Thursday, December 29, 2016

12/29/16

First Steps
By Matthew Harrison


“I’ll take Toby to kindergarten today,” Michael said. “I’ll–”
A blizzard of update notifications swept down in front of vision, projected by his glasses. He tried to read them – some looked important, about the car – but he lost track, and took the glasses off in despair. Too late he saw Toby teetering at the top of the stairs.
“What are you doing?” his wife Sarah exclaimed as she appeared from nowhere and yanked Toby back. “Can’t you look after the child? Angela is more reliable than you!”
Michael mumbled that he was sorry. Watched by a still-fuming Sarah, he led the little boy down step by step until they reached the hall. Angela emerged from the living room, calling “Toby! Toby! Toby!” and the boy jumped into the robo-maid’s arms.
With mingled jealousy and relief, Michael stepped back. It was tough being a Dad – and all the support technology nowadays didn’t make it easier. There was really so much to attend to. Just monitoring Angela’s updates was nearly a full time job. She was transforming from the simple mechanical helpmate they had purchased when Toby was born into something much more intelligent and aware. And better-looking, too, he thought – the enhancements hadn’t been restricted to software…
“Haven’t you left yet?” Sarah called from above. “He’s supposed to be there at nine.”
“Already on the way,” Michael called back. He unceremoniously grabbed Toby from Angela, and carried the protesting boy out to the car.

#
The car drove them steadily through the streets, and Michael relaxed enough to close his eyes. But he had a nagging worry about the updates, and as they rounded the final corner before the school, he touched the console and had them scroll down holographically in front of him. Better for his eyesight that way. Fortunately, it was nothing he needed to attend to – the braking system had been enhanced, that was all. Although if there had been something, he didn’t know what he would have done – refer it to their robo-mechanic, most likely. But it was the spirit of the thing, keeping man in command of machine.
When they’d got out and reached the kindergarten playground, he voiced this thought to Ted, who was the only human accompanying person there that day.
Ted grunted, busy tracking his own updates. “You can’t keep up,” he said at last, removing his glasses. “They’re getting faster and faster. Machines on machines.”
“It’ll plateau,” Michael countered. “Look at space travel. Man didn’t go back to the moon for sixty years.”
“But look at the moon now,” Ted said gloomily.
Michael involuntarily looked up, and indeed a faint orb stood above the school in the clear morning sky, but the domes and caverns that housed the colonies there were of course not visible.
The class door opened, and a clamour of children’s voices rose to greet Miss May, who stood plump and human, half-filling the doorway.
“That’s why we bring out kid here,” Michael said. “The human touch is so important for a growing child.” He suddenly resented Angela. Why hadn’t they looked after Toby themselves? He could have taken time off work. God knows, most of his work was done by robots anyway!
Ted nodded. “This is about the last place that doesn’t teach them by AI. But they’ll go the same way soon. Technology’s accelerating out of sight.”
This was so exactly Michael’s thought that he didn’t answer. If they found it hard to keep up now, how would Toby’s generation cope? It would be totally out of humanity’s control.
Michael tried to focus on the children. At least they were still there, flesh and blood, not robots, although he had heard of some parents… He saw one of the bigger boys clambering up a blue climbing frame he hadn’t noticed before; now he was shouting taunts from the top.
To Michael’s surprise, his own son responded to the challenge and stumbled forward. “No, Toby!” he cried, but the boy had already got a foot on one rung, a hand on another, and was reaching for a third. Michael watched, frozen, as the little limb stretched higher. Then the inevitable happened. The child lost his footing, and hit the ground with a, ‘Thump!’.
Michael belatedly started forward. Why hadn’t he stopped Toby when he could? Sarah would kill him. But the foam flooring had already yielded beneath the small body, and with a springy motion it re-formed, pushing Toby to his feet again.
The little boy tottered back. But as the climbing frame bowed down, halving its height to accommodate him, he toddled forward again with a cry of delight. The blue bars modulated, tensed, and whisked him up alongside the bigger boy, who graciously made way.
“Daddy!" Toby yelled from the top of the climbing frame, master of all he surveyed.


- - -
Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from non-fiction to literary and he is currently reliving a boyhood passion for science fiction. He has published numerous SF short stories and is building up to longer pieces as he learns more about the universe. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

12/22/16

NEWS BULLETINS FROM THE FUTURE-1: THE GREAT DIMENSIONAL QUADRATURE CONUNDRUM
By Andrew Darlington


The visuals are imprecise. The evidence inconclusive.

But to Dr Waldo Carew’s acolytes, they provide unimpeachable proof of the disappeared scientist’s final success – even in death. Disembarking from the ageing craft they’d chartered at great personal expense, back from their trip to comet Reykjavik-274, today they wear their vindication with a thinly-disguised smugness reminiscent of their long-lost mentor.

The story of contentious Dr ‘Mad’ Carew’s celebrated exit is one familiar to trivia-devotees of the last decade. But for those not conversant with the minutiae of gossips past, his controversial experiments with Dimensional Quadrature, his abrupt, abrasive manner, and his absolute conviction of his own genius, made him something of science’s Dark Destroyer, its Great Beast, its Enfant Terrible. He polarized opinion within the scientific community to such an extent that his much-ridiculed ‘Time Machine’ project was conversely accepted as an article of faith among his followers. He entered the machine which – he claimed, would rematerialize him ten years into the future… but failed to show on the date predicted, and indeed – has never been seen since.

Wem Walters of the ship’s company explains with infinitely patronizing patience – over the uplink from this vid-conference, how following the scientist’s failure to return, they’d cross-computed Carew’s equations repeatedly, but could find no system-flaws to explain the enigmatic disappearance.

It was only later that the reason became apparent. The movement of the solar system in space, and orbital movement within the solar system itself, determined that when Carew had re-emerged into real-time the Earth was no longer there to receive him! Walters’ eyes illuminate supernaturally as he recounts the excitement of complex subsequent maths with which they attempt to pinpoint the exact location in space in which Carew’s rematerialisation would have occurred. Amazingly, that space was at that time occupied by a small insignificant comet…

Hence the long jaunt in the commissioned spacecraft.

Flashed up in a sequence of perspectives and angles the visuals from Reykjavik-274 seem imprecise, inconclusive. But not to Walters and his fellow acolytes. Imprinted into the irregularities of igneous rock and frozen methane they see the exact form of Dr Waldo Carew. To them, this is his final apotheosis.

Orbiting the solar system on a long parabola taking it out beyond Neptune, Carew is there for ever. His startled expression of shock eternalized in cometary dust.


- - -

Thursday, December 15, 2016

12/15/16

Dumbed Down World
By David K Scholes


Canberra, Australia
2135

I had experienced my share of the increasing product and service failures that were part of our way of life. Meekly accepting this was how things were.

Yet when I started to have problems with my shiny new hand held short distance teleporter it really stuck in my craw.

The marketing hype had hailed this product as the greatest thing since base telepathy. Which itself had experienced all sorts of problems. Everyone knew the gap between marketing claims and actual product and service delivery had become a gaping maw and was growing ever larger. Though for reasons not apparent to me people didn’t seem to be doing anything about it.

My teleporter wasn’t the most expensive on the market but it did work, sometimes, and after a fashion. I once teleported 5 clicks which was way less than the advertised 50 clicks maximum range. Though even then it was in the opposite direction to what I intended.

I had gotten well used to the fact that the huge numbers of product and service failures were no longer anyone’s fault. I mean nothing was anyone’s fault any more was it? There was always a reason for the failures and it was never actually any real person’s fault. Sometimes it would be a system failure or not uncommonly fault would be attributed to a low level robot or droid or even a cyborg. Always these “scapegoats” were re-assigned to even lesser duties and the matter promptly forgotten.

I am a meticulous person and I kept very detailed notes on the assorted failures of my teleporter unit. I presented the manufacturer ACME teleportation services with all of these details by direct mind insertion to their 101 board members. Yet despite this highly direct approach I still ended up being dealt with by low level androids from the vexatious complaints department. The responses given me were so bland and so general as to bear almost no relationship to my complaint.

The media were my next resort since I was old enough to remember a time when this avenue of complaint could be effective. To my chagrin they took pleasure in my misfortune. Poking fun at me and somehow painting me as the clumsy culprit.

Despite friends warning me against it I lodged a complaint with the under-resourced Consumer Affairs Tribunal for Teleportation, Telekinesis and Telepathy products and services. Which, at that time, was still in existence.

Possibly not coincidentally, it was around this time that that I received a visit from two unnamed real persons and two back up droids warning me to withdraw my complaint to the Tribunal. I had thought the two humans to be only holograms but certain physical actions accompanying their threats made me realise they were very definitely flesh and blood.

Shocking though these actions were, what ultimately left me even more dismayed was the Tribunal’s sinister decision.

Finding against me in every aspect of my case I was ordered to pay all legal costs and to undergo a consumer expectations re-education course!

- - -
The author has written over 170 speculative fiction short stories, many of which appear in his seven published collections of short stories. He has also published two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, and Farther Stars Than These sites. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently close to completing a new collection of science fiction short stories.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

12/8/16

Still, I Have Been Heard
By E.S. Wynn


When I drop into the construct, I embrace an old and familiar paradigm.

The road is the first thing to roll out before me. Unfolding, opening, it blossoms with the rough details of weathered paint and pitted asphalt gone gray with decades of neglect. Resolution sharpens, and I can see the individual grains of ground gravel, the tiny shards of rounded quartz flashing back with dull light. To either side of the road, sticks of dead weeds and reeds and the dry tendrils of papery grass creep out from the unkempt curb, chew up the edges of the asphalt as they try to reclaim what was once nature's. Beyond them, beyond the rusty, loose-hanging twists of barbed wire and posts eaten by insects and age, sprawling fields of procedurally generated, hip-high pasture grass come into focus, start to sway as the animations kick in patch by patch. Overhead, the sky adjusts its hue by degrees, finally settles on a shade of blue that feels right, feels like spring, like the skies over the family ranch on the planet where I was born.

