Troublesome Customer

Author : Jeremy M. Hall

“Welcome to Chrono-Real Estate-Advertising. How may I help you?”

“I’m here to buy from March 1, 1650 to March 30, 1650 for the entire city of Jamestown, Virgina.”

“Sir, we can’t do that.”

“I have a suitcase with several million dollars that says you can.”

“No, sir. We cannot do that. We do have a nice spot in upstate New York on August 30, 1921 that we have on sale. Upstate New York is a hot commodity in the Pre-Branding market.”

“No, ma’am. I want that time period for Jamestown.”

The gentleman opened the suitcase that he was carrying, showing off large stacks of hundred dollar bills.

“Listen sir, I’m sure you’re big in the Pre-Branding business, especially to carry that much cash in a briefcase, but there is no way we are going to let you buy any time period before the Nineteenth century, especially in an area that big. The Historical Protection Commission would be down our throats before we could even place your advertising, and they would be yanking our Time Equipment through our tonsils. In fact, there isn’t a reputable Time and Space Advertiser that would take your offer.”

“I can’t believe this crap. I have several million dollars cash, and you aren’t going to take it? And for what? Because of some government regulations. You people are-”

The receptionist’s phone rang and she picked it up.

“Yes, sir,” she said into the handset. “This is a TC level three. You have a B three million ready? OK, the code is alpha gamma omega beta. Yes, sir. I’ll be sure to let him know.”

“What’s this?” the customer asked. “I heard three million there. Are they considering it?”

“Say hello to the dinosaurs,” the receptionist said, and then hit several keys on a small terminal. The customer had a shocked look on his face as a small pinhole appeared behind him, then sucked him in backwards. The last thing the receptionist saw of the man was his bulging eyes and the tips of his shoes. She looked at her watch, and then counted to five, at which point the customer returned the same way he’d left, except for the stain in the seat of his pants.

“I hope you enjoyed the T-rex greeting. If you continue to bother me, or any other employee of Chrono-Real Estate-Advertising, we will file for a Harassment Clause which would allow us to send you back to Mister T-Rex and let him finish the job. Do you understand?”

The customer only nodded, his face still frozen in fear, and with his briefcase clutched, white knuckled in one hand, he slowly backed out through the door.

365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Glory Star

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

The old man may have looked like Santa if he smiled, but red faced and spitting he was closer to a vengeful devil than the spirit of giving. The old man cornered Uill with his sizable bulk. “You are not a poet.” He said, stepping closer. He stunk of rotted food and oil. “You are The Krugar, a War Lord, the greatest military mind of my generation.” The old man gripped Uill’s lapels and shook him violently. “Snap out of it General! Come back to us.”

Uill trembled. “Mister, please just let me go, I’m going to be late to class.”

The old man kept one of his meaty hands on Uill’s thin shoulder and used his other hand to reach into his coat pocket. He pulled out a bronze metal and pinched it between his stained fingers. The medal had a half opened eye impressed on its surface. As always, these kinds of medals made Uill feel sad and angry, a press of emotions that intensified the stabbing pain in his head. The man shook the medal in front of Uill’s face. “I earned this after you commanded us on Mars. Do you remember Mars? You remember the Driell and the fire?”

Uill could feel the headache coming, the pain that always came when people talked about his old life. “I’m not The Krugar. I never commanded you. That man wasn’t me. I was reborn. Now I’m a student of poetry.” Uill held up his left hand, where his university glowed on his ring finger. “Look at my ring.” He waved his hand in front of the old man’s face. This is the Capital University student ring. The Krugar went to military school, right? I can’t be him. I go to Capital University.”

Shaking his head, the old man rummaged in his coat. “Don’t try to confuse me. I know who you are. I know what they did to you. I know they tried to make you reborn. But you are The Krugar. You wouldn’t forget, not with all the machines in the universe.” The old man pulled a knife out of his coat and flicked his thumb on the blade. The blade began to spin. “You’ve got to be in there somewhere. Maybe I can cut you out.”

Uill held up his hands. “Please. No. Poetry. I do poetry. Cloudless climbs and starry skies, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, do not go gently into that good night.”

“Forget poetry Krugar.” The old man waved his hands around his head. “Forget it. Don’t you hear the news? The Driell are returning. They are coming back. Only you can beat them. Like you did last time, remember?” The man lifted his arms where the lights of the city sparkled against that velour sky. “There!” he said, pointing excitedly to a streetlight, dropping the knife. “That star! There, that glory star. ” The knife blade sparked on the pavement as it spun. The old man didn’t notice. “You remember the song, Glory Star?” The old man put both his hands over his heart and closed his eyes. Then he began to sing, his voice surprisingly clear. “Glory Star, Glory Star, bright and bold The Krugar’s Company.”

