Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Author : J. S. Kachelries

“Objection, your honor; asked and answered,” stated the defense attorney.

“Sustained,” replied the judge. Then addressing the plaintiff’s attorney, “Move on, counselor.”

“Your honor,” he protested, “the witness is intentionally being evasive. Again, I appeal to the court to compel the defendant to submit to a paternity test.”

The defense attorney objected again. “Unacceptable, your honor. As the President of the United States, my client is entitled to ‘super-privacy.’ Clearly, the plaintiff initiated this frivolous lawsuit in a blatant attempt to influence the upcoming election. I motion the court to dismiss this case outright. The mere fact that the President of the United States has flatly denied these baseless allegations should be enough for an acquittal.”

“Your honor,” interjected the plaintiff’s attorney, “my client is entitled to due process.”

The judge rapped his gavel on the sound block. “My chambers, gentlemen. Court is in recess for one hour.”

A few minutes later, the judge sat at his desk facing the two attorneys. “Gentlemen, I will not have my court turned into a circus. We need to resolve this dispute without it becoming a he-said-she-said debate. Do I make myself clear?”

The defense attorney had anticipated this development, and pounced. “Your honor, perhaps I have a solution. If my client can convince you, privately of course, that he is irrefutably not the father of this child, would you consider summarily dismissing the case?”

“Perhaps, counselor. Have him show me this ‘evidence’ and I’ll make a ruling. No promises, mind you, until after I evaluate its validity. When can he be ready?”

“If my esteemed colleague will step outside, your honor, we’re ready now.”

The plaintiff’s attorney reluctantly left the room, and the President entered. The judge leaned back in his chair and said, “Mister President, your attorney tells me that you can prove you’re not the child’s father.”

“Yes, your honor, I can. However, if it pleases the court, may I ask that this information be kept confidential, based on the potential political ramifications.” After he saw the judge begrudgingly nod his head, he continued. “Thank you, your honor. OK then, do you happen to have a Phillips head screw driver?”

His attorney quickly interrupted. “No need to look, your honor. I happen to have one in my coat pocket.”

When court resumed, the judge made his ruling. “Based on evidence presented to me, I am dismissing this case with prejudice.” He quickly pointed his gavel at the plaintiff’s attorney. “And, counselor, before you rush to appeal this ruling, I recommend that you thoroughly explain to your client the penalties for perjury, and for knowingly filing a false paternity suit. Because, she will be found guilty.”

Two weeks later, the President’s reelection campaign “leaked” documentation implying that the President was sterile, and that his opponent was behind the lawsuit in a desperate attempt to humiliate the President in an effort to win the election. Since the American people don’t like dirty politics, the President’s poll numbers went up 30 points.

Two weeks after that, the judge was watching the election results on holovision. The President won reelection in a Reaganesque landslide. The judge mentally debated his oath of secrecy, but had to concede that the “sterility” disclosure was at least a half truth. After all, an android could not be the biological father of her child.

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Ashes to Ashes

Author : Debbie Mac Rory

The high preacher approached the lone figure at the front of the hall of remembrances. He passed gases through his membranes in such a manner, that if he were human, would have been called a polite cough. The particle entity turned it’s attention to the high preacher.

“I wished to sympathize with your loss” it intoned, “and I wished to inquire if perhaps you might permit me to suggest an action which may help to relieve your current malaise”

The entity appeared to sigh, but raised itself from its place of dejection. The high preacher led its charge to one of the secluded sections of walls, and with a brief gesture from one of its pseudopods, the wall turned transparent. The particle entity absorbed the light that entered through the now transformed wall, taking in the view of a not too distant yellow star and another particle entity drifting slowly towards it, like the one inside the ship in more ways than it was different, but somehow the internal combustion that drove that species was omitted.

“Some feel that it is comforting, seeing the remains of the loved one move on.” The high preacher tilted its visual receptors, marginally changing the selectivity of the wavelengths of light it was receiving. “Just as emissions from stars such as this one are collected by the ships sails to provide us power and energy, so are our remains sent to them, so we may feel their presence once more”

“And the fate of the inhabitants of this star?”

The query from the particle entity washed over the high preacher as waves shape the sand on a beach. It changed the angle of its visual receptors once more, to receive the information its charge had already absorbed, and perceived the objects which appeared to be in regular orbit around the star.

