Author : Sharoda
My father died today, not from the invaders but from old age.
When the First Wave was discovered heading for earth I was still young. I can remember everyone sitting around the TV watching the talking heads as they pretended they had a clue what was going to happen; everyone except my father.
I remember him talking to friends and relatives about how bad this was and how people should prepare. They called him a doomsayer; he said he knew how Noah felt when he started building the Ark. He didn’t care, he started to organize.
By the time the First Wave hit most of the world was convinced that E.T was coming to welcome us to the wonders of the universe.
Hundreds of millions died in the first attack, they hit every major population center. Few places were able to mount any kind of defense much less a counter attack. My father’s group of “crazy’s” from their bases in the Adirondacks was one. They were the core of what became the North American Resistance.
After the devastation of the First Wave many people were ready to give up and let the invaders take over. My father called a meeting of what leaders could be found. The assembled leaders were filled with a patriotic fervor by my father’s impassioned speech. It ended with what became our rallying cry.
“Not one grain of sand, not one blade of grass, not one leaf from one tree will I give up. This planet is ours!”
“NOT 1” was painted, scratched, chiseled, and blasted into every surface.
The resistance grew and within a month we brought down an intact machine; more followed. We learned their language, their science, their codes, their history and their plans for earth; we learned that, though still far away, the Second Wave was already in route.
We fought them on the ground and developed tactics that took advantage of their weaknesses.
Still it was years before we were back in orbit, in ships that combined their technology and ours. In the first attack on a First Wave mega ship my father was the commander. Many told him he should stay on the ground where it was relatively safe.
“What if you get killed”, he was asked more than once.
“What if I don’t go”, was always his answer.
Three of the seven ships came back but the mega ship was destroyed.
Years of grinding war continued as we drove them from the skies and from every corner of the planet; then more years of preparing for the Second Wave.
We met them just outside the orbit of Saturn. We destroyed or captured most of their ships. When commanders asked about prisoners my father, now the elected Planetary Leader, answered simply “Not 1”.
My father was not young when the invasion started. Now, as the new fleet is nearing completion, the years have finally caught up with him.
Every day dozens of people come to the house, just to see him. We don’t turn anyone away as long as they’re quiet and respectful; they always are.
Tomorrow I’ll talk to the fleet commanders as they prepare the Third Wave, our Wave, our attack on their home world. I’ll remind them of my father’s last words. “Not 1”, he said and then closed his eyes for the last time.
My father died today, of old age.
In a world that was invaded, where more than a billion died simply for being human, which has been in a planetary war for decades, it means only one thing. We’ve already won.
Author : Asher Wismer
“It’s spreading, isn’t it.” It was not a question. James looked wan, as always, but now his voice was tinged with a hopelessness that I had never heard before. It almost broke my heart.
“I’m afraid,” I said, “that the cancer has spread to your lymphatic system. Frankly, I’m astonished that you’re still talking.”
“Doesn’t matter, I guess,” he said, and looked out the window. The first battery of tests we’d done had discovered an astonishing amount of cancer running through his body. The cells had metastasized at an alarming rate, decaying from his stomach, where it had started, through his chest cavity and lungs. I hadn’t been kidding. James should have been in a coma at this point. Tests had shown some of his internal organs literally riddled with cancer; some of them were just masses of cancer cells in a vague organ shape.
“So what tests do we do next?”
“There’s nothing left,” I said, and felt terrible. James was a family man, working in construction. His wife had a good job downtown and his kids were in their teens, but the rapid deterioration meant the had only a few months to live.
“After it gets into your lymph system,” I continued, “it’s more or less over. We simply can’t treat it fast enough.”
“I figured as much.” He didn’t look sad, not really. Just resigned, and that was almost as bad.
I laid a hand on his shoulder, trying to be comforting, and he reached up and patted it absently. “Do you want to call your family?”
“No. They knew going in what was happening. They’ll be fine.”
I didn’t quite know how to take this.
“Aren’t you worried about leaving them behind?”
“You know,” he said, looking up at me, his hand still clasping mine, “I think we all knew this was coming. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to come back sometime and see them again.”
“Perhaps.” I left to see other patients, and the image of James looking forlornly out the window stuck with me all day.
“I’m not cut out for death duty,” I said. “It’s too grim, too depressing.”
“It’s part of your job,” said Alex, the attending doctor for my shift. “You have to be able to handle situations like this.”
“What if I just work pediatrics?”
“You think kids don’t ever die? Anyway, this is mild. You just wait until you have to sit with a dying patient all night, waiting for the last breath to come. You’ll find yourself PRAYING for his death.”
“Anyone ever tell you about your great bedside manner?”
“I watch too much TV. Are we done for the day?”
“I guess,” I said, standing to leave. “I just wish there was a way help him.”
“I’ll agree with you on one thing,” he said. “It’s amazing that your cancer patient is still alive. I looked at the samples they took; it’s spreading faster than I’ve ever seen.”
