She wanted to see where the books came from. In a more innocent age, before the war, before the arrival of the Seraphim and all that entailed, it would have just been a quiet date. Not anymore. Not when a trip to the library meant venturing into the fallout zone. Accordingly, Storm Hamilton took the two old pistols from the drawer of his antique writing desk and stuffed them in a leather satchel. For a moment he considered bringing an extra box of ammunition, but decided against it. They would only be out for a short time, a couple hours

“They say you can never go home again.” Bartholomew Quasar leaned back in his deluxe-model captain’s chair as the star cruiser raced toward Earth. “But I tend to disagree.” “Humph.” Hank, the very hairy, four-armed helmsman of the Effervescent Magnitude, seldom replied in more than a monosyllable. A cross between a large sloth and an orangutan in appearance, he sat hunched over his console in front of a massive viewscreen mounted on the fore wall. Somehow, despite the captain’s frequent interruptions, Hank managed to remain focused on the task at hand: maintaining the ship’s trajectory while dodging flurries of perilous

He pulls into the diner’s carpark just after midnight. Back stiff and eyes heavy from staring through a windscreen more splattered bug than glass. There is no one else there. He parks and then sits there for a long time, a hand on the steering wheel, chewing his lip. Now and then he glances at his phone, and in its bleaching light his face is zombie-white and gaunt. Eventually, he takes a deep breath and steps out. The air is familiar and nuzzles as if alive and curious. Pieces of styrofoam and paper and dry grass skitter across the asphalt

“Feels good to finally be off that blasted ship.” Ben breathes in so deeply that his shoulder rubs against my bare one, a touch so slight I wonder if I only imagined it. The elevator rattles as it carries us down the mineshaft, into the depths of this planet whose name I can’t even remember. Maybe it doesn’t have one. Not that it matters. They’re all the same as far as we’re concerned: barren hunks of mineral deposits, surrounded by unbreathable atmosphere. They’re ugly, cold, and unwelcoming, without a thing to make us want to remain on their surfaces. Without

OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY ETHICAL PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES FOR THE RESEARCH OF EXTRATERRESTRIALS The Special Commission on the Protection of Extraterrestrial Subjects of Biomedical and Social/Behavioral Research AGENCY: Department of Health and Human Services ACTION: Publishing of report for public comment DATE: November 28th, 2045 Summary: On March 10, 2041, Congress signed an update to the National Research Act, creating the Special Commission on the Protection of Extraterrestrial Subjects of Biomedical and Social/Behavioral Research. In reaction to, and in the calm after, catastrophic and unprecedented events involving the race known colloquially as the “Marconis”, Congress charged the Special Commission with

Cardilingos arrived on Winchett Four in the hold of a cargo ship. There was no discount for being jolted about in the emergency chair, observed by a crowd of robots. A4 robots guarding 28 crates, each labelled with a red cross for explosives. Contents prohibited on passenger vessels. When the ship landed, the roof opened, and the long arm of a crane descended to lift the crates. Cardilingos stared up at the famous twin suns, adjusting his finger to local time. The crates went onto a trolley that carried them across the tarmac. The robots exited through the front of

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.

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

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

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