The high preacher commenced a series of chemical reactions, forming for its species, a gentle smile. “Decisive tests have already been conducted. We would of course never use any star in any manner than could bring harm to its inhabitants. The species developing around this star are as yet, quite primitive, and in time, perhaps we can begin to open up communications with them. But for now, we harvest the energy and we wait”

Both the beings fell silent for a time watching as the extinguished entity was engulfed and consumed by the star. The flare from the its consumption rose up from the surface of the star in a glorious swirl of colour that far transcended the range of visible light, and was swept on solar winds to be shared throughout the system, the planets circling their sun, and the other ships, drifting in silence.

“And perhaps those creatures developing there have the ability to see some of these flares our bodies create. And perhaps, we have already communicated with them, and brought beauty to their lives”.

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The Trifid Nebula

Author : Patricia Stewart, featured writer

The UES Celeste coasted into the outskirts of the Trifid Nebula, and pulled alongside two stationary vessels that were tethered to each other. Captain Briggs studied the view screen suspiciously. “Well chief, what do you make of this?”

“I don’t know, captain. According to our records, the USS Baychimo disappeared 81 years ago, and the USS Joyiya 113 years before that. The combined crew and passengers totaled 244. All were presumed lost.”

“Do you think anybody could still be alive?”

“Their decedents, perhaps. Both ships appear to have power, but they are not responding to our hails. I recommend we try boarding the Baychimo. Their hatch configuration is more similar to ours.”

“Agreed, Chief. Take a security and medical team with you. And, chief, I want you to keep a channel open at all times.”

The Celeste’s shuttle positioned itself over the Baychimo’s hatch, and the magnetic grapples firmly secured it to the hull. After the automated docking skirt sealed the perimeter, the tunnel was pressurized. The chief grabbed a spanner wrench and rapped on the Baychimo’s hatch three times.

To his astonishment, the hatch opened slowly from the inside. Four armed men holding antique percussion weapons stood on the other side. A woman, who the chief estimated to be in her late 40’s, pushed past the armed men to address the chief. “I’m captain Cornwell. Who are you, and why have you boarded my ship? You are interfering with a rescue mission.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am. We thought that you needed assistance. This ship has been missing for over 80 years.”

“What are you talking about? We left spacedock six months ago. We were charting the nebula when we spotted the Joyiya. It’s been missing for over 100 years. Our EVA team reported seeing living people through their observation windows.” She paused for a few seconds, and then continued, “Come to think of it, you may be able to assist. We can’t dock with the Joyiya because of their antiquated hatch system. But you appear to have that capability, although I don’t know how. We’re the flagship of the fleet.”

“Perhaps it would be best captain Cornwell, if you would accompany us to the Joyiya. I think we need to pick up their captain and return to my ship. There are complicating factors that we need to discuss.”

Three hours later, Captain Mills of the Joyiya, and Captains Cornwell and Briggs sat in the executive briefing room of the Celeste. “I’m sorry, this must really be a shock for you and your crew,” said Captain Briggs. “To find out so suddenly that everybody you left behind is gone. To be pulled decades into your future by a phenomenon that we don’t understand. I can’t begin to imagine what that might be like.”

Just then, a person in dress uniform materialized out of thin air into the middle of the room. “Hello,” he said with a smile. “I’m Captain Fokke of the UFP Dutchman. Ah, you must be Captain Briggs. Our DNA scans told us you were still alive. This is utterly amazing. We thought the crew of the Celeste died over 130 years ago. And yet, you don’t appear to have aged a day. How may we be of assistance?”

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Author : Viktor Kuprin

“This is the last call for evacuation. Everyone must leave. Go to the park for water, food, and medical care. If you cannot move, call out or make a noise, and we will help you.”

Spaceman Kuzmin tried not to look at the bloated red sun as he walked the deserted urban streets. No one had come even though he played the message three times at every city block just as he had been ordered. Only fools or the deranged would wait so long, he thought. The unstable sun the locals called Sosnovka would soon end this miserable world.

The motion detector pinged, and Kuzmin halted. Something in the shadows of an alley, but he couldn’t see anyone there. He keyed his helmet’s external speaker.

“Come out. I am CIS Space Force. I have water.”

Then he saw it. Scruffy and dusty, a big orange tom cat wobbled out of the alleyway and collapsed onto the hot pavement. It panted and gasped for breath as it looked up at Kuzmin, its tongue distended from its mouth.

Kuzmin gently picked up the cat and felt its sides heaving.

“Poor old koshka, did you get left behind? Here, a little of this.”

He drew a handful of water from his drink tube and slowly, carefully, dripped the cool liquid onto the cat’s lips and tongue. It began to lap and swallow.

