Plugs

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Escape from the Goldilocks Planet

by Rudi Dornemann

She lost her name on Stiltskin 9, another casualty when the reputation economy crashed. She made it offworld with a few credit cubes and a broken-down matter fabricator.

From the first, though, her new planet turned out to be just wrong. The fabricator’s nanotech assembly was stuck, would only convert straw to gold. And she couldn’t find any straw, just calderas of steaming, congealed, or lukewarm porridge. The last of her cubes bought her way into a domed city, but it was nearly hibernation season, and the super-intelligent bears shunned her, in spite of her fur coat and matching gloves.

The bears favored semi-communal open-plan architecture, so wandering the city felt to her like wandering a single immense home. Soon enough, she was completely alone, the bears having all retreated to the privacy of their winter dens. She made herself at home, helping herself to the leftovers in the bears’ kitchens, snoozing warily in their summer beds, and whiling away hours in their virtual reality entertainment chairs–at least, whenever she could find one with a neural helmet neither too large nor too small.

One day, she met an insomniac. His was the only brightly-lit living area. Where she’d heard white noise forest-sound lullabies coming from the dens of other bears, he had a frantic electro-fiddle hoedown screeching from his speakers. He was sitting at a bark-covered kitchen table with a mug of coffee as big as her head.

“I get nightmares,” he grumbled.

She hadn’t asked.

“Humans in my house while I sleep. Touching my stuff.”

She folded her hands in her lap.

“Never seen a human.” He shuddered. “I hear they’re mostly hairless.”

She’d noticed the VR entertainments were redacted so that all other sentient species appeared as bears.

She tugged her fur-lined hood forward. “I can’t sleep either. Just moved from the other hemisphere. Biological clock still off.” The quick-spun tale surprised her. “I could keep a lookout for you. Let you rest.”

There was gratitude in the bear’s bloodshot eyes. “I couldn’t pay you, except in trade.” He motioned toward stacks of crates. “I’m in import. High-end porridge bowls.”

She shrugged, “Sure.” It was safer than serial housebreaking.

“Didn’t catch your name,” said the bear.

She saw an open crate, a bit of packing material spilled out. Straw.

“Call me Goldy,” she said. The fabricator was a restless weight in her pocket. “I’m in export.”

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