Bob Dexedrine

Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

Robert Meier quietly walked between the rows of tanks. Each tank held a blank, a three hundred kilocredit backup body for whoever could afford the fee. They were low-maintenance, but regulations meant that a pair of eyes had to check each tank at least once a day. Every now and again he had to tweak the physiological mix that suspended each body, and about once a month, someone came to pick up one of the blanks. It was a job that no-one really wanted.

Robert took it because he had thought of a plan to bring a little more happiness into the world.

Set apart from the rows of blanks, a small cluster of tanks were given over to creating clusters of tissue-neutral organs and antigen-free blood. Most of his job was the preperation of these for shipping to the nearest hospital. Robert whistled to himself as he filled one-unit bags with blood, laying them out carefully on a desk for packing. This was his favourite thing to do. He had no morbid fascination with the artificial blood, but instead smiled at the chance to be philanthropic. The blood was his conduit to good works. It carried his gift to the sick and the ill; something to lift them and show them what life could be.

Once forty bags were filled, he got his syringe and the case of vials from his jacket, and pushed three hundred and fifty milligrams of metaescaline through the seals. Anyone who needed blood today would walk in Robert’s world for twelve hours: bright, vivid, fast and full of wonder. He packaged up the blood carefully, and called for a courier to take it away.

It was easy to lose track of time with the tanks. Once in a while, one of the blanks would talk to Robert. He could listen to them for hours as they spoke on any kind of subject. Normally it was one that he had some knowledge about, which was always a good thing. It was just getting dark when a young man with a hospital ID badge knocked on the door, asking for an extra few packets of blood. Robert happily fetched three from the fridge, bags that he’d prepared earlier. The man – a pathologist, his badge said – thanked Robert, and left with the blood.

The following day, the pathologist was waiting at the door when Robert went to work.

“Hey there!” Robert greeted him cheerily.

The pathologist punched him, hard, in the jaw.

On the ground, Robert woozily pressed a hand to his throbbing jaw, and decided that this man probably wasn’t real, Real people wouldn’t object to be freed for a few hours.

Later on, a police car came to pick him up. He recognised the faces of some of the officers from amongst his blanks. He tried to talk to them, but they wouldn’t stop talking some nonsense about him being a murderer. Robert knew he hadn’t killed anyone, so just ignored them.

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Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

Kate was lucky. Or so she kept telling herself.

Out of the whole world, she was the only one who had both the right kind of sight and the right kind of mind. It was a self-made mantra, one that rolled across her thoughts, looped back on itself and changed, mutated and grew with each iteration. The words spilled out of her, and made themselves real.

Right sight. Right mind. Luck. Lucky. Chance alignment. Good fortune. Fate. Destiny. Consistently high random numbers. Roll of a die. Roll of eighty dice. Kate be nimble, Kate be quick. Kate got to save the world. They can’t see them so you have to save them from themselves. The knife works. Save them. Kate be nimble, Kate’s got luck.

She was walking fast down a commercial street, trying not to attract too much attention to herself. There was an infestation nearby. The knowledge of it compressed her thoughts like a cast-iron circlet. It was impossible to ignore, an itch that desperately needed scratching.

A restaurant had spilled out onto the street: people sat at small tables, drinking coffee. She stopped by the establishment’s window, and saw her quarry.

The window made a satisfying crash when she threw the table through it. She jumped through the gap, and quickly scanned the room. Diners at tables. Twenty-two horrors and twice as many of the doglike terrors stared at her from all around the room. They growled, sensing the danger that she represented.

She launched herself out into the room, dodging between the evenly-spaced tables, and around the serving staff. She drew the long knife that had been hidden under her jacket. It was a rudimentary weapon at best, but special. She’d spent two long weeks working on it, changing the knife on a fundamental level so that it would damage the beasts.

She pinwheeled, the knives catching and breaking the terrors as they flung themselves at her. The diners stared at her with wide eyes, forks halfway to their mouths. Horrors roared their hate and menace, gnashing their too-many-teeth. Kate fought with reckless abandon, trusting the mantra, her luck.

Her circuit of the room finished by the door to the kitchen. All around, the broken bodies of the horrors lay on the carpet, slowly beginning to disintegrate. The evidence would be gone in a couple of minutes.

Andrew straightened his tie, and minutely adjusted the tiny enamel badge on his lapel. He stepped through the wreckage of the window, saw the shocked diners, and the damage.

“Did a woman come through here? She would have been acting quite oddly.”

A waiter close to him nodded dumbly.