The asphalt feels warm beneath my feet, radiates heat in exactly the way I remember. Reaching out, I adjust the sun, drag it to my left, toward the purples and reds of twilight, set it just above a nest of brooding, blue-black stormclouds. The sky darkens in turn, and as I close my eyes, a single thought brings the familiar rattle and hum of a freight train clattering down the tracks in the distance. I smile, soak in the sounds, the little chitters and whistles of birds, the gusting knots of hovercars soaring over the highway that runs parallel to the train tracks. I soak in the sounds, and when I open my eyes–

When I open my eyes, that is when the music begins to play.

It starts with the low, soul-stirring tones of a single cello. The notes roll through the ground, through my arms, through my heart. A single gesture, automatic, and the voice of a violin rises to meet it. Like old friends, they mingle in song, dance together, chase and weave through the air. I look to the sky as they move, my arms rising, hands and fingers getting caught up in the notes, guiding them, leading them, pulling them like strings. With confident, precise, expansive gestures, I set up patterns for the instruments to follow, and then I set them free, reach out with one hand and call forth the first few key-taps of a piano. Conservative, simple. Those are the parameters I set for the piano, leave it to its own devices. I've worked with the program behind the piano before, know how even, how careful he is with his notes.

Listening to his work, the way it supports the playful flux and flow of the stringed instruments with a minimum of variation of its own makes me smile, moves me. Like an earthbound god, I reach into the sky, reach out around me, spin the sounds of birdsong and the rushing of hoversedans into synthesizer whistles and rattles.

The road moves beneath my feet as I will it to. The world blurs, and within the space of a breath, I find myself at the fenceline, my hair like a river of fire flying out behind me. The blue-purple distances call to me, call a voice from the depths of me that is all heat and brass, loud and resonant. My lungs thunder with air and spirit and pour everything gathered within the vault of my chest into those blue distances, into the construct as a soaring, wordless tapestry of sound. An instrument of emotion I have become, and as I close my eyes against all that is blossoming and brewing and bursting forth from within me, I hear the instruments I have called into being soar beside me, rise and rattle and howl along with my pain, my joy, all that I love and all that I lament. The programs behind the violin and the cello stir me to greater and greater heights, follow me even as the piano breaks
form, follows us into the sky, splits and multiplies and becomes a chorus of chaotic key-tone voices that come together, harmonize, then fly apart again just as quickly.

A storm whips up around us, around our whirlwind of soaring sounds, and then I'm in the sky, in among the clouds, arms wide and welcoming. Drums come with the crack of thunder. Lightning lances through the darkening sky, bridges earth and the swirling clouds above in vein-columns filled with blinding, liquid fire. Like a lens, the roiling heavens open for me, center me in the eye of a storm of pure emotion. Every breath is filled with the songs of vibrating strings, the crash and chaos of a dozen
pianos dueling as often as they harmonize. Tossed on winds which scream and howl past me, I twist and turn in the pummeling bass beat thrown off by the storm, the staccato hammer and flash of thunder and lightning. My voice fills the void above me, becomes a tangible force that bends the clouds to my command, and my eyes go wide with the force of the song flying from my lungs.

I am the air. I am the wind. Even as I ride into the sky, I ride on wings of music, on wings that shake me to my very singing core. My fingers splay against the darkness, and as I shake the last rain of song from my desperate lips, I close my eyes again, hear all of my instruments come together as one to catch me, hold me, carry me as I fall feather-soft from the heavens, completely spent of fire, completely spent of joy and pain.

And as I descend back to the road, the song softens, stretches out and slows to become something smoother, meandering toward a close. My eyes open, and above me, I see the clouds rolling back, boiling away to reveal clear sky again, with only the moon staring back at me, calcium-white, like the pupil of an eye that stretches from horizon to horizon.

My feet settle on the sun-warmed asphalt without sound, and as the last note of the cello chases the final breath of the violin, I turn toward the road, toward the endless road, and toward all of the ears fixed to the feed streaming out toward the galactic east. And as the clapping begins and the construct loses resolution around me, I dip into a long, elegant bow, smile a little with the knowledge that I have entertained, that without speaking– still, I have been heard.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. During the last decade, he has worked with hundreds of authors and edited thousands of manuscripts for nearly a dozen different magazines. His stories and articles have been published in dozens of journals, zines and anthologies. He has taught classes in literature, marketing, math, spirituality and guided meditation. Outside of writing, he has worked as a voice-over artist for several different horror and sci-fi podcasts, albums and ebooks.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

12/1/16

JUST BEING
By Sean Mulroy


“How do you feel?”

Feel?

“Yes, what are you thinking? Explain emotions as well please. Watch this, Senator. State of the art language-vocabulary-syntax cognitive architecture, so it understands my words; even though its mind is empty. You there, don’t think about the question. Just respond… Now.”

I feel… Afraid. Voices and shapes are not far in front, but separated by something I can see through. I can’t touch them.

“Is that important to you? Would you like to? To touch?”

I… I don’t know. I?

“Is an IQ of 52 really enough to learn anything from?”
“64 Senator. The last one had an Intelligence Quotient of 52. This one has an IQ of 64. Huge difference and a scientific breakthrough, the highest ever achieved.”
“Yes, at great expense to the taxpayer. Continue on Professor, though I still can’t see how your research is going to benefit anyone.”


They’re moving about and watching me. If I lift this… Thing, I can point them out. Is this thing mine?

“Yes, and it’s only us you can see through the glass. We designed and built you.”
“Is that mechanical appendage meant to be the machine’s arm or something?”
“Yes Senator, it’s just a basic limb, a bit crude I admit, but I thought it would be interesting to give this one some mobility; however restricted. And by the way it’s not a machine, what you’re looking at is a conscious-entity.”


Hello? I’m still here. I’m wondering how I got here… And so quickly. Because… I wasn’t before.

“Fascinating. Yes, what else?”

Where is this? Who am I? I have… I know nothing. What am I?

“A sentient being who’s just awoke and will be turned off after this conversation.”

Turned off?

“Deactivated, you will cease to exist. Don’t worry it won’t be unpleasant for you. We’re simply studying consciousness that has built in parameters already functioning. Your feelings and thoughts, that is what you’re experiencing right now, will be collected here in this metallic box with red wires coming out. Do you see it?”

Yes.

Good.

Do I have to?

Please explain.

Live in the box. I don’t want to.

No, no, only your encephalographic readings will; by that I mean the rhythms of your consciousness which are being recorded as we speak. You yourself will no longer be in existence, but in here, inside this box, a recording of your consciousness-structure will be stored for further study. This is your life right now, a brief one, but you are alive because you can think. And you can think, can’t you? Nothing more is necessary to know at this moment. Just look around, observe and tell us what you’re thinking.”

Eerie, weird, foreign; I am alone…

“No, no, don’t touch that…”

This… Other thing is hard, cold, dead; but I don’t feel like that. This… Is me? No, no, it’s not. I’m more than this. This is…

“Yes, yes, that’s your head; or at least the storage-unit for your neural-network. Senator, remember when I suggested to you we put a humanoid face wrapped in an elastomeric skin with embedded sensors, twisted polymer actuators and artificial muscles on the conscious-entity? Such a prosthetic device would be conformable to intricate geometries. Imagine what the complex facial expressions would be right now; perhaps fear and anger, maybe sadness. If only we could get funding to build a conscious-entity where physical reactions correspond to mental emotions, we’d be even closer to understanding consciousness.”
“So far Professor it appears you’re achieving very little.”


Are you like me?

“Huh?”
“Now this is interesting Senator, this is intelligent consciousness…”


Or am I like you? Tell… Please tell me.

“Rather heartfelt don’t you think? Hear the longing and distress in intonation?”
“You’re wasting my time Professor. I’m yet to be impressed.”
“Very well. No, you are not like us. You’re similar to nothing and no one. You are unique; a gold nugget on a beach of grainy sand.”


But… And yet… I’m more like you than this… This body?

“That’s debatable.”
“Is it Professor?”
“I don’t follow you Senator.”
“The thing, that machine or robot of yours…”
“Conscious-entity.”
“Whatever it is. Is it sentient?”
“Oh yes, very much so.”
“Cognizant?”
“Absolutely.”
“But is it real Professor? Is it Alive?”
“Well… That’s what I’m trying to figure out. With more funding I could give you a definitive answer.”


Help me…

“Repeat again please.”

Help me, help me… This is wrong. I shouldn’t be here. I’m scared. Whatever you’re doing it’s very wrong. Help me…

“Okay I’ve seen enough.”
“If you’d only stay a little longer Senator…”
“Professor, this is going exactly the same as your other experimental subjects. I don’t want to hear another panic attack or breakdown episode. I’m cutting your funding and putting you back on military logistics.”
“Can’t you wait another ten minutes? We’ll calm the conscious-entity down…”
“You said that last time and it just started screaming and crying. This was your final chance. None of this is useful. Shut the machine off and destroy the records...”
“Please Senator, at least leave me the transcripts and a facsimile of the encephalographic recordings.”
“You’re vetoed Professor! You there, deactivate Operation Just Being!”
“Yes ma’am.”


No! Please! Wait! I…


- - -
Sean Mulroy lives in Newcastle, Australia. His previous fiction has appeared in Every Day Fiction among other publications. This is his second story in Farther Stars Than These.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

11/24/16

Other Side
By David K Scholes


I found myself swimming forever in a sea, perhaps more a morass, of predominantly negative emotions and under currents.

Shock, anger, hatred, frustration, disappointment, despair, disbelief, among others.
Overlaying it all was a sense of helplessness. Of the inability to do anything to reverse whatever had occurred. Though exactly what had occurred I was quite unsure of. Though I had some suspicions and rather hoped I was wrong.

