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The Courtesy
We’re glaring at each other across a gap that is – as we have repeatedly tested – exactly nine metres wider than either of our best reaches. The ground for kilometres around us is nothing but churned mud and scoured rock. Not a leaf, not a lifeform.
“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.”
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Run Run Run
I’m pulling taters when I hear the bell and the rhyme starts pounding in my head. I scatter the haul as my legs take off of their own accord, carrying me with them.
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
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About Time
The laboratory is filled with the sound of slow drops landing. The smell alone is enough to drive three officers back. Seeing the mess does for the next five. Officer number nine moves his torch in slow arcs, picking only edges and highlights from the sanguine layer covering everything.
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.”
“Your confession?”
“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
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Vegetable Process
Have you ever grown your own computer? It’s not like they show on MeVee. There’s a lot more liquid blend used because spillages occur all the time. The damn things sweat out unused elements constantly, overflowing the moulds. On a hot night, it can even overflow the trays you stand the moulds in. And that image of the girl in her skimpies leaping lithely across the room to get cloths to mop a spill? Utter tosh. Any leakage puts a near-frictionless layer between skin and any surface. You crawl to the towels with your hands and knees wrapped in stray clothing. If clothes are out of reach, duvet or sheets will do.
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
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First to Fall
Every anniversary of the counterstrike, they show that cursed video. You know the one: snow on the ground, ashes in the air, a lone woman in a ragged battlesuit moving cautiously across an open field. She’s gripping a Mantis 14 like the ancient beam weapon’s a holy relic.
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
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War Games
I’m impressed: the manufacturer’s claim was true. C-NhD – Compressed Nhildentium – really does make a ship unbreakable.
“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?
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Gallant Role-Playing System by Rafellin Gallant Role-Playing System :iconrafellin:Rafellin 2 1
Writing Flash Fiction
Inspiration comes from anywhere.
- 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.
Just Write!
- 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
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Eavesdropping on the APC
 “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
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At least the air was clear. If someone could stop the screaming, the rush of air would almost be calming.
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
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Targalla Wills
Ninety-eight gazillion miles from anywhere I want to be and some teenage alley-captain and his squad manages to get the drop on me. That’ll teach me for daydreaming about places I’d rather be.
“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’
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The Skies of Home
I’ve shipped many things since the day I left Oktoberfeld. Some legal, many dubious, a few contraband, and nineteen wanted beings. Technically, this is my twentieth.
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
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Duty and Debt
Broadbeam seems heavy tonight. That’s silly. It’s not like I’m holding it myself.
There used to be a thing called ‘karma’. It marked your soul for doing good or bad things. WorldOne tells us superstitions like that are fiction. I wish I believed them.
John and I had been watching the explosions get nearer. TACnet was frantic with attempts to intercept this bunch of mad irregulars who had sparked worlds into riot with their desperate rebellion. Crazy or not, they could fight.
“Incoming.” John whispered.
They came pelting down the causeway toward the Core Gates, a motley crew in mismatched gear waving assorted weapons. I could hear their whooping glee getting quieter as it dawned on them what they faced.
The warmecha we piloted had been designed to be imposing. John had a Bastion, I had an Edifice. His the taller, mine the wider.
They stopped a way back and looked up at us, then one of the women started shouting.
“Join us! We’ve only
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Silo One
The cooling towers hum less at night, as the temperature drops in the world above. ‘The World Above’. Oh, how our leaders love that title. They use it everywhere, usually presented in ways that used to be reserved for heaven and similar post-death nirvanas.
“Tea?” Susan nudges my arm.
I look down to see a cup of chestnut-coloured brew. I take it, forcing a smile. Susan has adapted better than I. It would be petty to spoil the moment in a fit of pique.
The world was going to hell with fanatics of every stripe hacking at each other while good people were left to shore up the burgeoning masses with steadily increasing taxes. Even corporations stepped in to help governments cope as the global population exceeded all resources.
In better times, the outbreak between North Korea and America would have been limited. However, when Chinese intervention forces rolled into Pyongyang, little Kim let rip with everything he had at every country he feared. He had a lot more tha
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Sweet Rocks
The stars appear like fireflies seen through vintage sunglasses, the ones that used to give everything a mellow brown hue. My grandfather had some, an inheritance from his grandfather. Guess they’re buried somewhere in the dust of Earth One.
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
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Trick of the Light
He gently places a finger on her hand.
“Now try. Over there. No, don’t look back, you won’t see him. Look in the window. He’s just to the left of Mrs. Bakker, kissing her shoulder.”
Krista stares around the room, at Connor, then at the window. There’s her, there’s an empty chair where Connor should be, there’s Amanda Bakker, and there-
She stares at Connor: “He’s in your shipsuit!”
Connor nods: “Seems he doesn’t have access to a wardrobe in reflection world. Just glad I had a shower before we made that run.”
She can’t help it and looks back. He watches her head tilt and a smile form: “Widow Bakker seems to be enjoying life on the other side.”
He nods: “I’ve seen her with him in the reflections in my room, and in my shower. A couple of the reasons why I’ve painted out every reflective surface at my place.”
