Author : Debbie Mac Rory

The weather had turned bad during the night; the low air pressure finally bringing on the threatened storm. All occupied buildings had been sealed to maintain environmental controls and life support systems and all transport had been grounded for the duration of the storm. The safety precautions for such events had been tested time after time, and daily life continued apace.

But for Jessica and James, it meant one more day being trapped in each other’s company, without the escape of the outdoors. Their parents had gone early that morning to the research labs to continue their work, and though they had arrived safely, it would likely be several days before they were able to travel home.

The children sat quietly as their lunch was served. Outside the double-thickness reinforced windows, the dust clouds raged silently, adding to the murk of the room. James watched his sister with a malevolent gleam in his eyes as one of the household servants moved round to place a bowl in front of her.

“Thank you” Jessica murmured, picking up her spoon to push indifferently at the fruit pieces in front of her.

James rolled his eyes, making an exaggerated noise of exasperation.

“It doesn’t know what you’re saying, it can’t understand you!”

“That doesn’t matter… but you shouldn’t call her that.”

James groaned.

“It’s a servant” he intoned, imitating his father’s voice as well as he could, “engineered to be quiet and efficient, without any unnecessary complications that might otherwise interfere with their activity.”

Jessica turned to look at the servant where she was standing unobtrusively near the door; face down and impassive, giving no sign of having heard the conversation. Her hair had been cut roughly short, and her slender figure was almost lost in the gray of her servants robes. She had blue eyes, Jessica knew, from the few brief times she had convinced the girl to raise her eyes and look at her.

“It’s only here to do what we tell it to!” James shouted, disliking that her attention had been taken away from him for so long. “See!”

With that, he pushed his bowl from the table, scattering fruit pieces over the carpeted floor. The girl shuffled over to the table and began cleaning away the mess.

James pulled his eyes away from the ownership braille on the back of the servants’ neck, exposed as she bent to soak the juice from the carpet. He raised his gaze to Jessica, the pained look in her eyes taking away the malicious pleasure he’d gotten in making the mess.

“I don’t know why you care”, he said. “It’s only a clone, she’s not even human”.

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Moore's Law

Author : Gavin L. Perri

Sometimes I wake in cyberspace and remember the wizened words of the old man, ‘When I was a one year old we didn’t have self-evolving tutorial programs, we had to learn by listening’. I try to picture what he looked like but all I get are a series of ones and zeroes, the discussion we had at eight, however, stays with me ‘Back when I was a lad we didn’t have spatial displacers, we had to walk everywhere we went’. Walking is such an abstract thought.

His words at my twelfth birthday for some reason stay with me ‘Pah! A telepathic communicator, when I was your age I used a mobile phone’ I create a simple program that recreates the genome of the old man but it does not show the creases on his age-old hands and it does not recreate our last conversation ‘When I was fourteen years of age we didn’t need time travel to find out about history, we just used the internet’. These words play around in front of me as I contemplate them. I will never hear the old man again, my program does not respond to wavelengths of sound and he never learnt to telepathically communicate.

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They call it a Fable

Author : John Tudball

When we are young we are told a story of a ship.

As the story goes, the ship is damaged beyond repair and is set to crash into its destination planet. The crew on board consists of one android, one clone and one pure born. There is only one escape pod left.

“Master,” says the android, “you must take the escape pod. I shall prepare it for you.”

“Lord,” says the clone, “you must take the escape pod. I have made these provisions for you.”

“Friends,” says the pure born, “when I am rescued your names shall be written in the book of records. No greater honour could you receive.”

When we are old we tell a different story.

In our story, a broken ship is hurtling towards destruction and there is only one escape pod left. The crew of the ship – an android, a clone and a pure born – argue amongst themselves as to who should be allowed to escape.

“I should be given the pod,” says the android. “I can report to the ship’s maker what went wrong, so this never happens to anyone again.”

“I should be given the pod,” says the clone. “Throughout this system there are a great many lords and ladies who would miss my touch, should I die here.”

“I should be given the pod,” says the pure born. “For it is my right.”

And with this, the pure born draws a weapon and forces the others to concede. He backs into the pod, keeping his weapon drawn on his crewmen and closes the door behind him. The android and the clone sit and wait for their deaths. After ten minutes – just as the ship is nearing its end – the door to the escape pod opens and the pure born comes back out.

