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.


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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.


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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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