“Thankyou.” Andrew stepped further into the restaurant, the broken glass crunching under his immaculate shoes.

“In case you’re interested,” Andrew spoke slowly, looking around the room at the silent diners, “her name is Kate. And none of this is her fault. There was an accident, a long time ago. An experiment went badly wrong, and her conscious mind began to drift out of control. Her mind extrapolates up from tiny clues in the way people speak and act: she sees terrible things, embodied as monsters.”

A murmur circulated around the room as people began to unfreeze. A few returned to their meals. There was a sudden crash from the kitchen: it sounded like a meat freezer exploding.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Andrew smiled at the stunned faces, “duty calls.”

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Catlike Tread

Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

“Where am I?”

“A sub. We’re in the middle of the Deneb main belt.”

“Name and designation?”

“This is the Catlike Tread. Ess-ess-you-nine-seven-four.”

Orig got to his feet. The inside of the sub was cramped: the design didn’t allow for more open space than was absolutely necessary for the mental wellbeing of the crew. An outsider might expect the sub to smell disgusting: Orig silently thanked whoever had made artificial bodies mandatory for sub duty.

He’d come in over the wire, and appropriated the body of the sub’s commander. The commander’s psyche was still present, quiescent, behind Orig’s awareness.

The sandy-haired wire-and-weapons technician that had answered his questions turned away and went forward to the cockpit. After the disorientation of the wirejump, his active memories came flooding back.

He spent a moment inspecting the commander’s body. The model was a couple of years old, just one of the glaring signs that this sub had been out on silent running for years now. Crew were rotated every six months standard, but this was the first time the situation had required a troubleshooter of any stature.

He went forward, and found the tech sitting in the cockpit with the only other crewmember, a remote-sensing engineer.

“Can I get a breakdown of what’s happened?”

“We’ve spent the last fortnight running rings around denebian ships. They’re coming from the the third planet’s orbital, sketching every rock and bit of black space with laser. They seem to be sure that we’re here.”

“Any idea how?”

“None at all, sir.”


“What should we do, sir?”

“Well, they think we’re here, but they can’t find us. Next step is to make them think we’re dead. What’s the status on your weapon stocks?”

“We’ve still got two dancers, sixty crows and six proximity mines. We’ve got a clanker, too. One of those remote repair drones.”

“Okay. We need to hack together a couple of comms packets. Just enough to broadcast noise on whatever the hell channel the denebs are using. Use the clanker to strip the engines off the back of thirty ravens, and attach them to three good-sized rocks. And ready a single dancer. Call me when you’re done.”

Orig abdicated control of the commander’s body, and settled into the secondary core. He spent the time running simulations, sipping data from the Tread‘s passive sensors to refine his plan.

He opened the commander’s eyes again, a few hours later. A display popped up, showing the three chosen rocks in a split screen, the dark spikes of the broken missiles sticking out perpendicularly from the surface.

“Pick your favourite, tie the dancer to it, and set the trigger for a hundred kilometres proximity to that orbital.”

Orig waited long enough to see the engines ignite, and every denebian ship sunside of the belt started speeding towards the rocky decoys. He wirejumped away, leaving the Commander to watch the decoys die. Minutes later, the dancer detonated in a smooth wash of x-rays, and the commander grinned as a clean slice of the orbital shimmered, and faded out of existence.

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Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

Below level one-one, there have been several issues with the life support mechanisms. High temperatures, pressures, and an abundance of certain harmful chemical compounds have rendered these levels uninhabitable. You will require a blue keycard to pass the environmental filters, and even so, such an action is not recommended.

“Ash!” Peter yelled, scanning around for his companion. Ash and Peter were regular visitors to the zero-levels, part of a small cadre of ‘smokers’: people who explored and mapped the zero-levels. They repaired essential machinery, looted non-essential gear, and created maps. The only real danger any more was the smoke, and that was most of the appeal in and of itself.

The grating underfoot was heating up. His helmet was analysing the smoke: as they penetrated lower, the percentage of sulphur was increasing. This was level zero-three, the last level that had been reliably mapped. Any further down, and the corridors couldn’t be relied upon to stay in the same place from day to day. Peter dragged his fingers across the wall to his left. A long string of plastic stretched away from his fingertips, and he swore. The wall was searing hot, and he’d just reduced the integrity of his gloves. The choking smoke was only getting thicker.

Ash was nowhere to be seen.

Peter’s helmet picked up and amplified a skittering sound coming from beneath his feet. There was a hole to his right. In the smoke, forethought was a luxury that most couldn’t afford. It had killed a good number of people that had paused when they should have jumped. He dropped through the hole, landing safely on zero-two.

