Flash Fiction Friday: The Seventh Cold

Arnold stood behind the helm of the ship, staring out into the void in front of him. Everything in this part of space was black—some trick of the dense nebula that sucked light out of the surroundings like a greedy black hole, yet there were no gravitational effects. No one had, as of yet, been able to understand the physics behind it, despite the best scientific minds of the day running endless calculations.

The physics of it, however, were of little concern to the majority of people who lived on the thirteen planets that surrounded the great expanse, and they were of little concern to Arnold, who had a shipment to deliver to the planet of Georgia. Tapping his foot, he glanced at the ship’s chronometer, which displayed both the time dilation relative time as well as Zulu time for the planets. A tight schedule ruled him now, as the ship had been delayed from departing Providence space port due to a suspicious customs agent.

“We’re about to enter the Seventh Cold, sir,” the helmsman said, his voice edgy.

Arnold rolled his eyes. “‘The Seventh Cold.’ Don’t tell me you buy into the superstitions, Rubio.”

Rubio gave a nervous grin. “Every pilot does. You’re the only captain I’ve worked with who ignores them.”

“If we hadn’t been so badly caught up in customs, we’d have time to avoid your superstition zone. But that’s not a luxury we have today. Shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and that’s what we’re sticking with.”

Chauntelle, the enthusiastic young woman at navigation, looked up from a computer screen full of trigonometry and constellation charts. “Why do they even call it that, anyway?”

“You ever read Dante’s Inferno?” Rubio said.

“No. Ancient Earth Lit was never my forte.”

“The seventh level of hell is frozen in ice, where the Devil himself sits, holding traitors in his mouth. They say that only traitors get caught up in the center of the nebula—so it’s like the seventh level of hell. And it’s cold in space anyway, but the temp in the center is as close to absolute zero as science has ever seen. Hence, the Seventh Cold.”

Arnold shook his head.“It’s the ninth level of hell, not the seventh. And speaking of science, the idea that a nebula can determine someone’s character is ridiculous.”

“Well, it’s not the nebula. It’s what lives in the nebula.”

“Which is, presumably, the Devil himself.”

“You got a better explanation as to why the stars won’t shine here?”

“I don’t care about any explanation. All I care about is we get our shipment delivered and we get paid. If it’s hell you’re worried about, Rubio, you should be worried about the buyer.”


“And don’t worry—I don’t hire any traitors, so we’ll all be safe from the Devil.”

A jolt rocked through the ship, nearly knocking Arnold over. Time dilation on the ship’s chronometer slipped down to zero.

“Arnold, we’ve fallen sub-light!” Rubio called. “We’re losing speed.”

“And we’ve been knocked off course,” Chauntelle added.

Arnold threw his hands up in the air. “Well, what the hell happened?”

“I wouldn’t use that word—not here,” Rubio said.

“I said, what the hell happened? We’ve got a shipment to deliver—”

“We’ve come to a complete stop. I can’t get the ship to move at all.”

Arnold cursed. He did not have time for this. He could not afford to be late. Not for this buyer. He glanced over at the chronometer again, only to jump when his eyes fell on it. It had stopped. The seconds had ceased ticking by, and ice crystals crept around its edges.

“What the hell is happening here?” Arnold said, taking a step back.

“Don’t use that word!” Rubio shouted.

The ship rocked again, this time throwing Arnold to his knees. He cursed again as he pushed himself up, glancing out the front viewport as he did.

Something moved, darker than the darkness itself.

His blood froze. “Turn on the external lights!”

Feeble, the lights barely penetrated more than a few inches across the hull of the ship’s nose.

But it was enough. Dozens and dozens of black tentacles crept across the bow, wrapping around the ship in a deadly embrace. The temperature inside the ship plummeted and ice crackled as it spread across the floors and ceiling.

A wave of fresh panic shot through Arnold as his thoughts flitted down to the cargo filled with hidden weapons contraband.

Of course he never hired traitors.

But that did not mean that he was not one.

“The Seventh Cold” copyright 2017 by A.L.S. Vossler.

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Tentacles in image courtesy of OpenClipArt.org

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Review: Star Wars Rebels

Okay. So. If you are a fan of Star Wars and aren’t watching Star Wars Rebels, then you really need to get with the program and watch it. I know the animation style is a turn-off for a lot of people, but the storytelling is amazing. I never thought I’d see the day where I would love Star Wars so much, and I can say that I largely owe it to this TV show. Even if you don’t especially love Star Wars, you need to be watching this show.

