“Runt of the Litter” • by Gustavo Bondoni

The ship had crossed unimaginable distances to reach a planetary system four thousand light years from Sol.

Its most precious cargo consisted of nine hard drives, large enough to contain one human mind each.

The ship’s computer woke the colonists.

We’ve arrived, it said. There are eight planets of varying sizes… and one dwarf planet in the outermost orbit.

Just like home, one of the nine living minds replied.

Except no Asteroid Belt, another noted. One of us will have to take the dwarf world.

Lottery? one asked.

 the others replied.


Leo’s peers in the system—which they’d called Felis—grew and prospered with the enormous resources of the rocky planets and multi-mooned gas giants.

He watched, jealous of the way they established flesh-and-blood colonies from gene banks and transformed each planet into an industrial powerhouse.

Leo’s colony survived at a much smaller scale. Domes dotted the dark grey landscape. Colonists eked out an existence.

For hundreds of millennia, nothing changed.

Until the star, in a much shorter time than predicted, expanded outwards: a yellow dwarf bloated into a red giant.

As their planet became uninhabitable, the colonists of Pantera, the innermost planet, fled, sending colony probes even further into the galaxy.

Hard radiation flooded the system. Five more planets were abandoned.

When the star finally exploded, the blast barely qualified as a nova, reaching just as far as the eighth orbit. Everyone managed to evacuate.

When the storm passed, only colony Leo remained, hardened against everything, orbiting a brown dwarf, a spark of human civilization in a dark corner of the galaxy.

For the first time, Leo was thankful for the chance that had given him the tiny planet.

And the Felis system abided, down to its very last life.



Gustavo Bondoni is novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages.  He is a member of Codex and an Active Member of SFWA.His latest novel is a dark historic fantasy entitled The Swords of Rasna (2022). He has also published five science fiction novels, four monster books and a thriller entitled Timeless. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019), Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011).
In 2019, Gustavo was awarded second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Contest and in 2018 he received a Judges Commendation (and second place) in The James White Award. He was also a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest.

His website is at www.gustavobondoni.com

Gustavo has become a regular contributor to Stupefying Stories and we have quite a few stories of his stories on this site. Check them out!



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Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…