Present Tense

Author : Ian Burke

“Today” marks the end of history. Yesterday it was June 25th, 1995 AD (CE, if you prefer). “Today” can be marked in no such terms. Yesterday, “today” was the 26th of June, but “now,” none of that matters anymore. This “morning,” the Hole opened up – the Hole, which began in the year formerly known as 2309 and “now” reaches back to what “was” “today.” “Now” the fourth dimension is just as easily navigable as the first three.

But it will not stop “here.” The hole will continue to tunnel back through history, tearing up the past. There is talk of trying to save a small part of the timeline – a true historical preserve! – although the methods behind this are unclear at best. The Hole will not stop until it stretches to the soon-to-be former Beginning of Time and our universe, once a long string of yesterdays, will become one single “today.”

The Mythical Princess

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

The teacher, the senticyborg and the children sat in a circle on logs in the woods. In the beginning of the semester they had constructed their outdoor classroom as an assignment in team building. The canopy above them made patterns of yellow light on the soft grass.

“Who can tell me who our world is named after?” Asked the teacher. A few of the older children rolled their eyes – this was old material for them.

Reading their social signals, the senticyborg prompted one of the older children. “If you know the story, please share with those who do not. I will assist you in the telling.”

This excited the children, who enjoyed the interactive storytelling feature of the senticyborg, which would change shape depending on the stories that the children told. Usually, the senticyborg was silver and blue, but it could change to many shapes and colors to help teach the children.

“Well,” said the child “Our planet is named after a mythological 20th century Princess. This Princess was very strong, and no matter what she faced, she could overcome all problems.” The senticyborg changed shape into the figure of a striking woman with long dark hair. “This Princess was one of the greatest fighters the world has ever known, a master of medicine, and a great leader.”

The primary teacher folded her hands on her lap. “Can someone else tell us about what the circle that the Princess carried represents?”

A younger child stood up, holding a green leaf. “Um, it represents the connection of things with each other. People can throw things out and it will come back to them.”

“That’s right.” Said the primary teacher. “Her circle is a weapon, a method of protection but it is also a symbol of community. On the celebration of our liberation from the Corporate Beltway, we make circles of food or jewelry and give them to each other to represent our common link, and our dedication to protecting our community.” The senticyborg was showing her metal circle to the children.

“Can we learn to fight like the Princess?” asked one of the girls.

“The Princess believed in protecting people, so maybe instead of learning to fight, we should learn to protect each other, what do you think?”

“Can the Princess teach us?” asked a child

“Yeah!” cried out one of the children. “Can the Princess do it?”

“Maybe if she catches the right program file, we can do a little bit of training.”

The senticyborg spoke. “I have found the correct program for this training.”

The teacher clapped her hands. “Wonderful.”

“After this, can we hear the story of how we got the second sun?” said an older child.

The teacher grinned. “Of course children, we will learn about our world, our suns, and all of man’s two hundred colonies.”

The Damage Done

Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Cyrus curled in the corner, hugging his aching legs to his chest as though they might crawl off without him were he to let them go. White hot grains of sand glassified in his retinas, and beads of sweat scraped down his flesh, each one making it’s presence felt with excruciating persistence. It may only have been a few hours, but it felt like days since he’d last had a shot. Time had ceased to be a relevant commodity, as he couldn’t trade it for a fix. He felt his stomach heave, but the sensation never left the empty pit of his gut.

“Commander, you seem to be poorly” the words ground their way through the haze as a face loomed in his field of vision, the image slightly out of sync with the noise coming from it as words. Double lids twitched over glistening emerald eyes, startling in their clarity, in sharp contrast to the shifting chitin and dancing shadows beyond.

“Please…” the sound of his own voice made him wince “please, I know you have some, help me.”

“Commander Cyrus,” the eyes slipped backwards into the darkness, the voice booming all around him now “surely you appreciate that these recreational pharmaceuticals you’re asking for, these require currency that you simply do not have”

“I’ve got other things, we can trade, I know things.” Pain shot like lancets up his spine to burst as cannon fire deep within his skull. Never had he suffered withdrawal this exquisitely painful before.

