The twenty hexapod robots, twin pulse cannons still trained on Gertrude, Brasidas and the others, began scuttling slowly towards the compound. The War Dogs shepherded the human pirates through the massive black gates. Gertrude was the last one inside, and the gates rumbled shut behind her.
“Lord Ump’gomptar will receive Captain Brasidas,” one of the War Dogs stated in a robotic voice. “The others shall remain here.”
The robot that had spoken turned around, a prolonged process on its six legs, and led the captain away at walking pace. The remaining mechanoids shuffled a little closer together to fill the gap it had left, and continued to surround Gertrude and the others.
“Is this the normal welcome you get?” she muttered to Drusus.
If he was concerned, the Murovian did a good job of hiding it. “More mechs than usual, and we’ve never had an escort down to the ground before. Something’s rattled the Ralgo.”
The interior of the compound was almost as sandy as the desert beyond the walls. Bleak and featureless grey stone boxes were the only buildings within the compound. They rose only a few storeys high, and, to her surprise, there were no more than half a dozen. The walls encompassed an area large enough to accommodate a town, but the lack of structures meant only a few hundred people could live there. Continue reading
PK563217M is a highly selective ligand for the dopamine D7 receptor, Ki 4.2nM at the cloned human receptor. GTP gamma S binding establishes it as a full agonist. It has a clean profile of activity against other dopamine receptors (>500nM); the nearest activity is at D4 (230nM), and no significant interaction with serotinergic, adrenergic, noradrenergic, muscarinic, cholinergic or histamine receptors. The bioavailability of PK563217M is 27% in rat (half-life 5 hours) and 38% in dog (half-life 8 hours). No significant toxicological effects were observed during 28 days dosing in rat and dog at doses below 75mg/kg. PK563217M was formulated in a gel capsule with starch filler for first human dosing
Subjects were recruited from undergraduates of ****** University Medical School and were medically and psychologically profiled before dosing. Subjects were scheduled to receive 5mg capsules of PK563217M for 5 consecutive days, followed by 9 days washout and 2 x 5mg capsules for 5 consecutive days. The individual responses to the initial dosing are reported below.
Samples were taken from the subjects at 30-minute intervals and indicate that PK563217M achieved peak plasma levels 1 hour post dosing with a mean half-life of 10 hours. Continue reading
It was Eclipse Day, and Archer Grey would become the first man in Nereid history to witness two total solar eclipses. Frankly, he couldn’t see what the fuss was about. The moon passed over the sun, everything went dark for a little while and then it returned to normal. Anyone damned fool enough to be staring up without the right spectacles on would go blind, but there was precious little entertainment otherwise.
That was one of the few perks of being ancient. He could moan and grumble and nobody could tell him to shut up. They could try, but as he commanded the family fortune and had known every one of his surviving family since they were mewling babies, they invariably failed. And he had much to grumble about. His children had died, three to old age and one to stupidity. Swimming in the height of summer and expecting the jellyfish of Nereus to leave you alone was the act of a fool. In Kayleigh’s case, the act of a dead fool. Most of his grandchildren ranged from tedious to despicable, though he did enjoy the ever-increasing resentment they felt towards his stubborn refusal to die. Over a hundred years old, and still he clung on.
Until today. Because today was the perfect opportunity to kill himself.
Archer’s mansion was built on a mountain so high it was always night, hence its name: Darkness Falls. Eighty years ago he had ordered a wing built equipped with photoelectric roofs that could become completely transparent at the touch of a button. In truth, he enjoyed the stars, but the real reason behind the construction was to amaze guests, whether visiting dignitaries or impressionable young ladies. Continue reading
Brasidas was waiting for her at Nephros.
“Congratulations on your first kill for The Sun Dancer,” he told her.
She tossed him the maldrive and resisted the urge to test her steel fist on his bloated body. Killing him would be easy, but the ship was in the middle of nowhere and she doubted a crew of pirates would let their captain’s death go unavenged.
Gertrude had no idea where her quarters were, but the thought summoned a diagram of The Sun Dancer in her ocular implant. She was surprised by the ship’s size, and took a moment to examine it. In addition to cargo holds, the mess and crew quarters, The Sun Dancer had not one but two bays for smaller craft. Her mind drifted to where her quarters might be, and an arrow appeared on the plans, guiding her through the narrow, pipe-lined corridors to the cabin she had been allocated.
The cabin was sparsely furnished. A mirror which doubled as an old-fashioned 2-D television was the only decoration. In the locker were two changes of clothes, and the chest of drawers contained a tablet. To her surprise, it also contained what appeared to be several white gold ingots as long as her finger and two flawless sapphires. Uncertain whether they were meant to be hers or belonged to the one-bed cabin’s previous occupant, she swiped the lot. Continue reading
It was 1983, and we were on a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. My buddy George and I drove the six hours from Dallas to the French Quarter in my – 76 Chevy Nova. We were excited to party it up in the streets now that we were finally twenty-one. I drove into town in the middle of the afternoon and it was hotter than we were expecting. I don’t recall much from that trip. Between the booze, and the fact it was thirty years ago, I only remember the heat…and the gypsy.
