Run, run, run,
The snuffymen come!
No time to hide
Just dive inside
Down the flows
Dim the glows
Their ears give them away. They might be behind a hedge, but the ears stick up above, all mirror shiny like the hubcaps on Uncle Tap’s old truck. Seeing ears ahead, I drop and roll under the hedge on my left, then cut across the maize field beyond, heading for the second grate. It’s open! I dive through and pause to make sure it ratchets quietly shut. No need to attract attention from what’s under them ears.
Run, run, run,
The snuffymen come!
Behind the hosties
Dodge the ghosties
They want your heat –
Be quick on your feet
I drop torches into their water cans as I run past. Ahead I can hear people trying to be silent as they scoot round the maze of server machines. Behind me, the darkness fills with
“Hawk Four, what is your status?”
“Central, I’ve got one extant bogey, range zero, in a Limuform Eighteen.”
“Hawk Four, why is the bogey extant if within range?”
“Central, I’m out of everything, including legs. Before you ask, I only have one arm left and it’s a manipulator, not an aggressor.”
“Hawk Four, why have you not been terminated?”
“I took it’s chargebank and tracks with a pulse from my Gadden. Its response was to blow my last combat arm – plus Gadden – off before it toppled onto the launcher it was relying on. So, after we worked out we couldn’t reach with anything, we threw things for a while.”
On his third pass, he sees movement.
“No. The mess was him. I’m Peter Luan.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I was invited. Do you have your witness app?”
“Activate it. I need to get this down before it fades.”
“No, what he said before,” Peter waves a blood-covered arm about, “this.”
“Very well. Citizen, you’re about to make a legally admissible declar-”
“I know. Witness running?”
“Last night, Professor Gregory Pane invited me to witness a ‘demonstration of concept’ as to why our eight years
Very important: you’d better be using nanomachine-enhanced detergent or you’ll fuse the dryer and your element-soaked laundry into a whorled sculpture. Great conversation piece at parties, but it isn’t covered by your home insurance.
For pity’s sake don’t use the ‘quicksilver fastwiring’ hack. It does work, but, mercury is po
“Sir, the worst casualty is Engineer Ruson: both legs broken. Apart from that: cuts and bruises.”
I treat Dral to my best expression of disbelief: “How?”
“It spun us, sir. Everyone was pinned to a solid surface. By sheer luck, the majority were backs to the impact.”
I’ll be drinking a half bottle of brandy with our guardian angel as soon as we get out of this.
“What’s our manoeuvring capability?”
“None, sir. We’re embedded in a cliff face.”
“Can we blast our way free?”
“It’s a two-kilometre drop, sir.”
“Use launch boosters?”
“Tubes are buried in the cliff, sir.”
I perform a mental orientation from that info.
“So, presuming we’ve lost both turrets, surviving weapons will only fire along the cliff face?
She straightens, bringing the beamer up. The discharge is violet laced with blue lightning, a clear sign the main tube is overstressed. It also means the effective range is under eight metres. The Drandic were in no danger, but they didn’t know that. The pulsing green riposte is blindingly fast and actually comprised of two dozen needle-thin beams in a searing helix. Her arms go wide and she falls, pierced through. Hitting the ground, her limbs bounce once. The snow raised on impact sprinkles her body, mixing with the ashes caught in her dark hair. The field is still.
Music swells, poignancy segueing into stirring tones. From behind her – to the viewer’s left – a dozen battlesuited
“I know they’re built on the same chassis, but why do I get the feeling that fastmutt is just sauntering along at the LEK9s strike pace?”
“Because it is. Military mutts have to be quicker than police models as the stuff being thrown at ‘em is usually coming quicker than beer cans or furniture. If it was authorised, it could get to the target and back, and still be pacing our LEK9s as they arrived.”
“This is overkill. Have you deployed matching units on all six routes in?”
“Damn right I have. Given what that bastard could have protecting his hideout, I’d rather go in ready beyond heavy than see if my regular cruiser can absorb an RPG.”