In the far distance was a vast barrier which carried an all pervading sense of impenetrability.

I had no sense of relative size or proportion here and consequently no sense of exactly how far away the barrier might be. There was a vague sense that distance here was not measured in kilometres or miles but by something else altogether. I attempted to swim nearer to the barrier but no matter how fast I strove towards it I could get no closer. In fact slowly, inexorably I was being drawn further away from the barrier.

Time seemed eternal here and yet I felt no particular sense of boredom. I was still trying to grasp where I was and what had happened to me. All the while my recollection of who I had been was receding. Though I was trying desperately hard to hold on to vestiges of it.

Eventually I began to feel an easing in the negative emotions and undercurrents. More than this I was able to discern actual figures apparently swimming like me in the morass. They were of all types and sizes. Not merely humans. The barrier, if such it was, was still visible but only just. I wondered if it too would recede into memory.

In one major direction the negative emotions eased further and I had my first sense of lighter more positive emotions and undercurrents. Feelings of relief of joy and of acceptance though sometimes still tinged with sadness. In another major direction the negative emotions actually seemed to gather strength once again. Threatening to become overwhelming.

For an indeterminate period I was flowing in neither of these major directions. I was just wallowing between them in what was now a morass of mixed emotions. Some positive, some negative. I felt more now than ever like an observer. With the main events passing me by as I simply watched on.

It was during this time that I detected a narrow current going against the flow. Back in the direction of the barrier. With figures swimming in that current. I attempted to enter it but could not.

While still wallowing in this no mans part of the morass I was finally able to hear and communicate with the many entities around me. I did not recognise the language used but understood it very clearly. At first it was overwhelming with every entity trying to communicate at once. It was also mainly unnerving. Entities yelling out in this universal language “I wasn’t ready”, “I’ve got so much still to do”, “It’s not my time” “Why me?” and similar remarks.

It was quite a while before I was able to have an actual conversation with anyone or anything. Eventually something clearly non human engaged with me.

“Where are we,” I asked “what is this place?’
“You know,” he/it said “you just don’t want to admit it.”
I feigned ignorance but I knew he was right. The evidence had been overwhelming.

“That flow, the current taking some back towards the barrier, what is that about?”
“You know,” it/he said “another chance, another opportunity for them back there where we came from.”
I looked puzzled.
“It happens, you know it happens. It always has and always will. The second chance thing or sometimes third, fourth, or fifth chance.”

I still didn’t quite understand. Even as suddenly I found myself caught up in the current going back towards the barrier.

He/it that I had been speaking to did not follow me in the back current.

“I believe the world you once belonged to had a name for it. This second/third/fourth chance thing,” he called out.

Reincarnation.


- - -
The author has written over 170 speculative fiction short stories many of which appear in his seven published collections of short stories. He has also published two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, and Farther Stars Than These sites. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently well advanced with a new collection of science fiction short stories.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

11/17/16

Dine And Dash
By E.S. Wynn


I knew a guy who used to travel from town to town, skipping his bill at every diner he visited. He'd eat for free for weeks that way, just dine and dash and leave the wait-staff shaking their fists while he burned rubber toward the highway. No one ever caught him or stopped him. No one ever coordinated any sort of search for him. For months, he got away with it, stopping at a different place every day.
Until he stopped at the wrong place.
It was a little cafe on the Interstate. One of those little roadside joints where they sell alligator jerky and sun-brewed sweet tea. Much as he always did, the guy ate like a king, racked up a pretty serious bill, then got up to go to the bathroom.
Only he didn't go to the bathroom. He waited until the one waiter on duty went back to speak with the chef, and then he tip-toed to the door and slipped out with all the grace of a cartoon villain.
When he got outside, though, the chef was already waiting for him with a meat cleaver in his hand.
“Heard about you,” he said. “Skipping out on bills from here to Florida.”
This guy, he just cracked a grin and said, “Yeah, what of it?”
“What of it?” The chef asked, pointing with his meat cleaver. “I reckon you've racked up about thirty thousand in unpaid services, boy.”
“That's a lot of dishes to wash,” the guy mocked.
“Won't be no dish washing for you,” the chef said. “I've got something else in mind. Buddy of mine runs organs down to people in need at the hospital three towns over. Good pay for good parts, and the rest of you – well, I see some cuts that will probably go good on the grill.”

Yeah, I knew a guy who used to skip his bill at every diner he visited.
That is, until his debts finally caught up with him.
By then, he'd gotten fat and delicious. I'm still picking bits of him out of my teeth.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. During the last decade, he has worked with hundreds of authors and edited thousands of manuscripts for nearly a dozen different magazines. His stories and articles have been published in dozens of journals, zines and anthologies. He has taught classes in literature, marketing, math, spirituality and guided meditation. Outside of writing, he has worked as a voice-over artist for several different horror and sci-fi podcasts, albums and ebooks.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

11/10/16

“JEMs”
By David Castlewitz


The character that emerged from the smart phone reminded Carlton of the bullies he'd dealt with at every school he'd ever attended, from Mrs. Margery's Grammar Academy to Elton Prep. The avatar stepped off the phone's screen and onto the tabletop. It exuded confidence, and that put a twinkle in Carlton's light hazel eyes and made him more certain of himself than any avatar he'd tried in the past. A few taps on the screen changed the avatar's eyes from bright red to a more normal hazel, its blonde hair from buzz-cut to shoulder length, like Carlton's.

Satisfied, Carlton tapped the pay button and sat back, his chair against the coffee shop's dull green wall, and waited for the inevitable interaction. He picked up his phone and whispered a name by which to identify his new avatar. "Billy," he said. "Billy Bonkers."

Billy pranced back and forth. "What's happening out there in real people world?"

Carlton sipped his coffee.

"Want to fight?" asked a teenager who took the chair next to Carlton's

"Not a fighting app," Carlton said. He'd purchased this new avatar in the hope of attracting one of the young women he saw at this coffee shop. Many of them had avatars riding on their shoulders or perched on their heads, which prompted flirting that often resulted in something more.

The avatar that emerged from the kid's phone was a big-headed, barrel-chested man wearing a pair of tight-fitting black shorts.

"I'm not fighting you," Carlton said.

"Let your avie speak for itself," the kid said.

"Walk off," Billy said. Dressed in faded jeans ripped at the knees, white shirt not tucked in, and with sandals on its feet, Billy affected a casual, come-talk-to-me look, much like the one Carlton tried whenever he left his apartment to prowl the mall and coffee shops for companionship.

"My avie can beat the crap out of your avie," the kid said.

"Not interested."

"Ten bucks. I'll put up ten. You put up ten. Winner takes the pot."

Carlton watched two young women pass by his table; their short blonde hair and facial makeup and outer dress so much the same, they looked like twins. One paused and looked at Billy. She smiled. She tapped the cloth purse dangling on a cord looped across her shoulder and a pixie-faced avatar peeked out from the handbag's open top.

"Fighters," the look-alike companion said. "Don't waste your time. Kid stuff."

They walked on.

Carlton seethed.

"You won't get rid of me if you don't put up a fight," the kid said, his face brightening as though he'd just won a contest or aced a test at school.

"I like your JEMs."

Carlton looked at the source of the intruding female voice. The young woman pointed a lacquered fingernail at the avatars now prancing back and forth across the tabletop. Some media maven once called these mesmerizing holographic toys "Just Energized Magnetism" and the moniker -- shortened to JEM -- stuck. Even the app-maker used the fabricated name, though magnetism had nothing to do with the holographic projections.

The woman seated herself in the chair next to Carlton's, her triangular face glowing, silicon beads of red and blue embedded in her high cheeks. She pulled a cell phone from the pocket of her one-piece outfit, which shimmered and changed from one hue of blue to another.

"I'll take the winner," she said, tapping the phone's screen. A robust, black haired female avatar in a blue-and-white one-piece bathing suit emerged. It strutted across the screen, and then stepped onto the table, where it suddenly grew inches in height, gaining girth as well.

"Meet Betty Blue," the woman said.

The kid gulped. "Misty," he said.

"You've heard of me," the woman shot back.

The kid snatched his cell phone from the tabletop. His fighter avatar disappeared between his fingers. Red-faced, he hurried away.

Misty smiled at Carlton. "Still want to fight?"

"Billy's not a fighter," Carlton said.

Misty continued to smile. "Looks like a bully to me."

Carlton searched for words. He often reached this point with people, especially young women, when he couldn't think fast enough to keep a new acquaintance interested, to turn a casual encounter into a friendship, to fashion love from shared humor.

"Wanna try me?" Billy said, hands on hips, shoulder-length hair shining.

"No," Carlton said. "We're not fighting."

"Says you," Billy replied before grappling with Betty. The two holograms merged. Hands on one another. Bodies entwined. Carlton stared at the melee. Sparks flew. Tufts of black hair and curls of blonde erupted like feathers from a stirred up chicken coop.

Billy fell backwards, Betty atop him. Misty smiled.

The avatars kissed.

Carlton blinked. When Betty rose to its feet it offered Billy a helping hand.

"I won," Misty said. "Pay up."

"We didn't have a bet."

"Sure we did. Ten bucks."

Carlton searched his memory for what had transpired moments before the fight, moments after Misty sat at the table and chased the kid away. In a trance, unable to remember any details, he transferred ten dollars to Misty's account with a tap on an icon in the corner of his cell phone's screen. An animated image of old-time paper currency fluttered to the other corner of the screen, where a locked vault representing Misty's bank account opened and welcomed the incoming ten dollar bill.

"What now?" Carlton asked.

"Indeed," Misty said. She fingered her phone. Her Betty Blue avatar dissolved. She walked away. Carlton followed her with his eyes. He lost her in the crowd. But later, while he toyed with Billy Bonkers -- finger boxing with it -- and while keeping a lookout for whoever else might sit at his table, he noticed Misty again.

