Thursday, July 26, 2012

7/26/12

MINERVA: CHAPTER 1
By E.S. Wynn


>>file #C82013-AT-20311
>>11/13/2124
>>open feed

November 16th 2124 will be a day that history will never forget.

Already, they’re calling it Triumph Day, the day we broke free. Senator Richard Odom is pushing the vote that it be made an international holiday. It’s that kind of day, folks. It’s that kind of day.

The experimental starship TEV Minerva, the first ship capable of faster-than-light speeds to be constructed by the human race, is scheduled to be launched at 1400 GMT this coming Thursday. This is the same TEV Minerva which has claimed nearly ten years of joint research and development between two corporate giants, Minerva Eclipse and Duke industries. This technological marvel has been outfitted with the latest navigational software, runs a beefed-up version of Duke Industries’ own OS thirty-four point one, sports the highest caliber of security systems ever built and carries humanity’s first Eclipse 2.11 Displacement Drive.

And let me tell you, she’s fast, folks. Fast enough to make Einstein blush.

In the command chair for this historic mission is no less than Captain Cindy Hawk, hero of the Eastern province police action and the woman singlehandedly responsible for negotiating the treaty between China and the West. Her second in command is Kim Ferox, a highly decorated Lieutenant in Terra’s Black Navy and the youngest member of the Minerva’s crew. Heading up security for the operation is Sergeant Thomas Vangelder, from our president’s own security detail, while medical needs and biological studies will be led by none other than Nobel Prize winner Rosemary Glass, daughter of Nathan Glass, whose work in the Amazon led to a cure for the epidemic of Hirstahli syndrome in 2067.

At the beginning of next week, the crew of the Minerva –some forty-four of the most qualified engineers, medical personnel, Ph.D’s, and support crew– will board the Minerva and be catapulted forward through hundreds of light-years of space in just a few moments, arriving at a currently undisclosed destination where they will spend seven days recharging their engines, checking systems for stress damage and conducting various other undisclosed tests related to this exciting new FTL drive.

What will they find? What will they bring back? Tune in here, Thursday, November 23rd when we cover the triumphant return of humanity’s first FTL starship, the TEV Minerva!

Back to you, Ted.


>>feed ends


- - -
Author of over 30 books. Chief editor of Thunderune Publishing and all affiliated magazines. E.S. Wynn's "Minerva" is available here: http://www.thunderune.com/2011/04/minerva.html

Thursday, July 19, 2012

7/19/12

SPUD
By T. Gene Davis


Two days later, I wake. I over slept, again. My first instinct is to roll over. The straps hold me back. I'm salaried. If no one's complaining, I get paid. I consider unstrapping myself, just to roll over. Then that little voice warns me, where does it end?

I unstrap myself from the hammock, and sit up. The Spud's gravity is too weak to keep me in bed all night without straps. ("All nights," I verbally correct my singular thought.) I hate the straps. I can't roll over with the straps. Sometimes I sleep in the dust just to avoid the straps. I miss gravity tugging at my guts.

I lie while recording my log. I look straight in the camera--without once flinching or smiling--saying, I've been diagnosing the receiver. Actually, I don't bother with the receiver, anymore. Traceroute stops on their end. No hops past there. I need to talk to the network guy on the other end, but I don't have network access, so I can't talk to company IT. The only broadcast I'm receiving is my own broadcast of the Deep Skies Shopping Channel, ... and that's in reruns.

Out of boredom, or maybe desperation, I try the uplink again.

"Is anyone out there? Please respond," I pray, sitting in front of the camera. I feel a bit foolish. I don't really expect an answer. My maser uplink is fine.

Have you forgotten me? What's happened to you? I think it, but I see in the monitor that my face shows the panic just below the surface.

I shower. The water pressure, and chilly hydro vacuum breeze wake me a little. I shave my legs, pits, and pluck my chin, wondering all the time, why and for whom? I keep up the routine to keep the panic down. I put away the tweezers, and dress in my skin suit.

The fabric's tightness embraces me, ... by design. The suit feels comfortable. It pushes back isolation's sensory deprivation, brought on by this asteroid. I would give anything just to shake a human's hand or hear a real human's voice.

I step out. I think about not hooking myself to the safety line. One good leap, and there'd be two satellites orbiting the Spud. I can almost see the movement of the stars under the asteroid's four hour rotation. It is still night. The first of many dawns during my waking period will happen in about thirty minutes. I begin my leaps to the warehouse bunker, restrained from flying off into space by the safety line.

Yet another strap.

I sigh. My nose itches. I can't get to the warehouse bunker fast enough.

I un-suit and scratch my nose raw. Then, I begin inventory. I fudge a few of the numbers by copying from the last waking period's numbers. I can't remember the last order I had to fire off, or receive. I focus on the inventory count to avoid asking obvious questions.

