Waste Management

Author : Robbie Kowalski

“Hey Marv, have you ever wondered where all the shit goes once you flush the toilet?”

“I don’t know Joe.” Marv said unenthusiastically as he tried to figure out a crossword puzzle.

“Man all that added weight to ship definitely adds up over a period of time. Couple of thousand people per ship. One shit per day. Tons of extra baggage.”

Marv scratched his head and muttered, “Nine down starts with I ends with-”

“Hey Marv are you listening? I think we have a real crisis on our hands. Tons of shit could be barreling down on us at any second. One system failure and boosh. Death by brown tsunami.”

“Inspector? No. Ingenuity? No.”

“Marvin!” Joe yelled from his work console.

“What!?” Marvin yelled back startled.

“We got a real situation here. The walls are closing in man. I can feel it. One solar flare and pop goes the weasel. I ain’t dying in this death trap of a septic tank.”

“Imbecilic.” Marvin growled. “No.”

“Huh?” Joe replied as he turned side to side looking at the walls nervously.

“Look lugnuts. We are on a spaceship that goes faster than light and can reach the end of the galaxy in a blink of an eye. You’re telling me that the engineers who designed such a vessel are going to short change the pride of the human fleet in the waste management area?”

“Well you never know Marv. There was that thing on the Chernobyl.”

“Comparing a core meltdown on a dilapidated ship to a crap tank explosion on this ship is beyond-” Marvin looked at Joe and decided not to deride him any further. He was his best friend on the ship, after all.

“Oh never mind.” And he went back to his crossword.

“So you think they jettison it out an airlock or something? Sounds ecologically unsound. Shit just floating around the galaxy. What if it hits a ship? Could be a real catastrophe. I can see the headlines now, Poop Hits Ship:Kills All Aboard.”

“Sounds like a real constipated issue.” Marvin smirked.

“I’m serious Marv. What if it did hit a ship?”

“If it is shot out of an airlock which I think it isn’t, it’s probably burned up in our warp wake. Nothing can survive going out into the warp stream. You know that.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“But if they don’t shoot it out an airlock then where do they keep it?”

“Probably recycle it somehow. They recycle everything else around here. Wouldn’t surprise me if they use it to make something else.” Marvin said while he agonized over his crossword puzzle.

“Recycle it?” Joe pondered. “You mean I might be wearing shit laced uniforms or sitting on shit cushioned seats?”

“Maybe even faeces lined computer board switches for that extra fiber strength.” Marvin grinned.

“Ha ha, not funny.” Joe said as he inspected his console and uniform.“Well they definitely do something with it. I just can’t think of what.”

Suddenly, a hologram of a chef from the kitchen staff projected into the room.

“Hey guys, Ron from kitchen speaking, just wanted to tell you about our special for today, Hash Brown Casserole. It came out spectacularly. So, anybody hungry?”

“Ignorance. Ignorance is bliss.”

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End

Author : Bob Newbell

I remember the day things started disappearing. I was driving into work listening to the news on the satellite radio. Astronomers had observed that a galaxy called MACS0647-JD could no longer be detected. It was one of the most distant objects known, over 13 billion light-years away. A cloud of dust or some such thing, it was speculated, had become interposed between Earth and MACS0647-JD. It made sense. Thirteen billion light-years is plenty of space for something to eclipse a galaxy. But that turned out to be only the beginning.

Over the following week, more astronomical objects started disappearing. There was no consistent pattern of location or distance that could be detected. A quasar billions of light-years from Earth vanished the same day two of Jupiter’s moons went missing.

“They’re gone! They’re gone!” my wife had screamed over my cell phone. I had the news pulled up on my computer at work. The “they” my wife was referring to were Portugal, France, and Spain. That area of southwestern Europe and everything and everyone in it had ceased to exist. There was no trace of the missing countries under the ocean and no signs of destruction. The sea and land now formed a coastline with the territory where France had bordered Europe as if that had always been the normal geography of the continent.

Science could provide no explanation let alone a remedy. The Andromeda galaxy winked out of existence. The planet Venus was there one moment and gone the next. A large section of the Midwest disappeared leaving the United States truncated. People were terrified, but civilization held together. Indeed, wars and disputes between nations came to a grinding halt in the face of the catastrophe as governments worked together as never before to find some way to deal with the existential nightmare.

Then, the Moon disappeared. That’s when civilization collapsed. Rioting broke out across what remained of an oddly abbreviated Earth with countries, mountain ranges, deserts, and seas missing, the expected gaps obliterated by the apposing sides of the wounds inexplicably abutting each other instantaneously. Somehow, even the disappearance of Earth’s own territory didn’t seem to affect what remained of the human race like the vanishing of the reassuring light in the night sky.