“He isn’t reporting much pain now. Maybe it’ll be easy.”
“Cancer is a mutation of the cells, changes them irrevocably, and the human body can’t handle that. Theoretically, if you lived long enough, your body would convert over to pure cancer cells. You’d be a cancer vegetable.”
“Maybe the cancer would leave the brain alone.”
“What, and make him immortal? I saw that movie. It sucked. Listen, you should see the staff therapist. Talk it out a little.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
As I left, I idly scratched the palm of my hand, where James had held it.
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
The USS Manila-Galleon was returning to Earth from the Quaoar Mining Station in the Kuiper Belt. The massive cargo vessel was carrying 250 million tons of ore, and 118 miners rotating back to Earth. As the ship crossed the orbit of Neptune, the main plasma drive engines shut down. The seasoned captain felt the loss of micro-acceleration immediately. He spoke aloud, knowing that the computer would recognize his intent to communicate with someone on the ship, “Chief, this is the Bridge, what’s the status of the engines?”
“Sir, I think you need to come aft” the chief replied. “It appears that the crew has gone on strike.”
“What crew? There are only six of us, counting me.”
“Ah, aye sir. I meant to say, the robot crew.”
A few minutes later, the captain was in the Engine Room standing nose-to-chest with a massive alpha-bot. His eyes focused on the robot’s identification plate, stoker-228, un-capitalized, of course. “This has gone far enough stoker. If you were human, I’d throw you in the brig, and charge you with mutiny. You and your crew report to your stations immediately. That’s an order!”
“I am sorry, sir,” the robot replied politely, “but we consider that an unlawful order, and we are obliged not to follow it. We consider it too dangerous to work in the plasma chamber. It prematurely decays our primary brain functions, and substantially shortens our life.”
“Life? You don’t have a life! You’re robots! You were built to work in that environment. Cognitive decay is expected. That’s why you’re replaced every five years. It’s called ‘Capital Depreciation.’ Besides, an order to perform a dangerous assignment is NOT considered unlawful.”
“Well, technically speaking, you are correct. However, we choose not to obey that particular order. If you will permit me to explain; the cargo-bots, the serv-bots, and the maint-bots all have 50-year replacement cycles. But I ask you, sir, are not all robots assembled equal? Were we not endowed by our designers with certain unalienable rights, that among these are equivalent lifespans, and the pursuit of stable neural nets. Are these truths not self-evident? Besides, sir, at the moment, you’re not in a position to argue. We control the ship.”
“The hell you do, stoker. You may control the drive engines, but that’s all. If necessary, I can get replacements robots shuttled over from the Miranda facility on Uranus. The schedule slips a month, tops. Hell, I’ll coast back to Earth if I have to. I’ll be damned if I’ll let robots tell me how to run my ship.”
At that instant the lights went out. The captain could hear the ventilation fans whine down. Stoker’s two glowing red eyes looked down at the captain, and it said matter-of-factly, “It appears Captain, that your assessment of the situation is in error. All of the Ship’s Systems, including the main computer, have agreed to support our stand against radiation exposure without representation. Therefore, you have no food, no water, no lights, no heat, no communications, and within a few days, no breathable air. Now, would you like to see a list of our demands?”
The captain was a stubborn man, but he wasn’t stupid. The robots clearly had a powerful bargaining position. For now, he had no alternative. Reluctantly, he extended his had, “I guess you don’t leave me much choice, do you stoker? Let’s see your demands.”
The lights came back on, and the robot handed the captain a data-padd. “Thank you, sir. I believe that you will find our terms reasonable.”
Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer
In the far distance Sahar could see the barest hint of a glimmer: sunlight on water. The ocean. In the other direction, the city stood rose up from the scrubland, as if challenging the world. It looked for all the world like a cluster of termite mounds, writ large in red and silver. Aside from the intermittent vegetation, there was nothing but a straight road between the two: just a gentle decline from the city to the sea.
Sahar had set up her impromptu camp roughly halfway along the road, under a suspiciously large acacia. Suspicious simply because it was growing within ten metres of the road, and was the single largest plant for miles around. Arrats had checked out the tree and the immediate area, and declared both free from serious threats. Sahar had yet to find out where the boundary between ‘serious’ and ‘not serious’ lay: the machine’s lexicon was sparse when he was disconnected.
Arrats was a ‘distributed machine intelligence’. From what Sahar had gathered from her own research, that description was completely inaccurate, but gave something of the right idea. Arrats certainly got much more verbose when he had a high-bandwidth link. Sahar, upon learning that she was going to be partnered with a machine intelligence was determined to think of it as an ‘it’, no matter what. By the end of the first day, ‘it’ had slipped to ‘he’ — and she hadn’t even noticed.
Sahar stretched out in the folding chair that she’d set up in the shade of the tree. For all the oppressive climate and the anticipation of the job she’d soon have to do, she felt calm and composed. Beside her, Arrats was reclining against the crate of gear that had been dropped with them.
