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.
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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 25, 2016
Thursday, August 18, 2016
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
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.
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.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Zeta Dorado Herschel 388b
By E.S. Wynn (on Zero Dusk)
The first thing you see as you cross back from between-space to the stars and void of the endless heavens is a little world, shining and snow-crusted. Cruising slow and far beyond the narrow band of its system's habitable zone, the little world still spins so quick about its axis that each day of deep crimson light pouring in from its bloated and red parent star lasts less than five minutes. Subtle scans trickling through your ship's integrated intelligence reveal cracks in the ice and snow, fractures that run kilometers deep, breathe a heat and wetness in geysers that seem out of place on the flat and hellishly cold surface. Curious, remembering stories of the first expeditions to Europa in the Sol system, you ready a mote-probe, wonder for a moment what you might find at the bottom of those cracks, wonder if there might be a grand ocean teeming with heat-loving extremophiles just beneath the world's icy crust.
Only one way to find out. The best way; to go there directly.
The atmosphere rises up, thin and barely noticeable, and like a ghost, your consciousness rides the wings of the mote-probe to the surface. A modest crack in the icy crust, a crack wide enough to swallow Everest and almost thirty thousand meters deep, soars into your view-- and then you're in it, chasing the calving glacier walls into a hot darkness hissing with the promise of liquid water, hissing with superheated steam. Kilometers pass, and the heat and pressure build. Gentle scans record what light would disturb-- the narrowing walls of the fissure, the deep, boiling ocean rising up where the ice ends in clouds of swirling slush below. When you pass into that ocean, a wave of excitement hits you. Life, new life, surely waits to be discovered in this most extreme of environments.
But as your mote-probe marinates in the boiling sea, you begin to get readings that perplex you and quietly dampen your enthusiasm. The great under-ice ocean of Zeta Dorado Herschel 388b is not the nutrient-rich soup that Europa's ocean is. It isn't swimming with simple, free-floating life. The water around you surges with heat and potential, but there's nothing here. This ocean is dead.
Frustrated, curious, you switch your mote-probe's instruments from passive to active, shine bright-burning spotlights into the depths and the distances. Huge, branching, stalagmite towers of precipitated minerals climb from the depths like thousand-meter tall trees of black stone and glittering volcanic glass, and here and there a mountain climbs from the murky depths, massive and glowing where magma is separated from water by only a thin crust of brittle basalt. There is no life, though. Beauty, brutal and hellish, but nothing native to appreciate it.
With a quiet sense of resignation, you pull your mind from the mote-probe, contemplate the icy surface of Zeta Dorado Herschel 388b with your physical eyes. Another part of your integrated intelligence guides the probe back to the ship, and in the space of a few moments, the speck-sized sensor-suite is snuggled back in its storage bay, recharging with a trickle of energy. A fragment of your mind reviews those sights you've seen in the great ocean below, then forwards them on to the network. Other explorers might find something of interest here, but for you, it is time to move on. Spinning up your ship's phasedrive, you kick your craft back into between-space, make the jump to the next point of interest in the wide and endless cosmos, eager to see what wonders still await you in your journey from star to star.
- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. Explore more alien worlds on Zero Dusk.
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