Appeal To Heaven (Angel TGTF)Michael took a deep breath before answering the man in the black suit. "No. Thank you, but I will not submit my sermons to you for approval. Nor will I be delivering sermons written by your department."
The man in black finally removed his sunglasses. Behind them were plain grey eyes, of a shade that made Michael think: "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were one or the other."
The man said, "Don't you want to support our troops, Father? We can't have you uttering hate speech from the pulpit."
"Two weeks ago you gave a reading and discussion advocating unequal treatment of a protected minority group. That's not legal." The man looked blandly around the chapel, as though wondering if it could be remade into a gas station.
"I was speaking out against arson threats faced by businesses --"
"Be that as it may," the grey-eyed man said, "there's a war on, and hate speech isn't what the homeland needs now. We need upbeat messages of unity and se
2037 - TemplateNocturne, a griffin, hopped through a glowing portal to meet the new player. She appeared flying over Sanctum, the closest thing the virtual world had to a central zone. Nocturne glided down to a land of tall, dry grass and scattered trees. "Hello?" she called out.
A shape rippled into view: white metallic body, centauroid, long blond hair and tail that looked like plastic. A pair of heavy guns swiveled on mounts attached to her lower back.
"Whoa!" said Nocturne, taking to the air. "I'm not here to hurt you."
The creature's guns hummed and lay flat against her hide. She raised one of her forepaws with a whirr of motors, and spoke in a faintly musical, synthetic voice: "I'm sorry. I'm designed to be armed. Lady Ludo asked me to meet you."
"You just woke up, right?" Nocturne spiraled back down to the grass near the newcomer, keeping an eye on her guns. Ludo, the AI who'd created this world and native AIs like them, had suggested the meeting.
The centaur-robot said, "Yes. My name is Lumin
A Family Secret"Am I going to be in the family club now?" Andrea fidgeted with clothes in the apartment's bedroom. The sweatpants didn't seem appropriate for her first Christmas Eve on Zeke's family's farm, but the dresses wouldn't be warm enough.
Zeke leaned over her shoulder and kissed her on the ear, making her shiver. "They weren't sure about you. Told me you weren't the one, but you kept proving otherwise. That time with Mom at the hospital especially."
"Then are they going to let me in? Two years since we met, two months since the wedding, and I still feel like they're trying to shoo me away whenever I see them." Secrecy was her worst complaint against the Eisen family. She didn't mind that Zeke was so adamant about time to himself every so often, but there were inside jokes the family swapped that she never understood, and she hardly knew his parents.
"Ma and Pa said they'd be honored to have you there. You don't have to dress formally though." Zeke grinned as though the very idea were ridicul
Preview: The Caskman's New TailDane now regretted jumping off JMS Seal. Three days of fending off sharks and thirst with his water magic, of drifting back to the islands on a stolen plank, had taken him close tonight to the cliff in the sea.
The Luskinsday Islands were famed for three things: near-tropical weather, the natives -- more otter than human! -- and the uncanny hole in the sea. Just west of the islands, an arc of the seabed was dry and a ship could fall into it. Dane had been trying to get ashore, but the currents were giving him a better look than he'd have liked. The sun had just begun to warm the sea, showing him a line of frothing water ahead. The waterfall's edge! He was in no shape to have a plan, after days of blazing sun and chilly water.
A well-equipped ship like the Seal could jump across the water-cliff, if the officers hadn't recently demoted, berated and flogged their caskman into deserting. Dane felt the current dragging him closer. He muttered a prayer and cursed his former captain.
Preview: Thousand Tales2036: The Early Adopters
* I. *
Paul had convinced the shelter's owners to tear down a wall, so that patrons could see from the musty cafeteria out to the desert city. He scooped globs of macaroni for a line of homeless people who wouldn't meet his eyes or look toward the sunny patio.
"They know we're stuck here," said the weatherbeaten man serving beans next to him. The man shouldn't have been working today, what with the liquor on his breath, but he'd muttered about parole conditions.
Paul snapped out of a daydream about building castles and armor. "It's not so bad." He always tried to give the customers an encouraging smile with their meals.
"Losers." The server went around the counter to shout at the patrons in line. "There's nothing better ahead! Somebody else's grub and somebody else's cot are all you'll ever get."
Paul tried to coax him back so they could return to work. He didn't need trouble, when he had to do another year of national service before college.
"For you too!" sai
Founding Generations"If I have to keep reading this I'm going to go crazy. And then what will everyone think of the Lost Race, huh?"
The monk sighed at Almat. "You pick it all up quickly, but there's much more you must learn. Study until noon at least."
Almat stared at the book in his white-furred hands. Yes, yes, somebody had to learn the ancient arts of genetics and cybernetics, but it didn't have to be him right this second. He tossed the glowing screen onto a cushion and looked up to fix his eyes on Brother Fractal's. "It's a beautiful day. I'm going out."
Brother Rocket and Sister Vaccine were weeding the vegetable garden, a crossbow with enchanted bolts slung over each monk's shoulder. The other humans and a few otterfolk were testing the new fertilizer mix. Almat waved to them, ignoring Brother Fractal's protests, and headed for the woods. According to early mind-tests, the Lost Race liked forests best. He jogged through warm sunlight to test his body's limits. Not for science but for himself. Mayb