One Thousand Feet and Climbing by Megan Engelhardt

One Thousand Feet and Climing
by Megan Engelhardt | 3,537 words

“Easy now, Jenny. Steady does it.”

Roger glanced back at the girl with the aviator goggles and bobbed red hair.

“I wish you’d stop talking sugar to the plane, Kit,” he growled over the engine. “I’m the one flying her.”

“Jenny’s flying,” she said. “You’re just helping her along some.”

Roger grumbled and pulled up the nose of the plane, heading higher into the blue country sky.

“Quit yapping and get a wiggle on,” he said. “We’re almost there.”

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LifeCycle by Jess Hyslop

LifeCycle
by Jess Hyslop | 3,431 words

In the smouldering rubble, MM#2893 began putting itself back together.

Its head was still attached to its left shoulder-plate, arm, and hand—which was lucky, as its remote control capacities had been damaged in the explosion. A large part of its skullpiece had been dented by flying debris, but a swift diagnostic scan told MM#2893 that its key functions had survived intact. It could manage without remote control of its missing parts: reassembly would be slow, but it was possible.

With a soft pneumatic hiss, MM#2893 raised its head and surveyed its surroundings. It—or at least this part of it—was lying in a waste of crumbled bricks, shattered glass, twisted metal rods and tattered plastic curtains. A lone doorframe loomed melancholy among the wreckage, an accidental monument. Cloying, grey smoke clung close to the ground, leaving its greasy residue on every surface as it gradually settled. Larger particles drifted down through the smoke, appearing from its oblique pall as though conjured out of nothing: shreds of clothing, some of them; some unidentifiable. Coughs and screams, moans and cries, pierced the grey haze and reached MM#2893’s auditory receptors. Somewhere nearby sounded the scrambling crunches of uncertain footsteps, accompanied by panting sobs. Intermittent retching. A wail far in the distance.

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Union by O. L. Wilson

Union
by O. L. Wilson | 2,871 words

The ghostly husk of the Cherokee shrank with every second until it was no more than a pin-prick in the surrounding blue sky. Anneke turned her head toward the gargantuan coil beneath her, cloud banks of impossible proportions swirling up to greet them as they arced down on their descent.

“Damn,” she said, more to herself than aloud, “that’s one big super-storm.”

“Indeed,” said Belvin, her AI’s rather stuffy persona, “one that never stops stalking the elliptic like the red storms on a Gas Giant. Why Anneke, do you remember Helio B, and the great storm we encountered there?”

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Bento’s Paradox by Patrick Lundrigan

Bento’s Paradox
by Patrick Lundrigan | 3,627 words

Sandoz pulled his hood to block the glare as Neuve crept over the waterfront rooftops, adding another wave of heat to the scorched streets. He felt his inner pocket again and the envelope inside. Finally, something that would prove his theories.

How these Southerners withstood the heat and humidity he’d never understand. Five rotes at the university and he still sweated from primeup to primedown. But the holdings of the university — room after room of specimens! They could keep him busy for the rest of his life. He wiped his brow on a fold of his robe and looked up. The familiar suns beat down on him, the same as home, but unbearably close, and all the suns combined could not dissipate the humidity that hung over the city.

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Heir of Mercy by John Frochio

Heir of Mercy
by John Frochio | 3,434 words

Marshall Bruner crossed the fire field in bounding strides, the little girl clutched to his chest like a prized possession. The clear protective sheath that encircled their bodies like a deformed egg was not designed to withstand a constant bombardment of flames. The temperature climbed steadily within the casing.

“Come on, you damned super polymers!” he said in a strained whisper. “Show me what you’re made of!”

As sweat poured down his body in waves, he focused all his attention on the rocky ground and the concrete shelter a thousand feet ahead. A pair of camelback swoopers buzzed him, wondering perhaps if he was something edible. He was thankful that the child in his arms was unconscious, oblivious of their treacherous circumstances.

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The Sgovari Stratagem

The Sgovari Stratagem
by Alex Shvartsman | 4,082 words

Jenkins watched through the small porthole in his cabin as yet another spaceship detached itself from the station and accelerated toward the stars.

Guess that one had no berth for me, either, he thought bitterly as the Navy ship became a distant streak of light, then disappeared into the vastness of the cosmos.

Dr. Ethan Jenkins, noted xenoarchaeologist, expert on alien psyche, and a one-time consultant to the Navy, was stuck. The Diplomatic Corps wanted his help, so he’d been plucked from Earth and flown half way across the galaxy to assist in the negotiations on Tycho. And when that mission was over, they’d dumped him in this floating Navy fortress, to wait until there was a vessel heading for Earth which had the spare room to take him home.

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