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Past Prime

 He was called Death’s Shadow. He stalked the battlefield clad in the ebony iron forged by his ancestors and passed down through the centuries. He wore the crimson face of a horned demon with ivory fangs. Its sneer was the last sight his victims saw before cold steel separated their heads from their bodies. He cleaned the blood from the blade with perfect indifference.   He was simply another form of death killing was his sole preoccupation and purpose. He knew no master nor recognized any earthly authority. Pledging his blade to celestial powers beyond our comprehension.  He floated with the winds of war across the landscape until he finally fluttered down to earth like a spore and landed near a village burning on the junction of a great river. The night was lit up by the flames reflecting on the rushing water.   Rumors preceded an invincible army whose soldiers wielded magic weapons. While watering his horse, he came across a group of these soldiers. They were puny, and their oversiz

The Raid on New Detroit

 New Detroit, as it was christened by its founder, a man with the curious moniker of Franklin Jefferson Ford, was at its core an abandoned industrial center built along the Mississippi. This was the spiritual capital of the Brotherhood For New American prosperity.  It was a mecca for the desperate and discarded people who yearned to resurrect a glorious past that never was. The patriot shaman who led their flocks to New Detroit promised they only had to demonstrate they knew how to live and work in the warehouses and factories. Only then would god return them the machinery and expertise to begin industrial America a new.  Despite it being the new Eden of industrial might, the city the Brotherhood built was very agrarian. The warehouses were converted into indoor farms, and the highrises into dormitories. Where the enigmatic Frankly Jefferson Ford ruled like a king.  His recreating of the American dream, having amounted to nothing more than some people living in a shanty town, might not

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

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

Trends

 Every day, more of the mall's parking lot fragmented into smaller pieces. The painted lines that marked the boundaries of dozens of parking spots faded away, and yellow heads of hundreds of dandelions were breaking through fissures growing across the asphalt plane.  I worked at a donut stand, the only remaining restaurant in the food court. We had one customer a day. The manager of the last store up on the second floor. He was the first and only person I'd see. I leaned on the counter the rest of the day and stared at the empty tables.  I shuffle down a hall where the light flickers and the heating pipes clatter and hiss. The bathroom was around the corner. My footsteps on the tile echoed between the shuttered stores where lonely mannequins watched from empty glass displays. All the stall doors, save one, are closed and locked. I sit in the stall, unconcerned that anyone else will knock, untroubled by worries about missing any customers at the counter. There are places just li

Air Brushed

 "The United Peoples Headquarters, formerly known as the Grand Imperial Palace by its previous owners, was at the center of a dense urban maze sprawled out from the ancient citadel. The centuries-old walls and turret towers were occupied by guards equipped with modern submachine guns. The archway and iron gate were replaced by a steel one that slid on an electric rail.  In the south-facing wing of the palace was a former servants' kitchen that had been converted into a photo lab and office for the Supreme Executive's official photographer, Doctor Krutzov. Krutzov had been in the Supreme Executive's service long before the great leader had even thought the title up.  Krutzov had been in that photo lab for nearly 22 years. He had followed the godfathers of the national revolution into the temple of power. They fortified their position taking care not to repeat the mistakes of the regime they overthrew.  Krutzov had passed into old age inside the walls of the headquarters