Thursday, February 23, 2012

2/23/12

A MORNING AT ROSSGEN
By Gil C. Schmidt


    “Good morning, RossGen Labs. How may I help you?...Yes, we have all types of organ tissues, including corneas…No, it doesn’t come in any colors…No, ma’am, it’s not at all like contact lenses…Corneal tissue isn’t something we can color-coordinate…Extension 436, ma’am…You’re welcome.”

    “Good morning, RossGen Labs. How may I help you?...You want to know if we have ‘experimental’ bodies here? What do you mean, sir?...Breasts where?... On the back? What for?... No, sir, we don’t experiment with human bodies here. We don’t do that kind of work… No, sir, I certainly don’t know who does…”

    “Good morning, RossGen Labs. How may I help you?... Excuse me. Excuse me, sir! I told you last time we can’t do that without your wife’s permission… I understand you find her less attractive than your neighbor, but it is her body and it is her decision alone whether to get the implants or not…Sir, we don’t do that without the patient’s prior written approval…Have you considered marital counseling or therap--…No! She has to request it and she has to sign for it personally… I’m sure she has other, very positive qualities, sir, which you would do well to focus on instead of her glutes…No I will not send you pictures of me…Good day.”

    “Good morning, RossGen Labs. How may I help you?... It takes several weeks to generate compatible tissue, unless you have an account with us… Because all our clients get what we call “starter cell sets” that are basically cell clusters at different stages of development. With them we can generate organs in less than half the time than starting from scratch…No, that wasn’t meant as a pun, ma’am…Any body part or any organ…Yes, any body part or any organ… A what, ma’am?... Uh, no, I don’t think we can do that… I understand, miss, but the hymen isn’t an organ… No, a wedding is not a true medical emergency… May I suggest you talk to your grandmother or an older female relative? I’m sure one of them will have very good advice on how to handle this—uh—problem… I once read that iodine was good for that… No, miss, on the sheets, to give the right, uh, impression, if you know what I mean… Yes, while he’s sleeping is a good time… I’d try the drugstore or a friend who works in a hospital… Oh, he does? Then try some other hospital, miss. You know how people love to talk… Best wishes.”  

    “Good morning, RossGen Labs…Please slow down, sir. I can barely understand what you’re sa--…Sir, please! Start again…When did this happen?... If it’s been less than ten minutes, shouldn’t you be calling 9-1-1? You could bleed to death before the replacement surgery takes place!…I know that, sir, but you need to live to have it reattached…I’m calling 9-1-1 now and patch them in…Direct pressure!...May I suggest you worry about size later, sir? You need to stay alive… If your wife is caught and they get your—uh—original, uh, part, back then we’d use that, sir…You don’t want it? I see…I’m sure you’ll be happy with a RossGen—uh—replacement, eventually. Yes, sir. I’m glad the EMTs are there… No, sir, I don’t date clients… Especially after surgery.”

    “Good morning, RossGen Labs. How may I help you?... You did what? You cut off your husband’s…No, we don’t accept tissue donations unless they’re from clients who want us to genera—…No, we don’t take ‘second-hand’ organs, even if it were an organ… Pardon me?... All our clients are dealt with in the strictest confidence, ma’am. We neither deny legitimate treatment nor divulge treatments, so if he does call us, we will provide him with the service or services he contracts us for… I can’t tell if that’s a police siren or an ambulance…Hello?...Who’s this?...Officer Brand?... Yes, she called just now and was talking to me when you came in… Did who call?... I’m sorry, I can’t confirm if that person called RossGen this morning or at any time… I can’t confirm that, Officer… No, I’m not being difficult, I’m just doing my job… Yes, I go out for lunch… I don’t think that would be a good idea, Officer, seeing as how I’m married… I’m not like you in that sense. Are we done here, Officer?... You’re welc—“

    “Good morning, RossGen Labs. How may I help you?... “



- - -
Gil C. Schmidt has been a regular submitter to Yesteryear Fiction since the early days when it was a daily magazine. His story "Initial Quantum State" is also featured in his book "Thirty More Stories." Get "Thirty Stories" and "Thirty More Stories" for free: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/gil-c-schmidt or http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/gilthejenius

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2/16/12

We Need You In Alpha-3G
By Tony Rauch


I’m sitting in the back of the public library, reading a graphic novel over my lunch break. I work at the bank down the block, but just need a break from it all for awhile. So it’s nice to have a quiet moment to myself for a minute. I‘m hidden in a corner, tall shelves full of books towering all around, just the way I like it. I feel very comfortable here for some reason. Maybe it’s the quiet. Maybe it’s a break from all the hectic, churning masses. Maybe it’s that I’ve always felt good around tall shelves and enclosed spaces, but never knew why.

