Monthly Archives: April 2017

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Number 43

First came the gurgling in my ears, swiftly turning into a roar as the fluid all around me emptied into suddenly-gaping orifices. Next I was falling, slamming hard into a metal grating on my hands and knees. I let out a low moan, flinching as gobbets of tissue and semi-congealed blood splattered onto the floor all around me and slithered down my back. Gasping for air I curled my fingers into the holes in the grating and glimpsed the dull glint of metal beneath the fluid that coated my skin. Seeing more metal encasing my joints and feeling unexpected firmness in other parts of my body I shuddered, and wondered what had been done to me this time.

Lifting a hand to wipe my face clear of the liquid, I looked up as a rattling, clanking sound announced the arrival of a servant. An iron framework in the rough shape of a man stood before me, spars lancing inwards to pierce the flesh of the hunched person within at half a dozen points, the most prominent being straight through the forehead. His cloudy eyes rolled madly as he tried to focus on me, eventually settling on a point somewhere above my left shoulder.

“The Master will see you now,” he intoned, rasping voice tinged with faint static, amplified by a speaker sutured into his throat. He turned, twitching within his iron shell, and lurched away through an open doorway without waiting for a response.

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We Bury Our Own

“Brother Micah has fallen. And it’s your fault.”

Preceptor Adam jabbed his finger into Gabriel’s chest. Gabriel fought the urge to snap it. He was a mere sergeant, and the preceptor was as human as he was. No man of the Order may raise his hand against another human, not for something as trivial as this.

And, more importantly, Adam was right.

“I accept responsibility,” Gabriel said. “I shouldn’t have signed off on his solo patrols.”

“We have the two man rule for a reason, Sergeant Gabriel. We are men, not angels. None of us are above the rule. Not even for someone like Micah.” He snorted. “Especially for someone like Micah.”

Again, the preceptor was right. Among the men he had served with, Micah was the best. He could go alone into the mists, become one with it, and return unscathed. He boasted often of his exploits, and took pride in them.

And pride was the first sin, the cardinal vice that led to the Deluge and the Second Fall of Man.

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The Artifact

Relief would come in just a few days. Captain Miles Mason wasn’t looking forward to it. He knew what it would mean. It would mean he and his team had failed. Failed, like the six teams before them.

Mason lifted another of the mykor tubs from the excavation pit and turned to ­carry it to the sorting station. The sunlight made it difficult to see the way. He turned a dial on the side of his suit. ­The screen across the front of his helmet instantly darkened. His vision improved.

He surveyed his surroundings. Thompson and Clark were working the excavator behind him. Up ahead, Neicroft, his second in command, was tapping the screen of her autodater, logging each tub that entered the sorting station, assigning it a bar code, printing and slapping the little, lined stickers on their sides. Inside, Watson and Coleman would scan them when they began sorting through their contents and then again when they finished. It was a smooth operation.

Still, no one was feeling good. The temperatures had been high the last several days, even for Hadon. Mason was still amazed that a planet that was nearly desert everywhere could have seasons. He remembered with longing that time months ago, when winter temperatures were as low as the mid-80’s.

Lately, the cooling systems on everybody’s suits had been struggling to keep up. They’d all be taking more breaks lately, retreating to the living quarters to strip off their support suits, shower, and get a few breaths of oxygen that didn’t come through the little vent in their helmets.

The certainty of failure haunted them all. For 350 days, they had been on this blazing planet, searching for any sign of a civilization long gone. Fifteen more days, and their tour would be up, and they would all go down as one more team who had failed to produce even the tiniest bit of evidence.

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Zombie Jamboree

New York City’s first zombie on record walked onto the train platform at Queens Plaza at 6:43 in the morning. Nobody noticed the zombie for one reason: it was a fresh zombie, and thus indistinguishable from the rest of the commuters shambling onto the platform during rush hour.

After five minutes of waiting, the zombie grew restless. It looked around for a snack. It locked onto 43-year-old Wilma Behraine. She wore the brightest, most garish pink suit, and enough charm bracelets that she sounded like sleigh bells at the slightest movement. As far as the zombie’s thought process was concerns, it could be summed up as “Ooooh, shiny.”

Wilma only had an ominous feeling before the zombie’s hands grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled at her. She reflexively had an arm up when the zombie lunged to bite her. The zombie ended up with a mouthful of metallic charms. She kicked it in the stomach, knocking it back. It staggered, blinked, then roared.

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