Alternate 8927HG

Author : Joshua Reynolds

Rifles barked and Censor Wight grunted with the impact of each slug. High-velocity bullets. Unpleasant. A lucky shot had disrupted the light-bending circuitry. He continued to run, hugging his burden to his chest and weaving between the columns thrusting upward through the orange sands of Mars. Behind him the aether-troops of the German Reich followed, air-guns whistling. Their scientist-kings had discovered the Time-Doors in an abandoned Martian Citadel in their home-alternate of 8926HF and, being a neo-facist sliding expansion empire, had decided to invade an alternate Mars. As one does in these situations, apparently.

Why people couldn’t be happy with what they had, Wight didn’t know. He was happy after all. How hard could it be?

Of course, the problem was that these particular Martians, the ones the Reich had just wiped out, were scheduled to invade this alternate’s Earth in the year 1888. And really if you let people mess with the schedules, you were inviting anarchy. Chaos. Free will. He shuddered. Terrible thought.

The Censor vaulted over a tumbled column, his free hand dipping into his coat as he rolled to his feet and pulled the buzz-gun holstered there. He pulled the trigger and the first of the black armored soldiers to follow him over the column tumbled backwards as the Imp bullet chewed through his armor and burrowed into his heart. Rifles cracked and the Censor scrambled for cover. That would encourage them to be more cautious. Give him time to do his job. He holstered the pistol awkwardly and tapped the side of his head. On the insides of his eyelids an infinity of free-floating cubicles appeared, a panorama of images within images. The eternal bureacracy of the Timeline Validation Bureau.

“Report.” A cacaphony of voices whispered in his head.

“I have secured the package. Permission to scour Alternate 8927HG of interference.”

“Permission granted.”

The Censor smiled and ran his fingers gently down the inseam of his coat, activating the Ellison cells. A ripple spread outward from his crouched figure even as the rest of his pursuers finally regained their courage and swept towards him. The ripple grew and spread like a soap bubble expanding. As it hit them, the aether-troops wavered and vanished. So too would their base-camp and eventually their ships in orbit. In fact, all non-natives of Alternate 8927HG would be erased from this time-line. Except for him, of course. After all, what would be the use of a Censor who got himself censored? None at all, obviously.

The Censor smiled as a thousand men and women blinked out of existence. He did so enjoy his job. He looked down at the burden he’d been carrying. Bundled together in a red scrap of cloth two Martian eggs sat, leathery and black. The Censor laid them gently against the column where they would be protected from the elements. Eventually they would hatch, spawn and invade. According to schedule.

Good for them.

He looked down at the eggs and smiled.

“You’re welcome,” he said as he disappeared.

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Red String

Author : RFK

There is a 65% chance I’m thinking with you now, though your scientists believe it to be smaller if you’ve heard of me at all.

Although I found you mammals late in the Cretaceous period, I was legion when the Cenozoic era began. I started with small marsupial-like rodents who later because extinct. Conquest and expansion are my way; peace is incomprehensible. I infected their favorite food source – a small insect then prevalent. There, I latched on to their light sensing apparatus in the cerebral ganglia. Usually, light was the bugs’ bane – their predators devoured them in droves if they stayed up too far into morning. By worming my way in an axon here, a dendrite there, I made the entire speies average staying 32 minutes later in the daylight. They were devoured. The extinction bothered me not; I had already escaped.

And so I entered my next hosts. And many more after that…across eras endlessly evolving – through marsupials, birds, cats, many others – until I came to your kind. You were larger and cannier, seeming champions of your own destiny as you brazenly wielded your neocortical wealth to the detriment of your prey. But we evolved together, with my kin warping you in so many ways. Some drove your ancestors mad, but these were just driven from the herd and left to die alone, as did we. Some inflamed the skin, making boils that would launch us into the air, hoping to find a new host quickly but seldom so lucky. These infected were shunned as well – many were burned when you evolved religions and rites – precursors to your hated germ theory.

But I survived. I was subtle. A guanine here, a thymine there was all it took. Such a wonderful playground your species is! I had more than 100x the body mass to propagate in and 1000x the neurons compared to those ancient rodents. I didn’t have just a photoreceptor array to alter; I had an infinity of subtle ways I could advantage myself. Some failed, like the boils, but some did not. Thankfully, many did not.

I affect your soma and your sex but mostly your brain and mind. My touch is subtle – you are bolder because of me. The same tricks I used to make mice more readily eaten by cats make you reach out and explore, try new things. Your social rites that make you touch – that was me. The insecurity many of you feel in the depths of your soul drives you to one another to desperately assuage the longing I induce. Even better, one in a hundred of your girl children I turn male and infect in the womb. I give him other advantages that you see and admire. I only care that he is fertile, desirous of creating many offspring and skilled in doing so because of me.

Call me toxoplasma gondii. And you are mine.

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Author : Daniel Nugent

The stars shone coldly through the solar plane of the binary system XJ-22V. At a point 100,000 kilometers away from the lone planet in the system, space began to warp itself in such a way that if you looked at it, you would vomit. Which is what the grey, blast-marked ship resembled as it was ejected from the cross-dimensional tear.

A moment elapsed and the ship’s antimatter annihilation engines came to life, hurtling towards the gravity well of the planet. As it breached the atmosphere, its hull, bristling with menacing tubes began to glow with friction. By the time the ship slammed to an abrupt stop 20,000 meters above the surface of the planet its skin was glowing white hot. Again a pause of but a moment and the ship shot off again, slower than before, but still leading an immense sonic boom through the acidic atmosphere.

As the ship slowed, now a mere 500 meters above the surface, the belly of the half flattened, convex hull split and a series of electric eyes and sensory apparatus emerged. They picked apart the bizarre, slooping alien flora and disfigured landscape atom by atom, searching for the ship’s destination. The olfactory boom picked up a chemical signature that matched the designated profile. All the eyes swiveled in the direction that the scent had come from and pinpointed the origin. The craft’s organelles retracted and its belly sealed again.

The ship maneuvered to the destination and again dropped like a rock, this time with landing pads extended. The ship didn’t slam, so much as pat the ground. Even as it was settling into the marshy earth, a circular airlock on its side swiveled and hissed as atmosphere escaped.

A biped in a khaki colored suit that made him look like a scarab emerged from the portal and mounted a ladder leading to the ground, a boxy kit on his back. After jumping off the last rung, he looked at a panel on his wrist and walked up to the precipice of a small cliff, his suit trailing noxious gases as the atmosphere slowly dissolved it.

Looking down into the pit below, he saw what he was there for: A massive, black-green, tentacled figure, shiny and oozing. He flipped on his suit’s external speaker and said loudly, “Hi, I’ve got a package for a Mister Xelquarkle?”

“I’m him,” said the hideous terror from beyond the stars, with a timbre in its voice that could curdle milk.

“Okay, I’ll just need you to sign here,” said the man, extending a pad and a stylus. Two tentacles grabbed them and scribbled a tainted symbology upon the pad, which promptly melted.

“Oh, sorry…”

“Nah, don’t worry, that’s the third one that’s done that this week. Here’s your package.”

“Thank you!”

“Have a nice day.”

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The Metaphorical Car For The New Generation

Author : Idan Cohen

The car was like lightning beneath the curve of his body, electricity and steam pumping in unholy unison to create a movement that was never meant for mortal men. Cities flashed by the windows, kaleidoscopic – Petrograd, Birmingham, Chicago, Tel Aviv, a thousand thousand more. Forests gave birth to deserts and became oceans that became plains.

His instructor smiled lightly, gently guiding his hand on the gears, the wheel, knowing the car as if born within it, born to it. The road was gravel beneath them, and concrete, and the sky, and the stars themselves bore their signs. They drove, and the wind caressed their travel.

At last, they stopped – whirlwind dash was withheld, for now.

Jimmy laughed.

The time traveling space car was the best thing ever.

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Dealing with the devil

Author : V.L. Ilian

“Have you come to a decision?”

The voice of the negotiator is breaking my concentration. Just like I’ve been told… it’s a fair deal but I can’t help feeling like I’m selling my soul.

“Some feel that they’re selling themselves but that is simply not the case.”

“But this isn’t what I wanted to do with my life”

“And nobody will stop you from pursuing your goals in life. Some of the other members lead absolutely normal lives outside the compounds, protected by our anonymity program and enjoying the extra income that comes from royalties. However one look at your dossier tells me that with the royalties you’ll be receiving you’ll never have to work again.”

He has a funny way of putting it. Just the thought of the weekly sessions with doctors and machines poking and prodding me for the rest of my life…

“You’ll even help people. Every bit of data gathered from studying you will lead to great discoveries”

“What about any of my future children?”

“They’ll be offered a similar deal when they come of age but they’re free of any obligations”

My hand picks up the pen and I feel the sting of the samplers as they draw my blood to mix it with the ink. As I hand him the signed contract the negotiator stands up and shakes my hand.

“Welcome to the Superhuman Protection Alliance”

But his words did not come from his mouth…

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