Interzone - N262

The Water-Walls of Enceladus by Mercurio D. Rivera
illustrated by Jim Burns

The bots laced my snowboots while Sancho stared at the door, wagging his tail in anticipation. The cysts made it difficult for me to breathe, to swallow without pain. My toes cramped up. I stomped my foot, scattering the six-legged bots.

“Is everything all right, Lily?” A voice boomed out of the walls. “We’re worried about you.”

Trax. My official shadow.

“I’m…I’m fine,” I lied.

I felt numb, as if I was locked inside a glass coffin, able to see the world of the living but unable to affect it in any way. I’d never learned where the cameras were located but Trax – or one of his brethren – observed me thirty-three hours a day. I had given up any pretense of privacy three years ago, part of the deal I’d made to be stationed here on Enceladus with the Wergens. EarthCouncil couldn’t have cared less – it had given them one less freak to deal with and a bone they could throw to our alien partners and benefactors.

The bots helped button my parka and activated my blue-tinted body field. Sancho barked. His leather collar glowed, enveloping him in aquamarine blue.

Empty Planets by Rahul Kanakia
illustrated by Richard Wagner

Item image: Empty Planets

Most of the other kids around the pond tried to talk me out of signing up for Non-Mandatory Study. They didn’t even give me credit for being rebellious, because, for a trust-kid, real rebellion meant either going deep into neural reprogramming or buying a starship and heading for the Magellanic Clouds, which in those days were way past the boundaries of the Machine-mind, to find some adventure.

Geologic by Ian Sales
illustrated by Jim Burns

Keller sits on the decking in the habitat’s entrance chamber, a steel cylinder two metres in diameter and two point five metres tall. In the centre of the decking is a circular opening one metre across, through which Keller’s legs dangle. Despite his heated suit, he can feel a chill on his feet and calves. His umbilical lies coiled beside him: it is two hundred metres long and gives him complete freedom of movement within that distance from the habitat.

He looks down, past his boots, to the ground below. His vision is constrained by his diving helmet. He is not underwater but he cannot breathe the air here. The atmosphere is a toxic mixture of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen, with only trace amounts of oxygen…and a surface pressure of three thousand kiloPascals. The heliox fed to his diving helmet by the umbilical is also at thirty atmospheres, as is the heliox throughout the entire habitat.

Circa Diem by Carole Johnstone
illustrated by Richard Wagner

They said it was the moon. Might as well have been. By then, the how probably wasn’t important to most folk anyway. Not after it had already happened: the asteroid, the tidal-locking, the lengthening days, the lengthening nights. By the time the Earth started slowing down, the only thing people cared about was how to fix it, and not one of them knew the answer to that. They still don’t.

A Strange Loop by T.R. Napper

A huge clown, jaws as wide as Irving was tall, about to swallow him whole… A woman, black hair with the fringe cut too short, green eye-shadow, skin so smooth it looked real-life airbrushed… The woman – what was her name again? – yelling at him, perfect skin creased with contempt…a red fireworks blast, neon, frozen into the sky…fairy floss and sweat and machine grease in his nostrils and a girl, freckled, staring up at him with tears in her eyes…and those sounds, tinny music on a maddening, endless cycle, and the clown, swallowing him, while the woman yelled and the girl watched with sadness.

Irving Kupfermann blinked into consciousness. White room with a white duo, man and woman, standing over him. The woman, young, lips glistening in the bright lights, pressed a paper cup into his hand. “Drink this,” she said.

Dependent Assemblies by Philip A. Suggars
illustrated by Richard Wagner

“Purity of blood, purity of spirit. One nation united by the river, one nation united under the sun” — Elias Rojas presidential campaign slogan, Buenos Aires 1894

Alfonso and Marcelo were cold and tired as they shovelled the dirt onto Celia’s small body in the shallow grave. Alfonso dared himself to look down, catching a glimpse of her porcelain fingers and the yellowing heads of the freesias that they had buried with her in the garden. He wanted to cry, but all he felt was an aching numbness in his fingertips.

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