Author : Dr. Alexanders
Hundreds of years of exploration, trillions of dollars into research on space travel, all culminating in the single most astounding and miraculous discovery in all of human history, and the only tangible result of that effort was the Unity Dome. Gerald shook his head as he walked through the padded corridor that cut across the barren surface of the moon, “Seems like a waste to me”.
His companion was noticeably more enthusiastic. “I can’t believe I was selected for the fifth viewing! I mean, you were there, the first to make contact but I almost had a heart attack when I got the hyperwave. It’s been such a rush. First class flight from Europa, a suite in the Tranquility Hilton! God above, I can’t believe I am this lucky!”
Gerald bristled at the unbridled enthusiasm, “Look, man, you don’t know what you are talking about. Like you said, I have done this before! It’s nothing to look forward to.”
Cameron seemed not to hear him, “A chance to watch an alien play, to see how they think and feel. An opportunity to view a mind so different than ours that communication is basically impossible! And it only happens once a year! Aren’t you excited?”
Gerald took a moment to remember how it had started. Humanity had been visiting alien worlds for almost a thousand years and discovered the galaxy to be a barren and boring place. Occasionally some rock would have pools of water on it and maybe some bacteria or some microscopic shrimp-like creatures, but nothing intelligent. The galaxy was nothing more than an empty space suitable for mining, dumping, and esoteric research. He had been hauling a load of toxic waste with a three man crew out into the middle of nowhere. Who would have thought that would have bought him a place in the history books? As the one manning the cockpit, he had seen it first, the smooth, black sphere hovering mere feet from their bow.
After that singular moment of elation, things had quickly gone downhill. Millions of minds had bent their efforts towards communication with the aliens but there were just too many differences. As far as anyone could tell, the aliens were just as confused and frustrated as they were. As beings of mostly light and energy, though they did have an organic core, they seemed to communicate through flashes of electromagnetic energy, in the visible through the microwave range of the spectrum, but no one could make any sense of it. At some point, Dr. Vandrashir had come up with the idea of the Unity Dome, and somehow had managed to communicate its purpose to the aliens, or at least we thought he had. And now, once a year, they came to the moon and met with humanity.
Cameron took Gerald’s long pause as an opportunity to ask another question, “Do you know what we are performing this time?”
Gerald was started out of his remembrance, “Oh… King Lear, I think. Who knows what they’ll make of that. Just remember that afterwards, when they take the stage, to put on your goggles. Otherwise the radiation they emit will blind you. Even with them on it’ll probably just be a confusing hour of flashing lights and low moaning, it just gives me a headache.”
Cameron didn’t seem to hear him, and as he stepped through the threshold at the end of the corridor into the darkness of the performing hall he said, “God, this is going to be the most exciting moment of my life.”
Gerald wished he could have shared his enthusiasm.
Author : Ken McGrath
The days were beyond hot. The unforgiving, bitter red sun dominated the sky, pulsing waves of heat flowed downwards onto the battered, scorched earth. We walked, trying to keep in the thin shadows cast by withered, torched trees. Their branches, like skeletons, stretched towards the sky, begging for mercy.
But there was no sympathy. Not for them and certainly not for us.
We gestured at each other, minor movements of the hands, gentle nods of the head. It was too much effort to communicate in any other way. There wasn’t enough saliva to talk anyway and our chapped, cracked lips were kept hidden behind cloth mouthpieces. Even if we’d had the urge to speak the dry air would probably have snatched the words away from us.
Our eyes grew accustomed to the constant shimmer that danced along the horizon, to learn the differences between the almost imperceptibly similar shades of red that coloured everywhere we looked. To find shade where there should be none, a brief moment’s rest in the jaws of the fire.
Sand sifted and swirled gently around our feet. We walked slowly, painfully. But walk we did, but only by day. We would not move at night. When the sun finally set on our cursed lives each long, arduous day the temperature dropped quickly and we gathered ourselves, pitching our shelters as fast as our worn bodies would allow to escape the killer cold.
The days would scorch you alive, but the nights, the nights would steal the breath from your very soul.
It was impossible to travel during those short, dark hours. Some had tried it, but they’d died. We knew this because we saw their bones sometimes. Bleached and split they were like markers on the roads, lying in the fallow fields, pointers which showed us how fragile our lives could be. But they were proof we were surviving, proof that we moved in the right direction, for they all faced north. Out there, over how many more horizons we did not know, lay EDEN and for this we pushed onwards each red, raw day. The killing sun hanging over our heads, weighing us down and drying us out.
