The Decider

Author : Gray Blix

It had been nearly a year since he’d brought a girl home, and his heart raced as he fumbled in his pocket for keys.

“Need help?” she asked, groping in the general area of his pocket.

Her face so close, he couldn’t help but say, “You’re beautiful.”

“You don’t have to say that, hon, I’m already here.”

“No, really,” leaning in for a kiss.

Backing away, “Not yet, mister, not until I see some green.”

“Right, of course.”

Inside the door, pulling off each other’s clothes, they stumbled onto the couch.

“Mine or yours?” he asked.

“I only trust mine.”

Opening her bag, she removed a device about the size and shape of a hair dryer.

“Better do me first, while you can,” he said.

She pressed the icon for Male on the touch screen, and a concave-sided probe emerged from the business-end of the device. Placing it on his…

“Ouch,” he said, as it pricked and captured a sample of blood along with flora and fauna on his skin.
“Poor baby.”

At the tone, she lifted the probe, which retracted, and seconds later Decider Headquarters transmitted a 24-hour clearance for his DNA, signified by a green light.

He was relieved, too relieved, it turned out.

She pressed the Female icon, and a smooth-sided probe emerged.

Reaching for the device, he offered, “Do you want me to…”

“NO! I’ll do it,” she said, carefully inserting it.

She gasped as the samples were obtained. At the tone, she withdrew the probe, which retracted, and this time a flashing green light conveyed both her clearance and DHQ approval for the couple to have coitus.

“We’re good to go, hon,” returning the device to her bag.

Looking down, “Uh, how ’bout we just snuggle awhile?” he said.

At DHQ headquarters across town, a prisoner peered out of a window to a chamber within which he was strapped to a chair.

A technician made final adjustments. “It’s calibrated. We’re good to go.”

An interrogator looked in, “For the last time, did you murder your mother-in-law?”

Desperately, via a tinny speaker, “Like I told you a million times, no, NO!”

They all looked toward a panel on the opposite wall. Seconds later, a red light shone brightly.

“Sorry, pal, it’s out of our hands,” the interrogator said, covering his eyes as a white flash rendered the prisoner’s body lifeless and smoldering.

Elsewhere in the capital, deep below the White House in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, two dozen people sat in silence, staring at a green light flashing on a device at the center of a conference table.

“We cannot… I cannot allow a computer to make this decision, to send us into all-out nuclear war.”

“But, Mr. President,” reminded the Secretary of Defense, “Congress has explicitly ceded to this computer the responsibility to analyze data, to declare an existential threat to our country, and to decide when and how our military should respond. It is your responsibility as Commander in Chief to carry out that response.”

“Not when it means the mutual destruction and death of…”

“We’ve gone over this for hours,” interrupted the Vice President, “and all of your points have been thoughtfully considered by us and by the The Decider. I regret to inform you that it has declared you mentally impaired and that I am assuming your powers and duties as Acting President.”

He motioned Secret Service agents to remove the President from the PEOC.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, green flashes reflecting in his eyes, rose to his feet.
“Mr. President, are we…?”

“Yes, we’re good to go.”

Collision Course

Author : Rick Tobin

“You, Mister…” The pause came as the micro servers moved quietly in the administrator, shiny and stoic, with a mere chest and head. Minute flashes drifted over hardened aluminum oxide in ever flitting artificial eyes. Arms were unnecessary. Improved perforated urethane from the ancient artists of Kao Corporation provided just enough false humanity on its face to reduce interface stress—still a common condition for those remaining on Earth.

“That’s Kelso, with a K, not a C.” His overbite impeded his diction, but there was no distinct accent. Speech patterns were awash with sand from world travels.

“Yes, well, you are what we call in this bureau an accidental.” Mouth elements moved the straight, strict lips under a static set of nostrils.

“A what?” Grizzled, worn and filthy from the abandoned streets, John Kelso leaned forward toward his caseworker. His right hand wore the scars of loose ropes let wild on the last tuna boat to sail from Tuvalu in the Pacific. The left hand was short a pinky finger from his act of attrition for sleeping with a Yakuza’s wife.

“An unregistered birth that was probably unplanned and therefore unreported.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning you are privy to no rights for support from the Society.”

“That makes no sense. My parents were both full citizens. You have their registration in front of you, on screen.” He leaned back, fuming, against his long coat made from a water buffalo hide prepared after a hunt in Thailand.

