, which is essentially an excuse to get paid for watching movies all day. Of all the jobs CJ Birch has had, the 45 minutes she spent bartending is probably the most memorable (for reasons that don’t include nominations for employee of the month). A lover of words, coffee (the really strong kind that seeps from your pores announcing, by smell alone, your obsession) and sarcasm. She doesn’t have any pets, but she does have a rather vicious Ficus that has a habit of shedding all over the hardwood, usually right before company comes.