Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer
I laid back and watched the stars. Occasionally a meteor would streak across the sky momentarily lowering my night vision capabilities, but they were still beautiful in their own way. I closed my eyes…
The first shells to rain down were sounding shots. Ranging fire. The gooks were adjusting fire on our position. Soon all hell would break loose, and we were already in a world of hurt. One little nucleonic device had left most of the company dead or injured.
Oh sure, the zipper heads would claim in Geneva that we had detonated those devices to implicate them. I laughed grimly. It would never hold up, they were godless heathens, but my men would still be dead. That’s how the gook laughs at you.
I had to take out that mortar position. I bit my left cheek and broke in on Top’s personal link. “I can see their position from here. I can get it.”
“You’ll be killed.” It wasn’t a warning. It wasn’t a plea. It was a fact.
I low crawled the first two clicks. Have to be careful. Even with chameleon skin you still stand out on the Martian plain.
I reached the base of Mons. Five clicks from point. I saw another mortar launch. No probing this time. This was fire for affect. My company was dead as soon as I saw them go.
Fuck ‘em. They’re going down.
I kept low. Moving from rock to rock. My armour blending in with each variation in texture and colour, shadow and light, changing almost as fast as my movements. I bit my cheek twice, cutting into the company freq. Static. They were all gone.
I looked up just in time to see a dark object flying towards me. I had just enough time to hit the Tesla pack and allow the field to embrace my armour as the singularity grenade detonated ten meters to my left.
The experience was unique. As if my entire body had been shoved through a fine mesh screen. My teeth itched. How had they seen me? I looked around and saw more SGs going off. It was a sweep. Good. They hadn’t seen me.
My left arm didn’t move well. I looked down, expecting to see a vague arm shaped fuzziness. Instead I saw a gunmetal grey arm, a scattering of synthetic flesh and metal poking out where my hand used to be. My camo was gone. I was a dead man.
Slowly, cautiously, I could hear them coming down the slope. I saw the briefest of outlines of legs and weapons where their own camouflage chameleon skin hadn’t quite kept up with their surroundings. Theirs wasn’t as good as ours. Slower resolution time.
But what the fuck difference did it make now? I could barely move. My company was dead, I would follow soon. They turned off their camo. I could see their grinning faces and their slanted eyes.
One of them bent over me and his smile got even wider. I knew enough of the gooks rank to understand the insignia on his helmet. Some sort of NCO. He straightened, made a remark in that chicken cackle language of theirs, and then did something I couldn’t believe. In this unbearable cold, he unzipped his dick and pissed on me. The fuckers laughed. Then they just walked away. That’s how the gook laughs at you. They left my comm intact, and even activated my beacon. I was their message. When I am found, I will be terminated.
I laid back and watched the stars…
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
“Tell me, Mr. Brunner, how did your first date go?”
“Very well, thank you. She was quite pretty. Actually, ‘cute’ would be a more accurate word. She had curly blond hair, crystal-blue eyes, fantastic smile, and dimples.”
“How about her scent? Did you notice if she had a sent?”
“What? Of course not. Why would I smell her?”
“Thank you, Mr. Brunner, that’s all for now. We’ll talk again tomorrow, after we make some adjustments.
“Tell me, Mr. Brunner, how did your second date go?”
“Absolutely fantastic. Louisa is a goddess. And I noticed this time. She has a lavender fragrance that drove me wild.”
“Excellent. Have you thought about proposing to her?”
“What? Of course not. We’ve just met.”
“That will be all for today.”
“Tell me, Mr. Brunner, how did your latest date go?”
“Doctor Kane, Louisa is the one. I can’t imaging living another day without her. She’s all I think about. I plan to ask her to marry me tonight.”
“Perfect,” replied the doctor. Turning toward his partner, he said, “Well, Dianna, I believe the new formula is ready. I think we can terminate the experiment, and set up a conference with the client.”
“What are you talking about?” inquired Brunner. “What experiment?”
“I guess we can tell you now,” replied Kane. “Louisa doesn’t exist. She’s a virtual person that the computer created so that we can test simulated drugs for the treatment of depression. Ever since 2135, we’re not allowed to use actual people to evaluate the effects of experimental drugs on humans. All of our clinical studies have to be done on simulations.”
“Nooooo,” cried Brunner. “Louisa is real. I know it. I love her.”
“Come, come, Mr. Brunner. You’re not listening? We can’t use real people in these experiments. And that includes you. You’re an android. Your emotional responses are just complicated mathematical algorithms intended to simulate the mental state of depressed humans. And, if we programmed you correctly, you’re about to make Dianna and me very rich.” Kane picked up the control padd and put the android in sleep mode.
