• One Thing Left to Do

    The pounding on the hatch had stopped. I hoped that the rest of the crew had given up, or that whatever was happening to them had completed and they were no longer interested in getting in. Then a bright spot appeared above the door. Apparently there was another cutter on board somewhere and they were now cutting through the door I had welded shut. “What are we going to do!”, Anna shouted again. She had been repeating the same question over and over for the past hour. I was getting tired of hearing it. I turned away from the door to look at her. The infection, or whatever it was, was spreading. Her left arm where she had been bitten was now unrecognizable as a human’s. Longer, thinner and with green scales covering it. Claws on her fingertips. I noticed the the greenish coloration of her face, the first scales starting to appear on her neck. Her eyes had turned yellow and a bulge had appeared at the base of her spine. I didn’t know how long she would last. I looked down at my own hand. It too was scaly, the tips of my fingers protruding claws. And I could now hear it in the back of my mind. Whispering. “Relax, it was saying. “Let it happen. Everything will be fine. No more pain. No more confusion. No more worry. Just relax. I shook it off. “We need to blow the drive.” I said. “What!” she turned to me,

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  • Loophole

    I had just come in from the garage carrying the grocery bag when I saw him. “Sorry Doctor.” he said, pointing what looked like a gun made out of glass at me. “I can’t let this happen.” He squeezed the grip. Nothing happened. I sighed and stepped around him into the kitchen, putting the bag on the counter. He looked at the gun then pointed and squeezed it at me again. More nothing happened. He yelled in frustration and threw the gun at me. He missed and the gun bounced off the side of the refrigerator. “Watch it!” I said, getting annoyed. “You could break something.” He yelled again and charged at me but tripped over the leg of a chair. He hit the ground hard and lay there unmoving. I sighed again and started putting the groceries away. Some minutes later I had finished and was looking in the back of the refrigerator to see if I had any beer left when I heard him groan. I looked over to see him push himself up into a sitting position. He looked around and saw me then staggered to his feet. “How?” he asked finally. “What did you do?” “Nothing.” I said, popping the tab on the beer. “No need to. I figured that out a while back.” He paused. “What do you mean?” I leaned back against the counter. “Who do you think I am?” I asked him. That seemed to startle him. “You’re Henry Armstrong, right? The physicist?”

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  • Welcome Aboard

    Ian and I were working on the irrigation units on the north wall when we saw the trader pass overhead. Just the contrail of re-entry, but we knew it meant they would be landing soon. We left the pump half-disassembled and headed down and across the Gash. We knew the rest of the town would be heading for the pad as well. It would be several days before things returned to their routine so no one would be paying attention to the lower water pressure for a while. The lifts were already up so we had to take the Thousand Steps to the top of the south rim and by the time we finished the climb the trader had already settled onto the flat expanse of compacted dirt that served as our starport, though the only real way to distinguish it from the rest of the plain was the array of antenna and sensor domes surrounding it. Most of the population was already there, watching as the automs brought the scheduled cargoes out of the hold and carried them to the lifts that would lower them to the valley floor. Then came the market goods, the things that everyone had come to see and trade for. I watched the crowd as they moved among the tables the trader’s crew had put out. We mostly had items of glass to trade; when you live on a world of sand your manufacturing options are limited. The crew took what we had, carefully

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  • The Shadow War – Part 2 – (Tales from The Secret World)

    I woke up to find myself strapped to a table. I struggled to get up which brought the other occupant of the room running. “Whoa! Whoa, whoa! Don’t try to get up!” I looked at him, confused. For some reason all I could think of was Doc Brown from the Back to the Future movies. “What…?” I managed to get out. I hadn’t recovered from the blow to the head yet and everything was still fuzzy. “Who…?” The man laughed. “Just relax. You’re feeling the effects of the neurochemicals we’ve pumped into you.” “Neuro… what!” I struggled to get up again. “Calm down!” the man said. “I’m a doctor. You’re completely safe. Probably. I think.” He stopped long enough to take a breath from an inhaler he carried and shook his head. “Whoa! This is exciting!” My head was still fuzzy but I took a deep breath and tried again. “Where am I?” I got out finally. “And what is going on? Who are you?” The man nodded. “Good. Good.” He looked over his shoulder at a console of some kind. “Patient is responding.” He then looked back at me. “You’re in the Eye. Illuminati HQ. You’re lucky; most people who wander in here don’t get to leave. Well, not the same way they entered. Anyway, you are very lucky. You have been given an Anima infusion. Not many people can say that.” His eyes focused on the distance for a moment. “If only we’d had people like you around

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  • The Shadow War – Part 1 – (Tales from the Secret World)

    Much has been written about the turning of the age; the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth. All of us who lived through those dark days know how much our world has changed and those born in our new age accept that the world they live in is much different than the one that came before. But not as much has been written about how the change came about. About the Shadow War. About how the bees and the Filth returned. About the agents who fought the war. I was one of those agents. And this is my story. Prelude – Initiation It started with a dream. Well, a nightmare. I had been having a lot of those. A lot of people had been having them, I suspect, since the “terrorist attack” in Tokyo. That’s what we thought it was at the time anyway; the Secret World was still secret then. I had fallen asleep with the radio still relaying disaster reports which was probably why my sleep was disturbed. I “dreamed” (at least that is what I thought it was at the time) that I woke to find myself lying on a rocky beach. Strange planets floated overhead. A voice echoed in my head. I could be a king or a beggar, it told me. I could rule or suffer. I could be with them… or against them. A man and a woman appeared next to me. They both spoke, each saying substantially the same

