Thursday, July 30, 2015

7/30/15

The Immortal Equalizer
By David K Scholes


I bumped into him every so often. Maybe every 50 years or so. With a clockwork but hardly monotonous regularity.

I suppose that I could have sought him out between times but at first I never saw the point. We were poles apart. Our motivations, the whole purpose of our separate existences, so very different.

I know I had long periods of down time and wondered if he had something similar.

It was nice though, in a funny kind of way, to have someone who I could occasionally share the centuries with. It gave me a certain sense of continuity.

Now I’m not immortal. Please don’t think that. Just extremely long lived. If you will do me the politeness of allowing that I am a living entity. I am a Mark 11 self repairing and limited self improving, artificial intelligence. Taking the physical form of a female observation robot. After they made me they threw away the mould. Primarily because it was considered inappropriate for a robotic intelligence to outlive its creators. .

Yet I continue to do that for which I was created. To observe and report to those who originally commissioned my creation and their many, many successors. They do nothing to enhance my capabilities but neither have they ever sought to degrade or destroy me. Or to shorten my inherent longevity.

* * *

But him, it, whatever. He was different. I was never really sure about him. Even after our first encounter. At first I thought he might be human. Since 2085 very long lived humans had started to become a reality. For various reasons. From successful suspended animation, to the compressed time and boosted longevity programs. Even the enhanced human program. Given his speed and physical strength I had presumed he was a product of the latter. The enhanced human program which also led to increased longevity as well as superhuman performance.

Though even on that first encounter I thought there was something vaguely familiar about his particular style. His desire to right wrongs, overturn injustice. Something I’d heard of in the past.

At a later time I searched the All net and found references to a man who lived for a few years in New York City in the late 20th century. A man at the time referred to in the media as “The Equalizer” a name based on an old Television show. He had been a former British SAS soldier who had taken on a one man crusade against evil and injustice. No records existed of him prior to his joining the British military.

The All Net contained somewhat vague references to a ten year period of time in the 20th century when the SAS operational capability well surpassed both its earlier and even its later capabilities.

I realised then that he predated me. By at least 70 years.


* * *

Centuries later those to whom I was accountable at that time recognised a gradual decline in my capabilities.

They had one last mission for me before I would be allowed to quietly retire.

The historians among them had become interested again in the phenomena of the Equalizer entity and wished me to report on it fully.

It was not hard to track him down. He moved around Earth a very great deal but things happened in the places where he stayed. However briefly. Wrongs were righted. Injustices overturned. Evil was on the retreat wherever he went. If you looked for these tell tale signs they were not hard to find.

We spent 10 very short years together. I observed all that he did, all that he had to say and with his permission passed this information, periodically, on to my superiors.

I admired him and could hardly believe how much he did over this time.

It occurred to me that he had been doing so much for so long that this “self righting” process of his had somehow been automatically accepted as a natural balancing process. Long since no longer challenged, questioned, or even recognised or reported upon.


* * *

Finally a great star ship of the Vree came this way again. I suspect that even among the mighty Vree my friend was a most capable operative. Yet hardly meriting the cost of a long star ship journey to bring him home. No, inadvertently left behind on their last visit, my friend had to wait until there was a Vree star ship in our vicinity again. The longest wait by a sentient being in our history.

The entity that historians have again come to call the Equalizer. The alien being Frelt – the former Vree zero tolerance law enforcer - left with them. Left for home. What else was he to do?

* * *

Sometimes I wonder. If the Vree had never come for him how long he would have continued doing what he did. I know now he could have outlasted human civilization.

Now my services are no longer required but I am allowed to continue to exist. I am the oldest living intelligence on Earth and I’m lonely.

I miss my friend. Frelt, law enforcer of the Vree.

I miss the Equalizer.


- - -
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, July 23, 2015

7/23/15

Curiosity Killed The Cat
By Hannah Grace Murgatroyd


Amelia crouched behind a boulder, wincing at the noise her breathing apparatus made every time she dared to breathe. It was essential to life here, on Mars, yet it could also be the cause of her death.

