Birthday Boy

Author : Ian Rennie

I sit alone in the dark, the birthday boy. I could have left the lights on, but with only a couple of minutes to go it hadn’t seemed worth it. Typical, really.

Well, this is it. Or this was it, at least. They had taken the neural snapshot four minutes ago, and they were already at work reviving me.

“Me”, funny word to use about someone I’ll never be. Was it always like this? I suppose I’ll never know.

This was a conscious choice, as little comfort as that gives me now. Most people did the refresh on a five or ten year cycle, but not me. I wanted to be twenty one forever, never see the slow spread of age reminding me of how mortal I was. A perfect year after a perfect year, that’s what I was after, and that’s what I’ve got, sort of. Every year on my birthday, they make a perfect digital copy of my brain and put it in the new body. To stop there being two of me running round, they send a shutdown signal to the old body’s brain. It takes exactly ten minutes to propagate, by which time the new me is up and about and 21 again.

Only I’m six minutes the wrong side of that copy, now. I can’t see much any more. Everything’s starting to fade.

I’d never been on this side before, clearly. This was an experience I – or he – will never learn from. Shame, really, because all I want to do is grab myself by the shoulders and yell in my face, telling myself it’s not worth it, living forever by dying every year.

Too late now. It will always be too late, I expect.

I can just make out the digital display on the clock. 30 seconds left.

Happy birthday to me

Happy birthday


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


Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer

Marie-Christine looked into her mirror at her naked adolescent body, flat and slender. There were parts she was disappointed in and parts that pleased her. She was careful not to stare too long, her parents were sure to be watching her visual feed for abnormal behavior.

She was happy that she no longer had to monitor her words. For a whole year now, she had been free of the blasted chip that meant that she had to watch her mouth. The Children’s Rights Amendment 2112 had banned the use of audio monitoring in children because it restricted free speech and impeded the development of the independent thought, a resource and necessity for a citizen of a democratic society. For Marie-Christine, it meant that she could now curse, and that older kids would talk to her.

Marie-Christine went through all the motions of going to bed; she carefully laid her clothes for the next day on her desk. She counted the steps from her window to her bed, and from her bed to her desk. Crawling into bed, closing her eyes, she fought off the soft pull of sleep. After twenty minutes, she heard a tapping on her window, and she got out of bed, her eyes still closed. She opened the window and leaned out, groping the air with her hands.

When her hands touched leather, she squealed with delight. “Dean!”

“Hush kid, just cause your parents can’t see what you’re doing, doesn’t mean they can’t hear you from the bedroom.”

She smiled “Don’t worry about them, they sleep in a depro-tank.” Dean’s breath smelled like peppers. She could hear him clambering through the window. He was handsome, olive skin and high cheekbones, dark brows, blank white eyes. After Amendment 2112 passed Dean became very popular. All the kids wanted to learn how from him how to get around without their eyes. Dean didn’t mind the attention, but Marie-Christine knew that he only had ears for her. She was the only girl who liked him before the Amendment. No matter how many girls wanted Dean at their windows, Marie-Christine was the only one who would find him there.

They said that his blindness was cause by an act of tech terror, the insane scientists who claimed that the current political moralist was stalling technological development. Sometimes their acts would create seven armed musical geniuses, and sometimes blinded children.

“Stay still.” he said softly, and wrapped a soft cloth over her eyes. She touched her face, now she was really a sleepwalker. “It’s just in case you open your eyes by accident.”

“This is so weird.’ she said, excitedly. “Um, not that there is anything wrong with not seeing.”

Dean grabbed her hands and guided them to his face. He was smiling. “Come on good girl, lets go out tonight.”

She put on her clothes, and found Deans hand in the darkness behind the blindfold. Together they crawled out the window to the cool night, the strange streets, brave in their blindness.

People stared at the rebel children, the sleepwalkers, but the children couldn’t see them.

