Thursday, December 31, 2015

12/31/15

There will not be Time
By David K Scholes


At first it was only barely perceptible. A sense that everything around me had sped up a little. I wondered if someone had spiked my drink with a very mild dose of the slowtime drug.

Then it seemed the slowtime dose might have been much stronger as everything around me was moving alarmingly fast in relation to my own body movements. My own thought processes. Then things around me really took off, so to speak, and I started to realise that I had a problem. A problem that had nothing at all to do with slowtime or any other drug. My own perception of the passage of time was quite out of kilter with the mayhem surrounding me. As if there were two lanes of traffic and I was very much in the slow lane. The very slow lane.

The progression became exponential. From people around me moving very fast to their becoming a blur, to whole days lasting apparent seconds for me, to months passing in the blink of my eye, then years and decades and even centuries passing before me. The blurred outline of a constantly changing futuristic world becoming continually ever more futuristic spread out before me.

Early in this process I realised I was moving up through the well of time. There could be no other explanation. A part of me was terrified by this while the scientist in me was fascinated by the phenomenon.

* * *

The first serious attempt to help me came from the Time Authority after 2500 AD. A time arrestor was thrown across my projected time path by Time Police. I suppose a mundane analogy might have been highway police throwing out road spikes in order to stop a vehicle travelling at very high speed. For just a moment it looked like they might be successful. My rate of progress up through time was slowing dramatically. The Time Authority had even worked out a crude way to pass me a message. A permanently located, ultra long lasting 4 Dimensional electronic communication board existing in a broad time band and set up at my last known location.

Further up time two more attempts were made by the Time Authority to bring my headlong advance to a halt. Each failed. Following this I saw a message from the Time Authority. It read “Good bye, good luck, and god speed.” It gave me the shivers.

After this I received no more messages from the Time Authority and was not aware of any further attempts to halt my passage through time. For a part of my journey I felt very, very alone.

At some point well back in my past I had shed my physical human corporeal body. Now I was just a consciousness without physical or even energy form hurtling through time. I knew that my consciousness had been vastly expanded during my journey. Though I don’t know how. Still I was able to see and understand much more now.

* * *

Somewhen I failed to notice the birth and death of suns as these were happening too quickly. Though I was still able to bear witness to the birth and death of galaxies. Then I noticed that no more new Galaxies were appearing. That the Universe, the Multiverse even, was running down.

At this moment my consciousness gave thought to something that I now knew was more than merely a theoretical concept. Time’s End – or to use the more technical term - the End Time horizon. Though what might become of me when I reached that ultimate up time barrier I could not begin to imagine.

As the Multiverse continued to run down I realised I was now beyond saving by any of the great powers save, just perhaps, Time’s Guardian himself. He had never intervened in my predicament and a part of my consciousness wondered why.

Then finally I began to slow and slow dramatically in my advance up through the well of time. Ahead I could actually see the End Time horizon and I knew that even Time’s Guardian himself could not help me now. I knew, intuitively, that here in this place, that noble entity, his job done, no longer existed.

I was now long, long past loneliness and fear and a part of my current consciousness was actually even elated to be here at this last moment of time.

Yet why me? I wondered why me? Just as my consciousness impacted the End Time horizon.

Consciousness then departed me just as my physical corporeal body had departed me earlier.

Yet some non-conscious part of me sensed that I was not completely done for. That I still existed in some form on some level.

Then in this place beyond time a level of altered consciousness, returned for me and I saw a concerned, not unsympathetic face looking at me.

“We are starting up again,” he said “that’s how it all works, but you know that now. A few others will follow but you are the first to arrive. Apart from several inanimate objects that were more of a test run.”

I knew now exactly what he meant.

Looking around I saw that God had made just a small start.

Soon a new Multiverse would be aborning.


- - -
The author has published seven collections of speculative fiction short stories and two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF and Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites and has also been published on a variety of other speculative fiction sites. He is currently working on a new science fiction novella.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

12/24/15

Night Before Zombiemas
By E.S. Wynn


I’ll never forget that light, that pulsing strobe of red and green as it lit up the snowy night sky like some tainted swarm of impossibly flying patrol cars. It was terrifying, eerie as it played among the blistering, pockmarked shadows clinging to the faces of the zombie mob, the shambling horde of eager corpses that yawned on into the night, moaning as they sought every sleeping body nestled snug in its bed, checked every house for survivors twice. My house was no different; they came in through the doors, the windows, the chimney. My only hope of escape was the second story, to climb out the window and onto the snow covered roof, to find up there some way to get down or get across to the next house before their prancing feet and pawing hands could find me.

But I was not so lucky.

No sooner did I reach the slope of the roof than what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a brilliant light that stabbed down at me from the heavens, blinding and hot against my skin even as I threw my arms in front of my face. There was a whistle, a shout, a crack of a whip, and then in the haze I heard his voice, knew the terrible laugh of the one who had spurred on the zombie horde, the one whose whip drove them forward and into the sleeping streets, kept them hungry, eager for human flesh. I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick, vicious overlord of the northern skies.

There was no time, no choice– I ran, but quickly realized that running barefoot on a frosty, angled roof is no vision of sugar-plums. I lost my balance almost immediately, slid sideways and then spun on the curve of one foot right off the edge and into snowy infinity. The ground came up at me like a flash, tore open my leg and slashed up my hands. In an instant, I knew I was done for, could hear the horde as it closed in on me, hungry to taste the bruised and broken flesh that my fall had opened for them. Cruel, talon-like fingers reached toward me, and for a moment I saw my death, whole body stiffening, chilling with the harsh realization that I was about to die.

And then Mrs. Rosenschwartz appeared.

She came hurtling out of nowhere like a flash in the night, her blood-stained walker and gnashing dentures a vision of salvation, the swinging reusable shopping bag at her side crammed with goodies meant for the zombie horde. In one swift movement, she plunged one gnarled hand into the sack and tore loose a brown bottle whose white, plastic lid was no match for her porcelain chompers. I caught the twinkle in her eye as she bit free the cap and hurled the bottle into the mob, spraying countless numbers of the undead with a clear liquid that bit into their rotting flesh with foamy violence, dropping them in agonized heaps of writhing, screaming putridity.

“Here, take one, sonny.” She said suddenly, pressing one of the brown bottles into my hand with a grin. “Closest thing left on God’s green earth to holy water when it comes to these rotting punks!”

She didn’t wait for me to respond, just smiled that iridescent, be-dentured smile covered in the stains acquired in countless years of hard reps with a mug of coffee and a dedicated patience to the tutelage of a cigarette. In another instant, she was pushing her way back into the fray again, tossing bottles of the stuff right and left, draining each plastic carcass out upon the convulsing flesh of the risen dead. Awestruck and amazed, I looked at the label of the bottle, eyes wondering after the name of the magical liquid I clutched in my shivering hands. I found the name almost immediately. Hydrogen Peroxide.

I looked up in shock, saw the foaming carnage all around me. With a few well aimed tosses, old Mrs. Rosenschwartz had leveled the endless march of undead under a hail of writhing, bubbly torture whose burn fed upon the rot and disease inherent in every inch of corrupted flesh. Those zombies still under St. Nick’s control quivered in fear as Mrs. Rosenschwartz pulled another bottle of the magic liquid from her still bulging sack, but they soon lost even that speck of nerve and retreated like a host of holiday shoppers going home after Black Friday. St. Nick grumbled and hissed and gathered them all, then he hitched up his ship as his fiery engines gave a whistle and the whole horde flew away like the burning, rocket-powered down of a cyberpunk thistle.

But I swear that I heard him say as he roared out of sight;

I’ll get you next Christmas kid; you just got lucky tonight.


- - -
Santa Claus believed in E.S. Wynn when he was a child, but later found out that the man in the khaki shorts and loud hawaiian shirts that wrote novels on the wall on Christmas Eve for an offering of cheese danish and Doctor Pepper was actually just his father in disguise.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

12/17/15

Buck’s Brainstorm
By C.E. Gee (aka Chuck)


Buck picked his way past a garage full of cabinets, cardboard boxes, electronic gear, computers, piles of old books and magazines.

Buck bellied up to his work bench, flipped open the screen of a laptop, then heard a vehicle in the driveway. He opened the garage door.

Buck strolled up to the car just as Jerry climbed out.

“How you doing, man?” asked Jerry. “Haven’t seen you in awhile.”

“Been busy,” replied Buck, smiling at his old friend.

“What you working on?” asked Jerry.

The two men entered the garage; Buck closed the door, turned to Jerry, replied, “You’re not going to believe it.”

“Try me,” challenged Jerry.

Buck pointed to a pair of plastic lawn chairs. “Maybe we should sit. My explanation might take some time.”

They sat. There came a moment of silence as Buck found his words.

Buck asked, “You familiar with the theory that nuclear fusion at the Sun’s core generates the Sun’s energy?”

“Sure.”

“Well that energy is spread out, goes from infrared to gamma rays and everything betwixt and between, maybe even beyond.”

Jerry shrugged a disinterested acknowledgement.

Buck declared, “The currently accepted theory about how fusion works in the Sun is fundamentally incorrect.”

Jerry nodded, said, “Go on.”

“My competing theory is all about cosmic rays, specifically gamma rays. The fusion at the Sun’s core doesn’t so much cause some gamma rays and such as much as it’s initiated by those rays.”

Jerry smirked as he asked, “So where do those cosmic rays come from?”

“Black holes.”

