Dream Wave

Author : Moebius

There are six of us huddled together in the pallid, bluish light of the spacious galley. Tense, wiry and sallow. We sit together in a disjointed approximation of camaraderie. I don’t know any of the faces around me and I am afraid to make any connections. Our eyes shift nervously around the room. Not a pair makes contact with any of the others.

The baggy sleeves of my deflated dream suit drags across the scratched steel surface. Chamomile does nothing to calm my nerves. I focus involuntarily on a dent in the table top. It creases and becomes a grimaced snarl. The surface splits viciously open into cruel steel maw that leaps up at me.

She sounds like a very pleasant woman. The synthesized voice over the annunciator instructs us to return to our posts and re-commence our attack. I blink down at my thin, bony fingers on the table, covering up the dent. A face reflects back and it takes a moment to recognize the gaunt, horrified stare as my own.

After you push in and turn the umbilicus connector, the entire socket retracts and the bio-gel starts pumping into the body suit. The others are already in their skeletal frame seats. I prefer to have the serous fluid half inflate before I lock down. A spasm shakes through the woman on my right as she inhales the fluid into her lungs. The hiss of the noise cancellation device mutes all other sounds and the hexagonal room imperceptibly fades into dusk. The floatation properties of the dream suit offer only a brief sanctuary.

My eye balls dissolve into their cranial sockets from the insides of my skull, eaten away by a thousand maggots spewing acid. Flesh dries and cracks, burning puss oozes out, peeling the muscles off my blackened frame, exposing the charred hardened viscera entombed in my rib cage. A gurgling disembodied scream explodes, sending a shockwave of horror through the system.

Infinitesimal pin pricks make biochemical connections that convert the neuro-electrical signals of my nightmares into psychic images that can be broadcast down to the planet’s surface as an aggressive form of gamma waves. Our ship, Namtar, maintains a geosynchronous orbit with the dark side of their world. We have been here for almost a year.

In another year the biological agents will be released to destroy the staple crops and food supplies, and then the economic embargo will start. Only after the third year can the High Command determine if military action is a necessary recourse.

We are merely the first wave of the invasion.

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Cadeio III

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Jack Roberts, captain of the starship Royal Fortune, studied the image of a blue-green planet on the monitor that was attached to the left arm of his command chair. This planet is a real puzzle, he thought. It was surrounded by 132 heavily armed satellites that crisscrossed each other’s orbits in an intricate pattern that was clearly intended to defend the planet from every conceivable vector. “See any weaknesses, Mr. Bartholomew?”

“Narrr, Cap’n,” replied the quartermaster, who often broke into his eighteenth century pirate speak whenever he sensed an impending raid. Upholdin’ the tradition, he called it. “But it be plain to me, Cap’n, that this planet be harborin’ somethin’ mighty valuable. What do you s’pose it might be?”

Fighting back a smile, the captain replied, “Could be almost anything, Mr. Bartholomew. But one thing is for certain, you don’t deploy a grid like that unless you have something you’re trying to protect. We need to find a way in. Have the Bos´n take a gunboat and sync-up with one of the satellites. Let’s see if they can be deactivated, or destroyed.”

Fifteen minutes later, the gunboat pulled up alongside a satellite and matched its orbit. The Bosun and two crewmen exited the gunboat and approached the satellite. The captain’s monitor showed a noisy magnified image of the spacesuited crewmen using hand lasers to cut into the outer skin of the satellite. Seconds later, the satellite exploded, vaporizing the three men, and destroying the gunboat.

“Arrr, that wasn’t quite the plan,” said the quartermaster, “but it got the job done. There be a fifty kilometer wide opening in the defense grid, Cap’n. We can make it through, if we hurry.”

The captain signaled the pilot, and the Royal Fortune’s aft impulse thrusters fired. Even as the ship passed through the grid, they could see the remaining satellites alter their orbits to compensate for the destroyed satellite. “Not much of a defense system,” remarked the captain. “This may be easier than I’d thought.”

“Arrr, I’ll contact ’em by radio, Cap’n,” said the quartermaster. “Maybe they be willin’ to surrender, and save us the trouble of usin’ up all our ammo.” He depressed the comm button. “This be the Royal Fortune. Lower your shields, and surrender your valuables. If ye give up, peaceful-like, your miserable lives will be spared.” But not bloody likely, he thought to himself.

There wasn’t an immediate verbal reply, but an open channel with the planet had clearly been established. Captain Roberts listened intently to the speakers. He swore he could hear people on the planet laughing in the background. How dare they mock him! He would show these dogs no quarter.

