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Published by A.G. Claymore

Edited by B. MacFadyen

Copyright 2021 A.G. Claymore

This is a work of fiction. Names, Characters,Places, Incidents and Brands are either products of the author’s imagination orare used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademark status andtrademark owners of any products referenced in this work of fiction which havebeen used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is notauthorized, associated with or sponsored by the trademark owners.

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Carpe Vinum

The Long Night

Outpost 56038

Kusha removed her robe and folded it carefully.She smiled sadly, setting it on the shelf behind her stasis pod. Itwould be dust if she ever saw it again – neatly folded dust.An old habit that would end in decay – a perfect metaphor for her people.

It felt so surreal. A moment like this… itseemed to call for some kind of ceremony, a send-off…

But therewas nobody else left.

She sat on the edge of the pod and tied back herhair. She did it slowly, far moreslowly than she’d ever done her hair before. A tear emergedfrom her left eye and traced a path down her cheek.

She left it there, turning to look at the otherfour pods in the room. They were silent, efficiently feeding energyto their field generators. Inside, four of her people already laywaiting.

She was the last...

Angry Breakfast

Red Earth Cafe

Gleb fumbled with the door handle. He managed toget it open and tried to scramble out the passenger side but he wastrapped. Luna, still behind the steering wheel, sighed at hispredicament.

“You rammed your own ship into the enemy at Kishbut you can’t handle a short drive down the 805 without losing yourshit?” She reached over and pressed the release on his seat belt.

She got out, closed her door and walked around theback of her car to shut the door he’d left open in his rush to thesidewalk. “If my brothers could see you right now,” she needledhim.

“You people are insane!” heinsisted. “Going that fast in a little wheeled coffin with noinertial dampeners or shielding! Nothing but a piece of cloth to holdyou in place when someidiot swerves in front of you…”

“You damn near got us arrested,” she cut himoff. “I thought that cop would pull us over for sure when he sawyou waving your damn ray-gun!”

“It’s not a ray-gun,” he grumbled, crossinghis arms and looking down the street. “It fires projectiles.”

“You might own the planet now but you stilldon’t know a damned thing about it.” She stalked up tohim, edging him back against the front window of the diner.

She tugged at the front of her uniform. “Becausethat cop saw a Navalofficer behind the wheel, we got lucky and you ended up looking likea fool with a cosplay prop. If I werein civvies, he’d have seen a Latina and a gun.”

He opened his mouth but his fianceé’sscowl warned him just in time and he pressed his lips tightlytogether.

Like many Humans in the empire, he was a readerbut he stayed out of his friends’ minds. It wasn’t like he neededto look inside Luna’s head to know what was on her mind anyway.

She shook her head angrily and headed inside thediner.

After a moment’s hesitation, he followed.

She was already at a booth, the waitress pouringher a cup of coffee. He noticed a second mug sitting across from her,steaming its proof that Luna wasn’t completelypissed at him.

He sat, holding in his sigh of relief. “Look, Iget it,” he admitted. “It was a dumb thing to do.”

The waitress’ eyebrow quirked up at this but shekept it professional. “You folks here for the special or d’yawant menus?”

“I’m not sureyou really get it.” Luna leaned forward. “What if the Chironansdecide to send a force to wipe Earth out completely. That’s a lotharder to stop than a subjugation force. You might have to take overthe broadcast frequencies towarn folks. You keep screwing shit up and the networks’ll beshowing a file-photo of you holding an arrest placard.”

“Um…” The waitress furrowed her brow butplowed gamely on. “The special is the double-egger with toast andbacon…”

“I’ll havethat, thanks,” Gleb told her, glad for any distraction.

“I’ve got everything squared away with theNavy,” she growled. “Two more weeks and then I’m riding myannual leave to an honorable discharge. Don’t screw that up bygetting me arrested. I’ll have the same, please.”

The waitress nodded,forcing a smile, and walked away.

A Last Look

Sonoma County, California

Frank sighed.

He’d poured his heart and soul into this farm.In the end, nothing had seemed to work. He was growing a goodproduct, had managed to extend his growing season by thirty percentthrough some clever climate controls…

He chuckled. Can’t claim all the creditthere. Terry, his laborer, had played a surprisingly big role intricking the plants into believing summer would never end. For achucklehead, the kid’s not half stupid.

Still, the deck was always going to be stackedagainst him if he stayed here.

“Long past timeto change the game.” Helooked up, knowing he’d never spot the blacked-out warships thatpatrolled the orbitals but he was reasonably sure the large,stationary light was the transport sent by Bau.

“Never figuredyou for a stargazer, Boss.”

Frank grunted tohide his startled hiss of breath. “Gotit all rigged up?”

Heturned a raised eyebrow to Terry. This happened a lot. Terry wouldrespond with a nod when Frank wasn’t looking.

“Sorry, Boss.Yep. All the rain will run down to the cisterns. Should give theplants a better chance, at least.”

“You’re sureyou don’t want the place?” Frank asked with a note of finality.It wasfinal, after all.

“Hell no!” Terry rubbed at the back of hisneck. “Sorry, Boss,but how the hell am I supposed to make a go of it if youcouldn’t?”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Frank told him.“You’re a hell of a lot smarter than you give yourself creditfor.”

Terryhawked and spat on the ground. “I’m smart enough when it comes tosetting up stuff like this.” He waved at the greenhouses. “Prettymuch everything else is a foggy mess, though.”

“Well, you’reprobably right… about this being a lost cause, I mean.” Notfar off with the second part either, the poor kid. Frankwasn’t sure his laborer would manage on his own

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