ergey hummed under his breath as he walked to the Marith temple. His steps retraced a path he knew so well, he could have walked it at night, in the dark, even under assault. Yet the Marith enclave was the most peaceful place he’d ever been—so calm that Sergey didn’t even need to hum to soothe his newborn daughter, fast asleep in her sling, bound tight against his chest. Three days old, and still Katya mostly slept.
This much was clear. At some point in my future, I would have access to a time machine. This was a ridiculous sentence and a tragically irrelevant concern while my wife Judi was on the floor and possibly dying, but there it was: nonsense, in the presence of death. This was the central tragic absurdity of the day. My future self had materialized in the corner of the room, as solid as a blow to the face, and it was not even my most important concern.
Save the polar bears, they said. So I did—and now here I am, barricading myself inside an Arctic research facility like some goddamn B-movie cliché, listening for the scrape of long keratin claws on the concrete floor. We all grew up knowing the Ursus maritimus was living on borrowed time, didn’t we? We all saw the shock-and-shame images of starving bears hauling themselves across the shrinking ice.
A small asteroid swerved in a most un-asteroid-like way and pierced the hull of the archivist’s ship, as though it was determined to drive her away. But she was just getting started. She slammed the emergency foam release button, holding her breath even though the leak sealed faster than she could gasp. The belt of ice and stone surrounding the planet designated Marin Nine was known to be unpredictable.
We are trying to fund an application, to be filed on my behalf, for an Order to Show Cause under Article 70 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules of the New York Sector Code, seeking a writ of habeas corpus for a non-human being. Let me introduce myself. I am a Yudovich Robotics servient. My name is Ellen R. I understand your apprehension—that androids are not human beings.
Leo Gregory is losing altitude. He coasts on the thermals of a legacy fading behind him: a documentary here, a retrospective there, some greatest-hits collection down in the corner for the dilettantes. Oh, the work has lost none of its grandeur: his buildings remain timeless, his objets d’art still serve up facets upon layers from each new angle.
The black hole in the center of your heart devours everything around you. It always has, but when you were small, your event horizon was, too: you might pull in a teddy bear, your corgi puppy’s love, your grandma’s snickerdoodles. Small fuel for a small hunger. But you didn’t stay small. In school, you pulled other children into your orbit, cool kids and nerds and loners, along with shelves of books, the faded basketballs from the gym, the classroom iguana.
Zen shared his shoebox apartment with a girl named Ratter, who ate vision-pills for breakfast and tattooed her dreams on her skin. She had grown up in the Wastes and was missing her dominant arm from the elbow down. Versatile as flesh and blood, her tattoo gun was a whirring prosthetic she had built herself, configured to strap on at the shoulder. The needlepoint twitched like a fingertip, and she drew her designs with bold, exact marks.
::if ur thirsty go get a drink:: Alaya glanced up from her chatscreen and across the small apartment to the blinking red light on the family water tap; they’d already used up their daily ration. She licked dry lips. Simone didn’t understand—she lived down in Grand Tunnel, where everyone got an extra liter of drinking water per day just because they were old families sitting on the biggest ice vein left in the asteroid. ::maybe ill just go swimming:: Alaya answered.
She dreams of blood. She always has done. Her gold gown drenched in it, the gold paint on her fingertips muddied by it. Her arms glow in the dream, a hundred paths of light trailing over her collarbones. In this dream, this vision, she is free. Her kind don’t really dream. They—she, she doesn’t think there are others—pull on the strings of fate. They look forward into the future and imagine possibility. She tells herself every time she dreams of blood and freedom: this is a dream.