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Contriving Romance

Contriving Romance by Russ Colson The young man’s face peered shyly around the edge of Professor Sand’s office door like a rabbit checking a clearing in the woods for predators. Sand almost missed the faint motion, his attention on the lecture notes that he hadn’t quite had time to finish reviewing before class. “Excuse me,” the young man announced, in case any predators had missed spotting him. “Do you have a minute?” Extracting himself from his notes and glancing at the clock—five minutes to class time—Dr. Sand considered whether he had time to chat, wondering with a faint smile if the young man really meant “a minute.” The fellow looked a bit older than the typical student, perhaps twenty-five or twenty-six, and that meant he might find the courage to linger longer than most. The younger ones, when they did work up the courage to hop into the hunting grounds of a full professor, were usually in a hurry to escape. In this case, perhaps there was just enough time to learn the purpose of the visit and set up an appointment for later. “Sure,” Sand said. “Have a seat.” He waited for a moment to encourage the young man to speak first. After thirty years at the university, he understood that nurturing student maturity was his real job—teaching space engineering being only a vehicle. However, when the young...

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The Cataline Downfall

The Cataline Downfall By Shane Ward My world was located inside a nebula of rich blue gas that encased our solar system. Every cycle, another nebula would enter the system and merge with ours, creating an awe-inspiring display that lit up the night sky for months. Many Cataline would wait a lifetime to see this event, and when it did occur, our world was bathed in a harmony of god-like art. Our world was paradise, filled with fields of rich green pasture and plants that illuminate the night sky as well as offer a stunning display for all to see during the day. We’re a race that’s passionate about all things: life, technology and exploration. But when my family talked about the old days, they explained a terrible secret that our race holds about the population of this galaxy. Thousands of years ago, an alien race landed on our planet and started a colony. We didn’t know them, but as soon as first contact was established, our exotic forms and strong telepathic scent caused the entire colony to descend on us with devastating results. Soon, ships arrived and began invading our world. Almost all of our people were raped, mutilated and tortured for not giving themselves up. In the end, mass suicides were the only way to escape. That was before a mysterious “thing” arrived and took the invading...

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The Gift

The Gift by George Stewart Art by Dale Bott The storyteller traveled from village to town, gathering and sharing tales.  One day, he came across a small town preparing to send their warriors to battle.  Their king had called for every able man to take up sword and shield against their adversaries. As he walked among the vendors in the market, the storyteller heard the people speak of their fears, especially for the children.  The people feared the children wouldn’t understand.  In truth, the children were frightened, mostly because the adults were frightened. The storyteller asked around and learned the children were being kept in the large building at the center of town.  The building served many purposes, including use as a school.  He made his way there and asked if he could tell the children a story to help ease their fears.  The adults accepted his offer and gathered the children to him. He placed himself in a high-backed chair and began his story. “This is the story of one single hair.” The storyteller stretched his long legs out in front of him as he settled into his chair.  Reaching into his pocket, he drew out a long, brown hair and held it up for the children to see. “A hair much like this one.” “Was it magical?” one boy asked. “Did it belong to a princess?” a...

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Marksmanship in the Age of Sparrows

Marksmanship in the Age of Sparrows by William Knight Darkness chased the storm clouds on the eastern horizon, obscuring the fractured land below. The carbonized plastic stock rested coolly against Codman’s cheek, finding its marshal niche through familiarity with deeds done in the name of waning patriotism. He listened contentedly to the sounds of the deserted market—the snap of a plastic bag entangled on a rusty fence, the permutations of rain water sluicing through the sewer grates.  Even the spectral caw of a crow had an odd sort of poetic beauty about it. He found the eerie desolation comforting.  Away from Langan and his constant complaining, he found his center, a dimension inhabited only by his senses. Through the scope, he saw movement.  A slight flutter of cloth, an opalescence betraying the shadows.  He felt his stomach clench in excitement.  It had been many weeks since he’d had a target, maybe months. His hands were clammy and he had to force his heart rate to slow, to become the hunter. The riven steel frames jutted from the scaly earth, casting long shadows over his quarry.  It would be a difficult shot, but not impossible. He took a deep breath, centered the collimated reticules on the rippling shadows.  The myriad noises in the market, so beautiful in his seclusion, were now voluminous, desperate to impose upon his harmony, to disrupt...

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Softwing

Softwing by Chandelle Lance The cloth pinched tight over my eyes.  Someone held my hand.  Too small to be my mother’s hand, but she was my guardian so she must have been there somewhere too. The ground uneven beneath my feet as we walked; lifting in subtle rises and falling dips. The grass brushed against my arms, teasing and tickling. I resisted the urge to ask how much further.  I was ten now and began the journey of my name trial.  I would do whatever task the Chapa had appointed.  My stomach fluttered at the thought of being away...

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