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

Guest Room

Kara sat up in bed and clutched her chest. There was a familiar pounding at her front door. She threw a robe around her toned frame and went to answer it without bothering to check the time—at some point the hour no longer mattered and it was just late. Without flipping on the porch light… Continue reading Guest Room

Morning Capture

The first dirty neon tendrils of sunlight lashed the backs of clouds that had grown plump and forgetful in the night. Claude shielded his eyes against the harsh dawn and the hot breeze it brought with it. He and Cheyenne had a clear view of the camp below, the soldiers already set about their morning… Continue reading Morning Capture

Winners Take All

It seemed the sky itself was on fire. Ruby and sapphire beams crisscrossed in midair, arcing toward dozens of growing white points of light—cruisers from the Accord descending like falling stars on this most noncompliant of colony worlds. With all the firepower it was easy to forget it was nighttime. "Randolph, get your ass over… Continue reading Winners Take All

This Is Not a Drill

As soon as Airman Rhodes reported for duty at the rear of the wash house he let his feelings be known. "Aw, shit. Eight hours with you?" Airman Berd awkwardly flapped one hand in the air and forced a toothy smile. "Together again, huh Rhodes?" It was painful enough folding freshly steamed laundry all shift,… Continue reading This Is Not a Drill

52 Pickup

"What do you think, Spaulderski? Still feeling lucky?" "Oh yeah. There's money in the river. I can already feel those coins weighing down my pockets." "Nah, you're just feeling the double portion of dessert you had last night." Specialist Spaulderski rolled his eyes and smiled sheepishly. "That's right; I saw that shit." "Just deal it,… Continue reading 52 Pickup

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Seek Vengeance

General Welkar took the podium. "Congratulations, cadets. You are still here. When I addressed this group a year ago, you numbered more than a thousand. And now? Thirty. Those others did not share your grit, your intellect, your skill, or your boldness. They quit. They were cut. Some believed they had no limits, and they… Continue reading If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Seek Vengeance

Standardized Testing

Calia climbed into the hollowed out stump of a fallen roof tree and made an effort to quiet her labored breathing. Her lungs felt sunburned from the sprint and her mouth was cottony, flecked with bitter congealing saliva. She wiped at the beads of sweat on her brow, not noticing the dark streaks she left… Continue reading Standardized Testing

Keeping Score

Once we cracked it we became unstoppable. Most people thought we were unstoppable before, but that's only because it had been so long since we'd been stopped. We were only overwhelming back then—still impressive, but not quite the same as unstoppable. Our chances of ever losing another battle went from non-zero to zero. It was a… Continue reading Keeping Score

Private Casser’s Patrol

Private Casser slogged through the mud and rubble. The late afternoon sun was at his back, leaving him to trudge endlessly into his own shadow. Patches of reeds stood in tall, defiant patches, but the radiation would do its work for years and years until the reeds yielded like the buildings that had come before… Continue reading Private Casser’s Patrol