Yup.

Still enough food and supplies to keep a small city happy for years. I finish my count, log it, and suit up for the return to quarters.

I pause half-way between the warehouse and quarters. I look at the rock and the stars and the dust. It is cold. Too cold. This couldn't be Hell, ... I hope.

I have consumed most of my waking period with inventory. I clean my quarters, eat, and exercise to warm up a little. I then retire to watch reruns of our very own Deep Skies Shopping Channel. Finally, I return to my hammock, strapping myself in for another set of nights sleep.

I remind myself to focus only on tomorrow. I can make it one day. Only one day. I mustn't change my routine. I mustn't change for one day. I can keep my sanity for one day.

Taking a deep breath, I close my eyes. I focus on relaxing every muscle in my body, one at a time.


- - -
I am a Software Engineer with an English B.A. My stories, poems, and articles have appeared in magazines as varied as Java World (Software Engineering), and Lost Worlds (Fantasy). My books include a Japanese chess puzzle book, a book of poetry, and two computer programming books. I am a member of the Authors Guild.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

7/12/12

Brand New Eyes
By Michael A. Withell


It was on a cold winters afternoon in November that the boy decided that he didn't like his eyes. They were just too damned brown, who could ever find his dull brown eyes attractive? People had always told him that blue eyes were the best, that people with blue eyes go places; the boy wanted blue eyes.

Jimmy next door got new hands for his last birthday and the word on the estate was that he could crush metal with them. He didn't even have to ask his dad for help. Even poor little Heather got a new pair of legs last Christmas and now she's able to run faster than anyone; even twelve year old Marcus. The boy wanted new eyes.

“You'll have to ask Father Christmas”, said his mum, “he knows if you're misbehaving and he doesn't need special eyes”. She smiled at how much her little boy was growing-up and soon she wouldn't even have to use mythical figures as her parental blackmail.

The boy was satisfied with this and he knew that Father Christmas would agree that new eyes are a necessity, you need at least one replacement body part nowadays to be considered cool.

“Wouldn't you prefer a new bike?” asked his mum, “I'm sure little Heather couldn't run faster than you on that”. Work had been tough for the worn-out woman during the past year and a bike would be the much cheaper option. A pair of eyes could easily cost six months wages, and that was before the strikes and cuts in the biomechanics industry.

“No silly, I want new eyes. It'd be cheating if I raced her on a bike anyway, you know that”. The boy despaired at how stupid his mum could be sometimes; who would ever like him if he had to use a bike to move faster than a girl?

The mum watched her little boy play with his plastic and metal toys, moving them across the carpet with great care. The afternoon light shone through the window of their high room, illuminating their small haven in the dangerous city.

“How about a chemistry set? You could show Jimmy how you really break-down metals and stuff. I'm sure him and his friends would think you were really clever.” Her boy had always had a keen interest in how things work and she remembered him coming home in third grade and telling her about the Theory of Relativity. She couldn't remember what it was and didn't think it was in any way relevant to her existence. She was tired; she worked far too hard.

“No Einstein, I want new eyes”, said the boy in an increasingly exasperated voice. Who would think test tubes and foaming liquids were cool? He'd rather not have his new eyes than have to go through the embarrassment of showing the other kids a stupid little chemistry set.

“I know. How about a puppy? I'll even let you name it if you want”. She knew her son loved animals on the televisual-implant and she would quite enjoy having a dog herself. Anyway, it taught a child how to properly look after another living creature and might even give him an excuse to spend some time away from his virtual reality gaming-thingy that is all the rage nowadays.

“I don't want a dog!” snapped the boy without anger, just impatience, “they poo and they tear things up and they pee on everything”. How could he ever look the other kids in their non-transplanted eyes if they saw him with a handful of dog faeces? He'd be the butt of all their jokes and he'd probably have to change his name and emigrate to one of the colonies. Maybe if he chose to emigrate they might give him new eyes; he'd heard about all the government incentives on the news.

The boy's mum was clean out of ideas now, maybe she'd just have to ask for more hours at the electronics factory and buy him the new pair of blue eyes. At least then her little boy would feel accepted, even if in reality it wouldn't make him any cooler than he was now. He'd still be her first and only child

“How about a book?” she asked absentmindedly, still thinking about how she'd cope with the extra hours at work. “You love stories”.

The boy huffed, picked up his cane, and slowly felt his way out of the small apartment room. His mum put her head in her hands, took one long breath and prepared to leave her son at home as she went to work.

All he wanted was to be cool; he wanted new eyes.