The visibility was down to about a metre, so Peter upped the power on the primitive radar built into his suit. A faint return came back from the corridor to his left. Ash. He chased it down, radar traces mapping the outlines of the corridor onto his visor.

He was moving too fast. He never saw the floor fall away beneath him. He crashed down onto zero-one, and promptly blacked out.

Pain screaming along his arm and across his back dragged him back to consciousness. The skin of his suit had melted to the floor where he’s struck it. The radar unit was damaged, emitting at only irregular intervals. Someone dragged him to his feet, something clacked against his visor.

“You’re in a bad way, Peter. I’ve found somewhere safe to rest, but you have to trust me. Do you trust me?”


Ash took hold of Peter’s good arm, and started to drag him along, running through corridors that were slowly drifting, semi-liquid due to the heat. Peter dimly wondered how he could move with such surety. Suddenly, their run sloped downwards. Zero-zero. Still, Ash didn’t stop. With a last burst of speed, he dragged Peter through one more corridor, and down through a hole.

They fell – not far – onto a soft surface. The smoke was gone. In a daze, Peter stared upwards. Another suited individual was pushing a hatch shut and sealing it. Ash propped himself up, and pulled Peter’s helmet off him. The small compartments and corridors that Peter had known all his life were missing: they were laying on grass, the air was sweet and clear. Soft light permeated the area. There were trees in the distance, showing up sharp against the bulkhead. There were plants growing in neat rows.

“Welcome to Agriculture One, Peter.”

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Raindrops Keep Falling On The Dead

Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

Peter’s office was on the fifteenth floor of Landfall Tower. He spent a lot of time staring out of the floor-to-ceiling window, at the neat, ordered rows of caskets on the field around the tower. They were still a shocking white, even after a year of rain. His eyes drifted to the twenty-two caskets which were open. They were all full of rainwater. Peter’s eyes came to rest on his casket. He stood there for a second, then turned away from the window.

Scoutships had found five habitable planets. Five names were etched on the walls of Near-Earth. Five colonies had been founded, and had succeeded. Five vivid dreams.

The sixth colony was going to be even better. They were calling it Paradise.

It was going to be perfect.

Peter had been one of the one and a half thousand people tasked with setting up the bridgehead: constructing a city, mass driver, and orbital.

He had woken up in the rain, the graceful shape of Landfall Tower lost in a wall of fog. Stumbling, slipping in the mud, half-blind and frozen to the bone, he eventually made it to the sanctuary of the tower. The tower was the guts of the landing craft that had touched down on the planet, bearing the colonists with it. Once it touched ground, it had fallen apart gracefully, leaving one and a half thousand caskets arranged neatly on what was supposed to have been a sundrenched field.

In total, twenty-one other colonists met Peter in the base of the tower. A spattering of technicians of various disciplines, a single medic, a couple of agricultural engineers, a few soldiers, and Peter, a single bureaucrat. Among them was a young stasis technician. He spent the next six days out in the torrential rain, amongst the caskets which contained the other colonists.

On the seventh day, the tech killed himself. Before he did it, he scrawled a message across the Tower atrium.

‘They’re all dead.’

In the days after that, two more followed suit. A month later, the lone wirehead killed himself after the rain shorted the last of the robots.

The colony — they still laughingly called it that — survived. Food, clothes and materials for one and a half thousand could keep them alive and comfortable almost indefinitely. They didn’t move away from the Tower out of a sense of duty to the drowned field and the dead of their colony.

After ten years in Landfall Tower, with only seventeen people, and the constant rain for company, the survivors had all become quite settled in their ways. Some made tours of the caskets out on the drowning field, paying respects to each individual. Some started projects. Peter’s life was subsumed with keeping their little community together.

On the first morning of the eleventh year after landfall, three black ships punched through the clouds. They circled Landfall Tower like scavenger birds. Armed men and paper-thin androids leapt from the ships to the top of the tower. They swept downwards, through passages and hidden ways, moving soundlessly.

They found Peter in his office.

Three heavily stealthed androids seemed to fold out of thin air. One grabbed each of his arms, and another dropped to the floor, locking itself around Peter’s legs. He struggled against them, but got nowhere.

A uniformed man approached him.

“Peter Vyse, you are under arrest under the Colony Protectorate Act, for conspiracy to murder one thousand, four hundred and seventy eight members of the Paradise Colonisation Expedition. You will come with us.”

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