The next thing I know, a panel opens in the wall. There is a coffered wood wainscot that runs around the room. One of the wood panels slides open like a little door on the inside of the wall. Out from the void climb two men in light grey suits. The panel slides back into place as they straighten themselves. They fix their ties and then sit down across from me at my table. They both wear dark sunglasses.

“Barry? Barry Younger? Correct?” one of them begins in a stern voice.

“Ah, yeah. Yeah, that’s me,” I nod, lowering my book. I figure these guys are bank investigators or something. They’re always checking up on things, making sure everything’s on the up and up. “Ever hear of using a door?” I look over to the wall where they appeared from.

“Barry,” the other continues in a similar stern tone, “Our calculations indicate that you’ve been placed in the wrong time stream. You’re really supposed to be a shoe salesmen, not a banker. Unfortunately, there already is a Barry Younger in this time signature. There must have been a mix up in the sequencing somewhere.”

“Wrong time?” I cough, disbelieving them.

“Well, maybe not in the wrong one exactly, just needed elsewhere, that’s all,” one of the men leans his head to further explain.

“Yeah, more like an urgent need. . . . We need you in Alpha-3g. There is a strange void there. Unexplainable. A ripple,” the other man nods.

“A ripple?” I furrow my brow incredulously.

“A ripple. Yes. That’s what the sensors indicate. An imbalance. . . . Something is off. . . And it appears there is a duplication here.”

“Oh, a duplication,” I close my book. “A duplication and a ripple.”

“That’s what the data has led us to conclude. . . It can be quite serious, with terrible ramifications.”

“Oh, now we have ramifications. Can’t have the ramifications without the ripples. . . Is this a joke?” I ask, looking them both over.

“No. No joke. Our agency is chartered to safely monitor activity in all twelve habitable dimensions. That is to say, in the ones that we are able to currently access with present technology.”

“Was World War II a joke?” the other asks sternly, “‘Cause those are the types of ramifications that can happen. It starts as a ripple. And we’ve detected and isolated an abnormality. Well, I mean, there are always ripples, but they can bubble up and lead to tears, and then the really serious consequences . . .”

“The ramifications,” I nod.

“Yes, the ramifications. The bad stuff entering the time streams. The corruptions. The anomalies. The wars. The natural disasters. It’s all we can do to balance things out. To offset the delicate imbalances.”

“Listen, we could just drug you and drag you off, but we’re experimenting with alternate procedures.”

“Yeah. We feel the whole hypnotizing and all that seems to take a lot of time.”

“Although it has been mostly effective in the past, there are some few lingering side effects with that approach.”

Both agents are serious, pale faced and expressionless, almost robotic.

Then two arms grab me from behind and pull me off my chair. The men in front of me are already around each side of the table and bend to lift my legs. Four men in suits maneuver me through the opening, and down through the darkness and into the bowels of the library building.

“Are you sure you’d rather not be drugged or hypnotized?” one of them asks as they rush me though the darkness.

“Ah, no. No, this is fine, I guess,” I say, not really knowing how to respond to the question.

“Good. Good. ‘Cause that’s all getting to be a lot of hassle.”

“Plus the side effects. Oh, all the side effects.”

“Like what?” I ask.

“Oh, you know. The usual. The residual memories. The lingering uncertainty.”

“Yeah, the haunting uncertainty. . . Sometimes it takes years of therapy to dissipate. Anyway, it can be quite a mess. And we’re working to avoid all that now.”

“Correct. We’re trying to be a more sensitive agency. No reason to put people through years and years of trouble, pain, and doubt.”

