The Next Soldiers

nuclear winter

Depiction of the effects of a nuclear winter” – Found at the New York Times

Abracadabra,” enchanted fourteen-year-old Elazaro Motyka as he sat under an almond tree overlooking the Port of Haifa, but the sea breeze blowing into the park overlooking the old University was still too cold. Even the magic word his American neighbor taught him didn’t work against the last vestige of nuclear winter, but he hadn’t expected it to.

It had been thirty years since the last war. He managed to avoid most of the stories his zayde told him of whether it was India or Pakistan that fired the nukes first and then pulled in the Chinese, Europeans, and Americans, blah, blah, blah. It was bad enough that they taught about it in school. The present worried him a lot more than the past.

That made him rather atypical among his classmates, since most of them loved to listen to any of the people who were alive during the Third World War. It was a reminder of the last time that even in stupidly killing millions, humanity had been free.

“Hey, Elazaro!”

He looked down to see Inaya making the arduous climb up the hill to his lookout. She was a grade behind him but liked to brag that she was more mature than he was, as if that made her better than him.

“Hey, Inaya. Did you bring lunch?” On days when they didn’t have school, they met in the park to eat and talk.

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The Maker’s Daughter

catwoman

Image of Selina Kyle/Catwoman (voiced by Adrienne Barbeau) from the 1992 Batman the Animated Series episode “Tyger, Tyger.”

The solitary Leonine was lying, concealed in the tall grass near an acacia tree watching what she assumed was a frumpy, blinkered woman crossing the broad savanna as she carried her basket. She didn’t so much walk as bounce, as if she were treading upon a sponge or the vast skin of some overly ripe fruit. Her costume reminded the female adaptoid of those worn by puritans, except her robe was a bright crimson, while he coif, shift, and apron were canvas white. With her large handbag, the amused humanoid lioness thought she looked like “little red riding hood meets “a handmaid’s tale.”

Her pale, compact body approached a coppice, which apparently was her destination. Leonine didn’t have to restrain herself, having recently dined on a gazelle, but she was curious, so she rose and silently circled around the open grasslands, padding through the trees, and finally approaching her target from the right. Too late did she realize her mistake as the woman, now appearing much younger than she had thought, turned her head, removed her ancient spectacles, and gazed directly into her feline eyes.

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The Murasaki Betrayal

galileo 7

Image of the Galileo shuttlecraft from the Star Trek episode “The Galileo Seven” – Found at memory-alpha.wikia.com

Charlton Ortega piloted his light scout ship “Lily Sloane” into the nebulous Murasaki 312 quasar-like formation at half impulse power not knowing if he and his three crew mates would make it back out again.

“Shields are nominal. Continuing sensor sweep. Still nothing.” Helen Olssen was both the ship’s systems expert and Ortega’s lover, and they were nothing alike. While he was impulsive, adventurous, and as dark as his Inca ancestors, the Swede from Uppsala was fair-skinned, blond to the point of having almost white hair, conservative, reserved, and studious. If Retenox Five hadn’t been invented, she would have been a natural for a pair of horned rim glasses.

“This whole area for a diameter of twelve light years is completely infused in a shell of hard radiation. If our shields drop even for a few seconds, we’ll sizzle like bacon on a griddle.” The navigator’s east Texas accent was what Ortega called “thick enough to cut with a knife.” Bethany “Red” Harrington checked her navcom against the readings of the old shuttlecraft that had visited the unknown planet more than a century ago. They’d been uploaded to the Enterprise’s ancient duotronic-based information system seconds before the Galileo Seven had burned up in the atmosphere, and hopefully they’d be enough to guide the Sloane on its mission. “You sure you can fly this thing under these conditions, Charlie?”

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Psyche Poised Against Infinity

woman at night

Found at the High Style Life website – no photo credit available

Psyche stood on the edge of the rooftop contemplating the city’s nightlife far below. If anyone saw her swaying twenty stories above the street, they might vitiate her plans and try to persuade her to go indoors, or perhaps to a hospital, but suicide wasn’t on her mind.

Privately celebrating the occurrence of her twentieth birthday, she took a single rose pedal from inside her diaphanous gown, where it had been nestled between her breasts, and released it to the wind, letting the obsidian sky receive its tribute.

She knew the monstrosity was out there somewhere between the wind and the darkness and the sky, and she, her young, lithe body wrapped only in barely tangible moonlight, poised like a pigeon at the edge of eternity, chose no longer to have feet of clay, but the talons of an eagle.

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Future Tension

marigolds

Photo by Surachai Piragsa – Bangkok Post – 2017

Adam had to look up the word Hemmablind to find out what his wife meant. Yeah, it described him pretty well. He just didn’t notice all of the little imperfections in and around the house. The tear in the back screen door, the weeds growing in the flowerbed, they were all the same to him, and her constant pestering about them was a pain in his pinfeathers.

