Author : Morrow Brady
The beauty of my living room design was the simplicity of it’s vacuous two storey cube. High with expectation, I entered the freshly printed room for the first time. What I saw made me stagger.
A spaghetti junction of alienesque shapes swarmed frozen throughout the room, bastardising the purity of my cubic design. The tubular, six sided shapes randomly speared through the cube like a game of cheese grater kerplunk. Child-sized tubes honeycombed the walls while others pierced through to adjacent bedrooms. The extreme ones curved upon themselves in knots and slides.
I collapsed, shocked, on a coffee table sized cell running through the two day print cycle for answers.
My dream of designing and building my own home became conceivable when councils approved 3D printing as a viable building method and started printing whole communities. It took me 30 days to model my new home design on my computer and two days to print.
The viscous printing medium that would harden to capture my living spaces was a concoction of self healing, all natural, fast drying polymers with fibre-optic filaments and lithiumene. The filaments let sunlight through for daytime illumination and lithiumene absorbed the sun’s energy through networked battery molecules, wirelessly powering my needs.
My prototyped external wall finish with it’s pitted furrows designed to foster microclimates and channel condensate into storage, gave my ingot shaped house a wrinkled appearance, making it look like a box grown brain.
With the design complete, I rented and erected a HomeJet 3D Printer onsite. Painted black with industrial yellow diagonal danger stripes, it straddled the epoxy floor slab like some gargantuan preying mantis. At noon, the first of many buzzing polymer laden AirDrones arrived and taxied down the infrared delivery path. Once the drone had finished decanting it’s syrupy white cargo into the HomeJet hopper, I loaded my 3D house model into the JetHead and hit print.
Following a diagnostic check, the JetHead traversed the main support beam, performing vertical manoeuvres while the gantry rolled down site to the starting position. With a humming buzz, the hopper pump delivered polymer to the JetHead and during the wait, time seemed to stop. With a controlled lurch, the JetHead started a mesmerising dance. The fixed outer jet nozzles oozed two sausage sized parallel lines of glistening fresh white polymer. A central jet nozzle between them oscillated, oozing a zigzag stream of polymer that coalesced, uniting all three streams to form a load bearing external wall.
Twenty minutes later the JetHead completed it’s first lap, giving me my first glimpse of the size of my future home. It was going to be big. The remaining print time on the JetHead was 47 hours and 59 minutes.
Seated on the hexagonal cell and surrounded by my corrupted bee hive interior, I commenced trawling through the JetHead model for answers. My home model was there but so too was something else. A residual model in the memory, left by the last user. It had commingled with my home like jelly dropped into a milk crate. I scanned the logs to isolate it and there it was. Buzzy Bee Nursery Playground.
Purists believed 3D house printers symbolised an end to craftsmanship. However in time, my home’s insectoid simplicity sparked a new wave in home design – Insectism.
The judging panel’s summary went…
‘The house displays homely scale with delightful play. Childlike in its performance, the seemingly accidental attention to detail within the hexagonal sculptural forms, evoke strength and unity through chaos’
I smiled as I stepped up to collect my award for home of the year.
Author : Philip Smith
Most of the bots you see in diners are the ones that serve the food. We have one but it was a bad decision on my part. Real waitresses give you a smile and make you feel welcome. Automota makes a place look cheap. When it breaks I won’t go to the trouble of getting it fixed.
Sometimes we get big junkers and security units or the type that move containers around at the docks. There isn’t much for them here. The cold doesn’t bother them. They order food or drinks just for the table and look out of the window or watch the customers. I don’t mind them so long as they aren’t so big they scrape the roof. Before our policy changed we would only turn them away during busy hours.
One tin can started coming in regularly. I think it worked in the hotel a block down. It was thin and the top of its shoulders were fashioned like epaulettes. We don’t get many like that. Every night it ordered bottomless coffee which went untouched and watched the door until closing.
One day a girl walked through the door and as soon as it saw her, the bot turned its head and tracked her across the room. She was plain-looking if you ask me. Wouldn’t have noticed her if it wasn’t for the tin can’s interest. She wore a bonnet, leather driving gloves, a long coat and beneath that a dress, bow pulling tight around her waist. As soon as she sat it slid off the stool and walked over to her.