“Well, sometimes I do have that, that ‘haunting uncertainty’ you mentioned,” I sigh. “Sometimes I feel that way, like a void. Like I’m not really where I’m supposed to be. Like a mistake has been made somewhere, and that I’m not really where I actually belong. But I just figured that was sort of normal – to feel that way from time to time, as if something was pulling at you, some urge, like from a past life or something.”

“To a degree, that is a normal feeling. Within average standard deviations that is. It’s just the real bad cases that worry us. Situations like yours.”

“Yeah, we figured as much. That’s what the profile indicates. That’s what the sensors, tests, and secret observations have revealed. That’s one of the symptoms, one of the reasons we concluded that you’re in the wrong place.”

“Yeah. It happens.”

They carry me through a dark corridor, open a door, and then carry me through a long dark tube, each carrying a limb to support me.

“Really, guys, I can walk. Honest. It’s no trouble. No trouble at all. Really,” I say.

“That’s not the procedure.”

I hear some people in the background. I glance over. There are some people in suits talking in the hall. I can overhear some of what they’re saying. One says to the other, “We have some unusual activity in sector G.” But before I hear more, they continue whisking me away.

Finally we enter another hallway. There is a sleek golf-cart type machine. They place me in the back. An agent sits on either side of me and we zoom off, down a long dimly lit hall. We accelerate faster and faster. “Hey, this is kind of cool,” I say. Eventually we enter a large white room. They zoom me to the middle of it and toss me out of the cart, then zoom away. I roll on the ground and look around. The room is huge, like an airplane hanger. There is a long window on one wall. In the window are two shadowy technicians in white lab coats. They wear safety goggles and masks over their mouths. They look to be fiddling with some knobs on a council in front of them.

I start to feel funny – all wiggly and vibrating, all dizzy and tingly and funny. They have whisked me off, away from all I know. The air around me snaps with silvery sparks and things go all wavy and fuzzy.

The next thing I know I’m groggy, as if waking. I raise my head. I’m in a back room somewhere, slumped over a desk, tall shelves of shoe boxes surround me. I shake my head. Slowly I rise. I feel sleepy and all tingly. But, strangely enough, I also feel at peace, not as if a weight has been removed, but more as if a great void has been filled, as if a big mess has been cleared away. Yeah, this is strange. I feel good - a strange feeling of belonging, of comfort, washes over me. I stand and look around at the tall shelves of shoes surrounding me in the cramped back room of some shoe store somewhere. I reach out to touch it all, to make sure it’s all real. I look around. I no longer have on my bank suit. Now I’m wearing a short sleeve shirt with a pocket protector and pens sticking from the pocket. I have on a name tag. It is pinned to my shirt pocket. I lift to read it. It says, “Roy.”


- - -
Tony Rauch has three books of short stories published – “I’m right here” (spout press), “Laredo” (Eraserhead Press), “Eyeballs growing all over me . . . again” (Eraserhead Press). He has additional titles forthcoming in the next few months.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

2/9/12

The Cygnus War
Episode #1, Aces & Veterans 
By E.S. Wynn


It was sleek, fast, deadly. Typical Coralate semi-atmospheric fighter, but still no match for Tessa’s Seindrive 4 Blasterchild. The underslung Agere PD cannon on the nose of her rig alone could turn the Cygnan into swiss cheese from 50 meters with a good shot, and it was a peashooter compared to the other ordnance she was carrying. They didn’t build strong ships on Cygnus, but they knew how to build an engine like nobody’s business.

The skies over Tarsis 12 were a deep afternoon purple, visceral against the rich reds and pinks pooling up from the dark aquamarine line of the horizon, and the Cygnan was a hot spot of brilliant silver in the glowing crimson reticle of her heads-up-display. 762 meters and arcing to the left at 2837 km/h. Hauling ass, but still running on conventional drive. Too risky to run the sublight stuff this far into the atmosphere.

Lips tightened, a sharp smile spreading across her face. Her fighter was cutting edge Terran technology, the best that the Commonwealth’s Galactic Naval Division had at its disposal, and tuned as tight as monowire by the best techs back on the Von der Tann IV until it pushed the envelope right to the edge in every direction and then some. The gravity couch was the only real custom piece–– something to counteract the effect of the increased G’s the rig’s hyper-tuned drive kicked off at full speed, but throw it into a dive with the engines on full burn in normal atmosphere, and even the gravity couch couldn’t keep you conscious for long. Just long enough, a tech had told her once, for you to black out the instant before you leave a smoking crater on a nice green patch of alien soil. Hell of a way to go.

