Author : Ian Rennie
“Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my apartment?”
The man at the window didn’t turn to look at Lloyd’s outburst. When he spoke, his voice sounded bored.
“You know who I am, and if you have any sense, you know why I’m here.”
Finally he did turn. He pulled a card out of his pocket, and a hologram leapt out of it, a tiny three dimensional version of his face, with a stream of data running underneath it.
“Agent Moorcock, Chronology enforcement. Don’t bother introducing yourself. You’re Lloyd Fry, on placement from the archaeology department of the University of Charon, and you and I are the only people in this city from our century.”
Lloyd adopted the slightly guilty pose that comes naturally to anyone who has to deal with the police, as if running through in his mind what he could possibly have done wrong.
“Of course, how can I help you, officer?”
“Where is it?”
A chill ran through him. He tried as hard as he could not to let it show, and ended up overcompensating
“I’m not sure I follow you.”
“Mr Fry, please don’t cause any problems. Your university worked hard for your visa, and I’d hate to think they wasted all that work just because you panicked when you saw a badge. Where is the recorder?”
The game was up. Lloyd reached into his back pocket, noticing as he did that the agent tensed very slightly at this. He pulled out a silver stub roughly the size of his thumb and placed it on the table. The agent walked over to it.
“A motorola HS6290 hologram recorder, best in its class at the 2053 Consumer Electronics show, as I recall. Mind telling me why you thought you should bring one back to 1996?”
The agent cut him off before he could get himself in any deeper.
“Mr Fry, you are in pre-unity time. Any time period before 2018 is embargoed, and likely to remain so. When you received your visa, you agreed not to bring anything back with you apart from your body. Even there, your records state they removed your retinal HUD. What in god’s name made you think this little thing would be acceptable?”
“I didn’t think anyone would mind. I needed it to take recordings for my fieldwork, and…”
Lloyd slumped into a chair, feeling around three inches tall.
“And I wanted to get a hologram of the eiffel tower before it was wrecked by the earthquake. My mother asked me to.”
Agent Moorcock’s face softened slightly. He said nothing, the man before him knew what he had done.
“So,” said Lloyd after a while, “What happens to me now?”
“Nothing happens to you now.”
Lloyd’s face creased in confusion.
“What do you m-”
Agent Moorcock touched a control on his wrist and the room vanished. Instead, he was walking through a crowded travel lobby towards a tired figure standing in front of a desk.
“Mr Lloyd Fry?”
The man turned. it was the same face Moorcock had just seen, maybe six months younger.
“I’m afraid that your visa application didn’t pass vetting. Unfortunately we cannot permit you to complete your travel plans.”
Lloyd looked disappointed but resigned. Applications were rarely successful.
“Can I ask why?”
“I’m afraid that information is classified, sir. Oh, sir?”
Moorcock held something out to the man. It was, after all, for his mother.
“You dropped your recorder.”
Author : Clare Tong Lee
Elizabeth stared at herself in the mirror as her ladies flittered about twisting her hair into elaborate braids and adorning her with jewellery. In less than an hour they would be docking at the Rammajek spaceport and then they would be out of time. They would all be out of time.
Morana III had fallen eight months ago and her people had finally given an unconditional surrender. Not that they hadn’t tried to sue for peace before, they did after the destruction of Idona Prime and again after the Ralla Massacre. Elizabeth’s father hadn’t even objected when Arishkah Vehn had demanded her as a wife. A wife on Rammajek was nothing more than a body slave.
Still, Elizabeth had been born to serve her people as much as she had been to rule them, and she knew her duty. From the cradle to the grave her thoughts would be of her people: their protection, their happiness, their honour. Today, that meant marrying the Butcher of Fenna. Vehn was so pleased, so triumphant on the holobroadcast, a well calculated blow in demanding the Jewel of the Empire. ‘The spoils of war go to the victor’ he had said, ‘and I shall make spoils of it all.’
Elizabeth rubbed her fingers as the ship docked, and considered the poison sacs that had been implanted under her nails in the days after the surrender. Her marriage bed would be christened by blood like in the days of old, but this time it would not be that of her maidenhead.
Author : Ken McGrath
He woke screaming, just as he always did.
The chains held him in place, tearing into his flesh, causing his wounds to tear open and start to bleed again.
The other place was gone, all that existed now was this horrible twisted metal hole, pumped full of stale, dead air and the constant howls of other prisoners. It was much more real than the other place, the one with the clear blue skies and the endless oceans that flowed to the horizon and beyond.
He curled up, pulling his knees close to his raw, burned chest. Cables and wires of varying thickness wound their way around his body, probing into cavities both existing and new, digging into his very soul. Or were they bursting out of it? He didn’t know. All he knew was one thing and that was his throat felt like it had been set on fire, his ragged, bubbling pleas cutting through the vile sounds filling the atmosphere.
Fresh blood poured onto his hands so he scrunched his eyes closed, even tighter than before, trying to make it all go away, trying to make it become the other place, praying to escape from this horrible dream…
…and when he opened them there he was, standing in the doorway to his house, facing the beach, the gentle sound of the waves lapping against the shore adding to the laughter of the youngsters who were out on this beautiful star-filled night.
His legs went from underneath him and he reached for the doorframe to stop from falling, cutting his palm as he did. The blood brought him back to the other place. Was he still there? Was that where his body was right now, being operated on and tortured. Being used as food, as fuel for the machines. Or was it only his mind that went there? Was he safe here?