Kuzmin unzipped his light suit. The air felt like an oven’s heat striking his chest. Slowly, he slipped the cat inside his cooled coverall, and there it rested without complaint or struggle. He could barely feel the old tom feebly rumbling, trying to purr.

And so, he continued on to complete his route, but no other strays, human or animal, were met.

As Kuzmin walked back to the evacuation center, he saw others who had been successful. The last inhabitants of Sosnovka Prime were a sorry lot. Two of his crewmates forcibly led a wild-eyed man who cursed them for their efforts. Others helped a grossly overweight woman whose clammy white skin indicated severe heat stroke. Dirty street children huddled, looking anxiously at the shuttles.

Kuzmin was refilling his drink tube when a hand grabbed his shoulder and spun him around on his heels.

“You durak! Idiot! I told you that looting was forbidden!”

It was Second Lieutenant Burkhanov, the section commander. With a jerk, he pulled open the front of Kuzmin’s suit. A furry orange face with flattened ears and frightened eyes stared back at the officer.

“What the?! Kuzmin, get rid of this … infectsia! It can carry disease! Understand me?!”

Kuzmin shook his head. “No, sir. Sorry. I won’t leave it here to burn.”

Burkhanov eyes opened wide with rage. But then he paused. It wasn’t often that a Spaceman Recruit refused an order. And never Kuzmin, one of the better spacehands.

“Bah! Make ready for liftoff!” He stomped off towards the shuttle.

As the days passed, the orange tom took to starship life quite well. Kuzmin was in the mess hall, slipping a few sproti fish to the new mascot when a crewman yelled, “It’s started!” Everyone dropped their food and ran to the portholes.

The flashpoint had been reached: Immolation. Waves of fire swept over the planet below.

A man next to Kuzmin gasped and made the sign of the cross. It was Burkhanov, his sad face illuminated by the hellish flame storms.

Kuzmin watched nervously as the old koshka wandered between the officer’s ankles. He was amazed when Burkhanov picked it up, placed it against his shoulder and began to pet Sosnovka’s littlest refugee.

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A Modern Girl

Author : James Smith

Murphy took a bench and pulled a paperback from his coat pocket. He dialed down his shades to read better, and sipped his coffee. After a few pages, he became aware of a presence on the bench next to him.

“Oh, wow. Paper. You drive gas, too, huh?”

He looked up. White girl, half his age, red hair cut into some sort of n-dimensional shape that confused him and made him feel old.

Murphy smiled. “Digital paper. The real stuff’ll get you thrown in jail.”

“Mm. What are you, a cop?”

Her eyes widened a bit when he told her he was a detective. She leaned closer, their knees touched. She asked if he carried a gun, if his job was dangerous. She saw the scar on his cheek. He wouldn’t tell her the story of how he got it; she was sure it was something fantastic. He had the kind of body you’d imagine a dangerous man to have; she told him her hotel room wasn’t far.

In the hotel. She sat up in the bed, rolling a joint. Murphy lay on his back with his eyes shut.

“You wanna smoke this with me?”

“I don’t think so. I’ve got to meet my ex-wife later.”

“You really a P.I.?”

“You really a redhead?”

“I think there’s a few real ones left. A generation to go, at least, before they’re all bred out.”

He asked her how she got into the business. Most Modern Girls were depressives looking for some way to hurt their parents, but feel like they were hurting themselves. This girl, who called herself Pepper, claimed to really have DID, and had gotten the chip implant to referee her various personalities. She had three, she said: Pepper, August and Katherine.

It was a cliche’, she admitted, to get the chip and become a Modern Girl. But the freedom people talked about, to simply turn that person on, to do whatever you wanted in that body, and then- at will- to shunt it aside like it never happened… Well, not many people had that option. It was hard to pass up.

His phone rang. It was the one ringtone he couldn’t ignore, so he crossed the room and pulled it out of his pants. Pepper licked the spliff and watched Murphy as he talked in clipped, cryptic phrases. She watched his shoulders. He didn’t get tense or upset; she figured it wasn’t his ex.

He finished and turned to look at her.

“I’ve got to go.” He took a wad of bills out of the same pocket, already clipped together, and put it on the dresser.

“Mm hmm. Same thing next week?”

“Why don’t we try a little older. Maybe Asian. Japanese?”

“Thai would be more convincing, with my bone structure. And the melanin tweak will run you extra.”


“You gonna let me read that book one of these days?”

“No,” he said. “Every good romance needs a bit of mystery.”

He dressed and left.

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