The Cygnan was looping and twisting near the horizon now, accelerating and decelerating in harsh bursts as he harassed the colonial gear that thundered and flashed from the ground, blasting more useless flak into the atmosphere. Briefly, she considered sending a volley of her wing-mounted Finsternis-XI warheads screaming after him, but the countermeasures on Cygnan vessels were as legendary as the engines that gave them their speed. Throwing F-11's against the blueskin would be about as useful as throwing rocks at flies–– the Cygnan pilot would either have to be blind or real unlucky to get clocked by something as clumsy as that kind of ordnance. Better to save those for bigger, slower game.

“Screw it,” She cursed under her breath, gloved fingers tightening eagerly over the dual wing of the throttle control. Close-in fighting was better anyway; you got to watch the way the Cygnan’s rigs burnt as they fell, trailing hot rainbows of flame out of every hole in the hull until they nosed into the ground and imploded, caught in the short-range blast destabilizing Singularity drives produced as they popped back into n-space along with whatever was left of the rig and anything else that happened to be within five meters. A flash of light from the ground caught her eye–– probably a hydrogen tank going up. No point in waiting around, letting the Coralate rip through the colony like an unchecked predator.

Biting the inside of her lip, Tessa jammed the throttle forward and twin Icarus I610F conventional Deca-bypass quantum hotcoil pods, each originally rated in excess of 348 kilonewtons of thrust at their highest setting, answered in turn. Schrödinger vectoring panels dilated into Nth dimensional space as the Seindrive hurtled forward, burning a hot line across the sky as it closed the distance between her and the Cygnan in a matter of seconds.

The Coralate pilot caught the move, and in the next instant, he was spinning fluidly, looping up and out of range and arc of the majority of her hardpoints. The Seindrive’s AI followed him with the precision of a hunting dog, blaring as the g-forces of sudden deceleration rolled over and through the rig like waves of turbulent water. Tessa bit her lip harder, eyes flicking, flying across the HUD. The blueskin was cutting in close, nosing over from a climb, forty-one meters off her seven, plas-flechette railcannons heating up.

Reflexively, she flung the Seindrive over onto its side and pumped the throttle, just hard enough to put her ahead of the screaming cloud of blinding, superheated particles that scorched the air in her wake. 196 meters ahead of him now, the Cygnan dove square off her six. Pretty typical Coralate move, something she’d seen a thousand times before. The little blue bastard was probably cussing in that weird click language of theirs.
Working quickly, Tessa swung the nose of her rig up and over, pumping the throttle lightly and putting the Coralate rig roaring past her at ten o’clock. Two seconds to prime the argon-ion L-web emitters and jam the caps off a line of Rapier A5 rockets, half a second to nudge the rig sixty degrees to the left...

She mashed the thumb trigger, and in the same instant that the hardpoints on her rig flared, the Coralate fighter dove.

Yanking the Seindrive reflexively to the right, swearing, peeling away from her payload of explosives and hot blue light in a sharp turn, she followed it with her rig’s sensor suite as the cloud of death passed harmlessly over the diving Cygnan. Rising, the rockets tried to reorient themselves to follow the Coralate fighter, but the countermeasures on the blueskin’s rig kicked in at the top of the climb and scrambled the warheads’ sensitive tracking systems, leaving them to twist aimlessly off into the heavens. Swearing again, Tessa’s fingers worked quickly at the two halves of the throttle control wing as she jerked the rig around and dove after the Cygnan again, the colony a sprawling mass of blue-green and pavecrete grey smeared across the ground beneath them.

The pilot was good with his rig, no question about it, and the acknowledgment of that fact brought the edges of a wry smile to Tessa’s face. Quick corrections by the Cygnan kept her sharp, following him as he spun and darted, yanking himself out of a dive and leveling out again, as Tessa came up hot behind him. Her finger tightened across the trigger for the Agere reflexively, but before she could squeeze off a line of fire, the Cygnan threw his fighter into another spin and went hurtling off to the right. 1742 km/h and rising. The plasmatic tracers carved an arc of hot lines through the sky in his wake.