Jerry huffed, wagged his head in disbelief.
“Man,” Jerry said, “you’ve come up with some wacko ideas in your time, but this one takes the cake.”

With just a hint of condescension, Buck replied, “You’re familiar with the fact that galaxies have black holes within them, often at their centers?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll try to make this explanation as concise as possible.

"The black holes generate channels, channels through another dimension, channels to stars in their galaxy.

“Energy taken in by black holes is recycled out to the stars via these channels. Much the same way that experimenters on Earth try to start fusion reactions by using lasers, streams of cosmic rays causes fusion in suns.

“Civilizations more advanced than ours use these channels, hyperspace channels I call ‘em -- they use these channels for interstellar travel and also for communication.”

Jerry leaned forward, patted Buck on the knee, sat back in his chair, said, “Interesting theory. How you plan to prove it?”

“Already did.”

Buck stood, motioned for Jerry to follow, went to the work bench.

At the work bench, Buck asked, “You’ve noticed that parabolic antenna on my garage roof?”

“Sure.”

“I’ve motorized it,” said Buck. “You know, like in the old days when people in rural areas used electric motors to remotely rotate their TV antennas so as to home in on specific TV stations. In this case, my antenna automatically follows the Sun.“

There was a flat-screen television mounted on the wall above the workbench. As Buck switched on the television, he said, “My laptop’s USB port is fed by the roof’s antenna through a converter I built that takes downloaded signals from the antenna and converts them. I then use the laptop’s video out jack to feed the TV’s component video jack.”

Buck typed at the laptop’s keyboard for a moment, then said, “The people at SETI point their antennas away from the Sun because of interference. They should be pointing their antennas directly at the Sun.”

Buck pressed his laptop’s ENTER key; an image appeared on the television’s screen.

The image was that of a pond. Vegetation surrounding the pond was unfamiliar though obviously tropical in appearance. Two scorpion-like creatures wearing utility belts skittered into the field of view. The creatures moved on four legs, and they had four arms tipped with pincers –- pincers that were proportionally much smaller than pincers found on the scorpions of Earth.

The creatures backed up to the pond, lowered their tails into the water. They were very close to one another –- intertwined antenna.
“That’s it,” commented Buck. “They just sit there for a few minutes, then move off. Then, two more scorpions, or whatever they are, they repeat the scene. Then, two more. This goes on all the time until their sun sets.”

Buck poked at the laptop’s number pad a few times, hit the ENTER key.

Another image flashed to life.

A large insect was surrounded by a mob of smaller insects. The insects resembled outsized locusts but had humanoid heads. The smaller insects took turns mating with the large insect.

Buck said, “I suspect they got those heads by deliberate DNA mixing with another species.

Buck changed channels again –- and again and again and again. Each channel displayed mating practices of aliens.

Finally, Buck said, “There are many thousands of these channels. I’ve yet to discern any logical purpose that’s served by them. Perhaps they’re instructional? Or maybe they’re similar to our wildlife documentaries?”

Jerry laughed, clapped his friend on the shoulder while saying, “Man, I’ve known you for a long, long time. You’re the most intelligent person I’ve ever been around. But you know, like many of your ilk, you sometimes don’t see the obvious.”

To Buck’s questioning look, Jerry continued, “This incredible interstellar communications system is just like our Internet. No doubt, advanced beings built it with perfectly logical and practical intentions. But once their general public got involved with it, it’s become filled with porn.”

Buck’s mouth fell open. He gaped at the screen, exclaimed, “Good grief! I believe you’re right!”

Buck snorted, shook his head. “Let’s go get a beer. I need one.”


- - -
Chuck has answered many callings: logger, factory worker, Vietnam infantryman,, telecommunications technician, volunteer fireman and EMT, light show roady, businessperson, sysop, webmaster. Retired and a disabled vet, Chuck now writes.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

12/10/15

The Sound of Your Voice
By John C Adams


Dear Mrs Smith,

I have been passed your case file by our Complaints Manager. I am the Managing Director of Farewell Experiences Inc and I hope I’ll be able to answer your enquiries to your satisfaction. I have also sent a copy of this letter to your attorney, as you requested.

First of all, let me say from everyone at the company how sorry we were to hear of your sad loss. Please allow me to extend our deepest sympathies to you and to your family. I understand that you and your husband had three children and I wish all of you the very best at this difficult time.

I am aware that some of your enquiries relate to how we obtain the data upon which we base our Family Goodbye Premium Service. I’m sure you will appreciate that this is confidential and that the algorithm that generates the data for the service is trademarked and forms the backbone of Farewell Experiences Inc’s stockmarket valuation. I can say in generic terms that the algorithm can process up to sixty billion gigabytes of data in only a few seconds. Together with the access we’ve negotiated to the national chain of hospitals where your husband died, this algorithm enables us to capture the last thoughts of the recently deceased. Over the last twenty years, Farewell Experiences Inc has helped over one million grieving families to feel that they have shared the last thoughts of their loved one and to treasure the final words and sentiments of their family members forever.

In response to your suggestions that we are harassing vulnerable patients, let me reassure you that your late husband had signed up to the service of his own free will before he was diagnosed with cancer. In fact, checking his initial contract I notice that he signed up on the eve of his first marriage almost thirty years ago and paid a lifetime subscription at this point. When he married for the second time, I note from our Quality Assurance Checksheet, he updated the next of kin section and opted to have you, as his widow, receive the final message in preference to his ex-wife.

I have spoken at length to the Director at Our Sisters of Mercy Hospital here in the city. He in turn has questioned the nurses and the consultant who were on duty that day in the Intensive Care ward. They all confirm that, in accordance with our standard procedures, your husband’s mind data was gathered promptly and that, just before he lost consciousness for the last time, the hospital’s Farewell Experiences Inc representative checked with him that he wished to go ahead and use the service.

After your husband died, his mind data was uploaded to our server here at our head offices. Your husband’s last message to you was extracted from the enormous quantity of data obtained. It was processed in accordance with our standard procedures. It was also cross-checked with our files by a member of our Quality Assurance Team. I understand that, due to a particularly cold snap around the time your husband died, our team was somewhat overloaded and, unusually, some of our processing was outsourced to another company. As a result, certain of our Quality Assurance benchmarks appear not to have been followed in your husband’s case. In particular, I regret to say, the standard process of checking that the name of the intended recipient matched those of the next of kin appears to have been omitted.

In the decades we have been offering this product we have never previously, to my knowledge, delivered a message to a second wife intended for a first. Let me say again how very sorry I am at the distress this failure on our part caused you. I have reviewed our contracts with the outsourcing provider, Quickly Does It.Com, and intend to ensure that we do not use them again.

If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

James T Sidewinder
Managing Director
Farewell Experiences Inc


- - -
John C Adams is a trainee submissions reader with Albedo One magazine. She was longlisted for the Aeon Award in 2012 and 2013. You can read more of her short fiction in forthcoming anthologies from Horrified Press or for free at her website.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

12/3/15

Packed For Jack
By David Castlewitz



The old lady sat alone in the departure lounge, two suitcases at her feet. When she slipped off her shoes, Sam Jamieson saw holes in her dark stockings. A malformed big toenail poked through the cotton.
Sam stood close to the curved window looking down at the lounge, one hand on a cold railing. Those behind and beside him were workers on break and a few who'd slipped away from their assignments to watch the old lady.
"Is anyone going to help her?" Sam said to the men and women who'd gathered to gawk.
"You've got to do it, Sam."
He looked sideways at the curly haired young woman who'd spoken and now joined him at the railing. He remembered her pert demeanor, and all those blonde curls, as well as the lively gray eyes. But not her name. Lately, names escaped him. Too many years, he told himself. Soon, he'd be like that old lady in the empty lounge.
"Lynn," the young woman said. "Housekeeping. Red pod."
"Of course." Sam took hold of her extended hand. "You just got that promotion, right?" He remembered the dossier he'd reviewed. He recalled her employee number. Lynn, he repeated to himself, hoping he'd remember the name.
"We met at last month's banquet," Lynn said. "But I know you meet so many people. Must be hard to keep us all straight."
"Yes." He realized he'd muttered the word, so he tried to find something more to say. Like what? The population's whittling away, so new faces shouldn't be so hard to remember; new names shouldn't be difficult to recall. Most had come here as children. Some as babies. Lynn, he imagined from the look of her, must've been one of those noisy toddlers rushing through the gangways of the long range star cruiser that brought everyone here.
"Why aren't you at work?" Sam asked.
Lynn grinned. Such straight teeth. Bred that way? She shrugged and said, "Everyone's been talking about her. All day."
"Has it been that long?" Sam gazed at the old woman. Older than he. By ten or more years. A heavyset, elderly lady with a life's worth of possessions packed in those two gray bags at her feet.
"Don't turn me into the president," Lynn said, and smiled again.
"I think the president knows," Sam quipped. He looked at the throng behind them in the observation room, which had been designed for families to watch for newcomers or see off departing guests and family.
But no one ever arrived and no one ever left.
"Who's going to tell her?" Lynn asked.
"I guess that's the president's job," Sam said with a sigh. My job. To tell her about reality. Pull her mind from the limbo to which it had gone, as all minds seem to go... eventually.
He walked to the exit. Took the stairs. Not two or three at a time. This job wasn't something he wanted to do. But the old lady, like all the colonists, was his responsibility. Everything fell on his narrow shoulders. Lynn's promotion. Her cleaning crew's efficiency. His wife's comfort. The quality of the monthly banquets. The tempo and meaning of his quarterly speeches.
Everything.
Including this old lady with her bags packed.
He walked into the vast lounge. So empty and so unused. That saddened him. He strode across the tiled floor, footsteps heavy and loud. When he reached the woman sitting so patiently in the curvy comfortable chair near the big windows, he stopped, his hands behind his back.
"You shouldn't be here."
"I'm all packed and waiting for Jack," she said, lifting her round, wrinkled face.
Sam didn't ask, Who's Jack? What did it matter? A dead husband? A dead son.
The old lady said, "Jack's going back with me."
"What pod're you from?"
"Utah. Blue."
Sam nodded. One of the first pods they'd put up while the colonists lived in close quarters in the cruiser.
"I'm going back," the old lady said.
Sam looked away, so she wouldn't see how sad he'd become. He looked at the barren landscape beyond the big windows. This terminal and its lounge had been built when the colony was young and they'd hoped they were the forerunners of more settlers to come.
But no ships arrived. The cruiser that brought them failed to lift off and the crew that should've returned to Earth became just so many more pioneers.
No ships ever came from Earth. No messages, either. No one knew why.
"I don't want to hurt your feelings," the old lady said, "but I don't like it here. I want to go back. Jack said we could if I wanted to."
Sam nodded. "Jack was your husband?"
"Lover. We ran away together. Imagine that."
Must've been a hundred Earth years ago, Sam thought. His gaze shifted from the barren world beyond the lounge, a world they'd tried to make worth mining and exploiting; he looked at the old woman with tears on her sunken cheeks. Then he looked at the people in the observation deck, many of them standing with Lynn at the railing.
They cried as well. Like the old lady, they wanted to go home, too, Sam thought.
He extended his hand. Maybe the best thing to do was the worst he could do. He had the power.
He walked the old lady to the airlock. He key-code-opened the door. "Jack'll be along pretty soon," he said, and shut the door, leaving the smiling old woman and her packed bags on the other side of the thick glass. She waved to him and he unsealed the outer door, exposing the old woman to the airless world outside. She gasped, eyes wide, still with a smile on her bloodless lips, hands gripping her packed bags on either side of her.
When Sam walked across the lounge, the people in the observation deck applauded and cheered.