“Begad. Cap’n, look at the sensor readings.”

The captain switched his monitor from visual to sensor mode. “What the…The power output from the satellites just increased a thousand fold (as they transitioned from standby to fully armed). Damn, now there’s a 500 terajoule force field 500 meters above the planet’s surface. We’d need a hundred battle-cruisers to fight our way out of this fortress. The lubbers have trapped us like gnats in a jar.” He knocked the monitor off its stand with a powerful sideward thrust of his left arm. “What the hell is this place?”

Finally, a person from the planet responded. “This is Corrections Officer Jeffries. You geniuses just broke into Cadeio III, a maximum security planetary penitentiary. Stand down, and prepare to be boarded.” Now, the laughing in the background was undeniable.

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One Thin Dime

Author : Bradley Hughes

E=mc2. The most famous formula ever. Not that there’s been a lot of competition. Einstein’s formula reveals that matter is just one of many forms of energy. Energy is what gets you out of bed in the morning, and energy is what leaves a bruise if you fall on your face in the late afternoon.

Matter is just a form of energy: a new battery will have just the teensiest tiniest more mass now, than when it has run down. If you pull back on a bow, you are adding energy to it, and so the bow has infinitesimally more mass when it’s taunt, than when it’s relaxed. Even for something really energetic, like a thermonuclear explosion the amount of mass involved isn’t very big. If you collected all the detritus from a 25 megaton bomb after the explosion, you would only be missing one kilogram of mass, and an average sized city. One kilogram is probably close to the mass of that first stone used to help kill that first antelope, so very long ago.

But if you go the other way around, and instead of considering the amount of mass in energy, but the amount of energy you can get from a certain mass, then you’re talking.

Think about all the energy your body uses in a day: getting up, walking, climbing stairs, pumping blood, breathing, thinking, remembering. All of that energy is stored as chemical potential energy for a while before you use it. Most of it dissipates as heat, some of it becomes motion, some becomes thought. If you could get all of that energy from converting mass into energy, how much mass would you need? If, instead of eating and breathing, you could directly convert mass to energy for your whole life, how much extra mass would you need to carry around with you?

If you lived to be eighty, you would only need a couple thousandths of a gram. That’s the mass contained in one thousandth of one thin dime. Remember every challenge you’ve surpassed, or run away from; remember every thought, every passion, every need – all of it combined took less energy then is contained in the material missing from a scuff on a dime.

If you were a perfect machine, and you wanted to live among us, you would need to pass as human. You would need to appear to breathe, your blood would pump, your glands would sweat, so you would use about the same amount of energy as we do. But you wouldn’t need to power yourself from air and food. With the right technology, you could convert mass directly to energy. You could live for eighty thousand years on a dime.

You could live among us, observe us and compile your observations for almost as long as there have been humans. Almost ten times as long as we have lived in settled communities and nearly twenty times as long as we have lived in cities. For a quarter, you could live for almost two hundred thousand years. That’s as long as we’ve existed as a species. If you waited to join us until we started building cities, today you’d still have one hundred ninety five thousand years left. That’s plenty of time to live as we do, to love as we do, and to study. Then, when our species’ time has come to an end, there will still be plenty of time to reach your conclusions, and to take them home.

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Out West

Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Staff Writer

Back when there wasn’t a war, Cohesion used to take me on drives. We usually went west, way out of town. After a few kilometres the world got weird: most people didn’t like it, but Cohesion said that it helped him think. Out of all the oddities, he held the theoretical trees as his favourite.

Cohesion was a haimix. Human-AI-Mix. Optical fibre looped out of his skull, and snaked down into the AI mind implanted in his chest. He said that it felt like schizophrenia, but that both minds were equally ‘himself’.

I remember the day he first showed me the trees. They’re tall and spindly, growing straight up into a sky that’s never clear of clouds.That sky was not quite purple and very nearly yellow, but never one or the other. ‘A nowhere sky’, he said, ‘and far more puzzling than the trees’. The trees were a result of corporate experiments with superpositioning. They were visible, but somehow absent — you could walk straight through them. They were translucent, and if you stared, you could see the sluggish motion of water and sugars through their trunks. The leaves were more solid than the trunks – if you waved your hand through those, they fell apart like centuries-old paper.

Cohesion explained that the trees were probably somewhere else too, that they grew here in a strange quantum state. That most of the time, if you tried to bifurcate something that one of the two copies would rapidly collapse, and the other would stabilise. But the corporations discovered a valley of stability. If eight copies were produced rapidly, they would continue to exist in a tentative equilibrium.

