Secrets of the Universe

Author : Scott E Meyer

“Some of what you are about to read you will think is science fiction, ” said the front of the dust jacket, “But I assure you, dear reader, that it is not. It is based on sound scientific principles with which we are all familiar.” Edgar skipped on. The book looked dry, windy and boring, but Edgar liked dry, windy and boring. He amused himself, picking out the long words to see if he could pronounce them, words like “supersymmetry,” “quantum fluctuations,” and “unified field theory.” For a minute, he allowed himself to be absorbed by what this Dr. Ledbetter had to say. He imagined the world as Ledbetter imagined, a world of free energy, travel to the stars, transmutation of matter and all the dreams he had ever had coming true.

Edgar looked up, curious as to which section of the bookstore he had stumbled into. To the left were Bigfoot Sightings, UFO’s, and the Loch Ness Monster. To the right were alien abductions and government conspiricies. Not an auspicious place to find the missing secrets of the universe. He flipped to the back of the dust jacket, the author’s biography. It seems this Dr. Ledbetter had been laughed off stages and out of seminars for years before finally vanishing only a few years ago. He had only published one book, the very book Edgar held in his hands.

Edgar frowned. As much as he wanted to believe, wanted to be caught in the mystery and play with the secrets Ledbetter claimed to reveal, he couldn’t bring himself to take the man seriously when the entire scientific community had already laughed him into obscurity. He placed the book back on the shelf, determined to find something of value in this bookstore.

The secrets of the universe would have to wait for another generation.

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The Supaida Snare

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The SS Furai was traveling at warp three through the Supaida Sector on a survey mission to look for planets that were suitable for human colonization. A decade earlier, an unmanned probe had passed through the sector and reported numerous habitable planetary systems around two Type G stars, and four Type K stars. Each of the star systems all had at least one terrestrial planet orbiting in the habitable zone, sometimes referred to as the “goldilocks zone.” The Furai’s mission was to determine if any of the planets meet the criteria for human colonization; the plant-to-animal biomass ratio had to be 98.5 or higher, and no indigenous animal species could have an Intellect Potential (IP) above 64.2.

The first two star systems they surveyed were non-viable due to exceptionally high concentrations of animal mass. They were approximately one hour from the third system when the ship unexpectedly came to a dead stop. Fortunately, the inertial dampeners responded instantaneously and prevented any serious injuries. “What the…,” snapped the Captain? He pressed the intercom button. “Chief, why have we dropped out of warp,”

“I don’t know, sir. The warp engines are still on-line. They’re straining like hell too. Did we hit something?”

“Unknown, Chief,” he replied. “Shut down the engines until we figure this out. Ensign O’Toole, any idea what stopped us?”

“Sensors readings are normal, sir. Nothing unusual in the electromagnetic spectrum. Graviton activity is typical. Charged particle density is low. Huh, this is unusual. The quantum chromodynamic sensors show a tiny spike in the strong interaction color confinement. But it’s barely above background. I can’t believe that has anything to do with our situation.”

“We need to be sure, Mister O’Toole,” responded the Captain. “Take a science pod out, and have a look.”

Fifteen minutes later, O’Toole reported in. “Captain, I’m approximately 10 klicks aft of your position. I’ve adjusted my sensors to detect baryon waves. It appears that you are caught in a 2D matrix of some kind. From here, it looks like a large net that extends for light years in the Y and Z directions.”

“Mister Kline, did the probe report this phenomenon?”

The science officer quickly accessed the records. “Captain, according to the logs, Earth lost contact with the probe before it surveyed this corridor. It was presumed lost. However, since the probe had mapped 95% of the sector, Central Command determined that it was not cost-effective to send another probe to complete the survey.”

“What? Protocol requires complete sensor mapping before manned vessels can enter a new system. This is…”

O’Toole’s voice interrupted the captain in mid sentence. “Sir, I’m picking up a huge flux of fermions. The density is increasing fast. It’s off scale. Sir, it looks like the signature for quark matter. But I’ve never seen it this intense. I’m transmitting the sensor data to Lieutenant Kline.”

