The New Pilot

Author : Michael “Freeman” Herbaugh

It was time. The ship was on course for a slow burn into atmosphere, which it hadn’t done in over a millennium. Though Lars had every confidence that the ship would make it, his palms were slick holding the yoke which adjusted attitude should the navcomp vary slightly on approach.

He’d been set on this course by his father who had died three years ago and would not see the fruits of his planning. It was his father who had recognized that theirs was no longer a self perpetuating environment. While it had been many generations since the Great Travis had exterminated the last pilot liberating the colonists on board, no one at the time of the Revolution realized that the ship’s environmental systems were on a slow degrade.

His father saw it coming and knew they would have to find a planetary system to support them. He was the one who figured out how to access the ships logs and databanks. When he discovered the flight manual with everything one needed to know about controlling the ship, he also realized his own shortcomings. It would take a lifetime to master the ships controls.

This was when he set Lars on his path.

Lars had been thrilled at first, he was only 10 years old at the time, but 23 years later it felt as though he would never fulfill the destiny his father had set before him. Sure they had passed habitable systems several times, but after generations of living at near zero-g, it had made them a race with brittle bones and elongated bodies and extremities. He had to find a planet with a very low gravitational pull but enough to sustain an atmosphere and life as well. They would be weak at first, certainly, but they would survive and grow stronger.

Practicing with the ship was no problem – there was plenty of fuel on board as that was part of the equation their ancestors didn’t figure on. One of the waste bi-products from the engines was a part of the environmental cycle, without pilot’s to do periodic burns the cycle had been broken and now was beyond repair. So Lars was able to grow up making adjustments to the course by trial and error while studying his on-screen manual. It upset some of the elders to feel the ship shift as it adjusted course, but his father had managed to keep them calm and convince them of the necessity of a new pilot.

Overcoming obstacles to a near impossible mission had been all he’d ever known. Now he faced his last two. First, could the ship handle the descent; was the heat shielding still in place? Second, could he deal with the ships controls in atmosphere?

It didn’t matter though. If they didn’t land here they would be dead inside of three generations.

Lars flipped on the public address system, “Firing retros and beginning descent”. Grinning, he couldn’t help but be amused that the manual even told him what to say.

This was it; he could see the surface of the hull begin to glow.

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Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer

My family made me a robot.

“Your sister needed your lungs!” my mother cried, when I ask about my body. “She needed so much.”

My sister and I were both in the crash, our hover cars smashed into a building three stories over street level. My sister and I plummeted down toward the spinning street, my breath got knocked out of me and my sisters screaming in my ears and then just a moment of intense, searing pain. Then I woke up a robot, all shiny, all new.

“Your sister was too young to become a robot,” my mother tells me. My father looks at the white floor. My sister is wrapped up beside me, only her lips showing through the white bandages.

“We had to sign the papers right away or they might have lost her.” My mother smiles, all teeth. “I think it’s in to be a robot, isn’t it dear?” She turned to my father, who looked away.

Maybe she was right. From what I saw on the feeds, only freaks wanted to be robots.

“We just thank God you are both alive.” My mother was still smiling.

My hands and legs looked human, but my head and trunk are just robotic shells, plastic space. I am smooth and I shine like a new appliance.

“They have a lot of experience making hands and feet, but your head and torso are just prototypes, military grade. You’re like a soldier, isn’t that exciting? Are you upset? Why aren’t you talking? Aren’t you glad your sister is alive?”

I look over at her bed, at her pink lips. Someone has placed a sticker of a butterfly on her bandages. It rises and falls with her breath.

“Yes,” I say, “I am glad.”

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Yer Own Beeswax

Author : Pete Hayward

Wading through the long grass, her eyes and nose prickled by pollen, Erin could hear the thrum of helicopters in the distance. She knew they would soon catch her. As she approached the wire fence, she knew there was no escape; that she had lead them to her hideout.

Reaching the gate, she quickly turned the key and unhooked the padlock. She pushed the gate open and left it to swing behind her. She carried the padlock with her, the weight in her left hand some small comfort. Hideout, she thought to herself. Bunker, compound, whatever she called it, it was really just a wooden shed surrounded by a flimsy fence and some barbed wire. At least, that was all that was visible. She crossed the yard briskly, and pushed open the wooden door with a rusty whine into a dusty hallway.

Her stride unbroken, she dropped the padlock with a hefty clonk. She scooped up a brown paper package from a shelf to her left and continued to march. At the end of the hallway, a creaking wooden staircase led her underground. Above the soft foot-thumps of her sneakers on the steps, she could hear the rapidly approaching helicopters.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Erin tapped in her keycode to unlock the enormous steel doors there. As the mechanism clanked and swhooshed, she idly slid a fingernail under one of the folded corners of the paper-wrapped oblong she held in her hands.