How wonderful.

It wasn’t even their fault that they had intruded on the life forms here. Sure, they had landed on the red planet but how were they supposed to know that these… aliens had built underground tunnels? Was it really such a crime to be curious about a planet that had never been visited by a human before?

Apparently so.

Amelia would have sighed if she wasn’t so worried about her life and the aliens that were standing just on the other side of the huge boulder. She could hear them babbling in the foreign language she had come to dread. They used to back of their mouths to speak, much like the Germans, however the language was nothing like German. It involved clicks and obscene squelching noises that never failed in making Amelia shudder.

She heard a sudden movement and she reacted by moving forward. She crashed into one of the aliens and rebounded off of it, the alien still standing strong. She felt a gun against her back and her stomach dropped. They’d known she was there throughout the conversation the two aliens had held.

She craned her head up to look at the alien in front of her. It was tall, very tall. It must have been at least seven or eight foot tall. It had two big eyes, a small nose and a large mouth which grinned at her, several sharp teeth glinting. They had no hair; however their skin was a grey colour and appeared to be very thin as blood vessels could be seen through the skin. They wore no clothes but from what Amelia could see they didn’t have any reproductive organs, making Amelia wonder how they reproduced.

She was answered when the alien in front on her seemed to split into two, and another identical alien appeared in front of her. Asexual reproduction, Amelia mused. Fascinating.

“You shall sleep, human.” The alien behind her gargled.

She felt a jolt run through her body and she knew no more.

*
When she awoke she found herself strapped to her chair and surrounded by thousands of aliens in what appeared to be an amphitheatre. As she looked round she could see many different species of alien, some were the typical green alien while others just looked like the slugs from Earth. Idly Amelia wondered if slugs were Aliens. She shook her head, still drowsy from whatever they had shot her with.

“Human, you are here for us to decide your fate.”

Amelia’s head snapped to the speaker. This alien was strikingly beautiful. It sat on what Amelia assumed to be a throne; its long legs were folded neatly under a long, golden shawl that shimmered in the firelight. It had grey skin yet seemed completely different to the aliens that had apprehended her. Amelia instantly knew that this alien was in charge.

“Why are you here, human?” Its voice was soft, yet loud and demanding.

“We on Earth have always been curious about Mars and the possibility of life forms here.” Amelia explained, trying to sound confident. “We came to discover more about this planet.”

The aliens snarled and jeered at Amelia. She gulped and looked around frantically, hoping that none of them would attack.

“And have we ever visited your planet, guns blazing, because we were curious?” The head alien asked sharply.

“N-No.” Amelia answered timidly.

The alien bowed her head. “From what you have told me, I’m afraid that I have to sentence you to death.”

“What? No!” Amelia pleaded. “I’ll work for you! I’ll do anything!”

Aliens swarmed Amelia and she screamed in agony as she was hit with what felt like electrical currents again and again, each one increasing in intensity. There was a long drawn out shock, and Amelia fitted while the aliens around her laughed.

And as she stopped fitting and her eyes slipped closed for the last time, one saying resonated through her mind: curiosity killed the cat.

And now curiosity had killed Amelia.


- - -
Hannah Murgatroyd is sixteen years of age and has a bizarre fascination with space and string theory. She enjoys reading, writing, and cuddling her two cats and one dog.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

7/16/15

Bacterium
By Mark Antony Rossi


The STORMSTAR-4582 was a next generation ultra-high orbit weather satellite with the unique ability to capture stardust, tiny asteroid particles, meteor scatter, etc. Basically it could collect “weather” information from outer space as well as determine the meteorological trends forming below on Earth.

Like the Titanic, technological arrogance often gets its comeuppance and during the fifth month of the third year of the satellite’s mission its nuclear reactor began failing and there was no crack team of Apollo 13 engineers to develop a rescue plan.