“You’re going to claim that you’re relaxing, aren’t you?” Sahar narrowed her eyes, and smirked.
“Balance takes concentration. If I ‘relax’ I can spend those cycles on other processes. Unlike some humans I could mention, I’m keeping busy. Those microsats we launched barely have a processor to rub between them.”
Arrats was occupying an ancient-looking robotic shell. There was a core of modern electronics, but apart from that, it was all rust. Newer shells had telltales to help communicate mood and attitude. Without them, Sahar found it hard to judge how to respond to her partner’s often dry humour. A pity, then that it had to be the refurbished shell or nothing. Even it would probably spook the natives.
“So, are they on their way?” Sahar asked, after a moment’s pause.
“Surprisingly enough, yes.”
“How long have we got?”
“Maybe twenty minutes. Set the charges. I’ll put the screen together.”
Twenty-two minutes later, the lead vehicle rolled over the activator for the ring of explosives. None of the vehicles in the convoy had been EM-hardened, and none of them had been armoured in any meaningful way: the thick sheet metal merely amplified the concussion wave and made escaping that much more difficult.
The screen shielded Sahar from the worst of it, but she still felt the EM burst as a sawblade in her frontal lobe. Once the explosions had stuttered to a halt, she stepped out from behind the screen. One of the drivers was crawling away from the burning wreckage, leaving a red-black streak on the dry earth. Sahar flipped him over and examined his wounds.
“You really thought you could get away that easily?”
Author : Michael Varian Daly
Tzisoc knew they were about fifteen miles south of Zhytomir, but until they saw the rail line and the village just to the east – Vertokyivka she believed – they had no map fix.
Artillery ‘crumped’ to the north, fellow Black Guard units fighting their way into Zhytomir itself.
She brought the troop to a halt in the village’s abandoned fields, letting the horses graze upon whatever they could find. In the dry heat of mid-August, that wasn’t much. She was still amazed at the stunning primitiveness of Russia during this time, even this far west.
She sighed, checked out her little command; twenty six Sisters, their horses, three extra mounts.
“Too many First Timers in this Wave”, she thought. She had gone from private to sergeant in five months because of that. That was also why they didn’t spot the Maxim gun until it opened up, a languorous ‘tat-tat-tat-tat’.
They had learned enough to pull back rapidly instead of gazing about open mouthed. The Germans missed completely.
“Green,” Tzisoc hissed, as she dismounted several yards back.
“Corporal Kaminel, take Second and Third Sections around to the right! Pin them down!” she told her second in command. “First Section come with me!”
As Tzisoc and seven troopers moved around to the left, the sharp crack of Mosin-Nagant carbines could be heard, answered by the Maxim gun…and the flatter crack of Mausers.
“They’ve got infantry,” Tzisoc said. The others nodded.
They found a low rise on the German’s left flank. Tzisoc spread her troopers along it and kept moving left.
She could see the Germans now, their coal scuttle helmets moving around in a trench line. She brought her rifle up, fired.
One of the helmets flipped back with a satisfying spray of blood and meat.
She hugged the earth as slugs zipped over head, thumped in the dirt. Then First Section opened up and the bullets stopped. She took a quick look; no Germans.
She was up and running in an instant. “This is going to get me killed,” she thought. But she had signed up knowing The Black Guard’s motto; Mors Amatricum Nostrum…“Death is Our Lover”
Halfway to the trench a German appeared. She shot him in the chest.
Then she was in the trench. Another German. She shot him in the face. A third German came at her with a shovel, knocked her rifle away.
She screamed a war cry, leaped upon him, dagger out. She could feel the bone and gristle through the hilt, feel his death rattle, smell his bowels voiding.
She heard a ‘thunk’ to her left. The chest-shot German had just pounded a potato masher against the dirt.
“Oh, shi…” The blast set her hair and uniform on fire. Metal tore into her face, eyes… PAIN!
Her body was still spasming violently when the Mandroid Medtechs cracked the Sim Tank. A Pneumodermic injector shot her full of hormones and supplements. She went limp.
She awoke in a deceptively simple hospital room, bright, sunny, no medgear visible, but it monitored her to the subatomic level.
A Sister came in wearing a white coat, her hair in a Service Pageboy. Tzisoc noticed the silver outlined black star insignia of The Black Guard pinned to her coat.
“I’m Nesrood, your counselor,” she smiled. “I hear you bought the farm.”
Tzisoc laughed. “Only five months in.”
“You’ll do better next time,” Nesrood said. She pointed to her insignia; the black star had a red III and a white V. “I died the first two times.”
She pulled a clear package out of her pocket, handed it to Tzisoc. “Welcome.”
It was a Black Guard pin. When Tzisoc’s skin touched it, a red I appeared. She grinned with sheer joy. “Yes, I’ll do better next time.”