Planet-Hop from Trappist-1e!

“Jerry, how’s this one look?”

I glanced over at the poster held in the receptionist’s hands, trying to smooth out the frowning creases in my face that threatened to become permanent. “Actually, that one’s not so bad,” I said after a minute’s reflection. “Very retro.”

The receptionist nodded, biting her lip as she looked down at it. “Our windows aren’t that big, though,” she pointed out.

I didn’t need a mirror to know that the twitch was back in my jaw. “Maybe they’re kids looking out the window, so they’re smaller. Whatever. It’s just an ad, Sherry.” Continue reading

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One More Time Around

I advanced slowly into the lair, trying to stretch out my senses beyond their human, mortal limits.  Danger, the kind of danger that could instantly and permanently put my lights out, lurked around every corner.  I needed to trust my intuition.

Right now, my intuition was sending up all sorts of smoke signals and setting off all kinds of alarm bells about the corner ahead.  I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but I tightened my two-handed grip on the purloined pistol I’d taken from the entrance guard.

After all, with his head staved in, he didn’t need it any longer. Continue reading

Retirement, Part 1

It’s weird how, in the last few seconds of your life, everything becomes strangely, almost absurdly clear.

For me, that clarity brought with it the realization that all of this, everything that happened, came about because I ignored orders and went for a hike.

And that hike, in turn, happened because of my father.

Not that my father was a bad man, you understand.  No, he was a normal, hardworking, blue-collar sort of guy.  We didn’t have much money, which meant that we didn’t have much in the way of entertainment, and the rabbit-ears balanced on top of the television never seemed to pick up a good signal, no matter how much tinfoil my mother wrapped around them.  So instead of plopping down with Junior and watching the Sunday football game, my father instead took me out on walks.

We might not have had much in the way of digital entertainment, but at least we had some good views.  Not that I appreciated them at the time, being a snotty-nosed brat who felt enviously that my buddy Blake, whose dad sank all his bonus money into a fifty-inch flatscreen with digital HD hookups, had all his luck and most of mine as well.  My dad would bring me up to the bluffs, brushing aside the leaves on the wide-branched trees to make it easier for me.  He’d gesture out at the cliffs, the sky on fire from the setting sun, and he’d ask me what I thought.

Mainly, I thought that I’d much rather be watching football at home, feet propped up on our ratty old couch.

I never told the old man, though.  Why ruin his idea that he was doing his son a solid by bringing him out into the wilderness?  And besides, I picked up a few tricks: how to tell direction from the moss and by cutting chips into the tree trunks, how to move silently enough to sneak up on the gamey rabbits that hopped to and fro, how to follow the trails of animals, how to keep an eye on vegetation and figure out the best route to a nearby water source.  Useful knowledge, not that I knew it at the time.

Although now that I’m thinking back on it, with that newfound clarity that I mentioned earlier, I might have been better off if I’d never learned a single damn thing about the outdoors. Continue reading

The Woman in the Rain

“You’re late, Hansa,” called out one of the wags as I shrugged my way out of my coat. I glared over at him as I dropped the heavy, rain-sodden cover down on my chair, but he just shrugged.

“No respect,” I sighed, as the bartender brought my usual poison over to my spot on the bar. I scooped up the heavy tumbler of amber liquid. “And here I am, drinking. You know what I hate, Edo?”

Edo paused in his actions, left hand tucked inside a grimy cloth, formerly clean glass in his right. “What’s that, Hansa?”

“Liquid.” I pulled my lips back, looking down at my glass. “Fuckin’ liquid, everywhere. Rain outside, never stops. How long’s it been since we last had a sunny day? Eh? It’s permanent, now. Trying to wash us away.” Continue reading

Welcome Home

If there was one thing that aliens could never figure out about humans, it was probably the continued existence of dogs.

Sure, they argued in their off-world universities, their great bastions of learning and knowledge. Long ago, when our ape ancestors were barely able to wrap their fat fingers around tools, it made sense to keep dogs around. They barked to alert their nearly deaf masters of danger, helped fight back against those predators that sought to rip apart these useless apes. Dogs served a purpose.

Even as humans mastered the art of hammering a peg into a hole, built primitive weapons and warred back and forth for control of tiny little chunks of their homeworld, dogs continued to serve a purpose, at least for a while longer. Some continued filling the role of defense, while others hunted pests, turned spits to roast meat, even helped rescue some of the stranded humans when they got lost (usually from their own stupidity). Dogs still made sense. Continue reading

This mercenary looks curiously young… [Part 2]

Continued from Part 1, here.

Cassie frowned at the P’tchar, watching him move with such prissy, fussy little movements. She’d never actually met one of the renowned traders in real life, but the purple-tinged black exoskeleton, the long and slender limbs, couldn’t belong to any other species.

A praying mantis, she thought as she watched him carefully seat himself at her table. That’s what he resembled. A purple-and-black praying mantis, with large, worried eyes, on the verge of breaking down over some internal source of stress.

But he had money, and he wanted to hire her. So she was willing to listen. Continue reading

This mercenary looks curiously young… [Part 1]

J’qiqe P’char’trph’al sidled through the tavern, doing his best to not brush up against anything – or anyone. He’d never dreamed that he’d be forced to set foot in a place like this, a place so disreputable, a place filled with such… undesirables.

Even shrinking down his tall frame, however, drawing in the slender limbs of his exoskeleton, he knew that he attracted attention. After all, he was a P’tchar, and they held a definitive place in the social strata. Even these bottom feeders, these commoners, these mercenaries, understood the high status that he carried on his ornately engraved shoulder pauldrons.

Given the choice, J’qiqe would never have come here. Continue reading

Apocalypse Love Story, Part I

It certainly wasn’t love at first sight, I’ll tell you that much.

Hell, the first time I laid eyes on her, I wasn’t even sure that she was human. Always was good at disguises, she was. Bent over double, big robe hiding any sort of detail about her limbs, hauling that overloaded cart… well, I thought she might be one of them Minos, at first, not a real person.

Not that Minos can’t be good people. Met some great ones, fought alongside ’em, strong as Hell and twice as angry once they start seeing red, you know…

Anyway. Continue reading

The Convent

“Do you ever wonder, Sister?”

Blanchard didn’t take her eyes off of the dusty distance. She held her breath, not wanting her vision to jump, watching the faint dust cloud. If movement, dark figures, were visible inside…

The cloud blew past, leaving no residue behind, and she sighed. Her hand, tight on the heavy rifle, loosened enough for the sight to drop down. She glanced over at the nun who stood beside her, hands folded into voluminous sleeves.

“Wonder about what?” she asked. Continue reading

Just Like The Others

XR-378 trundled along, its treads crushing dried clods of dirt into powder as it rumbled along the rough, badly maintained track.

Once, this track had been paved with smooth asphalt, a road flat enough for XR-378’s wheeled brethren to glide along. Now, however, that asphalt had long since cracked and been crushed down by the bots with treads, and those with wheels could no longer traverse this way.

XR-378 moved along without concern, however, one large claw held up to protect the item it had gathered. Its protocols gave clear instructions on what to do next, and it couldn’t think of anything but obeying. Continue reading