The Last Duty – Dawn Lloyd

The fireworks rocketed past the jagged remnants of the palace’s roof, soared above the razor wire, and then cascaded down behind the wall. The gunpowder boomed. The first four nights, my eyes had jerked to the remnants of the roof still clinging to charred rafters. I was sure the concussion would shake the last pieces lose, crushing me. But I had not been so lucky, and tonight I closed my eyes to shut out the …

A Bear, or a Spider, or an Elephant – Edward Ashton

“The night sky is beautiful,” Seven says. “Deep and dark, blue-black and starless. It has a certain ineffable purity to it, don’t you think?” Mara glances up. This world is a young one, snugged tight against the galactic core. The stars above her are so fat and bright and crowded together that this can barely be called a proper night at all. She looks back to Seven, one eyebrow raised. “Not here,” he says, his …

Never Fade Away – Claire Simpson

“Miz Ellerker?” The old woman looked up from where she was kneeling in her garden, tending to the tiny green shoots that were poking through the soil. “There’s a name I ain’t heard in a while,” she said to the young whippersnapper shifting from foot to foot on the far side of her gate. “I’ve gone by a few others in the years since then.” “But you are Miz Ellerker?” the kid persisted. “I was.” …

The Offshore – Josh Taylor

Jesper Torus had been standing on the same spot on the sidewalk for almost thirty minutes. The building in front of him was older but well-maintained, with marble latticework and gold-tipped iron railings on the terraces. He held up the letter with both hands. His fingers had left dark smudges, and dried sweat curled the corners. This was the right address. Women in makeup and clean-shaven men walked in and out, chatting energetically, striding with …

Communication Breakdown – Andrew Knighton

“No.” I pushed my chair back from the conference table. I could see myself in the window opposite, Herrje’s deep night sky turning the glass wall into a giant mirror. Beyond that window was one of the most amazing cities in the universe, a melting pot in which dozens of races and cultures mixed, their mingled architectural styles creating a cityscape like no other. But all I could see was myself, looking angry and in …

A Layer Thin As Breath – Thea Boodhoo

“Valley. Can you still hear me?” Julian’s voice filtered through her dying radio. The Prince of Cats was a speck of light, dimming through the gold-grey film that, atom by atom, was devouring her helmet. Valley tried to say something, anything. Failed. Julian was sobbing on the other end. “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so kzzzzzzchchchcffft—” and that was it. Her radio was gone. “Oh god,” she breathed to herself, to no one. “Oh god,” …