Captain Dean

Author: Kemal Onor

Captain Dean returned home late. The welcome party had already made coffee and spilled through the halls and rooms to talk in bursts of stories. There was the initial buzz of salutations and welcoming home. Cups were raised and health was toasted. The captain did not slow his long-legged gate and went to the living room. He said nothing.

He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, as though listening to some distant sound. He still wore his royal blue uniform, and he ruffled his hair, giving an audible sigh. Dean blinked long blinks, and his mind lingered on distant planets. Planets that drifted frozen as a lake in January. He pulled a folded picture from his pocket. Opening the folds, he smoothed it in his lap. It was a picture of a blue planet. Green, blue, white, and dark. The planet was spinning, always spinning without end. He had been gone a long time and had forgotten the sensation of constant movement.

He had spent too many days and nights in perpetual days, or everlasting nights. Now, as he closed his eyes and took in the familiar smells of his earth home, he wondered if he might be coming down with what many called earth sickness. He stuck his thumbs in his mouth and bit down hard. He opened his eyes. Everything looked to be spinning. His hands gripped the chair, and he tucked his feet under as well. He remembered suddenly the feeling of lifting off in a rocket. The terrible shaking, as numbers counted down. The jumping and jolting. He felt to be lifting from his very seat now.

He stood, holding his arms out, as though to catch himself from falling. He teetered in his stance. Feeling a terrible urge in his stomach he staggered to the bathroom and threw up. After rinsing his mouth, he looked at his reflection in the mirror. He was sweating, and thin in his face. His eyes looked to have shrunk. His lower lip still held the impression of his teeth. He grimaced and returned to his chair, collapsing as though fatigued. Looking before him, Dean saw a number of children had gathered near his chair. They looked with anticipation in their eyes at the space captain.
“What’s space like?” asked one of the children.

“It’s empty and dark, and cold,” said Dean. He now looked like a drunk man, struggling to keep his head up. The room was spinning. The world was spinning. And captain Dean knew that as he sat in his home on that blue planet that it was spinning and silently moving. Through the cold, and through the dark.

Flintstone

Author: Alex Z. Salinas

“I got to know some people.”

Something nobody says anymore. So when a guy behind me at the café whispered that in my ear, I turned around and shushed him. Put my hand over his mouth. I told him we could get killed if somebody heard that.

Nobody says anything anymore.

Back in my capsule after another night of pointless carousing, I’m restless again. Idealess again. The moon is out, but I can’t see the stars.

In this third and final act of civilization I call post-Socialization, we’re cooked. We’ve primed ourselves for a cyber-sunburn, and now we’re toast.

It’s the devices. They’ve changed us. They’ve scrambled us. Through them, something’s been put into us. We have no control. We’re not free.

Literature exists still. I’ve read some of it. But I’m one of the few, I suspect. I’m shocked at how things used to be. Now, I can’t get an idea out of my head.

In recent news, communities of violent humpbacks have sprouted up—people with re-engineered DNA from decades of looking down at their devices. They’re out for blood. They’re coming for them. And they’re coming for us. All of us.

Church is dead. Temple is dead. God is dead. Small business is dead. Land developers have destroyed them. Our religious have turned to webinars. If their servers are discovered, they’re risking everything. It’s only a matter of time. But I pray for them.

From what I understand, only hospitals remain mostly the same. A few months ago, out of curiosity, I snuck into an emergency room. I wandered the hallways until I came across an old man on a stretcher. I walked up to him to get a closer look. I assumed he was unconscious. Suddenly, he grabbed my collar and yanked me close to his face. His eyes were watery and yellow. I could smell something awful in his breath. The smell of death.

“Get out of here!” he shouted. “They’re watching you! Let me meet Allah in peace!”

I ran out of the hospital as fast as I could. I didn’t look back. For weeks, I had nightmares of the dying man.

I’ve been trying to write everything down. Trying to tell the truth. Trying to spark something.

I want to burn this endless prison we’re in to the ground. But I don’t know how. I don’t know how much time is left.

I’m being watched. I know it. I can feel it.

The devices still call out to me. The urge is eating me. I can feel myself ripping apart slowly.

We’re not alive, most of us. We’re not well.

Something needs to happen. Before it’s too late.

A spark.

Somebody’s knocking on my capsule.

I have to see who it is. I don’t have a choice.

There’s only one way in and one way out.

You

Author: David Henson

A gust of wind found us while we were walking in the park. She opened her arms, skipped backwards, pretending to be a kite. Like you used to do. Before you got sick. Before you helped them create her, your dying gift to me.

We came upon the spot where you and I once had a picnic — cheese and a baguette. She had your memory of hiding red wine in a thermos because alcohol is against park rules.

When we got home, she made spaghetti for dinner. The sauce tasted exactly like yours. She knows all your secrets.

After the doctors said there was nothing they could do, you spent more and more time with her creators. You told them everything you could think of. About yourself. About us. Now it all resides in her.

She looks like you, laughs like you and cries like you. Just as promised. When I kiss her, I’m overwhelmed by the scent of you. When we make love, she moves like you. As I said, she knows all your secrets.

Tonight we sat and talked for hours. Just like you and I used to do. I lost myself in the rhythm of her voice — your voice. After a while, she began speaking slowly and softy, and her eyes dimmed. Reminding me I need to charge her. Reminding me, yet again, she’s not you.

