Asimov's Science Fiction 020111 by Dell Magazines

Asimov's Science Fiction 020111 by Dell Magazines

Author:Dell Magazines
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
Publisher: Dell Magazines
Published: 2011-02-01T08:00:00+00:00

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Jeff Carlson

After his last story for us (“A Lovely Little Christmas Fire,” December 2009), Jeff Carlson returns to Asimov’s with a futuristic adventure. Best known for his internationally acclaimed Plague Year novels, Jeff’s short fiction has also appeared in venues such as Writers of the Future XXIII, Fast Forward 2, and the recent Welcome to the Greenhouse anthology from O/R Books. His next novel is Interrupt, a stand-alone thriller out later this year. Readers can find free excerpts, videos, contests, and more on Jeff’s website at www.jverse.com.

Professor Michaud had set up camp on the northern slope, which was typically upwind of the site. They wore respirators down inside the excavation—sometimes armor, too—and it was a relief not to wear any gear in their off hours. There was some risk of contaminants if the wind shifted or if an eruption surprised their ferrets, but everyone on the team had been given Level IV gene-mods. They could handle small doses of the gases, dusts, and bacteria that regularly belched up from the pits.

Today the sea wind was thick with the hot, chalk smell of the shore. A woman in orange strode away from the brown prefab camp structures. The land was also brown and the sky, too, was a muddy haze.

Her name was Joanna Andrea Löw. She stretched out both arms as she walked, orange sleeves ruffling, as if to snare or fight the hard gusts. The blasting wind felt similar to the conflict alive inside her.

This was a short trail but it was one Joanna took often because there wasn’t anywhere else to go. The eroding shore cliffs were strictly forbidden, the excavation site dangerous for its own reasons, and Joanna was young enough to need to stretch her legs even after a day’s work. Since earning her job, she’d taken to spending much of her free time among the field of non-hazardous artifacts Professor Michaud allowed them to remove as the search continued for the real treasure. They knew the purpose of only a few of these items and made a game of guessing the names of the rest—the 10,000 Pound Paperweight, the Hyperdrive, and, among Joanna’s favorites, the Make-Me-Blind.

The Make-Me-Blind was probably just a kitchen utensil or mechanic’s device, a saw-edged set of tongs that opened to the exact spacing of a person’s eyes, but the civilization that had made these tools and trinkets was both alien and unmistakably aggressive. Joanna and her line-mates tried to keep things fun during the meticulous, often tedious dig by inventing ghost stories full of conquest, torture, and weird sex.

She liked the Make-Me-Blind because she could chase her sisters around with it. Most of the other artifacts collected here were impressive hulks they’d lifted in via robot, a Stonehenge of metals and plastics.

Joanna preferred small and intimate things, not unusual for a crèche-raised clone.

The wind sang queerly through the crushed alloy pipework of the Hyperdrive, which they assumed had been an industrial pumping mechanism although it did, with some imagination, resemble an old-fashioned reaction engine.


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