Thursday, July 20, 2017

7/20/17

Across the Rolling Waters
By Robert Walton


Its hoops and arches shining, the starship Billie Holiday eased away from Rings Station. Within the ship’s fantastical silver frame rode a cerulean jewel, the globe of water, which served as both inner system reaction-mass and radiation shield for passengers and crew. Rubies glowed on half a dozen out-rigged pods as atomic engines kicked in. Billie Holiday became an ornament, a pendant, a spark.
Watchman 2nd class Julian Parks sighed.
“Love leaps and is the leap,” a voice murmured at his shoulder.
Startled, Julian whirled in his chair.
Watch Commander Ellspeth Bouquet peered at the now empty screen.
Julian swallowed. “What do you mean, Watch Commander?”
Bouquet looked directly into his eyes. “I mean that though your beloved has just sailed to Antares on the Billie Holiday your shared love need not be over.”
Julian looked down. “If you say so.”
“I do. Do you know Shenandoah?”
“The starship, sir?”
“The old folk song?”
“No, sir.”
“Pity.”
Julian studied Commander Bouquet. She stood straight and poised, possessed of both powerful presence and the pure beauty of a long-used hand tool. Beneath silver hair, translucent skin around her eyes and at her temples revealed that she was old, more than two hundred years old. Regeneration treatments had preserved her health and extended her life, but not forever. Dissolution, sudden and final, would take her – perhaps soon.
“Have you loved, Watch Commander?”
“I love now.” She smiled. “Do you care to observe Billie Holiday build her interstellar shield from Titania’s ocean?”
Julian shook his head. “No, thank-you.” He paused. “Do you have a soul-holo of your beloved?"
“No, there is no need. He is the station mind."
“Your partner is Max?”
“Max, yes.”
“You’ve known him long?”
“Almost two hundred years.”
“You’ve been together for all of that time?”
“Not always together, in fact, rarely together. We met here on Rings Station and explored Saturn’s moons together. Later, we both went to the stars, he to the Eridani worlds and I to Gliese 581. ”
“Max helped discover the Dani?”
“Oh, yes. He was the first to speak with the cloud-beings. He and two others developed the lightning sequences that became the current trade language. We perceive only a fraction of the spectrum that they use to see and communicate, so their full language is forever closed to us.”
Julian shook his head. “Those were great journeys, great accomplishments. If you don’t mind my asking, how did you manage the separations?”
“We managed to spend some years serving together here and some on the moon. We even have two children.”
“A standard parenting contract?”
“More than that. Love’s nova bloomed for us.”
“Love’s nova?”
“Shared light that does not dim.” Bouquet chuckled. “You’ll know it if it happens for you.” She glanced at his downcast eyes. “Perhaps it already has.”
Chimes sounded softly as if from a distance, as if pealed from a church at vespers across a blue valley in the Dordogne.
Commander Bouquet turned. “We have work to do.”
“Wait! Please, sir – what will you do? Transition? Become a ship’s mind or a station’s? It’s just that I’ve heard that it’s dangerous.”
Bouquet nodded. “Abandoning one’s body can be dangerous, but the alternative is dissolution. Max is allowed supporting partners. I will become his first after I’ve finished this contract.”
“In a few years?”
“In a few years – the med team here should keep me going that long."
Justin looked at her, his face reflecting the doubt of a person with a very young body.
Bouquet laughed. “Fear not, among my many implants I have sensitive systems monitors. The first whiff of trouble will set off strident alarms.”
“Yes, sir.”
‘You know, Max is allowed to choose six partners altogether. We may embrace others that we’ve loved.”
She smiled
“And we may not.”


- - -
I am an experienced writer. My novel Dawn Drums was awarded first place in the 2014 Arizona Authors Association’s literary contest and also won the 2014 Tony Hillerman Best Fiction Award. Barry Malzburg and I wrote “The Man Who Murdered Mozart”, published by Fantasy & SF in 2011.Most recently, my “Kill the Coffee Boilers” was included in Hyperpowers (Third Flatiron Anthologies) ( Volume 16).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

7/13/17

In which it is the apocalypse and nothing has changed
By Nicole Mason

(for Jason)


We find an apple orchard, you and I, and as we fill our bags, they watch us through broken windows, and some begin to poke up through the dirt. They clutch at us, and we run with our packs full of fear and love for various things. After we run, we stop and eat apples and talk of cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise and weekends, of electricity and toothpaste. Every day is some digression of this. I think of my grandfather and how he caught a train out of Bergan-Belsen to raise disappointing daughters. How, once, I saw him look up my girlfriend’s dress as she climbed a tree in the backyard. We eat apples for days and sometimes we run. It’s stupid to fight; you learn that straight off. It’s better to run. We eat apples and run, but it’s you and I and our love for various things. Everything has died, but since it’s everywhere and everything it’s stupid to care; you learn that straight off, too. We find an old campground with an oil drum for a fire and there are only a few of them paddling around in the boggy lake. At night, they gather and sway at the edge of the shore to stare at the moon that cuts through the water like an open wound and a few of them wade out. One of them looks like my mother. She’s disappointing and squashy and her blond hair has pooled around her. She’s waist-deep in the water and her skirt has bubbled and puffed up. I want to suck your apple flavored fingers and tug at your hair and tell you that of the various things I love, you are the only one, it is only you and I in this wasteland. Instead, I push myself into the water in a canoe and find the one that looks like my mother so that I can smash her face in with my oar. When I come back, you tell me about Tonya, and how you had to shove her down a flight of stairs and leap over her sprawling body


- - -
I received my MA in Literature at Northern Michigan University. Currently, I teach Composition and Creative Writing at Indiana University of South Bend. My poems have appeared in The Chiron Review and are forthcoming in (b)OINK and Cease, Cows.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

7/6/17

Final Days
By David K Scholes


Unified Earth Command Centre
One Mile Underground
North of Canberra, Australia


“They are still coming!” whispered Earth’s Air Space Commander “despite everything we have thrown at them.”

