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Edition 26: Clockwork Hearts by J.B. Rockwell

Casey has lost the only person who seemed to care since the death of his mother. The unusual man at the duck pond, feeding Mrs. Kuschikin’s ducks, piques Casey’s interest and he has to find out the truth of his appearance. No matter what it costs him.

J.B. Rockwell leads us down the precarious and lively garden path of childhood; the dramatic need to have all the answers. This story looks at the need of another to make a better world for one’s self, and another. SY

They held Mrs. Kuschikin’s funeral in the pickle factory her family had owned and operated for over a hundred years, and a memorial in Wickering Park after. Not your typical send-off, but that’s what Mrs. Kuschikin wanted. She never had been one for fanfare and folderol, after all. Especially when said fanfare and folderol involved herself.

The funeral itself was mercifully short, and it was a fine June day for the memorial—the kind of day that made ten-year-old boys like Casey grateful to be outside—but the official in charge of Mrs. Kuschikin’s memorial just kept droning on and on and on.

Casey wished he’d hurry up already. He hated having all these stranger around him, whispering, staring, throwing pitying glances his way. ‘Look at the poor little broken boy in the wheelchair,’ their eyes said.

But he wasn’t broken. Casey’s legs just didn’t work like theirs.

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Edition 19: Rainbows and Death Machines by JB Rockwell

Isolis might only be a small part in the plan of Star Revolution, but when the Core Alliance unexpectedly rolls into town with their weapons of war, it becomes more than an abstract concept for the locals. All Trebnor and his unit have to do is hold off the Alliance until their own weapon is ready. If they survive that long… SY

Isolis was a smallish planet—quiet, unassuming, of no particular strategic importance—so it was quite a surprise when the Dark Star Revolution showed up and started recruiting. Trebnor wasn’t particularly interested in their rebellion—no one on Isolis was—but the pay was good, and the uniforms snazzy, so he lined up with the others and signed on the dotted line.

That was two years ago, and it was only now, as he peered through his binoculars at the hulking, diesel-spewing monstrosity just appearing on the horizon that Trebnor realized what he’d gotten himself into.

“What is it, Treb?” Jenkins asked at his elbow.

Jenkins was nineteen and a hot-head—a young wolf among the middle-aged, down-on-their luck troop of shabby soldiers Trebnor had assembled. Most days he was all mouth off, macho posturing, but right now he just looked worried. They all did.

“Not sure,” Trebnor replied, fiddling with the binocular’s not-quite-autofocus.

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Edition 8: Fairest Fowl by J. B. Rockwell

flag USWhen you offend the gods and snub tradition, things can go badly wrong, and they can occur in the most unlikely places and circumstances. Rockwell’s story was a worthy finalist in the 2012 Story Quest Short Story Contest and it was worth the wait to include her story in this special edition. GH

All the world was burning, and as she stared at the devastation below, Keiko knew that her beloved chicken was to blame.

She’d found him on the lower slopes of the mountains, huddled miserably in a stand of bamboo, his feathers dull and dirty, missing in places as if he’d molted out of season, and torn away in others where he had fought with some other creature and survived at least, if not won. She’d taken pity on the poor, half-starved bird, and tucked it under one arm as she turned and followed a narrow path back to the village that was her home.

The hills were steep hereabouts, and were densely covered with cedar and pine and cypress, and the ubiquitous stands of bamboo. She could just see the roofs that marked that sprawling collection of homes and barns and shops as she descended toward the flatter lands where the village and the surrounding fields lay. She supposed it wasn’t really a village anymore. What had started as a small farming community had grown over the past few decades to become a bustling market town. But Shimizu was still a farmer’s town at heart, and she a farmer’s daughter.

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