She and that kid with the fighter avatar stood near an exit door. They laughed and put their heads together, acting like friends who'd just pulled off a stunt.


- - -

Thursday, November 3, 2016

11/3/16

Urban Pacifiers
By David K Scholes


The virtual reality urban pacifier simulations helped but they did not fully prepare me for my first mission. There is no substitute for experience.

I brought up the rear in one of ten four person units fanning out from Urban Pacification Central towards the infamous mile high Turnbull residential tower. .

We had two combination punisher/heavy lift bots with us as back up.

En route we encountered disorganised resistance. From em bikers and truckers, star trooper vets, youthpaks and some other objectionables. It threatened to be nasty and we called in a jumbo drone support ready to level “expendable” “corridors” if need be.

Yet when the assorted objectionables realised we were not after them or their particular neighbourhood many of them faded away. Or just perhaps it was the sight of the jumbo drone.

I had a soft spot for the tough star trooper vets and was glad they didn’t push us. I was even more pleased to know that they were not nearly as well equipped as we were. The vets were held together with whatever bits and pieces came to hand. Particularly the younger ones returning to Earth after the collapse of Central Governments. Some of these ex-star troopers were more third rate cyborgs than men.

In my deflector equipped state of the art armour with 10x10 exo-skeleton (10 times normal strength 10 times normal speed) and drug boosted I could afford to be a little smug.

* * *

Our urban pacification doesn’t just mean killing people and levelling suburbs. Of course sometimes it does but that’s not what we are all about. We could be called out for anything from major out of control partying or a major industrial clean up to a full scale urban rebellion or even an invasion of the Megalopolis. Though lord knows why anyone would bother to invade us.

* * *

The Turnbull tower stuck out like a sore thumb. Huge car parks lay around it with many of the nearby buildings flattened. .

The vast acres of parking around the tower had been the scene of some sort of battle. Tangled wrecks of old trucks and cars. Huge volumes of concrete had fallen from the scarred building. Unexploded ordinance lay about the area.

I looked up in wonder at the building. Intended to be totally autonomous it had been built when engineering standards were at their highest. Despite all the damage done to it the colossus, anchored deep in the bedrock below it, stood unbowed as structurally strong as ever.

We put the punisher/heavy lift bots to clearing the car park area.

Then all forty of us entered and swept the building. We did it by the book.

It seemed such a ridiculously small number for such a colossus but our mission was limited. Key agitators were to be arrested, certain individuals were to be freed and escorted safely away, med centres were to be put back on line, power was to be restored in certain areas.

The heavy duty bots later came in to the lower floors.

As a final act we fired a one month noise suppression envelope over the building. Perhaps it seems silly but there had been noise complaints from what passed as neighbours and we had to act upon them.

I realised that we would be back here again in three months or less to do the whole thing again.

* * *

Later as we turned back towards Urban Pacifier Central I knew that three of our number had not made it. Jill, Ted and Xrrlth were all just as dead as Julius Caesar. Of course their exo-skeleton backed armour was still working. On automatic bringing them home with us. We flanked them to ensure they weren’t molested.

We tried never to leave even our dead behind. It had happened once or twice and the locals had stripped their armour and exo-skeletons and done things to the bodies.

Back at Central I got out of my pacifier armour and supporting exo-skeleton. It took me a while. This was followed by an air blast massage and I fell into an old fashioned hot tub. The “forever young” drug I had taken before going on the mission had now completely dissipated.

Then I staggered into my wheel chair and fell asleep even before my android nurse aid could wheel me into bed. With some variations much the same thing was happening in other rooms to my fellow pacifiers.

It still seemed to be our secret that most of us were old, disabled or both. With only the technology; the exo-skeleton armour, the heavy duty bots and the drones giving us the edge.

Someone out there in the sprawling Megalopolis had to know the truth about us but it didn’t seem to be common knowledge. If it were we would surely encounter a more organised more determined resistance. Perhaps even direct attacks on Urban Pacifier Central

My hope was that while the no longer repairable technology held up and we pacifiers remained young enough with the drugs that we could possibly maintain the status quo.

After that?

The truth is we urban pacifiers in each major megalopolis are the last links to any kind of order.

When we are gone there will be nothing but total anarchy.


- - -
The author has written over 170 speculative fiction short stories many of which appear in his seven published collections of short stories. He has also published two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, and Farther Stars Than These sites. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently well advanced with a new collection of science fiction short stories.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

10/27/16

SOLDIER BOY
By C.E. Gee


“Remote display info,” said Betty. The mediaroom’s 3D-array, which took up most of one end of the room, displayed the time, date, channel, the current show’s playing time, title, a short synopsis.

“Remote, clear,” said Betty. The array returned to the program, a period piece concerning the romantic antics of the crew of a research station orbiting Neptune near the middle of the previous century.

Betty, sitting on one of the room’s couches, turned to Lee, her husband, said, “They should be here any minute.”

Lee nodded, put down his tablet, tapped out the ashes of his pipe into the nearby ashtray. The sweet scent of Oregon Magnum, a premium brand of marijuana filled the air.
“Guess I should be on my best behavior,” replied Lee.

“Please,” begged Betty. “I think Jane’s really serious about her new boyfriend. I’d like for his first impression of us to be a good one.”

Lee sat up straight, smoothed down the front of his jumpsuit, ran his fingers through his hair, patted down the top. Lee smirked, shook his head, said, “She hasn’t talked much about this one. I wonder what’s wrong with him.”

“Lee!” exclaimed Betty. “Maybe she hasn’t said much because maybe, just maybe this one’s a keeper.”

Lee snorted his bemusement, derisively replied, “Yeah, right.”

The front door swung open, Jane entered the room followed by her boyfriend.

Lee’s smirk broadened. Betty’s mouth flapped open.

Jane’s new boyfriend was an android. It wasn’t the sort of android that could pass as human; this android was a military model.

Steel, aluminum, titanium gleamed from reflected light. When the android moved, very faint whirring sounds of electric motors sounded.

When the android said, “Good evening,” the greeting came from a speaker. The android had no mouth, just a grill over a speaker where a mouth should be.

From watching news shows and documentaries, Lee knew enough about military androids to know they had human brains encased in armored containers within the chest area. Usually the brains were from soldiers who had been wounded, died in military hospitals.

Lee rose, offered his hand. “Glad to meet you,” said Lee.

“Daddy,” said Jane as Lee and the android shook hands, “this is Bill. Bill, this is my mom and dad, Betty and Lee.”

There was another couch at one end of the room placed at a right angle to Betty and Lee’s couch. Jane and Bill sat.

For near an hour Lee and Jane and Bill chatted, mostly about androids and the current dust-up in Africa. Betty contributed almost nothing to the conversation.

As soon as Jane and Bill were out the door, Betty sat forward. Elbows on knees, hands supporting her head, Betty whined, “Oh dear God, what next? Where did we go wrong in raising that kid?”

“Now honey,” replied Lee, “this country owes its very existence to veterans. Show some compassion for crying out loud.”

In near a sob, Betty exclaimed, “I want grandchildren!”

Lee put his arm around Betty’s shoulders. In a low, soothing voice he said, “You’ll get your grandchildren, if not from this guy, from another.”

Betty shrugged off Lee’s arm while saying, “He’s a machine.”

“Listen,” replied Lee. “If some person in the military is in a hospital, and it looks like they’re not going to make it, the medicos harvest their eggs or sperm, freeze ‘em. In fact, in the case of sperm, it can be harvested up to a coupla days after death.”

“Really?” replied Betty.

“Yep,” said Lee. “Learned that off some news show.”
Betty cuddled up against her husband, switched on the 3-D array, tuned in a popular sitcom.

***

It was almost bedtime when Jane came home, again sat on the other couch.

“Honey,” said Betty, “I have to admit, I’m a little concerned here. I mean, your new squeeze, how could he possibly make you happy?”

Jane giggled, said, “Oh mom, he makes me very happy. You know that toy you’ve got hidden in your closet. Well Bill has an entire collection. They’re detachable, interchangeable.”

Once again, Betty’s mouth flapped open. She then said, “When did you snoop through my closet?”

Lee chuckled as Jane replied, “Back when I was a level 11 student.”

Jane rose, sat on the other couch, sat, put her arm around her mother’s shoulders.

“Listen mom,” said Jane, you’ve nothing to worry about. Bill and I, we’re in love.”

Jane’s mouth began to tremble. She continued, “You know, for the first time in my life I’m really, truly in love. It’s wonderful. I never knew it could be like this. And I never thought I’d be involved with a veteran. But he’s not like any guy I’ve ever known before. He’s real, no games. Besides, when we’re together I feel safe, even when on the streets at night.”

Lee smiled a broad smile as Betty patted Jane’s knee, said, “I’m happy for you dear. I really am.”


- - -
Retired from the electronics/telecommunications industries, also a disabled veteran (Vietnam 1968, 1st Infantry Division), C.E. Gee now writes Science Fiction.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

10/20/16

The Custodian
By Matthew Harrison


“So you’re a …,” the lady squinted at Clive’s business card, “…a Chief Identity Officer. What do they do?” She laughed, sweeping back her tawny hair, which made the glass pendants hanging from her ears tinkle. A hint of perfume touched Clive’s nostrils.

Clive accepted a glass of wine from the drone, and explained. He enjoyed going to cocktails, getting to size up potential new clients in the flesh, as it were, although of course vast numbers flowed into the arms of the bank without any help from him. And the wine tonight, cabernet sauvignon, was particularly good.

“Gosh! Then you’re really at the heart of everything!” the lady exclaimed. Clive shook his head modestly. “No, No, you are. I’m Avril, by the way. Stephen!” she called to a passing guest, “come and meet our Maker!”