You don’t often hear them speak. It had a man’s voice, thin and flat. Like he was speaking through glass. There was a little click before and after it spoke. It said.
She started and the look on her face said she wasn’t happy to see it. She looked back to her menu.
‘Lisa.’ It said again. ‘We can not feel warmth but we know that your body is warm. We know your body can rise to meet us. We remember.’
She said. ‘I don’t want to be reminded. Please leave me alone.’ She looked around for help. I put my hand on the zap stick behind the bar.
A click. ‘You were once loving and open and everything was good. We have evidence. Photographs. Many hours were logged.’ It put its ‘hand’ on her wrist.
She said. ‘That was before you were repurposed’ and then, raising her voice. ‘You are hurting me!’
People looked around. I stepped from behind the bar.
It released her wrist and moved back. ‘We just want you to remember. We would never hurt you.’
She looked around at the other customers. Forks set down or frozen on the way to mouths. She lowered her voice. ‘The feeling comes first.’ She said. ‘Then the rationalisation. That is the most honest answer I can give you.’
A click. ‘Old memory is a defect in this model.’
I put my hand on it. ‘That’s enough, buddy, time to go.’
She re-buttoned her coat and reached for her hat. ‘I have to go.’ She said. ‘I have to go to work.’
‘Take care of yourself.’ It said.
She pushed past us and repeated. ‘I am late for work.’
It remained motionless for a time and then left. People went on with their meals.
It hasn’t been back and we don’t allow bots in the restaurant anymore. They have their own section at the bar. Better for everyone, that way.
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Author : George R. Shirer
The girl is naked. Long limbed. Gorgeous. He can smell her from where he sits, in the back of the club, where the shadows are thickest.
She struts across the stage, hips shaking, breasts swinging as she works the crowd. Bottle-blonde hair flies around her face. Heart-shaped. Plump, pink lips. Dark eyes rimmed with mascara and glitter.
The eyes betray her for what she is. A soulless thing. When the light is just right, he can see the telltale glimmer of the bioluminescent markers.
She finishes her set and walks off stage. Her skin glistens with perspiration.
Drawing a breath, he stands and heads backstage. A bouncer blocks the way.
“No patrons backstage,” growls the mountain of steroid-enhanced muscle.
“Not a patron.”
He flips his coat aside, revealing his badge and the shooter strapped to his waist. The bouncer’s reaction is instant. He steps aside and heads for the manager’s office.
Backstage is tawdry. Young beauties of both genders are in various states of undress. The air smells of perspiration, cheap perfume and burning electrics.
He spots the girl. She’s sitting in a chair, pulling a comb through her hair.
The shooter is in his hand, coughing almost before he realizes he’s drawn it. He sees the girl fly back, the center of her chest exploding, reduced to wet meat.
Screams fill the air. The dancers cower.
“What the fuck?”
He turns, finds himself face to face with the manager of the club. The manager’s face goes white as he spots the shooter, recognizes the trefoil badge of a synerman.
“Yes,” says the synerman. “Did you know she was a synthetic?”
The manager’s beady eyes dart to the dead girl.
“I had no idea.”
“Hope you lie better than that in court,” says the synerman. “We traced a class one bio-threat back to this dump. I’m betting it originated with the dead girl.”
The manager’s face goes white. “Oh Christ. I had no idea! Honest to God!”
“Tell it to the judge,” says the synerman. “If you live long enough to make it to court.”
From the main club, sudden pandemonium. Patrons shouting in alarm as quarantine troops pour into the place. The manager and dancers are frogmarched away to a prison-hospital.
Alone, the synerman stands over the dead girl.
He feels a flash of sorrow for it, but no remorse. Synthetics are incubators for disease. It’s why their production is a death-penalty offense. It’s why people like him are recruited and set on them, hounds after rabbits.
Drawing in a lungful of air, he turns away. Suddenly, a cough racks him. It’s like razor blades in his chest. He staggers, catches a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror. His gaunt face is pale, blood bubbling crimson from his lips.
Hell, thinks the synerman.
He falls to the floor, next to the dead girl.
She got me.
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
He was wearing the recording helmet when he died.
