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The Hunt

The Hunt By Julius Vagdal     I watch the bead of sweat as it rolls down the face of the lean merchant sitting across the table. It tracks its way over the edge of his jaw, and down his neck only to disappear under the collar of his stained tunic. I’m only half listening to Reginald DeShong as he blathers on and on in a low voice. Clients can sometimes go on about the worthiness of their commission, as if it weren’t the weight and the purity of their coin that made all the difference. That is the one undeniable truth about what I do. Now that the sun is below the rooftops, the air is cooling nicely. The city is beginning to slow around us, the individual people taking more time as they move through the press on their way home. I enjoy the gentle breeze as it ruffles the awning overhead. I take another sip of the strong black coffee, made in the dessert fashion just the way I like it. I savor the subtle hints of chocolate and caramel across my tongue. Warmth seeps through the tiny porcelain cup into my hand. Although the streets are still well traveled, the coffee shop’s evening rush has not yet started. For the moment we are the only ones sitting on the shop’s veranda. More out of habit...

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If the Shoe Fits

If the Shoe Fits By John C. Tremblay   Crystal Meadows was frills deep in a bog of hungry mud. Had she willingly departed from Oldport to ride with the Lord whose disposition was as sour as his stench, she would’ve swallowed her pride and sent for help. But since she’d been kidnapped, all she could do was pray to Annūté she escaped—without shaming the guild in the process. “It’s already the tenth of Summersend, and my son is still wavering,” Lord John Thomas Lousen II growled, “You must speak with him; make him see the error of his ways.” Crystal pretended she was dealing with a rational patron. “Your Lordship, we have a number of mothers better suited for such tasks. As I tried to explain before you…” Took? Forced? Threatened? No, he was combative enough. “… enlisted my services; I’m only an apprentice.” Lord Lousen’s nostrils flared and his pungent odor filled the rumbling coach. He reached into an ermine trimmed bag. Crystal flinched, expecting a dagger; he drew out instead a thin piece of willow wood. He handed it to her and said, “You’ve got the tools now, so you have no excuses. As soon as we arrive at my manor house, I expect you to get to work.” Crystal feigned a smile and tried to stave off panic. All she knew how to do with...

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Kitchen Life for the Greater Good

Kitchen Life for the Greater Good By Opal Edgar   Young Lord Freeland was repugnant and even he knew it. Why he bothered us with toothpicks was beyond everyone. I did have a strong hunch that it was only so he could see us scurry about, panicked and scared, as we had no such thing—but hey, that was only a hunch. “Oof!” cried Almir, the second kitchen-hand and my friend, inexplicably winded. “What the . . .” I started. Then I turned round, because every face stared in terror at something in the region of my left shoulder. The...

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Watchers by Christopher Buecheler   Stef sighed, adjusted the feeding tube at her side, glanced over at him with her big, grey-green eyes and asked, “Can they cure it?” “It’s not going well,” he replied, and she rolled those lovely eyes at him, looking back out the port window. “Well, no kidding. What does that mean?” “It mutates faster than anything we’ve ever seen. By the time the body even figures out how to attack it, it’s changed.” Stef made a noise: psssshhh, and rested her forehead against her hand. “It’s almost worse that it didn’t come from us.” “What do you mean?” “Like, from Earth. We managed to avoid all that stuff down there, disease and global warming and war, for what? So some rock could crash-land in a field somewhere … bam. That’s it?” “That’s it.” Stef shook her head. “Jesus Christ.” “Lots of people calling for Him, down there,” he told her. “I don’t think He’s going to show.” Stef looked up at him again, eyelids tinted red at their edges. Her cheeks were mottled pink, her brow pinched, her whole face twisted. Dark brown curls of hair were plastered against her forehead; others stuck out at odd angles from around her headset. He thought about the last time they had been naked together, seventeen days ago, making love standing up in the steam and heat...

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Threshold by Ben Phenicie TO: The People of Prociv, Descendents of Roarcaster Deth exiled you, and your history is forgotten. Look at the night sky! There should be stars, a thousand beautiful points of light, not the unbroken blackness you see when the sun is gone. Retrace your myths, legends, religions – how I hope these words translate into your languages. The stars beckoned us outward once, but we turned away… now you may be our only hope. Higley Randapatham Message to the Exiles, AY 4414                                                                                              Darg– Authority Year (AY) 2367 It was like Blue Danube, the way the round-edged yellow construction cubes waltzed in orbit with the long, rectangular barges. Darg loved pretending they weren’t building a vast deception. He whistled the melody as he programmed. Once it was finished, the Veil would prevent the Roarcastrian rebels from seeing the cosmos. The framework was suspended in Prociv’s mesosphere, held aloft by solar sails and vast orbiting power satellites. Darg watched and whistled as an arrondissement – one piece, as thin as canvas, of the the gigantic icosahedron – unfurled over the planet’s cloud tops, covering Prociv’s greens and blues with translucent gray. Worker robots sealed it in place. “They cannot rebel, if they do not know we exist,” Reznik reasoned, gesturing grandiloquently at the Veil. His hologram console glowed with schedules and ship trajectories. Reznik was a chubby,...

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