Tiny dots of heaven.

That's what they were. Tiny dots of heaven.

Cats had always been the protectors of the gods, their defenders. It was why cats were so often walking abroad during the day; there was no time to spend in the home when one was on protection duty.

Some took their duty more seriously than others, but those cats would be punished.

They would not be given these tiny dots of heaven - a reward from above, a thank you from the Masters.

Of course, you had to put up with stupid names from the earthly ones, but...

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"What is a pension, anyway?"

She stared at him. "How do you not know what a pension is?"

He shuffled his feet, not looking at her. He mumbled something indistinct about not really having to worry about that sort of thing, what with his family, and the fortune (the fortune was probably now lining the public purse, or possibly a lawyer's office, depending on the outcome of the court case)

There were times when she felt the gap between them more than others. She took his hand - now wasn't the time to start comforting, there was no time for...

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Once, in Beijing, a young girl in a red gown huddled in a doorway.

Twice, in Singapore, she sat by a fountain.

Three times, in Kuala Lumpur, at three different locations, she waited by Banyan trees.

She was waiting. Always waiting.

She was waiting for me.

She didn't know that I knew that she was waiting for me, but enough money, in the right pockets, can keep me out of trouble. *Has* kept me out of trouble for the past four years. Kept me out of her hands. Out of the hands of the people who wanted to find me....

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I looked up from my book. 'Huh?'


'Can I what?'

'No, the country. Kenya.'

'Yeah, okay, in Africa. What about it?'

'We found him there. He's working in an aid camp for Somalian refugees.'

'Him? Who?'

'You know who I'm talking about.'

I put the book down, forgetting it. 'How certain are you of this? There can be absolutely no mistake, understand?'

'Positive identification. No question.'

'Anecdotal or visual? We need to be sure.'

'Oh, absolutely visual. A low flying drone picked him up leaving a market. He had a couple of bags of veggies and a rack...

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The noises that, at first, filled every pocket of air, immediately and harmoniously silenced. The overcast sky of smog and gas cracked open like chick which has been waiting weeks to hatch, the yellow feathers shined through. And all was quiet. The men did not speak, they dropped their arms, but their guns' falls were muted by this minute of peace. Even the men dared not to speak. Enemies were no longer so, there was no definition between men, just as there are no barriers between the birds which were the first to make a sound. A song which awoke...

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Locked door. Single occupant, female, age 27. No signs of a struggle. Cause of death was strangulation. Body found face-up on the bed.

Three suspects. One witness.

Cal sighed, his breath cutting a thin passage through the haze of cigarette smoke. He rewound the tape and pressed play once again. In all the surveillance tapes, there was nothing to positively incriminate any of them.

He'd tried isolating them, questioning them individually. Good cop, bad cop. Threats. The works. They were all lying about something, but they wouldn't say what Cal wanted to hear. At least one of them, probably all,...

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This is not what Steve had in mind when he signed up to test the virtual reality technology at work. Not at all. He thought it would be unicorns farting rainbows. But this was ridiculous.

The scenes were patterned after video games. Not because the team wasn't creative, but because that meant the testers didn't need to take the time to learn the rules of a new environment.

Steve had pulled Super Mario Bros. from the lot. Except there was a fatal flaw in the technology. Enemies didn't die, they just disappeared for a bit. Then they came back with...

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His hand skimmed lightly over the cool metal bumps. His brow furrowed as he struggled to remember the meaning of the pattern, feeling the warmth of his girlfriend pressing close to his left.

"D-down?" he asked softly, biting his lip as his fingers lingered, heating the Braille with his own touch. Braille. Just another sign, along with the sudden paranoia for his safety, that he was no longer the young man he'd been before the accident. Just another sign he was no longer going to be independent, not really.

Just another milestone.

"Yeah," Jessica replied even more quietly, her voice...

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Atop a ferris wheel the poor anxious squirrel found himself above the world far far away from the comfort of his tree and pile of nuts. As the wheel spun behind him, Mr. Squirrel ran ahead trying to keep up as he felt with every turn he would fall. As he lost ground he noted ascending higher and farther away from the ground. 'A telephone pole... a cable... a branch?' he thought could perhaps bring him to safety. When suddenly a gush of wind caused his tiny claws to slip across the rusty painted metal and he slipped. Falling, falling,...

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The sweetest honey was the one they daubed on his lips.

This wasn't really torture; not in the traditional sense. Instead of pain, he was given touches of pleasure.

Simple pleasures - gentle whispers, the smell of bread, the touch of soft wool against his cheek.

After a few days, he wondered if they really wanted him to talk, or if they wanted him to stay. If they wanted him to remain there, relying on them, content to be with them until the end of his days.

To call him a pet would be too extreme, but the principle was...

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