“I have the records of a couple from Indiana who had three registered children who are now meaningful and productive full citizens. Their records show no familiarity or acknowledgement of your existence.”

“Why should they? I was the oldest when my parents died. None of them were older than three. At twelve I was abandoned by my blood relatives and left to wander and survive in Indianapolis on my own.”

“Unlikely. No child could survive that.” The worker remained motionless.

“False, again. I found many like myself. I’ve since traveled much of this planet and made, I believe, a better place of it, which is more than I can say for many of your registered patrons.”

“Rumor, innuendo and slander—all useless attempts at your concept of validation. They have no effect on me.” Its face turned away from the applicant, fulfilling an algorithm to reduce conflict.

“I tell you I have a right to basic life support until I can get financially stable. My parents left a large estate behind. I’ve checked.” Kelso rubbed his arm where splintered bone ached during the changing weather. A fall in the Andes left a reminder of soroche and failed climbing ropes.

“Only for registered citizens. The Society only sets aside support for those registered. It has been that way since 2130. You are an accidental. There is no further action to take, but you have an alternative.”

“Such as?”

“Off world transport from Earth to one of the newer colonies on the created moons in the Kuiper Belt. There you would be assigned appropriate labor, food and housing.”

“You mean a prison sentence for simply existing. No thanks to that. I like sunlight and air that doesn’t come out of a recycle cartridge. I’d starve first.”

“There are hospice beds available down the street.”

“Does this mean nothing to you? Do you even care?”

“I am not programmed to care. I simply state facts based on evidence.”

“Oh, and how did you get your cushy assignment, sitting here all day, throwing those with real skin out the door?”

“Well, Mr. Kelso, it was not by accident.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

The Lingering Evacuation

Author : Christopher Ferri

“Wait, just one more look,” Mary said to Arthur before heading back into the house. Having just gotten seated in the car, he put the key into the ignition and let out a sigh before running his hands back through his hair.

Arthur gave a small pound on the steering wheel and got up to go inside. He had already caught Mary once trying to hide small personal items in her clothes.

They have scanners, he told her, they will only make you remove them then anyways.

The personal preference kits that FEMA had mailed were already as full as they could get. The contents of each had been mulled over obsessively for the last two weeks.

Arthur entered the house and found Mary kneeling on the floor over a cardboard box. The box was filled with children’s artwork, finger paintings of rainbows, hand traced turkeys, a snowman made out of popsicle sticks with cotton balls and several others.

“We photographed all these, right?” she said.

“Mare, theres nothing in this house we haven’t photographed.”

She got up and walked over to the dining room table, her eyes empty. Atop the table were several plastic pins, each labeled with their contents. Photos, letters, etc. She lifted a small box from inside a bin marked jewelry and took out a silver necklace.

“Come on Mary,” Arthur said. “Don’t do this to yourself.”

“The rest of our lives… we will spend on a ship. We’ll never even know if mankind makes it to…”

“Wolf 1061c. Though, I’m sure they’ll come up with a better name for it. Who knows? Maybe we can offer some suggestions? We’ll have all the time in the world.”

“No, we’ll have more.”

Mary sat down at the corner of the table and looked out into the backyard, the sun beginning to shine through the naked trees. Arthur looked over at the clock. He sat down beside her at the head of the table.

“But did you ever think you’d be an astronaut someday? I certainly didn’t. I mean, not that I wouldn’t be… but you? Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

Mary let out a short burst of laughter before beginning to sob.

“Thank god for that fantastic body or I never would have been able to convince them to let you go with us,” he said.

  Mary wiped the tears from her face.

“Be careful what you say. They might have to redo your mental health assessment.” 

“Then I’ll have to fake it again.”

“How many days will we be in orbit?” she asked him.

“Us? We’ll be up there for about two weeks before the ark departs.”

“I wish we could just spend it down here.”

“That’s not how this works. We have to get in that car and never look back.”

Mary got up from the table, crouched beside the box of artwork again, and picked up some of the construction paper pieces. She gripped them tighter and tighter in her hand, not speaking a word. Arthur stood up from the table and slowly moved to approach her. Just as he was about to touch her shoulders she ripped up all the artwork in her hands and tossed it in the air like it was confetti. She got up and briskly moved toward the door.