The copies weren’t really real, Cohesion said, but they somehow shared resources, as if each one was an eighth of a whole plant, stretched and padded into full size. Where one drew nitrates from the soil, the other copies would have their nitrate needs met. Cohesion told me that he’d mapped a few pairs of trees, but he had no idea where the others were. He thought that there might be another forest of them somewhere else, with the rest of the copies, but he said he didn’t have time to look. He gave me a little data chip with his findings on them.

I don’t know what happened to Cohesion after the war started. I kept on going out west, and I carried on Cohesion’s project. I spiked the roots of isolated trees with coloured dyes: fine pillars of bright water stood out like beacons, betraying other tree-fractions. On my most successful day, I found an entire tree: all eight versions. And at the bottom of the eighth tree, wrapped in a waterproof bag, I found another datachip. It’s contents were simple. A message from Cohesion. He claimed to have found a way to imprint data into the trees – specifically, that’s he had stored a file in the tree the datachip was under. You could imprint data on one tree, and it would be distributed – as the trees could gather nutrients and distribute them – but you could only extract the data if you found all eight parts of the tree.

It took me a week to get the equipment listed in Cohesion’s notes. But it was possible, even with the war restrictions. I held my breath as the file downloaded onto my laptop, the eight parts interleaving perfectly.

It was an AI backup file.

I loaded it.


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Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

“Seven months after the Storm latched on to her memory, she didn’t know my face. Four months later, she forgot me entirely. A month after that, she forgot everything.” Jacob lowered his head. It was his day to speak at the Storm Virus Survivors meeting, and he had chosen to appear as a Dragon, to give himself a feeling of strength. He curled around the other seated Avatars, his tail tapping nervously, his claws crossed neatly, like the paws of a cat.

The support group met in one of the freeware preconstructs. It was a field on a spring day, in the middle of which were comfortable, hand carved wooden chairs arranged in a circle. It was a preconstruct everyone had seen before, meant to sooth. To Jacob, it seemed cheap. Jacob was an artist, he designed the constructs that people lived in. His Avatar, the rippling dragon, was a the most complex in the group. Most of the others chose just to replicate their physical forms.

Jacob sighed. “I don’t want to remember her that way. I want you to think about a year ago, her life after he knew she was going to be erased. She held on till the last moment, she kept her joy with her. When she could, she would tell me everything she remembered about how we met. She came to treasure her memory in a way so few of us appreciate.”

The leader of the group, an Avatar in a long white dress, spoke. “Did she Reboot?”

“Eventually, she had to. Storm invaded her system and erased her memory, everything she’d ever known.”

“Are you two still together?” asked the group moderator, Mary-Anne.

“No. After she Reboot, I left. She had family to take care of her.”

“Why did you leave her Jacob?”

Smoke curled out of Jacobs nostrils. “Everyone says they’re still alive because they can Reboot, start over. They are wrong. Reboot, and her organic childhood is gone. Reboot, and I never held a candle with her in n-shaped e-space. Reboot, and we never tried on those bodies so we could experience a summer day in Maine. Reboot, and the woman that was is gone. Mimi is dead.”

Quinn raised his hand. The group leader nodded at him. “Have you tried to contact her?”

“I don’t know the innocent person that walks with her pattern. I only know the loss that burrows in my being, at every decision I make, at every moment.”

Mary-Anne nodded. “I’m really glad you chose to share Jacob. Does anyone have any thoughts they would like to share with Jacob?”

Quinn raised his hand. “I know I’m not supposed to give advice, but I just feel like, if you liked Mimi before, you might like her again. I mean, maybe not, but it’s worth a chance, right?”

“Thank you Quinn,” said Mary-Anne.

Jacob shrugged his massive shoulders. “It won’t be the same. She’s changed.”

“We all change, even without Storm, we change. Why not take a chance? You might like this Mimi too!”

“That’s enough Quinn,” said Mary-Anne. “No advice.”

“It’s just, when the Storm took my memory, my friends stuck by me. It meant so much to me. I know you are afraid, but she needs you, and you may be giving up a big chance.”

“Quinn, this goes on any longer and you’ll have to be excused from the group.”


“No, I think he may have a point,” said Jacob. “I was so afraid that the new Mimi wouldn’t love me that I couldn’t take a chance on her. She needed me, and I abandoned her.”

“There is still time!” said Quinn.

“That’s it,” said Mary-Anne. “You are out!” Quinn disappeared.

“I’ve got to go too,” said Jacob. “There’s a new person out there I need to introduce myself too.” Jacob winked out of the group to meet his ex for the first time.

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