Author : Mark Lindquist

“I’d like to order an arm, please. Left, if you have them. I’ve always liked left arms.”

“Certainly, sir. Have a seat while — oh, my apologies, that was quite rude of me.”

“Think nothing of it. It’s by choice, not by circumstance; sitting has always been highly overrated.”

“So I’ve heard, so I’ve heard. I wouldn’t wish to do without it myself, you understand, but I can see how … ah, here we are. Did you need it coloured to match?”

“I don’t suppose you have green…”

“No, sir, only the natural colours. There’s a dyist some of our patrons use that we can highly recommend, if you’re interested.”

“No matter, I have my own. Did my ears.”

“Remarkable work. Modified?”

“Not much. Standard frequencies and AM/FM radio. Decent quality, but I pick up a bit of static when I get too near a microwave.”

“Common problem, or so I’ve heard. Now, if you’ll take a look at the monitor, you can see what we have in stock.”

“The, ah, black one…”

“An excellent specimen. Professional ball player, or so I’m told. A pitcher.”

“The cost seems low in that case.”

“Well, he was right handed. But it’s still a very high quality arm. Do you play?”

“I must say — never quite got the game. I mean, I understand it … but why?”

“Quite, sir. I was never very good at it myself. Would you like to see another, then?”

“Ah… one moment. Hm. 3X23.”

“I am compelled to tell you, sir, that that is in fact a female arm. We certainly don’t oppose such things, but we’ve had some complaints from customers who weren’t aware when ordering.”

“What’s the motor control like?”

“Rated at 73%, sir. Very good for a left hand.”

“Not a primary hand, then?”

“We get very few of those, I’m afraid. Not for lefts.”

“Understandable. I’ll take it. Put it on my account.”

“Certainly, sir. Will you need that installed here or delivered?”

“Neither, thank you. I’ll eat it here.”

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Getting Old

Author : Grady Hendrix

When new Aunt Sally arrived, David had just one question burning in his brain. He managed to make it all the way through her visit before it came out.

“What happened to old Aunt Sally?” he asked.

“She’s gone on to a wonderful place where it’s always summer vacation,” his mother said. “She’s much happier there.”

Being a normal eight-year-old boy, David knew that this meant that she was dead.

New Aunt Sally was exactly the same as old Aunt Sally. She brought the same presents, she said the same things, she embarrassed him the same way. The only difference was that she didn’t seem to upset his father as much. He and old Aunt Sally were always shouting at each other, but new Aunt Sally and his dad got along just fine. It was like she was the same, only better. Better for his dad, at least.

“Why did new Aunt Sally come?” he asked his mother.

“Because we asked her to,” said his mother.

“But why? What was wrong with old Aunt Sally?”

“Nothing was wrong with her, but new Aunt Sally is so good, don’t you think? Now go do your homework and stop asking so many silly questions. It’s nothing you need to worry about.”

But he did worry about it. He worried about it all the time. Old Aunt Sally had just been plain Aunt Sally, but suddenly one day she became old Aunt Sally and new Aunt Sally took her place. What if one day he was suddenly old David Lighter? Come to think of it, he was already old David Lighter, just nobody had called him that yet.

He lay in bed all night, staring at the ceiling and promising God that from now on he would be very, very good. He would be very, very, very good. He dug his nails into his sweaty palms until they bled and he bit his lip until it tore and he swore that he would be so good that his parents would always want the old him. Always.

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The Oceans of Jupiter

Author : Patricia Stewart, featured writer

The USS Jovian Explorer skimmed above the turbulent cloud tops of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere. The large clamshell doors on its underbelly slowly opened and locked into position. Moments later, the restraining clamps released the Simon, a two-man research “submersible.” The nearly spherical vessel plummeted downward and disappeared into the yellow-orange mist. After safety deploying her charge, the mother ship activated her antigrav engines and lifted into a higher orbit to temporarily escape Jupiter’s lethal radiation belt.

When the submersible descended to 60,000 km above Jupiter’s core, the pilot, Jonah Grumby activated the antigrav thrusters and gradually slowed their decent, eventually leveling off at 50,000 km. Although the craft had the ability to maneuver, they elected to ride the winds to reduce buffeting. “OK, Hector, you can begin collecting data.”

“Roger that. Wow, this atmosphere is pretty soupy. Besides hydrogen and helium, sensors show: methane, ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide, condensed water vapor, and a bunch of other hydrocarbons. I’m also picking up the larger molecules too. At least ten amino acids: arginine, glycine, lysine, valine… Well, this is interesting. There are polypeptides, and some pretty complex proteins too. Hey, I think we have all of the ingredients for life here. Let’s drop down another 10,000 klicks. If the atmosphere thickens much more it might behave like a liquid. Maybe we can find some single celled organisms.