But onwards we went shuffling forwards slowly, slow and determined. This is what drove us out under that burning star each day. That slight glimmer of hope that it was possible to live again, that there might be something better for us, something worth surviving for.
That’s why at night we slept.
Author : Matthew Banks
“It’s starting to hurt again,” said Kevin. Myrna stood in the doorway watching him with red-rimmed eyes. She pressed her lips together.
“It’s probably moving around.” Kevin clutched his stomach.
“It’s getting worse! Jesus!” He let out a long, low moan, like a man with the world’s worst indigestion. Myrna just watched him. She reached down to her belt and snapped her holster open, touching the grip of the pistol for reassurance. She kept watching Kevin as he squirmed and lay back on the bed, staring up with watery eyes and holding his belly. Myrna frowned.
“If you want me to…you know…” her fingers touched the pistol again “…just let me know.” Kevin looked over at her and blinked, then clamped his eyes shut and gripped his clenched stomach. The spasm passed after a moment.
“It’s burrowing out, isn’t it?” Myrna didn’t say anything. It wasn’t really a question. Her fingernails tapped the grip. Kevin was now staring at her hand. His eyes dripped with tears, and every few seconds, lines of pain engraved themselves on his face. “Just promise me you’ll get the Bug that did this.” Myrna nodded, then jerked backwards as Kevin screamed and curled into a ball. This time, it didn’t stop, and he started thrashing on the bed, pounding his stomach with his fists and groaning and screaming. Myrna took the pistol out of the holster but didn’t cock it. Kevin yelped and whined like a wounded dog, then uncurled and sobbed quietly. After a moment, he looked up at her. His eyes were glassy and bloodshot. His stomach was starting to bruise and swell. They exchanged knowing expressions.
“Tell me we didn’t do this for nothing,” he whispered. Myrna’s eyes got misty for a moment, and she gripped the pistol tighter.
“We didn’t. The flyboys bombed that hive an hour ago.” Kevin blinked.
“Are you just saying that…” he grunted and clawed at his writhing stomach “…to make me…feel better?” Myrna didn’t say anything. Kevin started groaning again. His body stiffened as he prepared for another wave of pain. Then, all his muscles started to clench. Even so, he still stared at her, blinking wetly. “All right…do it…” His speech dissolved into screams and grunts. Then, Myrna crossed the room, the gun fired, and Kevin lay still and silent. His stomach, though, was still squirming. With her tears now flowing freely, Myrna looked up at the ceiling of the bunker, trying to look through it, to the bombers that should have been there but weren’t. Soon, the new hive would be deep enough that no bombing run could destroy it. Los Angeles, like a dozen cities before it, would have to be evacuated.
Myrna stepped out into the hallway, pausing on the threshold to massage her own aching stomach.
“Tell me we didn’t do this for nothing,” she said to nobody, then pointed the pistol at her temple.
Author : Douglas Woods
:::Hash total error:::Download failed:::
Panic. The floor sloped away to a dark abyss, rolling me inexorably forward. Oblivion.
Heads around me turned, slow, dumb, cow-like eyes passing over me without recognition. Dull orbs blinked in unison. Arms moved, not towards me, not grasping. Echo of a persistent, hungry drum. Involuntarily my right arm lifted in the first impulse of a complex motion performed–how many times? Turning, I stumbled away from the clanking ribbon of machinery. The..man?..to my right froze in his motion, hand cradling a plastic wedge that suddenly had no orifice to mate with. Insert tab A into slot B. Part of the mechanism was missing.
I had to get out, but had no idea where I was, who I was. Green light, a relic of another time, told me of “Exit”. Exit I understood. Exit before the repairman arrived.
I was outside, the inverse of inside. Blue and white. The black ground reached for me, cracked with green filaments thrusting from the voids. Grass, I suddenly knew. On my hands and knees my stomach heaved, dry and painful. I was empty. I could not remember eating, drinking, sleeping…an empty vessel ready to hold–what?
Later, propped against a tree, rough oatmeal-colored clothing ripped, knees and palms bloodied by the part run, part crawl to cover. How much time before they came? Was I safe? Out of range? Involuntarily my hand covered the small, metal contact behind my right ear. I had a PIP. I had to be out of range before the next Connect. I ran some more, remembered more.
