Princess Cornelia Augusta woke to inky blackness and started to sit up. There was a dull thud as her forehead encountered cold steel. Only then did she remember where she was – a packing crate on a military freighter bound for the war-torn planet of Usteron. She pressed a hand to her head and grimaced. There was a nasty bruise developing by the feel of it. She was determined not to feel sorry for herself, though. If she was going to prove herself to her father by fighting in his army, injuries were going to become par for the course....

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Laurence, known as Laurie to his friends, but otherwise Laurence to everyone else, drops the dented suitcase on the counter top. Dallas stands opposite him and coughs at the dust that sifts through the air. He never removes his eyes from Laurence’s. The day is long. It’s hot. Both men are parched for completely opposite reasons. The temperature in the room hangs around like a third party to a two-way deal. Neither blink. Both men fail to see that this ritual extends beyond mere formality. “Does it open?” Dallas asks. He allows a glance down at the goods that likely...

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Raincouver. Lotusland. Vansterdam. The Big Smoke. I was particularly fond of this last epithet for my hometown as my job was to feed marijuana joints to lab mice. On the real. Straight up. No fess. I started out by offering small doses of medical grade marijuana to the little rodents as rewards for running through mazes. Once they became chemically dependent on the narcotic, I laced the joints with whatever drug the company wanted to test at the time, the latest being ONC-420, Buntt Pharmaceuticals’ wonder drug. 420 was a brain stimulant like caffeine or dextroamphetamine, only ten times more...

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Luna was not happy being assigned the late old lady’s quarters. Earthling, as everyone had called her, since she had actually been born back on Earth, had been living on the ship since before it even had magnetic gravity. Everyone thought she was crazy but she’d lived to be one hundred and seventy years old, so surely she’d had some dementia, even if she wasn’t literally insane. Earthling had been the ship’s navigation officer back in the day but then worked in the ship’s clinic as a nurse for a couple decades. However, she had been working in the kitchen...

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You might have been forgiven if you thought that there was a giant yellow wood chipper out besides the glass window, spewing out a horizontal stream of debris at full blast. That’s how intense the mayhem was. Inside however, it was quiet. JN, Director of the Albert Einstein Institute for Gravitational Physics at Potsdam, Germany, was waxing philosophical as he stood gazing at the enormous, ivory moon that shone brightly into the tall, armoured glass window. “Beautiful Selene, the moon goddess. Who would have thought she would one day be responsible for the end of the world?” He said almost...

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Stennis Conway woke up to the glare of the vid screens. The headlines scrolled across the screen, as they always did every hour, every day, everywhere. He turned to his wife Shelly Ann who lay asleep next to him and considered waking her, changed his mind and got ready for work. No sense waking her just now, he thought, the headlines were not particularly interesting so far. Stennis showered, dressed, and made his way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and a light breakfast. As he entered the kitchen, the vid screen sensed his presence and gleamed to...

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“Ah, Mr. Thompson, sir, so good to see you – and the other members of the board as well. How are you? I hope I’m not too late. You know how it is, always running out of time.” Carl Kearsley could not have been more out of place among the dark suits and leather briefcases. He wore grease-stained jeans and a dirty lab-coat, clothes better suited for his messy workshop than a corporate board meeting. Even so, he shook every hand as vigorously as he could, hoping to convey a sense of confidence that inwardly he lacked. Mr. Thompson grunted...

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The duffel bag, slung over my left shoulder, was light. I’d get most of my working kit when I arrived at Mu Arae. I exited the transport hauler’s docking area and entered the Tau Ceti station concourse that was more empty than my duffel. But it was late shift station time. With no one around, I decided to walk to my next transfer instead of taking a tram. There might be a diner or pub open. The transport hauler’s cook didn’t deserve even that title. But, in my years of service I’d eaten worse. I walked the main area, avoiding...

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Both moons hung low in the sky as Corlis’ plane came in for a landing. At first glance, Walkara airfield didn’t look like much. Criss-crossed runways carved out of what had once been farmland, a taxiway to a cluster of buildings pressed into service as dormitories, offices, and a command post, the latter with a nest of antennas, radar domes, and a mismatched control tower spoiling its lines. A few prefab hangars were big enough for a dozen planes, plus the fuel trucks and crash wagons currently standing by outside. The transport touched down and taxied toward the maintenance hanger....

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Jacob Unger awoke with the ringing still in his ears. It wasn’t from the Howitzer explosions or the musket retort, all of that had stopped long ago; a horn had been blown. A heavy darkness now laid claim to the land, smouldering flames flickered here and there, filtering through a mixture of fog and heavy smoke which blanketed the many horrors that lay underneath. Men who had, only a few hours before, been singing the songs of Dixie as they marched in celebration on their way back from the Virginian front. A stiffness had molded itself to Jacob and only...

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