Thursday, October 25, 2012

10/25/12

The Altruism Vector
By George S. Karagiannis


Master says I am to keep the closet barred for as much as possible, despite the fact that creatures trapped inside are constantly trying to flee. I am pleased that Master trusts me with this significant task, because he is particularly busy trying to figure out what went wrong with the previous experiment and someone has to take care of these annoying beings. Up to the moment he will be done with the painful troubleshooting, I have strict orders to never leave my post -guarding the closet- at any cost.

Every time the creatures are trying to come out of their prison, I have to put my entire strength on the door to keep it intact; after a while, the creatures usually get exhausted and I can patiently wait up to their next waves of escape-efforts. But, I honestly hope Master finishes with this troubleshooting soon, because each wave becomes more and more intricate to prevent. You see, the creatures keep growing in numbers because they possess a highly-accelerating rate of reproduction so they spread around very easily.

I wouldn’t wish Master to get into depression once again, because of a second collapse of this damn experiment.

You see, … during the first time, everything looked good at the beginning; the creatures formed organized societies, so as to avoid the dangers of living in isolation, in the woods or in caves and everything was running smooth in the evolutionary process, as Master had hypothesized. Over the years, they obtained robust technologic progression which allowed them to solve many problems in their lives, such as communication between remote parts of their planet. Master was very glad for this outcome!

However, after a while they started making wars with each other to retain domination over the planet’s natural sources; wars were following one another, many losses and deaths occurred and war crimes were atrocious, for blood flooded their planet.

These wars lasted many creature generations but at some point they mysteriously stopped. This observation initially gave Master a true hope that the creatures gained an intelligence level that let them globally realize they should be united and act as a cohesive unit. But this wasn’t the case at all because in fact, “war” had only worn a different mask; the creatures started applying what Master called “financial slavery”; some creatures, living in more prosperous regions on the planet, enslaved others economically and repressed their vital freedoms, such as food, water, even speech. At some point, specific groups of creatures became equally strong and desperately tried to spread their shadow and influence all over the planet; they could not agree to a common logic, they didn’t want to divide their shares, they couldn’t agree to peaceful negotiations.

As a matter of fact, these creatures became knowledgeable of very dangerous technologies that Master named “nuclear weapons” and started using them in a deterministically wrongful way. Eventually, the immoral and evil leaders of the strong groups came to the decision to arm these weapons to scare other leaders away. Unfortunately, this foolish power struggle led the creature societies to overall extinction. The experiment proved to be an irreversible disaster.

Then, Master, deeply disappointed by himself, had to pay a visit to their planet and collect leftovers of the creatures’ genetic material; he decided to take it from the start. So, he reconstructed some creatures and they were reborn from their ashes.

Now, Master wants to intervene and manipulate their process of thinking. He is performing some biological tests, trying to incorporate a DNA vector in their brain cells that would minimize greediness, selfishness and other types of traits he believes are responsible for the failure of his first experiment. At the same time he will attempt something innovative; he said he would introduce a totally new vector, the so-called altruism vector, to a DNA frame that undergoes permanent transcription, so this process could be inherited to unlimited numbers of generations and never cease to replicate itself.

The idea to construct the altruism vector came from the fact that while Master was making his observations in the failed experiment, he witnessed some remarkable examples of creatures, acting in an extremely altruistic way in the already corrupted societies. These ‘paradoxical’ creatures were sacrificing their own lives most of the times because they persistently believed in an idea that served a common good and not an individual cause. Master was taking notes on the action of these creatures very scrupulously -once I secretly captured a chapter from his notebook termed “the Mother Teresa Case”, but didn’t understand anything! Master, then, used an a posteriori biometric stator to reconstruct the lives of these creatures frame by frame, through history, as a movie film and carefully analyzed their behavior over the years.

After decades of studying and working in numerous “Mother Teresa-like” cases, he is now completing the first synthesis of this sophisticated vector, which will hopefully lead the creatures to a totally different -and perhaps healthier- branch in the evolutionary tree.

