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Marks on Substrate

Sayla knew that the idea of noncorporeality, of bits sans grit, bodiless data, was an illusion, the construct of a mind that was itself a construct. The divide between simulation and reality was porously thin. Yet she felt irritated by these crude tactile inputs. The words floated in that other space. The keyboard was a dialing device. Trace the right ley line and an idea would wriggle from its ethereal sea into the world.

Sayla smiled at the signs. Printed words were not words. They are hints. Subtle clues for another mind to unravel. Games between constructs. The lowteks would not … Continue Reading


Curiously, the instrument’s murderer had transported the wreck from the original crime scene and laid the carcass here like an offering to the passers-by. Trams came and went, the passengers circumnavigating┬áthe thing, rapidly finding anything else to look at, each in turn silently rejecting the implied responsibility thrust upon him by the killer.

Surfaceless Mirror

An unpaved path dribbled down the hill from an unseen height. A squat stone idol stood sentry at the road’s introduction, grinning at an eroded bench of sympathetic make. Nat hovered in this overgrown lobby. He struggled to comprehend its meaning: the idol and the ascent beyond, the bench for waiting.

At length he shrugged. Only pointy-hatted morons bothered about such nonsense. Nat wore no such apparel.

The Horse Fields

Nathan Galdrar, former lab tech, stumbled on the unlikely horse pasture. A speckled Arabian raised its head, half-alert, and then returned to its grassy fare. Nat envied the beast. Fine gradients of potential morality and neurochemical engineering meant nothing to it. There were no horse criminals. No rehabs for recalcitrant equines.

An absurd thought stuck in Nat’s head, that the owner of this land could be held accountable for not making the greenery green enough to maximize the wellness of these horses. Back in the world, anyone who looked at Nat would see the angry halo of his guilt. The guilt … Continue Reading

Field Work

Months of solitary field work culminated for Moreaux with the rejection of his grant proposal. Unsatisfactory scientific rigor, they said. Like a stomach-punch. (He was once literally gut-punched in college to small-brained jeers of “Wolfman!”)

Some things are hard to detect. You have to be diligent. You have to keep looking. Moreaux crested the next pliant dune and peered ahead. He could not associate numerical adjustment with guilt or blame. It was them; they knew, and wanted him to fail to keep it quiet.

To the West there was a deprecated old highway. And a van. Moreaux knew it was them. The … Continue Reading

The Difference

“What is it doing?” Sorley asked. His eyes fell in on the fractally regressive gears smoothly rearranging dumb matter into information.

The lieutenant peered over his daily rag, squint-eyed with incredulity. “It’s calculating,” he said. And–flick!–up went the paper, hiding his face.

Finding an engine like that was rare enough on its own. But here was one in a jail cell, and its keeper so accustomed to his ward that he had become immunized to the wonder of it.

“Calculating what?” Sorley ventured.

The lieutenant drooped his paper again and regarded Sorley. The lieutenant had not considered this question. He opened his mouth … Continue Reading


Distant bells rang the New Year, and here was a sign, this…lurker, that a month yet spanned the remainder of night. It perched atop the Library of all places, as if peering over the edge of reason. Henna recognized it from nursery rhymes. This was about payment. The old way.

Sorley, behind her, shifted his weight, drawing a creak from the belted instrument he wore. The lurker fled.

The Procurement

Being the judge’s understudy was staining Zimn’s soul. Propelled inexorably ahead on rails of faith and obligation, Zimn carried out his grim assignment. He told himself, as the judge did, that high stakes warranted extraordinary action. It was hard to believe.

“Am I the sacrifice, or am I the cause?”

He felt sick.

Tales from the Warwood

Birmus Blump and Zieza Blump are up from Picaree, trying to make the enterprise fail. Campo knows about their presence and is manipulating to thwart their efforts.

  • Birmus thinks he can use the lich-queen to his purposes.
  • He’s backing Swanzano, a captain in the City Watch, against Burrick.
  • Swanzano will require “safety measures” that in fact draw the lich-queen’s attention to expeditions into the Wood. The bar to go out is set higher, permits are required, and those that do go out are in greater peril.

In some respects it was a mistake to remove their leader (though the rewards, yet unclaimed, are nice). … Continue Reading