- - -
After a long and successful career as a software developer and technical architect, I have turned to my first love: SF and fantasy. I have published several stories in Weirdyear, Farther Stars Than These, Fast Forward Festival, Encounters and other online as well as print magazines. Search the web and you’ll even find some of my earlier military history articles. My longer work can be found at
https://www.amazon.com/author/davidcastlewitz

Thursday, November 26, 2015

11/26/15

Flight Of The Untethered Balloon
By Christie-Luke Jones


Awake from slumber, son of Terra.
Pull back the shades and gaze upon the vast, artless oceans,
Where form and faith and fear and folly,
Lay slain by inky nothingness.

Phosphorescent bastards of a benign Aztec god,
Weigh heavy on idle pupils.
Lifeless imitations of a distant Heimat.

Intrepid explorer, cartographer of the stars,
Basking in the glory of silent applause.

How insignificant you seem,
On that sprawling midnight canvas,
How muted your refrain in the sweeping symphony of the void.

Go back to sleep, last-born of Gaia.
For the dawn chorus will never come.


- - -
Christie-Luke Jones is a poet from Oxfordshire, England. He is fuelled by the Gallic blood that courses through his veins and fascinated by the more macabre aspects of the human condition

Thursday, November 19, 2015

11/19/15

Virtual Reality Traveller
By David K Scholes


"It doesn’t actually take you to other worlds, dimensions, or realities,” he warned us. “It just provides a virtual trip to places of your choosing. Unless of course you press this big yellow button here. Then you actually get transported to the place you are only visiting virtually.”

With that the salesman pointed to a bright yellow old fashioned style button. It looked out of place among the otherwise sophisticated instrumentation. It was well contained inside a formidable looking metal grid. Also there was a “press only in an emergency” sign near it.

“If you press the yellow button then the company disclaims any and all liability for the consequences,” said the salesman.

“Why do you even have the button there then,” inquired Joy.
“If something should go wrong in the virtual reality travel and you should inadvertently end up on another world it might get you back here. You get Earth back on a virtual reality visit then pressing the yellow button should get you back here. No guarantees of course,” he smiled.

I wondered if they were actually daring us to press the yellow button. If we virtually experienced a world we really liked and might be tempted to actually go there. Even stay there.

Joy and I took a step or two backwards and took in the whole virtual reality traveller.

It was big compared to most virtual reality machines. A metalloid matrix inside a scarcely visible sheath of energy. A large robotic shape overall. Inside the metalloid matrix there was a comfortable amount of room and provisions for two people for a while.

“It looks more like a late model battle droid. Such as the type used in the Dleene wars,” observed Joy. I nodded realising I knew there was something familiar about the thing.

“Well, if we accidentally end up in some god forsaken place and the yellow button doesn’t work I guess we could do worse than be piloting a Dleene war battle droid,” I laughed though not very convincingly.

“Of course you can go anywhere in this, virtually,” the salesman said. “To any of the worlds, dimensions, or realities charted by Earth or its allies.”
“Which allies?” asked Joy.
“All of them,” responded the salesman “including the Dleene,” he turned somewhat furtively to see Joy’s reaction.

“Ooohh!” was all she could say. We both knew the Dleene would have charted many more worlds than Earth ever had. It was beginning to look like we could go almost anywhere.

“I think we’d like to have a trial run,” I replied. “Virtually speaking,” I added. My attempt at humour falling flat on the salesman.

* * *

Joy and I had ourselves a wild ride. Without even leaving Earth. All were virtual reality visits and yet it all seemed so real. As if we were actually there. We lost all sense of time, as we moved from world to world, and could have been at it for hours or even days.

Finally though we ended up, virtually, in a world deep in the Dleene Empire which proved to be not quite as inviting as we had expected. In fact the place was downright grim. Like something right out of the Dleene wars. .

“This is as good a time as any to end the virtual reality travel,” I said to Joy, shuddering a little. We went to step outside only to realise that we still seemed to be stuck on the Dleene world. “Time to find out if the yellow button works,” I said. “This is an emergency.”

I pressed the yellow button and absolutely nothing happened. I pressed it again then really hit the thing with the same result. “I knew the damned thing would never work,” I yelled “it’s probably just a dummy switch or something. Well let’s hope this virtual reality traveller really does also double as a battle droid because from the look of what’s up ahead I think we are going to need it!”
“I thought the damn war was over,” replied Joy, starting to tremble.

* * *

“That couple’s virtual reality traveller disappeared,” said the sales assistant “I guess something took their curiosity and they couldn’t resist hitting the yellow button then?”
“No, I don’t believe so,” replied the salesman. “I think there was one of those occasional accidents. The computer shows it was a Dleene world they were visiting virtually when the accident happened.”

* * *

One month later the virtual reality traveller that looked a lot like a late model battle droid was back parked in the lot. More than a little the worse for wear and with no human occupants. The fail safe mechanism (if the yellow button didn’t work) that always eventually returned them to Earth had finally cut in.

“You, uhh, you did tell them about the fail safe? Didn’t you?” enquired the sales assistant.
“I forgot,” replied the salesman apologetically “and I never thought they’d need to know.”

“We could contact the Dleene,” offered the assistant ‘just to let them know what happened.”

“Over just two of us Earthers? Not likely,” replied the salesman.


- - -
The author has written over 140 speculative fiction short stories, many of which appear in his six published collections of speculative fiction short stories. He has also published two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF and Beam Me Up Pod Cast sci-fi sites and more recently Farther Stars Than These. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is about to publish his latest book: “Human Hunter and Other Science Fiction Stories.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

11/12/15

Colonia
By AE Reiff


You must not grudge to find the same soul in leviathan or in behemoth, since they divide the world into land beast and the water beast whose gigantic size are as if a world to themselves. There is a whole herd of Texas behemoth in the uplands and I don't mean the Nazi auroch transplants that escaped big game ranches. These are often spotted and browned, but have so trampled the earth into mine tailings, shards and shreds of rock and dirt that one wonders what they eat at all, but they go up into the thousand mountains to forage trees. There are no natural enemies there unless you count peremptory lightning strikes. It is said they do not breed, that there is only one and that it waits to meet its mate in leviathan. Such a joining of male and female, land and sea, is rather more than any Greek fantasy. But this singularity does not account for the massed hulks that look more like landslides than reconstituted mastodon. Living higher up as they do the lightening strikes are more frequent than foreseen, keeping the population manageable, if one can speak of managing behemoth. But the polyploided escapes from labs also included rats as big as cars, coyotes as big as parking garages, or at least that was the myth current in the cities below.

Mabinog colonists down by the water, hang with their backs to the land and gaze out to sea, the poems of Kiss embossed in holograms behind them at Dulce Port. They sit on jetties, reverie on Ocean Inhaesio, extasis, seeking the thing, not the thing's reason. Too new upon the land to even carry succubi in their hands, eyes open on keypads while their ears hear the roar, they wait in the smell of salt for leviathan. Think that sculptors and the piscine shapes of women know what goes? How many fishes in the deep blue sea? What’s the cause of simplicity in priests?