Her, I remember like it was yesterday. I’d stumbled into her tent and when I saw the elaborate set-up, I called George in to check it out. She sat at a round table and told me she would tell me my future. She was wearing a pink and orange dress, and bracelets; a lot of bracelets. I remember the sound they made when she moved her arms and still hear it sometimes when I close my eyes. Incense burned in the corner; the smell stuck in my nostrils.
She turned to me and told me it was ten dollars to know my future. I was a slightly twisted young man so I gave her ten bucks and asked if she could tell me when I was going to die instead. I swear the candles dimmed when I asked. Her eyes narrowed, and she told me it was a dark art, but for another fifteen she would tell us both how we were going to die. George shrugged and pulled out his wallet. We were a few beverages in at this point so this strange event had us snickering as she reached for my hands. Continue reading
She opened her eyes, and the whole world was different. Her ocular implant depicted a clinic painted in psychedelic hues of deep purples and bright oranges.
Reminds me of the time I tried coral mushrooms.
“Shal ma’kreeth?” Doctor Dubrovnik asked.
Before she could express her confusion a line of blue text appeared in her field of vision.
LANGUAGE IDENTIFIED: J’Karyth.
MESSAGE: How are you?
“I think I’m ok,” she answered.
“Any difficulty breathing?” When she shook her head he nodded. “Good. Each lung cost a bloody fortune. I’m going to activate your artificial limbs, which might feel a bit odd. You can sit up, but don’t try standing until you feel able.”
Her left arm and left leg suddenly tingled with sensation. They felt almost as if they had fallen asleep. She sat up and saw her arm for the first time. Not even the smallest effort had been made to normalise it. The limb wasn’t even painted to resemble flesh, let alone covered with synth-skin and implanted with genuine follicles. Brute bare metal studded with plastic nerves made no pretence of humanity.
Do you see that little star, just by that big, blinking one? Yes, I know the blinking thing is a plane, but there, right by it, see? So small, so lost in the sky. A new star. It was in the papers, you know? I tried to show them, it was proof… But there, now, they’ve made up their minds. I can’t blame them. I wouldn’t believe me, either.
They think I killed my child.
Leonie, that’s her name. My baby girl, my little star. She was only seven. I don’t know how old she is now. Do stars grow old? Do they count their age in light years? That was a joke. You can smile, you know. Doctors are allowed to smile, I think.
She had a thing for the moon, you see. Ever since she was a tiny babe. I would feed her in the rocker, pulled up to the window for the summer night’s breeze, and the moonlight would shine softly on her little head. And she would stop feeding and gaze up. Girl and moon, loving each other.
I thought it was sweet, then. I didn’t know the moon was poison, whispering sweet promises in my little one’s ears.
Gertrude awoke, and screamed.
A stranger, a doctor, she guessed by his old-fashioned white coat, slapped her twice across the face.
“Keep your damned mouth shut,” he told her.
Heavy leather restraints around her wrists and ankles prevented her retaliating, but her neck was free and she could make out the fact that she was almost entirely naked. Thankfully her slightly singed underwear had been left on, though precious little was left to the imagination. Blazing fire had twisted and corrupted much of her flawless skin into a ruin of burns. Strangely, the tortured skin on the left side of her body did not hurt at all. In fact, she couldn’t feel a damned thing, unlike the right, which a draught had caused to come out in goosebumps. There was, however, a persistent stabbing pain inside her chest, and she felt short of breath.
“What’s my prognosis?” she asked the doctor, trying to keep calm.
“You’re screwed.” Continue reading
Waddling. That’s one of the things no one told me. I bet they were lying about everything else, too – that it wouldn’t hurt and an epidural is a piece of cake.
I followed Ken down the mall, and tried my damnedest not to look like a duck. And the whole time I was scanning for a café, or somewhere I could go to the loo. Because that’s the other thing no one tells you about being 30-odd weeks pregnant – you pee all the time. Honestly, one glass of water and I was in and out for an hour. So that’s what I was thinking – that it was going to hurt getting the baby out, no matter what anyone said, that I made ducks look sexy and that I really, really needed to find a loo soon. Those were my last normal thoughts. I wish they’d been bigger ones. More important. About love and Ken and looking ahead. About all the things I’m going to miss.
The explosion came from somewhere to the left of me – a bin, they reckoned, packed with plastic explosive and sharp, sharp nails. Designed to kill, and to maim. To cause chaos. They were never sure how much explosive; the figure on the media was a best guess based on how far the damage went, and how far through the air people were sent. Enough, I could tell them.
It hit me without a sound, a blast that took me off my feet and put me down against the plate window of a café I’d have earmarked for a loo if I’d seen it earlier. There was no pain, not then. Just a vacuum of shock and I-don’t-know-what-happened stunned, slow thoughts. Continue reading
Con saw through the buffalo’s eyes as she charged towards the door. Women cried out and moved out of her way – the door, already almost open, fell before her and she trampled over it. Guards and carers pressed themselves back against the wall of the stairway as she passed – those behind with their wits intact followed her.
She ran on, a half-amble-half-run down the corridors, until, lowering her head to barge open the door, she emerged outside. Somebody screamed but she ran on towards the dome.
Christ, I better be right about this!
The wall shimmered – an odd thing to see with a buffalo’s eyes – and she threw herself at it, half-expecting it to knock her back. Instead, she passed through the dome and carried on. She picked up the speed, cantering into the forest.
Could she take the buffalo all the way to Francis? She needed another animal. A bird. And fast. Continue reading