“You better think of something.”
“It’s always you! You’re the one coming up with solutions! You’re the one who gets us out of trouble!”
“That’s not true.”
“It is! And I’m the one who *gets* us into trouble! There! Happy? Now I’ve said it!”
“Come on, don’t be like that. I also make mistakes, and you have pulled us out of some dire straits yourself, too.”
“Tell me one.”
“One. One time when I did that. When I saved us. Or only you.”
“Well, there’s… There’s… And…”
“You see? I’m useless! A dead weight!”
“Oh, please, that’s not true. You’re half of the team! You, me, together!” …
Jean-Michel sipped some water and typed.
“You know, when I’m in the tube I often see this woman…”
A new line appeared on his screen.
“Ah, you’re going to talk to me about another woman now? Do I have to be jealous?” Gabrielle typed next.
“Ha ha ha, no…!”
“You see, it depends on the time… But sometimes she’s there. She’s elegant and quite attractive, and I fantasize it’s you.”
“I’m not sure I like this, lol.”
“Hey! I mean I think, imagine that woman is her. Gabrielle. What if?”
“What if what?”
“What if it was you, silly. What if it turned out we saw each other every day and didn’t know.” …
“What a night…”
Viva let the water run for a moment, then got in the shower and allowed herself a sigh of relief. What a night, indeed. She couldn’t keep like that much longer, that was for sure. She picked her favourite gel soap and her sponge and cleaned herself. She didn’t hurry, not this morning.
She looked at herself in the mirror. Wrapped in a towel, her face still looked tired. Her golden eyes smirked at her.
She brushed her hair and went to dress up. She chose a pair of jeans and a blue blouse with white swallow silhouettes. …
The airtram station was busy, but not packed. Paul didn’t like it at all: his sunglasses and different hat had looked like a good idea, yet when he stared at the mirror of the bathroom, all he could see was… himself in sunglasses and a different hat. Not the best for someone the police were after. Should he try a false beard? Probably too late for that, yet he caresses his chin and decided not to shave.
“If you want to get rid of this, be in the Restaurant at Crown Station at 16:00 sharp.” …
She had been running throughout the night, but the sun already glinted off the snow. She was barefooted, and her coat was too light for the weather, but she almost didn’t notice the bite of the cold, as befitted her people. But she knew she couldn’t run forever.
Part of her didn’t understand. Why were men always like this? Out of fear, her elders say. Fear? Fear to the unknown, us. But if they make no effort to know us, how can they stop having fear?
It hadn’t mattered last night, when they had discovered her. She had succeeded in her mission: she carried the sword, concealed as if it was some kind of human tool whose name she could not remember. She had been careful, but she had made just one mistake, and someone had seen her second pair of arms. The man had sounded the alarm. She had fled at once, taking advantage of surprise, but soon she could hear horses and hounds in pursuit. …
Like every day, the fisherman loosened the single rope that kept his boat tied to his home, and drifted off. It was the same path and it wasn’t, since the waters kept changing in subtle ways. Still, he sailed surely, as had been his custom for years.
He turned at the temple and sailed in. As he the entrance to the flooded main shrine, he once again took in the beauty of his surroundings: tall columns rose from the waters, trying to reach and support a long gone ceiling. The ruins of ancillary buildings broke the surface here and there.
High above, sunbeams filtered through the jungle canopy and the temple remains, and illuminated the water surface, painting it with pastel colours. Seagulls soared up there, chatting with each other. …
Once again. The last time, Anthea had fallen asleep on her grimoire. One of her grimoires, because she had several, as should be. But this time it had to work. She had studied, she had made all the incantations, she had used the right ingredients for the right potions. And still she had failed every time.
Anthea checked everything again.
What was different this time, she didn’t know. But she noticed something for the first time.
“Oh no. What did you do, Mum?”
That rune. What if… what if she had written it, not wrong, oh no, Mum never, but just like that so Anthea could get confused? Well, in that case it had to be the next rune in the table, and it changed everything. …
“Is everything ready, Colonel?”
“Yes, the transfer shuttle to the surface is ready. And don’t call me Colonel, I retired.”
“Aw, Dad, we all know you like it.”
“Yes we do.”
Down below, Mars shines red as usual. But the surface already shows patches of blue and green. The oxygen-producing bacteria are doing their job, and the atmosphere is just two years from being ready. The two main cities, One and Two, however, still have domes.
“Can you imagine,” the Colonel says, “when all of this was a project?”
Solidarity spins lazily above the planet, creating a virtual gravity closer to that of Mars than Earth’s, in order to help colonists better adapt to their new habitat. Two people and a dog enter the shuttle, carrying a couple of boxes. …
It wasn’t the best of lives, but Abdul knew there were worse fates. In point of fact, he had risen from the ashes to be a member of the Guild of Paupers. He paid his tithes and got the protection, like any other mendicant in town. Of course, you had to put up with the uncleanliness and general insalubrity, but the job was nothing but easy. Moreover, it was a job that allowed someone like him, from a different race and religion, to practice his trade here.
It was a fine evening, or so it seemed, since Abdul’s corner wasn’t in a particularly sunny spot. That would eventually arrive, Abdul hoped, for he wasn’t a young man any longer. But he couldn’t complain: his corner was on Church Street, which meant that people passed him by on his way to and from the church. That was excellent for business, since the general public loved washing their sins by generosity both before and after mass. …
Tezuka Tendo nodded in appreciation.
“It’s a masterwork. The lights, marking the way up the path framed by the bamboo railing. The softness of her movement, contrasting with the sheathed katana in her hand. It makes you wonder what has happened, why does she have the sword, and what is she going to do with it, does it not?”
Of course it does. Ue Fukumi stared at the picture, and her mind wandered…
A samurai. Ue Aki had always wanted to be one, but alas, she was a girl. Mind you, the Onna-bugeisha were widely known, but her father was too old-fashioned. …