My wife and I have barricaded ourselves in our house. I have to fire a warning shot every few hours when someone tries to break in. We’ve had no electricity or running water for days. Too much of the power and water infrastructure gone for them to remain operable, I assume. We’ve broken apart our furniture and burned it in the fireplace to keep warm since the Sun vanished three days ago. She sits by the fire night and day — if those terms even mean anything in a sunless world — praying. And crying.

As for me, I find myself looking up through the skylight in the attic. I don’t know why. The stars and planets and galaxies are all gone. The skylight could be painted black and the view would be no different. But I keep going up there and looking out and wondering what we did to deserve this.

**********

“Ready for lunch?” asked the alien of his companion.

“Yeah. Just powering down my computer.”

“Weren’t you running some big sim application on that?”

“Yeah. Haven’t done anything with it for a really long time. Just left it up running. I really need to get a new computer. This one takes forever to close programs and power down.”

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Ever in Your One-Legged Life

Author : Trent Isaac

The man wrestled a pile of rods, plates, wires, lights, and fingers through the door and let it crash in a heap.

“Or there’s this one,” the man said as he swabbed his bald head with a towel.

Brennan scratched his arm through the frayed hole in his sweater as he compared the two robots. One was nearly seven feet tall. Its white plastic helmet and gloves gleamed, and its black body reflected bits and pieces of the robots on display around it. The second robot looked like a skeleton marionette that had been buried by an avalanche and left to rust and petrify. The man wrapped the second robot’s boney, copper arms around the waist of the nearby security robot to stand it up.

Brennan read the patch on the man’s uniform. “Johnny?”

Johnny looked up.

“Is he supposed to only have one leg?”

“Uh… no.” Johnny chuckled. “For the missing leg, I’ll drop this little guy’s price to 5,000 dollars.”

He patted the robot on the back and the metal man’s right eye popped out and shattered on the floor.

“Or if you want to leave here with absolutely no worries, you can take this specimen for just 3,000!” He motioned to the black and white giant. With a shrug of his shoulders, he added, “We overstocked.”

Brennan eyes rested on the limp marionette. The ding at the corner of the android’s mouth gave the bot a crooked grin. Brennan gripped the multi-tool in his pocket.

“Okay, I’ll take him.”

The man nodded and punched some numbers into the giant’s back. The robot whirred and its eyes flickered on.

“No, the one-legged one!”

###

“Brennan?” called a feeble voice.

“Yes, Grandma, look what I found!” he said as he rounded the corner into her bedroom. The robot followed, rolling on his modified foot. Brennan hoped his grandmother would think he had found the robot by the side of the road. His grandmother might not approve of him spending money this way, but she wouldn’t throw away something that still had use in it.

“Oh, Brennan, I don’t need that thing,” said his grandmother. She straightened her shoulders and looked at him from her chair. Lifting her arm, she pointed at him with her bone-like finger.

“Listen here,” she said. But a cough stopped her. To him, the cough sounded like a car backfiring. She swallowed, opened her mouth, and coughed again, and could not stop until she had drunken a glass of water.

“I’m going to be gone most of the day, now that I’m moving rubble for Mr. Fleischman’s company,” Brennan said quietly. “It’s a nice robot, Grandma.”

His grandmother looked the mechanical man over.
The metal stick figure tilted his head at her. Then the robot zipped across the floor and reached out his boney hand. His fingers clicked in their sockets as he stroked her shoulder. The android’s other hand took the glass she was holding and returned it to the stand. He lifted the pitcher of water and refilled the glass in slow, jerky motions.

The wrinkles on her face relaxed and she said, “Yes, I see that now.”

She closed her eyes and crossed her feet, her real foot sliding over the prosthetic one.

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The Machine

Author : Kellie Warren

We never thought we would be the ones. We weren’t smart enough. To discover new worlds, new planes of existence, new life. You had to be intelligent for that. Some might have been arrogant enough to call themselves intelligent but they were only fools. The Thinkers thought another would find us first, uncover our planet and take it to replace their own dying one.

They were partially right.

The fear grew so great amongst them that they teamed up for the first time in history. They pooled ideas, resources, even their minds they eventually linked together leaving their bodies to rot in a dark dusty room as their thoughts were fed into a computer.

Originally they created new weapons to counteract our own then ones to counteract those. They built refugee stations. The rich could reserve rooms in one high above the ground or one bedded deep within the soil. If you couldn’t afford two rooms you gambled on which would be safest when…if an attack happened.

With each improvement the hysteria grew; more and more donated personal resources to the Thinkers for protection from the imagined enemy. The Thinkers entered into group consciousness so they no longer required food or sleep.

They became the Machine.

