Close Liaisons

Close Liaisons features science fiction tales by Barbara CusterExcerpt from Close Liaisons: The scars overlaid the terrain of that face as it did in her imagination: up the right cheek, across the chin and below the left eye. Except for the scars, he looked like Kronos… or did he? She didn’t know for sure.

The stranger grinned. “That’s right. I’m Thutiy’s son.”

That didn’t sound right. Yarol hadn’t mentioned a brother, and besides, children didn’t try to assassinate their parents in a civilized world.

Cassandra Kelly, registered nurse of Artman Hospital, started to cry. The tears tasted hot and salty, but that no longer mattered. Kronos had invaded her home, and worse, Cassandra almost recognized him. Somewhere in her subconscious, a triple-locked door was straining to burst open. The thought of running never crossed her mind. Instead, she backed into the kitchen and collapsed by the table, holding her hands up above her head.

“Please don’t hurt me,” she begged. “I have no issue with you and my sister is sick. She needs me alive.”

She’d resorted to using Marilyn as a prop, but it didn’t matter. This stranger in the cement-colored EP suit (You baked him cranberry cake) now stood directly over her.

Cassandra dropped her head. She looked at the rose designs on her ceramic floor and prayed that when she had the strength to look up, Kronos would be gone.

“Look at me,” he ordered in a distant, heavy voice.

“No,” Cassandra screamed in a weepy voice, and then burst into fresh tears. Horrible waves of dread washed through her, clinging like poison syrup to whatever it was she dared not remember, the thing that related to cranberry cake, a dessert she hadn’t eaten since—


Something hard struck Cassandra’s back, and she screamed.

“Look at me!”

“Please let me go.”


Cassandra looked up, shielding her streaming eyes with one gray-sleeved arm in time to see Kronos’ arm come down again.


He was hitting Cassandra with the side of his gun, pistol-whipping her the way she’d seen guards do to noncompliant prisoners in the news.

“That’s better.” Kronos’ lips worked into a crooked grin. Looking into his eyes, those cold amber eyes, was like looking into a black hole. Cassandra let out loud, anguished sobs.

“You destroyed my lab hydeons and three of my androids.” Kronos’ voice still seemed to come from a distance. “I could have become governor, but you ruined my opportunity.”

“I don’t remember any of that.” Cassandra’s sobs came harder. The thought of lying to this man about (cranberry cake) her amnesia or anything was not up for discussion. Kronos was her judge, jury, and executioner.

Where are the robots? Cassandra wondered crazily. Where are the robots that water the roses and then go back into the sane world where things like this don’t happen?


“Shut up!” Still brandishing his gun, Kronos drew out forceps with long, sharp blades. Cassandra, who’d spent four years in college to get her degree, recognized them. Most pathologists used them to cut and remove tissue samples for analysis. She suspected the Dorjynite doctors used similar equipment for the same reason.

Or for experiments on humans. She shuddered.

“I should kill you now.” Gun pointed at Cassandra, Kronos pushed a button. Freezing air struck her body, numbing it. A scream came and died in her throat.

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