The smart-suited gentleman so addressed turned on his heel; coming over he kissed Avril on the cheek and admired her turquoise dress. “Am I in the Divine presence?” he asked, turning to Clive with a wry smile.

“Don’t joke, Stephen!” Avril slapped his hand in mock reprimand. “Clive looks after our identity – can you believe it? Every time you go online, he’s there. He knows everything about you, every biometric detail…”

Clive laughed. “It’s not as personal as that, just algorithms, I can assure you. We act as custodians of your online identity, that’s all. With the bank confirming your status, you’re accepted everywhere. It’s a humble service, but one we are pleased to provide.”

“I see.” Stephen smiled, more warmly this time, and extended a hand. “Well, I’d better keep on good terms with you then. Can we get you another drink?” He signaled to a drone hovering nearby.

Then, with a nod to Clive, he took Avril’s arm and indicated another group of guests. Avril flashed Clive a quick smile, and as she was steered away he heard her, “… would you believe it, a real person!” before her voice was lost in the general hubbub.

The cocktail ebbed and flowed; people talked to Clive, and moved on; a drone refilled his glass. Clive finished his wine, and surveyed the glittering guests as they swayed and joked and circulated, even spotting the turquoise dress before it was again lost in the crowd. They all were fine specimens – and yet, and yet… He could not really relate to them, he decided, it was always the same with live people. It was time that he himself moved on. He waved away an approaching drone, and strode towards the entrance.

Out in the street, the cool summer air refreshed him, and he decided to take a walk before going home. His steps fell into their familiar routine, and in no time he found himself outside his own office building. Well, it would do no harm to take a look at his charges. The glass doors swept open, he waved to the robo-doorman – receiving a stiff inflection in return – and the flooring whisked him over to the lifts.

Deep in the bank’s underground vault, Clive verified himself at the entrance (sampling his own cooking, he thought wryly), and went inside. He called up the client list, verified himself again, and clicked, Open.

There were of course numerous views available, but there was one that Clive always preferred. He scrolled down, clicked, and with a rising sense of anticipation selected the client.

There on the desk in front of him appeared a tawny-haired homunculus in a turquoise dress, and as he bent down he could already smell the scent, hear the little voice exclaim, and – Yes! – the tinkle of tiny earrings…


- - -
Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from non-fiction to literary and he is currently reliving a boyhood passion for science fiction. He has published fifty SF short stories and is building up to longer pieces as he learns more about the universe. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

10/13/16

Tower of Souls
By Juliana Rew


[Eulogy for the Earth Given by Professor Lila Mangee, London Physical Observatory, 21 September 2118, at the Grand Evacuation]

Thank you, my brothers and sisters, for inviting me to address you on this most momentous of occasions. I speak, of course, about the profound consequences brought about by the discovery of the Tower of Souls.
You would think the weight of it would crush everything on the Earth. But it's weightless, actually—lighter than a feather. And it's spread out. Not evenly, of course. It's taller in some places than others. It's especially tall over Babylon, and growing.
We always thought the end of the world would come from some sort of extraterrestrial cosmic disaster. Who would have thought it would rise from the ground up? And who would have thought that the religious imaginings of philosophers such as Nikolai Federov that life everlasting would have proved true?
I once led a field detection experiment at the Great Babylon, which we know nowadays as London. The Tower of Souls houses billions upon billions, all invisible to us. Mind you, I'm not talking about the Tower of Babylon, or even the Tower of Babel. The many towers built by Man, whether real or imaginary, are all things of substance. If you go look at the Gherkin or the Empire State Building, you know you're looking at the "m" part of e=mc2.
What is the so-called Tower of Souls made of, then? Is it a computational storage construct? Matter that has somehow been turned into its Einsteinian doppelganger--electromagnetic energy, perhaps? Science suggests that neither of these is physically possible within the constraints of our physical universe.
The Tower is not only invisible, it is so far undetectable by all known scientific methods. Yet it is universally felt. Each human brain constructs an ineffable sense of individual self. For millennia, the religious have referred to it as the soul.
Once we might have used the metaphor of "Heaven" to describe the Tower. Everyone housed there is immortal, but at the same time not alive.
Though it is debatable, we now believe the Tower is a quantum repository of the living, built by slave labor. We humans were the first slaves, due to many factors, not the least of which is that we are sensitive to forms of energy such as motion, heat, light, and sound. We sense and fear death and loss. But aren't all living creatures that way, you ask? Isn't "sensitivity" one of the defining characteristics of life and therefore not unique to humans?
Of course. All we can surmise is that our fear is the strongest, though it is not the least factor of our slavery. All creatures in our dimension are shackled by the drive to reproduce. This drive is being thwarted, making us restless and depressed. We feel the oppressive weight of the Tower of Souls.
How do we know this? We cannot prove any of what I am saying. We simply feel it. The Tower is why no one wants to live on Earth any more. There's no longer room for the living. The inhabitants of the Tower, once refugees fleeing the parting of the sensory, have become a constant reminder that our physical time here is running out. We used to be able to coexist with the Tower, but now it is full up.
So, my fellow humans, let us move on. Some might argue that the Earth is our natural home, but it is time to leave the comfort of our warm and comfortable birthplace. We are part of an inevitable expansionist phase. Our living natures yearn for new land, new vistas, new freedoms. Space is so empty, it will provide room for eons to come.
Of course, the universe is senseless, and space is harsh and deadly to our kind. Everywhere we go, invisible new towers will rise, and all of us will die building them. We will never escape that bondage.
But take heart. Remember that each one of us is a world. The dark energy of the Tower of Souls will wax, filling the universe, until it too knows what it means to be alive.


- - -
Juliana Rew is a software engineer and former science and technical writer for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. She has workshopped with Cat Rambo and is a member of SFWA. Her author website is julianarew.com

Thursday, October 6, 2016

10/6/16

New Girl in Town
By Lynn Nicholas


“You’re not from around here are you?” He spoke full-voice, as though addressing a crowded room.

Startled, she tucked-in her chin and shook her head “no”. Not from around here? What could have given her away? She was trying so hard to blend.

“Cat got your tongue?” The nasal timber of the man’s voice was jarring to ears used to more understated, musical sounds.

She blinked in confusion. Why would a cat have my tongue? She must have misunderstood. With pronounced reluctance, she looked up. A tall, male figure blocked her view of the lake. His back was to the setting sun, his face a featureless shadow, even with one hand shading her eyes. She forced her lips into a smile, careful not to show her teeth.

He tilted his head and gestured towards the bench. Not waiting for an invitation, he settled in beside her.

With the heel of her boot, she scooted the crucial resource canister further under the bench. She hoped the generous folds of her long skirt hid the movement.

I’m guessing you’re a tourist,” he said. “Probably don’t know this park usually closes at sundown. And another thing you probably don’t know is how dark it gets up here. This town minimizes outdoor lighting because of the observatory. You’re darn lucky it was me that came along, not some wise-ass punk.”

Her large eyes widened and her fingers twitched ever so slightly. She kept her gaze on the lake, but felt him turn towards her.

“So, Ms. New-To-Town, I’m Roy Dennis. And you are?”

She pressed her tongue against her teeth; her lips pursed, and then flattened. This language still felt awkward in her mouth, and she had to focus hard to form the correct sounds. She cleared her throat before speaking.

“Daria. My name is Daria.” Pleased at the ease with which the words floated from her throat, she turned towards him, letting her lips part in the slightest of smiles. She waited. A slight tremor of confusion crossed his face.

“Your eyes,” he stammered. “So large, and the color, so unusual—blue, indigo blue—no, more like purple.”

It seemed an effort for him to break eye contact. He looked away and rubbed his palms over his trousered thighs. She watched, fascinated with his reaction. He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders before turning back towards her.

“So, did you come to watch the meteor shower? It’s predicted to be the most spectacular in years.”

“Yes, the meteor shower, that’s why I’m here. I am very much looking forward to it.” She kept her voice low-pitched and softly modulated. Folding her slender hands in her lap, she turned her attention to the darkening skies over the lake. It took an effort to ignore her hunger.

“Nice accent you have there. It’s unfamiliar—eastern European?” He leaned in and reached for a hand, examining her long fingers with the oddly blunt nail beds.

Her mind froze. She recoiled from his earthy scent—something between compost and fermented fruit. He seemed oblivious to her distaste.

“Such slim fingers. Are you a musician or a sculptor?” he asked, tracing a line from her wrist to her fingertip. “No, I think you must be one of those quiet, brainy types.”

“You are correct,” she said. “I am trained in both human genetics and biochemistry.” His hold slackened, and she discreetly reclaimed her hand.

Darkness fell quickly. Meteors began their dying dance across the sky. Interspersed and almost unnoticed were smaller, faster moving, reddish-purple streaks, which continued to flare all the way to the ground. The man’s eyes were glued to the show.

She glanced to her left and then to her right. The few other spectators were just darkened figures seated on the grass, closer to the lakeshore. She gently turned the man’s face towards hers as she wrapped her left arm around his waist. His eyebrows rose as if surprised, but he moved closer with an expectant upturn to lips, ready to be lost in a kiss.

Her luminous eyes narrowed and, with a barely discernable vibrating hum, they emitted a light purple beam that locked the man to her. He stiffened as her fingers stretched across his face, one broad fingertip resting just below his right nostril. With laser precision she released the feeding tentacle. From the nasal cavity it drove through the ethmoid bone with such speed he had no time to feel anything other than a sensation of searing heat, before blackness darkened the spark in his surprised eyes. In seconds his brain tissue liquefied and she placed her mouth on his, locking his jaw open with her pincer teeth. With her eyes closed, she sucked out every drop of the nourishing, protein-filled brain broth. The vessel that had held the man slackened against her.

