Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

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

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

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

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Superhero Soup

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Little hands tugged at my apron.  “Mom? Mom? What’s for dinner, Mom?”

I dipped my spoon into the pot and gave it a stir. “Superhero soup.”

My announcement was followed by gasps and delighted squeals, followed by the sound of little feet pounding out of the kitchen.

Mark glanced up from his laptop and grunted.  The kitchen table was his work desk until five.  “Soup?” he said.  I ignored him.  He was a big man, and never believed soup could count as a meal by itself.

Since Layla’s little friend Raph was staying for dinner, I’d decided to go deep in my mom’s old recipe box and dust this one off.  Layla liked superheroes just fine, but Raph lived and breathed them.  This was a boy who’d once worn a Batman costume every day for the first two weeks of kindergarten.

Little feet came pounding back in.  I glanced down to see two bouncing sets of curly hair, one black, one blond.  “Can we watch?” said Layla.  “Pretty please?”

I nodded.  “I was just about to add the secret ingredient,” I said.

“What is the secret ingredient?” said Raph, bouncing up and down.  “Some kinda weird chemicals? Somethin’ radioactive?”

I took the two steps to the refrigerator and opened the freezer door.  “An ice cube,” I said, and popped one out of the tray.  I held it up as if performing a magic trick, then dropped it in the steaming pot.  It floated for a moment or two, then vanished.

The two of them looked confused.  Layla started, “But–“.

I raised my hand.  “Go wash.”  They did.  I tapped on Mark’s computer, then pointed at the clock.  “You too.”


Despite Mark’s concerns, we also had cornbread and salad to go with the soup. “This is very good, Mrs. Kasdorf,” said Raph.  I smiled.

“What else is in here?” asked Layla.

“Chicken.  Carrots, onions, noodles, and some other things.”

“It’s chicken noodle soup?”

“No,” I said.  “It’s Superhero Soup.  Eat.”  They did.

Finally they all pushed their bowls away.  “Can we go play?” asked Layla.  She and Raph were already to go.

“First, come with me.  I want to show you something.”  They followed me out into the warm April air.

“What’s up?” said Mark.

“This,” I said.  They watched, jaws dropping, as my face frosted over like a December window.  Then the snowball fight began.

Quis Custodiet?

Monday, January 17th, 2011

The drones came and circled, glided off. Never fewer than three in view; never more than ten. The border was a showpiece for the strategy of Mutually Assured Detection, and I did my bit to count and verify and uphold the treaty’s red tape.

Rain came with the dusk, and when my touchscreen chimed the official end of daylight, I retreated to my hut. While I waited for my self-heating supper to cool, I watched the light wash over the hut, the glass block walls and ceiling filtering a hazy glow over my bedroll, the binder of daily code settings, and my little supper.

I was just realizing that the walls had been midnight dark for at least ten minutes when a voice broke in. “Panoptico employees! In today’s realtime bidding, we have lost the north-central border region contract. Please proceed immediately to an approved exit trail. Panoptico…”

Before it finished repeating, I’d dropped my spork, grabbed my personal effects pack, and was running down the trail. One of the drones had been assigned to my trail; its spotlight would have been helpful, but apparently we’d already been cut off from the premium GPS, so the creosote bushes and rocks about fifteen feet to my left were daylight bright rather than the ones I ran through and tripped over.

When I got to the collection point, four other watchers were waiting, nursing their own bruises and cuts. I stood in the cold, tried not to think about where I’d be assigned next, and how maybe it was time to move to something more steady like drone maintenance, or leave the company completely, like my friends back home were always telling me. Not much time to fret or think, though, since one of the drones soon hovered over in speakermode: “Panoptico employees! We have completed a merger with SeeAndBeSeen LLC, and acquired all their contracts, including the NCBR. Your previous assignments are reinstated.”

I trudged back up the mountain. Halfway, though, I had a change of heart—I’d done this long enough, given Panoptico enough years of sunburn and lonely boredom. Time for a change.

Five steps down the path, my touchpad chimed. I don’t know how they got the cameras there, but there was no question of what they’d captured, or who.

I turned around and resumed my uphill climb, hoping nothing had gotten at what remained of my supper.

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