“Trade? Knowledge? Interesting.” There was an elongated pause, as the voice considered his offer “Perhaps you can help me with…” the was a pause again as the next words were carefully chosen “a freight difficulty.’ The face loomed once more in his peripheral vision, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn and look at it. “If one were to want to move cargo through the Earth shield, without interference, would you know how that could be accomplished? Could you help me with that?”. The articulation of each word made Cyrus flinch.

“If I help you, you’ll hook me up? No tricks?” There was a level of desperate excitement in his voice, one that brought what may have passed for a smile to the face of the towering creature.

“Yes, if you help me with my… transportation issue… I promise you will not suffer like this again”

“There was a mining portal on the dark side of the moon, beneath the old InterStar hangers” the words came surprisingly freely through the drumming pain in his skull “it’s been closed for decades, but the power station still works, and the portal’s still stable.” He burrowed his chin into his knees, his brain screaming with anticipation of relief.

“Thank you, Commander, you’ve been most helpful.” The great green face slipped out of the periphery to stare at Cyrus, face to face. “You and your people have taught us so much.”

“Taught? We haven’t taught you anything…” he waited anxiously, one arm relaxing it’s grip on his shins to expose his hypocite to the promise of an injector.

“Oh, we have learned much from your race my dear Commander Cyrus. You have no idea. We watched your people everywhere trading currency and flesh for chemical joy. We never could have conceived of a negotiating tool as powerful as addiction, or a lever as effective as your narcotics. Who would have thought the secrets of your civilization’s safe keeping, entrusted to military men like yourself, could be so freely liberated in exchange for something as trivial as a moment of manufactured ecstasy. But most of all, we’d forgotten how much more expedient violent conquest was when compared to traditional diplomatic relations. Oh yes, you humans have taken us back to our roots, and you’ve catapulted us far into our own futures.’ A vice like grip suddenly had Cyrus’ forearm, pulling it straight and holding it motionless. ‘Now, Commander, I do believe we had a deal, and I think you’ll find this generous enough to alleviate your conscience.’

The warm flood rippled up the Commanders arm, rolling in waves to his toes and up and over his head. For a moment, the room became strikingly clear, he saw the giant chitin plated alien that had first offered him a fix in a bar off base, coached him through his first purchase, and had always been around to hook him up when he needed a fresh hit. What was that on his chest, a military insignia? Was he a soldier? Pounding waves flooded through his head, and he was only momentarily aware of the feed, still jutting skyward from his forearm, as it relieved him of all responsibility.

The Hero and the Man of Saiyen

Author : Hannah F.

The man of Saiyen was small and nervous-looking, not nearly as mystical as I expected, wandering into these ancient strongholds; like a Peasant or maybe a half-blood Noble boy, the kind that spent the days with their faces in paper.

“Is that a crossbow? Fascinating,” he said hurriedly. This was a panic reaction; I let him go, knowing sooner or later he’d run out of chatter and shut his teeth. “Obviously the surveillance devices haven’t been working but we’d theorized that the environment lacked enough stability for your society to develop even this kind of basic automation in your projectile weapons…” He was sweating and I had to chew my tongue to avoid a grin. I’d only caught about half of that ‘cos of his accent, but I understood the important part. He didn’t know what I wanted, so he’d started to babble, hoping I’d latch onto some topic and get the bolt out of his face more quickly.

I took a careful step back and laid the weapon down, still drawn and dangerous. The Saiyentist looked at it blankly. He knew what it was and what it was for, could wager what it’d feel like if I used it, but didn’t seem eager to try wresting it from me.

Eyes on him I unlaced the hard-hide pouch at my belt and lifted the cloth-wrapped vial from it. The glass tube and its case were from my uncle, a gift after my Modding. He’d dug it from the ruins of a building like this one, an eerily smooth white shell he’d never been able to find again.

“I want more of this,” I said, and folded back the soft, thick wool, cupping the thing in my hand in case the small man tried to snatch it, or dash it to the floor. The crossbow, though, cautioned him and he merely regarded the light-blue liquid with wide eyes.

