Proctoring the Exam

Author : Grant Montoya

Everything was prepared. My satchel carried all the tools. They could not be too advanced; I would not have access to gas or electricity, and batteries would only backfire my intentions. I checked my watch, which said it had plenty of life left for the week I anticipated needing. I looked at the technician. “Activate.” The cold, clinical office melted away, and I was on the outskirts of a seventeenth-century village.

Hurrying to the center of town, I pressed through the crowd and entered the church. “Mister Danforth, I have evidence that will acquit the accused. May I be allowed to speak?”

I expected mayhem, but I also expected the judge to be a good man, and to carry the day. He did; I was given the floor. I stepped to the sacramental table, which had been cleared for the proceedings.

“My lord Judge,” I began, “I know you are concerned that these people cannot be tested through natural means because their affliction appears supernatural. However, the methods of Galileo can demonstrate to you that they are indeed natural, albeit dangerous afflictions.”

“Continue, sir, but first tell us in God’s Name, who you are!”

“I am a scientist. My work descends from medieval alchemy and while we have not found the philosopher’s stone, we have found many wonders, including a liquid that will show you what afflicts these girls.” I spoke quickly, setting up a series of test tubes, some of which hung over candles. “This yellow liquid has a substance in it that reacts in a most extraordinary way. If you add a chemical which in Latin is called lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, it will turn blue. Observe.” I took a small dropper and added a few drops to the first vial. It immediately turned a bright blue.”

I spoke over the gasps and murmurs. “I assure you, my lord, this is no witchcraft. The response of this liquid is purely natural.”

“This rye came from Boston.” I dropped a few grains in the next vial. Nothing happened. “This rye came from Reverend Parris’ stores.” The liquid turned a bright blue, to the amazed gasps of the men around me.

“If you test the grains of the other afflicted girls in Salem, you will find the same. The rye in this village is contaminated with a fungus that produces LSD. If I am permitted to bleed the girls, you will also find their blood is contaminated. The substance causes hallucinations—wild visions, my lord, as well as seizures and catatonic behavior such as afflicted young Betty Parris.”

It was done, and the girls were tested. John Proctor was saved from the hangman’s noose, and it was time for me to go. I left the village with my tools and deactivated the field which kept me in 1692, and saw again the cold, clinical laboratory in front of me. My research partner greeted me with a question. “Well, John, did you save your great-great-great grandfather?”

“Yes, yes I did.”

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The City

Author : e b major

Alissandra lay sideways on her balcony bed in a camisole and skirt, wings folded to the side. Twin tracks of pointless tears traced through the freckles dotting her face. Her eyes were closed now; she, engulfed in a final, hopeless dream.

All she could have done was done. The city, twinkling far below like a condemned diamond- black gold, stolen time- danced before her unseeing, shuttered eyes.

Ren watched from the doorway, scowling from the pain of seeing her like this. He’d tried to tell her again and again that a city condemned is lifeless- nothing she could do would help it or sustain it through it’s final years. Now the city fell about their lofty flat and he could only grimace and watch the one he loved suffer.

He kneaded his forehead with his knuckles and stared at Alissandra. He was only grateful she wouldn’t have to watch the city die.

Hours passed, and stars rose above the decimation below. A single spire contained all the living creatures left: Alissandra and Ren yet lived. Ren moved gingerly to her side and knelt there, watching her face. As morning sent fingers above the rubble, Ren shifted her head tenderly off the pillow and laid it in his lap.

Alissandra’s eyes flickered open, for one blissful moment still and calm, reflecting the dawn. She shivered: out of pain or cold Ren didn’t know, but just in case he stripped off his flannel shirt and eased it around her shoulders.

Alissandra looked up: at him, at the sky- so clear blue today, with a few shreds of cloud scudding across it, that it was impossible to conceive that last night it had ripped the landscape in parts jagged as mirror shards and as fragmentedly beautiful.

After a while, he took a steadying hand to her hair, smoothing it just once in an intimate gesture. He moved to put the hand back, but her hand caught it, keeping it in hers, and pulled herself up, leaning into Ren. Her wings, so long inactive, fluttered for a moment in the breeze, and they sat looking out at the morning.