The backup batteries died in less than forty eight hours halting the retro rockets which in turn allowed the satellite to decay in orbit. It was a dangerous game of falling dominoes. A failing satellite plunging through the atmosphere was not a rare occurrence. Most shrugged off the news since these objects disintegrate before reaching land or water.

What the average person did not know was STORMSTAR-4582 was no average sized satellite. This satellite was a massive machine nearly the length of a footfall field. It was launched in components which were assembled in space. A full one third of the satellite was devoted to collection and analysis of the space debris it was designed to capture.

STORMSTAR-4582 was not going to simply burn up in the upper atmosphere. Without power it could not be guided to crash into a white artic wasteland or blue ocean expanse. The satellite was falling fast out of orbit and uninfluenced by anything humanity could say or do. The trajectory was plotted by NASA which immediately notified the government of Australia its outback was going to be devastated by a giant nuclear powered satellite built to survive twenty five years of deep space conditions.

Naturally the Aussies were not pleased and they bitterly complained about having to evacuate an area the size of New York in less than two hours. NASA officials were not sympathetic since the area contained very few people. The joke at Cape Canaveral was they cared more about bouncing kangaroos than hillbilly campers. Whatever the trampled sensibilities the White House felt they dodged a bullet because this crash would harm very few people if any at all. A large military clean up crew and a handful of death benefits should wrap up the matter in a few weeks. The public would soon forget and focus on movies and fashion models.

Their predictions were right on the money. The satellite hit the outback desert like a lightning bolt thrown from Thor himself. It created a giant crater and tossed super heated sand crystals thousands of feet in every direction. These crystals became speeding shards of glass penetrating the air and everything they met. A drunken camper who ignored the initial warnings on his weather radio was hit in the upper shoulder. The power of the impact was such that it knocked him ten feet back. His breathing was erratic, his entire body ached, but there was barely any blood from the wound. The glass was so hot it immediately cauterized the wound.

The US military clean up crew found him drunk, dirty, burning with a high fever. It’s best to call him Patient X. Because he was first of many to become infected with a bacterial disease brought to Earth from the melted remains of STORMSTAR-4582 and the hundreds of stardust samples it collected for three years.

Humanity has been expecting an Alien Invasion for thousands of years. It never expected it would arrive at a microscopic level in such a mundane manner. We always imagined the better missile would save us from the monster. But now to our unexpected horror the better medicine is the best weapon against an extraterrestrial enemy threatening our extinction. The government projects Australia will be human-free in less than two months. All the animals have died except reptiles. Could their cold blood have a defense mechanism?

A medical ship is heading toward the coast to experiment with animals, vaccines and medications to find some answers and a possible cure. Our world has been invaded. Our people taken from us. We will never gaze at the heavens the same way again. Never.


- - -
Mark Antony Rossi's fiction has appeared Bareback Magazine, Black Heart Review, Death Throes, Deep South Journal, Flash Fiction, On The Rusk, The Sacrificial and a few other worthly publications.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

7/9/15

A Previous Life
By Donal Mahoney


- -
It was their wedding night and Priya didn’t want to tell her new husband all about it but Bill kept asking where she had learned to walk like that. Finally she told him it was inherited from a previous life, a life she had lived many years ago in India, not far from Bangalore. She had been a cobra kept in a charmer’s basket.

When the charmer found a customer, usually a Brit or Yank, he would play his flute and Priya would uncoil and rise from the basket. Her hood would swell and she would sway as long as the customer had enough money to keep paying the charmer. She never tried to bite a customer but some of the men weren’t the nicest people in the world. You think they would know better than to tease a cobra.

Being a charmer's cobra was Priya’s job for many years until she finally grew weary of the tiny mice her keeper would feed her so she bit him and he died. His family had Priya decapitated but she was born again later in a small village, this time as a human, a baby girl. After she matured into a young woman, she had a walk, men said, reminiscent of a cobra's sway.

Priya told Bill she had been married many times in India, England and the United States but always to the wrong man. She would give the men time to correct their behavior but none did. As a result of their failure, she bit them with two little fangs inherited from her life as a cobra. They were hidden next to her incisors. Death was almost instantaneous.