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  • Ruins

    It was early afternoon when I got to the ruins. I still come here every now and then, though not as often as I used to. Not much point to it, really. But I still come here to think. To ask myself if there was anything else we could have done. That I could have done. I found the remains of a campfire in what had been the lobby. It bothered me somehow. The building had been consumed by fire all those years ago and there is nothing left for it to harm, but I still didn’t like seeing it there. Or maybe I was upset that someone else was in what I still thought of as my place. It didn’t matter. I scattered the ashes and kicked the half-burned branches out through what had once been the window. Gone now of course. We had been lucky, I suppose. Not many people got to do research even then. Few companies were willing to waste resources on something that didn’t immediately improve their bottom line and of course the taxpayers had gotten tired of the government funding anything that didn’t directly benefit them. Even for us there was pressure to create something. Anything. But the people in charge knew the importance of what we were doing. What we thought we were doing. So they gave us time. Had they known, I wonder if they would have killed the project themselves? It was an idea. An insane idea. An idea that broke

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  • The Dreaming City

    I stood at the tall windows and looked out upon the towers of glass and steel that made up the city. It was night and the city seemed deserted, the broad streets empty and the pavilions silent and only the occasional lighted window showed where the few inhabitants had gone for the evening. I felt her hand on my shoulder and turned to find her waiting. We embraced without words, though we had been apart for so long, for words were not needed between us. We stood there in the room with the tall windows and the white walls and held each other. Later we continued to hold each other as we lay there in bed. I felt her soft breath and knew that she was asleep but I resisted, lying there in the near darkness. I knew that when I slept I would wander again and it would be long before I returned. So many of us had learned to wander and each night fewer of us returned and so soon the city would fall dark and none would return to look upon its towers of glass and steel. And so I lay there in the darkness of the room with the white walls and the tall windows from which I had been gone for so long and wondered when I would ever return.

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  • Night Beach

    I stood on the beach for a while, looking out over the sea. It was night and the sky was partially overcast, the undersides of the clouds illuminated by the light of the city behind me and blurring out all but the brightest of the stars. They were more visible near the horizon, beyond the long rolling of the waves. There seemed to be no one beyond me on the beach so I watched in silence for a while then turned and climbed up the wooden steps to the boardwalk. I had only taken a few steps along it when a nearby door burst open and a laughing trio emerged, two men and a woman. One of them staggered almost into me and I put out a hand to steady him. I don’t think he noticed, but his companion mumbled an apology in my direction then the three of them set off along the boardwalk. I glanced into the noisy bar they had just vacated but let the door swing shut. I was looking for a quieter evening. I continued on to the main street and stopped on the sidewalk. Crowds of people walked past me; groups of individuals, couples and families walked along the road past brightly lit shops, restaurants and entertainments. Children ran from a nearby arcade and a couple stopped to buy candied treats from a vendor’s window. I briefly looked at a brightly colored jacket displayed in a window before making my way down the street.

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  • The Ship

    I had come to the Port on the Ship. I had stood with my fellow passengers upon her bow, rising high and white above the water as we entered the harbor; then at mid-day I, like the other passengers, wasted no time in descending the broad gangways where we were met by the welcoming locals who greeted us by placing garlands of flowers on our heads and toasting us with spiced drinks of local creation. For hours I had wandered the streets of that magnificent port. Once it had been the vanguard of a mighty empire now long forgotten but today it was a place of exotic beauty, a place where all the ships of the world came to trade and to mingle and to exchange stories of the myriad sights they had seen and the many novelties they had encountered so that all the world would know the secrets beyond their own horizon. I became enraptured of the Port. All day I had explored its myriad winding streets, engrossed by the aromas of exotic spices, the tastes of unknown languages, the colors of foods I had never seen and the touch and taste of alien but strangely beautiful woman. So when it was time for us to return to the Ship for the evening I remained behind in the port, for the Ship was not due to depart until long after the next sunrise and thus I knew that I would have time to continue to sample the novel

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  • Patterns

    I awaken on the floor, cold linoleum against my flesh, surrounded by the smudged ink marks that mark my latest attempts at understanding. For a long time I lie there, patterns running through my mind, until the needs of my body are able to intrude upon the ever closer to perfect arrangements I am making. I am hungry, and the physical needs exceeds the mental. I regret losing the pattern I have created but I let it fade back into my mind and stand up. I stumble to the kitchen but am unable to find the nourishment I need. Empty packages and unwashed eating implements are scattered about, their surfaces mottled with the odd, semi-random patterns of mold and decay. I ignore them; I have examined their patterns long ago and find them lacking. I briefly consider the trails of the ants streaming across the counter, watching as they morph and wander in predictable but still random motion but they too I have previously considered and found unable to produce the true patterning I need. I realize that I must leave my place of safety and venture again into the world of others. Into that realm where man has forced existence into plain, orderly patterns that inhibit the growth of true beauty. I stumble into my long-ignored bedroom in search of appropriate clothing. I ponder long over my choice in what to wear, searching for those items which will exist in the necessarily exquisite harmony with one another. Of course

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