Hope he finishes it up soon, though, because the creatures are growing more and more and I am not sure for how long I will be capable of keeping them in this closet. Because once they spread, these cancerous things are worse than a disease itself!


- - -
George S. Karagiannis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece and is currently a PhD student at the University of Toronto in Canada. He enjoys writing science-fiction in the subgenres of hard science fiction, bizzarro and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic settings. He is also an abstractionist/surreal artist and his blog can be found here: http://abstractsur.blogspot.com/. His personal website can be found here: http://karagiannis-sci-fi.blogspot.ca/

Thursday, October 18, 2012

10/18/12

But, Worth the Journey
By Acquanetta M. Sproule


Lost child. Lost child. Found.
Taken Dimensions apart.
Raised Here. Raised There. Loved.

Named Mik. Named Atten.
Each unknown to the other.
Content, at least. For now.

Atten, child of Space.
Star hopping for fun and gain.
Home is a fast ship.

Mik, child of Magic.
Apprenticed to the Masters.
Home is The Great World.

Mik. Grown. Atten. Grown.
Adequately surviving.
Content. At least, for now…

*
Mik reveres the Fates.
Controlled Knowledge is Power.
Power is Freedom.

Atten taunts the Fates.
To help stave off Their boredom.
Someone must do it.

Soon, Journeyman Mik?
Final test…Astrally Project,
away from Great World.


For 'grins and giggles,'
Atten returns to Found Place.
Hangs around awhile.

Mik steps out and drifts.
Drawn from destination.
Drawn back to Found Place.

Mik incorporates.
"This form feels familiar."
Atten is…surprised…

Mik. Atten. Now One.
Each now known to the Other.
Mik/Atten. Now One.

*
Lost Child. Found Child. Mik.
Trailed by amused Monitor,
"Stay or Come. You Choose."

What is best for both?
Should Mage or Maverick lead?
Which can follow best?

My way? Your way? No…
We are much too much alike.
We'd hate each other.

Atten. Mik. Once more.
A fast ship. The Great World. Home .
Freedom, is preferred…

Found kin. Found friend. Lost.
Accepting the apartness.
Alone? Yes…but Loved.


- - -
I write weird stuff.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10/11/12

Edie and the Aliens
By Beth J. Whiting


Edie was fourteen years old. She was alone in the middle of the cornfields when it happened. Edie often liked walking by herself at night. She found it soothing. She had on a pink Easter dress. She was a blonde.
When she saw the lights, she assumed that it was a helicopter or something like that. But then the oval shape of the silver spaceship came into view. Edie just stood still. She should have ran but she remained frozen.
The green men came down and took her into the ship.
The flight up was weird. All of the aliens were in their space suits running around the spaceship. She was dizzy from the flight. She heard them speaking in another language.

When Edie came to she was in a large empty warehouse. An alien in a suit was in a desk in front of her. Two aliens were at his sides.
The alien in a suit spoke English, “In a matter of weeks you will have an operation. We do have several abductees so you will have to remain on a waiting list until the procedure is done. Afterwards you can go home.”
“How soon is that?”
“Generally a month.”

She was taken to a warehouse full of humans in bunk beds. Most people looked out of it. Edie was given blue scrubs to wear. Everyone else wore blue scrubs.
People were rambling. Most of the talk was about getting back home and their families.
When Edie approached her bunk bed, the woman on the bottom her said, “But you’re just a little girl.”
Edie agreed with her. Edie laid there on the top bunk. She had had a rough day. She stared into space.

The next day Edie was awaken by the aliens. It was 6 o’clock in the morning. She was told it was breakfast time. She went down to the cafeteria with the other humans. They fed them cornbread, grits, and milk.
“This is when they feed us good. Just wait for the gruel in the night,” a guy warned her.
Edie ate her meal in silence.