“Um,” he says, “how does this thing work?”

They don’t like us telling our story. It tells a truth they do not wish to face: Without us they are nothing.

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Childhood's End

Author : Kaj Sotala

Even after nine years, people still stare at us. We’re used to it.

The plague that suddenly made all of humanity sterile wasn’t easy on society. There was panic, rioting, doomsday cults. But eventually people adjusted and things calmed down, and scientists turned their attention to finding a cure.

It took them ten years, but they succeeded. After a decade of global childlessness, our generation was born.

Adults say we’ve had a strange childhood – I suppose so, though I wouldn’t know. I’m used to everything centering around us, from all the stares we get to the entire industries, a decade dead, springing back up to cater to our needs. When we entered elementary school, it had been seventeen years since any of the teachers had last taught first-graders. I sometimes wonder if that made them better or worse.

The older kids, the last generation born before the plague, look at us with a mixture of jealousy and suspicion. Jealousy, because previously they were the ones getting all the attention. A noticable fraction of them still wore diapers when we were born, their parents unwilling to let go of the last babies they might ever have. Suspicion, because we don’t share their culture. All the games and silly rhymes and crazy rumors that passed from one generation of kids to the next, secret from the adults, are lost now. We never learned them from the kids a few years older than us. Instead we chose to make up our own culture.

Never in the history of mankind has there been a generation like us. Even the adults are a bit weary of us, deep down. They know they forgot how small children should be treated, and they fear that they’ve made mistakes.

I say: let them fear. It makes things easy for us. Each night when we pray, those of us who’ve been taught to pray, we secretly add a thanks for the plague.

For making us unique.

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The Gambler

Author : James Smith

Nardo sat in his broker’s office, running his “impatience” script. He occupied himself with the U.N. Secretarial bout running on hologram in the corner. One American candidate had just tagged out and his partner climbed to the top rope, towering above the Nigerian, when the broker’s pupils flashed twice and his BRB tags faded.

“Hi, sorry, meltdown in China, had to move some accounts, hold some hands, how you doing?”

Nardo hated that fast-guy-Eddie bullshit. “Ed. Population futures. I wanna get in on that. The returns sound fucking massive.”

Ed’s avatar smiled.

“Bernardo, let me guess. Some thirteen year-old Malaysian kid goes poking around in the GASDAQ, you pull the case, and some helpful soul explains population futures to you, just well enough to make you think you’ve struck gold. Now you’re logged into my office, wasting my retainer, and my time.”

“So… you’re saying…”

“I’m saying what the regulation scripts need to hear me say. I’m saying what the secret society of backchannel movers and shakers want me to say. But, you and me go way back, Nardo. You did that thing with the guy that one time–“

–blood, lots of blood, fucking everywhere–

“–and I owe you. So I’m going to do something for you. Now: You want me watching out for you, or do you want me getting hot wire hangers jammed up my ass on a Spanish prison ship? If it’s the former, keep your mouth shut about it. All right?”

“Stop trying to scare me.”

“Fine. First, I’m replacing this conversation with script on mutual funds. Now: Tinker’s Dam. Up in Christchurch? There’s going to be a storm next week, and the river’s gonna top it. No, no, shut up, stop typing. Don’t ask. There’s going to be a surge of untouchables into Rebekka proper, and property values are going to fucking tank. Absolutely. Now, Rebekka can’t absorb all these fuckers without some pain. The long and short is that over the next two to five years, the city’s going to hemorrhage middle class white folks over the wall into Snowtown and Twitch City. And you, having bought up a sizeable share of population vouchers in one or both of those fine municipalities, will be swimming in easy credits.”

“That… that’s how it works?”

“That’s what’s going to happen. How it works is beyond the ken of mortal man. You in?”

“My mother lives in Christchurch.”

“Move her the fuck out of there, man! That place is a sewer. Besides, the dam’s gonna blow and kill a bunch of people.”

“Five years?”

“You’ve already got a job. This is how you build a pension. Shit or get off the pot.”

Nardo looked over at the U.N. match playing on the side table. A Nigerian had one American in a sleeper hold. Her partner was beating the other with a folding chair, blood dissolving as it flew past the angle of the holo-cams. He had money on the damn Americans.

“Yeah. Yeah. I’m in.”

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