This time, the move came reflexive–– Tessa’s fingers went tight around the throttle control as she rolled the Seindrive over and went after the Cygnan again. He was darting left and right like crazy, trying to shake her off his tail and get her in his sights again, but she kept up with him, matching his every move, ready to send another line of tracers his way the instant she had a good shot. The Coralate fighter spun suddenly left, then jammed the retros and went spinning back right for a half second before the pilot cut the thrusters and dropped the thing a hundred meters instantly. Keeping his rig straight and level until she was practically right on top of him, he flipped the fighter over its blunt, silvery nose and hit full acceleration, jamming out of there inverted, another line of Agere tracers scorching the air behind him. Tessa’s fingers tightened across the throttle, knew that the Agere wasn’t going to be enough. She primed the L-web emitters again and pumped the throttle.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeee haaaaaaaw!” Static lanced through the radio as something shot overhead with a buffeting shockwave and went blazing after the Coralate fighter. Blinking reflexively, Tessa caught only a glimpse of the rig as it burnt past, eyes stunned by the fuselage that was a mishmash of peeling red paint and shining, polished aluminum cut with wide swathes of oily rust. The seductive curves of a hand-painted pin-up girl beckoned from the side of the rig as she watched it dart improbably off into the sky, winked back at her from the gentle slope of the old warbird’s nose. The pilot’s voice came again, rough and dry as a tumbleweed desert.

“Move over sweetheart, this Ciggy’s all mine! Hah-HA!”


- - -
It is the dawn of the twenty-third century. Space has been good to the pioneering men and women of the Terran Commonwealth, but in spreading out among the stars mankind has become a rich target for the enigmatic and predatory Cygnan Coralate. Thrilling squadrons of fans from all over the globe since 2005, The Cygnus War is a story that looks at love, war, and what makes us human in the wake of an interstellar war with the Cygnan Coralate, a shadowy enemy bent on nothing less than the total and complete annihilation of humanity itself.

Read more at: http://www.cygnuswar.com

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2/2/12

The Breakdown
By Tony Rauch


The Breakdown - part 1 - dinner

You’re eating dinner when your dad’s head just flops down into his plate of spaghetti with a clank. You go numb. Your mom stands and streaks over to your dad. She lifts his head. It’s as if his head is balancing on a large spring in his neck, his neck now all rubbery and wobbly and noodley.

“Mom. Mom,” your sister mumbles in fear, looking over.

You can’t even move. Your dad makes a mechanical drowning noise. His speech is incredibly slow, distorted and warbly, stretching a long, low groan. “Eeeemmmmooouuuggghhh lllaaaaarrrraahhhhaaarrrreeee fffrrrooooooaaahhhhhmmmm wwoooorrrrkkk,” his jaw grinds around robotically in tight circles.

Your mother flips his head back, securing it with both hands behind his neck. She holds it still, then turns and reaches behind her for a drawer. Your dad’s eyes are wide open, but staring a dull, doll-like glare. He’s all stiff, like a dummy. His hands begin to twitch. His eyes flutter, then slowly blink - up and down, up and down. And then the mechanical drowning winds down - “whir whir wwhhhiiiirrrr” into lower and lower sounds. Your mom is rummaging in the drawer, finally spinning back around with a long, silver screwdriver. It is a gleamingly clean surgical type screwdriver the likes of which you have never seen before. Your mother twists it and twists it, working it at the back of his neck, behind one of his ears. Eventually your father’s lower jaw stops its tight circular motion.

Your mom tilts his head back to its usual position on his head and plucks the strands of spaghetti from his face and places them on his plate before him. Your dad looks down at his food. “. . . and boy, that Larry from work,” he finishes his sentence and resumes shoveling peas into his mouth. He looks relaxed and casual.

“Yeah, he’s a real character,” your mom says, turning back to the drawer behind her. She mutters something like “Darn springs wear out,” but you can’t quite hear her.

Your dad shakes his head and sort of smiles loosely and chuckles to himself. Your mom walks back to her seat. She settles in. “Mom, what was that?” you ask slowly. She just smiles a polite little smile, scoops up a dash of potato, leans her head down into her fork, and says “Oh, don’t worry honey, it’s just about time for your adjustment too.”



