Bar Room Brawl

Author : Jennifer C. Brown aka Laieanna

Getting off the shuttle, Teddy shoved his way through the crowded corridor, eyes focused on the nearest destination locator. When he was in range of the sensors, the map of Los Angeles lit up in various colors. The locator welcomed him and started to rattle off hotels and restaurants including their average prices and ratings.

“Bar,” Teddy barked.

All lights on the map dimmed down save for six green ones scattered across the surface. The machine began describing the destinations, each light flashing in synch. The first two were sky bars high in the clouds. Next was a club-bar in the city center. Teddy chose a blinking green on the opposite side of the station and left the locator, missing out on the details.

The carrier ride to the bar was a quiet and soothing one, which Teddy hated. He watched the city go by with it’s empty streets and glistening buildings. A speck of dirt would probably set off the alarms, and a seedy person would put the whole place in a panic. It was no surprise he avoided Earth. Once other planets were colonized, Earth was turned in to a paradise. They slowly shot the scum into space and left the beautiful people on their home planet. If it weren’t necessary, Teddy would have never left his side of the universe.

In twenty minutes, he was standing outside the Haze Bar which sounded like an alright place to smoke, drink, and fight. Three things Teddy was dying to do. Inside, the air was hazy, but with no smoky smell. The place was half full with people chatting at tables and around the bar. Everything was automated.

Teddy sat at a corner booth that instantly asked what to serve him. “A camel pack and bourbon,” he ordered. A wall panel opened and out slid a tray with a caramel colored drink and a pack of cigarettes. He laid eighteen credits down on the tray and it retracted when the merchandise was taken away.

Taking a sip, Teddy nearly gagged at the flavor. It wasn’t bourbon. He wasn’t even sure it was liquor. He inspected the cigarettes, afraid to slip one into his mouth and get the taste of disappointment. There was a camel, but a disclosure underneath stated they had clean lung filters. He put the pack back down.

With no smokes, no liquor, he had only one pleasure left. It was time to make trouble. He walked over to a center table and tapped on the empty chair next to a gorgeous blonde who was deep in conversation with her big boyfriend. “I’ve got fifty credits to spend and no hotel. What will you give me if we just take it outside?”

The woman couldn’t even respond, but her boyfriend stood up. “What,” he asked, more shocked than angry.

“Your woman looks like a Reenar stuffing machine, but not as durable. Promise I’ll be gentle.”

“Please leave, sir,” the man growled, but took no swing.

Teddy was tired of waiting. “Screw it,” he said under his breath and went for a punch in the other man’s gut. His hand slipped right through and he stumbled from the unexpected inertia. Another man was standing near where Teddy fell. Teddy got up and tried a jab at that man’s jaw. Again, he only hit air. Five more tries at anyone in the bar, including a dumpy, old lady, and he gave up. “Goddamn holograms! You’re all hiding in your houses, but pretending to be with a crowd. Stupid planet. I’m going back to where people actually know how to live.”

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Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Eerin wasn’t sure exactly how she came to be in the pawn shop, and yet here she was. When she’d left her apartment in the Brodsky building, she’d been intent on going for coffee, but rather than the chrome and glass and fragrant aroma of a café she found herself surrounded instead by the detritus of generations of the desperate and financially needy. She had no recollection of having walked here, and she had puzzled on that realization as she made her way past the two cast iron bicycles at the door, around the jolly jumper and the stuffed bear that occupied it, and down the length of a case filled with khaki and metal bayonets and seemingly authentic World War II gas masks. Eerin had stopped finally at the back of the store, confronted by glass display cases littered with dusty lighters, jewelry and numerous other odds and ends. It was one such oddity that had begged her attention, though holding the rock encrusted and rusting metal stick as she now was, she couldn’t fathom what interest she should possibly have in it.

“You’ve got a keen eye, Miss, that’s a very valuable piece.” She braced herself for the sales pitch. “A gentleman left that in my father’s care in exchange for a crib and a baby carriage once, and some pocket change too mind, but I’m sure you and I can come to a fair price.” The shop keeper grinned, exposing widely spaced and badly nicotine-stained teeth. She’d begun to hate him the moment she’d stepped through the door.

“I’m not interested,” she lied, only barely aware that she’d done so, “I’m really just looking.”

The object began to feel warm, and she shifted it from one hand to the other, unsure if it was actually getting hot or not. As she did, large pieces of the rusted surface metal began to detach themselves, disintegrating to fall like dirty snowflakes onto the counter top.

