Sun Piercer

Author : Philip Gustavus Hostetler

It wasn’t enough that we could destroy the world with ICBMs. Underground bunkers utilizing solar, wind and tidal power. Seed banks, stem cell grown proteins, aquaponics. It all makes life very liveable in the human, civilized sense.

Still amidst all of this, we still watch the skies.

I think, perhaps, that life is not truly what we desire. No, not in any diverse sense of the word anyway. One of our astronomers noted that comet was headed our way, not any ordinary comet; a virtual maelstrom of ice, terratons of glacial debris from an outlying Bastard Planet (That’s what we call Pluto now…) from another solar system in the milky way.

An astrophysicist was relieved to say that it would miss us and pass closely to the sun. General Flynt asked,
“How close?” he said,
“Too close for comfort, that’s what the astronomer told me, we’ll barely survive, the Ice Maelstrom passing so close will reduce the temperature and radiation of the sun, our solar power will not sustain us, we will depend on wind and tide for maybe 6 years before we need heat.”

The General went to the Applied Atomic Scientist and ordered, “You said you can knock us out of orbit using an ion pulse. Do it at this exact time.” What we didn’t expect is for the General to push the orbit of the solar system by method of Precession. He pushed the sun right into the path of the Maelstrom.

We’ve won. We’ve shown the Pastinians once and for all that the Futurists are right.

Teaching a Frog Calculus

Author : Matthieu C. R. Cartron

It was after several hours, and, several brief outbursts, that Henry came to a most significant conclusion: A frog simply cannot learn calculus.

Henry was a very smart nine-year-old. So smart, in fact, that he was already taking college courses. Henry was a well-rounded student, but of all his unusual abilities, his most remarkable aptitude was in the subject of mathematics. Numbers, as he had once told his mother, just simply made sense to him.

But math, as Henry soon found out, was not a favorite subject of most creatures. Including frogs.

There was a small creek near Henry’s house where they would congregate and cavort at the edge of the water, and, with some difficulty, Henry had managed to capture one with a plastic container.

Henry loved learning, and was always eager to impart his own knowledge onto others. His peers at the elementary school were bored by his interests and annoyed by his attempts to enlighten them. But, would frogs, which people might label as incognizant and stupid, be more willing to learn? Henry had decided to give it a shot.

He had dragged an easel out into the backyard and had placed the container with the frog only a few feet in front of it. With a pen and a stick broken off from a nearby tree, Henry had begun his introduction and instruction of derivatives—using the paper on the easel as a makeshift drawing board. But the frog, lethargic from his failed attempts to jump from the sealed plastic prison, looked the other way. Henry would notice and would reprimand the inattentive frog for his behavior, but it was to no avail. Even manually turning the container did little to spark the interest of the indifferent amphibian.

But Henry had an idea. Perhaps this particular frog would be inspired to learn if there were motivated peers around him. Henry needed role models, and to find them, he headed back to the creek where after an hour, he had managed to collect five more frogs.

When Henry’s mother saw the six containers and the easel in the backyard, she marched out the back door to the enigmatic scene.

“Henry, what is the meaning of all of this?” she exclaimed.

After Henry relayed his thought process to her, she explained to her son that frogs, and just about every other creature, do not have the mental capacity to understand most of what humans can. It made sense to Henry, and it was what his conscience had surreptitiously concluded after the disappointing results of the first frog.

But what Henry said next to his mother caught her off guard.

“If it is impossible for frogs to understand what we can, then is it possible that we might not understand some things that others can?”

“Well, I . . . I suppose Henry.”

Henry’s mother was unsure if this was in fact true, but Henry was right. From the fifth dimension, two undefinable beings, known as Aeruleels, had perceived Henry’s entire day, and were especially amused by what his mother had said.

“What was it she said? Oh yes, ‘what is the meaning of all of this?’”

The two Aeruleels crowed with laughter.

“It comes up again and again, the most important question to the human race,” one of the Aeruleels said.

“Well,” the other Aeruleel said. “We have tried many times to give them the answer, but as we have learned. . .”
The two Aeruleels smiled and then spoke simultaneously.

“Humans simply do not have the mental capacity to understand.”

