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Practice Doll

 The soldiers were led out to a firing range. A pockmarked field drenched in blood and shrapnel. They were raw recruits, none of them older than 19. They took their firing positions behind a wall of sandbags. At the other end of the field was a massive warehouse.  "As marines, it is very likely you will be called upon to kill a man!" The sergeant explained. "This is easier said than done, but just like anything else, practice makes perfect! I want you to see what happens when a bullet pulverizes flesh. I want to give you that taste for blood!"  The boy soldiers clenched their weapons and tried to steady their hands as they looked down the sights of their long-barreled weapons. All of them had  heard about the "special fire practice." There were conflicting rumors. Some said they were just machines wearing blood and flesh, while others claimed they were people grown in batches. Made every day out of the pulverized and reconstituted remains of the ones from
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Carbon Neutrality

 The jumbo jet painted with the imperial seal of the united states bounced and screeched as its rubber wheels hit the runway. The massive plane's roaring engines died down to a gentle growl as it slowed to a stop. A staircase was quickly raised to the door, and a crowd of reporters and dignitaries waited with bated breath. A marine in full dress regalia opened the door, stood at attention, and outstepped the Secretary of Defense Blake Chesterfield. A tall man with slick-backed grey hair and a suntanned face. Blake's eyes were covered with dark aviator glasses, and he flashed the cameras a pearly white grin.  As the dignitary descended the staircase, cameras flashed, and reporters clamored for his attention. Military police parted the Brooks Brothers-clad mob. A marine opened the back door to an idling armored Humvee. Before getting in, Blake turned to the crowd and shouted, "All your questions will be answered at the press conference. And I'm told there will even be sh

Merry Christmas Castor

 Christmas that year was one of empty tables and empty stomachs. The armies camped around the city sang carols in a brief reprieve from the thundering cannons, but the joy was short-lived. As Winter wrapped itself like an icy shroud around Paris, the people trapped inside began cannibalizing the once proud city of lights.  It was still dark when Antoine awoke. The air was frigid, and he wrapped his arms around his chest and curled closer to his younger brother Gabriel who was still sound asleep. Antoine could see Gabriel's sunken cheeks had turned crimson from the cold's touch.  The floorboards softly creaked, and their mother, Marie, came into the room holding a candle wrapped in a thick wool blanket. Her frozen breath drifted in the flickering light.  "Antoine," she said softly, "It's time to wake up." "I know," Antoine groaned.  "Remember to ask about any leftovers," Marie said. "I will, momma," Antoine replied. There was

Campaign Wife

 Warner stepped out of the train station into the frigid spring night. The rows of electric street lamps were dark. Whispy clouds flowed across the swollen pale moon that glowed most brilliantly in a field of stars casting their twilight glow over the piles of rubble. People scurried like rats among the ruins. Even at this late hour, the streets were crowded with people with nowhere to lay their heads. Hollowed-eyed men in tattered uniforms wandered aimlessly among beggars with dirt-matted hair. Limbless hordes leaned on the wall and held out begging cups. Warner looked around the squalid scene. An old man gazed at him through the flickering light of a trashcan fire.  Warner quickly looked away and started down the pock-marked street.  A soldier in his beat-up uniform, the right pant leg stitched up to the stump where his knee used to be, and an eye patch on the same side crutched trailed Warner on his crutch. "Hey, you, sir! Sir!" he called. Warner pretended he did not hear.

The Black Swan Event from Outer Space!

  On August 7th, 2024, SETI, in cooperation with NASA, released a joint statement that changed the world. A signal sent from far beyond the charted cosmos had, after two years, finally been decoded, and the experts agreed extraterrestrials had reached out to us and were on their way to Earth.  The beings from beyond made it clear they had been observing the Earth and its human inhabitants for over a century and were well familiar with the problem facing human civilization. They were coming on a goodwill mission decades in the making. They were bringing technology that would save humans from the inextricable problems they made for themselves.  War and starvation would no longer be inevitable aspects of the human experience. The environmental systems industrial society had sent into imperial decline could be restored, and every human would enjoy a standard of living unparalleled history. At the last minute, humanity was being given a second chance by visitors from the stars. It was Deus

At the Bottom of the Well

 Ai stood at the top of a hill overlooking the river along the imperial city's edge. She was just twelve years old and very slight, with silky ebony hair tied into braids that ran down to her waist. From the pastoral peaks, she could see columns of acrid smoke drifting over the descending sun blending into the pink and purple hues of the evening light. The sound of cannons reverberated through the hills like thunder throughout the valley. Occasionally, one burst closer to her and shook the hill under her feet. The barbarian soldiers were drawing closer. Ai, could see the hordes marching through her mind's eye. They were terrible hooven men with pale skin and horns bursting from their caps. "Ai!" Her father called to her There was a flash in the distance, followed a fraction later by an ear hammer burst. Another tendril of smoke began drifting into the clouds. "Ai!" Her father called again. Ai ran down the hill towards home. Her father, Lu, and mother, Min, w


 Melody sat in the brightly lit hospital corridor, clutching a tissue, tears streaming down her face. She rocked back and forth in her chair. When any doctors or nurses walked in through the swinging doors, she looked at them longingly for any information but was more often than not ignored her or simply acknowledged with a nod. That morning her son Anthony descended the stairs and sat at the breakfast table without a word, seemingly oblivious to the fact he wasn’t wearing any clothes. Thinking maybe he was sleepwalking, Melody tried to shake him away, but his eyes were wide open and as grey as stone. His washed-out flesh was waxy and cold to the touch. “Anthony? Anthony, can you hear me?!” Melody pleaded. “Hello, I’m Anthony.” He answered in monotone. “Anthony, are you alright?! Please talk to me!”  He was unresponsive. His unblinking eyes stared for a moment before he stood up. “Time for school,” he said.  Anthony stood up and turned his back to Melody, revealing oozing maggot-filled