Uill knew the words. All eighteen verses. He heard them in his wild dreams, those spastic glimpses of long stretched hours of tension followed by moments of terror and then after, long, brilliant songs, his mind on fire. Uill ran out of the alley, back to the university, back home to his life.

365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

See Food

Author : Viktor Kuprin

When the alien ship reached us, we were down to four hours of oxygen and nothing in our prospector ship’s food storage.

It was the Tsoor who rescued us, the ones who look like walking man-of-war jellyfish. Oh, they were nice and polite enough, and they even had a Tsooriski-to-Russki translator unit, thank God!

But they didn’t have any human food.

When I queried my hand-comp’s database, all it said about Tsoor nutrition was “Some terrestrial protein and carbohydrate compatibilities.” We didn’t have any choice. We were starving.

The Tsoor like to take their meals sitting in pools of their home world’s sea water. Anton and I sat soaking in the briny liquid when the biggest Tsoor brought the food, a metal pot filled with ball-shaped mollusks.

“God help us,” Anton muttered under his breath as our server crushed one of the gray shells with its tentacle-fingers, yanking out a still-quivering slab of pink-white meat.

“Shhh! Don’t offend it!” I warned.

After days without food, I didn’t care how badly it might taste. Or smell.

Big Tsoor picked up a shallow stone bowl filled with yellow powder and rolled the mollusk flesh in it. It offered the morsel to Anton.

“See. Food,” said the alien’s metallic translator voice.

Anton slowly accepted the dusted meat from Big Tsoor’s tentacle-fingers, pulled down his respirator mask, and leaned forward to sniff.

“Alan, I think it’s sulfur! They season with sulfur!”

Big Tsoor stood motionless, watching.

I urged Anton on. “Wipe some of the powder off and try it. Come on, it’s waiting for you to taste it.”

Anton used his thumb to clear most of the Tsoor seasoning off a side of the slab. He shut his eyes, bit, chewed, and gulped.

“It’s like a big prawn, but it reeks of rotten eggs,” he said between gasps.

Big Tsoor cracked another shell and another. We silently wolfed down the gritty shellfish.

When the pot was half empty, Big Tsoor held out its tentacled-hand towards us.

“Culinary exchange,” announced the translator.

Quickly I thumbed my hand-comp: “Tsoor guests at a formal dinner are expected to offer their hosts a token gift of food or drink in exchange for the meal.”

“It’s part of their hospitality custom. I’ll be right back.” Dripping wet, I ran out of the mess hall, across the airlock that connected our ships, and rushed to our all-but-empty galley.

Yes! On a rack was a half-filled bulb of Anne Bonny Cocktail Sauce. I squirted it into a bowl, hurried back to the alien dining hall, and sat back down in the warm brine.

I pointed to the shellfish and pantomimed rolling the meat in the red sauce. Our host understood, and it shoved a sauce-covered mollusk into its mouth sack.

Big Tsoor turned red, then purple. I could see its plum-shaped eye throbbing. Its tentacle-fingers clenched into tight coils.

The alien bolted straight up. Anton screamed. I tried to jump out of the pool.

Through the chaos, I could just make out the translator.

“Very tasty.”

365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

The Prodigal

Author : Benjamin Fischer

“Have a seat, Jim,” said the General.

“Is this what I think it’s about, sir?” the Colonel asked, shutting the hatch behind him.

He sat down. Across from him, a LED nameplate proclaimed “Major General David Pietz USAF, Commander-in-Chief Colonial Expeditionary Force” on a broad, glass-covered aluminum desk. Behind it the General reclined in a plush leather chair halfway turned to face a bank of monitors behind him. Blown up to maximum magnification were the latest from the reconnaissance office–an impressive fleet of spaceships, moored like the petals of a flower around a long, cylindrical space station.

One of the ships was highlighted in red.

“Your thoughts?” asked the General.

The Colonel shook his head.

“Yeah, that’s her,” he said.

“The Charleston,” the General nodded. “Old Chucktown. Lost with all hands. Five years, six months, and two days ago.”

“You still keep track of that too?” the Colonel asked.

“Yes,” General Pietz said.

They sat in silence.

“Definitely, positively destroyed in a meteorite collision,” the Colonel finally said. “They found pieces, they found bodies. No doubt at all.” He was paraphrasing a report.

“And yet the Colonials seem to have repaired her,” the General responded.

The Colonel snorted.

The General sighed.

“OK, Jim, confession time,” General Pietz said. “I don’t know whether to be completely pissed or crying with joy.”

“Yeah, it took the wind out of me, too,” said the Colonel. “She could be alive.”

