Science Fiction Archives - Page 3 of 5 - Lyonesse

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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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The Dragon’s Teeth

Master Sergeant Jacobs arose in his tomb, ready for duty. He scanned the inside of the subterranean bunker with radar, lidar and IR, noting the lack of any intruder or breach in the wall’s integrity. Chemical analysis indicated the presence of no foreign gasses, and the standard neon-argon gas mixture was uncontaminated by any rogue microbes or nanotech. Standing up in the armored stasis coffin he mentally gave the signal to bring the bunker tomb fully online.

He looked around with his new eyes. Infra-red, light amplification, full spectrum analysis, X-ray, radar, and range tracking and direction finding were all available with full telescopic detail. It would have been overwhelming were it not identical to the neural overlays of his reconnaissance old helmet with which he had trained, back when he was still alive. Now, he was able to able to take in the information faster with his quantum brain. Rather than it seeming to be less dense information, the rest of the world simply seemed to move slower, though.

While the bunker powered up around him, he reviewed his own internal diagnostic information. The  quantum computer that composed his brain was functioning at several times the speed his mind had in his former life, and the full archive of planetary maps as well as tactical battle data were intact. His micro-fusion torus in his chest was running flawlessly, and should function for centuries of normal activity, and weeks of combat. Already, it was diverting extra energy to superconducting loops to provide extra hours of energy in case his fusion “heart” shut down. His bones were each a single super-covalent molecule with interlocking orbitals, the same material used in armor-plating. That structural strength was needed to anchor the nano-scale superconducting magnetic strands of his muscles each with the speed and power of a rail gun accelerator. He could break the speed of sound with ease, and strike faster than a shock-wave could propagate though metal, shattering most armors.

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Do you remember?

We swore to make the desert bloom, you and I.

We all did. Each and every one of us.

What greater desert can be found than this? This world, this galaxy… It will all bloom one day. First here. First Negev. First our world, so far from earth and the ancient battleground, where we are, perhaps, safe from those older than man, should they come back to finish what they started.

Then the galaxy. We will heal the ancient battlegrounds, and they, too, will bloom. And should Avaddon return then…. Well, maybe then we will be able to beat them.

I saw the first wild flower today.

It was lovely. Just a small, frail thing, clinging to life in the desert, surviving only by virtue of its enhanced genetics. It was the only plant in sight, as far from Ben-Gurion and the ruins of the Merkava as Negev is from earth, it seems.

I knelt next to it, cupping the blossom in my hands for just a moment. The petals were broad and blue, thin like tissue. A gift from the posthumans, a preview of what our world could be like. With the Merkava’s resources gone, we could not have done it ourselves.

I wrenched it from the ground, crushing the flower in my fist.

Not at the cost of our son.

I’m so sorry, Ester.

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Henbit and Clovers

The sun was shining for the first time in weeks, and it was mid-morning on a Thursday. James knew it was a Thursday because he still meticulously counted the days as they passed in his calendar, even though many didn’t seem to care anymore. James still cared, even if it had little real world meaning any longer. It had finally stopped storming and finally gotten warm…spring was here and he was determined to enjoy it.

In his old life, he would have been locked up in a school room at this time of day, only able to look out the window. Now he could go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wanted, instead of sitting at the tiny desk and waiting for three o’clock to come.

The boy stood at the edge of the forest, peeking out from around the trunk of a large pine tree. The street in front of him, the back road of a big neighborhood, seemed empty. If he squinted his eyes he could even pretend to see what it used to look like. Without the broken windows, open doors, abandoned cars, or slightly overgrown flower beds. It was a nice sort of pretend, anyway. He had once run through a neighborhood kind of like this one with his friends, playing tag and superheroes and dinosaurs.

But now those friends were gone, and he wasn’t allowed to run about freely anymore.

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