Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Dr. Darius from the Psychology lab walked along the line of students to Dr. Thorne’s adjacent Bio lab, reaching the door just as it opened to emit a thin wiry girl with a pale face and electric blue irises. She paused only a second before stepping around him, offering a shy ‘Excuse me sir’, under her breath.
“Next.” Thorne’s voice was unmistakable from within the lab.
“Just a second,” Darius held back the next student in line, evoking an irritated but acquiescent huff from the towering young man, “won’t be a minute,” Darius added as he entered the lab and closed the door.
“Release signed?” Thorne spoke without looking up. “Payment in order?”
“What on earth are you playing at?” Darius startled Thorne with the question, causing him to look up from the notepad on which he was busy typing notes.
“Playing? I’m not playing, I’m researching.”
Darius closed the distance between them, admiring the majesty of the contraption that filled the desk beside the gray haired engineer. “I hear they’re not going to renew your funding next semester, what’s to become of the genome jammer?”
Thorne winced at the term, “Gene Code Reprogrammer, and once I’ve secured a corporate sponsor, or a less impotent government one then its future won’t be in jeopardy.
Darius stopped in front of the Doctor and his machine, noting the snapshots of the girl who’d just left on its display, a brown eyed before and the striking electric blue after shot, along with long strands of double helixed code in constant motion. “So you’re going to sell this to a cosmetics firm then? Or a circus? Changing eye colours really isn’t going to fund the kind of research you need to be doing to keep this dream alive, you do know that?” The doctor chided his old friend. “You’re going to have to show something really remarkable.”
Thorne thumbed his notepad, the security camera outside the office photographed the next waiting student and called up his file.
“Johann Yonnes,” he recited, “second string linebacker on the football team, two hundred five pounds, six foot four. He has dormant muscle mass code that we can reactivate, fast twitch in his legs for speed, slow twitch in his upper body for strength. We can put him on the first string next season.”
Darius shook his head. “Teams can always find better athletes, that’s not going to be enough.”
Thorne grinned. “I know, that’s just the carrot.” He pointed to the machine’s display and the streaming strands of colour coded DNA, mostly made up of vivid colour pairs, but some sections were clouded and grey. “These sections here,” Thorne jabbed his fingers at the screen, stopping a coil from turning and then rotating it back and zooming in by planting one hand on the glass, fingers together then spreading them outward. “Here,” he tapped a single grey pair in a sea of colour, “here is a possible payoff. I give them the carrot, then flip a combination of these mystery switches and see what we get. They come back every few weeks for follow up tests, and we figure out what we’ve accomplished. I’m expediting my trials a little.”
Darius stood for a moment, mouth opening and closing soundlessly. Finally he stammered “These are students, children, you’re messing with the lives of children…”
Thorne waved him off. “I load their DNA here,” he waved at an arm cuff and bank of needles at one end of the machine, “I recode their genes and replace them, then reboot their sequence, wait and test. If they last five minutes they’ll last a week, and anything harmful I undo the same way.” He gestured to his datapad, “I keep notes.”
Outside Johann checked his watch impatiently.
In the stairwell of Hawkfel Residence, a brilliantly blue eyed girl curled shaking on the landing, wing stalks forcing their way violently out from between her shoulder blades.
Author : Colin W Campbell
When it all started, Duke was just one of these overpaid, do anything, off-home-world operatives.
The planet administrators were little impressed when he asked for a Council Meeting to propose a new section for what he called dirty-tricks. What happened at that meeting is now well written into the lore.
“So, why do we need dirty-tricks?” said one admin-guy.
“Look,” said Duke pointing to the clock on the wall.
Of course, their eyes went to the clock so they didn’t see Duke throw his water-bottle into the corner of the room. It made a noise loud enough to make them all jump and for the security-guys to reach towards the well concealed tools of their trade.
“So what?” said the admin-guy. “Now we know the time.”
“Yes, and I know where their weapons are,” said Duke.
They gave Duke his section. It was small at first but soon grew strong as the young planetary colony fought to survive its early years of political intrigue, pirate incursions, unequal trade deals, attempted coups and so on, the usual.
