Contact

Ryden sloshed through the toxic muck that sucked at his boots beneath the tangled thorn grass. It wasn't grass, of course—that was terracentric thinking—but on strange planets the mind tries to force things into familiar shapes. His unit was twelve days into its march with no obvious end. Twelve days of orange fog and swatting… Continue reading Contact

Projecting

Ava Graves stepped cautiously out of the escape pod and onto the alien ship. There was no one to greet her. No one to lovingly vivisect her for scientific pursuits, either, but still, the solitude after such a long and lonely stretch was maddening. A long corridor stretched before her, its every angled surface reflective… Continue reading Projecting

Danger Close to Home

I was at my station, sitting between Rosen and Yamashita, when we got hit. There hadn't been any warning siren or inertial jerk to indicate a defensive maneuver. Hell, Kovacic had been pouring coffee and was halfway through a joke. Maybe if Rosen stopped taking half-hour showers we wouldn't have to— I remember the sound.… Continue reading Danger Close to Home

Escaping the Nonpareil

Sparks came down like molten rain. Drea ran through the neon smoke and darkness, clawing at the air in front of her. Sometimes she caught stray cables hanging like cobwebs, or severed ducts that breathed hot steam onto her face, but mostly she only swatted uselessly at the emptiness. The Nonpareil was bleeding to death, but… Continue reading Escaping the Nonpareil

Ultracortex

Ivy wrestled a braid of fiberoptic cables off of her shoulder. Snagged on the joint seal again. “How much longer?” Holden stopped and slowly, carefully turned himself around in the fluorescent underwater tangle. Air bubbles trickled up from the back of his suit, stringing together a breadcrumb trail leading from his rebreather to the surface… Continue reading Ultracortex

Under Red Sand

For a while, all they could do was stare at it from the crest of the dune. Jutting up from the rust-colored sand was a fully jointed hand--like a human's--made of metallic plating and electrical cables. It was the size of a three-story house. It was Elliot who finally broke the silence with a long… Continue reading Under Red Sand

Amethyst

Amethyst, like most planets discovered in the 23rd century, had a name as one-dimensional as it was misleading. There's no quartz here. The first ship to attempt a landing nearly combusted when its hull started oxidizing from the iodine in the atmosphere. That's what gives it its rich violet palette: the iodine vents. Its scorching… Continue reading Amethyst