The Breakdown - part 2 - the basement

(Nothing is going right, really. You’re always just missing out on things. Seems it has been like this for some time. Too long now. Maybe you’re just trying too hard, or maybe not trying hard enough. Maybe you just need to focus. Or maybe you just lack experience. And you’re not one to pretend things are one way when they are not. You believe it’s just easier to recognize opportunities that way. Why lie to yourself when you can help yourself by setting things right. Maybe you just need some rest, start fresh and renewed in the morning, reset your timing. It just seems that things are a little off, that your timing is off. Maybe you just aren’t concentrating or focusing hard enough. Either way things just don’t seem to be working out lately. Things just haven’t been going your way.)

You’re walking down the sidewalk when a man steps out of a shop ahead of you. He steps from the top of the stairway leading down to the lower level of this one building. He looks down the block at you and waves you over. “Finally,” he calls, as if expecting you. You get up to him and he exhales, “We’ve been waiting for you.” He gestures down the steps to his basement level barbershop. You look down through the windows and notice some people down in there but don’t recognize who they could be. Curious, you step down into the basement shop. You push open the glass door and enter. Standing around is a priest, your mother, and several barbershop workers, all bathed in the fresh light from the windows above. It appears they have been waiting for you, each with a concerned look.

Hanging on the walls are wood tools of every sort imaginable. Workbenches line the walls of the little basement shop. It is not a barbershop after all, but a tidy workshop. The workers seem to be custom cabinet makers or furniture craftsmen. Maybe Amish or Mennonites or some such sect due to their long beards. You’re looking around and they’re just staring at you. A young assistant in overalls is holding a broom. He has been sweeping sawdust into a pile.

“Time for your checkup,” a man in a white lab coat steps to you. He is holding out a strange looking piece of woodworking apparatus. He reaches it up to your head.



The Breakdown - part 3 - new dad

You’re sitting on the rug watching TV. A wrestling program throbs with swaths of bright colors. Colors streak by, flashing, swinging, wobbling before you. You turn to your dad, who’s slumped on the couch at your side, the newspaper crumpled in his hands in his lap. It looks like he’s sleeping, like he’s just totally out cold or something. His face is buried in the side of the cushion away from you, his body limp and deflated.

Your mom walks in and stands in the doorway.

“Oh, my, you know I don’t like you watching wrestling at this time of night, honey. You know how worked up it gets you,” she leans against the doorjamb.

“Dad’s conked out,” you turn to her and whisper, putting your finger up to your mouth to form the “Ssshhhhh” symbol.

“Not this again,” she shakes her head in annoyance and walks into the other room.

“What?” you utter, as if to indicate: ‘What’s the big deal? He’s just resting. He’s tired after all. He’s had a long day. Cut him some slack.’

You hear your mother on the phone in the other room. You furrow your brow, wondering what’s the big deal. You shake your head and return your attention to the epic grudge match playing out before you like a Greek tragedy in whooshes of swirling colors.

“Dad broke down again,” you hear your sister from the kitchen and you just laugh a little.

A while later some workmen walk into the living room. The men are different looking - very thin and tall, each sporting light blue zip-up coveralls. They look artificial somehow, kind of plasticy. They come in and reach for your pop, lifting his limp body from the couch. Your dad flops at the waist like a rag doll and the men set him on the floor. They begin to disassemble him. First they twist off one arm and then another. Then his head and legs, packing each away in plastic wrap and then tucking each piece, one by one, into a large box. They pack him up, but not too comfortably. They just squeeze him into the box, shoving each limb in deeper and deeper as if they were nothing to the men, packing him up until they close the lid and that is that - dad all gone. Dad go bye-bye. One of them picks up the box and lifts it onto his shoulder and lugs it out. The others follow behind without a word. And that’s that - there goes your dad.

You look up to your mom with what must be a sort of lost expression on your face. Your mom stands in the doorway and glances down at you and shrugs, “We’ll have a new one by Monday,” and turns back into the kitchen, “Just like last time.”


- - -
Tony Rauch has three books of short stories published – “I’m right here” (spout press), “Laredo” (Eraserhead Press), “Eyeballs growing all over me . . . again” (Eraserhead Press). He has additional titles forthcoming in the next few months.


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