Tidal influence at Old Town reaches pretty far inland. In the water light of several moons hunted by wolf and cub, single rectilinear, curvilinear, pi, it is the mind that sees not the eye. Old Dame Trot some cold fish had got, and as the mind is bent, delusions come to temples, labs, board rooms, sanctums as Ezekiel sees in the visions of Elohim, where elders swing their censers before idols, hitty, pitty within the wall, and images of death dress up as life, inverted. Light as wave in water refracts to disperse chromatic aberration. Galloping Galloway, look at your neck; there you will find the strap. The standoff between draggle distortion and dreary convention collaborates physical forms; pickled pig is made of pork.

I point to the arch center of the Quandarists, the rearranged curves and planes of lines, Picadors on the verge. People against nature, Rhetors against Neptune, beds of Querist hothouses, nature is innocent compared. Flames and reactions make beautiful acceptance of infierni. Down at the dock they get in and drift from shore. After a while the evening news, the weather is unfamiliar. The way things go, none believable, the land itself is fabricate. The boat moves further to the outreach of history in the aquarium humane. Submerged ruins intersperse with dreams, voyages make strange and vivid optics of waking slumber, unconscious from the ground. I'd never seen a ship that sailed that wide.

Such changes observed here I believe are capable of explanation either by errors of observation or seasonal change. The Colony not only produces several vegetations per year with different appearances, but its aspects vary over years. Seasonal variation affects a sapling that catches fire, hisses, drips and spits before it is the dry trunk, or as a thorn bush that goes up in whoosh, visibility combined with invisibility among the colonias. A twig coming from this plant could simulate this shift. Archuleta is a case in point, which did not possess land only to itself. At least five caves honeycombed that region, but plenty of others were visible from the peaks, a magnificenza waiting to be discovered with stupor and deception. I caught sight of several who kept their heads and even their chests above the tide of transverberation which the eye and the wave equivocate together. Simple rectilinear, curvilinear pi, Fibonacci ratios, golden sections, fractal repetitions the mind sees, not the eye. In the mind bends, delusions came to the temples, labs, board rooms, sanctums of foreheads such as Ezekiel saw in that vision of Elohim, elders swinging their censers before idols, images of death as life, inverted. The standoff of distortion and convention collaborating is as good an idea of self similarity as a human skew. Old Town was a marine museum of the mind where Dedalus heated onions in a pan. If these firings were apocalypses, Greece emptied of all its whales, a cave of white onions, then the pine will die in the fire! A thousand springs flow into this lake against thought and forethought. When stone hits glass the breakage conforms to gravity and glass. Then reason covers her breasts. Only the tension in the circle of artist, glass and stone and the freedom to act and crack unknowing reveals the submerged. Yes that is a little simple. Crack the stone, conceal the stone, railroad ties connote forced labor, famine stone denotes starvation and slavery. Of course I wept, tears ran from my eyes as if I were burning wood to make charcoal.

Believe that and read the Great Wall as a kiln opening that asks, what is the seventh seal? I hate to spoil the ending. Round as an apple, deep as a cup. The most peculiar case is the Ulysses, the other face of Judecca, of strange riddles in steady air, that put to rest natural causation. The regularity of the caves, uniform width, their systematic radiation exceeds any ordinary natural contrivance. What they are not helps to decipher what they are.


- - -
AE Reiff is a poet whose poems appear as fiction. His fiction appears as poems. There is this masquerade of nonpoetic themes of politics, history, espionage, although the war that backgrounds these has a long poetic expression defined from the beginning of time. These are indexed during business hours at Encouragements For Planting.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

11/5/15

Warrior
By LELA MARIE DE LA GARZA


“Be so very still now,” Kaal whispered.

Leslie didn’t need this instruction. She knew the radar of the Semmes could detect motion from a far distance, and she was being as still as the rocks around them. She knew too that with its keen sense of smell the Semmes was probably already aware of them.

As if confirming her thought, Kaal said “He is scenting us now. Come he does soon.” Leslie heard crashing and looked through the telescope of her rifle. A vague shape emerged, and she held steady.

The Semmes had been terrorizing villages for a month. It ate everything that moved—animals, adults and children alike—and destroyed what it didn’t eat, ripping houses to splinters, trampling crops. The Semmes generally stayed with their peaceful herds in secluded parts of the planet Darius, but this one had gone rogue. It had to be put down.

Leslie had only a hazy idea of what the Semmes looked like, but she knew it was big. She felt the smallness, the puniness of herself and her rifle. How did I let myself get talked into this? She wondered.

The village leader, Tlak, had been very persuasive. “Came you did to our village with your strange powerful ways and your strange powerful weapons. Be you we welcomed with feast and dance. Ours spear and our clubs do stop the Semmes not. Devour all he will. But you with power can kill Semmes. Kaal, our bravest and strongest will go with you. Surely you do save us. And Tlak had crossed his arms on top of his head, a solemn sign of entreaty.

So here she was—in the most danger she’d ever known in her life. Why did I say yes? Why didn’t I tell Tlak that I wasn’t big enough, that my weapon wasn’t big enough? It had been a point of honor, and she had agreed. At that time it hadn’t seemed impossible to shoot a Semmes.

Now that it was coming toward her, she felt ridiculous. The creature was bigger than she ever imagined it would be, and she would have to wait till it was almost on her before she fired. A Semmes was covered with armor plate and had only two vulnerable spots: the single eye high on its forehead and the hollow of its throat. It had to be hit in both places.

Leslie forced herself to stay still. She was a good shot—if only she had a chance to fire. The Semmes looked something like a brontosaurus, but had six legs instead of four. It also had a long trunk which it whipped madly around at everything in its path. She heard Kaal’s sharp intake of breath as the creature rushed toward them. Leslie held her gun steady, waiting for the last possible second. Then the Semmes reared up on its hind legs and she had a clear shot into its neck. The Semmes paused for a few seconds, then kept coming. There was a sound, something between a scream and a roar, and Leslie was looking into its red baleful eye. She took her second shot.

That should have killed the Semmes, but it kept coming. “Now must we run,” Kaal urged, but Leslie didn’t need that warning. She ran. Kaal ran. But the pounding and crashing behind her told Leslie the Semmes was gaining. Any moment she expected a huge foot to trample her or fangs rip off her head. If I get out of this alive, she vowed, I’ll never do it again. Never! No matter how many entreaties they make, no matter…

Then a thud shook the ground as if one of the giant hanging stones had fallen. Leslie stopped and looked back to see the Semmes stretched on the ground, blood pouring from its throat and head. Kaal approached the beast cautiously, careful to stay away from the trunk. “Deads it is,” he announced, and dipped his finger in the blood. Then he approached Leslie. “I must put this on you.”

“Why?” Leslie shrank away.

“It marks you as a warrior. Great honor.” Leslie felt something slimy touch her forehead. “Now all will know that you braver are. There will be Leslie song, Leslie feast, Leslie dance.”

Leslie wasn’t sure how much she wanted this honor. The spot Kaal had touched seemed cold. Surreptitiously, she felt it. The blood was already dry. “When will this wear off?” she asked. “Or can I wash it off myself?”

Kaal looked astonished. “Oh no! Blood coming off never. Show to every space in Darius wonder greatness of you.”

“It’s permanent?”

Kaal didn’t know that word. “Ever now will you be called on for deed braves. Many villages. Must kill you the Great Ok. It has one the weak point under its tail. The Jacruse must hit in its open mouth only. Ears of Lacca…belly of Gro…

Leslie was no longer listening. She’d taken a vow never to do this again, but she wasn’t going to be allowed to keep it. She could run away from Kaal; she could run away from Tlak and the village, but she could never run away from the mark. There would be songs written about her, dances of her bravery performed, feasts given in her name. She would be honored throughout Darius, and she would belong to everyone who needed her strange, powerful ways and her strange powerful weapon.

Leslie shouldered her rifle and followed Kaal back to the village, striding straight and tall as a warrior should.


- - -
Lela Marie De La Garza has had work published in “Guardian Angel Kids,” “Passion Beyond Words”, “Black Denim,” “Yellow Mama,” “Bewildering Stories,” “Breath and Shadow”, and “The Western Online”. Her latest novel, “Mistral,” was published in December of 2014. She was born in Denver, CO. in 1943 while her father was serving in WWII. She currently resides in San Antonio, TX. with three and a half cats and a visiting raccoon.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