“Dammit Tom,” snapped Dianna, “Was that necessary. You didn’t have to tell him. We could have let them get married before ending the simulation. He was in love. You could have given him a happy ending.”
“Dianna, I thought that you were a scientist, not a romantic. He’s just a tool. A means to an end. If you make him real in your mind, you’ll lose your objectivity. It’s all programming; ones and zeros, nothing more.”
“I don’t know,” Dianna replied. “I keep thinking that if it were me, I wouldn’t want to know that I was just a simulation?”
“Well, it’s not you, so let’s drop it.”
“How do you know it’s not us? Maybe we’re creations in a computer too. We could be part of an experiment to test the ethical behavior of research scientists. How can you be sure?”
“I’m sure,” was the curt reply.
“Okay then, let me ask you this. We’ve worked together in this lab for two years. Do you know what perfume I use?”
“What? Of course not. Why would I smell your… Oh crap!”
Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer
Herbert Quigman was not a man. Well, not a man like you and I. Oh, he had all the parts. Bi-lateral symmetry of course, four major appendages, a head with a nose, mouth, ears and eyes in, more or less, the general configuration one would expect. But the ancient saltwater that comprised much of his blood came from a different ocean, not the one in which we evolved, on a planet that circled a distant star.
However, he did share much in common with men like us. Herbert was an accursed man, for you see, Herbert was married.
After a gruelling day as an insignificant junior partner at Veeblefetzer, Blorquesuong and Goldstein, Herbert liked nothing more than the thought of retiring to his basement workshop to tinker in peace.
No sooner had Herbert donned his safety goggles and fired up his torch to complete his latest invention, when, from the top of the cellar steps came, the VOICE.
“HerrrrrrBERT! What the hell are you doing down there?”
“Nothing Dear, just tinkering with a project.”
“Myeh, myeh, myeh, tinkering with a project,” she said in that mocking tone that made his flooglesang stand on end. “Why couldn’t you be like Edith Cohen’s husband Mort? He runs a successful accounting firm you know.”
Yeah, and he’s only one shaky step to suicide, Herbert thought.
“I should have married Chaim Rosenblatt like my father wanted. `Now there’s a real man,’ my father said, `nothing like that little worm Herbert’ he said, but did I listen? Nooo, I had….”
As her hateful, nasal, tirade bore on, wistful fantasies flickered through the amateur inventor’s anguished mind. Thoughts of the peace and tranquillity that slitting his throat might bring. Drowning is a peaceful way to die, Herbert had heard somewhere.
The verbal harangue continued as Herbert plodded on, intent on completing this, his greatest invention to date. “And another thing Chaim is rich, do you hear me, rich. When was the last time I had a decent dress, or went out to dinner? Why, I am ashamed to have my friends over to this dump…”
“Honeyblossom? Could you come down here for a minute,” he called over his shoulder as he finished up and replaced a spanner to its outlined space on the wall above his workbench.
He remembered when they were first married. She was so delightful and gay. He loved to take her dancing. She used to stand on his feet, like a little blork dancing with her daddy. Now as she hauled her ponderous bulk down the flight of stairs, stairs that didn’t creak so much as scream, he shuddered at the thought of her standing on his toes.
“What do you want? You know how I hate it down here. It’s so wet, and musty smelling. Did you fart? You’re a real prize you know that? Why if I…,”
“Just hold these a moment Dear,” he said as he placed a smooth metal rod in each of her hands.
“What the hell am I supposed to do with these? Shove them up your….”
“and place this on your head,” he continued, placing a gleaming metal cap atop her thinning hair.
“I went to the salon today….”
“Just a moment Snookums,” he said as he threw a switch and adjusted a dial. There was a sharp crack, and a stifled yelp from Mrs. Quigman. She glowed as if illuminated by the noonday sun. Suddenly, she was gone, leaving just the faintest scent of ozone and a fine ash as the two rods fell to the floor.
“Ahhh,” Herbert sighed, “That’s better.”
Author : Dale Anson
We captured her javelin just short of a light year out from Earth. Javelins are small ships, roughly 30 meters long and about 10 cm in diameter at the widest point. Eighteen javelins were launched from a rail gun on the moon six years ago. Each javelin contained a small amount of maneuvering fuel for use at its final destination, and housed the downloaded contents of the minds of 64 people.
I’d been shocked when Allison told me the news that she’d been selected for a spot on the javelin mission. Literally millions of people had applied, and the computer programs had run for several months to calculate the optimal crew. I figured I had a better than passing chance since I work as a loadmaster for Virgin, but Allison got selected, not me. Those selected would have their minds installed into a dense carbon nano-structure, capable of holding the petabytes of information that described their minds. I begged with her not to go. Allison put me off, saying this was the chance of a life time.