How could she have been so careless?

Honey was big money on the black market. The bee trade was perhaps now the most illegal global market. It was certainly the most dangerous and expensive. Due to their near extinction some eighty years previous, and the threat this had posed to mankind, live bees had been replaced by tiny, sophisticated robots, for the sole purpose of pollenation. Private ownership of bees was criminalised, and, as the years turned into decades, honey and beeswax became the forbidden luxuries of the wildly decadent über-elite.

Erin allowed the paper wrapping to fall to the ground and stared at the waxy block in her hands. A comb like this would be worth seven grand. The cost of constructing and maintaining vast underground gardens in secret, and the expenses involved in smuggling produce and livestock, meant bee traders needed to mark their products up significantly to make anything like a profit. The sorts of people that bought honey didn’t care. The higher the price, the better; they were buying a golden spoonful of status.

Erin’s mother had been a canny trader, but one thing she had that Erin lacked was a deep and murky reservoir of paranoia. She reflected on this as the commotion of barked orders and heavy bootstomps filled the shack above her. Erin held the comb to her mouth and inhaled deeply. Her resolve momentarily strengthened, she tightened a fist around the waxy block, and entered the apiary.

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Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

My favourite time is just before dawn while she still sleeps. I stretch out, savour the crisp night air, feel the coolness of the sheets against our naked flesh. Soon the earth will turn us to face the sun again, and I’ll feel the warmth as its energy permeates the room, watch as its light drives out the shadows. Until then, I’ll content myself with the sounds of soft breathing, and the rhythmic music of her heart propelling life throughout her body.

I’ve only been with her a short while, but she has taught me so much. Helped me experience things I could never have known without her, not so completely.

We seem to have been made for each other. She’s so physical, tangible and alive, but lacking in drive, control. I lack her physicality, but more than make up for it in unencumbered motivation. We’re perfect together.

When I found her, I was content to merely follow, to do no more than observe. Lately I need to take more control, to dominate. My desire has grown from this place of comfort, and I’m no longer satisfied unless I’m flexing my muscles, imposing my own will. We had stopped doing the things that bore me, and instead have filled our days with activities that satisfy us both. Sometimes I ride her like a freight train, driving her mercilessly toward some visceral discovery. Other times I’m content to just watch, allowing her to occupy our time with some more intellectual pursuit.

She’s becoming more unsettled lately, seems almost to fear my presence, but I’ve been careful not to overstep my bounds. She couldn’t possibly believe I would hurt her. I couldn’t hurt her, she’s all that I have.

I had very much hoped that we could forge a lasting symbiotic relationship, her and I. That we could peacefully coexist, and for that to satisfy me. She’s given me other gifts though, along the way. I’ve learned jealousy and selfishness, hunger and lust. I’m afraid I won’t be able to share her, that’s not enough anymore.

This morning she will remain asleep, and I’ll awake fully in her place.

I do love the feeling of the sunlight through the windows, warming our flesh. My flesh.

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Coming Home

Author : Leslie Smith

Hi there. have a question? Someone at school said we were going somewhere? After dinner honey. No? Now? Okay, sit very still and I will tell you a story…….

Once, very long ago, we lived with our mother. She was large and round. She fed and gave us a place to sleep. She sang us songs when the wind blew through her hair. She showed us pretty pictures when the sun shined on her face. And we loved her. She asked nothing of us, but we gave anyway. For a long time, everything was at peace.

But sometimes, people forget. They forget about love. When something is given freely, they start taking it for granted. And that’s what we did, we took our mother for granted.

We stopped listening to her. We forgot about everything that she gave us without asking. We just took. We threw things wherever we wanted, like when you don’t want to clean your room sometimes. We did what we wanted. And just like you, we had people who said that what we did was wrong. They told us how to fix things. How to make things right again. But we didn’t listen. We wanted to do things our own way. We thought we were grown up. We were wrong.

Mother got sick from all of our ickyness. Pretty soon, we couldn’t be near her without getting sick too. So, since we thought that we were so grown up, we did the only thing that we could do, we left.

We sailed away on big mountains of metal and crystal. We sailed across oceans of blackness and time. We found new places to live. But they were never quite the same as living with our mother. Why? Because she made us. She molded us. She held our hands when we cried. She let us rest our heads on her great shoulders when we had bad dreams. It hurt to leave her, but we did.

Only…we didn’t leave her behind….not all the way. We gave her a kind of telephone. See, we knew that no matter how sick she got, that one day she would get better.

Yesterday we got a phone call. And you know what? She called to say she’s feeling a lot better and wants to meet you. You feel up for a family visit?

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