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By Charles Stross

Freya Nakamachi-47 has a few significant existential matters. She's the fitting concubine, designed to delight her human masters - hardwired to develop into aroused on the mere sight of a human male. There's only one challenge: she got here off the creation line a 12 months after the human species went extinct. no matter what else she might be, Freya Nakamachi-47 is gloriously out of date. What's extra, the inflexible social hierarchy that has risen within the 2 hundred years because the final human died, areas beings similar to Freya very close to the ground. So whilst she has a run-in on Venus with a murderous aristocrat, she wishes passage off-world in a rush - and can't be too fussy approximately how she can pay her method. but when Venus was once a frying pan, Mercury is the hearth - and shortly she's going to be operating for her existence. as the task she's taken as a courier has drawn her to the eye of robust and unsafe humans, they usually don't simply wish the package deal she's wearing. they wish her soul ...

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The lych-gate is chained close with an old padlock, frost-rimed and sand-scoured. It’s the paintings of a second to crack the hasp open (I hold a vicious little multitool equipped with a wrist-lock adapter), after which I slip inside of and go searching. The 3rd excursion to Mars is the one who everybody recollects, in fact. It’s a grisly story, and a cautionary one. And so we repeat it down the years, at events and drunken gatherings that want a frisson of fear—the story of ways, after 3 years at the floor, their orbital go back vehicle’s oxidizer tank failed whereas they have been pressurizing it. How they hunkered down with their final provides to anticipate rescue through the comfort challenge; and the way a tremendous sunlight flare struck in the course of the reduction ship’s release window, forcing its staff to desert send. We inform of the suicides, noble and heroic, made up our minds via lot to stretch the supplies—the murders, too, and the insanity, and the resignation and depression because the clocks counted earlier the purpose of no go back. And we shudder on the arrival of the fourth day trip, 3 years later, part a yr after the meals ran out, and what they discovered; the commander nonetheless status in her strain go well with, propped opposed to a rock to greet her reduction, faceplate unlatched underneath the empty sky ... Our Creators have been sincerely insane. Sending canned primates to Mars used to be by no means going to finish fortunately. yet theirs used to be an excellent insanity! they really suggestion they have been going to the celebrities. And the graveyard custodians, having performed their most sensible to honor their fees, replicate it of their personal inimitable method. I sneak contained in the drystone partitions and alongside the gravel course. each pebble is machined to micrometer tolerances, lovingly laid within the mattress that divides the carved-sandstone obelisks from the row of statues that memorialize the lifeless heroes of larger Indonesia, fallen within the wake of the Indian and chinese language expeditions. Few stopover at the graveyard, and there was little put on and tear because the final of our Creators shook the airborne dirt and dust of this planet from their boots and took themselves domestic to die. therefore, the sextons have spent the final centuries elaborating and adorning the mausoleum. They’ve slowly became what used to be an easy and tasteful rock backyard into an outlandish necropolis, a becoming memorial to a useless species’ dream of planetary colonization. 100 years in the past, any customer who introduced themselves to the sextons may were made welcome, carried out on a travel of the cemetery, and allowed to meditate or worship as they'd. yet there were political difficulties lately, and unwelcome incursions. Grave robbers and genome bandits hoping to discover undamaged chromosomal fabric with their important sa-RNA and si-RNA sequences intact—even undenatured enzymes—have many times attempted to thieve the buried mummies of Mars. The graves of heroes became an enticing nuisance, a magnet for the worst of our type. The sextons replied via protecting it obsessively, in that very designated demeanour that makes old and deranged arbeiters with out override so risky.

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