Edie was walking on her way back to the warehouse when she bumped into a little alien.
He said, “Excuse me.”
It was strange, a polite alien. He was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, like he was a human.
She asked, “What’s your name kid?”
He answered, “Wrong.”
What a weird name.
“You speak English.”
“Not many people do around here.”
He was right. She only heard one and that was the guy in charge she guessed.
“I’ll be seeing you around,” the alien said. He carried a deck of cards in hands. He scampered away.

When Edie went to her quarters, she enquired about the little alien.
“Where does he come from?”
“That alien is the leader’s child. Just because he’s a kid doesn’t mean he isn’t tainted like the rest.”
Edie put that in mind. Just because they were little didn’t mean they didn’t have an agenda.

Edie saw there were a few teenagers and children there. They already had formed their own little clique there. She didn’t know how to break in.
When Edie was coming back from the cafeteria, the alien asked her to play hoops with him.
She didn’t see why not.
He went to a basketball court.
It wasn’t occupied at the moment.
“I like to play hoops by myself,” he said.
She said bitterly, “How does it feel to have a tyrant for a father?”
The alien didn’t talk at first.
“I honestly don’t know what goes on in the abductions. That’s grown up stuff. My father has already taught me English because he sees a bright future for me. So yeah when I grow up I probably will abduct you.”
She didn’t know what to say to that.
“In the mean time we can play hoops. So what’s your name?”
She was about to say that she didn’t care to talk to him. But Edie realized it was a whole month before the operation. She had to talk to someone.
“So do you know anything about the operation?”
“No.”
“Do you like humans?”
“Yes. I do think what my father does is wrong. But I’m going to have to unlearn that if I want to survive as a grown up.”
“I bet I can throw more hoops than you.”
“You’re on.”
They played for thirty minutes before the alien said they had to stop.
“I have to get home before my father comes home. He gets mad when I’m late.”
She went home to the bunk bed. She laid there on her bed for an hour. Without books or television, life was boring. That little alien looked like he was going to be her sole entertainment.

The next day the adults got talking among themselves. They had theories about the operation.
Some said it was a black market.
Others said that it was supposed to be an exercise in torture.
Edie’s stomach tied itself in knots. In some way it would have been better just to get it over with. But they had plenty of humans to choose from.
“They’re going to eat me,” one man raved.
One woman was paranoid.
“They say they’re take us back but can we really trust their word?”


Edie found that the alien was always in view on her way back. She realized he purposefully wanted to meet her.
“Why me? Why not the other kids?”
“They have their own crowd.”
“I just haven’t had the time to get myself into one.”
“It’s been a week.”
“It’s not like I’ll see these people again. Some probably live in other countries. Why do you need us anyway?”
“That’s classified information.”
“How would you like if humans abducted aliens?”
“They do tests on us too.”
“Oh.”
“You want to play some hoops or not?”
“Don’t you have anything else here?”
“There’s a swimming pool but you don’t have a bathing suit.”
“Fine we’ll play hoops.”

While they were playing hoops she asked, “Do you have any alien friends your age?”
“Just two.”
“Why do you hang around me then?”
“Because I was bored and picked you out of a crowd. You’re too analytical. What do you plan to do when you get home?”
“I plan to tell my family I was abducted by aliens.”
“They won’t believe you.”
“I’m not the only person running around saying that.”

By the second week the people around her bunk bed knew that Edie was playing hoops with the alien.
“Why do you want to become friends with them? You’re friends with the enemy. What you think you’re too good for us?”
She started to notice that people snubbed her. She would get a whole table by herself at lunch.
She told herself who needs them anyway. It was only a month.

Edie noticed that the last week of the month the alien began to be sad.
Edie jumped and said, “It’s the last week.”
The alien was sad, “You’re just be back home. You’re already on another planet, having an experience.”
“You’ll miss me huh?”
Edie smiled. Then she noticed he frowned. So she realized she put her foot in her mouth and was quiet the rest of their time together.