My Whole Heart

Author : John Gerard Fagan

The air inside smelled of bonfires. He shivered and fastened the boy’s jacket to the top.
“Try and sleep,” Claud said. Broo replied with silence, staring at boots that were too big for his feet. They huddled together on the ship’s metallic floor for warmth, lost in fearful thoughts, listening to the hum of the vents. There wasn’t enough air for both of them to make the journey, never mind water or food. He had stayed too long. Time was up.
“Pa?”
“Yes?”
“Promise you won’t leave me.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“If you run, I’m running. You said that.”
“Yes.” Claud sniffed and placed an arm over his shoulders. “But I want you to make it, Broo. If I stay here we both die. You know that.”
“But I don’t know what to do,” the boy said, eyes watering.
“All you have to do is be brave. This pod is headed for one of our colonies. There’s some good people there. You just have to find them.”
“How?”
Claud kissed the boy’s head. “Don’t worry about it right now. You’ll know when you get there. Just stay strong.”
He heated a red soup and they ate in silence. They were a long way from home, but it still called to him like a long forgotten song from childhood. All that was left was fading memories. Her face was still clear though. Always would be. Even after the trees, rivers and fields of summer were long gone.
He looked at the boy with eyes welling. Almost five. Worth dying for. Worth all the sacrifice. Worth leaving her behind.
“I want to see it one last time,” Broo whispered. Claud nodded and lifted him to the small window. They stared but could only see the darkness of space. No stars. Moon. Nothing.
“Pa?”
“Yes?”
“I don’t want to go without you.”
“I know.”
“Promise you’ll stay with me then.”
Claud placed his jacket over the boy’s shoulders and wiped the hair away from his forehead.
“If I promise will you sleep?”
“Okay.”
“Then I promise.”
“With your whole heart?”
“With my whole heart.”
Claud waited until Broo was asleep. Hands shaking. Eyes wet and running. Any longer they were both dead. He stepped into the release port and sealed the door behind. He closed both eyes, pulled the leaver and drifted from the ship.

Faint Blue Ornament

Author : C. James Darrow

From ninety six million miles away Earth looks like a faint blue ornament hanging off something unseen. Every ounce of life our solar system cradles and keeps warm is on that pale speck and from this distance it all seems so insignificant.

Soon we will slingshot around the sun. The lifeblood that granted Earth permission to host all that life. As our ship gets sucked into its blistering gaze and slingshots outward the solar sails deploy and our speed increases tenfold. We don’t feel it. To us, we are standing still. We are kept relatively safe—these are the exact words of the company responsible for this excursion—inside reinforced steel and glass and plastic and all the other bits keeping the radiation of the fireball near us, out. The slightest turning of the wrong screw or a passing piece of space debris the size of a penny could end this trillion dollar experiment.

That’s what this all is, essentially; an experiment to put the human psyche to the test. To see if we insignificant humans can build something to withstand this void we now traverse.

We launched months ago. We are just reaching the sun. Our destination is light years beyond that. If we reach it—and that’s a big if: if the sails don’t break, if the ion thrusters don’t give out, if life support doesn’t give out, if our own bodies don’t give out, we will reach our destination in nearly a hundred years. All the people we have come to know and love and call family and friends will be dead. We never will get to see them, or any sights from Earth again. Our technology now, which is years ahead of anything accessible to the public will be obsolete. We as humans, the knowledge we possess, will be obsolete.

I wonder if after these years pass whether anybody will remember our names. When I wake up, will I even? Will I be the same person I was before I go down for the deep sleep?

What world will I wake up to? . .I hope it to be much more beautiful than the one I’m leaving behind.

We That Are Left

Author : Alex Smith

Six of them stood around the grave, silent. It was the first time they had lost a soldier.

For a long while, nobody moved. The air was still, disturbed only by the whirs and clicks of their implants, and the gentle humming of respirators. Eventually, the Captain spoke up.

“Reyes was a good fighter,” he said hoarsely. His electrolarynx crackled with static, distorting the pain in his voice. “One of the best in the battalion. And he was a good man, at that.”

The others said nothing.

“Reyes would have wanted us to honour him,” the Captain continued. “He would have wanted us to respect his death. He would have wanted us to forget.”

Still, the gathered soldiers were silent.

“There is no room for sorrow on the battlefield.” His voice was hard, now. “You freeze up, you hesitate even for a second, you die. Reyes knew that. So do all of you.”

The Captain reached up to his temple, to the tangle of wires and lights stitched into his skin, just below the hairline. There was a brief pause; a moment of indecision. Then, one by one, the others did the same.

“Until all of this is over,” he told them, “we cannot afford the luxury of grief.”

Delicately, he brushed his fingertips against the interface. Something metallic stirred inside his skull.

Sergeant Giorgio Reyes, he thought. Full wipe.

*

Five of them stood around the grave, silent. It was the first time they had lost a soldier.