“Partially proving my point. You requisitioned heavy assault platforms!”
“They see them and realise they’re more likely to die today than gain reputation from surviving a firefigh
Another wave of fury crashes across my back. I don’t know why they bother. The rocks won’t burn unless they turn up the heat a lot.
There’s nothing visible left to burn –
Well, that took an embarrassingly long time to realise. So, Lailoken and just about everything else I’ve ever known have been incinerated during an attempt to annihilate me. An entire civilisation and the land it inhabited laid waste because folk always judge by what they would do. And, given sway over me, them up there would rampage. Therefore, they thought themselves to be in danger, because they didn’t believe that anyone could po
Steph realised she was the one screaming. Knowing that, she found her rational thinking was completely divorced from the terrified, screaming animal that ruled everything else.
So, hurtling to certain death after surviving a showdown between two drug dealers at higher in the sky than anyone should get into shooting arguments at. Damn. When Ned had whipped a pistol from his guitar case, she'd been paralyzed. Not with fear, but in the epiphany of her suspicions being true and the fact that not walking away was going to get her killed.
When Ned drew, Borgu pulled too. That might have been containable, but Borgu's knuckledragger, Edra, produced a compact - and stupefyingly loud - machine gun and let rip. Ned went down, his penultimate shot hitting Edra in the chest , spinning him. As Ned's last shot blew Borgu's head off, Edra kept firing as he fell: the spray felled Martin, nearly cut
The second generation of gnome-nickers went alternate. We got a card from Burning Man and an envelope from Rio containing a risqué selfie, featuring one of our gnomes, that made the wife blush.
I had an idea: I set up a Twitter account so our gnomes could ‘phone home’. I engraved the password on the bottom of each gnome. I’ve only had one idiot reset the password; the inhabitants of the Twitterverse tore him to pieces. Our wandering gnomes have built up quite a following.
Then ‘Ricky’, one of our veteran wanderers, disappeared. We heard nothing for months. The missus and I were beside ourselves. Losing one of our old boys was especially hard.
That Christmas Eve, my phone ‘cheeped’ – a
I lie there, unmoving, keeping my bodyware idle. The first rule of surviving killsoft: do nothing to allow it further access.
“Where, Teriya?” I silently reply. – It’s a difficult skill to master. There are alpha-class cyberops who still mumble when conversing via headware.
“I don’t have a left –”
Yes, I do. There’s hardware in the eyedock.
“How the frack did a wandering eyeball get in there? No bastard got into this cubby and nothing gets past my drone monitor.”
Teriya and I chorus: “Who the frack?”
*Please allow me to introduce myself.*
“You’re a man of wealth and taste?” Teriya deadpans the lyric. I have to suppress a smile.
*Once upon a time. Currently, I’m a bodiless intelligence locked in a holographic matrix that’s hidden inside this Zeiss XR1010.*
“How the frack have y
- Sometimes it’s as simple as thinking what would happen if the accepted outcome of an event didn’t occur. Why didn’t it occur? e.g. You put your cup and saucer down on the table, misjudge the edge, and down the tea goes. But, this time, it just sits there, unsupported, a metre off the floor. Super-superglue on the edge? Invisible alien? Gravitational anomaly? And away the story goes.
- The words are the medium for the story, but the story is the creative drive. Get that clever idea/plot/scenario written down. You can refine the words over and over, but that moment of inspiration will never come back in the same form, if at all.
Make your title work for you.
- You haven’t got a lot of room, so the title should do some of the work. Sometimes, you can be cheeky with it – in example, one of my own favourite titles is “Hanging from a Ledge on Mantriss V”. That’s setting, opening act, and hook. That
The job came with some unusual aspects. On a ship like mine – one of the many ‘fireflies’ that flit about the universes delivering the stuff that everybeing needs at prices everybody can afford – a fully sigilled commission was unheard of. The metre-square piece of parchment with its ribbons and wax arrived in the hands of Raine Deckham himself. The ‘Rhamphorynchus’ was being chartered to bring his brother home.