I took some vacation days to drive her from LA to New Mexico, where she’d catch the flight from the spaceport to Aldrin base. I worked at her, trying to convince her not to go. The computers had secondary lists, I told her, she didn’t have to go. I offered to marry her, but she was determined to go. I held her tight during our last night together.
I dropped her outside the west gate of Spaceport America, she leaned in the window and gave me a quick peck. “I love you,” she said, but I couldn’t see it in her eyes. It must have been the way the morning light cast a shadow across her face. The last I saw of her was when she stepped onto a shuttle bus headed toward the distant buildings.
Technology is funny. When the javelins were launched, it was thought that they were the only way humans would ever be able to reach another star. The javelins are small and light, and the kilometers long rail gun launched them at a good fraction of the speed of light. Nothing invented by humans had ever traveled faster, and technically, still haven’t. It turned out that there is no need to travel that fast after the scientists figured out how to do the brane-bending trick and apply it to a large space ship. I don’t claim to understand the physics, but basically, the ship generates a field that bends space so the starting point and the destination are in essentially the same place, then moves the tiniest amount to complete the trip. Snagging the javelins mid-flight was only a little trickier — bend to a location in front of the javelin, and bend back when the javelin was within the ship’s field, and repeat about a thousand times to reduce the kinetic energy that the javelin was carrying to a managable level.
It didn’t take much for me to wrangle a spot as loadmaster on the ship sent to capture Allison’s javelin. I wanted to be there, and be able to talk to her as soon as her javelin was connected to the ships computer. We’d still have to figure out our relationship, six years have gone since I last talked to her, and she doesn’t have a body anymore.
I caught my breath as the screen came to life. “Allison!” I gasped. “God, how I’ve missed you.”
Her eyes narrowed and her lips tightened. “Dammit. I thought I’d never see you again.”
Author : Cael Majin
C’s hands are buried to the forearms beneath titanium straps, pressing the so tightly that C can feel the small capillaries that have already burst under the restraints, and will form bruises.
It asks again. “What is your identification?”
A grin, although there’s tired sweat stinging C’s eyes. “Come now, chancellor, we’ve been through this.”
“We will,” says the man – god, the man, and clinging so tightly to it – to the left of the processing robot, speaking over it, “continue to go through it until you admit to your crime. State your identification.”
“Can’t do that.”
Chancellor Sutton is tired of this game, leaning through the crackling field of static – it’s attuned not to harm him, he with his microchipped arms – and grasps C’s face in one warm hand. “You have been incarcerated,” he says. “You will never, ever be released from here. When your accomplices are found, they will be put to death. You have no cause, you are no valiant renegade. Tell me your name.”
“I have no name.” The restraints make it hard to shrug. “My friends call me C, and you can too, if you want. Let’s be friends.”
“What is your identification?” The screen asks again, ready with its brands.
“What is does this movement even stand for?” Sutton, bless him, genuinely doesn’t understand. “You admit you are human. Why will you not accept rehabilitation?”
C smiles. It burns a little. “Because I am human. So are you, chancellor. You’re human, no matter how many chips and labels and monikers you parade around to insist you’re not.”
“People have titles. It is the way society is run.”
“It’s still stupid. I have no name. I don’t want one.”
“You have no race? No culture, no ethnicity?”
“Would I be more or less human if I did?”
The processing screen hums quietly behind him. Sutton tilts C’s face, examining the scarred throat and arms. He just looks bemused. “Your surgeon is skilled, at any rate,” he says at length. “The entire medical staff couldn’t make out your gender.”
“Don’t have one of those, either.”
A moment passes, and C can see the confusion and revulsion so thick it’s almost a colour in the air. The metal-pressed bruises throb.
“Human,” C continues evenly, making sure the smile stays, “is something outside of identification tags. I won’t take your brands. I am not a number. I am not an American or a Russian or a man or a woman or a Jew or a member of the working class. I am human.”
Sutton’s frustration resurfaces. “You are a freak. You’ve mutilated yourself.”
“Drives you batty, doesn’t it?”
A cursor blinks on the screen, awaiting input in the form of the string of numbers that used to be tattooed onto C’s neck. It was scraped off; there’s a scar there now. Without it, C can’t even be catalogued into the proper prison cell.
“There’ll be more like me soon, chancellor. People are getting sick of this mass-produced inside-the-box shit.”
“They,” says Sutton icily, “will be executed just like you will be. Make your peace with God. I’d say you have about four hours.”
“Oh, I’m not religious,” C calls cheerfully as the chancellor exits the holding cell.
“What is your identification?” the screen inquires once more before the man snaps it off.