Thursday, January 28, 2016


By David Barber

"We hold this truth to be self-evident, that no one desiring rule over his fellows should be admitted to public office.
Which means the last person you want in charge is someone who enjoys power because... What?, don't print that. Wait, no. Halt."
Jamie waved his essay away. News about the war crowded onto the big virtual display above his bed. He'd put it on override because this was the first time he'd been old enough to vote, but also because the Public Office generator had appointed Mr. Blount as this year's President, and Jamie couldn't get over how random it seemed.
Mr. Blount filled the display, looking as frazzled as he did by the end of term. Jamie's new Me-Filter cut in.
The President — former chemistry teacher of Jamie Sands — speaking live about the drone strike.
"It seems that a majority," began Mr. Blount.
"— including Jamie Sands — voted to launch an attack. I think — Jamie Sands — hasn't thought this through and someone will live to regret it. Or not live, as the case may be."
Absently, the President took off his glasses and cleaned them on his tie.
Jamie still couldn't decide whether Jamie Sands sounded better than just Jamie, or even if he should try a tag.
"...against a regime terrorising its own people with chemical weapons. We've all seen the pictures, but even with technology as advanced as a drone-flock, it's never that simple, and..."
Mr. Blount lost the thread, like he used to do when asked why anyone needed to do chemistry.
"But this is the most democratic nation on Earth," he began again. "And this is what the majority -including Jamie Sands — have decided."
The news-stream was replaced by a message from the sponsors.
Now, thanks to Me-Filter know-how, the effects of YOUR vote can be experienced at first hand, INSTANTLY!
Citizens — like Jamie Sands — who voted FOR the strike can piggyback a micro-attack drone. The first ten thousand to press the RED button on their handset will be able to follow the progress of their OWN drone.
Years of gaming paid off, Jamie expertly hit RED and his virtual display faded into monochrome.
Target information down the left of the screen placed the drones close to the position of the infamous 1st Chemical Warfare Regiment.
Changing direction so abruptly the picture leaned, the flock swept above the rooftops of shanties, across a dry stream bed, then over dusty hillsides where children pointed, their faces tilted skywards.
Jamie's eyes widened in excitement as the range unreeled to zero. The flock dived towards a column of parked military trucks. Fleeing soldiers were already falling as drones began to strike home. The picture zoomed in on a soldier flinging away his helmet, gun and gas-mask as he ran.
"No, no," Jamie shouted, as his drone seemed to hesitate. "It's a trick!"
The man dodged past a surprised child holding a soccer ball, and the boy flapped his hands as if warding off a wasp, his face blurring into pixels as the drone darted in. Then the display exploded into darkness.
Jamie Sand's drone has found its target.
Jamie stared at the blank screen for a long time. Eventually it timed out and defaulted back to his essay on democracy.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016


By David K Scholes

“This suspect, I’m not sure he even exists Bill,” said my detective sergeant.
“How come Jen?” I asked.
“Well there are no images of him anywhere on the internet. Not even on the dark web or the interplanetary link. Even when I used the Einstein/Newton search engine he doesn’t show up."

“What about his fame score?” I enquired.
“Nothing, zero, zilch, just not registering. Even the lowliest hermits would score a 0.001 on the index. Just as proof of their basic existence,” responded Jen. “Even hermits have images on the net,” she added “you remember that compulsory imaging program which swept up everybody not imaged on the net.” I nodded. I was tempted to conclude that he didn’t exist but in my game you can’t take anything for granted.

The image of our suspect had been constructed from the memory of someone who thought they saw him at the murder crime scene. A mind stamp image. Much better than the old identi-kit approach. Yet mind stamp images could be unreliable. Some had ended up being constructed from mere dreams. Dreams confused with reality.

Though it wasn’t just the mind stamp image. A very similar physical image, they used to be called photographs, had been found inadvertently in an unrelated search. In an abandoned, physical building. Where they used to sell stuff physically over the counter. Before it became illegal to sell anything except over the internet. “I think they used to call them shops,” I told a puzzled Jen.

* * *

At that moment Jen and I were both looking on the premier internet site “Images.” The largest site on the net that purportedly captured one single copy of every image of a natural person, clone or AI person ever displayed anywhere on the net. The fact that there was no image of our suspect here was persuasive though not conclusive that he didn’t exist.

