I put my street clothes into my locker, make sure my badge is visible, and clip a few more spare magazines onto my pistol belt. I’ve heard coyotes are running bootleg copies of Lyonesse over the border, and rumor is, they don’t plan to give up their cargo without a fight.
As I prop one foot on a locker-room bench to tighten my bootlaces, my robot partner-for-the-day steps out of his own locker. I squint at him. “Have I worked with you before?” They all look the same to me.
“Twice before, most recently on Saturday.”
The robot is here partly to help me take down the bad guys, and partly to watch me. It turns out that, on some branches of my family tree, there has been a slight tendency to go on killing sprees when under pressure.
The stupid bot paces back and forth. I don’t know if it’s being annoying on purpose, or if it’s trying to look at me from different angles. It stops mid-stride and swivels to face me, trying to catch me off-guard. “You aren’t very talkative today.”
“Didn’t sleep well. Too much caffeine on last night’s shift.”
It resumes pacing for a few steps, before pulling another one of its sudden stop-and-spins. “You are sweating.”
“I just took a hot shower.” I casually rest my palm on the butt of my pistol as I look up at the ceiling. Without warning, I slap the robot in the face with my other hand. It makes no move to dodge or block my strike. If it had, I’d have done my best to shoot it full of holes.
I’m here partly to help the robot take down the bad guys, and partly to watch it. It turns out that certain software updates can give this model a slight tendency to go on killing sprees.
I have a few more tests for the bot, but they work better in less-controlled environments, so I’ll save them for later. I’m sure it’s planning a few tests of its own.
Redrafted by Nivi Engineer. A boy leaves a controlled school environment for the real world. Most of the setting is left unexplained until the end of the story, and the explanation raises additional questions.
The Slow War by David Hallquist. A war which is huge in scale, in both time and space. Hard SF. I enjoyed how the combatants tried to negotiate peace, but weren’t able to work things out.
Unknown Woman #42 by Jay Casleberg. A woman dies and becomes a ghost.
The Return of Cosmo Draper by Mike Murphy. An unusual ghost story.
What Can Your Demon Do for You? by Emilie Morscheck. Demon summoning mixed with a zeppelin race.
The Last Hexereiter by Cheah Kai Wai. Some soldiers and a monster-hunter defend a German village.
Salvation, Inc. by Carlos Carrasco. Manhattan has been quarantined due to a biological attack, and the government offers digital personality recordings (which destroy the biological brain) as a form of immortality. A Catholic priest tries to stop people from doing taking the offer.
St. Sasha’s Locket by Dawn Witzke. A sequel to the author’s story in Volume 1.
95 South by Immanuel Valez. A man gets a disk from a UFO that lets him talk to his dead grandfather.
The Armor of Ned’Var by Keith Gouveia. A man using soul-stealing magic returns to his home town for revenge.
At the Noise of Battle by James Comer. Some soldiers/mercenaries run into something suspicious in a village. I feel that this story is connected to something else I’ve read, as a number of the character names were familiar.
Splintered by Morgon Newquist. I enjoyed the grittiness of this wartime story, but felt that it was just a fragment rather than a full story. I also felt that this was the continuation of something else I’ve read. Or am I developing a weird sense of deja-vu?
In my previous review of Lyonesse, I found about half the stories to be entertaining and memorable, and the other half annoying or uninteresting. Volume 2 converged toward the middle, with fewer stories being memorable for either good or bad reasons. This raises an interesting question: is it preferable to read a mix of one-star and five-star stories, or a collection of solid three-stars?