10/29/15

Obligatory Chase Scene
By Dan Baker


Brick vaporised.
Not for the first time, Timo considered how much he truly enjoyed keeping his brain and their bullets separate. He was weird that way. The keystone bounced heavily in his backpack. Ducking around a corner, his legs ate the pavement in loping bites …
The itch had started at Holborn, so he’d jumped the Northern at Tottenham Court Road and hunched amongst the usual mix, made zombie-pale in the tube’s antiseptic light. Which, on second thought was a bad idea, what with Timo’s parents passing on more than a little of their native Sudan. Fuck it! he’d thought, the itch having lodged in that ‘You’re in my personal space, mate’ spot on just under his right shoulder blade. Empty space stares. Eyes on tablets or bioware tats. Tourists. Suits. Little old ladies getting their bits from Marks. The itch getting itchier. Timo had flicked down his feed and spread it across his forearm, fluorescent green ink swirling bright to live tweets.
Ya Pinged, bruv. Heavy Thatcher. #fiveanddone
@timodee and @zalidum fighting the good fight! No excuses! No surrender! #betweenthecracks #whiterabbirrevolution
Run Forest, run! #boned #theonlycardio
… that blurred the streets of Chalk Farm. Running south, Timo dodged through traffic, the triple-crown of the Shards glinting bruise blue. The sun was low, air nipping. Behind, people were screaming. Timo kept running. No looking back. Not now. Had to keep going. His palm prickled. Index to thumb, he picked up.
‘Heya, sis.’
‘You runnin’, Timo?’
‘No biggie.’
A concerned pause. ‘You Pinged again?’
‘Just needin’ the flex.’
A judgemental pause—longer. ‘You get it?’
‘Ya.’
‘Then don’t get splat!’
She hung up.
‘Love you too.’
Timo cut left into an alley, ancient cobbles drumming hard in his knees. Bags of garbage and broken soldiers. No sirens. No drones. Why bother? Get Pinged and all they needed was time, follow the flashing dot on the screen, cast the nets, tighten the noose. Right. Another left. Into the humid shadows of tent-slum gloom, illegal generators coughing warmth for homeless dozens, a torn quilt of cables leaching off the grid. Left. But Timo was Timo, and Timo …
Yo @timodee! @zalidum groks a Crack in Camden Lock. Not far. Not far. #betweenthecracks
The train had shuddered into Mornington Crescent and Timo had stood, slipped to the doors with the shuffling gap-minders and thumb-scrolled his feed over to a map of London. Two Fivers, camo-weave tweed and all, had detached from the back of the carriage, looking everywhere but Timo. Yeah, maybe they were just stretching their legs, not wanting to spook the skinny black kid because he had enough on his plate already, right? Maybe. And just as maybe, this was the reality where Timo, his sister, his friend were on a list in Thames House, with all its fuck you-get fucked-fuck off-fucking glory. Sigh. And with the next stop, he’d been off like a shot, the Fivers on his heels.
… was one of the Gotten Forgotten, those of the Grateful Lost—Timo could slip between the Cracks.
The slums dissolved, giving way to an open court hedged by leaning brick buildings and graphite clouds. Edges of conversation licked at Timo, men and woman rummaging by temporary stalls, trestle tables a rickety zig-zag under tarpaulins stretched over thin pine frames. He checked his arm—the bioware was green static. Dead spot. They’d have lost the signal from the Ping. Timo hesitated.
A hand tugged his finger. ‘Excuse me.’
Timo started. A little girl stared up at him. ‘Alright?’
‘Do you know where the honey man is?’
‘Sorry.’
He girl shrugged, quickly disappearing into the press of shoppers.
‘You got it, little,’ said Timo, reckoning it was time to make like a tree and not put down roots. He took a step and was swallowed by the crowd, its natural current taking him past roasting chestnuts and boxes of dates, boxes of records, golden pides with lamb and mint, watches, paperbacks, and a bloke selling miniature chairs made of muselets and charcoal sketches of scenes from Hamlet. A few more steps and he was standing at a mountain of cheese, three bites into a steaming pastie.
A woman smiled. ‘Can I help you, luv?’
Little wonder a Crack had opened here. It didn’t take an Einstein to see that this place wasn’t like other places—Timo had been here minutes and he’d already forgotten that there was anything else but here. All around, the future had chromed up around the market, but this present kept its shape like a paw print left when the concrete was wet. It was like stepping into another time that hadn’t really been, like a world built of iPhone photos with a hint of sepia or frothy stories after three pints on Wednesday.
Sirens whined.
‘Cheshire.’ Timo pointed. It didn’t matter that those photos and stories weren’t really true, because people believed them and wanted to, because theirs was a world they’d chosen to see. That … and the truth was total bollocks anyway. ‘My sister loves an old Cheshire.’
Flashing blue.
The Crack glittered a few steps to his left.
The woman smiled, picked up the cheese, and started wrapping it in butcher’s paper. ‘Likes a sharp one does she?’
And because they believed it, they’d made it real: a London that wasn’t London. Not this one, not now, not the seamless image projected onto LED LCDs in crisp HD, at least 1080p. It didn’t fit—a little wrinkle that had become something deeper. An opening. Timo glanced back. The two Fivers were shouldering through the market.
‘Yeah,’ said Timo, taking the cheese, paying too much for it, not caring. The Fivers closed in, guns drawn but low. Timo took a step and another. One more. ‘Sharp enough to cut.’
‘Pack it in, lad.’ One of the Fivers stepped forward. ‘Nowhere left to run.’
The woman frowned. ‘What about your change?’
Timo fell back …
He grinned. ‘It’s coming.’
… and was somewhere else.


- - -
Writer and academic tutoring in literature (supernatural, genre, and Shakespeare) and prof. & creative writing at Deakin University, Australia. PhD. in literary studies exploring the progressive potential of fantasy fiction. Loves Cowboy Bebop.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

10/22/15

One Moment
By John Kaniecki


Captain Silvers gripped the arm rests of his consoles so hard that his fingers ached. His spaceship the "Eagle" was approaching a rift in space. It was an exploratory mission from which three other Class A.A. vessels had failed to return. It was the responsibility of the veteran voyager to find out why.
"What exactly is happening?" called out the commanding officer. His frantic crew scrambled through data to process information. The ship was physically shaken as if a ship upon an ocean.
"We are approaching a hole in space," screamed Lieutenant Connors.
"A hole in space, do you mean a black hole?" Captain Silvers was extremely concerned.
"Perhaps," said Science Officer Boggles. "It appears to be so but without anywhere's the similar mass."
"Can't we reverse our engines!?!" screamed Captain Silvers.
"Negative," replied Lieutenant Connors, "we shall be making contact in four seconds."
"Damn it," screamed the commanding officer, "I always wanted to go down in battle with some hostile enemy force. At least then I might get mentioned in a history book."
"Wait just one moment," interjected the Science Officer Boggles.
"What is it?" demanded Captain Silvers.
"Four seconds has already transpired," replied the scientist. "In fact it would take a good four seconds just to say the words that I am presently speaking."
"Negative," screamed Lieutenant Connors, "according to my computer we have three point five seconds until impact."
Captain Silvers sat back and relaxed for a brief instant. "No Boggles is right, for once."
Science Officer Boggles nostrils flared in anger but he remained silent. For far too long he had been getting no respect from the crew on the Eagle. Still his lack of rank prevented any retaliation or even honesty.
"Perhaps there is a problem with my computer," Lieutenant Connors surmised. "Maybe the clock isn't working properly."
"Or maybe time itself has slowed down," offered Boggles.
"How the hell can time slow down!?!" screamed Captain Silvers.
"I don't believe then you have ever studied Sirjay Reid, a most excellent theoretical mathematician and astrophysicist."
"For the sake of the whole ship Boggles, answer the question! We don't have any time for this nonsense." Captain Silvers was furious.
"Actually sir," said the science officer softly, "we have all the time we need."
"For the sake of the rings around Saturn, Boggles has gone insane!" screamed Captain Silvers. "Lieutenant what is happening to my spaceship?"
"We are approaching the edge of the space rift," answered Lieutenant Connors.
The Eagle continued to rattle and shake. The non-essential crew strapped themselves in preparing for collision. It was a futile effort. A collision in outer space would of course undoubtedly lead to a piercing of the hull. This would bring twofold destruction. The first being the loss of all air and oxygen. The second would be the extreme cold of that vacuum. None of the crew would survive. However regulations were regulations after all and none of the crew wanted to risk receiving a demerit.
"Ah, it's all so clear now," said Boggles, "how could we have been so foolish?"
"What are you talking about, you blithering idiot?" shouted Captain Silvers. "Can't you see that we are about to enter a rift in space? If you have something that can save our lives then let me hear it."
Boggles began to chuckle. Then he laughed like an insane man on a manic high.
"I told you to replace Boggles," screamed Lieutenant Connors, "we all knew that this was going to happen, didn't we Tony?"
Captain Silvers was shocked at the breakdown in protocol from his subordinate officer. "You'd better watch yourself or you will be the one getting tossed off the ship. Maybe some desk job at a planet with massive gravity would serve you well."
"Get over it, you egotistical moron," screamed Lieutenant Connors. "Can't you see that this time you royally screwed up? Why this is so bad that the crew can't save you just like every other time."
"Well if you're such a genius then why haven't we been blown to smithereens yet?" demanded Captain Silvers.
"I don't know captain, I don't know," screamed Lieutenant Connors, "but we should have been crushed by the massive gravity that created the space rift."
"There is no massive gravity you fool," screamed Science Officer Boggles. "You are forgetting your fundamentals in astrophysics."
"Go ahead Boggles," said Captain Silvers, waving his arms in frustration. "Explain it in a way that we all can understand."
"Velocity is a vector which calculates one's change in distance with time. Now if this is a hole in space time, as we know, it would be defined by the dynamics of this universe and not ours."
"Are you proposing that the laws of physics are not constant throughout the universe?" asked Captain Silvers in shock.
"Not only physics you arrogant, pompous, opportunist," declared Science Officer Boggles, "but it's my belief that the laws of psychology have changed as well. I'm sure even a dimwit like you can see the obvious."
"Well good Lord," screamed Captain Silvers, "exactly how long will it take for us to travel through this space rift?"
"Only one moment," offered Boggles.
"And exactly how long would that be corresponding to our normal time per the universe we had just left?" inquired Captain Silvers.
"Far too long," answered Boggles and Connors simultaneously, "far too long!"


- - -
John is a published poet and writer. He has a poetry book Murmurings of a Mad Man published by eLectio Publishing. He has a book of science fiction stories Words of the Future published by Witty Bard.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

10/15/15

Grey Power – Consolidation
By David K Scholes


Grey Power Retirement Village
Canberra, Australia
5 years after the Young/Old War



The retirement village still had its fortified walls and elevated guard posts. Both were legacies of the Young/Old war. Though the guard posts were no longer permanently manned and the crude laser-etched age discriminatory graffiti had long since been removed from the outer walls.

