Plugs

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

David Kopaska-Merkel’s book of humorous noir fiction based on nursery rhymes, Nursery Rhyme Noir 978-09821068-3-9, is sold at the Genre Mall. Other new books include The zSimian Transcript (Cyberwizard Productions) and Brushfires (Sams Dot Publishing).

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Once You Go Cold

by Daniel Braum

Allison and I lay on the hood of my pickup watching the beetles march across the Anza-Borrego. In the distance a line of giant insects emerged out of nowhere, marched across the desert valley, and disappeared again into nowhere. No one had been able to figure out where they came from or where they disappeared to.  We were safe from our vantage on the mountainside road. The beetles did nothing but march, mostly. But the military was there just in case.

The MM-1 unit nearest us was as tall as one of the giant black bugs, as tall as a mountain. Another of the giant “robots” stood in the valley. They were shaped like men, but their operators were far, far away. Only their consciousness was present inside the machine to guide and control it.

One of the beetles, (one that kind of looked like a giant stag or rhinoceros), stopped, broke formation, and veered towards the mountain. The MM-1’s came to life, their dull brown-gray skin lighting up with the glowing color of electronics and weapons.

“If they weren’t so weird, they’d be kinda cool,” Allison said.

“The beetles or the robots,” I said.

“Both.”

“Is it any wonder I love you.”

She was going away tomorrow. To begin her five-year military service. She would one day be one of the minds inside one of the MM-1’s. Her body would be “on-ice”, in suspended animation, and her mind would see all sorts of wonders that would dwarf this desert night. I squeezed her hand.

“It isn’t forever, Scott,” she said. “I’ll be back.”

“It’s five years. And once you go cold you never come back.”

“That’s not true.”

We both knew that it was.

The stag beetle had left the line again and was marching solo across the desert, toward the road. The MM-1’s lifted from the ground to intercept as if they were made of feathers and not hundreds of tons of armor and weapons.

“See, they’re not supposed to do that. Anything is possible,” she said.

I didn’t agree. We stayed there until dawn, not wanting the night to end. After that I drove her home and watched her family’s car take her to report to duty. All my life I followed stories of all the places our country went and the wonders we discovered.

But I never saw her again.

-END-

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