“Well, what are we waiting for?”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Real Heroes

Author : Callum Wallace

Ain’t even the puppets that’re the problem, you know?

It’s the heroes.

Useless, mate. Zoomin’ in with their lasers, their super strength. Christ, gimme a rifle and a scope any day, never mind that bollocks.

Shit.

Goes to show, bein’ the world’s greatest detective, or faster than a speedin’ bloody train, matters bugger all if there’s seven billion hands clawin’ at you. Turns out they underestimated ‘em. Or, rather, the heroes overestimated themselves. Bloody knobbers.

Wankers flying around, heat visioning and bloody chuckin’ ten tonne slabs o’ rock about, destroyin’ everything. Christ, I’d rather have a school of blind kids have my back then those caped clowns. You gotta be trained. And you gotta be ranged. Those lot that went in, fists raised, screamin’ about Valhalla, or whatever bloody planet they came from, know what happened to them? They got destroyed, or became a puppet themselves.

And when it takes two mags of bullpup to take a puppet down, it’s no joke. Bad enough we had regular pups to sort, we had to deal with those super charged mooks too. Ain’t no takin’ them down.

Lost thousands of civvies during, you know?

Shit flying everywhere, HQ banging on about pussy shit like public relations and that.

We’re fighting for our survival, defending humanity, that’s real humans, against the onslaught of infected, and who do they care about?

The fucking heroes.

The worst thing?

The worst thing is that people still bang on about ‘em. ‘Oooh, she has a magic rope, he talks to fish’, man o’ iron, blah, blah, blah.

Christ, no one talks about us.

Real heroes.

When some wally is chuckin’ cars about and some other wally is setting mooks on fire with his fuckin’ eyes, who has to deal with it?

Us.

The real heroes.

Shit.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

It Must Be A Wonderful Place

Author : Sharon Molloy

Every night, a man would look up at the moon and stars.

Astronomy had been his boyhood hobby. He knew about the ice volcanoes on Neptune, and Saturn’s diamond rain. Even more amazing worlds surely existed in outer space. “It must be a wonderful place,” he would say to himself.

All too early, he would have to go to bed, for he had to go to work the next morning.

One night, he awoke to a strange light in his room. Carefully he opened his back door. In his back yard, he saw something like a round plane with no wings, and a strange creature that could only be an alien. The man didn’t know what it was saying to him, but it sounded friendly enough.

The man and the alien spent the next few hours learning how to communicate. The alien cooed in amazement at all the ordinary things in the man’s house. They could have happily done this forever, but the man said he had to go to work.

The alien begged to go with him. If he stopped doing something as interesting as this to go to work, “It must be a wonderful place.”

The man told the alien to hide in his briefcase; they got in the man’s car and off they went.

When the man’s car slowed down, the alien asked, “Why are you driving so slowly now? What’s that noise?”

“The roads are full of other cars. Everyone else is going to work too.”

“Everyone?” Again the alien thought, “It MUST be a wonderful place!”

Was work wonderful? After a long, boring meeting, the alien still had to hide. People kept interrupting the man as he did hours of paperwork. The alien could travel in space far longer than any plane flight, but it had never before been this bored.

Finally, the man picked up his briefcase. “I’m glad this day is finished!” Driving home, he asked, “What work do you do on your planet?”

“If that was work,” said the alien, “we don’t do it.”

The man was so surprised, he nearly drove off the road. “You must get bored!”

“You were pretty bored today!”

“So you do nothing?”

“’Nothing’?” Now the alien was surprised. “It’s because we don’t work that we can do things!”

“What do you do?”

The alien laughed. “It’s more like, what *don’t* we do…”

On their home planet they didn’t do just one thing all day; they did many things. Mostly, they learned everything they could. That was how they had conquered space travel and why none of them ever got sick. “Why do you work?” the alien asked.

“I need money. For my car, to drive to work in; for my house, where I sleep, so I can work the next day; and for food, so I can work.”

“You just go around in circles!” The alien felt sorry for him.

“Do you work when you finally finish learning?”

“We never finish learning.”

The man was even more puzzled. “How do you get your money?”

“We don’t need money. Intelligent beings exchange learning for learning; learning *is* our currency. “You taught me this morning, like I am teaching you now.”

When the man got home, he sat looking at the spaceship for a long time. Finally, he turned to face the alien. “When you go home, please, take me with you, to your world.

“It must be a wonderful place.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows