Three hours to wait and no free seats. Henry Polter shifted his laptop bag onto a less aching part of his shoulder. The bodies of sleeping backpackers littered the floor of the waiting lounge. Only the occasional wail of a child rose louder than the unhappy murmur. A winding metal staircase led to a dining area suspended above the waiting lounge. Here, the only restaurant not packed with diners offered ‘a taste of the Savannah’. Henry wasn’t hungry but took a seat at a two-seater table in the corner, facing away from the rows of corpse-like backpackers laid beneath the...

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There comes a point in many death metal songs when the down-tuned guitars begin to play a simple mid-tempo riff – it’s almost a chugging noise – and the music turns… visceral. Standing there, shoulder to shoulder in a crowd, the volume near-deafening, the music seems to beat a sense of unity into those present. A single organism, at one with the music – those with their gazes fixed on the stage; those too in the maelstrom of moshers, spinning and colliding and roaring together. Then the riff abruptly shifts into something far more complex. The time-signature alters. The drummer...

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The pressgangs never came around here. Why would they? Pickings for naval impressment were slim here in Albany. As one of the kingdom’s more remote regions and situated at the petering end of the Good Hope trade wind, the place was populated predominantly by farmers. Granted, there were plenty of scrapyarders and a handful of steel workers here, but experienced sailors were few and far between. And yet, the dreaded pressgangs had arrived. Rumours had been trickling in for a while now of young men snatched away from towns on both of Albany’s inhabited planets. The stories alleged that a...

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He wears the story of his life on his face. That first second, looking at him in person, is a rehashing of everything I know about him: The hardships, the battles, the killings, the fight for freedom, the struggle against the British Mandate, the wars with the Arabs, and the cruel battles against the traitors within. I can see the 1930’s and 40’s and 50’s on his face. Decisions and fates have been carved in the stone of his skin more than fifty years ago. So much of a person’s face is not captured on a TV screen. His eyes...

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“Warble, warble, warble, warble, warble…” My wristwatch beeper warbled annoyingly, and I woke up and fell off the couch. Crawling to my computer, I hit standby and ‘netted in almost immediately. “Are you there, chums?” I typed, seating myself, and waited. It was just after 2am, my time. A few moments later, the rest of the team came online: “I’m here, Nick,” said Simon, followed by “Good morning, Nick,” from Jazz. “What happened?” I wanted to know if our unwelcome visitor had returned. “The detectors that I set last night went off a few minutes ago,” said Simon, “and he’s...

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My mistress calls me her mimic. It’s as good a name as any, and I have had more names than I can clearly remember. Each has left a trace in my genetic structure, and, in a sense, I am all of those names and none. I am, however, whatever name I need to be at a given time, and today I need to be Cillian Truffant. Unfortunately, this name is already owned by another man. Not unfortunate for me, mind you, but unfortunate for him. From my position above the wide arcade in Titan’s Huygens City, I study Truffant as...

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I gave my skateboard one last kick and watched it roll across the porch. It came to a halt by the door, which stood ajar. I went inside the little house, leaving behind the stifling heat and a sleepy subdivision. Just another Wednesday afternoon. “Anyone home?” Inside, it was cool. AC: the air of modernity. As usual, the den looked like a tornado had just hit. Coke cans, plastic water bottles, pizza boxes, various food wrappers. I picked my way through toward Marc’s room. A noise came from my left. A figure took shape, coming toward me. A nice figure....

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Captain Yuel Telspa walked with a swagger and appeared quite comfortable on her feet, even though it had been a good three years since any of her trio of followers had set foot on a place that had full gravity. The rest of her crew rocked on the balls of their feet, had to fight for every step forward. “The Wanhanii system is getting crowded, ain’t it?” she asked, laughing at their difficulties, “When I started mining the rocks, I swear there wasn’t a single soul in the middle regions of the Harlish Galaxy, not counting the Rockers. They all...

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Lunch that day was cubes of honeyed melon lightly dusted with sugar. Father placed each cube, one at a time, on Ayako’s tongue, the sweetness filling her mouth with light. When the last piece of melon was gone, Ayako made her way back to the library. She walked the winding corridors, sometimes of stone, sometimes of crystal, sometimes of meat that heaved like the sides of a dying animal. She walked the corridors and into the library, and to the marble table that held the Register. It continued to count even if the brief time it had taken to eat,...

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Lunch that day was cubes of honeyed melon lightly dusted with sugar. Father placed each cube, one at a time, on Ayako’s tongue, the sweetness filling her mouth with light. When the last piece of melon was gone, Ayako made her way back to the library. She walked the winding corridors, sometimes of stone, sometimes of crystal, sometimes of meat that heaved like the sides of a dying animal. She walked the corridors and into the library, and to the marble table that held the Register. It continued to count even if the brief time it had taken to eat,...

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