“Oh dear, you’ve broken it, you’re going to have to buy it now,” he placed both hands palms down on the counter, leaning forward and frowning, “very expensive that is, very expensive.”

“I’ve done no such thing,” Eerin defended herself, straightening “and I told you I’m not interested. Besides, I’ve only got enough money for coffee; I didn’t come here to shop.”

The store owner narrowed his eyes. “If you’ve got no money, I hope you’ve got some other way to compensate me for my loss.”

Eerin’s first thought was of how quickly could she get to the door, but as she raised her hands and began to step backwards, she found herself staring at her reflection in the mirror behind him, her startled face framed neatly by the perfectly cauterized hole burned through his head.

He dropped behind the counter out of sight, and her mind raced with panicked thoughts: Should she run? Should she call the police? And say what? could she hide the body? Leaning on the counter and frowning down on the repugnant corpse as she worried, she absently began erasing him, neatly vaporizing his remains with back and forth sweeping motions of the now gleaming and gently purring device.

Stepping back onto the sidewalk of 8th Avenue, she paused a moment to bask in the warmth of the afternoon sunlight. For just a moment, she wondered how it was that all of that had come so naturally to her, but that thought was soon replaced with the question of how long it would take to walk to the Starbucks at 8th and West 43rd.

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Long Division

Author : Kathy Kachelries, Staff Writer

“You haven’t changed a bit,” Aja said, though her eyes avoided her sister’s face. Saj noticed the hesitation, noticed the way Aja’s bangs (gray and black, like soot-streaks on the walls of a bombed-out Akari factory) hung thin, revealing a forehead creased only with the lines of age. Saj’s hair was short and black, the standard military cut, and the slashed-circle brand of the soldier caste was glossy and pink above her eyebrow.

“How would you know?”

“You still look like you’re sixteen.”

“I’m nineteen. And I’ve changed a hell of a lot.”

Saj’s voice was tight, somewhere between the tone of a defensive child and a fierce adult, but there was no conflict in the duality. Saj kept her head high, her expression arrogant and indifferent to the curious stares of the few other teenagers in the café. None of them were branded. The caste system had been eliminated twenty years ago, when Saj was seventeen and light years away in the dying months of the war.

“You’re a doctor now,” Saj’s eyes remained hard on Aja’s face. “A plastic surgeon. Is that what happened to your mark?”

“Don’t do this, Saj.” When she frowned, her face looked like the wrinkled crust of the ice moon of Omnaki. Aja would never see that moon. No Salal would ever see it again. “The war is over, now.”

“Your war.”

“Our war.”

“The only people who shared that war with me died in the massacre on Soulon 5.” Saj’s expression was stony, and her dark eyes had narrowed into slits. “This isn’t my home. This is some world that you made, you and the rest of them, after I went away.”

Saj stared at her sister’s hands, which seemed even more alien than the leathery flesh of the Akari. Liver spots, wrinkled skin, fingernails painted mauve. It was hard to believe that they’d shared a womb, nineteen or sixty years ago.

“There’s a place for you here,” Aja whispered. “I’ve been saving. You can live with James and I, and go to University. We can get rid of your brand.”

“This isn’t my world,” Saj repeated. “And no one’s touching my brand.”

A cold silence fell over the café, and Saj realized she’d spoken too loudly for the enclosed space. She pushed herself up from the table and it creaked at the force of her muscular arms.

“Remember the river, out behind the house?” Aja said. “Where we used to swim in the summer?”

“You’re older than Grandma was.”

“We built a raft once, to see if we could float away from the colony.”

“If I’d drowned, you would have been firstborn,” Saj snapped.

“And I would have gone instead of you.”

Aja’s voice was calm, but Saj pushed away from the table and whirled, her boots squeaking against the floor as she stormed towards the glass door.

“I’ll wait for you.”

“You’ll be waiting for a damn long time.”

“I’ve been waiting for sixty years.”

This time, Saj hesitated, her hand on the doorknob. She stared back at her sister, something indefinable flickering behind her dark eyes.

“Come home,” Aja said.

Saj gritted her teeth and turned away. “I don’t have a home.”

She slammed the door before shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket and tightening her fingers around her cellphone. Its directory was empty, aside from Aja’s number and the Social Service Center. She wanted to break it, to watch it explode like a photon grenade, but she didn’t move. Saj was cold and tired, and she didn’t know what to do next.