We came to an older part of the Images site. “What is that interspersed between the images? It looks like a series of image captions all strung together, one after another” asked Jen innocently.

I chuckled, clearly showing my age. "I think they used to be called words, if you get enough of them strung together, they formed what they used to call a sentence. Or even more of them and they could form a paragraph.” I deliberately didn’t say any more. The concept of having enough captions to fill a page or more might be altogether too much for Jen’s graphical/image based approach to things. Efficient though she was in her own particular way.

Of course we are all familiar with words that we speak and as part of our thought processes. Yet in our modern image and graphic-based world long dissertations on the net are becoming increasingly rare.

* * *

“Here’s the rub,” said Jen. “What individual, still living, would not have done a “selfie” and put it on the net or at least been captured in someone else’s selfie? What individual scores 0.000 on the fame index?”

I had to agree that she had a point. If it had just been the mind stamp image we might not have taken it further but the very similar physical image, the photograph, that was found, gave me pause. Not an exact match but 98%. Too high for a family member and too low for a clone.

Suddenly on the Images website we came to a very long string of captions. Several pages worth. Jen excused herself for the moment. She seemed freaked out. I stayed and diligently read the several pages of “words.” Explanatory notes at the very end of the image library.

Two small headings caught my attention.

“I think we should just take another look at the net’s interplanetary link,” I told Jen when she returned.
“Why?’ asked Jen
“Just call it a hunch,” I replied adding “and maybe something I read.”

We didn’t find them first time, as if they weren’t meant to be found, but third time around there they were. Two listings. One of a small group of imperfect clones that had been shipped off planet to cover up the mistake and a very small listing of entities (read natural persons, clones, and AI’s) thought to be suffering from the incredibly rare Image Aversion Disease (IAD).

Everyone on each of the two lists had an image somewhere on the internet. Mostly on the dark web.

With one exception. A “man” mentioned on both lists but without any proper image. Just what they call in the trade a “skeletal sketch” attached to both lists. We used the latest enhancement techniques on the crude sketches and came up with a near perfect match to our suspect.

It turned out he was the first of the imperfect clones and was really now quite old relatively speaking. Which explained why he had showed up in the old photograph.

“That’s it then!” I said “that’s our man or our clone”
“When did it show him being shipped off planet?” asked Jen.
“Just a few days after he was at the crime scene,” I replied “he was shipped to Gloldansk.” I continued smiling.

“Neat,” said Jen “that place is basically a tolerant holiday destination. He’s done well. Left Earth under near perfect cover and ended up in a little slice of heaven. Where they don’t care, or even know, about imperfect clones.”

"We better get packed then Jen,” I said “I’ve always wanted an excuse to go to Gloldansk.”

- - -
The author has written over 140 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 and Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites and more recently Farther Stars Than These site. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently working on a new science fiction novella.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


By Yolamarie Rodreirra


running through rain
snap of shattered glass
flight born of fear
tear, tearing, torn
the crackle
the flash
the thunder
until feet are silent
until feet are still

