Sunday, 9 December 2012


The sun rose slowly on another long day. Crystal showers of frozen air fell gently, sublimed upwards under the sun's rays, only to refreeze and fall again. Fine snow littered the surface like baking sugar, lending the splintered landscape a surreal beauty. This was a place of dialectical extremes, of hot and cold, of light and dark and of stone and dust.
The only splash of colour came from Sarah's multiple reflections in the viewing port. Convention decreed that her long dress and tailored jacket be Royal Navy blue, her blouse cream, but she was allowed to express some individuality in a neck tie and the band around her straw hat. She elected to wear a defiant red.
Sarah was too keyed up to enjoy the bleak landscape. She gazed out of the porthole, lost in her thoughts, disinterested in the view.
"Ma'am?" a piping voice sounded behind her.
She turned, moving carefully so that her skirt would not fly up.
A boy in a midshipman's uniform half made a salute then thought better of it.
"Is that your sea trunk, ma'am?"
She nodded in assent and he clicked his fingers at the porters. Two Selenites scuttled forward, sharp claws tapping on the stone floor. Like all lunar natives, they were six limbed but their exoskeleton was without the tripartite division that characterised the insect body. The size of a large dog, they stood mostly on four legs so that their front claws could be used as hands. The Queen Below bred them for Port Bedford's use as part of the Co-operation Pact with the British Empire. A not unpleasant wet-straw smell drifted off the creatures as they grappled with her luggage.
"The captain presents his compliments, ma'am, and asks you to accompany me to the ship."
"Thank you," she said. "Lead on."
They made a strange crocodile through the narrow corridors, the midshipman in front, her behind, and the Selenites bringing up the rear. Convention decreed that they should walk in single file on the right. This necessitated one of the Selenites walking backwards, something that seemed to discommode him not at all. She thought of the Selenite as "him," though "it" was probably a more accurate pronoun for a sterile worker.

Storming Hell by John Lambshead (opening paragraphs)


  1. And now I go off to Baen to read the entire story...

  2. Great figure, good opening to the story too!

  3. Thanks BK. Storming Hell was rated in the 'Best if Year' category by the annual SF round up book.