Management, that is to say the multi-national Grey Power organisation, had been in no hurry to remove the fortified exterior. Not just here but in any of the other many thousands of retirement villages that it owned world wide.

Me? I’m a resident of the village now and one of its several token security guards. A far cry indeed from the height of the war. Then, as a young “whippersnapper” ex paratrooper aged just 55 years and 6 months, I began serving in one of the front line Just Over 55 (JO55) Grey Power military units.

* * *

On this particular day just outside the retirement village and unlike most other days, there was actually a bit of excitement.

Two youths, one male, one female were observed speeding in an early model electro-magnetic cruiser. Some 15 miles per hour above the mandatory 20mph speed limit around any Grey Power facility. My reaction was instant. I drew out my speed limiter device and, overriding their cruiser's controls, brought them down to just below the speed limit. I then made the voice entry that, after verifications, would see the Grey Power computers automatically debit both of their mandatory government accounts with the appropriate fine. Both the boy and girl knew this and looked suitably cowed. Such a far cry from the slavering feral youth packs of the war, I thought.

Jennifer, my fellow token security guard on our token patrol, was quite excited. “The last time we had this much fun was last year when some young students started an outdoor party in a vacant house down the road.” As she said this I noticed her dipping surreptitiously into her supply of “forever young.” The latest in the long line of drugs designed to temporarily return senior citizens to a more youthful capability. In fact this was a bit of a sore point with me. As she was over 80, Jennifer had greater access than me to the now carefully-controlled supply of the drug. Again, memories of the war came back when, as a first responder to youth trouble, I had unlimited access to the then current drug Boostein. Though I needed it less then.

“I remember that party,” I said. “They were recorded at over the 30Db noise limit at the boundary of a Grey Power facility.”
“Yes, I forgot that you were there,” replied Jennifer, “when we dropped a noise suppression envelope over the building. What fun!” She chortled. “I can still see their faces now.”

Just then, a late model vertical take off and landing flyer landed at a respectful distance from the entrance to the retirement village. Inside it was one of the detestable “middles” that had business in the village. Disdainfully, we waived the occupant on into the village.
“Middles!” said Jennifer “I suppose we have to deal with them.”
I nodded, always mindful of how the “middles” had mostly stayed “on the fence” during the Young/Old war. At least until it was obvious that Grey Power would defeat the youth packs.

After the war, the whole focus of most world economies had shifted very much in favour of senior citizens and their requirements. I hadn’t thought of it, but the truth was that most “middles” were just surviving until they could make it through to the golden age of 55.

Strangely, neither of us gave any thought to the fact that eventually youth became middles and middles became senior citizens. If we did, perhaps our attitude would have been quite different.

If everyone had thought this way, perhaps there might not even have been a war.


- - -
The author has written over 140 speculative fiction short stories, many of which appear in his six published collections of speculative fiction short stories and two published science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF and the Beam Me Up Pod Cast sci-fi sites and more recently Farther Stars Than These. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is close to completing a new anthology of short sci-fi stories and is also writing a “Human Hunter” series for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site

Thursday, October 8, 2015

10/8/15

Homecoming
By E.J. Shumak


Nomel and Emil are full in the sky, shining yellow and green across the plain. Kees touches the release on her uniform and it drops to the ground. She leaps forward, losing herself in the run. She is lithe and quick. Nearly flying, her claws are the only part of her body contacting the ground. Her ears fully extended, her vision tightens to a narrow cone.
Small herbivores scatter as she runs past and, at times, through them. She turns left, then right, her claws ripping clods of dirt from the red grassed plain. She has no desire to hunt, her belly full. She wants nothing more of this land than to become one with it.
She stops, out of breath at the edge of a riverbank. The golden water flows quickly past. She bends down and laps from the river in much the same way her ancestors had once done. She is at peace with the air, land and water. She is one with her home.
Her communion is shattered by the roar of a flitter passing overhead. She regards its course as it heads towards the compound. It reminds her of the many metal boxes she has spent her life in. The boxes that have stolen her family, made her litter mates grow old--while she remains in her prime, and somehow taken the soul she shares with this planet.
She crouches, and drops to her forepaws. Her claws churn wildly as she runs back towards the compound, back towards civilization. She stops at her uniform, puts it on, stretching upright. Her short furlough has just ended. They have come for her.
As she approaches the compound, the gold and black striping of the Pride Defense Authority flitter reflects back at her, the reflective glow out of place in this natural environment. The two warrant officers approach her as she reaches the compound entrance.
"Kees Nys, we must insist you accompany us," says the taller warrant officer, a dark furred male.
"I will be advised as to whom I am speaking with?" asks Kees.
"I am commander Norak, this is commander Jesk. Do you submit?"
"I submit to nothing that is not first plainly set before me," is Kees' reply.
Jesk speaks, "Captain, we are only doing what is required of us. This is no more pleasant for us, than for you."
"I doubt that. Regardless of your alleged discomfort, I do not cede my birthrights."
"As you wish, captain. In service to the pride, I am honor bound to escort you to council chambers. I subjugate myself to this duty, and in so doing, claim the authority granted my elders. By that authority, I take you, my greater, into custody," replies Norak.
"I require the charges and specifications," says Kees.
"Please, captain."
"And I require the ancient delivery," continues Kees.
"As you wish," replies Norak. "I place myself at your service, in service to the pride."
Kees approaches Norak, she unsheathes her claws, "As our ancestors judged truth."
"Let it be judged now," continues Norak.
Kees places her open claws on the commander's shoulder, gripping tightly. Norak does the same. Both uniforms are stained by blood, blotting up through the material.
"Speak now, and I will assess your right to judge me," says Kees.
Norak winces under the pressure of Kees' claws, "You are accused of denying blood right to Marn pride. You are accused of interfering in the lawful challenge to your mate, Gatran, and of taking the life of his lawful conqueror, Esh Marn."
"I feel truth pass between us. You not only have accurately defined the charges against me, but you have spoken the truth of the incident. I accept judgment here, as is my right," states Kees as she disengages herself from Norak's grip, releasing him as well.
"Please, captain, this is not necessary. Have we not grown past this?" pleads Norak.
"I think not. Not when you come to me in condemnation of my mate's defense," challenges Kees.
"You will submit yourself," orders Norak.
"I defecate on your order. I cackle at your combined abilities. I defy both your right, and your ability, to capture me in life."
Jesk hisses. Kees turns towards her, and Jesk steps back. Kees turns to Norak, "I fear your partner will be the cause of your death."
They stand facing each other a long moment. Norak draws his disrupter. Kees touches the release on her uniform and it drops to the tarmac. She turns slowly and walks towards the compound exit.
She reaches the edge of the plain, drops to all fours, and trots off. She heads towards the rising sun at an easy pace, still well within range of Norak's disrupter.
Norak turns slowly towards the flitter, Jesk growls and grabs his shoulder. He shakes her off and continues, his walk slow and deliberate, his ears up, head erect.
Jesk follows, ears flat back and teeth bared, "You are a fool."
Norak stops and stares at her, "Do as your honor commands."
They climb into the flitter and it rises above the tarmac, out onto the plain. They do not speak.
The flitter passes overhead, and this time, Kees ignores it. She will allow nothing to disrupt her communion now. The flitter banks north, and is gone. She is left, alone, and finally one with her planet.


- - -
I am a full time writer and hold full, active membership in S.F.W.A.. I have sold four books, three fantasy novels to Baen and one non-fiction along with several dozen short science fiction pieces and non-fiction articles.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

10/1/15

Getting Even
By Peter McMillan


Bruce threw a huge rock at the parking enforcement robot and knocked it to the ground. Seeing the robot go down in a heap of clattering metal and sparks was almost worth the $500 ticket.

The fine was ridiculous—excessive and unfair. Overnight parking at the train station was not allowed between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., but he'd only been in violation for one minute, if that. The ticket said 5:59; however his watch read 6:04. Besides, his Ford wasn't even worth $500.

Why not ticket the DeLorean or the Porsche or even the Ferrari in the first row. They were here before he was. And they were the latest 2115 hydro models and could easily afford to pay the fine. It wasn't his fault the robot didn't complete its tour in time to see they had parked before 6:00 a.m.

It wasn't fair but there was really no point contesting it, because these robots had impeccable memories for details and their bodies were hardened to protect the data. Data tampering had plagued earlier models. The data storage was actually protected by greater security measures than was the on-board computer. The computer was essentially just a common circuit board available online and for drone delivery at most big box technology stores. The replacement process was so straightforward that parking enforcement robots were capable of auto-installing their own circuit boards.

It wasn't clear whether he'd done any real damage to the robot, so he walked over to the supine pile of metal. It gurgled and made a number of unintelligible sounds. Their English is generally high school level, so clearly some damage had been caused to the language centre. The midsection, which housed the incriminating data, was still intact though. That was a concern.

Looking around among all the cars and trucks in the parking lot, Bruce found one of those giant tow trucks that are used to tow big trucks and buses. Making sure that no one was paying attention—and everyone was running for the train anyway—he dragged the slurring robot and shoved it up under the rear double tires of the tow truck, ensuring it could only be seen by someone stooping down to look underneath.

He had to be certain that it worked. The damage had to be done and it had to be severe enough to remove all traces of the evidence against him. He could sit in his car and wait for the tow truck to back up or he could go off to work and have faith that the tow truck would finish off the robot.

