The waitress seems reluctant to come over, pretending not to see us, even though I’d tried to catch her eye several times. We’d ordered our omelettes forty minutes ago. How long does it take to crack a few eggs into a hot pan?
“Do you think she’s post-human?” I whisper to my husband. She looks too good to be real.
Caleb glances over. “Maybe. She’s very pretty, but mods are so subtle, it’s difficult to see who’s human and who’s not.”
I wonder why such an attractive looking woman’s doing working in a low-rent place like this, a greasy-spoon cafe in a habitat on the edge of Rhea.
We’d booked into the habitat’s motel last night. It reeked of overenthusiastic, grandiose plans for the future that would never come true. At dinner, I’d watched the motel’s guests. I knew them, their small time liaisons and their wild plans. They didn’t want much, just enough to be able to turn up on their home habitat and impress the ones who stayed behind, impress the ones who said they’d never amount to anything. They all ended up here, or someplace like it, scrabbling for success, trying to make a splash in an over-crowded system. This was a place for people who’d never escape the gravity well of their own failures.
It was a sad place to end a marriage. Continue reading
The scent of mint and ginger filled her nose as she crushed the herbs together in the kitchen. The mixture was missing one ingredient. She poured a vial of blood into the mortar and started mashing it with the green pulp. This would do the fisherman’s anemic wife well.
The front door opened. Footsteps echoed across the floor.
She undid her apron in haste and covered the workbench with it. Five men crowded into the kitchen, grim and tense. They ringed her at a distance as if confining a leper. She smiled and bowed her head, falsely demure.
This wasn’t usual business.
The silence grew. At last one man, a scar etched into the side of his face, stepped up to her. She backed up into her workbench, tried to slide away–but he gripped her wrists with his sandpaper hands and jerked her towards him.
“Come along, witch,” he said. “Village Patriarch sent us for yer head.”
Once upon a time, a young man stopped in at Leon’s Neon City and asked for work to tide him over until spring. The shop foreman grinned and winked at one of his journeyman crafters.Too many folks thought bending glass was something anyone could do.
The foreman held out a clean and glistening length of quarter-inch glass tubing. “Show us what you got, kid.”
The young man accepted the delicate and brittle tube. He brought it close to his face to study it, running his fingers and his eyes along its length, smiling as if he could see and feel a hidden shape within. Finally, he stepped to a workbench, held the tube above a steady jet of blue-white flame and began to turn it into what he had found.
It only took a moment. He finished by attaching electrodes and pumping in some inert gas, then handed his creation to the foreman, who plugged it in and switched on power. A baby dragon, deep green as a polished emerald, came to lighted life in his callused hands.
A woman, a customer, murmured, “Oh, God, it looks alive.”
“Geez,” one of the glass-benders muttered. “That’s almost like magic, ain’t it?” Continue reading
Last cybercast from Google-Fox reporter Daniel Lundgren:
Lundgren [in a hallway bustling with suited men and women]: “This is Dan Lundgren, Google-Fox News, in Paris. I’m at the World Health Organization Conference on Genetic Therapy, where doctors and scientists are expressing alarm at the latest fashion trend. “A fashion trend?” you might say? Medicine has nothing to do with style. Or, rather, had. A medical breakthrough has become just another fashion statement.”
Cut to a young woman onstage, playing electric guitar in front of a thunderous retro-industrial band. Cut to Lundgren backstage with the woman: “We’re speaking with Marie Durand, lead guitarist of Jackhammer. Marie, many people would say you’re abusing genetic therapy. They believe you’re desecrating a medical miracle for the sake of au couture.”
Durand [in a heavy French accent]: “They are fools. It has nothing to do with style.” Continue reading
“Have you ever wondered what it would be like if we were a molecule of water?” she asked me.
I shook my head, looking down at our reflections in the puddles as they quivered with each drop of rain that hit them. In my hand was a wet cigarette, soggy with its unfulfilled destiny, and in her hand was an unopened umbrella.
The rain was unrelenting. We walked on nonetheless.
She took my hand in hers, and gestured expansively with the umbrella. “We could see the whole world. We could fly with the clouds, swim in the rivers and streams and lakes and seas,” she said.
I smiled and nodded. I hadn’t seen much of the world. It would indeed be good to travel. I hoped I had left the rest of the cigarettes at home. Continue reading
I nudged the corpse with the toe of my boot. “Looks like he froze to death, poor sod.”
“That’s what you get, wandering these mountains unprepared.” Ranulf snagged the corpse’s rucksack and began rifling through it.
Shivering, I tucked my hands into my armpits. Spring was well underway, but the mountain heights were still freezing. The sooner we descended to the valley to sell our furs, the happier I’d be. “Anything good?”
Ranulf pulled out an old piece of parchment. “Just this.” He unfolded it on the ground to reveal a map. “Seems pretty accurate. Might be worth something.”
I bent closer to get a better look. “What’s that symbol?”
“Looks almost like an X.”
“As in X marks the spot?” I laughed. “Looks like we’ve got ourselves a gen-u-ine treasure map!”