Cargo that wants a view travels in the stateroom. It has a private access to the galley along with a huge starboard-facing window siding the lounge. About as serene as this spaceship gets, because little ships are never quiet.
Raine brought a case full of peripheral noise suppressors. I didn’t know you could get them that small. Consequently, my lounge is still and si
We’ve used his ashes mixed with compost and loam to bed in the tomatoes, and we hope that his crop will be a bumper one. And, by being in the tomato troughs, he’s next to Maggy in the marrows and rhubarb. He always said it would be good if they could be together again.
Consider it our little contribution to that wish, Harry, my old friend.
The shop’s doing well and the council has approved our grant to revive the old greenhouses. I think it had more to do with Beatrice being the Mayor’s grandmother than ecological reasons, but a win is a win, and these days that’s so rare no-one will say a thing
That’s why, after the Reality Revolution, I chose robotics. There is a literality in the perceptions of a robotic mind – if it is programmed correctly, of course. I populated my laboratory with hardcore empiricists. What we made were deterministic automata, engines of rational, emotionless observation and interpretation. Marvels of mechanical intricacy, our machines are sought after as impartial control elements in a world where ‘real’ is becoming increasingly subjective.
“Hubris, dear doctor. You haven’t me
Mellow. Now, there’s a definition for this moment. Sitting here, heels on the console, chilled vodka tube in hand, seat reclined all the way back, headrest cradling my head with the infinitesimal pressure granted by a pocket repulsor field. Mellow, indeed. More correctly, I’m mellow. It’s a feeling, after all. Despite all the advances in technology, we haven’t bridged the machine-emotion chasm yet.
Just like we haven’t bridged the gap between what Earths Two thru Seven provide and the stuff that could only be found on Earth One. We knew it was dying, but somehow, with our never-quite-accepting view of extinction events, we let it slide without conserving the bits we’d miss.
I jolt fu
There’s a grinding noise nearby that sounds like distorted laughter. Nasser! Move! Seeing the page is the last one with writing, I rip it out and pocket it. One sheet of paper won’t weigh me down.
Out the doorway and through a parched backyard, explode through a chain link fence in a shower of rust and brittle pieces, then over another brick wall, to plunge down into an open cellar. I crash land and the floor gives way. Surprisingly, it’s only a short fall onto a van roof. I wait for the Nasser to descend on me, but things only get quieter as bits cease to fall. Minutes pass and my breathing slows.
“You alright, mister?”
I turn my head and she gasps at facing the muzzle of my gun. Training: aim
“I’m here today with Captain Riff Bargel of the 263rd MDSCP, better known to homeworlds viewers as the ‘Tactical Rednecks’.”
He turns to the green-uniformed officer standing next to him.
“Don’t you find it offensive to be called that?”
“Who d’you think named us, son? Nobody gives us anything we don’t want to carry. Easier to get your tongue round than ‘the Two Hundred and Sixty-Third Multi-Draft Special Combat Platoon’, too.”
“You don’t sound like an American.”
“I’m not. Every country has a south. Seems that the folks who inhabit those particular areas share certain attitudes, too.”
“Respect for o
“Well, now, what do we have here?”
Oh, great. He’s examining the rod. If he’s as smart as I think he is, he’ll figure it out quickly and things will get interesting.
“Targalla! This is an Aiming Wand!”
Correct. And you’re a devotee of the local war god.
“Well, now, why shouldn’t I bring the thunder down on you?”
One of his squad looks about nervously: “Climel, we’re too close.”
Alley Captain Climel looks back, his tone witheringly contemptuous: “You scared to face Targalla, Rufutz? To take a spotter down, you’d hesitate to go in glory?”
I’m a bit more than a spotter, numbnuts. But, as long as you think that, I might survive this.
Climel waves his squad back. Looks like he’