“Put it on the main viewer, Mister Kline,” ordered the captain.

The viewscreen at the front of the bridge showed an unmagnified image of the Furai entangled in a faint 2D network. Suddenly, a glowing semi-transparent anomaly three times larger than the ship entered the field of view. It moved toward the ship and began to encapsulate it with long string-like filaments similar in appearance to the 2D net.

“Damn. Red alert,” shouted the captain. “Raise shields. Charge the hull plates, maximum intensity. Tactical, bring weapons on-line. Target that creature and fire everything we have. Helm, full impulse power, and initiate a barrel-roll, maximum sustainable RPM. Chief, I need warp engines, now. If we can’t break free of this web, we’re all dead.”

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Constant Cravings

Author : Catherine Preddle


I struggle to snatch a breath, wondering with each one if I’ll get the chance to have another. Life’s never felt so fleeting and basic as I fight with its raw elements, breathing and trying to keep the blood pumping round my withered body.


Another tortuous intake of vital air and another rasping death rattle from my sunken chest. So this is it, my last moments of life. My mind is foggy with the pain, I can’t remember how old I am, but I know I’m only middle-aged. I’ve had a full life, but it’s been cut short; I haven’t finished yet. There is so much more to accomplish, experience and appreciate. Like seeing my children have children, like watching the sun setting behind the pyramids in Egypt, like catching the new Bond movie due out on Friday. Panic sets in – “I haven’t finished,” I shout out inwardly, “I haven’t finished yet!”


I look up into the worried faces of the visitors clustered around my bed. All going through their own personal anguish: shame at how they treated me sometimes in life, guilt about things unsaid, anxiety about one day meeting the same fate that confronts them in this hospital bed.


Another thought pops up, something that’s been niggling for a while. A craving that never dies. I could kill for a fag right now, one last drag. The sweet relief of that first inhale; the slow release of smoke and stress on the exhale. Oh, the irony of dying for a cigarette, literally dying for the sake of cigarettes …

Time stands still as I wait for my next heaving breath, but it doesn’t come. Instead my chest tightens and my eyes flicker round the room at all the people I’m leaving behind. My hand clutches my throat as I try to splutter some last words that will never be spoken. “No,” I scream inside, “I’m not ready … wait!”


There is a brilliant white light so bright that it burns into the back of my eyes. My head is spinning and I feel as nauseous as hell, but I’m alive, I’m alive!!

“Please, Mr Benson, lie still. Disorientation will wear off in a few moments.”

Suddenly, like the flash from a plasma rifle, my memories return. I know who I am and why I am here. I’m also vaguely aware that the technician is still talking to me … “What did you think, Mr Benson? Quite an old memory that one, back when Aversion Therapy Ltd was just starting out. An English male, 52, died in late 2006.”

But I’m not listening as I flee from that little sterile room, ripping out the wires still connecting me to the treatment computer as I go. I’m too desperate to escape from the most frightening and intense experience of my life.

“Hey! There are other memories we can access. There are thousands to choose from – lung cancer is only one way to go, you know. Remember, you have to want to give up, Mr Benson …”

There’s only one thing I want to do right now – need to do to calm down. Squeezing through the automatic doors of the clinic, I fumble inside my jacket pocket and with shaking hands retrieve the crumbled packet and my trusty lighter.

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Special School

Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

When we were both sixteen, we made a pact. We said to each other that we would never race ahead without each other. Now we’re eighteen and I barely see you.

I’ve had a whole arsenal installed in my arms and head. You cook the food in the cafeteria. You weren’t picked. Something in the genes, they said. I pleaded your case but they didn’t listen. We drifted. I got the full scholarship.

