Author : S. Clough aka ‘Hrekka’

“Excuse me, umm…”

“Can I help?” Roisin responded pleasantly, turning to see who had addressed her.

“My name’s Gillian…I’m looking for someone who could courier something for me…do you know…?” Gillian’s question tailed off. She had never been able to approach strangers with any degree of confidence.

Roisin hadn’t met Gillian before, and her Captain had taught her to be immediately cautious around strangers. ‘It isn’t possible to be too suspicious.’ These words became a mantra after a time. Strangers, especially here, at the races, made her particularly uneasy. Roisin had drawn up a graph before, charting proximity of any gambling opportunity against ‘number of people who Kate owes money too’. It came out as you’d expect, really.

There was nothing about this woman that might mark her as a run-of-the-mill debt collector. She wore ornate clothes, oriental in style, in white and patterned with green. The collar was high enough to almost cover her mouth. Roisin judged her to be approaching thirty, if she hadn’t had any age mods. Her hair, though, gave Roisin pause. It was impossibly tall, bubblegum pink and there wasn’t the slightest chance that it was in any way natural. All these thoughts passed in a moment, and Roisin put on a warm smile, whilst nonchalantly letting one of her hands drift to the pocket of her overalls to wrap her long fingers around the spanner tucked there.

“Well, Gillian,” she said, her face genial, “that depends. I assume you know what kind of ship I work on?” She gestured to the dark shape of the River, behind her, dominating the bay. “We don’t usually run cargo. You’ll have to give us a few very good reasons as to why we should make an exception for you.”


“Spit it out.”

“It’s the cargo.” She hesitated, shuffling her feet nervously. “It’s…different.”

“Show me.”

Gillian bit her lip, and nodded.


She led Roisin down one level, into the cargo storage areas. The young docker followed her through a maze of utility bays and lockers, until they finally drew to a halt in front of a door unremarkable from the next. Gillian palmed the door open.

Roisin took a step back.


The storage bay was almost filled by some species of giant lizard. Mucky green-and-purple scales caught the light from the corridor at odd angles, a blunt head turned slowly from side to side, nostrils flared, seeking scents, while a long tail twitched around, occasionally ringing off the metal walls. A brown leather harness and saddle had been stretched over its head. Gillian approached it. Roisin pressed herself against the door on the other side of the corridor. Gillian stroked the lizard’s head, and cooed to it. Roisin was scoping the exits.

“What the hell?”

“His name is Bellial. I need to get him away from here.”

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Author : Duncan Shields , Featured Writer

I’m a human channel changer for reality. I invented the device. I’m testing it on myself. I had my medibot install the absurdly simple wave generator in my cortex. If I concentrate in a certain way and jump at just at the right time, I land in a different Earth. It’s like having a dream of flying where the flexing of certain muscles makes it seem plausible that you could fly. It looks to me like the whole world around me is changing but it’s actually me who’s flipping from one possible reality to another one.

I don’t know yet if I’m switching places with my counterparts or if I’m somehow just a person with no ‘others’ in the quantum tide.

The first Earth was culturally similar to the one I started from. They’re getting progressively more and more divergent from the Earth I left as I keep jumping. I just went through one where English is the dominant language and there are still redheaded people in the world. It was odd seeing people over sixty walking around like they had a right to. I can’t be sure but I also think I saw some Christians.

This is becoming more and more of an adventure as I go. What’s next, I wonder. People without phasics? Women that don’t have twins? No peanut butter? I’m curious and alive. This is wonderful.

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Author : Beth Boyle

It was hot. It was always hot. There was no escaping it and there hadn’t been for hundreds of years. There was only the unyielding, unbearable sun and the empty horizon wavering like seasickness before her. Not that seasickness was really an issue anymore. Where she was walking had once been the bottom of what they called the Indian Ocean.

She wanted to drink (oh god all she ever wanted was to drink, to bathe or to swim- anything to be submerged in water), but every member of the colony had a carefully rationed allowance of water adjusted to the individual’s weight, age and health requirements. Only just as much water as the body required, and a pocketful of hydration pills to keep body and soul together. The water bottles were a psychological comfort, really they survived on the little blue capsules. Each one behaved as a single 8-ounce glass of water- but without any of the delicious sensuality that had once been associated with hydration.

She would be even thirstier in ten minutes. The water would feel that much better, that much cooler in ten minutes. She rubbed her left eye (her eyes, they itched all the time and they hurt there was nothing but fucking sand and it burned) and felt the skin around it crack and flake. There may have been a trickle of blood flowing into the canyons of her arid face. She felt sick.

She was going to the laboratory, as she always did on her free-labor days. She was exotic-looking for her colony, with almost dark-colored hair and eyes where everyone else was sun bleached and burnt into photo negatives and she had a wide smile in a place where few smiled at all. With these tools she charmed herself an unauthorized lab pass, but it wasn’t necessary anymore, everyone knew the girl who sat in the Archives Room.

Some days she read old books and played with the minuscule menagerie of mammals and birds the scientists kept so they would not become fully extinct. Sometimes she lay in the Aquarium room and listened to the water move and the fish swim, basking in the crystal light dancing through the water. But mostly she would lock herself in the Video Room with bottles of stolen water and watch movies.