Star Wars Rebels begins on the planet of Lothal, an outer rim planet where the Empire has taken over and built huge factories. Their occupation includes the seizure of private property, forcing citizens into poverty, and other general evil/bad Empire stuff. Many people are forced to work into the factories to survive, where it is implied that working conditions are not particularly great. The main character of the show is Ezra Bridger, a fourteen-year-old Force-sensitive boy, who falls in with a group of rebels. The rebels are led by Kanan Jarrus, a former Jedi Padawan who survived the Jedi purge. Kanan decides to take Ezra in and teach him the ways of the Force. The other main characters are no less interesting: Hera Syndulla, the merry band of rebels’ Twi’lek pilot, is sassy and in charge. Chopper (C1-10P) is Hera’s temperamental droid who is basically a psychotic version of R2D2. Garazeb Orrelios, or “Zeb,” as they call him, is a Lasat with a bad attitude, and he is the muscle of the group. Zeb is particularly unique, as his species was not introduced into the Star Wars canon until this show. Sabine Wren is a Mandalorian girl with a grudge against the Empire she won’t explain; all we know is that she used to be at the Imperial Academy. The main antagonists are Agent Kallus, an Imperial Security Bureau agent assigned to quashing the beginnings of a rebellion on Lothal, and the Grand Inquisitor, who works for Darth Vader by hunting down any trace of Jedi who may have survived the purge.

So what is it that makes Star Wars Rebels so great?

First of all, I think that it is visually beautiful. Even if the characters aren’t always the best designed (I’m thinking here about the Wookiees in the pilot episode), the backdrops are always spot on. The Imperial cruisers always look delightfully intimidating when they are on screen. The buildings are believable and have a certain weight to them that makes them feel real. I also love the design and layout of the Ghost. Even the characters have pretty good design—the animators do a good job of avoiding uncanny valley, which is crucial. I especially love Hera and Zeb’s designs. Ezra, as one of my friends pointed out, is basically 3D Aladdin, and well, she isn’t completely off the mark. But everyone else is cool and original.

Second, I love the characters. I love them all, but from the start my favorites have been Kanan and Zeb. I love that both of these characters have a significantly tragic history wherein they lost their entire people, more or less. For Kanan, he lost the entire Jedi Order, while the Empire committed horrific genocide on the Lasats, Zeb’s people. The show has great villains, too. I love Agent Kallus for so many reasons—he lives up to his name, that’s for sure. He is a great love-to-hate character all throughout seasons one and two. I will avoid any spoilers, but season three of Rebels has moved Kallus into the honored position of second favorite character (Zeb will always hold first place.) The Grand Inquisitor is especially great, too. Season three also introduces Grand Admiral Thrawn, the new canonized version of Thrawn from the Expanded Universe books. He’s so delightfully evil—I love to hate him, too.  The character development is always well done, even if they hold back a lot about certain characters’ histories—but it’s always for the sake of the overarching plot.

Third, I love how the show fits into the overall Star Wars meta-narrative. If you watched The Clone Wars, you’ll see some familiar faces pop up. There are all kinds of Easter eggs scattered throughout the show, if you know where to look for them. So if you love the vast expanse of Star Wars, you’ll probably love this show.

Fourth, I think that the show is surprisingly easy to get into, even for somebody whose basic knowledge of Star Wars is that you watched the original trilogy once or twice—maybe the prequels, too. Like I said, I went from being a “Meh, Star Wars is okay” person to an “I love Star Wars” person. I knew almost next to nothing about Star Wars going in, and loved the show. The characters are just that loveable.

It does have some issues, though. I often think that the half hour time slot is far too short. In certain episodes, the action is packed together too quickly and the storyline resolves just a little too fast for my taste. There are also a few episodes which feel extraneous, like annoying side quests. Fortunately, they always turn out to set up future episodes with important elements—so I guess I can’t complain too much. Plus, those side quest episodes always leave plenty of room for character development. Still, they annoy me. Also, if you have watched and loved The Clone Wars, then you may find that Rebels has a much, much more kid-friendly feel to it. I don’t mind kid-friendly shows—in fact, I like them a lot—but every now and then I want a little bit higher of a body count. (Does that make me a horrible person?) Really, though, those are the only flaws I can find with Star Wars Rebels. Except the Wookiees in the pilot episode. Seriously, guys. Those Wookiees are NOT well animated.

Since season three just ended, now is a great time to get caught up on the show so you will be ready for season four when it comes out. I went from being a Trekkie to a Star Wars fan just because of this show, so if you’re already a fan of Star Wars, I think you’ll like it, too.  Overall, I give it 4 stars.

Have you watched Star Wars Rebels? What do you think about it? Sound off in the comments! (Be sure to warn everyone if you have a spoiler in your comment.)

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 picture taken of my own personal copy of the DVD set, used for editorial/review purposes only.

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