A Handbook of Universal Truths

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I glanced at the clean white bandage wrapped around her left hand and a good ways down her wrist.

“It’s going to be all right,” I said.  “I’m here to help.”

The steely-eyed woman sitting across from me in the booth gave a single nod.  She wasted no time on small talk and launched straight into her first question.

“The Axiom Enchiridion, ever heard of it?” Continue reading

The Thief, the Fairy, and the Raven

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The thief fell from the tower’s upper window.  She had lost her precarious grip on the pitted brick.  She remembered that she should roll herself up into a loose ball to protect her head and neck.  But by the time she remembered, she had already struck the first branch of the tree in the orchard below.  Then she struck another and another.  Scratched and thrashed and bounced about, she finally reached the ground, thankful that the soil was soft.  She lay there for far too long a moment.  The breath had been knocked out of her.  And she feared moving for fear she might discover that she could not. Continue reading

The Hollow Temple

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When the young woman appeared, garbed in robes of green and a wide belt of scarlet, the two treasure-seekers understood at once that she was the temple guardian.  And they did not hesitate to approach her.

“Greetings, travelers,” the temple guardian said.  “Give me your names.”

The two treasure-seekers gave her their names freely.

She did not return their offer of names, nor did she return their smiles.

“Turn back, travelers,” the temple guardian said, her voice calm and measured.  “Go no further than the spot where I now stand.” Continue reading

The Magic Triptych

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When I was born, a clever mage, who was also my mother, made for me a triptych: three panels, attached in a row by hinges, depicting paintings of our home.  The middle panel depicted our capital city, where we lived.  The left panel depicted my mother, her hands raised as if in the casting of a spell.  The right panel depicted the Arx, the great tower of knowledge where mages learned their trade.  The flanking panels were each half the width of the middle one, so they could be folded inward, and the image could be hidden.  And strangely, my mother had built a lock into the triptych.  Once folded, the triptych could be secured.  I did not know why it would need to be locked.  There were no secret or blasphemous things depicted in the paintings, as far as I knew. Continue reading

The Shifting Night Anomaly

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The Shifting Night Anomaly was so called at first because its margins seemed to change every so often, making it difficult, if not impossible, to map.  We had sent probe after probe inside for three generations.  Out of the near thousand probes that were deployed, only forty-seven were recovered.  The more we learned about the anomaly, the more we realized how fitting the name was.  There were no systems and no stars within, only remnants of dead worlds.  Only strange and exotic gases.  Only nebulas haunted by the ghosts of stars that flickered and faded before they could burst into life.   Continue reading

The Antechamber

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Waiting.  We’ve been waiting for thirty minutes.  A nuisance, maybe, if I were out in the world on an errand or anticipating someone’s arrival.  But here, in the antechamber, poised on the threshold of the most important thing I will ever do with my life, or the grandest failure of my life, those thirty minutes have stretched into the last thirty years of my life.  It must be worse for the person on the other side of the antechamber door, the patient waiting for us to save his life. Continue reading

Into Stasis

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“So you…want to go into stasis, sir?”

“For seven to eight hours a night, yes,” I said, nodding to the only person I trusted to help me carry out my latest endeavor.

“But the technology doesn’t work that way,” Leeke said.  “No one has yet managed to develop a program this sophisticated that wouldn’t require continuous stasis for at least several months, probably more.  At least, not with the information that the agency has released so far.  Sir, at best, I fear it would be a waste of your time.”  Continue reading