He decided to wait. He could also call in sick. So he waited. Finally, the driver of the tow truck arrived. The driver checked all the sides but didn't bother looking underneath. When he backed up, incredibly he didn't notice the bump. The tow truck crushed the robot effortlessly and with no bounce whatsoever. Amazingly, the tow truck driver drove off without the slightest idea he'd just flattened a parking enforcement robot.

Bruce was ecstatic. Everything had worked to plan. But just to be sure, he got out of his car to confirm that the robot's torso region had been satisfactorily destroyed. Indeed it had and the robot was no longer gurgling pre-language sounds, so it had to be out of commission—completely out of order. He went back to his car and got in and drove away to enjoy the rest of his sick day.

What Bruce had forgot to consider was the surveillance canopy, the high-tech CCTV net, which continually recorded every square inch of the train station, the parking lot, and the adjoining construction site for the new station. Feeds from the canopy were routinely scanned at head office by parking enforcement robots with desk jobs.


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Thursday, September 24, 2015

9/24/15

The Benefactor
By David K Scholes


I liked to think that I enjoyed a special relationship with him. Being present at first contact.

I remember seeing tears roll down the Benefactor’s beautiful alien face when, as we learned later, he absorbed the enormity of the the human condition. The full extent of human joy on one hand and human pain and suffering on the other. The mixture of indescribable goodness through to indescribable evil, of total indifference through to total caring, of vain glorious pride through to modest humility that is humanity.

For all his vast experience in the Multiverse, it really seemed to shake him. Which made me wonder if things were different elsewhere. Perhaps not so complicated. He never did say. Except for a vague reference to the cooperative seeking after the truth approach to justice (rather than the adversarial approach) being the norm elsewhere.

His first act was I think an immediate albeit miniature show of defiance. In completely healing an impossibly deformed young girl that was under my care. The very first of countless acts of kindness.

Benefactor. It was the one name that had stuck among the many that people had used to describe him and his works. The name had a woeful inadequacy about it. As did all of the other names

Right at the outset he had warned us of those who might not like what he was setting out to do here. Those that did not believe in interference in the affairs of other worlds no matter how great the justification. Most of us couldn’t or didn’t want to believe that at the time. . .

* * *

I cannot presume to judge those who ensure order in the Multiverse. Perhaps from their higher vantage point the actions of the Benefactor on Earth went against some higher laws or code of conduct relating to non-interference in the affairs of others.

At any rate the time came that none of us ever wanted to see. When the decisions and actions of the Benefactor were challenged.

Elemental beings came to Earth. No less than three of the near omnipotents. Each born at the creation of their respective dimensions. Whatever else he might be I came to understand that the Benefactor was always a force of the Multiverse and such a force could only be countered by another force or forces of the Multiverse.

* * *

I remember the three Elementals waiting for the appearance of the Benefactor outside the NorAm city of Chicago, seemingly impatiently. When he did not manifest immediately they showed their displeasure. Destroying the megalopolis (if that’s not interference I don’t know what is). Though we didn’t even know it at the time, the Benefactor’s response being so swift that within a nano-second of its destruction he re-created Chicago in its entirety. Some later said with minor improvements.

Many people had never actually seen the Benefactor in the flesh and his image never could be captured by any means known to us. So, knowing that he would have to confront the Elementals, and with world wide television coverage, it seemed like everyone waited to see him appear. This time he was recorded on camera. People genuinely wanted to see what the Benefactor really looked like and what he was going to do about the Elementals. There was definitely curiosity but it was mixed with the very real fear among us all that much or all of the good done by the Benefactor might be rolled back. That he might not even survive the day.

* * *

The nature of the conflict between the Benefactor and the Elementals was such that it was rather difficult to tell who won and who lost. Except to say that it was somewhat protracted and that there was a sense of the Benefactor at least holding his own against near omnipotence.

Throughout it all there was no further attempted destruction of Earth cities. The Elementals seemed to have realised the futility of this. Yet the confrontation raged on, in, and well beyond the Earth. The contestants variously taking energy and even mystical and spiritual forms.

After it was finally over we never saw the Benefactor or the Elementals again.

Yet there was never any evidence of any of the Benefactor’s past good deeds being reversed. More than this, some new acts of goodness flowed on for a little while. The examples were too many to count. Yet they did ultimately come to an end.

One of those later acts of goodness has always stuck in my mind. It related to an elderly woman, the very last still living survivor of the holocaust. A woman who had never known a peaceful night's sleep since those horrific times was granted exactly that. A peaceful night’s sleep and beautiful dreams of her pre-Holocaust childhood for all of her so few remaining years.

It was an act of kindness that both typified the Benefactor and also reminded us of what we had ultimately lost.

For the historians of Earth though it was enough. More than enough to consider the Benefactor the winner over the Elementals and whatever force they ultimately represented.

The winner by a technical knock out.


- - -
The author has written over 140 speculative fiction short stories, many of which appear in his six published collections of speculative fiction short stories and two published science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF and the Beam Me Up Pod Cast sci-fi sites and more recently Farther Stars Than These. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is close to completing a new anthology of short sci-fi stories and is also writing a “Human Hunter” series for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site

Thursday, September 17, 2015

9/17/15

Ashima Gone Babylon
By Matthew Lee


Sir:
     As a close personal friend of Luke Serapis, one of the crew currently at the Osiris Mining Base on Ganymede, I am writing to you regarding information I have which could aid your rescue mission. According to CNN this morning, NASA have lost communication with the base, and I fear my misgivings about the situation were correct. I have been advised to contact you first.
     Luke and I have been exchanging emails almost on a daily basis since he left Earth, in which he has described to me in some detail the events that have taken place, and in particular the condition he refers to as “Going Babylon”--information which will hopefully prove extremely valuable. On a professional level, I am electrified by the prospect of samples being obtained from the subterranean sea, and as Luke’s close friend, concerned. Understandably. Also, with luck, by revealing these snippets of our compelling correspondence to you, I will pave the way to clearing NASA’s somewhat tarnished name.
     As time is clearly of the essence to everyone involved, I have collated the email samples into five parts.
     Part 1 (Touchdown to In a While, Kocourdile) - In one email, Luke says that Engineer Pavel Kocourek “had the mind of another” when he destroyed that mining equipment. He details the declining atmosphere in the base until the shuttle Peto arrived with the replacement parts and to haul the crazed Czech back to Earth.
     Part 2 (Ashima Gone Babylon to Drillin’ Tonite) - I was intrigued by his reports of Ashima drinking “half the water supply in one morning” and then moved when I read that her eyes had gone “filmy and milky”. He said the change that came over her was more abrupt and more complete than that which had come over Kocourek. As you may know, Ashima’s relationship with Luke was intimate, (I have discreetly omitted some of the more sensitive details he gave me, but, naturally, these could be provided) and he suffered immensely after Commander Meredith unlawfully decided to put her in isolation. Then he goes into considerable detail about the altercations that took place when they realised Ashima had actually welded herself into that room. This would be of help should the Commander’s various misdemeanours be investigated.
     Part 3 (Non Compost Mentis to Got any Chapstick?) - Personally, when the plants in the hydroponics section yellowed, I didn’t blame the Commander for accusing Luke of having poisoned the soil. But I do have Luke’s comprehensive version of events - that Ashima had somehow tapped into the water reclaimer so that moisture would enter her room but not come out. The seal was hermetic even before she welded it shut. It would be interesting to know how this compares to your official version.
     Part 4 (Personas non gratas to Hot Water) - His queer ideas that you insisted on going ahead with the drilling project “only to get samples before the Chinese did” and that “you were disregarding his warnings” possibly illustrates how the dehydration was affecting him. He also describes the strange noises that came from behind Ashima’s door. These he describes as “sloshings” and “gurglings” and “like a pack of angry killer whales mating”. Admittedly, at this point, I was was actually starting to worry.
     Part 5 - (I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff...) In the last email I received from Luke, he talks about the Commander’s decision to force his way through her door with cutting tools. (Can’t say I blame him. I learned how terrible dehydration is during a heatwave in Anguilla.) And as you lost contact with the base at this point, we can only speculate on the way things progressed from there.
     I believe my information would help the prepare the rescue team for their findings on arrival at the base. It will not be pretty.
     Although some of Luke’s claims are quite far-fetched, let us not forget that he witnessed the events first-hand and his testimony should not be disregarded. I agree with Luke and urge that a serious study on “the Babylon Effect” is carried out before any further mining operation is planned. You may be right in speculating that the crew were affected by gas from the mines, or there was some other environmental factor that affected them so. In want of another explanation, it may just be that Luke was right when he felt “something or someone down there was telling them not to drill into the subterranean sea”.
     I pray for the success of the mop-up operation. And should you desire complete versions of the emails, please do not hesitate to contact my agent. Naturally, exclusivity can also be offered.

Dr. Jeremy Shiga, Associate Professor of Marine Biology, Oslo University

PS. Personally, I don’t believe that Kocourek and Ashima were actually working for the Chinese. But, you never know, do you?


- - -
Matthew Lee is currently teaching English in Zaragoza, Spain, and sometimes feels like he spends more time correcting writing than producing it. One of his goals is to tip that balance. Occasionally he thinks about his native England.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

9/10/15

A Previous Life
By Donal Mahoney


Sammy had been sitting in the bar for four hours drinking his usual gin and tonic, one drink after another, and even he would admit he was soused if he could put a sentence together. He didn’t have to talk, however, since he was the only customer left and there was an hour to go before closing. All he had to do was tap on the bar twice in front of his empty glass and the bartender would give him another drink. The service was wonderful.