- - -
My name is Michael A. Withell and i recently had my first piece of flash fiction published in Mossy Hearth Magazine, entitled 'Cassandra'. I am a British law graduate who aspires to be an author. My main influences are Philip K. Dick, Dan Simmons, T.S. Eliot and Robert Heinlein.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

7/5/12

Obsolescent
By J. Scott Kunkle


Alone, I waited.

I could hear the sirens down the block. I lay huddled beneath the blankets, too scared to move and unable to sleep for what seemed like the third night in a row.

They were doing sweeps, random checks of all the living quarters in a specific section. Preventive law enforcement, they called it. Prove either you were who you said you were or it was off to the detention center, or even worse. I had checked my own papers earlier in the evening, in case they hit my block. I was not spending time in a detention center. I was the most law-abiding citizen on record. I did nothing wrong, nothing out of the ordinary. I conformed on every point, strictly to state policy. Surely, they would know that.

Harsh orders blared out over a loudspeaker and the sirens grew steadily closer. I was sweating beneath my sheets, hands shaky. For one brief moment, all was silent, and then came the loud blare of the siren once again, almost directly outside of my window. The orders blasted over the loud speakers, as well as piped in to every room of the building through Central. I shuddered and almost wet the bed.

“This building is being checked at random. All residents have the proper paperwork ready. This building is now in lockdown.”

From all around the building came the sound of steel windows slamming shut. I jumped nearly a foot off the bed as my own windows slammed shut. The emergency lights went on immediately. Quaking in fear, I stood, picked up my papers and went to the door.

The panel beside the door was flashing as I put my hand against it, causing the light to change from red to yellow. The door slid open and I could see the emergency lights flashing from the hallway. I could hear a few loud, angry voices shouting down the hall, but I was not looking out in the hall. That would mean lifting my hand from the panel, and that was something I was not prepared to do any time soon.

The distinct sound of heavy footsteps sounded in the hall. Seconds later, the armored form of a Patrolman glided into the doorway. The mechanical voice was harsh and brief.

“Papers, citizen.”

I showed my papers and the robotic cop scanned them briefly, lights flashing. I expected it to take no more than a few seconds, as it had countless times before. After thirty seconds passed, I became uncomfortable. At one minute, I was petrified and barely able to keep standing. I was in trouble, but for what? I had done nothing, no infractions, no run-ins with the law. I was clean, I had to be clean.

After what felt like an eternity to me, the light winked off. I relaxed for an instant.

“You are to report to Dr. Hope, Building Four, Central, at noon tomorrow. Do you understand?”

“But,” I stammered, my heart in the pit of my stomach. “What did I do? What is this about?”

“You have your orders. Proceed.”

The armored patrol officer whizzed away and my door once again slid shut. I turned away from the blank wall, my mind racing. I had never heard of this Dr. Hope, but I knew where Central was and I figured I could find Building Four, but what could they want of me? Was I sick? No, the medical offices were located in a different District. This was Central.

Fighting the feeling of dread, I forced myself back to bed, and to my surprise, I was able to fall asleep with relative ease. I awoke early, ate my usual breakfast and then left to meet with Dr. Hope. My anxiety increased steadily the closer I got to Central and by the time I arrived at the appointed location, I was a bundle of nerves.

I waited in a large room with several other men, none of which I knew. As I waited, each of the other men were called into the main office. They entered through the main door and as far as I could tell, they did not come out of the room. At least, not through the waiting area. I digested this news in silence as I awaited my turn.

My name sounded over the loudspeaker a moment later and I rose to my feet. The receptionist pointed to the door and I slowly walked to it, pushed it open and stepped through into a long hallway. There was only one door, at the end of the hall, and I pushed it open and stepped into a huge amphitheater filled to capacity with people. On the far side of the immense room sat a smallish man at an even smaller table. A chair sat opposite him. I walked slowly to the chair, sat down and waited.

The man lowered the sheaf of papers he was reading and looked at me with dead eyes. “You are Joseph David?”

“I am.”

“Your designation is carpenter?”

“It is.”

“Central has determined that there are no trees left on any of the planets in this system. Wood and all wood by-products are now being manufactured. Carpentry is no longer a required field.” The man glanced down at his papers. “You have no other designation?”

My throat was dry, a barren desert as I answered him in no more than a whisper. “No, I do not.”

“You have been recorded as obsolescent. You are marked for termination. Please report to Room Six.”

“I don’t understand,” I said, though I knew only too well.

“You no longer serve a purpose. You have nothing left to contribute. You know the Law. There are no exceptions.”

“But I am only twenty-four!”

“Obsolescent. Proceed.”

Alone, I died.


- - -
J. Scott Kunkle served in the Army for 10 years before returning to his hometown of Tucson, Arizona. His short stories have appeared online at sites such as Bewildering Stories, Flashes in the Dark, Powder Burn Flash, Static Movement, Weird Year and The Fringe.


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