Author : Bob Skoggins
Jacob Nash was the first man to penetrate Titan’s ice and explore the world beneath. With a heat suit resistant to the dense atmosphere, for thirty-six years he lived in a small sphere of ice and metal.
It was from him that we exist. Though we’re called Titans, we aren’t like the ancient gods of Earth Jacob spoke about. We first existed in Petri dishes. A biological experiment to create a being that needed no suit to survive. A cross of oxygen-breathing endoskeleton DNA with nitrogen-feeding exoskeleton DNA. I was the first successful Titan.
Nash was like a father to me. He was seventy-eight when I was spawned. He lived for only two more years, but during that time he taught me everything. How to create, how to survive, where he came from…
How such a great man could come from such a horrible place, I do not know. He came from a place where they wear masks to breathe, wear suits to keep their skin from burning, and are divided against each other like tribes of some primitive land.
There are 3,000,000 of us now. We no longer use the machines to create, but we can now procreate ourselves. We live peacefully and have a mutual respect that Nash’s kind does not have.
When more of his kind came to our moon, we were nothing but hospitable. Most of them returned to Earth, disappointed because we would not send a Titan along with them.
It was not until a man who claimed to be Nash’s grandson came, that I considered going. He had a resemblance. I was the only one who saw it for I was the only one who knew Jacob Nash. I decided to go. Though he spoke of its horrors, he created me. He created Titans. I could tell Earth his story. I could tell mine.
It took three months to reach Earth. The reek of chemicals stung my nose from miles away. I had to put on a suit in order to protect my skin from the heat and sun. Once there, I helped design a room that would allow me to live without the suit. It is in that room that I now sit and write this.
Nash’s grandson is nothing like Jacob. Though he was curious at first, he soon lost interest in my story. He built glass windows surrounding my room and told me it was for observation. He took away my suit so I could not leave the room, or else I would die.
I now endure endless floods of humans and their children watching me and taking photographs. Nash’s grandson told me it would gain us fame and fortune. Fame and fortune is nothing to me.
Earth is still as Jacob Nash described to me years ago.
Author : George R. Shirer
The saleswoman had gray hair piled atop her head in a beehive. Her lips were painted a garish shade of red. Tremaine thought the color would have looked more appropriate on a whore. The pantsuit she wore was black polysilk; her boots were made of vat-grown human skin.
Rich, Tremaine decided, but lacking taste.
She flashed a garish smile. “Before we begin, Mister Tremaine, I’d like to know what’s brought you to us? According to your social profile you’ve been involved in several long-term relationships.”
“Which proved unsatisfactory,” sniffed Tremaine. “I want something, madame, that I haven’t been able to find on my own. So, an associate suggested I try you people.”
“And what is this quality you’re looking for?”
The old woman’s eyes brightened. Her smile was shark-like.
“Easily accomplished. You do realize that this solution is only temporary? Your purchase will only last for a maximum of three years.”
“I do,” sniffed Tremaine. “May I ask where you get your raw material?”
“A girl’s home outside Newcastle. If you’d like, I can show you our paperwork. We won’t be offended and our clients’ trust and satisfaction are of paramount importance to us.”
“That won’t be necessary, madame. When can we begin?”
She handed him a pad and a stylus. “Simply select the traits you want from the menu and we’ll generate a number of simulations that you can choose from.”
“And she’ll be loyal?”
“As a dog,” said the saleswoman. “Behaviors are hardwired into the brain and there are failsafes that activate in case of a breach.”
“If your purchase should ever break your trust, Mr. Tremaine, her brain will shut down.”
“Painlessly,” assured the saleswoman. “And if that happens we’ll replace her with another model at our own expense.”
Tremaine pursed his lips, considered the options on the pad.
“Can you make her love me?”
The woman shrugged. “Truly. Madly. Deliriously.”
“Of course,” the saleswoman added, smiling her shark’s smile, “love costs.”
Tremaine snorted and started making his selections. “So I’ve been told.”
Author : Bob Newbell
Rancent-1664 walked into the office of his Preceptor, Ferrin-3411, and waited to be acknowledged. “Enter, Rancent,” Ferrin said to his understudy. Rancent's thirteen pairs of legs glided the excited young scientist up to the workstation of his superior.
“Preceptor, I've found it! An Earth in another brane with a technological civilization!” Rancent's antennae quivered as he spoke.
Ferrin-3411 looked at the eager physicist and said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, young professor.”
“But I have the proof, Preceptor! Over the last eight weeks I've sent countless probes across into the other brane. Each time they could only linger for a very few moments before collapsing back into our brane-space. But the computer has been able to process and collate the data from the probes.”
Ferrin looked skeptical. “The volume of data you're talking about would be staggering.”
“It was! I had to get permission to use nearly the entire Lunar Processing Array for a brief time.”
“Nearly the entire array?” asked Ferrin, impressed that his apprentice was able to obtain such permission on his own.
“From the surface to the core,” said Rancent.
“And after a Moon-sized computer chewed on your data what was the conclusion?”
“Preceptor, I have found an Earth inhabited by intelligent mammals.”
Ferrin let that sink in. Rancent was a good scientist. Precise, methodical, respectful of orthodoxy but not bound by it. He was not the type who would make such a seemingly outrageous assertion. Ferrin could accept a parallel Earth with some sort of non-trilobite intelligence. But mammals? It sounded like the plot of some frivolous piece of speculative fiction.
Sensing that his mentor was not entirely convinced, Rancent said, “Preceptor, you will recall the discovery by Blorek-2832 of a parallel brane containing an Earth populated by reptiles?”