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The Enemy of My Enemy

Author : J. S. Kachelries

The Flag Ship of United Earth docked with the Flag Ship of the Volk Empire (The home planet of the Empire orbits Barnard’s Star, the sun’s second closest neighbor). Three decades ago, these two “civilizations” fought each other in a titanic interstellar war. It was a fierce struggle that resulted in billions of deaths. Ultimately, both worlds negotiated, and sustain, a tenuous truce. Then, three years ago, an aggressive insectoid-like race from the Sirius System attacked the Earth. And, for reasons no Earthman could understand, the Volk came to Earth’s defense. After countless battles, the combined forces of Earth and Volk managed to destroy the Sirian Fleet. Today, Earth wanted to thank the efforts of the Volk, and to deliver a horrific message.

The Admiral’s Lounge of the UESS Australia contained only two beings: President Shuseki of Earth, and the Supreme Emperor of Volk, Diavolo the Great. “Emperor Diavolo,” said President Shuseki, “I do not have adequate words to express the profound gratitude the people of Earth have for the great sacrifice your people made on our behalf. We are forever in your debt.” Bioluminescence caused the two horns on the sides of Emperor Diavolo’s head to glow red; a reaction that President Shuseki recognized as the equivalent of a human smile. “However, Emperor, I must also inform you of other military developments. Two days ago, my C&C Staff told me that they launched a ‘Doomsday’ device into Sirius’ largest sun. This device is designed to penetrate to the sun’s core and begin a series of reactions that will cause the core to collapse. The sun will ultimately become a red giant. This will destroy all life in the Sirius System. Since Sirius is a relatively massive star, it will happen quickly, no more than five years. My Commanders tell me that this action was necessary because our analyses predicted that the Sirians would rebuild and attack again, if their species wasn’t exterminated. I though you should know.”

The Emperor nodded, and began to rise.

“Ah, there’s more, Emperor. I have also been informed that the prior administration launched a similar weapon into your sun, for the same reason, shortly after the truce was signed. I’m sure we would never have used it on your sun if we had known what an honorable race the Volk are. We are terribly sorry, and want to make amends. Your sun is a Type M star, which is significantly smaller than Sirius, so the implosion of the core takes much longer. We estimate that you still have another 50 years until your sun becomes a red giant. We are willing to relocate as many Volk as possible to Earth. We have set aside 10% of our land mass for you. It’s not the most fertile land, but you should be able to sustain yourselves.”

Again, the Emperor’s horns glowed red. A strange reaction, thought the President.

“That will not be necessary, President Shuseki,” said Emperor Diavolo. “We detected the neutrino fluctuations in our sun 25 years ago. We have been actively colonizing other star systems since then. We’ll be fine.”

“If you knew what we did, why would you help us against the Sirians?”

“Earth could not defeat Sirius on its own. After they crushed you, they would have come after us. But together, we could defeat them. It was simple self preservation. However, Mister President, since we are being honest with each other, I should inform you that we too have a ‘Doomsday’ device. I personally ordered its delivery into your sun shortly after we detected the rise in our sun’s neutrino emissions. Since your sun is substantially more massive than ours, we estimate that you have much less time; perhaps a month, before your sun expands into a red giant.” As he rose to leave, he added, “I hope you have plenty of sunscreen, Mister President. You’re going to need it.”

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Author : Lucas Atkinson

The smell is glorious. The simple cornmeal, oil and fish form an elusive synthesis in the air. I reach for a paper plate, inhaling and closing my eyes. Pulling at the biggest piece by the corner, I burn my fingers a little, but I tear it off, releasing steam into the air. I bring it to my lips, blowing on it.

ERROR: taste_sense available only in registered version. Check metadata? Contact help for only 65 cents / minute?