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Thursday, January 7, 2016


Fail Safe
By John Kaniecki

Yen Mak Sutz gazed deep into the three dimensional holographic image. The intense details and various symbols created nothing but confusion in Mark Dork's brain. Let alone that the engineering plans were written in the language of the Sit Sutzi. Earth's chief engineer looked into the flat, noseless green face of his alien counterpart. Yen kept on peering at the pulsating plans and then gazing at the mammoth structure nearing completion. As usual the alien was sparse with his words.
Mark Dork was frustrated by the silence. "Well is it finished?" asked the owner of Crappy Tech engineering. One of the many subcontracting firms employed in this joint venture. The chief engineer of Earth after all had a deadline to meet. Didn't these aliens understand the concept of money? Quicker completion of the project meant a higher pay structure.
"If it is finished, Mister Mark Dork do you not think I would tell you?" The alien's words were as gentle as his placid face. Mark Dork was greatly insulted but he let it slide. This venture was going to make Crappy Tech millions of dollars. And almost as important it would increase the prestige of the company. In the long run that would garner more lucrative profits.
"Looks good to me," said Mark Dork, gazing at the nearly finished and soon to be eighth wonder of the world. The engineer of Earth couldn't have cared that they had nearly completed construction on the most sophisticated building on the planet. They could have built a mountain of shit as far as Mark Dork was concerned. The cash pay off was all that mattered to the greedy businessman.
"My team shall make one last inspection," Yen Mak Sutz declared. Still ever diligent he kept on scrutinizing the construction before him.
Mark Dork walked away laughing to himself. These Sit Sutzi were extremely intelligent as far as science went. However as far as business customs they were overtly naive. On numerous occasions Yen Mak Sutz would negotiate verbally with Mark Dork over some nuance of construction. An extra beam to reinforce here or some cooling fans for the electrical grid. In the process they would negotiate some monetary compensation for the additional work. But never were any written contracts signed. Mark Dork knew his memory would fail and these aliens would be left in a financial lurch. This would bring a great monetary windfall to Crappy Tech.
Early in the next morning before the rising of the sun Mark Dork was once again at Yen's side. For the first time in over a year of association the alien creature showed some emotion and smiled. Mark Dork wasn't even aware that the Sit Sutzi were capable of smiling.
"Ah my friend," announced the green bug like humanoid, "we are finally finished!"
"Excellent," said Mark Dork fondling his grubby greedy hands together. It had been a year of back breaking work. Long hours sometimes through the entire night and then into the next new day. Inclement weather of ice, snow, rain, freezing cold and blistering heat. Missing holidays all for this big payoff.
"Now it is time to settle," said Yen Mak Sutz sounding happy.
"Settle?" whimpered Dork, "whatever do you mean?"
"Ah," said the alien, motioning his claw like hand to the triumphant building. It was a technical marvel. It was a combination of residential and business complex. Solar energy and wind power would supply all heat and electricity. The water supply would be recycled and enhanced by rain. Throughout the immense space were various parks. It was in fact a tall towering, self supporting town. "There were one hundred and forty seven modifications with one hundred and thirty seven million dollars of promised compensation. I have generously rounded the figure down, dismissing almost three hundred thousand dollars. "
"Really," said Mark Dork, for once feeling intelligent in a year's time. The aliens were so much more sophisticated than the Earthlings that Dork felt like a caveman. "Do you have any written records of any agreements? You know signed documents making things legally binding?"
"Of course not, Mister Mark Dork," hissed the Sit Sutzi chief engineer, "we bargained in good faith, you know the truth of that."
"There is a saying on Earth, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." Mark Dork was enjoying the turning of tables. Finally at last he didn't see himself as a complete idiot.
"So you are saying you will not pay me my extra one hundred and thirty seven million dollars?" Yen Mak Sutz seemed to be irate. Gone was his smile.
"Not unless you can prove it in a court of law," laughed Mark Dork in a condescending fashion.
"Ah you are most foul in honor," cried out the Sit Sutzi chief engineer.
"Perhaps," said Mark Dork most boastfully, "but quite the richer!"
"Have you ever heard of fail safe?" asked Yen in a soft tone.
"Fail safe?" wondered Dork, "what are you talking about?"
"We Sit Sutzi are very careful people. This joint venture was the first in of the kind of our two species. We did not know if we could trust you."
"So what?" Mark Dork felt a twinge of nervousness.
"So this," said Yen Mak Sutz. The alien's claw like hand pulled out a square silver device. He clicked a switch and a red button lit up. Then he depressed the red button. In the distance of the huge structure there came a loud bang. Then a series of popping noises accompanied by white plumes of smoke. The building trembled for a moment and then came crashing down. Nothing remained but a pile of rubble.
"You just destroyed billions of dollars of construction," moaned Mark Dork.
"So sue, my Earthling," hissed Yen Mak Sutz, "that is if your primitive species ever develops a spaceship that can leave your solar system and get to my home planet."

- - -
John is a published author and writer. He has a poetry book entitled Murmurings of a Mad Man published by eLectio Publishing. His second poetry book entitled "Poet to the Poor, Poems of Hope for the Bottom One Percent" has just been published by Dreaming Big Productions. In addition he has a book of science fiction stories entitled "Words of the Future" published by Witty Bard.!/Murmurings-of-a-Madman-(Paperback)/p/40020970/category=4758375

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