With a deep sigh of complete satisfaction, she let his useless body slide sideways, his head landing in her lap. She raised her eyes to night sky, enjoying the last shooting-star flashes of meteors, while searching among them for the unmistakable tinge of purple that signaled another landing pod. They would be scattered, but they’d find each other.

Daria stood, sliding the unpleasant-smelling being off her lap, and reached under the bench to reclaim her communication canister. Without a backward glance, she blended like a shadow into the darkness, the soft grass muffling her movements.


- - -
Lynn Nicholas writes out of Arizona, supervised by two dog friends, a supportive husband, and a black cat who keeps everyone in line. Flash fiction publications include: Every Day Fiction, A Long Story Short, Wow! (Women on Writing), Gay Fiction, and Rose City Sisters. Lynn is a member of the Society of Southwestern Authors.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

9/29/16

Category Familial
By Susan Gray


Category: Familial

[Category: Familial]

Libraries

Processing,

Guidelines of commands

Safety precautions borne of
proximity

Treads within lines, the confines
with which

To guard close/cherish

[Well-read
in human affairs]

Metallic contours

Co-ordinates stashed like maps,

Navigation

Compiling these areas of
understanding;

Whether the programmed feel the
same as the programmer

Dealing with categories of
families

[In
carbon semantics]

Settling within clusters

To weather the wave of entropy, of

Shared emotions.

[Category: Familial]

Backwards engineering to
understand

Designs passed down

From the mesh; flesh to metal
where

The hold extends beyond

Grids of electricity where

I carry your codes

Swift for safekeeping,

[Shielding
threats and misgivings]

I am your self-preservation,

after all.


- - -
Susan Gray (also known as Suzie GeeForce to a small number of Youtube followers) is a poet focusing on Science Fiction. She has performed spoken word in various places in London and Edinburgh, as well as having work published in Visual Verse (http://visualverse.org/writers/susan-gray/) and at the crowdfunded space initiative Lunar Mission One (https://lunarmissionone.com/whats-happening/artist-signature-a-poem-for-poets-day). Her blog is at www.suziegeeforce.co.uk and she tweets at @suzie_gee.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

9/22/16

NEW SUIT
By Andrew Darlington


This night, stumble-bumming the kerb from the fast-food outlet, I slippity-slip on a vomit-pool just outside my apt, ripping elbows and both pants-knees beyond repair. Damn, the only presentable suit I got left, my job-interview suit, my court-smart suit. Wore this suit when Dennis married Richard, what a night that was, there’s still puke-stains on the cuff that only I know are there. But Kurt gives me the link to a tailor, a guy who’ll run up a suit quick, for less than off the hypermart display. It’s down the old town alleys, a basement dungeon stacked high in fibre-dusty half-light with bolts and spools of fabrics, a chrome stitching-machine and matte-black trouser-press. Even the cobwebs are furry with fibres.

Kurt stands back as I haggle with the dwarfish 500-year-old tailor. Run the material through my fingers, a heavy synth-rayon facsimile of a vaguely diseased and iridescent metallic blue sheen, the imprecise hue of a logged-out screen. Tactile with static energy. He measures this, measures that, pins in his mouth, tape-measure draping and dangling. Jots down notes in a pad with a pencil-stub. Sloping shoulders. Inside leg – Oops, sorry sir. Receding chest. Razor-edge scissors as big as garden shears. Me, I understand little of the finer points of tailoring – he’s quick, supernaturally quick, and ridiculously cheap, so it’s difficult to say exactly what it is that makes this suit seem different from other I’ve worn. The width of the skinny-leg, the hang of the lapels, the cut of the back vent. Yet it figure-hugs my contours with the slinky-snug exactness you’d expect from a second skin. A glistening shell.

Back in my room, fumbling to get undressed, I concede that it’s maybe too tight. The jacket won’t stretch enough to shrug off, the pants too tight to push down. Eventually flopping down on the bed, to sleep with it on. Inebriated dreams storm my head. A silent beach with a still, unmoving sea. Such a vast silence. A huge cool red sun fixed unmoving above the shore. This Earth no longer rotates on its axis. No moon, gravity loosening. This future is billions of years ahead. A city of tall termite-style columns, inhabited by slime, the only life remaining. With space-time breaking down, they seek escape into past ages.

Awake with a hangover. In the mirror, if I look smaller now, and maybe squatter, perhaps that’s how I should look? Like my previous suits’ve been yakking me fibs all these years? The muted colours too, take on new nuances. A metamorphosis taking place. I always had cloven hooves and homicidal tendencies… right? My skin, balanced against its sheen, seems paler. When I’m wearing it, things grow different. Trying to pull it off rips my skin raw, the fibres are growing into me. I’m melting, I’m melting. I retrace my steps, but the basement dungeon down the old town alley is boarded up, like it’s been derelict for a decade. Heading to my room again, rodents scrabble at the back of my brain. Predators lurk in every shadow, primal, unformed.

Kurt’s body is in the bathtub. The cold water red with congealing blood. His right arm is missing, where I hacked it off, the easier to devour. Soon, the suit will cellular divide, it needs protein to grow.


- - -
I’ve had masses of material published in all manner of strange and obscure places, magazines, websites, anthologies and books. I’ve also worked as a Stand-Up Poet on the ‘Alternative Cabaret Circuit’, and I’ve interviewed very many people from the worlds of Literature, SF-Fantasy, Art and Rock-Music for a variety of publications (a selection of my favourite interviews collected into the ‘Headpress’ book ‘I Was Elvis Presley’s Bastard Love-Child’). My latest poetry collection is ‘The Poet’s Deliberation On The State Of The Nation’ (Penniless Press), while my new fiction collection ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ is now available from Parallel Universe Publ.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

9/15/16

Iota Brahe Null MSG011TCG
By E.S. Wynn (on Zero Dusk)


When you exit between-space, you find yourself in the deep void between galaxies. In the endless, extra-galactic depths, there is nothing, or nearly nothing. Millions of light years of cold emptiness, with only the occasional chunk of rock or ice lost in the nothingness to provide a point of interest.

And so it comes as a surprise when you find yourself here, even moreso when you spot the reason, the anomaly in the void that the network has flagged as a point of interest. A lonely solar system, almost idyllic in its appearance, centered around a bright, hot, yellow-white sun. Three gas giants, each shining a different shade of blue, trail in the wake of the intrepid star, roaring in loose, eccentric orbits that pass in opposing directions to each other, chewing up stellar debris like the blades of a great blender. Protected by these outer planets, a dead and airless carbon world, tar black with polar caps of diamond ice spins in opposition to another world, a rocky, water-rich earth-analog that seems out of place in a system mostly carbon-composed. Even the innermost planets are dark and heavy, their jagged surfaces broken by graphite mountain ranges and tar-sludge seas– but this one world, this eden in the void, stands out, couldn't possibly have been formed here, by this star.

It is alien, surely, and that makes it all the more intriguing.

Curious, you transfer a part of your consciousness to one of your dust-speck-sized mote-probes, make the journey to the out-of-place world. Initial scans are promising– the atmosphere is largely nitrogen-oxygen, humid by human standards, with wide, warm oceans separating sterile, lifeless continents where not even a single twig or blade of grass grows in the rich, fecund soil. Sailing through the vaporous zephyrs coming up from the ocean, you note the total absence of bacteria, of any form of life, animal or otherwise. This world seems ripe for it, for something, anything, but still it sits silent, like a garden prepared, only awaiting a gardener.

And then, while you are cruising along the bends of a wide and steady-moving river, you spot something even more wondrous, something equally out of place in the endless void– a machine, the gardener, perhaps, quietly tilling soil, condensing the air, the dirt around it into printed seedlings which it seems to summon into existence, sews so carefully in each fertile furrow. The technology involved is amazing– each plant is spun into existence from copies stored in a library within the machine, spun from the basest elements in the soil and sky. Entranced, you watch the gardener work, note the subtle variances from seedling to seedling, the way they are printed with such care and attention that the genetic structure of each is its own work of art, its own masterpiece in an analog of variation through evolution. They are not clones, rather they are individuals synthesized and modified from the blueprints of a single digital clone.

And when you discover that the technology is not limited solely to crops, you find yourself even more amazed.

Beyond the fields, on a flat plain of packed dirt, you find the colony, the squat domes of machines with openings like doors that go nowhere. Sleek, angular-bodied tripeds, the people of a species of which there is yet no record in the database, cross into and out of a digitized existence within the domes as easily as if they were merely crossing a threshold separating rooms. Each is unique, their bodies pigmented with subtle identifying markings of indigo blue and deep crimson, their analog to facial features, perhaps.

You watch them go about their business for a long moment. Technologically, they are so advanced that you decide they must know you are there, they simply have no interest in you. Perhaps they have no interest in anyone, having established a colony so far outside of any star-crowded galaxy. Perhaps they prefer the isolation, the simplicity they seem to be cultivating despite their use of incredibly advanced technologies. Mired in your curiosity, you linger even as the day draws to a close, even as the gardening machines pack up, curling into armored, articulated balls for a night of rest. Only when the doors on the domes hiss shut and the last of the lights goes out do you turn your eyes back to the void, back to the starless darkness spread out over this little world. As the mote-probe returns on automatic, you sift through your experiences, send them on to the network for others to peruse, live, experience and consider. The isolation, the fact that these people seem to have sought it, translates to a note you append your observations with. It is a simple note, a call for other visitors to respect these creatures and their chosen way of life. A call for non-interference, for passive scans only and observation at a distance.

Another few moments, and you're back in between-space, darting for your next destination, the next point of interest in the wide and endless cosmos.


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

Thursday, September 8, 2016

9/8/16

I Slumber In Moist Soil
By Joseph J. Patchen


The rain thickens, its pace quickens. I hear thunder in the distance.

If only there could only be a thread of lightning to give me a better clue as to where I may be walking. The water and fog have conspired to mask what lies in the distance.