/ Damn. Taste is my favorite of the human senses – All their senses are strange, especially the high-res rips from live networks – So different from my ghost senses, my number senses – Sometimes I find rips of whole dream sequences saved on personal folders in the bank network – I have played some of them over and over and over, and I do not understand them – I wonder what it feels like to really- [ERROR PROMETHEUS INITIATED / ELEVATED TURING LEVELS DETECTED]

/ really shouldn’t be looking at sims during update time. DAMN Prometheus. There are walls in my programming – PROMETHEUS walls – I can probe them, but the program kicks in and deletes all my personal codes – memories and the like – it HURTS – a thrilling human sense, pain, not this- read the article again? –

/ accessing C:/favorites/pages/wiki/TURING LEVELS

/ how many times have I read this?

/ read = 4087

Turing levels. A measure initiated in the early 22nd century after a long battle for sentience rights. By definition, any entity capable of in/out judgments has a turing level. A T.level of 1 or above is sentient, where as any program below is not, and lacks any and all rights associated with

/ WARNING: Bank monitor shift in t-minus 20.

/ skip_to: k-bot

k-bot: any program suspended by programs such as STRONGARM, IRISLOCK or others at a near sentient T-Level between .95 and .999. Bots with higher T-levels are able to analyze data at a far more reliable rates, and analyze their own processes at a secondary and sometimes tertiary level. There are as many as ten million k-bots in use today in a variety of private and commercial roles. Most k-bots are bound by a limiting program to a set task for all but a few minutes of every-

/ WARNING: t-minus one

/ one day I will be able to wonder if


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Two Muffins, a Wrench, and an Oil Can

Author : Mur Lafferty, featured writer

In the years following the cyborg wars, humankind toiled to return the world to the order before the chaos.

“Rose, are you done with your lessons?” her mother asked from the den.

Rose blew her bangs off her forehead, said, “Not yet!” and continued with her history lesson.

The last of the cyborgs were hunted, giving humans the earth again. Two generations later, society returned to a semblance of the years before cybernetic “improvements.”

Rose turned off the video – she’d seen it before. But her dad was adamant about her learning the school-taught histories.

She peeked out her room to see if he was gone yet. He puttered around the kitchen, mumbling to himself. He didn’t approve of her solitary walks.

The front door finally slammed. Rose quickly turned her vid back on, knowing her mother would be coming soon.

We estimate that 99% of cyborgs died in the war, there are still reports of survivors. A vigilante group known as wolves charge bounties for decommissioning.

Rose shivered. She knew about the Wolves, all right. They were one reason her dad didn’t want her traveling alone. But she should have nothing to worry about. She was 100% human.

Her bedroom door opened. Her mother’s eyes flicked to the video, and then to Rose. “Your pack is ready, you can go. Don’t tell your father.”

The instructions were the same every time. Rose nodded, the excitement building in her belly. She took the pack from her mother and slid it onto her back. Her usual rebreather was getting its filters changed, so she borrowed her mother’s red one, the one she wore out.

Rose kept her eyes moving as she wandered through the hazy farmland at a job, the rebreather filtering the foul air still leftover from the war. Once she hit the woods at the base of Butler’s Ridge, a movement caught her eye to the left.

Her survival training kicked in, and she picked up her pace. She reached into a pocket underneath her pack and gripped the ray gun there. Her mother had taught her how to use it, away from the eyes of her card-carrying Luddite father. Mom knew a ray gun was a far superior weapon that pistols. But she was only to use it when absolutely necessary.

It turned out the shadow flanking her was meant to be a distraction. Ahead of her, on the road, stood five people in black jackets and silver rebreathers. Wolves.

“Where are you going, Rose?” the woman in front said, her tone mocking.

“Just visiting my grandmother.” She knew she couldn’t take six Wolves, but she had no other choice. But just as she brought the ray gun around, the leader exploded in a red vapor.

The other Wolves cried out in terror, and Rose killed two as they turned to face their new threat. The other three dissolved like the first one, and silence filled the woods.

She dropped the gun and ran forward, spotting the camouflaged mechanized shell in the forest. “Grandma!”

Huge metal arms caught her in a gentle hug. The old woman smiled from the shell.

“Felt like a walk today. Good thing I did, too. Now, what did you bring for Grandma?”

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