Market Day

Serena bit into the cinder orange and absently wiped the juice away as it ran down her chin. Chewing, she held the fruit up and examined it closely. While named “orange” it in no way resembled the oranges based on the Old Earth fruit that she was used to. For one thing, you could eat the skin and then it wasn’t even colored orange. In fact, it more resembled a pear that tasted like a cross between a pear and a mango. Different, but very good, she decided.

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Mansions and Magic

Art can be inspiring, thought-provoking, uplifting, protesting, and sometimes… downright strange. I stared at the painting hanging in the entryway of the mansion. I’d come here to do an inventory of the home’s contents for the daughter of the late owner. The estate had belonged to her mother, with whom she had a contentious relationship, and the daughter wanted to sell as much as she could, clear out the house, and then sell the house. My company, that would be me, had been hired to coordinate the estate sale.

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Shifting Paradigms

Jake glanced around the room. The panel was scheduled to start in just a couple of minutes. Those researchers presenting papers sat at a table in the front of the room, with the moderator off to one side. The rows of seats were slowly, but steadily filling up. This was guaranteed to be a popular panel – perhaps the most popular at the conference.

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Twilight Discovery

Sneaking wasn’t my favorite activity. Too much to go wrong. Especially at this time of day. Most people think that sneaking around after dark is very dangerous. All sorts of nasty creatures, both human and non-human, were out and about. But what most people didn’t know was that after dark wasn’t the dangerous time. No, twilight was always the problem.

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Sunsets and Old Gods

Jake leaned back against one of the column bases that made up the perimeter of the temple grounds. Serena sat in front of him, between his legs and settled against his chest. She sighed. It had been a long day and she was exhausted. She was very grateful that Loren, the toymaker and their friend, had offered to keep Melia overnight. “You have earned a night off,” he’d said, smiling. “Besides, I have new toys that need to be tested before I put them up for sale in the market.”

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IT Magic

The sounds of some sort of techno-beat combined with heavy metal music drifted up to Jackson’s office. He shook his head and tried to return his concentration to the tangled contract he was working his way through. Scrolling down the page, he briefly entertained the thought that this was a lot like reading an ancient scroll by simultaneously rolling up the top while unrolling the bottom.

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River Oddities

Serena leaned against Jake, staring at the improbable bend in the river. It was really more of a hairpin turn, letting the river turn back on itself. This planet, Taland, never failed to evoke a sense of wonder and bemusement in her. This time, it was this river. They had followed it upstream for a couple of miles using the local version of a ranching vehicle – four-wheel drive with independent suspension designed to travel over rough, untamed terrain. Appropriately enough it was called a ranch-runner. The Talus used them to get to and from more remote locations and she’d seen them occasionally in smaller towns. Their new friend, Loren, the toymaker in the market, had loaned them one of his ranch-runners. Serena didn’t question why he owned one but lived in the city. Loren had even offered to babysit Melia while Serena and Jake explored up the river from their current dig at an ancient city. Melia was more than happy to spend a day acting as the toy tester for Loren.

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Venus Temple

Jake squinted at the inscription on the crown of the pillar. It wasn’t any language he recognized, not even the very local language in this region of Taland. They were working in an area north-northwest of Alosal, one of the bigger cities on the planet. The discovery of the site of a previously unknown ancient city had led the Taland governing families to hire Jake and his xenoarchaeology company to excavate.

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