I stand in front of you and there’s an awkward pause after you’ve squeezed the ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes onto my plate. You’re looking at me with an eyebrow playfully raised. I scan you and I can see that while you’re acting nonchalant, your heart rate is triple what it usually is.

One of the reasons we drifted is because it became obvious to me after my augmentation that you were in love with me and you always had been. I’m not a good actor so it became obvious to you that I knew how you felt and didn’t feel the same way.

After the classification process terminated and we were put in different categories, I didn’t have a chance to explore how I felt about you. I might have loved you back, given time. Well, that’s kind of weak, I suppose. If you know, you know. That’s what I hear in the pop songs. So I guess I didn’t love you. Luckily I was too busy to ever have ‘the talk’ with you.

I heard you’d decided to stay in the school and major in science. You’d never see any field work but you’d probably design weapons I’d be using one day.

Now here you are. Working in the cafeteria so that you can pay the bills and looking at me and you still want me. All of a sudden I feel like I’m standing in a soup line.

I guess neither of us were very smart.

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Moving On

Author : Paul Starkey

Vivienne awoke after nine, but lazed in bed for another hour before finally getting up and padding to the window.

The curtains drawn she had a perfect view of the garden, the tree branches hung with golden leaves, a carpet of leaves coating the ground, seeming to burn in the sunlight.

It was February, but here it was always autumn.

Her gaze lifted over the treetops to Nottingham castle, perched high on a huge outcrop of grey rock. Today being Monday the castle was in its modern incarnation, an Italianate palace built where the original castle had stood. Tomorrow it would be remoulded to reflect its 13th century heyday.

On Wednesday there would be no castle at all, just bare rock.

Vivienne had lived here for two years, the exact amount of time that she had been Vivienne in fact.

She was a willowy brunette in her mid twenties, with the big brown eyes and pout of a famous old movie star, but forty years ago she’d been born Andrew John.

The view bored her; she turned and looked at the bed, the white sheets still rumpled from their lovemaking. Marc was long gone, off to work for some reason she couldn’t fathom. Nobody needed to work anymore.

She felt hollow inside. They’d been together two years but what did she really know about him? She didn’t know why he still worked, let alone who he’d been before Marc, anymore than he knew who she’d been.

It was time to move on. She’d put it off for weeks now, but the boredom wasn’t lifting.

She dressed simply; jeans, plimsolls and a sweatshirt, and then she left the bedroom for the last time.

She didn’t pack, didn’t take a thing. What would be the point?

In the kitchen she put a clod of earth into the Molecular Shuffler, set the controls and slammed the door. Thirty seconds later she was sat at the table drinking coffee while she pondered how to move on.

It didn’t matter. MSP- the Molecular Shuffle Process- had eradicated poverty thirty years ago, and along with it greed and crime. Everything you ever wanted could be yours so what was the point in covetousness? Eaten too much and put on weight? No worries, MSP will trim the fat. Getting old? Don’t fret, MSP will peel the years away. Always wanted to be taller? A boy? A Girl? Black instead of white?

In 2097 imagination was the only limit humanity had left.

She left the mug on the table; Marc would clear it away when he came home. If he came home.

She didn’t care. She was moving on.

* * *

It was two years later and Douglas was stood at the window of his 59th street apartment, staring down at Central Park.

It was July but the park was covered in a crisp coating of snow. It was beautiful but he barely noticed anymore.

He laid a palm against the glass, enjoying the contrast of his dark skin against the whiteness, if only for a moment before the boredom returned.

Amber had left two days before. Douglas had gone to the theatre but she’d stayed behind complaining of a headache. When he returned her clothes were still in the wardrobe, her papers still on the desk, but she was gone, and he knew she wouldn’t be back.

He sighed. It was time again, the hollowness was returning as it always did. Steven, Vivienne, Douglas. Baghdad, Nottingham, New York. It didn’t matter.

He put some dirt in the Molecular Shuffler and wondered how to move on…

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