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

Train City

Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

We’re both standing on the rooftops of the train city. Two hundred and twenty-three tracks wide, slowly migrating polewards to more oil and frozen fresh water.

Metal groans as the temperature drops. Tenpenny nails shrink and loosen in the planks holding shacks together. Coal stoves are fueled and ready to go. The whole city has a heartbeat as the connections between the rails tick by beneath the wheels.

Wind-jenny and I are up top amongst the blooming solar fields. She lives up here but I only have a daypass. I’m one of the Engineer’s children. I can’t spend too much time away from my station or I run out of juice. Wind-jenny keeps telling me that she could hook me up with a solar generator and I’d never have to go back, no problem.

“That would be against the rules. This city’s not big enough for renegades.” I tell her, quoting the maxim laid down by the first Engineer.

Motion and Power. The whole society was based on it. Feed the engines. Stoke the lights. Keep moving.

Once every two months or so, a junction comes up. If anyone wants to see what life is like on a different traincity, they’re welcome to get off and set up camp to wait for the next one. The schedules are right there on the wall. It’s encouraged. The more folks know that there’s no difference between the other cities, the more they spread the word and the less people want to leave.

There are rumours, of course, born of young dreams and hope, of traincities made of white marble and gold that run on magic. Badlerdash. Boxcar madness.

The Engineer has told me through my downtime interface that this traincity is as good as any other. The Engineer keeps granting me daypasses because I’m twice as productive after a visit with Wind-jenny. I love her and the happiness she causes in my heart makes me tend the engines faster down in the smoke-soaked darkness of the stokeroom. The burning of the coals reminds me of the colour of her hair.

My daypass has five minutes left. I tell Wind-jenny that I’ve got to go soon. She kisses me and snuggles up to the biological parts of me to give me a thrill of a memory that will last me until the next time I see her.

She pulls down her goggles and raises her scarf. It makes her look like a desert ant. She looks at me as I throw a metal treadleg over the lip of the porthole, hooking on to the ladder chute that’ll take me back down. I pause for a moment, looking at her red hair being pulling by the angry children of the wind and take a picture with a shutter click in my right eye.

I’ll turn it in my mind like a jewel in the darkness when I’ve put on my shovel hands and I’m back to work. I’m already looking forward to next time.

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

15 Eunomia

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

David Erwin, the lone human inhabitant at the Eunomia mining station in the asteroid belt, was just suiting up to make his rounds when his door chime sounded. Erwin shook his head in mild frustration. Robots never seem to get it. He had instructed them hundreds of times to just enter his quarters without waiting for authorization, but they never do. He hypothesized that some early programmer must have gotten into trouble when a robot interrupted someone important at an inopportune moment, so he wrote “etiquette” code that couldn’t be overridden, except in emergencies. Well, at least in this case, hearing the chime was a good sign. It meant the robot at the door didn’t consider this visit an emergency. “Come in,” he instructed.

The door slid open, but the robot didn’t enter. It was Rector, the leadbot of the Delta team. “Excuse the interruption, sir” it said in a polite simulated male voice, “but we encountered an artificial object in tunnel K-13.” Rector paused, waiting to be prompted. Erwin said nothing. He continued to suit up as though he were alone. Rector decided to continue, “I believe, sir, that it is an ancient extraterrestrial spacecraft.”

“Fine,” replied Erwin as he sealed and secured his helmet. He gently pushed off the far wall and drifted toward the door. He grabbed Rector’s arm, and scrambled onto its back. He attached his retaining clips to Rector’s shoulders. “Okay,” he said, “take me there.” Walking or driving was not an option in the microgravity of Eunomia. You had to fly. And robots were much better at it than humans. So it was best to leave the transportation to them.