Then two men in trench coats and fedoras walked in and sat down a few stools away from Sammy. They ordered a couple of beers. They seemed to be concerned about something and Sammy always liked to listen in on other people’s conversations.

“We need more room,” the big man said. “We can hardly take any more people. But they keep coming down and we can’t send them anywhere else. You would think we were Las Vegas and the drinks were free."

“Where will we get more room? We’re not talking real estate here,” the little fellow said. “No one thinks this place exists anyway. They think we’re a figment of someone’s imagination. New arrivals are always surprised.”

Then the big man said, “Oh, some people know we exist but they think we only get dictators and used car salesmen. The common belief is everyone else goes upstairs right away, provided there is an upstairs. More and more people think there may be nothing at the end.”

The little guy thought about that for a moment and said, “Well, I heard two women arguing the other day about where cats and dogs go. I know we don’t have any cats and dogs. Where would we put them? Pretty soon we’ll be getting Boomers. They’re a fussy bunch. We need more room now!”

Sammy didn’t know what to make of all of this. He wished he wasn’t drunk so he could join the conversation but all he could do was listen. The two men finally left and Sammy told himself he’d come back tomorrow night and ask the bartender who the hell those two guys were. Then he tapped on the bar twice in front of his empty glass.


- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

9/3/15

Concert
By J.R. Bradley


Finally the hum of the crowd faded along with the lights. Mist curled across the stage, appearing to glow green. Suddenly a figure appeared in the mist. The crowd erupted into cheers. The figure raised its hand towards the sky and the first chord of the music thundered. The stage lights burst on, revealing the figure in the haze. His violet eyes gleamed in the spotlight, instantly the brume evaporated, uncloaking his band mates. He smiled as he snapped his fingers and a puff of pixels appeared, forming the shape of a guitar. He then reached out and grabbed it, earning a roar from the crowd. With a smirk he waited for his fellow musicians to summon their instruments. The deafening roar from the crowd was a signal to let Neon know his band mates were ready. “Are you ready to rock!?” he shouted as he drummed the strings of his flashing guitar.
Dev was beyond excited, he always loved concerts. While jumping to the beat of the music he bumped into someone. He turned and shouted “What do you think of Neon and his band!?” His neighbor smiled and responded “there’s only one word to describe that guy. Rock lord!” shouted the young man with red and orange contacts as he flipped his neon orange hair off his sweaty forehead.
“He looks happy” the young man sitting beside Dev’s bed whispered. “It was one of his dreams to be at Neon’s concerts. He always said he wished it would never end.”
Tri, standing at the foot of the bed smiled. “We’ll tell the technician to keep it playing.”
Dev cheered when Neon started up yet another song. He turned to man with the red and orange eyes and shouted “I wish this concert would never end!” The orange haired man smiled.


- - -
J.R. Bradley has been a visual artist and an author of short stories since middle school. More recently they have combined their love for music and writing as a music reviewer and podcaster. This is their first micro flash fiction piece.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

8/27/15

The Time House
By David K Scholes


Earth: 2458 AD

“We’ve been invited to an evening meal at Dave’s place,” I said.
“Who?” enquired my wife Joy.
“Dave Rugendorf, Earth’s most experienced time traveller. The guy who won the Time Traveller of All Time award.”
“Oh him!” responded Joy “I’ll pass on that. I’ve heard some weird stories about that mansion of his.”

* * *

I went on my own. The whole country estate was a teleportation free zone so I had to utilise a crude electro-magnetic flyer to get there. How quaint! Just as well Joy didn’t come. Anything less than instantaneous travel tended to bore her and even worse make her physically sick.

* * *

It was a great sprawling mansion. Out past Romsey in the English countryside.

With just a little time travel under my belt I was always fascinated to be in the company of a professional. Especially the ultimate pro.

Being only a reporter for Time Travel magazine I assumed the evening would be low key. Yet the little group of guests also included Stewart Chapman, the Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Time, Rick Alvarez, Chief Investigator at the Time Authority and an alien who was introduced as a time travel expert.

Before the evening meal Dave gave us a tour of some rooms dedicated to Earth’s past. A tame affair until the last two rooms. One dedicated to the hey day of the Roman Empire and one to the hey day of the British Empire. They were so good that I wondered if we might be looking into actual viewing portals.

After the meal we took a tour of some of the “future” rooms.

The most advanced room for Earth was for 5585 AD. We all knew why there was nothing beyond this time frame. Then we were led through a succession of rooms relating to alien worlds further up time.

Then Dave led us towards a room that seemed to be at the very furthest extremity of his vast mansion. He was becoming progressively more animated as we approached the room.

“My pride and joy,” said Dave as he took us into the exceptionally large room. Confronting us, and I do mean confronting us, was the End Time Horizon. Not just time camera footage. We were looking straight at the real thing.

“It’s only a viewing portal,” offered Dave in response to Alvarez’s accusing look.
“It’s still not allowed,” reproved the Investigator “because of the up time barrier.”

Dave looked at his alien companion. “We have worked out a way around that up time constraint. Something that’s technically legal.”

Somehow the argument spoiled the whole magnificent moment of witnessing Time’s End.

* * *

On our return to the main entrance I was at a loss as to what Dave had been hoping to achieve during the evening. I suppose he wanted to impress us and get our seals of approval.

Rick Alvarez started to sum it up. “I think this place probably started out okay. A sprawling mansion containing rooms that accurately replicated aspects of certain past and future time periods. Then Dave increased the authenticity of some rooms with 3D images from his time cameras. That’s okay as long as the time pictures were from times and places he was authorised to go. It’s probably even okay if Dave sequestered souvenirs from other time periods. Provided the souvenirs are innocuous and from sometime on Earth.”

“Yet somewhere along the line,” Professor Chapman broke in “it just got out of hand. Viewing portals and maybe even actual portals were set up and it very much looks as if Dave has been to time periods he shouldn’t have. Lord knows what lies beyond the door in some of the alien rooms. I’m betting that some of them are beyond the up time barrier as well. All in all I’d say that this place is no longer just a physical place as such but has become inexorably interwoven into the time stream.”

“That’s it,” said Alvarez. “I’m closing this place down in the morning once I’ve consulted with the Time Commissioner.”
“Can you do that?” enquired Chapman “I mean is it physically possible to close down a place such as this has become?”

We looked around to confront Dave but he and the alien were gone and his staff didn’t know where.

* * *

True to his word Rick Alvarez arrived with a full squad from the Time Authority the next morning. With everyone from the Commissioner down. Professor Chapman and I were there as witnesses.

Except the mansion wasn’t there anymore. Not a trace of it. Not even any foundations, sewage or storm water drains.

“You know what I think?” offered Professor Chapman. “I think this is all too big for us – I think this mansion exists in some appropriate local form in all those time periods for which there were rooms in the mansion here. All those other mansions in those other times have just had one of their rooms permanently closed. Of course it’s only a theory of mine,” he added “and as you all know I have some pretty outlandish theories.”

We didn’t race to disagree with him. As the foremost Earth academic authority on time travel, Stewie Chapman’s “theories” tended to be better than most of his competitors facts.


- - -
I have written over 140 speculative fiction short stories many of which appear in my six published collections of speculative fiction short stories and two published science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). I have been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF and the Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites and have also been published on Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories and the former Golden Visions magazine. I am working on a new anthology of short sci-fi stories and also a “Human Hunter” series for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

8/20/15

Zeta Vaucouleurs Triangulum 10k(602)-39e (Concolir)
By E.S. Wynn (on Zero Dusk)


When you cross back into flat reality from the tides and swirling violence of between-space, you find yourself sliding immediately into orbit around a world that shines yellow and green, its surface cut and scarred by rough rivers of glassy black. From orbit, it looks alive, looks like one of those rare worlds in the endless sea of galaxies upon which an ecosystem has taken hold, evolved to colonize almost every inch of surface within its reach. A mote-probe sent on into the atmosphere turns up something else almost immediately, though – high concentrations of sulfur and chlorine in the thick air. Volcanic particulates, and even before your tiny sensor suite can reach the surface, it becomes clear that the gleaming shades of yellow and green aren't evidence of life at all – they're rivers of peridot and other precious shades of olivine, all long ago solidified and polished to shining by the carving hands of vicious winds laden with grains of fine, cutting sand. More recent rivers of rough, black basalt divide the gemstone glaciers in wide ribbons, some still cooling, still steaming, still breathing streamers of hydrochloric acid into the heavy, poisonous air.

Riding the tiny wings of your mote-probe over the surface, you chase a glassy river of peridot so clear that you can almost imagine you can see the core of the little world through it, that among the bubbles and lines of trapped air deep within, there are flickers of the planet's inner fire, violent and churning. When you cross into another plain of cinder and char, you follow it until the rushing, buffeting winds lead you to an active vent, and then you ride the thermals cast off by that fountaining firestorm exploding out of the world's turbulent depths, ride them into the dusty clouds of the upper atmosphere. Setting your mote-probe to return under its own power, you wait for it to dock with your ship before you turn again, spin up your ship's phasedrive and drop back into the rush and wail of between-space. Bound for other stars, other points of interest in the endless cosmos around you, you make a notation on the world, upload it to the database, silently reflect on what you've seen.



- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. Explore more alien worlds on Zero Dusk.


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