“Hey, HEY!” Van croaked, as Ashtar’s chokehold threatened to squeeze the life out of him. “Easy! I’ll tell you everything I know.”

Ashtar eased her grip a bit. “Talk,” she said. “You play nice, I like what I hear, I’ll let you live. But the second you’re more trouble than you’re worth, I will snap your neck and leave you two minutes of contemplation before you die. We clear?”

Van gasped as Ashtar’s grip relaxes a bit. “Crystal,” he said. “Can’t blame a desperate man for trying, can you?”

“No more than you can blame a desperate woman for not putting up with it,” Ashtar replied. “Talk. You’re starting to bore me.”

“Okay, okay,” said Van. “All the administrators abandoned Dome B a while ago. They took the last working crawler to Dome Q.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” said Ashtar. “How long ago?”

“A year, maybe two. The sols kind of blur together after a while, you know?” Van smiled weakly. “I don’t remember a Dr. Sheran Quiria specifically, but then again I couldn’t tell you the names of any of our admins even before they abandoned us to die.”

“You’re doing well.” Ashtar eased her grip a bit. “Now tell me what things are like in Dome B.”

“Where have you been, under a rock?” Van said.

“Dome A,” said Ashtar.

A hint of curiosity flitted across Van’s face. “You tell me about Dome A, I’ll tell you about Dome B.”

“Fine,” Ashtar said with a light squeeze to Van’s trachea. “Dome A is dying, and people there are fighting over scraps. The two biggest warlords each have less than a dozen guns apiece, and they’re fighting tooth and nail for the right to die last.”

“Sounds nice,” Van said. “There’s no law here in B. Not even any warlords. We’re all just scraping to get by. We get the occasional person from C or D, but no one from A.” He paused, then continued: “What do you care about this Dr. Quiria anyhow?”

“He’s my father,” Ashtar said. “Good enough for you?”

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Another beautiful day in Bloomville.

Red light filtered dimply through the dome, which was every shade of filthy both inside and out. The plants in the arboretums—and, increasingly, the ruins—were doing their job and keeping oxygen flowing, but just about everything else had broken down.

Ashtar Quiria sucked greedily on her electronic cigarette, letting the faux-nicotine solution wash over her. Even the synthetic stuff was getting hard to find, as there hadn’t been a supply ship from Earth in months, years. But resorting to an actual cigarette was suicide—the halon fire suppression system still worked, and an open flame was a great way to die. Even if it failed, a single spark could start a conflagration that would make the thin Martian atmosphere look awfully inviting.

Another beeeautiful day in Bloomville.

“Hey there, friend!” A figure emerged from one of the buildings on what was once the Main Street of Dome B. It was an ordinary-looking man, very well-groomed, and sporting a big giant smile.

In Ashtar’s recent experience, there were only two people in the failed colony that smiled like that. Peddlers, and robbers. She put her hands behind her back, one hand wrapping instinctively around the taser pistol she kept in the small of her back.

“Hello,” she said calmly, evenly, coolly. “I’m looking for Dr. Sheran Quiria. Scientific administrator for Dome B. If you’ve seen him, then we have business. If not, you’d better just mosey on.”

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Orson has devoted his life to photography, but his career has been haunted by a single photograph he accidentally took in 1992. People think they saw Bigfoot in the image, and his “serious” work has been overshadowed ever since, with Orson forced to rely on freelance Bigfoot enthusiasts and talking-head interviews to survive. The latest one seems to be the worst of all, remote KSQH in Minnesota. Arriving before a storm for a local news story, Orson finds himself trapped in the studio by the storm. Strange shapes are moving outside though, and the newscasters and crew seem to be getting hairier by the moment, despite their insistence that everything is all right. As it turns out, KSQH is an elaborate ruse meant to lure Orson there. His photograph, it turns out, is the last authentic Bigfoot evidence ever gathered, and the sasquatches are intent on silencing him forever—by making him one of them.

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After working a double closing shift on Christmas Eve, Janet cuts through the center of the Shady Corners Mall after it closes. As one of the last to leave, she is forced to walk through the darkened center of the mall, which is all but abandoned as this will most likely be the shops’ final season. Terrified of drowning after being left on a reef by a dive boat, she chose the inland mall in an attempt to rebuild her shattered life. But that is before the abandoned mall fountain begins silently filling with dark water, and before the gurgling screams of the short order cook echo in the darkness. Forced to confront the terrifying fact that the mall is silently flooding with pitch-black water, repelled only by light, Janet must overcome her fears and debilitating memories of her ordeal in order to survive. She gradually comes to realize, though, that she never left the reef—the dark water, the mall, and everything else are her addled mind, still left on the reef, and doomed even if she is able to escape.

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