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Chronolicide, She Wrote

Author : J. S. Kachelries

It was a bright sunny morning when Angela Lansfield headed toward the Town library in Mendocino Cove. She was researching time travel for a new mystery novel she was writing. However, prior to diving into Hawking’s time travel theories, she decided to relax, by browsing the old newspapers in the historical files in the library’s basement. While there, she stumbled onto an article concerning one of the town’s most prominent families. Apparently, 40 years ago, Bill Windom had been kidnapped. There were no ransom demands, and he was released unharmed five weeks later. The kidnappers were never found.

Angela knew the Windom family. Bill and his wife had both died years ago, but Angela was still close friends with their only child, Mileva, who had served with Angela on the steering committee for the town’s Historical Society. Angela decided to visit Mileva to find out what she knew about the kidnapping.

“Oh, I’m sorry Angela,” Mileva explained, “I was only three years old at the time. I don’t remember anything about it. It must have been so horrible for mother. Why are you interested, anyway?”

“Well, Mileva, I was writing a story where my main character wanted to murder his older brother so he could inherit their parent’s entire estate. But he knew if his brother was obviously murdered, he would be the primary suspect, if not by the police, certainly by the press. His solution was to travel backward in time and murder his brother in the nursery. He could never be a suspect, since he wasn’t born yet.”

“That’s an interesting storyline, Angela, but what does it have to do with my father?”

“Well, it dawned on me that someone could accomplish the same thing by preventing the parents from conceiving the child in the first place. It’s much less messy too, wouldn’t you agree? That’s when I thought about your family. Your mother was already forty when you were born. If your parents were going to have a second child, they needed to do it soon. And then your father was kidnapped. Why? What was the motive? It certainly wasn’t ransom money. Then I put two and two together. You occasionally mention having a younger brother, although there is no record of his birth. Perhaps you have retained memories from that timeline. To be perfectly frank, Mileva, I think you traveled back into time and kidnapped your father to prevent him from conceiving your younger brother. Was it for the money, Mileva, or was it because your parents loved your brother more than you? I’m sorry, Mileva, but I have to ask the sheriff to reopen the case.”

“My goodness Angela, what an unbelievable hypothesis. You writers do have such active imaginations. Yes, by all means, feel free to talk to the sheriff. I don’t mind.”

A few minutes after Angela left, Mileva made a phone call. “Tom, I have a problem…”

…It was a bright sunny morning when Angela Lansfield headed toward the Town library in Mendocino Cove. She was researching time travel for a new mystery novel she was writing. When she turned the corner, she saw the town’s fire department in front of the library. She walked up to the fire chief. “My heavens, Chief, what happened? Nobody was hurt, I hope?”

“No one hurt, Mrs. L. The fire was confined to the basement. It completely destroyed the historic reference section. The rest of the library is okay though. If you want to wait in the Coffee Shop, we’ll open the library to the public in about an hour.”

“Thanks, Chief, that’ll be fine. Although I will miss reading those old newspaper articles.”

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Neanderthal Ted

Author : Andy Bolt

Sometimes, it’s fun to be surrounded by an army of mutant water buffalos with horrible skin conditions and bizarre, temporally unstable face tentacles. Other times, I’ll be running through Brazil and suddenly, one of the local amphibians will hop into the air, balloon up to massive size, and snatch a helipod out of the sky with a semi-sentient, prehensile tongue that is suddenly considering a run for congress. Plus, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a field of precious lilies grow biomechanical arms and gang beat a man to death while shrieking Tom Jones songs at nausea inducing intrasonic levels.

I still hate Earth. I still hate humans.

My name is Ted. Well, actually, my name is a combination of potent chemicals, genetic information, and high frequency electromagnetics. “Hearing” it in all its glory would rewrite the DNA of the average human to the point where that individual would be totally unable to use a flush toilet, let alone understand what they were being told. So I go by Ted. Ted the alien.

I’m extra-dimensional, I come from outside of time as humans conceptualize it, and I’m from a galaxy far, far away. My species – let’s call them the Teds – are genetic telepaths. We communicate by sending compressed data streams that alter each others’ codon chains. In Tedland, it’s how we talk. On Earth, it makes me a biogenetic magician, capable of turning this planet’s clumsy organic mass into any number of forms, including several which would pop tiny human brains if made public. I’ve seen it happen.

I’m stuck here. You wouldn’t understand why.

The worst part is that my ability can’t be completely shut off. When I direct it, I can make the locals into whatever I like. When I don’t, everyone simply changes as my voice leaks out of me. Humans become stronger, smarter, and more creative entities. Their basic genetic profile is shifting. They are becoming little, Neanderthal Teds. These creatures are still far superior to normal humans, and their newly found voices change others. My best guess is that the human species will be completely gone within six months.

I have conquered this planet without trying. I don’t even want it.

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