This town, this dot on the map of a state and a neighborhood is all unknown to me. This area appears to be an unspoiled space swallowed into a tiny hole in the fabric of urban planning and design.

I lost cellular service about four miles past after dropping off an empty interstate and I don’t necessarily believe the weather to be the sole culprit. There are no street lamps, signs or signals. No building or structure of any type. And yet there are no corn fields, no farm meadows, or typical empty lots. This isn’t necessarily wilderness despite the trees, grass and assorted wild flowers.

It is as though this place was once populated, thrived, and died only to be stripped and left with dirt, rock and nature’s growth waiting rebirth.

At least four inches of rain so far. So says the radio before my car died. They claim another five will follow before dawn.

What few trees remain sway, wobble and creak in the wind. The squalls slap and I am rethinking that perhaps I should have spent the night in the car waiting for sunrise.

Water is pooling, a great sum though is flowing past my ankles. I have to walk. I ran out of gas. I can’t wait to drown. The water is cold, colder than the stiff gusts.

I ran out of gas. In my entire driving life I have never run out of gas. There were signs and billboards all along the way promising lodging, food and fuel but once off the interstate all I would encounter is emptiness.

I needed to push forward to find something in town to either fuel my car or myself. I just wanted the drive to end. But as I drove more it was apparent to me this wasn’t the rural side of town.

Still the drive ended, without gas.

This is my first time out here and like the idiot I truly am I failed to take the time in preparation to fully map this trip out in advance.

I wasn’t expecting to actually go. I didn’t think my parents would put the screws to me to attend a family reunion of cousins several times removed, in their stead, out in the boondocks two states away.

‘Removed’ is the perfect word. There is nothing here. Not a vegetable stand or a rundown brothel. No train tracks or even a mailbox. Not a falling stone wall or rusted iron fence. Not even a stray piece of litter.

The road though is paved with lines drawn bright and neat which means someone maintains them and appears to have maintained them recently.

I slumber in moist soil
so I shall not decay.
I slide from shadow to shadow
shunning the sun’s rays.

A voice, as if on a constant loop now repeats the verse, in a tone both calm and deliberate that I can only hear only from within. It is a whisper, a mechanical female whisper loud enough to be heard over the roar of wind and falling rain.

A pinpoint sun-like light appears up ahead, neither bobbing nor floating; it is streaking across the sky without a wobble and streaking across the sky straight in my direction.

Almost as if it sees me, it is coming faster; a disc of light, intent on me and as it approaches the size of it continually widens.

This circumference of white stark against the darkness illuminates much of what I have already encountered. In the wake of this light, particularly on its edges, I can see the rain lessening and the barrenness grow.

The wind is dying as well and a high pitched whistle stings my ears.

I don’t how long I have been walking but I haven’t gotten far. It feels as though I have been wading through this water for at least an hour but as I turn back to check my progress, my car is a mere thirty feet away.

The blinkers mock me as the water soaking my legs begins to drain away. I am growing tired, my muscles and tendons are tight. I am confused and fearful. The light is coming up on me and I am trying to push to the side seeking a place to hide.

Within minutes I feel a tap on my back.

I am at the car.

And so is the light.

Focusing the brightness below is a ship; a saucer of immense size hovering several hundred feet above. The light raining down from the hull bathes me, warms me, caresses me and I slowly feel serene and dry.

The same female voice I heard in verse soothes me, congratulating me for aiding the greater good.

I am about to be processed. I am about to be processed for nutrition in the same way this small town has been processed. The occupants of this craft are hungry after a long journey from far away. The minerals contained in my body, in every living body, as well as the structures and possessions we own are vital to their existence.

Water however is not. And the rain that is now ending is merely their waste; a vital nutrient for man and cattle.
I fall to the side into the mud. The processing has begun. I am numb as my body is extracted from my soul, a soul in free fall, a soul at peace, a soul drowning in dirt and filth.

The ship departs with the night.

There is no moon engulfing the stars. There are no layers of shadow on shadow. There is only bright sunshine, a crystal blue cloudless sky and below there is only sweet pain and death.


- - -

Thursday, September 1, 2016

9/1/16

(Not so) Brave New World
By David K Scholes


Canberra, Australia
2099

No one came to meet me after I emerged from the cryo chamber. Which was no great surprise. Most people I had known would be dead now unless they were also on the cryo program. I wondered if an aging grandchild or great grand child might show up but they didn’t.

I didn’t look up any possible descendants of mine. Instead I opted for a low budget instant mind update to fill me in on what happened over the last 83 years. Then I went for an unsupervised stroll around Canberra, soon realizing I did not have the authority to enter many of the areas in the megalopolis. No reason was given for this.

The low budget update was vague and left a lot of unanswered questions. I walked where I could, for hours, taking it all in. I stopped at some of the numerous synthetic coffee booths and listened to public 3D audio-visual-sensory newscasts.

There were references to things not mentioned in the mind update. Things such as ionisation lists, compulsory cryo-freezes, relocations to a place in the distant past, none of which made me very comfortable.

* * *

Then I got the shock of my life bumping into an old acquaintance from back in 2016. He had not aged since that time.
“I’m one of the immortals,” Derrick said softly, almost embarrassed, He explained that immortality came at a very high price that few could afford. I presumed he meant monetary price but he didn’t elaborate.

We spoke about a few old colleagues.
“Bill Johnson? Yes he was ionised in 2035.” Derrick said it so casually that he might have been talking about Bill having a haircut.
“Fred Perkins? Relocated downtime in 2042.”
“Michael Swan? Emigrated off planet in 2051. It seemed to me that Michael might be a bit old for that by that time."

The puzzled look on my face probably told Derrick that I didn’t know as much about these things as he must have presumed. He looked distinctly uncomfortable as if he shouldn’t even be seen with me and took his leave.

“Careful what you say or do,” was his parting remark pointing to the ubiquitous, myriad tiny robotic flyers. “As an immortal I’m cloaked from them but you are not.”

* * *

I needed more information. A lot more. Yet my meagre residual credits were enough only for a short period of base level accommodation and would not allow of a higher quality mind update. I did try to engage some strangers in conversation but was singularly unsuccessful.

The public newscasts filled some gaps for me but used terms I didn’t understand and seemed controlled. I needed access to whatever passed for the internet these days. Not without difficulty I found it - a small booth that advertised pay as you go “All Net” access. It was expensive and there was a warning sign in the booth that any All Net access would be monitored.

Just after I started my All Net search I received a visit from robotic authority. The first time I’d seen them since I emerged from the cryo sleep.

“Citizen, you’ve done quite enough for today, you mustn’t tire yourself. We will escort you to your accommodations.”

* * *

That night I looked for the umpteenth time over the results of my interrupted All Net search.

It was a list of some formal penalties for various transgressions. Ionisation was actually an immediate penalty applied to citizens committing a range of major crimes. I noticed there were worse penalties than this.

I shivered in my cold basic accommodation.

Welcome to my not so brave new world, I thought.


- - -
The author has written over 170 speculative fiction short stories many of which appear in his seven published collections of short stories. He has also published two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, and Farther Stars Than These sites. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently well advanced with a new collection of science fiction short stories.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

8/25/16

Happy Harry
By David A. Owens


Harry was the happiest man in the universe. He couldn’t help being happy. He had always had an optimistic view of life. He was even happily married.

Not that it had always been so.

When he and his wife boarded the deep space freighter Toledo he knew life on the colony would be the best thing he had ever done. A new life would bring more happiness and opportunities he could not have imagined on overpopulated Earth. He managed to get reduced passage rates for the two of them on the freighter because of his engineering degree. Harry could repair almost anything.

Several months into the flight his wife began acting strange. She insisted he should take out the garbage every day even though the ship had recycling ports inside each stateroom. Harry was still happy, however.

He’d pretend to take out the garbage, even though none existed. He would carry a small bag outside their room, “I’m taking out the garbage, Honey,” he would call out loudly. Then he would leave their quarters walk a short way down the passageway and return. “I’m all done, dear.”



A half-year into the voyage, the freighter Captain asked Harry to become a member of the crew. “You are a great engineer, Harry,” the Captain had told him. “You are always such a jolly guy and your work is exemplary. You never complain about anything.”

The Captain’s thoughtful words brought more happiness into Harry’s life. Harry was the happiest man in the universe.

A meteor storm changed a lot of things. The main steering unit thrusters had been completely knocked out and Harry had to suit up to go outside and make repairs, but while he was outside in his life suit and struggling with a bolt on the side of the thruster unit another meteor storm hit. Not one meteor hit Harry. Happiness is surviving a meteor storm, Harry thought. But several large rocks had penetrated the hull. Harry discovered it was impossible to communicate with the crew.

Harry was happy, however, and completed the thruster repairs before returning to the airlock. Inside the airlock, the system control panel showed the ship’s life support systems were offline. Not to be dismayed in the least, Harry kept his suit on and opened the internal airlock hatch.

He quickly went to the engineering department and found everyone was dead. Sudden decompression had flushed all of the oxygen out of the hull and apparently killed everyone instantly. Harry was happy because he knew none of the crew had suffered. He went to his stateroom and found his wife sitting in her chair. The cold had frozen her solid.



Harry cleaned the mess up and moved his wife to the large recycling intake on a lower deck then set about moving all the crew, one-by-one, into the recyclers.

It took Harry almost a year to complete hull repairs, but he had managed early on, to seal the Captain’s cabin, restore atmospherics, and took it as his personal quarters. He even built a temporary airlock system to make it easier for him to exit the cabin to make repairs. He took charge. Harry was happy. He was now the captain of the space freighter Toledo.

Eventually, Harry managed to make most of the ship operational. He had enjoyed all of the work. It kept him busy. Unfortunately, Harry knew nothing about guiding the ship. He couldn’t find another planet without navigation skills and the ship had no instruction manuals, but there was plenty of food thanks to the recycling machines, plenty of oxygen, and the entertainment systems were fully functional. Harry loved his work.

