Crafter's Heart, Chapter 1South of Cuba, 2038 December
The young man's first steps on Castor Colony were unsteady, since he expected the ground to move like the ship that took him there. The floating, artificial island did sway and vibrate, but due less to the Caribbean Sea beneath it than to the thousands of people walking, working, and playing where nature had said there was nowhere to live. Stan hefted the backpack containing nearly all he owned and crossed the dock to get started.
The colony was a sort of jungle gym or raft made from an oil rig, a retired cargo ship, a set of purpose-built "seastead" platforms offering a flat surface well above the waves, and a flotilla of boats that rearranged and jostled constantly. He smelled something baking until the wind shifted and brought him a scent of seaweed instead. Under his feet the ground was concrete reflecting the warmth of an early winter day. Stan left the dockside view behind as he got in line beneath a canopy, which led him to the entry gate.
Novel Fragment - Army of EnoughSir Robin was digging ditches. The new centauroid body was better for hauling loads than for digging, but today the men needed extra hands even if they were made of titanium. When the workers broke for lunch, Robin set his shovel down and trotted ahead through the forest. He walked along the marked trail of a buried data/power line. The Warren's solar panels had spread enough to help keep up with the ever-growing energy demand, but even the latest technology needed a lot of inspection and maintenance. There was the theft problem, too.
The people of Robin's little city-state didn't need him anymore. He'd always feared being seen as a do-gooder tyrant like some of the old colonizers, and Ludo had spread the idea of calling him 'prince' to match the legal status that dumb luck and violence had thrown him into. Sometimes Robin used generic robot bodies so he could walk among the people and not be recognized.
Robin studied the line as he walked deeper into the woods. The sensors sang when h
Meeting StandardsIsaac found the boss touring his glamorous new Ultrafactory. "Sir, could I get a minute of your time?"
Crassus Mink pulled off his thousand-dollar sunglasses to inspect Isaac. "Shouldn't you be in Florida?"
"Yes, sir, I was at Cape Kennedy this morning. The static test fire went perfectly." Normally the man paying for a rocket launch would be there to watch the crucial tests, but Isaac's boss was a busy man. Isaac added, "I want to make a last appeal about replacing the payload."
"You don't like my Roadster?" asked Mink, grinning. He greeted three of the battery factory's employees by name.
"I love it, sir. I just don't think we should be launching your car into space. Just because this is the test flight for the BigMass Heavy, doesn't mean the payload should be..."
"Lacking scientific or economic value. Why not a chunk of ice, or CubeSats, or that EmDrive prototype?"
Mink patted Isaac's shoulder. "That reminds me: give me a dollar." When the engineer did, Mink told
Red EnginesMy black wings rode the blood-hot updrafts of an Arabian day. I soared towards the doomed village on a mission of mercy. Timing would be critical. Too early, and I would violate my orders of non-interference. Too late, and there would be no one to save. The dust trails in the desert below were the red engines of the Allies.
I flapped and folded wings, feeling the rush of wind over my plastic skin. The town minaret would make a good perch. Soon I was there, tilting my beak to compare the sandy cluster of buildings to the satellite map. I slipped down to a schoolhouse in the north, landing in a tiny walled garden.
The house had a glass sliding door painted with pictures of Mickey Mouse. I boggled. American ideas had truly reached everywhere. The image seemed crude and somehow sinister.
The door opened. A girl with a headscarf peeked fearfully at me, though she towered above my head. I used my friendliest Arabic voice and said, "Hello. I won't hurt you."
The girl's eyes widened. "A robot