I wish I could live without her.

A strange way to die

Author: Neil Otte

“What a strange way for an Arkansas farm boy to die”, he thought. He could imagine Gramps shaking his head and saying, “Son, you are a caution”.

Of course, his love of numbers, ability to fix mechanical systems, and delight in growing things – all traits he got from Gramps – were the reasons he ended up here. When he saw Hydroponics Lead as one of the positions on The Foundation’s roster, he knew he had to apply. Not that it wasn’t hard to become one of the “crazy, selfish dreamers” as the vocal deriders of the Foundation’s plans called the ones who signed up. Although Hebert’s implementation of the EmDrive made interstellar travel possible, the multi-decades voyage was a high-risk proposition. Years of acceleration to a large fraction of light speed, followed by years of deceleration gave large probabilities of failure in even highly redundant systems. World opinion was split on the prospect, but in the end, the multi-national Foundation was formed, and the first interstellar mission was born.

It was Gram’s influence that gave him the courage he needed to apply. He could remember sitting at the picnic table outside church and her saying, “You have a purpose in life and you need to pursue it with passion and integrity. If you do, you have nothing to fear, not even death, because, at the end, you’ll have peace.”

Now as he thought back over the last three hours, he wondered if he had seen the culmination of that purpose. When the explosion occurred in the transfer station it holed both tank 2 and 5, venting water systems that constituted 38 percent of their capacity. He knew to the liter what they were going to need to make it to Vaetta, and at the rate of venting, they had 68 minutes to find a solution. Even now, with time to think and ponder, he couldn’t think of anything else he could have done but vent the just harvested hydroponic bays 8 -12, and then vent the ruptured tanks into the bays. Not a perfect solution, but the bay filters would not allow moisture to vent, and the bays would hold enough water in vapor form to reclaim once the damage was repaired. The fact that the only way to now shunt water from the tanks to the bays was via the original loading system on the outside of Finaer, and the only available way to get to the loading system controls was the limited range/thrust IMU, seemed like a minor detail at the time. The IMU had barely enough propellant for him to maneuver his way to the control panels through the venting cloud of ice. In the movies, the hero would have been able to make it to the tether node and the hook would have caught by a fraction of an inch on his last desperate attempt. In reality, he didn’t get within 15 meters of the node before the IMU propellant was depleted, and the vapor accelerated him steadily away from the Finaer.

Now he floated silently through space as the Finaer dwindled to a gleam against the backdrop of red-shifted stars. They had run the numbers on using one of the CMU’s to retrieve him, but it was clear the delta-v was too great. The goodbyes had been said, the thank you’s and commendations given. Now as he gazed out over the expanse of the universe, he realized that Gram’s words were absolutely true.

“Thanks, Gram”, he whispered. “See you soon”

The New Terminator

Author: Arkapravo Bhaumik

I am sitting outside the Department of Surgery & Smart Implants and I can see the operation theatre beyond the glass door. Radha is clasping my palm tightly. We both know that this has to be done, and we have discussed it between the two of us a number of times – be it as a casual banter over a cup of coffee or as an emotional vent-out similar to the Oprah Winfrey show of nearly three decades ago. If that was not enough, we took the opinion of three different surgeons in as many different medical centers, discussed it with our children, our neighbors and even our cousins who are halfway across the globe, and then swamped at least eight different forums on the Internet with a ton of questions. Now, with less than fifteen minutes to go, my mouth feels dry and I can feel her pulse quickening.

Radha breaks the uncanny silence, “You will come back as a metal man?” I wink at her and then with a hint of sarcasm in my tone, I say, “Maybe you should code-in three laws for me.”

Being together for 42 years, I know my wife very well and just as I had anticipated she purses her lips, rolls her eyes and then lectures me. “First law: The Terminator should be the personal property of me – Radha Chatterjee and all directives given by me should be God’s own will” As she speaks I see a hint of a smile on her lips.

I pause, look at her and acquiesce to the first law. She continues, “Second law: The Terminator should join me for all my meals at my table, even though he is not supposed to eat.” I add in a sub-clause, “ … that happens only if you let the Terminator gets to put on his favorite music, which can vary from Mahler to Strauss to Tchaikovsky.” She slowly nods, pretends to grudgingly agree to my sub-clause.

“Third law: A time will come when I may be needed to be made into a Terminator and I will expect Arun – my Terminator to respect and support my decision.” I knew this was coming at some point, Radha had not completely embraced the new age medical technology for prolonging life and vitality – hence her coining of the funny, yet borderline racial tag of ‘Terminator’. She has never been at ease with replacing the body with metal implants and reinvigorating the brain with electronic chips. How I hold up to this radical change in me will influence her decision in the near future. I cannot continue to be fully biological with multiple organ failures and a fast fading brain and after working with known traditional medical procedures for a long time, our family doctor had suggested for this.

Radha looks at me, “So, third law …?” I smile in agreement.

“Mr. Chatterjee” I turn my head to find my doctor, he pauses and looks at both of us and greets us with a smile and then says, “It is about time, I will call the nurses and the stretcher to help you into the operation theatre.” He smiles again in affirmation and walks into the operation theatre.

I turn to give Radha a hug, after which she batters her eyes in a childish manner and bids me goodbye and then fighting off tears and in a choking voice says, “… come back for me, and I can learn to kiss your lips made of steel.”