Last time on ACE ARCHER: Ace Archer battled Dalor Gruz on a sky-ark plummeting into the Catachasm, only to be saved at the last minute by his sweetheart Anne… or did he? Waking up in a hospital, Ace found himself an old man, his adventures only a dream!


Chapter One

It was just a footnote to an article on rocket propulsion physics, but the name rang a bell. When Caryn Alexander ran her eyes over it she circled it in red marker, just two shades darker than that of her bobbed hair. She wanted to remember to come back to the name.

One of the things Caryn liked about her job as a fact-checker was that she could research almost anything she found of interest. It was a perfect position for someone with the levels of voracious intellectual curiosity and attention-deficit disorder that Caryn prided herself on. With that, her eyes shuffled to the next line and started hacking away at the author’s bougainvillea of commas and other inappropriate punctuation.

It was two hours later before she came back to the notation, and the name still evoked a sense of déjà vu.

Ace Archer.

Caryn’s laptop was already multitasking Google, Yahoo, Scirus and the infernal Wikipedia. She popped the name into each in turn. “Rider of the Spaceways,” a 1982 science fiction movie was the first hit everywhere except Scirus. Scirus reported that there were no hits for “Ace Archer” at all, but if she was interested in a Dr. Edgar Archer’s work on the effects of ACE-inhibition on IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 concentrations in older adults with high cardiovascular risk profile, it would be happy to offer her several links to the same journal source. The movie title seemed closer to the itchy familiarity.

Following the “Rider of the Spaceways” links (not the obvious imdb or ones, but the more fannish–and therefore rich detail oriented–ones) finally gave Caryn the mental scratch she needed. The phrase under the banner of was only four words long, but even the garish three-dimensional typeface was familiar.

“Ace Archer, Space Pioneer.”

And just like that, Caryn was ten again and listening to her grandmother Anne tell her one of the summer Ace Archer bedtime stories she so loved as part of her annual visit. Granne had a whole series of old auburn hardbacks with titles like Ace Archer and the Living Asteroid or Ace Archer Into the Starless Galaxy. Caryn had been captivated by those tales, daring space adventure from the canals of Mars to Nemesis, the black star orbiting our solar system. God, she had forgotten how she marveled at the adventures of Ace Archer, Space Pioneer. Granne had passed away several years ago, but she had left in her granddaughter a love of science fiction and space travel.

She switched away from the ArcherPhilia page to get back to work on the rocket article, her nostalgia itch sated by the warm memories of her grandmother.

Unfortunately, that was when the detective in Caryn’s head kicked in and asked her the simple question that would change her life forever:

Why exactly was a paper on rocket propulsion physics footnoting a character from bad thirties science fiction?

Scrolling back up the article to the actual footnote (the notation simply yet alliteratively read “Ace Archer Archive”) Caryn reread the quote requiring such odd attribution.

“…since the ignition of deuterium is theoretically possible with the Super Marx Generator, rather than deuterium-tritium with a laser where 80% of the energy goes into neutrons (barring a proof of the Phileas Prospero fractal laser theory1, which could reduce said percentage to a far more functional 20%), this would also mean a breakthrough in fusion research, and therefore would justify the large development costs.”

The article, by a Dr. Daniel Juergensen was being reposted to, and Caryn’s bosses at Samaritan Press Services had been licensed by the ubernerds at arXiv to “trust but verify (and don’t even trust very much at that)” every scientific article being catalogued there. It was great work for Caryn, whose background was more in the literary arts; in the two months she’d been at SPS she’d learned more rocket science than a brain surgeon.

This, however, was the first time that Caryn had found something actually fun in one of the articles. She smiled, imagining dear old untrustworthy Professor Prospero down on earth advising modern military-industrial contractors on how he had coaxed greater gain from his lasers when he fired them against the legionnaires of Malus Khan. Caryn suppressed a giggle with her right hand, at the same time her left was already at work entering the search string “professor prospero” into the browser.

Most of the hits here were either tenured university teachers, Shakespeare syllabi, or both. Even more focused searches yielded nothing. Detective Caryn pointed out to the rest of her brain that it was odd that none of the Internet hits referenced a famous thirties spaceman at all. There had been books, a movie… why didn’t any of that show up?

Still, tucked away at the bottom of one of the Shakespeare Tempest articles under the “Other Media” heading was a single-line entry about Professor Prospero. “In the Ace Archer tales, a narrative homage occurs as Dr. Phileas Prospero summons pilot Ace Archer on board his starship, The Tempest. When the ship is lost in space with Archer, girlfriend Anne Stevens and sidekick Chip Charles, the group must find a way home; they are exiled much as Prospero himself is exiled in the Bard’s play.”

Caryn blinked at the screen, the rest of her body reacting with stiff disbelief.

Anne Stevens was her grandmother’s maiden name.

The very same grandmother who had spent summers reading Caryn the Ace Archer books.

She quickly returned to the forgotten page she had left up. There, listed under “Other Characters” it was again: Anne Stevens.

It wasn’t that Caryn didn’t believe in coincidence; she knew the odds of stochastic synchronicity were fairly likely. Just because you were listening to “Little Deuce Coupe” at the same time you saw one on the highway didn’t mean anything… there were millions of similar incidents each day that didn’t happen. Minor coincidences like that were pleasant distractions. What Caryn did believe was that when the big connections happened, they meant something.

It wasn’t coincidence that Granne, who loved the Ace Archer tales, had the same name as the woman Ace Archer loved. Nor was it coincidence that Caryn had been given the paper containing the footnote that lead her to find this connection. While she would never have used such an embarrassingly romantic word as “destiny,” Caryn didn’t have any trouble accepting this as fate.

What she did have trouble with was the next step in her new favorite investigation. It was something she wouldn’t be able to do safe in her cubicle womb, protected by the hundreds of loose articles thumbtacked to the bulletin board walls. No, what she needed now were original sources. Books, more specifically, Granne’s books.

And those were guarded by the Dragon, the closest thing Caryn had to her own evil archnemesis.

Her sister Pam.

To be continued…

© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.

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