An Urban Vigilante Goes To The Scariest Place Of All... Another Planet

Here's a genre mash-up you might not have seen before. My story "Palm Strike's Last Case" is the cover story in the July/August issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It's the story of a dark avenging superhero... who decides to colonize another planet.

Top image: Detail of cover art by Maurizio Manzieri.

I still have no clue how this happened — I've dreamed of getting published in F&SF for as long as I can remember. But I never imagined I'd actually make it, much less have the cover story. The fact that it was solicited and chosen by guest editor CharlesColeman Finlay, whose gritty stories have rocked my world, made thewhole thing that much better.

An Urban Vigilante Goes To The Scariest Place Of All... Another Planet

"Palm Strike's Last Case" is about a dark vigilante superhero named Palm Strike, who has been on a one-man war against drug dealers ever since they caused the death of his son. Until he gets chosen to go on a mission to colonize another planet because he used to be a land-reclamation expert. And hereluctantly decides to go because he's close to self-destructing if he stays on Earth. But when he arrives on the new planet, his cryogenic system malfunctions (or is sabotaged) and he wakes up 20 years too late. Only to find that everybody is starving to death due to incompetent terraforming, and the colony is overrun with drug dealers.So he has to bring his superhero alter ego out of retirement, while also hunting for a solution to the colony's critical food problem.

Here's how it begins:

PALM STRIKE'S COSTUME has never been comfortable, but lately it's pinching his shoulders and chafing in the groin area. Sweat pools in the boots. The Tensilon-reinforced helmet gives him a blinding headache after two hours, and the chestplate is slightly too loose, which causes it to move around and rub the skin off his stomach and collarbone.

The thing that keeps Palm Strike running past water tower after water tower along the cracked rooftops of Argus City, the thing that keeps him breaking heads after taking three bullets that night, is the knowledge that there are still innocents out there whose lives haven't yet been ruined.

Kids who still have hope and joy, the way Palm Strike's own son did before Dark Shard got him. When the bruised ribs and punctured lung start to slow him down and the forty-pound costume has him dancing in chains, he pictures his son. Rene. It never fails — he feels a weight in his stomach, like a chunk of concrete studded with rocks, and it fills him with rage, which he turns into purpose.

Argus City is full of disintegrating Frank Lloyd Wright knockoffs and people who have nothing to lose but someone else's innocence. This was a great city, once, just like America was a great country and Earth was a great planet.

Palm Strike catches a trio of Shardlings selling dreamflies in Grand Park, under the bronze statue of a war hero piloting a drone. The drone casts deep shadows, and that's where they hunker in a three-point parabolic formation. They're well trained, maybe even ex-Special Forces, and decently armed, including one customized 1911 with a tight-bore barrel. Dark Shard must be getting desperate. Once they're down, Palm Strike feeds them their own drugs, baggieby baggie."You know my rule," he growls. The process is not unlike making foie gras. One of these men is so terrified, he blurts out the location of Dark Shard's secret lair, the Pleasuresplinter.

To read the whole thing, pick up the new issue of F&SF wherever good magazines are sold. Or if you click on this Amazon link, you can select just "Current issue" and get the current issue for $2.99. (Or a subscription for $1.99 an issue.)