They hired the Workers, mindlessly following what the Machine told them. We don’t blame the Workers for what happened, at least I don’t, I can’t. They only built what they were told to, providing for their tribes, not knowing what horror they were creating with their own hands.

The Thinkers took the idea of running or hiding from too far. According to them our planet was indefensible. We couldn’t wait until the attack happened we had to get out before that, find another planet, another home. Do the exact thing we wanted to protect ourselves from. They didn’t see it that way though.

Individuals who thought they had the answer began to link their minds creating their own machines, believing they could escape the group consciousness when the problem was solved and flee with everyone else.

Smaller machines began to spring up in all nations, entire tribes would connect to each other leaving Workers to connect them to other machines deemed worthy. They learned how to connect without being near each other; Workers were no longer needed so they linked too.

The Original Machine could not see what it began. Cities fell into disrepair, nation followed soon after. No one was left unlinked to keep up with maintenance.

The Machines became a species of their own, conquering, killing, feeding off others, even Individuals. Some Individuals tried fleeing with their families to the Thinkers’ self sustaining stations, the Machines found them, stealing their conscious and making it their own. The Machines couldn’t remember they were once like them, the Individuals, let alone how to return to that state.

This foreign species, the Machines, took my planet, once their own, to replace their dying one they themselves had killed trying to protect.

Hopefully when you find this message this species will be eradicated and you, whoever you are, can begin to build this planet anew. Restore it to its former glory or beyond.

Hopefully…

I am the last Individual, the original Thinker who pitched the idea and the original chosen to remain unlinked as the original Worker. Only I saw what was happening now I must reverse my work from the inside.

The screen turned black, the message once again falling on a deaf planet in an empty universe with no one to heed the warning.
It flickered.

“We never thought we would be the ones…”

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Who We Think We Are

Author : Glen Luke Flanagan

“These monstrosities are a threat to national security, to morality as we know it, and to our very sense of self.”

Senator Ethan Calhoun punctuated the last statement by pounding his fist onto the podium. The fiery Texan was the face of the anti-cloning movement in America, and he delivered his message with the deftness of a politician and the fervor of a charismatic minister.

He stepped down from the podium, waved to the cheering crowd, and let his ever-present team of doctors lead him away. It was no secret that despite his vigor, Mr. Calhoun was not a healthy man.

“Sir, you shouldn’t work yourself up like that,” a young, red-haired, white-coated physician cautioned.

The senator coughed into a clenched fist.

“What’s your name, son?”

“Cameron, sir.” The doctor bustled about the senator, hooking him up to various machines and pausing to glance at the readings.

“Cameron.” The senator laid a hand on the doctor’s arm and held him momentarily still, looking into his eyes intently. “I had a son just about your age. Do you know what happened to him?”

The doctor was silent. Everyone in Calhoun’s entourage knew what had happened to the senator’s son.

“The Russians killed him, Cameron, and put a monster in his place. A monster that looked just like him, that lived in my house and broke bread with me each morning. I only found out about it when the damn thing broke down into a puddle of piss and water – unstable DNA, the scientists tell me.”

Calhoun released his hold on the doctor’s sleeve, but still held him with his eyes.

“So I’ll work myself up all I damn please,” he finished.

Later, the young man called Cameron showed his data to another doctor, with piercing gray eyes and silvering hair.

“It’s not good,” he said. “He’s wearing himself out, breaking down more quickly than we anticipated.”

The senior doctor thumbed through the pages, nodding in frustrated agreement.

“We’ll have to whip up a replacement ahead of schedule,” she said.

Thomas Calhoun turned restlessly in bed, trying to nap. The doctors insisted it was good for his health, but he was happiest when active. The silken sheets chafed, and the expansive hotel suite suffocated him. He was about to give up the fight and go in search of a bar when the door opened and a team of nervous lab techs trundled in another of the gadgets he so despised. The silver-haired doctor followed, giving directions.

The senator growled at the lab techs, then sat up and wrapped a sheet around himself.

“Clarice,” he grunted. “You could give a fellow warning. I’m not decent.”

“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, Thomas.” Her tone was clipped. “We just need to run a few scans.”

She waved at the technicians, who hurried to attach electrodes to Calhoun’s forehead. He gave in with a resigned snort, and lay back down. At some point during the process, he drifted into a deep slumber.

Still later, in an improvised laboratory, Clarice MacKale watched over what appeared to be an oversized fish tank. Inside the tank, an imperfect replica of the Texas senator was being pumped full of nutrients and sculpted into an ever-more-human shape.

MacKale punched a number into her cell phone, and spoke furtively.

“We’ve had to make another replacement, but we’re still on track. The senator’s campaign will continue as planned.”

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