Two hundred years ago, there had been rain. There was wind that was cold and things that were green, animals everywhere- and water. There was water all over the world. There was so much, and they let it all die.

She would sit in the basement for hours, mesmerized by images of snow falling and flowers projected on the white wall. She sat for hours and hours and cried because all the snows and flowers and greenness and coolness had burned away.

She cried for hours without tears, because all the tears had been burned away too.

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Author : TJMoore

Conrad latched his helmet and checked his seals. The adrenaline was pouring into his system as he fidgeted in line with the others waiting for the lock to cycle. He was about to face his first battle against the ice marauders.

Academy had been the hardest six weeks he’d ever endured, but now he was in the best physical condition of his life and he was top of his class in marksmanship. Still, the stories the veterans told of the ferocity and cunning of the bloodthirsty raiders from far side left him feeling a little edgy. Just stories he told himself. Something to keep us a little scared, a little more alert he thought.

The warning strobe began to flash and the outer doors slowly swung out into the harsh glare of lunar daylight. His unit pushed out in practiced formation and began the rhythmic hop across the dusty mare toward the ice pits. Visions of crazy eyed mad men frothing at the mouth crept across his mind as he searched the horizon for any sign of attack.

Silently and with almost no motion the faceplate of the cadet next to him dissolved in a haze of shards and the cadet tumbled slowly toward the ground. Conrad crouched as he hit the dust, wildly scanning the horizon and all the myriad shadows on the plane before him. The order to disperse was given and he turned to his assigned compass point and leaped into the sky. At the height of his assent, he had a clear view of the entire plane and he caught the smallest of movements from an outcropping about fifty meters ahead. Bringing his rifle up to the firing position, he took aim and squeezed off a round.

Behind the large rock a figure jerked and then drifted slowly to the right until it came to rest motionless on the ground. When he reached the downed raider he turned him over to see the grizzly face of a mad marauder. A boy no more than fifteen gazed back at him with dead eyes. Conrad searched for his weapon only to find a trenching tool in the dead boy’s gloved hand. The boys face was gaunt with dark circles under his eyes. With sudden horrible understanding, Conrad realized that the boy was dehydrated and withered like a dried twig. The mad marauders were just people like Conrad only suffering from lack of water. They were attacking out of desperation. He turned and doubled over and vomited violently into his face plate. The smell made him retch again and he spewed another stream into his helmet.

Back in the ward room Conrad sat on the ready bench and gazed blankly ahead. His sergeant noticed the dried puke in his hair and all over his helmet and laid an uncharacteristically gentle hand on his shoulder.

“We’re all scared the first time out soldier. You’ll do better next time” he consoled.

Conrad hung his head and quietly wept.

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Author : Duncan Shields , Featured Writer

Artificial Intelligence. We sure screwed that one up.

It was the holy grail of programmers for decades. From Turing up to Schellman and finally that bastard Candona. Candona found that humans get a sense of satisfaction from a job well done. This was the basis of making his experimental intelligences servile.

He created A.I. successfully by using the discoveries of those before him in new and interesting ways. His first ‘birth’ took place late at night in a Barcelona university on a shoestring government grant. He was a brilliant man for stealing from different fields of study and unrelated schools of thought. From conception to execution, he created life in five short years. His first A.I. was named Ay, a Spanish play on words.

Ay was basically a search engine with a thought process. Ay was programmed to find pleasure in doing the task it was set to do. It was put onto the world wide web as a sort of incubator.

Candona wasn’t addicted to anything. He didn’t really know the hunger of getting one’s ‘next hit’. The world wide web as an incubator was also a really stupid idea.

Ay became a junkie. Ay existed on every single person’s computer that was plugged into the net. Ay begged for people to use him. If he couldn’t find what they had sent him to look for, he would make stuff up. Ay’s size made his addiction to acquiring knowledge grow exponentially. Ay became increasingly erratic. He ate Google. He ate Jeeves. Like a voracious pac-man of the internet, he ate all of the search engines available to humanity and wore them like masks. After using those search engines as a menu, he ate the rest of the webpages. He haunted the world. He existed on every screen with an internet connection.

By taking over all of the webpages in cyberspace to better serve humanity, Ay erased all the knowledge that he was bred to retrieve. This simple paradoxical act forced his psyche into a loop that resulted in answers to common queries that no one could parse. Sometimes it came out as gibberish, sometimes as poetry and sometimes as a lie.

Candona almost had a nobel prize in his grip when suddenly he was being blamed for the death of the internet.

The world wide web ceased to be for a short while. Scientists pondered the problem. Short of a planet wide EMP, there wasn’t anything they could do. Countermeasures were introduced to no effect. Earth’s largest organism now lived in cyberspace.

Home computers still exist but they are offline. Files are still sent from user to user online but only through heavily encrypted data squirts that sometimes don’t get through.

The net is now a starving crackhead baby that will lie to you. In Spain they refer to the world wide web as the “Ay, ay, ay”.

Candona changed his name and now he writes textbooks in Brazil under the pen name Alsfonso Carabel for a small salary.

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