“Z minus 10,000 it is. In fact, let’s have a look outside.” As the ship descended, he opened the iris covering the one-meter in diameter observation port, and activated the floodlights. It looked like an upward flowing snowstorm. When they leveled off, the streaking “snowflakes” resolved into small randomly moving specks. Under the magnifying effect of the observation port, however, the “snowflakes” appeared to be little jellyfish-like creatures with four flapping wings. As they prepared to collect specimens to take back to the mother ship, a “flying fish” about the size of a large dog flew past the observation port. It had a huge gaping mouth almost as large as its body. “I guess it’s a filter feeder,” Hector suggested. “I don’t see any eyes. I wonder how it knows where it’s going?”

“It probably doesn’t need eyes. There’s no natural light this deep. I’m going to go further down. Their food chain must be based on Chemosynthesis. Jupiter produces three times more energy than it receives from the sun. There must be something akin to hydrothermal vents, or maybe an entire hydrothermal ocean that’s driving the whole ecosystem.” At 28,000 km, they plunged into a liquid ocean. The ship rocked and creaked, but the force field maintained the hull’s integrity. A three meter long streamlined creature, about half the size of the Simon, approached the submersible. It also had a large mouth, including an impressive arsenal of teeth. “Well, well, I guess this menacing looking fella must be the top of the food chain.”

As they watched the hypnotic movements of the new creature as it investigated the submersible’s lights, a distant shadow began to grow larger, and larger, and larger. By the time it reached the illumination field, all that was visible were two rows of teeth, as one row passed above, and the other below, the Simon. “No, Jonah,” said Hector, “I believe this guy is the top of the food chain.”

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Explaining the unexplained

Author : TJMoore

“But what is it?” asked Brian. He was examining the softly humming sphere on the table with skepticism.

“I told you, it’s an explanitarium. I invented it!” I said again with more than a little pride and just a little impatience.

“And what, exactly, does it do again?” he asked, yet again.

I held up my hands in exasperation. “I already told you, it explains itself. Aren’t you paying attention? “

“I don’t get it. Explain how it explains itself.”

Brian squatted down and gazed at the small shiny sphere from eye level and tried to see anything that would explain what it did.

“It just does; Aren’t you listening?”

By now I was waving my arms in the air and drawing diagrams in the air with my hands, as if he could glean my meaning from the after image left behind.

“It synchronizes its aura with your persistent coronal thought pattern and presents a detailed explanation of its inner workings. How many times do I have to say it?”

“But how does it work?” He asked again without taking his eyes off the object of our discussion, as though fearful it would grow legs and run over and bite him.

“Listen! You pick it up and it explains itself to you. That’s it! That’s all! It’s simple! Oy!”

I rolled my eyeballs at him, crossed my arms in front of me and started tapping my foot.


“Just pick it up!” I shouted at him, totally losing my cool at this point.

“OK! OK! Don’t blow a gasket! I’ll pick it up!” he said reaching tentatively for the little sphere.

“Oh wow… I understand. That’s really cool.” said Brian.

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Beyond Beliefs

Author : Glenn S. Austin

It was always the same, Bojorn counted on it, and he was never disappointed. He had fine tuned the process over time, but the basics were still the same. Part of this tuning had been to add an anthropologist to his crew, and it had made the selection go so much easier.

A Supreme Being or their future selves, that choice was always the toughest. The anthropologist made deciding easier, as she’d found an algorithm to make the choice, and so far it had been dead on.

All self aware intelligent species had a belief system. It didn’t matter how far along in their development they were, vestiges of age old beliefs were clung to by every species. Beliefs that were born out of ignorance when they were just starting to have a vague notion of their own existence, wanting to explain the world and cosmos around their barely surviving civilization. Wanting to believe that they had some control over their future and their destiny. Unwilling to release any belief to history, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Some worlds that Bojorn had visited, and profited from, held a singular world wide belief, and some like the one that was being categorized by his staff right now, were fragmented by many.

He was surprised on the occasions when they found a civilization that had achieved great strides in technology; early attempts to control atoms, flights into their solar system, and an understanding of the size and nature of the universe, but still held onto the beliefs that had guided them when they had first looked at the stars and wondered.

Some of these were tricky, and he would have to use the “I am from your Future” scenario to gain an entrance into these civilizations and leave with what he needed often simply by asking. It was the better choice, when possible, as they always seemed to understand that he would eventually have to “return to the future”, which made his departure with another full cargo hold of riches that much easier.

He studied the planet on the screen as his anthropologist handed him her report, and verbally summed it up for him.

“Looks like the best angle is the returning Deity routine.” She explained. “There are three or four major belief systems that are awaiting the return of their Supreme Being. If you go in with that angle, you should get buy in from most of the planet’s population, and we should be gone before they start to ask which one of them you came back for.”

Bojorn looked up from the report. “Alright then, if you’re sure that’s the best option.

Where would you suggest I should be returning from?

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