“Where did you get that?” he began, but changed his mind when he saw the look in my eyes. “Do you know what it is?”

“I’ve been told it’s a poison, but only to certain natures. Won’t slay a man, but it’ll break down a dragon to its elements in under an arc.”

“It’s an emergency denaturing solution. It works by breaking down the chemicals in the cells and-” I was curious as a kitten but I must’ve looked impatient. “The important thing is, it works the way you say it does. Which is why we’ve kept it here in Obbsreg. But if you brought back a significant amount- even if we had a significant amount- it would interfere with the Ancestral Plan. As much as I’d like to help you I’m as bound by my forebears as you are.” He frowned. “You shouldn’t even be here, of course…”

“Wait.” If I had understood what he just said, I was about to be very, very angry. “You mean your ancestors are responsible for keeping the drake-poison from my people?” I tied off the laces of my pouch and retrieved my crossbow. “And you just… what? Study us?”

The Saiyentist frowned at that, in spite of the terror that’d returned to his face. After a moment puzzling my assumption out, he began to laugh. I could do nothing but stare as he worked out his panic in a giggle-fit, wiping tears from eyes that were still wide ‘cos of the proximity of my crossbow to his gut.

“Who said anything about my ancestors being responsible for this?”

I was going to have one hell of a tale, whenever I got home. “Tell me everything.”

Recruitment Tactics

Author : Kenyon Applebee & Bridget Webb

The stark woman set the blue incandescent lamp on a nearby crate and turned off her flashlight. “…Erin, would you like to sleep in a real bed again?” She wore black – military cut. The figures behind her were similarly dressed. They guarded the decaying elementary school as if against attack, though Erin couldn’t imagine these people hiding from street thugs like she’d had to.

Erin, scared, couldn’t stand. “Who are you? How do you know my name?”

“…How would you like to see your little sister again?”

Erin’s lower lip trembled, “Kitty?”

“She’s safe.”

Kitty had disappeared in the Newman Hill attack with the rest of her family. “You are the Terrorists!”

“…I suppose we are. You’re fourteen?”

“What do you want?”

“We want you to let us take care of you. How long have you been out here? Two weeks?”


“Through all the fighting and the burning?”

Tears began burning in Erin’s eyes. It had been a nightmare. She’d found no one to turn to…but… “You killed my parents!” she yelled, exploding to her feet.

A gun shifted in the darkness, aimed at her.

“We did. But we did not kill you, or your sister. And you are the reason I am here. If you stay out here, you will die. Have you been raped yet?”

Erin could not answer. She wanted to scream, to attack the woman, but… the guns.

“It doesn’t matter. We are not terrorists; we are,” pausing, “’international referees.’ We step in to stop egregious abuses of power, by becoming very skilled and very powerful. Education is very important here, isn’t it? It determines your social class. You are currently service class, no?”


“Were you going to be service class your whole life, like your parents?”

“No. I am… was… going to test into…” The absurdity of talking so casually to this woman struck her.

“But now?”

“…Now you want me to join you, after you killed my parents, and sabotaged my country. What gives you the right to ‘Referee’ everyone? To kill people?!”

The woman leaned smugly against the crates. “People kill each other every day. Sometimes you fight fire with fire. Besides, we don’t consider ourselves human. Not homo-sapiens anyway. Not anymore.”

“You use Forbidden Science,” Erin murmured.

“Genetic enhancements. We can give you some, if you like. Enhanced intelligence, coordination, strength – everything you’d need to make the world better.”

“How… how do you get away with it?

“No, Erin. The question is, are you coming with us? Our offer is grander than your wildest dreams. If you say no, we disappear. Now, choose.”

Erin hesitated. Sounds from outside filled the silence between them; a radio blaring, engines, a car alarm. About a block away, there was breaking glass followed by laughter. “Ok.”

They lead her onto the glidercraft parked on the soccer field. The woman hung back, pressed the transmitter below her ear. “Opal to Turquoise, I have a newborn.”

“Roger, Opal. That’s eight of eleven. Excellent work. Bring them in.”