Pietz let out a sharp laugh and turned away from the telling images. He set his elbows upon his desk and leaned towards his guest.

“Oh, she most definitely is,” he said, his face half-smiling, half-grimacing. “My girl was always tougher than that. I knew a handful of damn buckshot couldn’t have killed Marissa.”

The Colonel swallowed.

“So that means?” he said.

“Yes. The god damn rumors,” said Pietz, “are apparently true.”

“Apparently,” agreed the Colonel.

“Well, here’s another one, for you to spread,” said the General. “Tomorrow, at twenty one hundred, we’re deploying. Our eventual objective will most likely be those facilities at Lagrange Two. And the fleet defending them.”

“Jesus,” said the Colonel.

“To say I am disappointed in the Security Council would be a gross understatement,” said Pietz.

“Jesus,” repeated the Colonel. “We’ll have to use nukes. There’s no other option.”

“Eventually, when our hands are untied, yes,” said the General. “And that’s why I called you in here.”

“Sir?” asked the Colonel.

“When Lieutenant Colonel Pietz and I last spoke,” the General said, “she was convinced that full independence was the only reasonable course for the Colonies. She told me that any sort of half-measure was an invitation to open, violent rebellion, and that she sympathized with secession. I disagreed. It was not a pleasant discussion.”

“Lord,” said the Colonel, his eyes wide. “She told you.”

“Almost,” said the General, shutting his. He snorted softly. Then:

“Jim, I’ve known you and you’ve known me for damn near two decades now, so listen to what I say very carefully now. This contest will be for control of mankind’s future. We can not lose. I say again, we can not lose. If at any point–if at any point you feel that I am holding back even the least bit-”

“You’re not the only one who misses Marissa,” the Colonel said.

The General opened his eyes, and they were cold.

“I expect everything up to and including the last full measure from everyone, myself included,” he said. “Marissa will be very hard to kill.”

365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

A Matter of Interpretation

Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

“I’m sorry, if I’d have realized you were coming tonight, I’d have prepared a more substantial demonstration.” The Professor addressed the Investor nervously, moving piles of notes and abandoned test equipment out of his way.

“Your message stated there had been a significant development.” The Investor stood unaffected amidst the chaos, collar turned up against the chill of the room, gloved hands clasped behind his back.

“Yes, we’ve made an exciting advancement.” The Professor ceased his tidying, and strode to the corner of the room, hefting a small wooden shipping crate from a half full pallet of the same. Stepping over the clutter, he carried it to the middle of the curved array of alloy beams that seemed to be the focal point of the laboratory. The structure itself was easily half again as tall as he was, resembling a giant sectioned orange, exploded and suspended in mid air. He deposited the crate at the approximate center of the array, and stepping beyond its perimeter he began to key noisily at a terminal while he spoke. “We had spent all of our efforts initially trying to find a way to accelerate a mass through spacetime, and quite honestly, it had us stymied completely.” He paused for a moment, thoughtfully. “So we reinterpreted the question.” The Professor alternated between keying instructions and monitoring the feedback on several attached displays. “If we didn’t ask ‘how do we accelerate matter through spacetime’, but rather simplified the question to ‘how do we move matter through spacetime’, we discovered that we could apply our theories in a different way, and we were able to successfully move matter through spacetime by decelerating it. Like this – watch!”

The Professor, satisfied with the data presented on the displays in front of him, stepped to a panel off to one side and pushed a pair of levers all the way forward, watching the crate with palpable excitement as it seemed to come into sharp focus for an instant before fading slowly from view, to disappear completely a few seconds later with an audible snap.

Pulling the levers back to their starting position, he turned excitedly to the Investor, who had stood motionless and silent through the entire demonstration.

“We’re not exactly sure where the crates are going, hopefully they’re not falling on someone’s head in another dimension, but the physical properties of the matter making up the crate remains completely intact the entire time, or at least as far as we can monitor it. In fact, we’ve…”

“You reinterpreted my directive?” The Investor’s voice stopped the Professor cold. “You wasted my time, my resources to build a matter decelerator? I know how to decelerate matter through spacetime.” He was shouting now, eyes smoldering on the verge of inferno. “I. Know. How.” His words sharply punctuated, delivered in coarse staccato. “If I had wanted you to recreate what I know, I would have specifically instructed you to do so, wouldn’t I?” His voice boomed as he closed the distance to the Professor, forcing him backwards through the steel tines of the array.

The Investor stopped to lean heavily on the control panel. “You were supposed to make me an accelerator.” He sighed deeply, in sudden resignation, throwing the levers forward again, and not watching the horrified features of the Professor pulled into vivid focus, face contorted in a silent scream as he faded and snapped out of his own plane of existence.

“You were supposed to find me a way to go home.”

365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows