Author: Talon Abernathy
The disease passed quickly and no one was spared.
First, it neutered the men. Women became infertile. Men atrophied and women thickened. Hair sloughed off and torsos turned flat. The two sexes equalized and thus division was lost.
Next, hunger disappeared. People lost their taste for food. Then, the mouth disappeared. X-rays showed the stomach had folded back into the lining of the abdomen.
Clothes grew irksome. The skin itched and cracked under polyester, cotton, and wool. Nudity defeated ornamentation and vanity became impossible to please.
As all this occurred, it was revealed that the disease was the product of a design. Some young scientists in a city no one had heard of, located in a country seldom thought of, had pioneered the plague.
No complaints were raised.
The tall shrunk and the small grew. The pale grew darker and the dark grew paler. Soon there were 7 billion identical people and if you faced any two, the wrinkles, the smile lines, the freckles, and sun spots would line up as well as if it were one man facing a mirror.
War vanished. Rape disappeared. Murder, theft, and violence trickled to a stop. As minds aligned to a singular truth, lies starved for want of sustenance. Finding their homes destroyed, they dissipated and were no more.
And then one human- as grey, tall, and similar as the rest- realized that he could no longer love: not his wife who had become indistinguishable, nor his children, nor his parents, nor his friends.
Books, movies, and music were no longer created nor consumed. The craggy differences which had once generated so much creativity flattened and the black places that had nurtured the stories and expressions of man burned away in this new light.
Creativity and innovation died. Vanity was replaced by sloth; licentiousness and aggression were replaced by anomie.
All of the great cities of man emptied out. Their inhabitants walked into the wilderness and waited to die.
Author: Logan Smith
In the beginning, humanity looked to the stars, and saw gods.
In their golden age, they went among the stars, as if they were gods.
In the end, when the stars started going out, they found gods.
You don’t see a lot of sunsets anymore.
If you do, you stop appreciating them. They stop being neat when you know in your bones what they always precede. A sunset means you happen to be in the right hemisphere of a staging world before the big show. When they eat stars, they usually eat more than one. That’s how we know where to meet them. Watch the night sky, wait for one of the lights to go out, and then shack up in a neighboring solar system.
That’s the irony of it all. You can pack as many paracausal weapons into a warsuit as you like but weaponized mathematics, caedometric suites, and AI don’t mean shit if you don’t have a skin-and-bones human to run it all. Some cruel fucking joke of the universe means the numbers don’t work otherwise. The universal constant. In every observable timeline, it has to be us, which makes just as much sense as the rest of this shit.
We’re an infinite army. It seems that way at least. We’re fighting a billion trillion battles across the observable universe against an enemy from the unobservable. Each and every one of them is a set of paradoxes and quantum violations given form: an unthing that cannot exist and does. They’re an infection from all the universes we aren’t supposed to think about and we’re the antibodies dutifully rushing to the defense.
I don’t see a lot of sunsets anymore. I’m trying to appreciate it, but it’s getting harder. A bunch of us are going to die, some more than once if they get caught in a bad loop. We’re going transatmospheric to fight for a main sequence star hosting an indigenous subluminal civilization. Soon, I’m going to take a backseat to the suite of psychedelics, quantum neural interfaces, and tactical intelligences that does the heavy lifting.
We’re gonna try to kill a god.
Author: Shari S Levine
Miriam opened the door of the caravan-turned-time machine. Dry, hot air blew in. She shaded her eyes against the brightness. They had landed where they had planned: at the base of a range of hills, nothing around them but arid land that matched the red sun.
A scream pierced the air. Miriam rushed out to find a young woman shouting.
“Yeshua, oh, Yeshua!” the woman cried out in Aramaic, her hands flung in the air, going to her mouth, going back to the air again.
Miriam turned around to see sandaled feet sticking out from beneath the time machine. No, they couldn’t have.
Suddenly, she heard a thud and spun around to see her husband and lab partner Josh with a club in his raised hand, the woman now lying on the ground.
“What on Earth have you done?” Miriam kneeled beside the woman and checked her vitals. She wasn’t dead, thank God.
“She was hysterical! She would have totally blown our cover.” Josh’s throat bobbed. “Did you hear what she was shouting?”
“Yeshua.” Miriam shook her head. “This isn’t good.”
“We killed Jesus.”
“We didn’t kill Jesus.”
“We killed a guy named Jesus, then.”
Miriam closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. Their trip wasn’t supposed to go like this. Everything she had planned depended on them *not* killing Jesus.
“What do we do?” He sounded like a child.
“We need to think.”
* * *
Miriam and Josh sat against the caravan-turned-time machine. She passed the now half-empty bottle of wine back to Josh. They were supposed to be saving that for the journey home. She wondered what lasting effects on the timeline their little adventure would cause.
“That’s it!” she exclaimed. “We need to impersonate Jesus.”
“What on Earth are you talking about?”
“We can’t just go back in time and kill Jesus without having lasting repercussions on the timeline.”
“And how are we going to do that?” He hiccuped. “You don’t think everyone is going to recognize Jesus has changed?”
He was pale, blond, and had blue eyes. “Alright, so we’ll put some makeup on you.”
“Oh, for the love of God.”
“You can’t be serious. We can’t impersonate Jesus fucking Christ!”
“Can’t we?” Miriam raised her eyebrows. “We kill the man who is supposed to be the Son of God, and you’re telling me that we need to go back and hope for the best?”
“There are going to be lasting effects, no matter what!”
“Maybe not. Maybe this is originally what happened. Maybe those miracles were just some time travelers trying not to mess things up.”
“I want you to hear what you’re saying. You’re asking me to impersonate Jesus on the off chance this fixes everything.”
Miriam frowned. “Not everything, Josh. Just the timeline.”
Josh stared at her. His cheeks were flushed. Was it from the wine or anger?
“You still don’t forgive me.”
“No.” Miriam looked away. “I’m sorry.”
“I apologized a million times.”
“I know. But fixing the timeline or not won’t change the fact that you cheated on me.”
Josh squeezed his eyes shut. Miriam was worried he would only help if she promised to forgive him. She would lie if she had to, but she didn’t want to.
Josh sighed and shook his head. He looked young. She yearned to reach out to him, to forget everything and go on as if nothing had happened. But that would have been as useless as ignoring the fact that they had just killed Jesus.
“Alright,” Josh said. He reached for the club. “Let’s fix this, then.”
Author: DJ Lunan
The spokesman for the Nui, Jesús the Giant, considered me with a foreboding and weakly threatening glare. “I have negotiated successfully with races on twenty planets. I know you have something to tell me, Gloria.”
“It’s the ostriches.” I blurted honestly, with an exasperated undertone that I had been practicing in the VR unit for the past month.
Jesús shook his head resignedly, “What happened, Gloria?”
“Ecuador and Colombia teamed-up, raided Peru for their fertilizer reserves, unleashing scorched earth tactics on the coastal ostrich farming towns. 15 million birds, around 1 million humans perished in the chemical fires. It will take us around 3 months to re-establish the supply chain with Nui Island”.
“Doubtless supplied from the aggressor nations. Spoils of war” speculated Jesús, shaking his head.
“They are re-establishing ostrich farms along the Colombian coast….” I replied trying to be factual but not drawn into taking sides.
“Just as I was beginning to enjoy this place” interjected Jesús, springing soundlessly to his feet and striding across the room towards me extending his hand to shake. At 20 feet tall and weighing two tonnes, Jesús was truly a gentle giant and a fair one during our negotiations over the past 3 years. His bulk moved air in new ways, like a charging but tame elephant. His proffered hand the size of an armchair, rough and hewn from rock. I did my best to return his handshake.
Jesús towered before me, uttered a long-suffering sigh which howled through me. “We always hope each new race we deal with will be able to integrate our regenerative technology without resorting to wars and economic disobedience. Frankly, we expected better of you humans, you’ve invented paradox travel, host and regularly assimilate innumerable alien races including those refugees annexed by their own solar systems. Yet barely 1000 of your Earth days trading with us on this new small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean….and you can’t deliver winged protein to sustain us.
“Regretfully we must agree to end all trade.”
As the sole negotiator for the human race, I was rattled. I’d been expecting tension but not cessation. Previous supply challenges had been met with concord, laughter and brainstorming on solutions. We’d swapped crocodilian meat for ostrich, corn flour for wheat flour. But this time, the Nui were stonewalling. Time to slash prices.
“We are indeed embarrassed, Jesús.” I began, hoping my mind would catch-up with my mouth, “Land is our only comparative advantage and we are willing to demonstrate goodwill in our trade and harmony with the Nui, by forgoing this month’s supply of your crystal fertilizer. You will be getting a month for free.”
Jesús’ half-smile coyly portending his answer, “A good deal, Gloria. Under normal circumstances. But we are beyond paltry trading economics. We need some land, so we shall create some. With a little home-tech, we can grow land and herds of hoof and winged protein in a matter of weeks. We shall become self-sufficient quickly.”
“Surely you need something from us?” I implored.
“We learn all the answers we need about a planet’s potential from its commercial capabilities”
“Answers to what?”
“Which cuckoo will thrive in your nest – prisoners or pensioners?”
“That’s the choice?!” I hollered with protocol-busting frustration.
“Our decision is largely irrelevant to you. Since it is our law to withhold all of our regenerative technology from your race. We will cloak this island, which will become our future continent, from your spies in the sky and on the sea. You will not hear from us again.”
Author: Beck Dacus
Perhaps the most famous planet in the colonized Galaxy– aside from Earth, of course– Centauri B Prime may have the highest standard of living in the Milky Way. It is a center for scientific innovation, has borne some of our most accomplished artists, and has had a pivotal role in all of human galactic history. After the disappointing discovery that Proxima B, like many planets in dwarf star habitable zones, was an airless rock, Centauri B Prime reignited hope and astronomical interest. The more we learned about it, the more we fell in love with it. It turned out to be a so-called “superhabitable planet” orbiting Alpha Centauri B, a star slightly smaller than our Sun in the Alpha Centauri System. Its size gives the star an extended natural lifetime, meaning its crown jewel planet will still be livable when Earth has been turned to ash. Its gravity is also higher than Earth’s, reducing variation in altitude, making many of the seas shallow and conducive to life. This also improved the immune systems of the first settlers, making it a safe haven for the refugees from the Plague of 2344 and giving the inhabitants one of the longest average lifespans of anywhere in the Human Confederacy.
When we began earnest industrialization, we found that the crust of the world was rich in heavy metals. Alpha Centauri A had gravitationally kicked Cen. B’s asteroid field into a closer orbit during the system’s youth, and Centauri B Prime was caught in the path. These asteroids deposited platinum-group metals all around the surface of the planet, on top of which an extensive biosphere grew. With it, we built towering cities, great fusion reactors, and a second-generation colonization fleet. Dozens of worlds were born from just this one, humanity’s first true colony. And that was even before the planet saw the birth of Antessa Reilir, inventor of the faster-than-light Reilir Drive.
One would not be remiss in saying many of us would not be here if it had not been for Centauri B Prime. However, in the time you have been reading this, you may have noticed its one flaw: the cumbersome name. Clearly we need to consider coming up with a new label for this world, one that can be used easily in conversation without depreciating the value of the world to our history and our society over the centuries. We here at the International Astronomical Union have thought on the issue: we have considered the contributions that the people of the planet have made to our scientific understanding; we have noted the value of the planet’s own properties in advancing such fields as geology and life science; and we have acknowledged the quality of life that the world has afforded its inhabitants and those in need. The planet holds a special place in our hearts, and even after its star has torn it to pieces, we will be sure to remember it. It is for all these reasons that we propose changing its official name to Planet Hawking in our databases, to commemorate the scientist with a grand world, and to honor the world with the name of a great scientist. I think the Confederate citizens will agree that the two would get along quite well.