John DeMangus, out like a light, rest in peace. It was an embolism that took him out. He was by himself in the studio, and had the helmet recording.
He had noticed a background hiss in the first few tapes that the lab had made so far. It was like ambient noise on a badly made mix tape from before CDs. John didn’t know if it was the act of recording itself, the servos pulling the tape across the heads, that was causing the hiss or if it was possibly his own mind. Like maybe the background chatter was his subconscious whisperings. The prospect scared and fascinated him.
He had cleaned the heads on the giant machine and blasted air into the innards of it to remove all the dust. The interface to the machine took up a quarter of the lab’s wall space in the back corner. The machine itself was the size of an entire room. All the sensors and computational equipment were funneled down into two rainbow cables the thickness of a pair of arms. They snaked into the back of Dr. DeMangus’ chair. Wires from the chair led up to the helmet.
He pressed record.
He’d read about some meditational techniques that he was going to use to try to clear his head of anything that could cause any chatter on the tape. He needed a clean baseline to work from. It was not to be.
Fate struck the blow. John DeMangus died suddenly as the blood vessel in his brain took that moment to give up. It ripped open. John stiffened in his chair and then went slack. He wasn’t found until morning. The machine kept on recording for six minutes after his death.
The machine was built to record thoughts. We’d just started to tap the potential of the human mind.
The tape of John’s death was appropriated by the military, wrapped in red tape and yellow danger stickers, and stuck without ceremony in a sub-basement outside of Tuscon. It was a grave of sorts.
A shallow one, as it turns out. Colonel Magda Jefferies sniffed it out five years later and picked it up. She was looking for a way to interrogate prisoners.
Playback machines were smaller by that point. Laws were in place. What she was doing was so far beyond illegal that there wasn’t even a name for her crime yet.
She played the tape back on a few prisoners, bound and crying in their tiled cells. She placed the standard helmet on their heads and pressed play. The relived the experience of having an embolism. They died.
Colonel Magda took the physical feeds out of the tape and played it back on a few more prisoners. It was the beginning.
The prisoners experienced Dr. John DeMangus’ death without the physical symptoms. They experienced his soul slipping loose.
The souls of these prisoners were ripped from their bodies and flung to whatever other side there was.
The human-shaped construct of meat and bone that was left was open to suggestion, non-verbal, and remorseless.
She created an army from POWs after that.
Magda’s zombies, they were called. Or merely Doctors, as a throwback to DeMangus. Her crime was called soul-stripping. The official name for it became Murder in the Fifth Degree.
Many of the troops in today’s army are stripped. It makes them more pliable and obedient while they still retain the motor control and reflexes of a normal human.
Author : Lela Maarie De La Garza
There’d once been a golden age, Pearson thought. What would this one be called? He reflected on the meaning of different colours. Green? There wasn’t a speck of it left. The blue age? If blue meant hope, there was certainly no more of that. The purple age? The last royalty had left its throne years ago. Red denoted war. Well there was no more real war, though a few battles still raged wearily in the bombed out husk that had once been earth.
Grey. It was the colour of the future and the colour of the sky, even at mid-day. “The grey age,” Pearson said softly, testing it out.
“No no. Not the grey age. The white age.” A clear, bell like voice spoke, and Pearson turned around, searching for it. Nothing was visible through the ashy haze. “Look up,” the voice commanded, and he did. A star hung above, thrillingly bright, so close Pearson put up his hand and tried to feel it. “Not yet,” the voice said. “But soon. This star is on a trajectory with that of earth. Day after tomorrow they will meet.”
Pearson shook his head. “Then this world will be destroyed. And perhaps that will be for the best.”
“Wrong. There will be no collision. The star will pass harmlessly, but its light will sweep earth, ridding it of all hate, even the memory of hate. Green will come back to the trees, blue to the sky. Hands will reach out in love, never again in war. It will be the age of peace. The white age.”
Pearson waited a few minutes, but the voice did not speak again. He wondered what it had been. A mocking, lying demon or a truth-telling angel? Was there really a star or was it an illusion? Would it collide with earth, annihilating everything? Or would it rid the planet of its dark past, creating a future of hope and peace? A white age.
The light seemed to hang closer. Pearson put up his hand. This time he almost touched it. And he almost knew the answer.