At first, it operated under gentle cover names. For a while it was The Office for Planetary Welfare then it grew into the Department for the Protection of Planetary Welfare. However, any young colony is pretty much a small closed society and soon everyone was calling it the “Ministry of Dirty Tricks.” Then at one Council Meeting that followed on from a generous lunch, they made it official. It was formally proposed, seconded and agreed and the department was raised to the status of a full Ministry and so Duke formally became the Minister of Dirty Tricks.
In the years that followed, anything published by Duke’s ministry became a collectors piece. Any well authenticated item bearing the heading “Ministry of Dirty Tricks” could command a high price at auction. Many thought this went a long way to explain how Duke was becoming ever wealthier. Others thought it might go only some little way to explaining his success but knew it would be best to keep such thoughts to themselves.
Concern grew back on the home world, for Duke’s power and influence were spreading unchecked across the known occupied reaches of the galaxy. An assassin was sent.
* * *
Jake knew well that would be assassins should not touch alcohol. But the ladies who worked as hostesses on the deep-space transports were well known for their discretion and it was a very long journey.
“It’s OK,” said the lady with the sky blue eyes and the expensive perfume. “You can only imagine how very discrete we can be here.”
It was not long before the drink was taking effect but Jake was careful to say nothing of his mission.
“Time to go now,” she said. Her sky blue eyes had a beckoning look and her hand felt reassuringly firm on Jake’s arm.
“Wow!” said Jake as he stumbled to his feet. “That is powerful stuff.” He gestured broadly towards his last glass, knocking it over.
“Don’t worry, I know where you’re going,” she said as they set off. Her words had a faraway quality as they echoed down the now mostly empty passageways of the deep-space transport.
And then they were there.
“So, this the way into your quarters?” said Jake, Turning, he saw a heavy door close behind him with his companion still outside.
“Actually, it’s an airlock,” said the lady with the sky blue eyes, the lady from the Ministry of Dirty Tricks.
Author : TJMoore
I’m starting to get a little worried now.
Some more kids stopped by to visit Adrian today.
At first it was just his friends, kids that I know and have met before. Now, it seems like every teenager in the county is stopping by.
Almost as troubling is the fact that his friends don’t seem to come by at all anymore.
I thought I saw one or two of them a week ago sitting in a car along the road, like they were waiting for someone or something.
Now, it’s just strangers who say they know Adrian from school, but I don’t know them.
I’m not even sure why they come. Adrian’s condition hasn’t changed. He still lies perfectly still in the bed, staring at the ceiling, whispering.
I tried to make sense of what he was saying, even recording it to slow it down or speed it up, but it’s just unintelligible noise.
At first, the scientists at the university were asking a lot of questions. Questions about how and where he found the strange metallic shell.
Now, they don’t even answer my calls and the offices where they work are mostly vacant. I don’t even know where the shell is now.
I’m not even sure the shell is to blame for Adrian’s condition. How can listening to a shell cause such a catatonic state?
I think it’s just coincidence, but still, it is very peculiar that he went into that fugue state right when he put that shell to his ear.
The really disturbing thing is that I thought one of the kids I saw sitting in the car was also staring ahead and whispering.
I’m really starting to get a little worried now.
Author : Jack Barton
‘Joy, joy, I wish joy to you all.’ Karl raised his arms as he addressed the crowd. ‘And joy is what you shall have, if you can accept it.’ Beaming, he eyed the hesitant audience. It wasn’t just junkies and religious zealots anymore; there were businessmen here now, students, even a few families with young children. Word had spread.
‘Nothing could be simpler, nothing could be more worthwhile. If you sign up tonight, you’ll be corrected before next week. Perhaps some of you have things to do on Monday morning, things you’re not looking forward to? Get corrected now, and whatever you have to do on Monday, the tough job, the break up, the funeral… it will seem like a picnic, like a walk in the park. It will be joyful.’
He allowed himself a long pause and clocked those who were biting their lips or rubbing their temples, those about to break.
But don’t take my word for it,’ he continued. ‘Here are some folks who signed up at the last session. Please welcome the corrected.’
The applause grew as two columns of people, smiling amiably, strode on to the stage.