He sighed heavily and thought of the gun that lay hidden beneath the clean towels in the wardrobe upstairs. Should he free his mind now? Get it over with, but before he could stand another thought stuck him with enough force to knock him back to his knees.
What if this was the escape, what if here was where his mind went to escape the torment and pain. If he killed himself here he might never be able to come back and he might be trapped in that cursed cage with no escape, no safe haven for his mind to escape to.
But what if this was the one, this was the place where he was free and his damaged, demented mind had invented the other one, that red, overwhelming place where he lay bound, trussed and forever in pain.
He screamed and it was a sound all too familiar to him. The night sky suddenly became something more menacing, the pinpricks of light were now eyes staring out at him from the darkness of the panopticon letting him know he was being observed, waiting to see what his next move would be.
But he couldn’t move, the wires coming out of his chest held him in place, the distant laughter morphing into pained voices and he knew there was no safe haven. There was no past, no such thing as escape. Wherever his mind ran to he’d always end up back here, waiting to die on this filthy slab beneath the metal fingers of his cage.
Author : Roi R. Czechvala
She squeezed his hand, hard, as the main engines kicked in. His fingers turned white. It was her first launch, their first as husband and wife. “Take it easy Sweetheart. I’ll need that hand later.”
“Sorry.” She said, releasing his hand. “Is it always like this?”
“This is nothing. Just wait until we lift off from…” Her look of terror stopped him mid-sentence. “Just kidding Sweetheart, actually this is one of the rougher ones. You get used to it.” She looked doubtful, but managed a weak smile.
Once in free fall she relaxed, unbuckled her harness, and wrapped her groom in a lung crushing hug. “I love you so much. This is the best honeymoon gift a girl could ask for. I just wish we didn’t have to go into stasis.” She stuck her lip out in a pout. He kissed her.
He awoke from stasis first. “Honey, are you awake?”
“Yeah,” she said muzzily, throwing her arms around his neck, “I’ve missed you so.”
“It’s only been twenty minutes subjective time.”
“Yes, but I know it’s been six months.” She nuzzled his neck.
“We land in forty five minutes. Come to the port, I want to show you something.” They made their way through the crush of other recently awakened passengers to peer out the tiny quartz porthole. “See there,” he said, “that brightly lit area? That’s Crippen dock. Off in the distance is Port Chaffee. I spoke to a few crew members who woke up yesterday. According to the latest reports, this promises to be a most spectacular meteor shower.”
“You spoil me, you know that? This is for you.” She pulled him to her lips.
She gazed in wide wonder at the night sky above Port Chaffee. “The sky is so beautiful here. It’s almost as if I could see forever. It’s so much clearer here than back home.”
“That’s because of all the fine dust held in suspension in the upper atmosphere on Mars. Remember how clear it was when we went to the top of Mons on our first date?”
“How could I ever forget? It was breathtaking, but nothing like this. I’ve seen pictures, but I never expected Earth to be so beautiful, so green and full of life. I’m so glad we came. I’ll never forget this.”
“Everybody should see the birthplace of humanity at least once in their life. I’m just happy we can see it together.”
“But what will protect us from the meteors? Won’t they strike us here as well?” she asked, her voice filled with sudden concern.
“Yes, but don’t worry. Do you see that faint shimmer in the sky? That’s the Tesla Field. It extends around the entire globe. Nothing will penetrate it.”
Far above she could see the T Field shimmering protectively. “If you say so.”
“I wouldn’t let anything happen to you… Look, it‘s beginning.”
The impacts were moderate at first, but the frequency quickly increased. What had been single strikes here and there turned into a massive onslaught that melted into one another until the planet seemed to blaze in orange white fire.
The now incandescent atmosphere began to strip away in brilliant streamers borne upon the solar wind. “It’s so beautiful,” the young bride said, her eyes wet with tears.
Safe on Luna, in the comfort of Port Chaffee and snug beneath the impenetrable umbrella of the Tesla Field, the young couple watched, from 384,403 kilometers distance, the last of Earth’s oceans boil away into space.
“I love you,” she said softly.
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
I can’t believe that it used to take years and years of real-time school to become a doctor. I slip the jack with the red cross on the dust-cover into the plug at the base of my skull. Just like that, I’m a surgeon, which is good news for my friend currently trying to breathe around the hot shrapnel sticking through his lung.
We’re beneath the firing level in a crater in a no-person’s-land between the forces. I find it ironic that huddling there in the mud with bone-shattering explosions happening around us, I could probably speak to a soldier from World War I and we’d know exactly what each other went through.
Maybe I’ll get my chance sooner than I think.
My friend’s wild eyes are looking at me with a silent scream as I get to work.
Every soldier on the force has seven spikes. Medic, Sniper, Engineer, Strategy Officer, Languages, Scout, and Beserker. We keep them in an arm band. They’re used when they’re called for.
This way each man can play whatever role necessary in the changing tides of infantry ground battle. It hasn’t alleviated the chaos.
They people up top keep trying to take the disorder out of war and failing.
I remember that up the line, a battalion of troops all jammed their Berserker chips in at the same time to try to freak out the enemy with a suicide run at their guns in the hopes that a few of them would get through. They didn’t even make it out of the trench. They tore each other apart.
I’m still working around the cooling metal sticking through my friend’s chest when I realize that he doesn’t need my help anymore. I stop working. I sit back. I slip out the medic jack. Dirt and body parts fly through the air above me amidst the deafening explosions.
I wish they had a jack that erased memories.