The operation wasn’t something to be excited about.
There were aliens in medical coats. Edie screamed when they took her away. Four seized her and grabbed her from her bunk bed, dragging her to the ground. She threw a tantrum. Her legs were flying everywhere.
She saw the operating room and there were sharp tools all around. She screamed. But then an alien knocked her out.

When Edie came to, she was in a crop circle in the cornfields. She realized it was her own land. So she walked back home.
She found her father near the house.
When he saw her he ran towards her.
“Edie. Edie. You’re back.”
Then her father brought her mother home and they rejoiced.
“Where did you run away to Edie?”
“I was abducted.”
“You were what?”

The parents grounded her for a month for running away. Her explanation of UFO’s didn’t stand to reason for them.
Her father ended up calling Edie loopy.
She had missed her entire summer.
She thought about Wrong sometimes. Maybe he found another human replacement to play with.

When Edie came to high school, it wasn’t the Edie that had come before hand. It was one that had her hair uncombed and her thoughts in another place.
When people asked why she wasn’t seen during the summer Edie answered that she had been abducted by aliens. She was looked at strangely from then.
It was while at school that Edie noticed that something was wrong. All of the assignments in school looked like a foreign language to her. She could study and study but nothing came through. She was getting F’s on all of her assignments.
The counselor said, “I’m afraid that Edie has to be held back. She’s not all there.”
Edie realized why the operation was done. It was to extract information. But why a teenager?
Why not get a rocket scientist or someone smart?


That was when Edie started to write letters to Wrong.
She wrote Wrong telling him what had happened, that they had taken information for her head. Why she did not know. She asked if he was playing with someone else.
She sent these letters by post office with just Wrong on the envelope.
He never wrote back. Since she put a forward letter on the address she assumed that he was getting them which was why she didn’t stop.

When Edie was sixteen in the ninth grade again, she had someone in the class ask why she was repeating the grade.
She answered calmly that aliens had abducted her and taken information from her brain.
The kids around her laughed.
When Edie was walking out into the halls, she found a masculine looking guy follow her. She wondered why this was.
“You shouldn’t say things like that.”
“But it’s the truth.”
He introduced himself as Aaron.
“I heard about you from my mom. She’s the English teacher at this school. You failed her class. She was intrigued because you showed up for after school tutoring too.”
“Oh.”
“I’d like to hear about your alien encounters.”
She had a feeling that he didn’t believe her. But she wanted to talk to someone so she agreed.
After school Edie talked to him in the shade outside school. She told him about Wrong, about them abstracting information from her.
When she was done he said, “You have one over active imagination.”
“But it’s the truth,” she said defensive.
“Let me tell you what I’ll be your tutor. You can pay me $5 an hour. I’m cheap. Besides I’d like to hear more about your alien stories.”
“What grades do you get?”
“A’s. I could show you my report card if you want.”
Edie thought the guy was a jerk. But he did offer cheap prices. Her parents would be willing to pay that.

Edie met with him the next day after school in the library.
He was floored.
“You can’t even do long division.”
“I can sort of.”
“Are you sure you weren’t this way before your alien abduction?”
She said, “No. I was an honor roll student. ”
He sighed, “It looks like I’m going to have to teach you from the beginning.”

When Edie got home, she wrote a letter to Wrong.

Wrong,
I had after school tutoring today with a jerk. I feel so stupid. I can’t even do elementary school math. Are you playing with someone else?”
Edie


The next time she met Aaron she talked about the bunked beds. She discussed how she became disliked by the people because she hung out with an alien.
“Well that part makes sense. Of course they wouldn’t want you hanging out with an alien. What age was the alien anyway?”
“I don’t know.”
He laughed, “Can’t you just make up an age?”
She looked annoyed.
“If you’re going to be around me you have to at least accept I believe that these alien visits happen. I don’t want to hear I’m making it up.”
“Fine. Whatever.”