Karl let the applause slow before bounding across the stage and thrusting his microphone into the face of the first volunteer.
‘You sir, what made you get corrected?’ The man blinked in the spotlight, but spoke clearly. ‘I worked for the same firm for thirty years and was passed over for promotion several times. When I asked my boss about it he said I’m too old to be promoted now. I was angry, but now I’ve been corrected I can accept it and move on.’
‘Great.’ said Karl, ‘and has your personality changed?’
‘No. Not my personality. I’m just happier now.’
Karl spun around and held the microphone in front of a small woman. ‘And what’s your story?’
‘I fell out with my son when he told me he was gay. We hadn’t spoken for years, but the correction changed how I feel, and now we’re speaking again.’
‘And did the process hurt?’ asked Karl.
‘Oh no, not at all. You go to sleep for an hour and then…joy.’
There was more applause as Karl went up to another, younger woman.
She giggled nervously for a second. ‘My husband and child were killed in a car crash. I was very depressed for a long time and even tried to commit suicide. But now I’m corrected, I don’t even miss them.’
Shaky applause followed and Karl asked her, ‘Is getting corrected better than taking the anti-depressants dear?’
‘Oh yes,’ she said, ‘much better. They just drowned my feelings. Now I’m corrected, thinking about my child fills me with joy.’
Karl accelerated and started to leap around the stage, rapidly cycling through the speakers.
‘My wife cheated on me, but I’ve been able to easily able to forgive her and my brother.’
‘I’m long-term unemployed, but I don’t mind.’
‘My ex-wife won’t let me see the kids. Which is fine.’
‘Now I have joy, I don’t need heroin.’
Karl kept the wild applause going as the group shuffled off the stage, standing motionless in the centre until there was silence. When it finally came, he held a small silver tube aloft, feeling every eye in the house fixating on it.
‘It’s bigger than people expect,’ he said, ‘and it actually goes around the top of the spinal column, not in the brain. It weighs six grams, it’s three centimetres long and it lasts forever. It will change your life; it is joy. Stand up if you can accept it.
Author : Donald O’Barra
“You’re so full of shit, Barry,” said Kent.
“No, I’m serious. I was reading about gene activation. They’ve managed to wake up really old genes in lab mice. What if humans thousands of years ago all had superpowers? What if they could fly or something and we just forgot how?”
“So I take it that your X-Men box set arrived, then?” asked Kent.
“Well yes,” said Barry, “but that has nothing to do with it. Look at the pyramids. They’re huge. They didn’t have machinery back then like we do now. The only way they could have built those is if they were super strong.”
“I read that they used ramps and levers. And they had a huge manual labour force”
“How do we know?” asked Barry defensively.
“Well, we don’t. But that’s the most logical explanation.” said Kent.
“See? I read somewhere that the pyramids are even older than we think. They just didn’t have the technology to do something like that. And anyway, they would take centuries to build with ramps and levers.”
“So that’s what you’re basing this on? The pyramids?”
“Not just the pyramids! What about those Nazi lines in South America? They’re pictures that can only be seen from the air. What would be the point if we couldn’t fly?” asked a triumphant Barry.
“Nazca Lines,” corrected Kent,” and those could have been done with rope and a brain.”
“But why do it at all if nobody could see them?”
Kent thought for a while and replied, “To pay homage to their gods, I suppose.”
“That brings me to another point!” cried Barry. There were little balls of spit forming at the corners of his mouth. “What if all these legends of gods and things were just people remembering how things used to be? It’s still happening! What if Superman is just a story about a normal, prehistoric human?”
“You seriously believe that we used to be super strong and be able to fly? What sense would it make for us to get weaker?”
“Aha! I’m glad you asked. Civilisation, man. Civilisation killed us. Think about it. We were suddenly banding together so we didn’t need to be so individually strong. And and and look at the dinosaurs! They were WAY stronger than the animals that we have now.”
“And the flying? Surely that would have been useful, even in civilised culture.” Kent allowed himself a smirk. Surely Barry wouldn’t have an answer for this one. Airplanes were only invented a hundred years ago.
