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The Charlatan Chronicler

  The Charlatan Chronicler   by   Diana Rohlman   The words, for the first time, were not coming easily. I sat back, the glass of wine in my hand glimmering in the lamplight. I took a sip. For words to fail me was an anomaly. I went so far as to touch pen to paper, willing characters to form, a story to flow onto the page in bold, black letters. The ink merely bled into the paper, a spreading black blemish.  As King’s Chronicler, I took an inordinate amount of pride in my work. My pride was not unfounded; my works were widely disseminated throughout the country by bards and storytellers. I grimaced, setting down my pen. It would be more true to say that those bards and storytellers told hackneyed renditions; only my histories, sanctified by my position as King’s Chronicler, bore any semblance of veracity. I sipped my wine again, frowning. I could only blame myself for the laxity of the bards; for over ten decades the King’s Chronicler or a Chronicler Apprentice had traveled throughout Sollara every summer, occasionally even into the winter, entertaining the people with stories and recording local history. I had made the trip my first seven years, until the increasing numbers of bandits had rendered the roads unsafe. I was not the only one confined; until recently it had been unsafe...

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Technopred by Guy Stewart     It looked like writing to him. If it was and Earth Government found out about it, they’d wipe the area with an enhanced radiation weapon. With his consent, they would wipe his memory and give him a less harmful one. Without it, they’d kill him. Kidus Tesfa worked a folded strip of paper free from the string tied around the middle of the flattened, desiccated furry roadkill. Embedded with dried blood and dirt, the paper was marked in charcoal with obvious stick hands, digits crooked once or twice in different combinations, scrawled in a hurry. With a cybernetic eye in place of an organic eye, he took a picture of it. Then he heated his cybernetic hand to three-fifty C and touched the paper. It flashed to ash. He shunted the image into his encrypted personal file then spoke into his mission recorder. “Assignment recorder,” he corrected himself. Since returning from Mars, he and the other cybernetic soldiers no longer did missions. “Maybe I should just rip the recorder out.” He smirked. That comment would bug hell out of Wyome, his military psychotherapist. She’d probably go all righteous and prescribe more therapy or drugs. It might be fun – but not worth the cost in the end. When they were on Mars, he’d discovered that irritating her was a dicey proposition at best....

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Defender by Eric J. Juneau   “Mister Watkins, you know why you’re here again, right?” Vice-Headmaster Meech asked. Caden sighed.  “Yes.  Because I was caught with a weapon.”  “No, because you were caught with a bladed weapon, capable of immediate and direct harm.  Only students specializing in combat and battle are allowed to have those.”  The vice-headmaster pointed at Caden.  “The closest thing you are allowed is a staff.  And that is for the express purpose of focusing your healing magic.” “But other students get to carry weapons around.  Swords and maces and spears,” Caden said.  “Watch your tone,” Meech said.  “Some ranks are allowed small arms for defense.  But yours does not.  Because hælmancers never face combat.  Ever.  They’re too valuable to risk.” “But what happens if I’m attacked?” “Possession of a weapon in untrained hands is asking for disaster.  We have these rules for a reason.  Did you have a permission token to carry this knife?” “It’s a scramasax.” “I don’t care what it is.  Unless you can show me a permission token for it, you’re not supposed to have it.”  “I just wanted to practice a little bit, since no one will teach me.”  Caden had been sighted in the western tower, mimicking the assassins’ movements as they practiced in the courtyard.  “I didn’t want to be a hælmancer.  I wanted to train to be a...

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The Right Place

The Right Place  by M.E. Garber    Detilba wasn’t at home. Then again, she never was. She was outside, against all Momma’s rules, when she saw the things. At first, she thought they were more leaves, or shadows of leaves. But there were no shadows on that gray, sunless day. And when the wind quit and the leaves ceased flying, the shadow-things continued swaying in the air under the trees. Soft sounds came from them, a rustling like whispered laughter. They sounded so very happy that, despite the shadows’ disturbing appearance, Detilba leaned closer. She loved happy things. It took her mind off the dullness of everything around her. She gravitated towards fun the way a moth flew towards a flame, her mother always said, rolling her dark eyes. Momma was always so tired, so grumpy. Detilba tried hard to be good and studious, tried to make up for her pale-brown skin, but something within her danced the moth’s flame-dance. “Hello,” she said in her most polite voice. The shadows paused. Their music muted, and Detilba thought she’d scared them. “I’m Detilba. Who are you?” She tilted her head at the shadows, and laughed as the dancing shapes swept around her, chiming and rustling in a dust devil of delight. She giggled as they tickled down her dark amber arms, under her chin. Her skirt flew out around her...

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If You’re Reading This, You’re Dead

If You’re Reading This, You’re Dead by D. J. Swatski   “Press the red button,” boomed the room’s loudspeaker. Jason stretched out the palm of his hand over the large mushroom-shaped button and smacked it flat. The front panel of Aquatane blinked, and the memory core blossom ejected from the center of the machine’s front panel. “Careful with that, that’s a 256 terabyte module, worth millions.” “Yeah, yeah, got it,” Jason replied, pulling the memory out of the machine with two hands. He cradled it close to his body before plugging it into the erasure fixture. He toggled the start button and the panel began to count down. He would have to wait ten minutes for each erasure pass. The staff psychologist pressed the microphone again, “Jason, that’ll take a while . . . in fact, right past the end of my shift. I’m outta here.” Jason looked at Paul, his fellow operator, and nodded, “Later, this’ll end our shift too.” Paul watched the timer, “We have to do this five times. Right? And we get overtime, about an extra half hour.” “Or not,” Jason said, watching the lights switch off through the glass to the adjacent room. They watched as the psychologist pulled his door closed. Then Jason added, “I have…something to do tonight.” “Hot date,” Paul nudged. Jason gave a fleeting grin, which Paul just couldn’t let...

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