The celebrity dinner swirls and shimmers about them, seem
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A Light in the Black
There’s a dark atmosphere here on the hill, which is a sad achievement: with modern lighting and the city sparkling below, the Governor’s place is usually the brightest spot.
Until Maleshi brought the ruckus to the docks and Grunhilde took it personally. The mother of thieves versus the smuggler lord.
“Denton, you making up articles again?”
I turn and smile: “It’s my living, Governor. I’m always thinking about making articles.”
“Well, this won’t be one.” He seems dead serious.
Which means there’s a better tale to be had: “Then give me a story that makes it worth my while not to tell the galaxy about how a corrupt police chief suborned a planetary council to allow the criminal he obeyed to run our spaceports for personal gain.”
William appears too genteel to be a Governor. He should be cultivating roses or teaching history to scions of nobility.
“I know that look. You’ve told me the story beh
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Apocalypse Poet
Do you see the snow as it gently falls?
Can you feel the frost as it climbs the walls?
How do you feel now our world is gone?
Why did you leave us to carry on?
Well, ‘us’ may be a bit of a stretch, but ‘me’ is too cliché. After all, I have the critique of future readers to consider. Whatever they may be.
Excuse me. I’m Giles Rapson Drew, car salesman, stock trader, poet, husband, father, and – of late – childless widower. I’m also the sole inhabitant of Hove in East Sussex, formerly a town, currently an expanse of icy rubble on the southern coast of what used to be Great Britain.
In truth, the only things I was ever good at were writing and being a father. But the pressures of life and career made writing a secondary thing, for odd moments snatched from the month. After all, whoever made money at writing stuff if they didn’t get lucky?
A world heading for peace at last. That’s what we were told. The Moscow Accords, the Py
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Three Hundred Tomorrows - front cover by Rafellin Three Hundred Tomorrows - front cover :iconrafellin:Rafellin 0 1
I’ve travelled distances that make oceans seem like ponds. I’ve dealt with solar flares and meteor storms, flown half-blind and bleeding from situations that would make a sane man scream for his mother.
As I look up at the snow-white spume that tops this towering wall of grey water, I realise I am a tiny being and for all that I’ve endured, the depths of my terror had not been plumbed until this moment.
“Ketse! Stop staring! Get your sodden butt in here so we can close up!”
Christa, captain of this tub, grabs my belt and hauls hard. Once she gets me moving, the spell is broken. I don’t want to stare into the abyss anymore. I nearly knock her down as I scramble inside and throw myself into my couch. With a rapid series of hisses and clicks, the harness engages.
She slams the hatch and slaps the locking lever down under its restraint. Throwing herself into her own couch, she shouts over the mounting noise.
“This one’s going to be bad. Brace
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They Think It's Art
The way it filters the light through dizzying shadows within to cast patterns on the ground like sun through stained glass. To them, the seemingly impossible tessellation that never repeats a shape, no matter which direction it is observed from, has to be an artisan’s realised vision.
“A masterpiece” is how guides describe it to fascinated visitors. What makes it more intriguing is its warmth to the touch: the result of some honeycomb-like structures within its tubes, they are sure.
The size of a small building, it appeared overnight. A simple placard declared it as ‘an anonymous gift to those who appreciate true art’. Initial ridicule gave way to puzzlement, which turned to awe as the complexities of the piece were realised.
It is impervious to scanning. Attempts to sample or vandalise it have failed. It is set seamlessly into the ground. In certain circles, concerns are still being raised, but the passage of months has dulled their urgency.
Many wonder a
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The Reality Next Door
A savannah night is interrupted by the snarls of attacking lions. I hear screams, see flashes of weapons as wielders fall. They keep popping in. I’ve become adept at making sure they don’t leave.
While watching, my mind returns – as usual – to the afternoon I got this job: I’d been listening to a UN council vacillating when Colonel Verdi, our military liaison, threw her hands up in frustration and turned to me, the head of her security detail.
“Captain Miran, do you have an opinion?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Share it. A fresh view might help.”
“You’ll all have to excuse me for using gross simplifications of the science involved. Not my speciality, I’m afraid.” I saw smiles.
“Nine years ago, we discovered lateral dimensional travel. Minutes after that first ‘side-slip’ happened, people appeared. All over the world, where none had been moments before. Eventually, these visitors proved,
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Lay Me Down
Vapour coils along the bough, drifting away in little skeins of dissipating light. Tobias grins. Luminous breath: sure sign of irrevocable infection.
“How do you feel, my son?”
He looks up at the white rectangle glowing at the throat of the padre’s power armour.
“I’m fine, father. Some kind of feel-good side effect, I guess. Never felt better, to be honest.”
Spinal segments click as the helmed head nods.
“You’ve indicated you’ll not be wanting last rites?”
He waves his hand at the swamp about them: “Seems pointless, father. This far from Bethlehem, feeling this good, I’ve got to be closer to rapture than any man has ever been.” He grins as he finishes, taking the blasphemous sting from the words.
“You’ve been a righteous sinner, that much I’ll grant you, Tobias Ghent. Had more than an even share of prayers offered for your deeds.”
Tobias sits up, trailing luminous exhalations from both
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