No autopsies were ever performed. Death by natural causes was always the ruling. Priya, however, would move to another state or country before marrying again.

She told Bill she hoped he would be a good husband because she didn’t want to have to move again. She wanted to put down roots and have children. She was curious as to whether they would walk or crawl or maybe do both. But Bill had heard enough. He was already out of bed, had one leg in his tuxedo pants and soon was running down the hall of the 10th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel. He had his rented patent leather shoes in one hand and an umbrella in the other in case he ran into a monsoon.


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

Thursday, July 2, 2015

7/2/15

BIRTHLINES
By LELA MARIE DE LA GARZA


Augusta shook her head. “But Peter, that’s just not true. My father doesn’t own an Irr plantation but a tiny farm. The family’s never had any money, and—”

Peter was blunt to the point of cruelty. “My family will never accept a Darden peasant. It’s bad enough you aren’t an Earthling. I would never be allowed to marry someone without a background and a fortune. By our laws, I am not free to marry anyone I choose. My parents must approve. You have to tell them this story, and they have to believe it.”

“But they’d find out the truth eventually, wouldn’t they?”

“I suppose so. But by then we’d be married, and they couldn’t do anything about it. And once we had a baby, that would change everything.”

Knowing what she was giving up, and knowing what she was getting into, Augusta agreed. She wanted to marry Peter more than anything else. Whatever she had to do, she would do.

Reluctantly, Peter’s family gave permission, and he and Augusta were married. Augusta’s parents sent their regrets (carefully manufactured by Peter), saying they were in the middle of their busy harvest season and couldn’t leave Darden. They also sent a basket of rare syn-fur flowers to the happy couple (again Peter’s doing).

Peter’s parents never did accept Augusta, and, as she had predicted, they soon found out the truth. Ships constantly traveled between Earth and Darden. No one had ever heard of Augusta’s family. There was no Irr plantation.

Augusta’s father-in-law was barely civil to her now, and Peter’s mother hated her openly. A son was born to the couple, but it didn’t help. Peter’s mother never used the terms “daughter-in-law” and “grandson.” Instead she said “the Darden girl my son married” and “that boy of hers.”

Peter offered to send Augusta’s family money for a passage to Earth, so they could see the baby, but Augusta refused. Looking around her at the silk draperies, the marble floor, expensive furniture, gold finishings, she said “No. They wouldn’t fit in here. And you know they wouldn’t be welcome.” Peter had to agree. The huge mansion was no place for Darden farmers.

Almost overnight two things happened: the financial crash of ’07 on Earth and the Irr plague on Darden.

Peter and his father worked grimly, twenty-four hours a day, trying to save the family business, but it was no use. They watched helplessly as everything went: their fleet of cars, the private plane, the house and all its furnishings, leaving them in a small, ramshackle hut.

Meanwhile, on Darden, Augusta’s family had flourished. Her father had worked with a brilliant scientist to produce a disease-resistant strain of Irr. When the other crops died, his was the only one that could be exported. Irr, the elastic, virtually indestructible substance, was used in everything—building, clothes, dishes, electronics, etc. It had become indispensable, and Augusta’s father was able to name any price he wanted for it. He bought up all the defunct Irr farms and replanted them with his own stock. Now he had the biggest plantation on Darden. The myth had come true.

When Augusta’s father learned that his daughter was living in poverty he sent passage money for her and her husband and baby to come to Darden. In a burst of generosity, he extended the offer to Peter’s parents as well.

Peter’s mother refused. Looking around at the patched walls, the threadbare carpet, the few sticks of furniture salvaged from a junk yard, she said. “We wouldn’t fit in. I could never live with Darden peasants."


- - -
Lela Marie De La Garza has had work published in “Creepy Gnome,” “Passion Beyond Words”, “Black Denim,” “Yellow Mama,” “Bewildering Stories,” 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.


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