With a clash of grinding transmission and a snarl from the diesel, the coach swayed as it entered the parking ramp. I squinted through the window, but the glass was smeared with frost, sparkling from the fluorescent strips that hung from power poles outside. The brakes sighed and we squealed to a stop, the whir of air-conditioning suddenly loud…
I pulled back the sliding door and stepped out onto the back veranda. It was quiet and still, the wind barely stirring the branches of the tall spruce that lined the fence boundary. Absently, I dragged the door shut and paused as it clicked softly and locked. I stood there listening to the buzz of insects. From the paddock next door came the sudden squawk of a magpie. There was a hurried beat of startled wings, then silence…
When Stars Die
I stormed through Kliff’s buffer zones without collecting more than my usual quota of hostile stares. His prim-faced secretary squawked as I brushed past her.
“Don’t bother announcing me,” I said smoothly. “I’ll just let myself in.”
The office was luxurious, slung with low couches and deep rugs from his native Katalan. I made myself comfortable without waiting for an invitation. Kliff was used to this routine. That did not mean he had to like it. He was positively scowling…
The eastern sky was a sheet of blood. Overhead, pale stars winked shyly. Darkness lay heavy in the valley and the mist was a gray blanket that hugged the steep slopes. A bull elk strode out of the forest, his sides wet from morning dew. His front hooves minced delicately and he snorted impatiently, his breath sharp and steamy. He tossed back his spread of antlers and bellowed. The valley echoed his call. Satisfied, he turned and stomped back into the forest, the snapping of broken branches marked his path…
Even the Gods Cry
In a burst of scintillation the ship emerged from subspace.
It was high above the planetary plane, beyond the gravity well of the small yellow star. The ship’s secondary shield grid flared in violet discharge, then stabilized. It paused, oriented itself and moved deliberately down into the inner system toward the bright points of a double world. It slowed as the twin horns began to resolve out of blackness: one gray and the other brilliant blue-white…
Memories of Tomorrow
I mean, he couldn’t really tell anyone. How could he? Who would believe the poor guy? So, Sam Appleby told me. I didn’t believe it and Sally Withers didn’t either. Who was she? Well, she was…never mind. I’ll tell it later.
You see, there was that something about the whole thing…
I could see the locus points forming around the Free Planets cruiser’s shields and knew what was coming. Twin tracks of pale blue ionization lanced toward my ship and the deck shuddered beneath my feet. Our return fire made the enemy’s shields flare and metal boiled from the outer frame where the primary shield had collapsed.
“Keep firing, Opturkarh,” I said urgently. “We’ve got to get closer.”…
The arrow turned green and he nodded, easing the BMW into a left turn, instinctively glancing right—in time to see a battered Ford pickup racing through the intersection. Staring at the driver, a cigarette hanging from his mouth, Turner knew he was going to get wiped out and there was nothing he could do about it.
Lightning glared, revealing a cave barely larger than my spread arms. A hideous crash shook the ground and I winced…then gaped as the cave wall on my right began to glow, green and blue hues merging into each other. Startled, I stared at the pool of colors as they assumed depth and substance. The surge of voltage from the lightning strike must have set off some piezoelectric effect in the quartz bedrock, I told myself, my initial shock seeing the thing replaced by calculating curiosity…
“…And then Man created STOR, and STOR was given dominion over the whole Earth. Then Man went to the stars in search of glory and beauty while STOR kept Earth safe from her enemies. STOR waited patiently. Centuries passed and STOR still waited for Man to return from the stars. STOR was busy while he waited. He built cities that shined like the stars and rivaled the mountains with their towering spires. Earth flourished and creatures from all over the galaxy come to admire her beauty…
Waiting at the crowded tram stop, people pouring out of the Flinders Street railway station, Nash Bannon gave a sigh of resignation. Melbourne’s skyline glowed in clear sunshine with a promise of another mild spring day. Ordinarily, he would have walked up Collins Street to see his client, but he hadn’t jammed for five days now and he needed a boost. He wasn’t sure why they called it jamming and nobody had taken time to explain it to him. Probably because one had to rush in, grab his charge and disengage before the victim realized what was going on.
I woke with a start, wondering what the hell happened. Yellow sunlight streamed through the gauzy curtains and I could see a clear blue sky.
The house shook and I jumped out of the bed wearing only my boxer shorts. An earthquake? In Melbourne? Australia experienced occasional tremors, but they were mostly mild, the continent being geologically stable.