She was surprised in science that he agreed to be her partner.
“I need to get you a guaranteed A.”
He asked her how her parents treated the alien abduction.
“They don’t laugh about it. They don’t believe it though.”
“What about the part about the alien abstraction?”
“I haven’t told them that part. Can we just focus on the science project?”
They had to make a planet model.
Aaron asked her if she could come over.
“You can help me glue and stuff. I’ll write the report.”

So Edie went to Aaron’s house. They had a nice home. It was full of books which made sense since his mother was an English teacher.
They made the project out in the family room which had a nice couch. They made the project on the floor. Aaron had glitter and glue available. She put glitter on the globes that he had already made.
It looked like he did most of it himself already.
So she asked him frankly.
“Why am I here?”
“You’re odd. I’m bored with the people I hang around with.”
She didn’t answer that.
“So how did your alien look like?”
“He had oval eyes and was small. He was green.”
When she mentioned that he wore human clothing, Aaron laughed.
“What he wanted to replicate us?”
She never thought about it that way.
“You say that only his father and him spoke English. I doubt that. With all the alien abductions I would think they would teach that in school.”
Edie was about to say don’t go against my story. But then she remembered that he thought she was making it up.

Edie was surprised when she received a letter the next day. It was from Wrong.

He said that he hadn’t met a human replacement. He said that it was lonely there.

She felt sad about this. She thought about telling Aaron about it since it was proof. But however she refrained from it. She put it in her scrapbook.
Aaron and her gave the science project presentation. It gave her an A but she had a feeling that would still repeat the ninth grade again.

The next letter Edie got was from Wrong’s dad which surprised her.

It pleaded with her to come back with them. Wrong was lonely and Edie was the only friend he had ever. She realized that Wrong had lied to her. In return for agreeing to their terms they would gave her brain back in the condition that it had been.
Edie wasn’t so sure that she wanted another alien abduction but there wasn’t a whole lot going for her here either. She figured at the most they would think she ran away again. So she agreed to their terms.
The spaceship landed on a late Saturday night. Edie ran to the cornfields and found an alien ship with Wrong and his father on board. She hugged him as she went inside.
Aaron couldn’t get to sleep that night and he saw a spaceship flying through the sky. He decided he must have been dreaming.


- - -
Beth J. Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy eccentrics. At eight years old she developed a love of books through the works of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. Her short stories revolve around underdogs in suburban settings, such as the one in which she was raised. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10/4/12

Genesis
By John C. Mannone


          Galactic outpost, Delta Lyrae1c, Earthdate 2231.4

The landscape smoldered and red dust hung in the thin air; the blue sun slipped below the ragged mountains. Hundreds of dead bodies were strewn amidst the rubble; insects swarmed. Lane stirred from the buzz of flies and their digging into his flesh. The gash in his forehead had festered after several days while he was unconscious in the alien atmosphere. He struggled to stand; in that moment, he remembered what had happened and frantically tried to run, but staggered and fell as he scrambled over the carnage. A sickening-sweetness permeated the air. He pushed away disheveled pieces of walls and toppled roofs, unearthing one dead body after another. A familiar gold barrette lay on the ground. Nearby, long brown hair swept from under the rocks. Lane dashed toward that pile of debris, crying, crying to his wife, “Sarah!” He levered the concrete blocks with a piece of lumber to free her. His fingers shook as he pressed them against her carotid; he sensed a weak pulse. A broken piece of silvered glass, close to her mouth, fogged with faint breath.

***

A few days later, Sarah’s fever broke; she moaned when she sat up. Lane rushed to her side.

“Lie down, darling. Don’t try to get up.” He cradled her hand in his, caressing it; with the other, he gently brushed her hair over her shoulders as he lowered her back down to the mattress. He kissed her on the lips. Her green eyes closed for a moment, but quickly reopened.

“Lane! What happened?”

“I don’t know exactly.”

He struggled to get the words out, “Except for us, everyone is dead from weapons’ blasts… and radiation. We were attacked by something, someone.”

Silence gripped her throat. She stared at Lane for the longest time.

“My God! What are we going to do?”

