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MORTALS ALL

"Steeped in the ambience of classic 1950's Galaxy magazine ... social satire, irreverent anti-establishmentarianism, and pseudo-hardboiled narration ... Golden writes with zest and good pacing ... a certain flippancy of characterization and delivery ..."
Asimov's Science Fiction

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“A sexy, sometimes satirical take on a unique and forbidden relationship ... a wry look at the human condition in the tradition of Heinlein and Asimov ... science fiction with heart, and a book destined to leave a lasting impression.”
Speculative Fiction Reader



Zach was just looking for a novel one-night stand.
Mary was looking for freedom.
They found each other.

In a future world, where the creation of artificial humans has led to a caste of "non-people," the fight for civil rights takes on new meaning. A loner who's an expert on lust but a novice when it comes to love, falls for a naive but beautiful androne. He teaches her what it means to be human, but can't give her what she really wants--her freedom.



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North of Infinity II

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An Anthology of Short Fiction Featuring the Works of Robert J. Sawyer, Bruce Golden, & others



FSF

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A Collection of Tales to Amaze and Tantalize



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Winners of the 2003 International Horror Story Contest




Shaman Press
Shaman Press

Presents

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The new science fiction novel about love, lust,
and what it means to be human.




MORTALS ALL

by Bruce Golden
(author interview)

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excerpt from Chapter One


I was just a writer of over-hyped, testosterone-driven space operas when she walked into my life. I should have known better. I should have paid attention to that tingling I always get along the nape of my neck when trouble's headed my way.

She was drop-dead gorgeous, a real riser. That should have been my first clue to stay clear. But women, especially beautiful ones, were like an itch I had to scratch. It didn't matter that I often ended up opening a vein and watching my heart bleed out onto the pavement. I had to have them.

I didn't let the fact that I wasn't graced with good looks stop me either. Hey, let's face it, I was downright homely. Not actually grotesque, I mean I didn't have a hump or anything. But the real finelines gave me a wide berth, unless they were selling and I could pay for it--which I did. You pay for it with most women one way or the other anyway. So it didn't really bother me--and it meant I got to spend the night with some of the most attractive, sexually gregarious women on the planet. Or at least my little corner of it.

The night she walked into my neighborhood hangsite I had long passed boredom and was working on comatose. So I started feeding my "what have you got to lose" attitude and looked to see where she was going to sit.

It was an establishment of some ill repute--never too crowded, and dimly lit so a guy could be anonymous if he so desired. You could get anything you wanted there--blackmarket booze from Mars, sex/death vids, mood enhancers, body parts, or a body of divine perfection. That's what she had. But she wasn't selling it. She had on this simple, dark green work outfit. Not the kind of thing you put on to advertise your wares. However, as a connoisseur of the feminine form, I saw right through the getup, so-to-speak.

She seemed to be looking for someone, someone in particular. When she failed to recognize anyone, she picked a table located in a strategic corner facing the door.

In less time than it takes to swallow your pride and spit it back out again, I pieced together my patchwork courage and made my way to her table. She was so busy watching the door, she didn't notice me coming. So I quickly wrote myself an opening line.

"Sister, you've got a chassis that would make any Detroit foreman proud."

Well, I didn't say I was a good writer.

Anyway, the look she gave me was as cold as titanium. However, I rebounded, and I think I caught her off guard.

"May I join you?"

"Join me?"

"Thanks, don't mind if I do."

I sat down before she could twitch. She gave me this puzzled look, then turned to check the door once more.

"I haven't seen you in here before have I?"

Oh yeah, I had the charm sputtering away on all cylinders.

"No. You have not."

"I didn't think so. I would have remembered a dish like you."

"A dish?"

"My name's Zachariah, Zachariah Starr. But you can call me Zach."

"If your name is Zachariah Starr, why should I call you Zach?" she asked, turning her attention from the door to me.

"Well, it's easier to remember."

"I have an excellent memory."

She was as stiff as a priest's collar. I was going to have to bring my A-game to bear if I was going to loosen this one up.

"My family name is Sturzinski. Starr is my pen name. I'm a writer." I always tried to ease that into the conversation. Some babes were actually impressed, but not this one.

"Why do you find it necessary to have so many names? Are they symbols of your social stature?"

"No, I don't think any amount of monikers is going to help me there. Let's make it simple. I'd prefer it if you'd just call me Zach. Okay?"

"All right . . . Zach."

Then she turned again to watch the door, as if I wasn't even there. Now I don't mind getting the brush-off, but I refuse to be ignored.

"So, what's your name?"

"My name?"

"Yeah. The polite thing to do when someone introduces himself is to introduce yourself."

"Excuse me. I have not had any training in the social amenities."

I was beginning to think she wasn't all there. You know, like she wasn't totally online. She was a little slow to find the right words, like someone speaking a foreign language. Maybe that was it. Funny though, I didn't hear any kind of accent.

Then she turned her attention from the door and looked right at me. I was drawn into those incredible blue eyes of hers and, for the moment, I didn't care if she had an I.Q. of 80 or 800.

"My name is Mary."

I shook myself loose of her mesmerizing stare and held out my hand. "Nice to meet you, Mary."

She seemed unsure of what to do, but then took my hand. I gave her a gentle squeeze and let go. She withdrew her hand gingerly, as if analyzing a new sensation.

"So, where are you from, Mary. What do you do?" I didn't think she was a pro, she didn't have that smell. In fact she wasn't wearing any fragrance I could detect.

"What do I do?"

"Yeah. Are you a model, an actress?"

"I am a fully-trained domestic facilitator."

"You're a maid?"

"I also play the piano and related keyboard instruments."

"I get it. I had to work a lot of odd jobs until my writing started to pay. I was a pump jockey down at the spaceyards one rather lean summer. Where you working now?"

"I . . . I am not currently employed."

"Been there done that. Don't worry, a looker like you shouldn't have any trouble getting some kind of work. You can always waitress till something else comes along. The tips alone should keep you in sugar."

"Sugar?"

"You know, jolly joints, vids, vibromassage, whatever your personal poison is."

"Poison?"

"You don't get out much do you?"

"No. My previous . . . position did not allow me to go out much."

Now I've run into some strange babes in my time, but this one was beginning to creep me out just a little. There was something about her, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. I was that thinking maybe she had been born off-planet when I saw it.

She had turned to watch the door again, and several strands of her hair shifted out of place. When she ran her fingers through her hair to pull it back, I saw it. Every drone had one. Most had more than one. This particular implant was a tiny one, no bigger around than my thumb and conveniently hidden under her long, dark blonde tresses.

It made sense now. She was an androne, or to use the more socially-correct term, "artificial human." But she sure didn't look like she'd been grown in a breeding facility, even if they did use human genes as templates. They were just about everywhere nowadays, but I never paid them much attention. Supposedly, they were completely human, except of course for the cybernetic implants that enhanced them at the genetic level to give them better eyesight, stronger hearts, more efficient nervous systems, etcetera, etcetera.

Essentially, she was a clone, fitted with bionic implants that could be tapped into as a way of downloading information. Of course, that wasn't what I had been thinking of downloading myself............

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