“Of course,” said Ferrin. “Blorek's discovery is the most significant in the history of brane exploration.”
Up till now, thought Rancent, who then replied, “Blorek theorized that life on the Earth in the universe he discovered developed much as it did here until a mass extinction event killed off the primitive trilobites. This, he suggested, may have allowed the reptilians to develop and eventually rise to dominate the planet.”
“That part of Blorek's theory is still controversial. But it does fit the facts. You propose that in the world you discovered a catastrophe destroyed the trilobites and the mammals rose to prominence?”
“That's one possibility,” said Rancent. “Or, perhaps, the reptilians came to dominate this newly discovered Earth as well for a time and they in turn were wiped out by a cataclysm that allowed the mammals to ascend. The data I've collected is most consistent with this latter scenario.”
“So you plan to ask the Brane Exploration Authority for the allocation of more probes to investigate this new world to confirm or deny your theory?”
“I had a somewhat different idea in mind, Preceptor.”
“I want to ask the inhabitants.”
“That would be the most efficient way to find out. Based on the level of technology the mammals appear to possess, it's likely that they're advanced enough to have string theory. Parallel branes have likely been at least theorized by their physicists.”
Communication between two intelligent civilizations in two branes, thought Ferrin. In his mind, Ferrin pictured trilobitomorphic rodents discussing 11-dimensional membrane theory. He laughed.
“Preceptor?” asked Rancent, afraid his mentor was not taking him seriously.
Ferrin gave Rancent a gesture of reassurance. “Just wondering how one addresses an intelligent mammal,” he said as he opened a communication channel to the Brane Exploration Authority.
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
It was the tails that gave them away.
Like the ostriches back on earth, these aliens would stick their heads in the sand and think that they were hiding, safe from hunters. They weren’t.
Here on this interminable pink planet, we were clearing the inhabitants. There were squat creatures with long tails.
Every time they hid, they’d stick their long fuchsia tails up straight in the air like flags at a golf course.
I wasn’t sure if it was because they had no feeling in their tails, that they had no awareness of their tails, or that they were just plain stupid but I was starting to lean towards the third option.
Policy: Shoot one in front of the others so that they understand what our weapons do, then walk towards them. They back up right into the nets.
The whole operation is taking less time than expected. There’s usually a token rebellion or a smart couple of life forms that spontaneously develop the ability to plan before the Full Clearing is done but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this time.
They’ll be shipped off to other worlds as pets. If they turn out to be edible, they’ll be bred to be used up as protein rations. If they turn out to be edible and palatable, they’ll be bred as delicacies for off-world gourmets in fancy restaurants.
When I mentioned before that this planet was pink, I wasn’t doing it justice. The planet is all shades of pink. There are shades of pink here that I never want to see again. There is an unending palette of pinks that somehow never creeps over fully into the colours of red or purple. The sunsets, the translucent lakes, the trees, the grass, the little guys we’re hunting, even the damned ground.
The experts are happy because they think that a lot of the crystal deposits might be diamonds, making this a very valuable planet indeed. Not that I’ll ever see any of that money.
I shoot a concussion flash straight up. When it goes off, I can see two hundred golf-flag tails quiver in the bushes around me. Here we go.
Two more months to go.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
Captain Alexander sat strapped into the pod. The others watched him through the facemasks of their sterilized white suits. Dobson, the head of the project gave him one last nod through the window of the control room as the countdown finished and the command was entered. And with a great white flash, through the wormhole the good captain went.
The next thing he knew the pod, with him in it, was whisked to the center of the galaxy in less than a nanosecond. The plethora of stars outside were brilliant. He floated there completely awestruck as he blinked around at the glowing nebulae without.
And then without warning the heart of the galaxy suddenly spoke to him.
For a moment his words caught in his throat, but he eventually managed to answer the unseen voice, “Who… who are you?”
“I am not a who, I am a what. I am no living thing, but a naturally occurring mass of matter and energy with calculating abilities. You would think of me as a computer.”
“A… a naturally occurring computer?”
“Yes, most galaxies have them. We even communicate with one another, but we are not truly complete until we are fertilized. Again, welcome traveler, you are the first, so you will be the seed of life.”
Captain Alexander meant to ask another question when suddenly all of his questions were answered at once. The pod disintegrated around him and instantly he was no longer the physical being he had just been. His life force was now pure energy and he was thoroughly integrated with the naturally occurring calculating mass. He was now hyper aware of everything.
He knew that he was indeed the first life to reach the heart of the galaxy. He was also aware of thousands of other life bearing planets. All at once he knew every heartbeat, every pulse, of every living thing in the galaxy. His consciousness was expanded beyond anything he could have possibly ever imagined.
Now the Milky Way was no longer a mindless mass but a living entity, with his super expanded mind at its center. He was the life force driving everything and anything. He whole-heartedly accepted his new position and knew with absolute certainty that from here on he would watch over all things, including the poor, sad, misguided souls back on the tiny blue planet of his origin.
And as his love for all things in the galaxy spread he conversed with other gods in other galaxies, and he knew that everything was always going to be most grand until the end of time. He knew this with his heart of hearts, and with his all-knowing mind and his precious soul.
Back in the lab the team stared at the catatonic man inside the pod. He had a distant smile on his otherwise blank face as a steady stream of drool ran down his chin. The team leader, Dobson addressed his second in command. “What happened Hutchinson?”
She stared at the numbers on her screen and said, “It’s going to take some time to figure out what exactly went wrong, but it’s obvious that he never went through.”
Dobson nodded, all the while thinking, poor bastard. “Yeah, at this point I think it’s safe to say that the mission was a complete and utter failure.”