They passed through the airlock, and navigated through a myriad of tunnels and shafts. There was never a question of Rector getting lost. It had the network of tunnels programmed into its memory, which were updated every hour, so it knew every inch of this asteroid. But it made Erwin wonder. What would happen if Rector chose to abandon him here in this tunnel? Could he find his way back to his quarters before his oxygen ran out? Probably not, he concluded. Fortunately, Asimov’s three laws of robotics made that scenario impossible. Rector’s forward thrusters fired, bringing them to a full stop 50 feet in front of the artificial object Rector had mentioned.

Rector’s robotic mining crew had continued to excavate around the object. Approximately twenty feet of it was exposed. Rector’s assessment had been correct, it was a spaceship. Erwin could identify the bow, and the forward viewport. Since Eunomia was at least 4.45 billion years old, these travelers were ancient visitors indeed. He unclipped himself, and flew toward the ship’s viewport. He used his light beam to illuminate the inside of the ship. There were four beings inside; all dead of course, and fully desiccated. Apparently, he thought, the cold vacuum of space can prevent decomposition indefinitely. Erwin wondered how space faring beings like these could end up entombed miles below the surface of a nondescript asteroid, orbiting a run-of-the-mill star. Oh well, he decided, that’s for the scientists back on Earth to figure out.

Erwin pushed himself back from the ship. “Okay Rector, I’ll notify headquarters. Instruct your crew to finish digging it out. Then put it in the yard with the rest of alien ships. These things are starting to become a nuisance.”

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

Catlike Tread

Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

“Where am I?”

“A sub. We’re in the middle of the Deneb main belt.”

“Name and designation?”

“This is the Catlike Tread. Ess-ess-you-nine-seven-four.”

Orig got to his feet. The inside of the sub was cramped: the design didn’t allow for more open space than was absolutely necessary for the mental wellbeing of the crew. An outsider might expect the sub to smell disgusting: Orig silently thanked whoever had made artificial bodies mandatory for sub duty.

He’d come in over the wire, and appropriated the body of the sub’s commander. The commander’s psyche was still present, quiescent, behind Orig’s awareness.

The sandy-haired wire-and-weapons technician that had answered his questions turned away and went forward to the cockpit. After the disorientation of the wirejump, his active memories came flooding back.

He spent a moment inspecting the commander’s body. The model was a couple of years old, just one of the glaring signs that this sub had been out on silent running for years now. Crew were rotated every six months standard, but this was the first time the situation had required a troubleshooter of any stature.

He went forward, and found the tech sitting in the cockpit with the only other crewmember, a remote-sensing engineer.

“Can I get a breakdown of what’s happened?”

“We’ve spent the last fortnight running rings around denebian ships. They’re coming from the the third planet’s orbital, sketching every rock and bit of black space with laser. They seem to be sure that we’re here.”

“Any idea how?”

“None at all, sir.”


“What should we do, sir?”

“Well, they think we’re here, but they can’t find us. Next step is to make them think we’re dead. What’s the status on your weapon stocks?”

“We’ve still got two dancers, sixty crows and six proximity mines. We’ve got a clanker, too. One of those remote repair drones.”

“Okay. We need to hack together a couple of comms packets. Just enough to broadcast noise on whatever the hell channel the denebs are using. Use the clanker to strip the engines off the back of thirty ravens, and attach them to three good-sized rocks. And ready a single dancer. Call me when you’re done.”

Orig abdicated control of the commander’s body, and settled into the secondary core. He spent the time running simulations, sipping data from the Tread‘s passive sensors to refine his plan.

He opened the commander’s eyes again, a few hours later. A display popped up, showing the three chosen rocks in a split screen, the dark spikes of the broken missiles sticking out perpendicularly from the surface.

“Pick your favourite, tie the dancer to it, and set the trigger for a hundred kilometres proximity to that orbital.”

Orig waited long enough to see the engines ignite, and every denebian ship sunside of the belt started speeding towards the rocky decoys. He wirejumped away, leaving the Commander to watch the decoys die. Minutes later, the dancer detonated in a smooth wash of x-rays, and the commander grinned as a clean slice of the orbital shimmered, and faded out of existence.

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