“Well they didn’t have the technology to build skyscrapers, right? So all their buildings were squat and small. Flying would actually be a hindrance there! Evolution, man. You can’t be reproducing if you’re floating off all the time.” There was a manic glint in Barry’s eye.
“What about hunting?” asked Kent, trying to beat Barry with his own twisted logic.
“Oh, that would be silly. The prey would see you coming if you attacked from the air. You need ground cover.” said Barry dismissively, lighting a cigarette.
“I can’t believe that my sister is marrying you.” said Kent.
“So anyway,” said Barry, shrugging off the comment, “back to activating dormant genes. If they can do it in mice, why can’t they do it in humans? Just think about it! We could all be superheroes again. I’m going to become a biologist. They’ll give me a Novel prize or something!”
“Nobel,” corrected Kent automatically. “Listen, Barry, your psychotic ramblings have been entertaining as always but I’m late for class. I’ll catch you later.” Kent walked away, his feet never touching the ground.
“Yeah, bye, man.” said Barry staring at his cigarette, a preoccupied look of deep thought on his face.
Author : David Barber
The woman sitting the other side of the table is Jan Fierro, the Department chief. We’ve never talked much, I mean, I’m just a jack aren’t I? Though once I photoshopped a great nude pinup of her and posted it in the men’s changing room as a joke. I never found who took it down.
She switches on the tape. “For the record.”
“Charlie, Charles Fort. Officer with the GenderPol. And yes, I know Cris Johnson, she was my partner for three years.”
Fierro pushes the first file across the table.
“Yeh, I remember this one. His ex called him in. Porn collection. Really old vids. 2D on magnetic tape.”
“And you and Officer Johnson disagreed about it.”
“Look, we all know porn can incite gynocrime, but this was just a hobby. Jacks collect stuff. Friend of mine has a classic Toyota Camry that runs on gasoline.”
Fierro is about to put him right.
“I know what theory says, but he was no rapist.”
“In your opinion. And what did the law decide?”
“Oh, biochemical castration. Behaviour mods. Temporal lobe remodeling, the lot.”
“But you don’t approve.”
“Crime against women’s down isn’t it? It’s just… No. Nothing.”
She’s sitting, with legs crossed. And one kneecap gleams bone white. It’s enough. Something feral slips the leash and gorges on the swelling and the tightness in the silk; in the flesh. Oh, he’s rescued them all, accepted their chaste kiss, nightly moves their limbs according to his pleasure.
He reads the other file upside down.
“I thought you’d bring that one up. Cris really hated all that stuff. Never knew what you were plugging into. He was wearing a silverlace and…”
“For the record.”
“…a neural interface for total immersion software. Didn’t even know we’d crashed his door. The sim wasn’t a media face. Some woman the jack knew maybe. All it takes is a picture and some software…”
Wearily, I explain the software maps faces onto bodies, so you can have sex with any woman you like using a silverlace.
“Yes, I know a lot about it, it’s my job. And I resent the implication.”
Fierro hands me a statement to read.
“I have never used morphing software involving… Cris Johnson? She said that?”
“Sit down Officer Fort. Unless you’re resigning.”
On the street it’s what they call being jack-knifed.
This was the time I said something about victimless crime and Cris really stomped me. Desensitization theory. Learning to think about women as objects. But I never thought about Cris like that. She was my partner.
Fierro knew something, the bitch.
“As it happens, I don’t think it does affect me.”
I’m clenching my teeth so hard they hurt.
Jack. Their mouthes are red as wounds. Gaping with talk. How I despise them, their clacking heels and ripe ovaries. They do not know me yet. My will be stronger than that blithe flesh. They shall suffer and become wise…
“Yeh, I’ve heard the new scanners can hack right into your dreams. I also know it’s not compulsory.”
Fierro smiles. You have to guess she only uses it for special occasions.
“For the record.”
“That’s my signature, yes.”
“Easy for you to say. Just thinking about women will be a crime soon.”
All gynocrime begins in men’s heads.
“How long before this is compulsory?”
Ask yourself what you have to hide.
“What, from the Thought Police?”
This is a test.
The headset is part of the scanner. The drug encourages free association. Fantasizing. Here is a picture of a female colleague.