Yet, as oblivious as he was to all the chores she set before him each morning, he was able to carry himself in a decorous fashion, even when she said the leaf-filled rain gutters and the clogged bathroom sink were the final straw.

Oh, he had attempted to summon up a token effort or two, but it wasn’t enough to draw her attention away from his overall pattern of inactivity. He used his bad back as a crutch, but that didn’t hold up as an excuse, and certainly did not hold their marriage together.

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The Loneliness Disease

grandpa

From the March/April 2014 issue of Discern – No photo credit provided

Charles felt his forehead calescent and damp. Struggling to free himself from the comfort of his bed sheets, he staggered to the window. Pulling open the blinds, he unlatched and then lifted the frame, letting the cool morning breeze into his bedroom.

A violent paroxysm of tremors accompanied by dizziness seized him, forcing the older man to kneel on the carpet, resting his head on the window sill.

After a few minutes, he felt his temperature go down a bit, and he risked trying to stand. Hesitantly, he made his way into the kitchen and put the tea kettle on. As the water heated, he opened his back door and several more windows attempting to cool his stiflingly warm house.

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The Tale of Ellie Westcott

outlaw

Mugshot and wanted poster for the outlaw Laura Bullion – found at owlcation.com

Ellie was working on her third glass of Cactus Wine when the stranger walked into Billy Bob’s Saloon. His six-shooter and holster hung low on his left hip as he swaggered up to the bar, but his spurs had lost their jingle. Through the haze in her brain, she figured he was the sort of outlaw or gunslinger who thought he’d tamed the frontier west.

Sam was serving hooch that afternoon and he bustled up to the newcomer next to Ellie.

“What’ll ya have?”

“Whiskey. You got any vittles in this joint?” His attitude was churlish, like the sneer on his lips.

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The Haunted Detective

san francisco 1947

San Francisco Chronicle Archives – From the back of the photo: “F Car goes through – The two months long blockade of the Fourth and Market intersection ended completely yesterday morning as F cars moved from Fourth Street across Market into Stockton. While police officers experimented with the new traffic pattern at the complex five-way intersection, workmen rolled down the last of the fill in the project. City officials hope the revised schedule will end one or more downtown bottlenecks.” September 9, 1947.

“I keep telling you this, Marguerite, but you never listen. You are just as breakable as the next person, maybe more so given your line of work.”

Private Investigator Margurite Carter was getting sick and tired of Cohen’s lectures. “Do I tell you how to stitch a cut, Sawbones? Just do your job. I haven’t got all night for you to fix up my broken wing. And what’s that crack about me being more breakable? I’m as tough as any guy in the business.”

“Tell that to your broken arm. It’s a good thing you’re left-handed. From the way you described the thug who jumped you, he must have had a hundred pounds on you. By the way, the name’s Dr. Cohen or Joel, not Sawbones.” The fatherly doctor tightened the binding a little too much on his thirty-year-old mouthy patient just to make his point.

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Cri De Coeur

bruja

Found at multiple locations including imagekays.pw, alkeemia.delfi.ee, taringa.net, and Wicca España – Image credit unknown.

Brittany concocted the nostrum with the finesse of a lover, both in response to Neil’s desperate cri de coeur to save his son’s life, but also for the obscene amount of money he offered. She practiced her witch’s craft with masterful illusion, knowing the potions she created, the billionaire could not find in some pharmacology catalogue.

“So this will shatter the parasitic crystalline growth surrounding his organs and cause them to dissolve into harmless waste?”

Medical science had failed Neil Barrett and he had been forced to turn to the ways of his ancient ancestors, the bruja of the Antillies mountain region on his home planet Slora. Oliver was eight years old and his only child and heir. A mysterious curse had rendered Neil sterile, and if his child died, the Barrett empire would die with him.

“I practice brevity if not empathy, benefactor. The child will live.”

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Lunar Manqué

the moon

The Moon – Found at chamaeleon-observatory-onjala.de

He called himself Manqué Manx because no matter how much resolve he managed to muster in any state of emergency, he would ultimately falter.

This time though, facing the unknown adversary entrenched in the Plinius crater between Mare Serenitatis and Mare Tranquilitatis, he couldn’t afford to wring his hands in desperation and let government red tape take six months to come up with a list of possible contingency decisions.

The aliens had taken out both America’s Lunar Base One and the Chinese’s Yuèliàng Outpost from orbit and had landed by the time the supply ship was on approach. They couldn’t change course in time and were knocked down as well.

Manx was the only survivor, but he would let that weigh upon his conscience later, if there was a later. Although the hull breach and subsequent atmospheric blow out took everyone else, Manx made it because he was already in his pressure suit, doing a final check on the support vehicle’s systems. He launched right before the Tycho class cargo ship impacted, and was now flying a hundred meters above the surface, approaching Plinius from the southwest.

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