The change had come suddenly. The PIP was only a tool, we were told, a neural interface to the electronic shroud of data and services that clung to the surface of the planet to a depth of thirty-odd miles. Only those who could show need, or could use it productively, or could afford it would be provided one. I was a teacher, so was fitted with the device. In a small way I felt the way God must feel, all knowing, all seeing. I couldn’t recall if it had made me a better teacher. The PIP, I thought (was it my thought?) was the pinnacle of human invention. Then came Dobbs vs. Minnesota, and a Supreme Court ruling that the playing field had to be level. No one should have an “unfair” advantage, at least not one that had not been provided initially by Mother Nature. Everyone was to have a PIP, whether they wanted one or no. It was a short step from that to Universal Mediocrity, where even home and heredity were to be set aside. The human brain, it turned out, was ill equipped to fend off the kind of invasion that soon followed. Dampers were downloaded that spread like a slow smile over the face of the human race. All the same, all happy, made in the image of those who knew what was best for us.
I stopped. There was no flight, no “out of range”. The ground beneath me was asphalt, had been a road. From the overgrowth and lack of upkeep it was obvious there had been no traffic for many years. A hundred yards ahead the course of the road turned to the right, disappearing into the trees and undergrowth. I heard a bird. I smelled the sharp, acidic odor of the brown leaves and petroleum tang of the hot pavement. The sun beat down directly on my head.
:::New hardware found:::
Author : Scott Alexander Rader
I wake with gunk in my eyes. Not sleep, or whatever the scientific term is. This is worse.
Shoot. Pink eye, I think to myself. Damn kids.
But this is thicker and gummier than the mucous created during pink eye. It’s more like, well, gum. Damn kids.
I desperately paw at my eyes trying to clean them out, all the while stumbling out of bed and stubbing my toes on random toys around the apartment.
“Allen. Portia,” I yell, still not able to open my eyes. My lids are so heavy, I haven’t been able to budge them. It could be tar, superglue, who knows what they’ve gotten into. They lean toward my own mischievous side. Grow up a terrible kid, run the risk of having to raise your own terrible minions of goddamned satan.
“Dad?” It’s Allen, he sounds small. Frightened. I reach out to where I think he’s standing. I’d be afraid, too. He’s going to get the beating of a lifetime. It’s a wonder Child Protective Services hasn’t been here. I’m no better than my old man. Drinking. Swearing. Hitting my kids . . . a lot. I guess I can’t really blame them for gumming up the peepers.
A miniature car or maybe an army man of some sort gets caught under my bare foot. I lash out immediately, hoping to catch one of them on pure instinct. Instead, a large hand catches my forearm mid-backswing. I know it’s large because it wraps all the way around my arm and squeezes, crushing my bones.
Feels like an ape, or a robot. It isn’t Allen or Portia, neither are ape. Or robot. I know, I had them tested. Sometimes it just happens, even to two purebreeds. Humans.
Shoot, I think, They’ve finally come. I hope it’s an ape, ape means I can keep my kids, ape means I’m not in much trouble.
“Mr. Hanlin?” It’s a robot. I’m screwed.
“Yeah? That’s me.” I raise my non-broken arm, awkwardly, sheepishly, and what I hope is somewhat charmingly.
“I’m Jameson McDonaldson Robinson Flint, the Fifteenth.” The names of his inventors. Fifteenth model. This is most definitely a robot, as if I didn’t know from his unpleasant vocal modulations and my broken arm. “With Child Protective Services.”
“Dad,” Portia screams. “I know I’m not supposed to let anyone in, but he looked official.”
“It’s ok,” I say, calmingly. But there is an immense fear deep in her voice. She’s scared, not of the giant (I’m guessing) robot, but of dear old dad. “What can I do for you, Fifteen?” I try to keep it casual. Maybe he won’t kill me.
“Nothing. We’ve taken care of what we need to here.” He pauses, probably according to a script. “We have found this an unsafe environment for your children. But being that the whole world seems to be an unsafe environment for children right now, we are letting you off with a warning.”
I breathe a sigh of relief. “A warning?”
“We’ve removed your eyes, Mr. Hanlin.”
“You can’t hit what you can’t see. We thank you for your time.”
I hear him clomping over toys. Portia and Allen are crying. Probably unable to look at their eyeless dad. I guess it serves me right.
After a few minutes I hear Allen laughing as Portia cries harder. He must be pulling her hair. Or is that something burning? I sit down in the nearest chair. Can’t do anything about it now. Damn kids.