Frame of Reference

Author : J. S. Kachelries

“Well, what do you think?” asked my roommate, with a grin that appeared to cover almost half of his disheveled face.

“About what, Jim?” I replied, while pretending to ignore the large polished chrome sphere sitting between us, in the middle of our kitchen table.

“Come on, Isaac. What do you think of my doctorate project, The Graviton Shield?”

“It looks a metal basketball to me. What’s it supposed to do?”

“Besides win me a Noble Prize? Well, when I activate it, it will become unaffected by gravitational fields.”

“You mean it will float?”

He laughed. “Of course not, you idiot. You Liberal Arts majors really crack me up. It still has inertia. You know…Newton’s first law. It must continue to move in a strait line in whatever direction it was moving when I threw the switch. Do you know what direction that will be? Hell, of course you don’t. Look, the Earth rotates in 24 hours. At our latitude, we’re moving at about 700 miles per hour. Without Earth’s gravity holding it down, the GS Ball will drift upward toward the west. He pointed toward the top of the refrigerator. In addition, the Earth also orbits around the sun. Let’s see, that’s 587,000,000 miles in 365.25 days. That’s 67,000 miles per hour. At this time of day, the Ball will continue to move toward Epsilon Tau.” He pointed toward the window above the sink. “Of course, we’re also revolving around the center of the Milky Way. Let’s see…that’s…”

“OK, OK, I get it. Just tell me where to stand, so it won’t hit me if it actually moves.”

“Oh, you’re fine right where you are. The battery will only last about 30 seconds. Just long enough to prove it works.” He reached over and flipped the toggle switch on the top of the Ball. But the Ball didn’t move. Regardless, Jim jumped up and began to dance around the kitchen, cheering and shouting “Oh yea, oh yea, I knew it. Take that bitch!”

“Whoa, Jim. Calm down. It didn’t work.”

“Don’t you guys take any science classes? Of course it worked. Had everybody, including my ex-girlfriend, been correct, that Ball should have exited the kitchen, stage right. But it didn’t. Don’t you see what that means? Duh, I guess I’ll have to explain that to you too. Mary Jane, my ex, said I was a self centered, egotistical, narcissistic bastard, who thought the universe revolved around him…..What, you still don’t understand? The Ball didn’t move! God, you’re slow. If the center of the universe was really somewhere out there in the cosmos, we’d have a hole in kitchen wall. Therefore, I must be the center of the universe. Everything does revolve around me. I’ve got to send her an IM.” He reached under the table and brought out his laptop.

I sat there motionless while I tried to decide if I should call the psychotic helpline, or just get up and run like hell. That’s when I noticed that the Ball was moving very slowly to my left. Although I hadn’t noticed until now, it had actually moved about a foot since Jim had flipped the switch, right down the center of the table. As I carefully watched its path, it began to curve away from me as its battery began to die. Huh, I thought, it looks like it’s trying to make a big circle, a little bigger than a hula-hoop, with Jim smack dab in the middle. “Well, I’ll be damned!”

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Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Featured Writer

I was on a hostile node, and a half-dozen Dahakeen were chasing me. With guns. Quite big ones. I didn’t have a weapon at this point, having lost it in the factory complex that I was now hot-footing it away from. Well, ‘lost’ is a bit of a stretch. I had it taken from me by a guard. He ripped out the firing mechanism in front of my eyes. The idiot then turned away to place the clip down on a shelf. When he turned back, he met my cosh coming the other way. On reflection, he was probably the one who tipped the Dahakeen onto me. What made it eerie was the fact that there was no noise of gunfire, just low thuds, followed by patches of tarmac ahead of me glowing cherry-red and splintering, before they would explode. I thanked code that Dahakeen couldn’t run and shoot straight at the same time.

I scrambled through the half-ruined doorway and bolted towards the stairs. The building was oppressively dark, but my eyes were slowly compensating. I threw myself onto the first floor landing, and carried on up. As I turned to start up the next set of stairs, there was another barrage of thuds, and a ripple of explosions as significant chunks of the structure exited this mortal realm. I had made it about halfway up the stairs when I heard another thud, and felt a bright, screaming pain in my leg. A microprojectile had whipped through my foot and exploded in the stair beneath me. My calf was a mess, laced through with thick shards of wood.

I pulled myself back up, and forced myself up the stairs, round onto the landing, and up onto the next flight. My leg was hurting like hell, but I couldn’t stop. I looked up, and my heart sank. About half-way up the flight the stairs disappeared, only to restart about a metre higher. No way I could jump it with my leg like this.

Then she stepped out, framed by the diffused light of the window behind her. She saw me, and didn’t hesitate, but descended as far as the gap, and held out a hand. I scrambled to the drop and caught hold of it. She hauled me over the gap, and upright. She fitted her small shoulder under my arm, and with her help, I walked. We made it to the top of the stairs, then round onto the landing. I collapsed there, gasping from the pain of walking on my ruined leg. I looked up at her.

She grinned down at me, her skin looking ash-white in the half-light, the shape of her face clearly defined against the shadow. With an easy motion, she ripped the activator on a health patch, and slapped it over my wound. She turned, reached into the shadows behind her, and withdrew a gun. It was not as big as the one she had across the back of her long jacket, but was plenty big enough for my tastes. The barrel on her weapon looked like it would be able to swallow my arm. Below us, past the broken stairs, the sounds of the dahakeen were easily audible. They were searching for me, and would not take long to reach this landing, even with the broken stair.

She saw my worry, and pressed a slender finger to her lips. They were the darkest red I’d ever seen, like cochineal. There was a bang, and she looked up, suddenly, and moved slowly to the stairwell. For several seconds, she just stood there. Then, slowly, she returned over to me. Sidling closer, she pressed her lips almost to my ear, the only sound the gentle rustling of her coat against the floor.

“I can get you out of here. Trust me.”

Sliding the gun around from her back, she tapped a control, and it whined, as capacitors accumulated charge. She winced as the sound grew, before smiling at me one more time and jumping over the gap in the stair. Her arrival below was suddenly punctuated by a ripple of explosions, and the harsh, high report of a mass driver.

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Author : Joshua Reynolds

“This isn’t good for you.” The words were flat. Colorless. No echoing thoughts behind them, no chorus of agreement, disagreement, no shared community opinion.

Just the words.

Stanley smiled and nodded. It felt good to nod. To use physical muscles as opposed to metaphysical. Felt right. Felt real. And reality was what he wanted. What he craved. Harsh, bland reality. To feel, to touch, to taste what was really there.

It was the whole reason he’d pulled the plug. His plug. His fingers touched the scabby hole in the side of his temple where the aether-jack had been implanted when he was six. So he could join the World-Wide Web, be a part of the community and share the world. In the twenty years since, he’d come to one inescapable conclusion.

He was not a fan of sharing.

“Are you listening to me? I can’t tell if you’re listening to me or not.” Sarah said, tapping the words into her keypad even as they fled her lips. Stanley sighed.

“Of course you can’t tell. You aren’t looking at me.”

“I am so. If you’d just put your plug back in I could see you fine.” She typed. Her eyes remained glued to the flat screen before her. They were green. He leaned across the table and examined them. He hadn’t realized. You only got so much from emoticons, even these days.

“Do you know what color my eyes are?” He asked her, looking at her and not her screen. Her face wrinkled in confusion and her fingers hesitated on the keyboard. But she still didn’t look at him. How long had they been married? Three years? Two? Had she ever looked at him?

“What does that matter? Why are you doing this? We only want what’s best for you.”

Ah. The peanut gallery is heard from, Stanley thought. An ambush sprung. He stood and twisted her screen around to face him. Several dozen avatars floated in orderly columns all adding their two-cents to the debate. As per usual. Intervention by forum. Words spilled across the screen in a deluge of emoticons and parentheses backslash frowny faces. It looked like everyone was here. Friends. Family. Why there was Pastor Milkes. All begging for him to give it up. To give up his addiction. Give up the harsh realm. Stanley blinked at the outpouring of love and caring. He remembered what it was like in there. Where everyone knew your name. Knew everything about you.

Out here it was so quiet.

So quiet.

Out here, no one knew anything about you. Or what you thought.

He liked it that way.

He tapped the screen and Sarah jumped in her seat. Avatars blinked and flashed and words in pastel colors were vomited across the screen. He bent down and kissed Sarah on the top of her head. His fingers brushed the cord trailing from her temple.

With a twist of his fingers he pulled it out.

Turnabout was fair play after all.

One intervention was as good as another.

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Through the Looking Glass

Author : Chris Ferguson & Lucas Atkinson

Malcovitch polished the lens pensively, knowing it was ridiculous. But he was a traditionalist, and even if it would be computers looking, not him, image decoders, descramblers, adjusters, effectors and compensators it was comforting to see it with his own eyes. He fitted it in place, tightened the screws the knobs carefully and peered through. There it was, the dark speck of the wormhole, as everyone had seen it for three and a half hundred years, scientists infuriated by artifacts that exhibited slightly different values of pi, geometry no longer behaving.

He sighed, leaned back, and booted up the machines that would carefully freeze the station’s real telescope to near-absolute zero temperatures. He sipped his coffee, listening to the machines groan beneath him. A moment later he flicked on another line of switches, one by one. The screen in front of him flashed blue, then twisted into a field of static. Even this behemoth of a telescope could not peer into the heart of the wormhole. He sighed, once more, then engaged one last program. This has to work, he thought. The program has been checked a hundred times now. There were only days before the Schrodinger’s Apocalypse Cult would find the legal leverage to shut down the station completely.

The lights flickered and the surface of his coffee rippled. Slowly, the screen hovering over the console shuddered and drew an image. There he was, on the screen. He was staring at his own back, he thought, except – he turned around. Nothing there. He turned back to the screen. The Station shuddered again, harder. He stared again. It was him – or – was his hair that dark? That long? And there was something wrong about where the walls met the floor, something too angular – Oh, he, thought, quietly, Damn.


“Doctor Malcovitch? Is everything all right?”

“Yes, John. It was very strange, though, for a moment.” She leaned back, sipped her tea, and petted the black cat that slept in its bed on the console. “It was like looking in a mirror, seeing yourself again and again and again.”

“Another failure?”

“Yes,” She sighed. “Check the program again. We don’t have much time.”

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Emotion Isn't A Programmed Function

Author : Kaitlin

Battle raged on around him, the constant sounds of gunfire ringing in his programmed earlike audio receptors. He, however, was oblivious to anything but the almost lifelike pain near where his navel would be, where the bullet had pierced his stark green casing.

For the first time in his battery powered life, he wished himself dead, unable to function, in electronic terms. The war was one-sided, and he knew he was on the losing side. His opponents were hell bent on destroying every robot created.

Once, before the human race realized they had made themselves disposable, RC926’s counterparts and the mammalian population of Earth had gotten along, but after the new leaders had been elected, the entirety of humanity had found that they were no longer necessary in this world and had been aggravated by that fact. RC926’s visual receptors which mimicked human pupils grew large as a sort of shocking blue fluid leaked from around the bullet hole.

As he lay himself down, the robot gave one last humanlike sigh, almost filled with emotion. Almost.

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