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A banner year for speculative fiction has yielded a crop of superb short form SF. Now the very best to appear over the past twelve months has been amassed into one extraordinary volume by acclaimed editors and anthologists David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, offering bold visions of days to come that are bright, triumphant, breathtaking, and strikingly unique. Once more, celebrated masters of the field join with exciting new voices to sing of explorations and invasions, grand technological accomplishments, ...
A banner year for speculative fiction has yielded a crop of superb short form SF. Now the very best to appear over the past twelve months has been amassed into one extraordinary volume by acclaimed editors and anthologists David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, offering bold visions of days to come that are bright, triumphant, breathtaking, and strikingly unique. Once more, celebrated masters of the field join with exciting new voices to sing of explorations and invasions, grand technological accomplishments, amazing flights into the unknown, horrors and miracles, and the human condition.
Welcome to amazing worlds that could be — and, perhaps, sooner than you have ever dared to imagine.
New tales from:
To the Supreme Commander of the soldier who
bears this message --
Sir or Madam:
Today before it was light I had to roll in the stream to wash blood from my fur. I decided then to send You these words.
So I think of the word shapes, and the girl writes them for me. I know how the words are shaped because I could see them whenever Captain Dial spoke. And I always knew what he was saying.
The girl writes on a roll of paper she found in the stone hut when we began using it as our quarters three months ago. She already had pencils. She has written her own words on the paper many times since then, but she has torn those words from the roll and placed them in her duffel. Her own words have different shapes than the ones she writes for me now. She doesn't even know what my word shapes mean, because the shapes are all that I show her. So the responsibility for their meanings is mine alone.
Just as the responsibility for my actions is mine alone.
Last night I killed eighteen of Your soldiers.
I didn't want to do that. They reminded me of some of the soldiers I knew before, the ones who followed Captain Dial with me. But I had to kill them because they came to attack us. And if I let them do that, I would be disobeying orders.
I heard them approach while the girl, the two boys, and the old man slept. So I went out and climbed the ridge behind the hut so I could see a long way. I have good night vision, and I had no trouble spotting the soldiers as they split into two squads and spread out. Their intent was to attack our hut from different angles to make its defense more difficult. I knew this because it was one of the things Captain Dial taught me.
So I did another thing Captain Dial taught me. As the two squads scuttled to their positions to await the order to attack, I crept down toward them through the grass and brambles. I crept with my belly to the earth so they couldn't see me coming. Not even with their infrared goggles.
Captain Dial once said I was black as night and silent as air. He was proud when he said it. I remembered that when I crept to Your soldiers.
They didn't hear me as I went from one to another. They were spread out too far. Their leader wasn't as smart as Captain Dial. I bit each one's throat so it tore open and the soldier couldn't shout. There were some sounds, but they weren't loud.
The first soldier had a lieutenant's bar on his helmet. I had seen it from a long way away. It was the only officer's insignia I saw in either squad. So I went to him first. That way he couldn't give the order to attack before I was finished. But the others would have attacked sooner or later, even without an order from their lieutenant. So I had to kill them all.
The last soldier was the only female among the eighteen. As I approached her, I smelled the same kind of soap that Captain Dial's wife Melanie used. That made me pause as I remembered how things were a long time ago when I slept at the foot of their bed. But then the soldier knew I was there and turned her weapon toward me. So I bit her throat before she could fire.
I dragged the soldiers to the ravine near the southern end of the ridge. You'll find them there side by side ifYou arrive before the wild animals do. I did my best to treat them with honor.
Then I went to the stream. The stream is near the hut, so I tried to be quiet. I didn't want to wake my people before sunrise.
After washing, I went into the grass and shook off as much water as I could. But there was no one to rub me with a towel. There was no one to touch my head and tell me I was good.
I remembered then that no one had ever told Captain Dial he was good, either.
This is what it means to be the leader.
I wanted to howl. But I didn't. My people were still asleep.
I take care of them. I don't let anyone hurt them. These were Captain Dial's orders, and I will not disobey.
Captain Dial was my commanding officer. I was his first sergeant. If You examine the D Company roster, You will see that my pay grade is K-9.
My name is Chip.Year's Best SF 10. Copyright © by David G. Hartwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.