Friday, July 8, 2022

The Odin Chronicles • Episode 1: “Weber’s Place” • by Pete Wood

Welcome to Odin III, a grubby little mining world on the dark and dusty backside of nowhere. It’s a world where everything that’s worth having is already owned by Galactic Mining or the Catholic Church, and where people come to squander their hopes and lives, working for the company and dreaming of striking it big. It’s also a world where strange, weird, and fantastic things can happen, and it all begins in a little bar called—

“Weber’s Place”

by Pete Wood

A guy walks into a bar…

I’d heard them all since I took over Weber’s Place from my dad. The best bar on Odin III. At least I thought so.

And something not run by the Catholic Church or Galactic Mining.

The door opened and the cold air hit me like a slap in the face. The stray cat I let into the bar on cold nights arched its back and bolted into the back storeroom.

Ray Cornwall limped inside. The old man took his usual seat, not too far from Susan Musa, the only other customer in the joint. Tuesday nights were slow.

“First drink’s on me,” I said to Ray. I grabbed a bottle of beer from the fridge—the good stuff—my stock from Earth. There weren’t many of the original settlers left. I figured I owed him.

Ray shook his head. “No, thanks, Ingrid.”

“Rain check?” I asked. It wasn’t like Ray to turn down a beer.

“Ever tell you how I got this limp?” Ray asked.

Only a million times, but I pretended he had never mentioned it before. “Don’t believe so, Ray.” I returned the bottle to the fridge.

Susan just stared out into space and nursed her Tom Collins. She didn’t talk much. Not since Galactic fired her. Not since she started messing with those weird mushrooms that grew deep underground. Sometimes she seemed to see things that nobody else could see.

I was glad I wasn’t alone with her. Nights like tonight she gave me the creeps.

Ray took off his frayed wool cap and set it on the empty stool beside him. “Me and my buddy, Hans, were testing the new space drive. Tried to make it to Odin II, but… things got weird. Things got translucent. Transparent. Then Hans just disappeared.” He scratched his head. “Fifty-two years ago.”

I never had believed this part of the story. Hans had disappeared for five, ten seconds and then came back, mad as a hatter. Crashed the ship on purpose. I half listened.

“He died. I was in traction for a year. Damned Galactic never even gave me disability.”

This part of the story I believed. Galactic had been screwing all its colonies for over a hundred years. Ray survived on alcohol and handouts. He’d tried prospecting for a while, but that hadn’t worked out. “They’re assholes, Ray. You sure you don’t want that beer.”

“No, I can’t. I already told you,” Ray snapped. Then in a quieter tone. “He’s coming. Gotta be sharp.”

“Who’s coming?”

“Hans. I can feel it. Haven’t felt this way since the flight. Must be a residual from the window. Been getting stronger. It’s tonight. Here.”

Ray had finally lost it. Hans had been dead since my dad started the bar. Or maybe it was just Ray’s age catching up to him. He had to be in his seventies.

“I’d like to meet him,” I said.

Another blast of cold air. Constable Jenkins walked up to the bar. “Give me some of that Aviator Ale.”

“On the house,” I said. I’d have to order more of her favorite craft beer. Not a good idea to run out of protection payments.

Jenkins grabbed a seat by the door and took off her heavy overcoat. A Galactic supervisor—Popov—joined her a couple of minutes later. I brought a beer over, locally brewed this time.

“Thanks,” Popov said.

The door opened. Another blast of cold air. The wind whistled. A young guy in one of those old-styled flight suits. He looked confused.

“Get you a drink, Mister?” I asked. I hadn’t seen him before. Strangers were damned uncommon this far from Earth.

He didn’t respond. His eyes had a wild scared look like an animal caught in a trap.

Ray jumped up with an energy he hadn’t shown in years. He grabbed the stranger by the shoulders. “Hans, it’s okay. You’re going to be fine.”


“It’s me. Ray Cornwall.”

Hans blinked.

Jenkins just drank. Heaven forbid she do her job when a delirious guy wandered into my bar.

Ray kept talking to Hans, his words coming out a furious pace. “You’re married to Barbara. You’re trying to have a kid. You came here from Dresden. You’ve been on Odin III for two years. You and I are testing the new hyperdrive.”

A glint of recognition hit Hans. “Ray?”

Ray nodded. Tears ran down his face. “I’m older now. Listen. For God’s sake. Listen. You’re in the future. You’ll only be here for a little while. The rift or window or whatever the hell the drive opened is gonna snap you back. But you gotta stay calm. You have to let me land the ship. Do you understand?”

Hans hesitated for a second. “Let you land the ship.”

“Don’t touch the controls!” Ray grabbed a coaster off the bar and scrawled something on it. Take this. It’ll prove you’re not crazy when you get back.

Hans looked at the coaster. “Let Ray land the ship.”

Then Hans shimmered. He—

* * *

Not much happens in Weber’s Place. Just me and Susan tonight.

The door opened. Ray and Hans walked in. They’d been running the deli across the street since before I was born. Some of the last of the original settlers.

“Get you two something?” I asked.

“Sure,” Ray said. “Two stouts. The Earth stuff. Hans is buying.”

“You ever going to pick up a bar tab?” Hans laughed.

“Ingrid, did I ever tell you about the time I saved Hans’s life?” Ray asked.

“I should have just let the ship crash,” Hans said. “I would have saved a fortune in beer.”

I pulled two cold Earth stouts—the good stuff—out of the fridge and set them on the bar.

“You’re looking a lot better tonight, Ray. Glad that limp is gone,” Susan said, her first words since she’d ordered her drink an hour ago. “Good to see you, Hans. Haven’t seen you in years.”

“We were here yesterday,” Ray said.

“Thanks, Susan,” Hans said. “I know what you mean.”

“Well, I don’t,” Ray said.

“Leave her alone,” Hans said. “Just leave her alone.”

Ray muttered something about mushrooms and picked up his beer.


Pete Wood is an attorney from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his kind and very patient wife. His first appearance in our pages was “Mission Accomplished” in the now out-of-print August 2012 issue. After publishing a lot of stories with us he graduated to being a regular contributor to Asimov’s and Analog, but he’s still kind enough to send us things we can publish from time to time, and we’re always happy to get them.

For the past year or so Pete has been in the process of evolving into a fiction editor, God help him, first with The Pete Wood Challenge, then with Dawn of Time, and now with The Odin Chronicles, a 30-chapter shared world saga that will be running here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next ten weeks, and that features the creative work of Roxana Arama, Gustavo Bondoni, Travis Burnham, Paul Celmer, Jenna Hanchey, Carol Scheina, Jonathan Sherwood, and of course, Pete Wood. We suspect that Pete’s real love is theater, though, as with the print version of The Odin Chronicles (mostly) finished he’s now off working on the audio version, which looks to be an even bigger production that his short movie, Quantum Doughnut — which you can stream, if you follow the foregoing link.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the next installment of The Odin Chronicles, “Amid These Dancing Rocks at Once and Ever,” by Paul Celmer, coming next Monday.



Do you miss Firefly? Do you like The Expanse? If so, then The Privateers of Mars is exactly what you need. [...] Structured as three loosely interconnected short stories, it reads like three episodes of a great science fiction show that you wish someone would make.”

—Amazon reader review