Parole PlanetThe teenager stood in the middle of the road, shaking with both fear
and cold, his clothes barely adequate for a night in the mountains
even in late summer. Straight ahead, shiny eyes stared at him from the
pre-dawn gloom; a long, low building blocked his way to the right, and
the forest to the left was darker than his darkest dreams. But it was
what lay behind him that scared him the most: the castle wall with its
open gate, a patch of light in which floated robed and hooded
silhouettes. He was trapped, and it was his own damned fault too.
He had jumped at the chance, of course. What teenager would pass up
the opportunity to visit another planet? Especially now that the magic
of hyperdrive had cut down the trip to no more than a few weeks. And
his father had money; it wasn't like they were going to travel packed
like sardines in economy class.
There were plenty of reasons for people to travel between Earth and
its extra-solar colonies: tourism, science, cultural exchanges,
I've got to type this in 'cause my roommate is sleeping. He says we don't have the bandwidth for video here anyway. They're really low-tech, you know? They make their own power and capture rainwater. It's never enough to go around, but that suits me just fine. It tastes awful. They even warned me not to drink straight from the tap. Wish I could send someone to our favorite store for a bottle of soda, but they'd be arrested. And I can't go because I'm supposed to be hiding.
As if! A white face around here stands out like Slender Man at a gay parade. I was afraid to go out by myself at first. Did you know the police never come to this neighborhood? How can anyone feel safe like that? Then again, the first cop who saw me would probably ship me right back to dad, and we'd be back to square one.
When did the world become so complicated?
Did I tell you about my roommate? His name is Marius, and he's the landlord's son or nephew or something. Everybody's somebody's relative around he
Distant EncountersHellish wind howled over the short strip of sandbeach, bringing waves
out of the night to crash deafeningly against the shore. Where the
ground sloped upwards, a man tried desperately to climb out of
the wet sand, slipping again and again as his shoes failed to gain
traction. The cold, humid air found its way inside his tweed, draining
him of energy. He pushed harder, and noted with some relief that he
was now among the rocks seen from below. It was a good moment to turn
and look back at the dark shape of his father's tiny steam yacht, now
run aground courtesy of an unusually high tide caused by the planet's
three moons being in alignment.
It had been quite a shock to be awakened in the middle of the night
by the incipient storm, only to find out that the entire crew of six,
counting his own manservant, had abandoned ship in the rowboat,
leaving him to his fate. And fate had made it that they were now lost
at sea, while he was safely on solid ground. For certain values of
Second ContactThe two men fighting atop a cliff were at once alike and contrasting.
Both had red hair and fair skin, and wore identical khaki uniforms
criss-crossed with leather straps, now all tarnished with dust. But
while one stood huge and muscular, with a face that seemed carved in
stone, the other was lanky, and his big round glasses threatened to
slip off at all times.
He was hardly helpless, however. As the giant's fist swung at him,
he blocked, while his free hand went for the sidearm. But he was too
slow. By the time he managed to draw, his oponent's left hand grabbed
his wrist, and they struggled for a moment. Then the larger fighter
reached for his own revolver. That would have been the end, but for
a desperate wrestling throw which failed... except both guns went
flying, one into some bushes, the other clattering into the ravine.
The smaller man found himself on the ground, trying to back away from
the unequal confrontation.
"Why are you doing this?!"
"For the people!" bellowed the gian