“Planetary energy reserves?” I asked, trying to appear unflappable.
“The Planetary Grid is down to 10%” offered the Primary Energy Coordinator.

In the early days we had been confident of victory. Our psi Uni-Mind comprising millions of Earth’s best minds had offered great promise.

Yet the Trorne put everything we threw at them through the meat grinder. I had my suspicions they could have come in much faster and just taken us. That they, malevolently, preferred to make it a slow agonising death for all of the worlds they eventually conquered.

“Let’s go over our options again,” I asked, looking at my remaining senior Commanders and Coordinators and hoping for an original idea.

“Can we lower the conscription age?” the voice of a General came from the back of the bunker.
“It’s 9!” I replied, aghast at the thought “if we have to lower it any further it’s a blatant admission of defeat and we can only do it in areas still loyal to us.”
I wasn’t going to be responsible for sending 7 and 8 year olds against an enemy that could scare the pants of even our best Special Forces. “It stays at 9,” I replied, the anger in me welling up.

“The crim zone – we could bring them all back from their down-time imprisonment in the Pleistocene Period,” offered my senior Ground Commander, “plenty of manpower there.”
It was not a new idea and I said as much. It did have appeal, but there was a problem. “The inter-temporal energy requirements are too great,” I replied “it would exhaust the Grid.” Theoretically it made some sense. Yet no one knew the present condition of the crims – in their bitterness would they even care about what was happening to us?

“The unused clones in the central storage bays,” suggested my Primary Naval Commander.
We’ve released those we can,” I replied “but the others have to be held for when they are needed. When key people like those in this Command Centre die.
My mind raced at the thought of two or three cloned versions of myself or others present being despatched to the frontline to be slaughtered.

“The Urban Pacifier teams still loyal to us have been militarised,” said the nominal head of the diminished World Police. “Likewise the City Demolition teams too, those still loyal to us. As ready as they’ll ever be.” I thought of their monstrous nuclear fuelled dozers, their contracting force field machineries and their city stripping energy weapons. They would give a good account of themselves.

Someone rattled off a load of Earth Cities and major Regional Centres. “We’re giving up on all of these,” he said “no loyalty left for Earth Central Command, they are on their own.”

Would things have been different if Earth were less divided? I wondered. Knowing the answer as soon as the idea came to mind.

* * *

Then the Trorne ramped it up. The star ships orbiting above multiplied and the steady stream of shuttles and armoured figures heading planet ward increased exponentially.

“They’ve stopped toying with us,” I said – “now it’s the end game.”

“Planetary Energy Grid projected to go down in about an hour,” yelled the Primary Energy Coordinator.
“Remove all energy shielding from protected installations, including this one” I said. If my actions kept the Earth Grid going another day our sacrifice was worth it.

* * *

The battle for Earth raged for longer than I would ever have thought possible.

Our underground bunker, minus energy shielding, was attacked several times and eventually laid waste. By the time the fighting subsided I was on to the fifth and last cloned version of myself and most of my Commanders and Coordinators had died after running out of their clones. Yet Earth Central Command had become peripheral to the conflict.

Someone had got the Crims back from down time possibly using the released energies when the Grid went down. The Crims had only gone into the cities no longer loyal to Central Command.

The cities loyal to us were taken fairly easily but the remaining cities were another matter. That’s where the real fighting took place. The millions of released Crims had learned things downtime and they teamed up with the tough Urban Pacifier and City Demolition units and their super heavy equipment.

Foolishly the Trorne sought to take these renegade cities block by block and it had ground them down. The race that was expert at grinding down its opponents was in the end ground down itself.

We all of us thought the Trorne would planet bust us when, exhausted, they left Earth.
Yet they didn’t. I’m told that a hastily assembled second Uni-Mind comprised of more than one million criminal minds had dissuaded them.

The original Uni-Mind had been comprised of many of the purer minds of Earth but the second Uni-Mind was comprised of minds much more malevolent, much less pure and the departing Trorne knew this.

How strange that our victory of sorts had been achieved not by the great and the good but by those once thought of as the scum of the Earth.


- - -
The author is a science fiction writer with eight published collections of short stories and 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.


Help keep Farther Stars alive! Visit our sponsors! :)




- - -

Archive

The Thunderune Network:

TTC

Weirdyear Daily FictionYesteryear Daily FictionClassics that don't suck!Art expressed communally.Von Singer Aether and Steamworks.Resource for spiritual eclectics and independents.Pyrography on reclaimed woodartists featured weeklySmashed Cat MagazineLinguistic ErosionYesteryear Daily Fiction