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Piper Meets His Match

  Piper smokes his cigarette like its irritated him, long and thin face scrunched to villainous absurdity. In the bright neon illumination Jack thinks his partner looks almost like how a political cartoonist might draw a politician: all hard edged features, high cheekbones and eyes that register both as cunningly intelligent and brutally stupid at once. Jack has known Rex Piper nearly two decades now, and even after all this time those faces unnerve him. Piper has a cruel streak that Jack himself can't always avoid. This is manifested when after another angry sounding exhalation, Piper leans over the man half crumpled in the shadowed doorway and promptly extinguishes his smoke into the skin of the mans face. Jack clamps a broad hand over their victims mouth as he writhes and lets out an awful, muffled moan. The sound is the terrible kind of pain that someone makes when they're experiencing an entirely new sensation of pain. Piper makes a face that looks almost like a smile, if
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Pale Death

 Prayer comes in muffled, panting words. If that pathetic excuse of a priest were still alive, smelling of tonics and disheveled in his sullen robes, he’d accuse Henrik of blasphemy for his terrible form. But the priest is dead. Devoured by the Devil itself.  Henrik fights to keep his footing over jagged, black rock. Steam hisses, rumbles out from hideous looking pockmarks in the earth like this place is from an unfinished time in creation. The knight is boiling in his armor. Sweat stings his eyes. He must be careful now, a single incorrect step will snap his ankle or send him tumbling, and he will be lost in the domain of a vast nightmare.  Step. Watch. Step. Henrik concretes hard and stares out into the primordial murk, fighting to discern if the roar-hum  in his ears is his own heart, molten devilish ground, or the monster he’s come to slay. The Sun is hidden, refracted, throws hideous looking shadows in labyrinthine fog. He sees Death everywhere. Terror around every corner. Somethi

Vanguard of the Nest

 The vast, cold intelligence maintaining the Vanguard took little mind to the unfortunate silence from Home. Even as decades and centuries turned to ceaseless, unresponsive millennia which in turn became yawning eons comprised of tens of millions of years— Vanguard continued its directives.  Mine the Stone. Birth the Legions. Keep watch. Remain silent. And so Vanguard did. Unquestioning. It’s colossal complex sprawled further down and within Lunar stone as an onslaught of harvesting machines many kilometers in size churned, chewed, cleared, and printed their way through monolithic regolith. Vanguard observed their progress where each slow, persistent mechanical moment drifted into centuries, work-schedules across millennia. Complexes the size of small continents were completed tidily, efficiently, all tethered and slaved to Vanguards super-matter heart.  The Legion, too, grew, a diligent army of genetic splicing technology unfurling and reorienting the Peoples traits. Digital commander

Traffic, Texans, and Triceratops

 Travis was impatient. Could you blame him? The summer heat exacerbated everything, made the cab of his eighteen-wheeler into a steel coffin of sticky and humid and horrible, even with the expensive AC clattering not a foot from his ear. He sat hunched over the wheel so far it pressed into his extended gut, faded blue eyes staring hawkishly out into the road. The GPS said he was eighty miles from some other godforsaken Texan town or another while beside it clicked down a timer for his latest delivery. Ominous looking letters read back at him THREE HOURS, TEN MINUTES, FIFTEEN SECONDS.  Christ . Travis pushed himself hard over the wheel again and his bulging frog eyes looked back out over the road as if with a piercing gaze he might clear the impediments.  The dinosaurs didn’t notice, and didn’t care.  They were everywhere, easily a hundred dump-truck sized animals all amassed, stretching from nearby woodland across the road and back into the trees on the opposite side. They jostled each

The Hunt

  Unlike what city folk imagined, strange calls were common out here in the country. Deputy David Hawthorne knew it from nearly two decades of experience. He’d seen damn near everything . Bored country teenagers drinking exotic, painful mixtures of gasoline and moonshine, or city kids playing feral on somebody’s property, braying at the moon like so many colorful (and bad) imitations of wolves. Deputy Hawthorne had seen crop circles (and found the drunken perpetrators half asleep in their ragged, wheat-cut lines), stumbled into odd, unnatural conjoining between man and beast that had taken far more patience and even more veterinarians to dislodge. He’d seen the sad too, even if it was rarer. Lonely victims along endless stretches of highway tucked between fog, mountains, and forests, their personal items missing sometimes or tucked neatly nearby. Burned crosses on old properties that made him grit his teeth, thinking of his folks (his daddy was black, and ma an Indian). He’d seen it al

The Thing That Came in Summer

 The world changed. Boundaries shivered. Something that had been right  became wrong , just for a moment, just long enough for the slightest passage. No fanfare, no drama, no lights and catastrophe. Just the motion. Just the transition. Easy. Simple. Welcoming.  The world slid around the visitor like so much smooth water becomes glassy and transparent moving quickly across river stones. Sharp-edged shards appeared suddenly— some breakage would always occur— but then it was over. Unnoticed.  This place was like the last one. A warm, comfortable night. Moonlight thrown down from a crescent slash across verdant growth, murmuring water not far away. Voices, maybe, but hidden as small living things sang their final climactic choruses in the omnipresent dusk. The hum-hiss-chirps  came everywhere. In a multitude of directions.  Opportunities . All of them.  The thing lay still. Unmoving from its arrival. An impossible chill radiated off of the strange, glossy shell in shimmering waves. Steami

Astronimek

  Astronimek . In our ancient history, those who studied the stars and their profound motions were scholar-priests, reinforcing the binding supplication we had to the night skies. When Titr  overtook Hruesk , it was time to push north in pursuit of Those Who Thunder, and when Viviq  aligned against the other Six Sisters, we prayed with battle dances in hope that the sky would once again be lit. Even since the first hatching, we have been tied to what lies beyond.  I bear the title Astronimek  now. The rites, songs, and measures all live within me across uncountable hatchlings. Standing on the Starmantle, I feel this weight as an undeniable vastness. Vast as the eternity beyond.  Skyward. Ships crowd and throw long shadows across ancient desert, some so massive that I can sense a subtle pulling exertion. The ceremony has drawn many from far and wide. My scales and feathers quiver in excitement, exultance. I have stood here so many times before but the feeling does not diminish. It grows