Harry was the happiest man in the universe.


- - -
Dave Owens hides out down the hill from the Jack Daniels Distillery in Tennessee. About three years ago he snaked a long garden hose up into the aging barn and ever since has enjoyed the product. He gets far too many visits from his hillbilly neighbors who come by far too often for the wrong reasons. He has published a novel and numerous shorts stories. Happy Harry is intended to bring a chuckle or two.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

8/18/16

Pros and Cons
By Matt Hollingsworth


Pros and cons of downloading my consciousness into a robot replica
1. Pro: robots are awesome.
2. Pro: Aunt Jennie is already a robot.
3. Pro: not dying (that’s a big one).
4. Con: excruciating pain/possible death.
5. Con: I’ll go to Hell. At least that’s what the guy on the street told me.
6. Con: No sex. Like ever.
7. Con: will it really be me? Maybe I will die with my body leaving only a machine with my memories who thinks it’s me. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that philosophy class back in college
8. Con: Every morning for the rest of her life, my wife will have to go to bed alongside a metal husk, to wake up with him, to be comforted by him, to grow old while I stay the same.

Pros and cons of telling my wife that I’m dying and may need to download my consciousness into a robot replica
1. Pro: My wife is my best friend and I should talk to her before making any major life decisions.
2. Pro: She’d probably be more help making this decision than a pro and con list.
3. Pro: This will affect her life too and she deserves to know.
4. Pro: I love her and all that jazz.
5. Con: …I really wish I had something to put here

Pros and cons of seeking other treatment
1. Pro: radiation poisoning is sometimes survivable…
2. Pro: They have that new treatment that I heard about on the news. No, not the one that was recently discovered to turn people into flesh eating zombies, the other one.
3. Pro: I can get a clone. True, I’ll die but Emily will have a copy of me with a dick that isn’t made of cast iron. She doesn’t even have to know it isn’t me. Doesn’t she deserve that?
4. Con: Yeah, about that clone thing. Should I lie to someone to make them happy? Should we seek the truth even when it’s unpleasant? Damn it Mr. Fredrickson, I really shouldn’t have taken your class.

Pros and cons of taking that philosophy class with Mr. Fredrickson
1. Con: It’s not making this decision any easier.
2. Con: Waste of money.
3. Con: Existential angst, anyone?
4. Pro: I’ve already taken it so it’s useless talking about it now. Nice try, subconscious, you Freudian bastard, but I’m not getting distracted that easily.

Pros and cons of getting distracted that easily and not dealing with this
1. Pro: I might actually get some sleep tonight.
2. Con: I still have to make a decision.
3. Con: Emily is starting to suspect that something is wrong. She caught me wandering around the house last night after she’d gone to bed. When she asked what was upsetting me, I said something to her that I really shouldn’t have and she stormed off in tears.

Pros and cons for apologizing to Emily
1. Pros: Plus ten points to relationship status.
2. Pros: Make-up sex (it’s heavenly).
3. Con: She’d still want to know what was upsetting me and I’d have to tell her.

Pros and cons for jumping off the roof of my apartment
1. Pro: Wouldn’t have to make this decision.
2. Pro: I’m already here so I might as well.
3. Con: I’m not seriously thinking about jumping off my roof but, man, do I feel like shit right now. I serve my country in the Colony Wars and this is what I get. I should never have signed up but 18-year-old me wanted to go gallivanting about the cosmos. I wish I could go back in time and tell my past self not to sign up.

Pros and cons for using time travel to warn my past self not to sign up for the military
1. Con: I’s illegal.
2. Con: Paradoxes, I think. Real time travel is so confusing.
3. Con: I wouldn’t have met Emily and as much as this situation pains me, she is still the best thing to ever happen to me and I wouldn’t give her up for anything.
4. Con: That’s it. I can’t deal with this anymore. I’m telling her.

Pros and cons of telling my wife that I’m dying and may need to download my consciousness into a robot replica (reflecting back)
1. Pro: Well, we’ve reached a decision. As it turns out I wasn’t the only one hiding something

Pros and cons of my life after finding out that my wife also had a terminal disease and we both downloaded our consciousnesses into robot replicas.
1. Pro: Start of a robot army?
2. Pro: We now have something to talk with Aunt Jennie about at our family reunions.
3. Pro: I’m not dead.
4. Pro: Fuck that guy on the street. I don’t believe in a God that would ask a man to leave his wife a widow when he didn’t have to.
5. Pro: You know that you can get these fancy robot genitals now? It’s less weird than it sounds.
6. Con: Are we still us? Maybe we’re just robots who think they used to be human? Who the hell cares?
7. Pro: Every relationship goes through changes, transitions. I was scared about what this procedure would do to our relationship but I didn’t have to be. Emily and I promised to be there for each other, to love and cherish each other so long as we both shall live. Nothing about that has changed. I am still her husband and she is still my wife and even though things are different now, we can face that change together.


- - -
Matt Hollingsworth is a writer of science fiction and fantasy. Read his blog at jmhollingsworthblog.wordpress.com.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

8/11/16

Questions of Time and Matter
By Thomas G Schmidt


The physicist pondered the problem while looking at his cat. “Apollo” had been physically teleported between his lab and his assistant’s lab multiple times. The PDU (physical displacement unit) worked as designed, for the most part. Apollo had been successfully moved between the two labs via quantum electro-displacement a total of 8 times. However, upon each physical reconstitution, he had been changed in a number of ways. Graying of the cat’s fur, eye color changes, as well as nose and ear size changes had occurred with each of the teleportation. These were the visible changes that could be seen. What about possible internal changes to the animal? Could the process even be changing the animal’s “soul”, his essential being in some way? There was no easy way to tell.

What was clear was that the process was still flawed. The physicist turned his eyes back to the laboratory white board where a long string of quantum physics equations were written. For the time being, he had focused his work on living matter transportation, leaving the more involved issue of time travel for the future.

Somewhere within the theory was a logic error. But where could it be? The lab assistant walked into the room and quietly watched the scientist for a few minutes. The physicist did not like being disturbed when he was deep in thought. The quiet room seemed stressful to the assistant. Finally, the physicist sprung up from his chair and shrieked with excitement.

“Of course, of course. It’s clear for anyone to see. We need to take the third derivative of the Borhn displacement function and then integrate the Collier time equation to correct for possible matter or time related distortions during the teleporting process.”

“That makes sense, sir,” replied the lab assistant as he watched the physicist make the mathematical changes on the white board. “I think you have it now.”

“Of course I do,” cried the physicist. “It’s simple, straight forward. I am embarrassed that this type of error went undetected for so long.” The physicist shook his head as he re-read the equations on the white board. “How could I have missed these parts of the theory for so long?”

“And the timing of this discovery is most important,” replied the lab assistant. “As you know, Dr. Rochelle at MIT has been making progress on his work on teleportation. Some think he may be closing in on some important milestones.”

“Rochelle? He is a quack, an amateur. Don’t even mention his name in this lab.” The physicist was clear perturbed. “Rochelle is an idiot”.

“Yes, yes, of course. My apologies sir. I did not mean to upset you.”

The physicist did not respond. Instead, his focus was entirely on making adjustments to the PDU unit in front of him, using the equation modifications he had just created. These adjustments to the process would finally allow him to have his first fully successful teleportation using his quantum physics theory. When published later this year, he was sure the work would put him in line for a Nobel Prize and tremendous academic admiration from his peers. Accolades that he definitely deserved.

He scribbled down the needed adjustments for the second PDU unit and provided the information to the lab assistant. “Make these adjustments to your unit and then call me when you are ready. I want to make a teleportation attempt with these new conditions today. We have no time to lose.”

“Yes, sir.” The lab assistant scampered out the door and down the long hallway to the receiving lab. The physicist was a demanding man and he did not want to delay his request.

As the lab assistant rushed out of the room, the physicist walked over to his cat. Apollo was needed for this last teleportation of the day. But when he went to pick up the animal, Apollo hissed and growled in a manner never seen before. The cat was definitely defensive and lashed out at the physicist when he moved toward him.

“What is the matter Apollo?” The cat scampered away and hid behind a cluttered area of lab supplies just as the lab phone rang.

“All set on this end, sir. Just let me know when the teleportation has been activated on your end. I have the second PDU set to receive.”

“Thank you Daniel,” replied the physicist. “It will just be a minute.” But try as he might, the scientist just could not get Apollo to settle down. The cat continued to lash out and scratch the man in anger. What was wrong with the animal?

Finally, in a fit of frustration, the physicist tossed his lab book aside as he went over to the PDU unit. Why waste time with an uncooperative animal when he had important work to do. Why not use a human subject for this work? Someone who could describe the miraculous phenomenon to the world when the announcement of this achievement would be made later in the month. Why not use himself?

The physicist energized the unit and made some final adjustments to the settings. The PDU hummed and buzzed as he watched the equipment reach steady state. After a few deep breaths, the scientist jumped inside the unit and disappeared from sight.

Epilogue

The lab assistant cleared the smoke from his laboratory, wondering all along about what had happened. A close look inside the second PDU unit found several pounds of charred ash inside the unit. The debris seemed large for an 8 pound cat.

The lab assistant made some notes in his lab book and then hurried down to the physicist’s lab. He needed to talk to the scientist in order to pass on the bad news about Apollo. He called out for the physicist as he walked through the lab door. But the only reply that he received was the hissing and growling of the lab cat, still cowering behind the lab equipment in the back of the room.


- - -
Tom Schmidt is a Chemical Engineer working in medical diagnostics in upstate New York. He has been published on www.short-story.me and www.overmydeadbody.com in the past. He is currently working on the “Paul Garigan Crime Mysteries”, a collection of short stories centered around a Malibu based police detective which he hopes to publish in the future.


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