“The Faithful Soldier, Prompted” by Saladin Ahmed
Card picked: Eight of Clubs
From: Engraved on the Eye, also found online
God willing, Faithful Soldier, you will go to the charity-yard of the Western Mosque in Old Cairo. She will live.
Ali is a veteran of the Global Credit Crusade. Although it’s been years since he’s been a soldier his embedded OS still sends him random reminder messages. Things like “God willing, Faithful Soldier, you will pick up your new field ablution kit after your debriefing today” and “God willing, Faithful Soldier, you will spend your leave-time dinars wisely–at Honest Majoudi’s!” But poor and with a dying wife, one message that repeats nightly seems prescient.
In an effort to do something for his ailing wife, Ali walks from Free Beirut to Old Cairo, facing tigers, toxighuls, and sandstorms along the way. When he reaches the charity-yard of the Western Mosque he receives a new message, one that helps a crime occur. Are the messages just a glitch? A hack? Or something more?
I’m not sure I buy into the Global Credit Crusade as a WWIII situation, but there is a lot of world-building bits in seven pages of story. I’ve had Engraved on the Eye in my collection for ages. (I believe you can find it perma-free at most of your favorite ebook retailers.) I had read the first story in the collection sometime last year. So far, it’s 2 for 2 on great stories.
Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class, Arab American enclave in Dearborn, Michigan. His first novel, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Crawford, Gemmell, and British Fantasy Awards, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal. He was nominated twice for the Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction/Fantasy Writer for his short stories, which have appeared in YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION and have been translated into a half-dozen languages. He has also written nonfiction for NPR Books, Salon, and The Escapist. He holds an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College, an MA in English from Rutgers. (via Amazon.com)