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Artifact: A Joe Ledger Story
by Jonathan Maberry

I hung upside down inside the laser network of a bioweapons lab. Tripping the laser would trigger a hard containment, which would effectively turn the small subterranean lab on the picturesque little island in the south Pacific into my tomb. 

I wish I could say this was the first time I’d been in this kind of situation.

Wish I could say –with real honesty—that it would be my last.

I was, as we say in the super spy business, resource light.

All I had was a bug in me ear, a Snellig Model A19 gas dart pistol in a nylon shoulder rig, and the few prayers I still remembered from Sunday school. Sweat ran in vertical lines from chin to hairline, and one fat drop hung pendulously from the tip of my nose. The watch on my wrist told me that there was nineteen minutes left on the mission clock. I needed fifteen of those to do this job. 


A Night Out
by David Hammond

My master will be home soon. I’ve been stuck in the house all day, bored out of my skull. This morning, for the hundredth time, I read Molly Bloom’s “yes” soliloquy from Ulysses, and afterwards I would have loved to take a contemplative walk, but I’m locked in.

It’s unfair because I didn’t do anything. Tuva, my master, used to let me go out. She gave me a key and told me to keep the door locked, and I was allowed to walk down to the pond and feed the ducks, or go anywhere really, because she trusted me and knew I would always come back. She knows I love her.


The Hole that Swallowed the World
by Kurt Newton

We got used to the collars around our ankles, the bracelets around our wrists. There were snap hooks connecting us to the next person, the next volunteer, to the left and to the right, ahead and behind. Collectively, we were a human quilt spread out in a honeycomb pattern across an ever-growing chasm aptly named the Hell Pit. 

But there was one thing we couldn’t get used to: the dying. 

Ropes fray. Harnesses fail. Each scream of an unlucky volunteer falling to their death was a slice to the heart, a blow to the psyche. And each time, it brought us closer together. The chant would rise. We can stop it! We can stop it! But each time we knew the odds of being the next one to become food for the mouth of the Hell Pit increased. 

It was a war of attrition. A war in which we had blind faith we were going to win. 

But wars have casualties. Wars are won, but not without sacrifice.

Looking back, I can still feel Charlene gripping my hand. I can feel the warm sweat of her palm. When I close my eyes, I can see her.