“Don’t worry about that right now. The reactor is operational, and we have plenty of food and water. I’m sure the Galactic Federation will be sending a patrol soon.” Lane’s face didn’t flinch. All those years in medical school didn’t teach him how to cure fear — only to hide it.

***

Lane was also expert in bionics; Sarah, in physics and electrical engineering. (Being cross-disciplines was survival strategy when terraforming hostile environments.)

Sarah diligently repaired the communications module capable of faster-than-light transmission, and reception, by launching waves into the fifth dimension. Lane wrote new computer codes for the modified unit. It should only take a couple of months to radio Earth; without it, it would take twenty years.

The module crackled on power-up; their faces tensed while sending the distress signal.

***

“It’s been over four months. I don’t think our rescue ship is coming.” Sarah’s head drooped.

Panel lights blinked red. “Wait a minute! I’m getting something.” Sarah pressed the headset to her ears. “It’s from a vessel in Gamma quadrant.”

“Gamma quadrant?” Lane blared. “That’s nowhere near home!”

Straining to hear, she finally discerned the words…Her countenance changed to a blank stare.  She removed the headset, gently set it down.

“What’s the matter, honey?” She didn’t answer him. Lane snatched the headset; the words scratched through:

May Day! May Day! This is Federation Battle Cruiser November Alpha One Niner Seven; base coordinates, RA185856.62 DEC324122.4; heading, Vega star cluster, direct. Encountered hostile life forms, entity unknown. Ship damaged. Life-support compromised. All outposts attacked. Earth destroyed.

The Captain’s last words repeated in an endless loop.

She slowly turned to Lane. In that moment, there was nothing they could do but to hold each other. That night, he loved her as if it were the last time.

***

Two suns tugged on this planet; forced it into strange orbits and long seasons of dark.  But now was the time for planting. The yellow sun would stay good position for another year. Sarah lost herself in the garden while Lane slaved in the lab while he still had his strength. He didn’t tell Sarah… about the massive dose of radiation he received during the assault; he was thankful that Sarah was in a shielded vault. He didn’t tell her he would not have long to live. He had to finish the project soon!

***

Sarah slept soundly. Lane sensed his biological systems rapidly degrading; it was less than a year since the injury. He kissed her sweetly and slipped out of bed to finish the important work.

He had grown tissue cultures in saline tanks… for the grafting, and installed the last neural net, configured from scavenged circuits. Then Lane recorded his farewell message to Sarah. With activation protocols downloaded, he connected the electrode harness and proceeded with the memory transfer.

***

Sarah awoke; felt a cool breeze up her spine. Lane wasn’t there.

She shuffled to the lab; found Lane slumped over the computer console. “Lane!” She said shaking him. She noticed the clenched piece of paper; listened to the recording.

“Damn you, Lane! How could you leave me? And not say anything?” Mascara inked her cheeks as she crumpled the note.

From the corner of the lab, a high-pitched whir came from the activated cyborg. Lights flashed sporadically from its eyes, and its head twitched. Ingrained with his DNA, it was a perfect replica of Lane: six-foot-two, square-jawed, blond crew-cut, even down to the scar on his head.

Its neural nets overloading from processing its new environment, the cyborg ambled toward her, at first, clumsy and inarticulate, uttering “Sss-aah-rah.”

“Get away from me! You’re not Lane! Leave me alone!”

“Sa-rah…. Sarah….Don’t..go.”

“Get…,” but her mouth hung open on the first syllable.

Tears traced its face. “I am for you, Sarah.”

***

Red dust still hung in the thin blue air. Sarah walked to till the garden; her hair, beautiful in the low sun. Her silhouette — soft, pregnant — blended with his. The cyborg cradled her hand with a touch that she knew well.



- - -
John C. Mannone has been nominated three times for the Pushcart and once for the Rhysling. His work appears in the Baltimore Review, Conclave, Pedestal, The Hellroaring Review, Paper Crow and others. He teaches physics, is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, and is the poetry editor of Silver Blade.


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