Author : Steven Holland
Their time was up – 100 years had past. Fourteen vitrified bodies began the slow warming process. The cryoprotectants that had saved their bodies from the ravages of water’s freezing expansion were slowly pumped out, replaced with fresh blood. The centennial slumber was over.
One week later the fourteen men met in a comfortable conference room. The men were all intelligent, ambitious, successful, and borderline insane. Most were hard working citizens by profession, but they were all compulsive gamblers by addiction.
It had begun the instant millionaire Peter Mortiarty, half eaten doughnut in hand while sitting in a cheap plastic chair at the Tuesday night meeting of the local chapter of Gambler’s Anonymous, had a sudden thought. He loved gambling. He was good at it, and he had made a fortune at it in the stock market. Mortiarty abruptly stood up and left the meeting – right in the middle of Donald’s sobbing confession of a brief, but torrid affair with a video poker machine in the back corner of a bar. Thirteen people, two months, and 86 million dollars later, Mortiarty set in motion the ultimate game of proposition gambling. Fourteen players would wager on the future 100 years from now – then freeze themselves to see the results. It was the ultimate gambler’s dream that was coming to fruition at this very moment.
Bill Kearney, the moderator who had been hired by Mortiarity’s trust fund, brought the meeting to order.
“Gentlemen, welcome to 2150 A.D. I trust your sleep was uneventful. If everyone is ready and remembers the rules, we will begin.”
Murmurs of agreement rose from the room. There had been extensive rule setting beforehand concerning allowable wagers, determination of odds, and undercutting.
“Every wager has been looked over by a panel of experts and the items have been selected in random order. Wager #1: Portugese will emerge as the new international language – No.”
Several of the men snickered and glanced over in the direction of Marvin Hasgrow, a Fortune 500 CEO. “What?” he exclaimed. “Davis gave 240 to 1 on that!”
A scoreboard kept a running total of each player’s score, changing after each wager was awarded. Davis moved up slightly to seize the early lead.
“Wager #2: The exact value of Pi will be determined – No.”
Joey Dollins, a mathematician, smirked smugly across the room at Hussein Powell, another mathematician.
The announcements continued; each one was met with mixtures of groans and cheers, laughter and tears, glaring and high-fiving. The wagers ranged from World War III to the price of pineapples, from intergalactic exploration and colonization to the number of Chicago Cub’s World Series victories. The drama continued well into the third day.
Throughout the entire process, each man exhibited a drunken giddiness that could only manifest in union with the satisfaction of a deep, powerful addiction. Experiencing this euphoric, exhilarating rush was the reason of their existence. Their hands were shaky and sweaty, pupils dilated, and breathing shallow – a feat only the purest of gambling could inspire in all fourteen of them at once.
In the end, James Griggs, a polymer chemist, emerged as the highest point winner and wore the ecstatic smile of a first grader after scoring his first soccer goal. Peter Mortiarty finished a disappointing third and sat slumped over, sulking.
The initial thrill already fading away, the fourteen now faced the task of reintegrating into society, seeing and learning how thing operated 100 years in the future. They had to learn fast. In one year’s time, they would all meet again for another round of wagers and another 100 years of slumber.
Author : Steven Odhner
I can’t stop staring at the massive crater, watching the clouds of dust that blow out past its rim before curling down into the bowl and dissipating. For the hundredth time I wonder why the crater hasn’t filled up with water; maybe it just doesn’t rain anymore. I always forget to ask. A lack of rain would explain the dust that tints the sky red, that covers the ruins of the city and transforms them from twisted buildings into indistinct burial mounds. I had decided that some virus or pollutant had killed the plants and that, in turn, had allowed the soil to blow freely… but maybe it was just a simple lack of rain.
The robot glides noiselessly through the doorway with my lunch.
“Greetings! I have the meal you requested!” They always sound excited. I take the tray and place it on the table by the window.
The spindly metal creature does its equivalent of standing at attention and asks the same thing as always – “Is there any other service I can provide?” I tell it I have some questions and it waits eagerly. I’ve already tried asking about the crater, asking for the location of any other humans, asking to travel. I try asking about the rain this time.
“I’m sorry, weather information is not currently available!”
Of course not. Always the same answer, with the automated systems trying to access networks that no longer exist. I allow the robot to leave, and go back to staring out the window.
The landscape is hard to read with the buildings knocked over and covered in dust, but the more I think about it the more I’m sure my old apartment should be in the crater – if it even still existed by the time whatever it was happened. I leave the bland recycled food and wander downstairs, past floor after floor of empty offices and idle robots. I stop on the ground level for a moment to once again look at the electronic notice on the main doors – “Until further notice the government has implemented a mandatory lockdown for public safety reasons…” before heading to the basement where the hum of the building’s independent power plant vibrates up through the soles of my shoes. Once more I pace down the long hallway with the countless cryogenic chambers, the time capsules filled with what could be the only other humans on Earth.
I want to smash all of the electronics so that the robots are forced to revive everyone, but I know that most of them were frozen when they were already dead or about to be. I asked if others had been healthy and had set a specific date for decanting like myself, but the robot excitedly informed me that it couldn’t give out privileged client information. If I forced the robots to open them all up, thaw them all out, wouldn’t it be worth it if even one person survived? I know I won’t do it. I can’t stand the thought of killing any of them even though I know that they’ll never wake up, that someday the power will fail and they will seamlessly transition from sleep to death. Some of it is selfish too; I’m not sure how many people the robots can provide for. Better to play it safe, lonely though I am. Heading back to the stairs, I take one last look back along the endless vault of frozen humanity. Maybe tomorrow. For now, I head back upstairs to watch the sun set over the crater.
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
The tattoos writhed.
The tattoos strobed through creatures and colours in time to the music and the backbeat of her heart. They’d flash up in blues and purples, mapping out her internal organs before slashing to a zoom-in of Hercules battling the Hydras across the bladed bones of her hips. Stories unfolded down her legs. Reels of film patterened across her shoulder blades. Home movies from Old Earth flashed nostalgia across her buoyant breasts. A burning python lazily wound underneath it all down from the hairline of her neck, around her waist, between her thighs and around one leg to the ankle.
After ten minutes of watching her, one could detect patches that would repeat, see loops start to form, pick up on what images were generated by her consciously and what was being influenced by the music but still, the artistry and complexity involved was breathtaking.
I can’t even imagine how much it must have cost to get the whole back done up like that, let alone the legs and arms as well. She was one of the hottest dancers in the club and rumour said that for the right price she’d cook you breakfast. But still, even if she was the highest-paid hooker in the spaceport, she must have saved every penny to get that kind of work done. The level of detail was amazing.
All I knew was that the six-frame animation of the purple butterfly on my shoulder looked pretty weak in comparison and that tattoo alone had cost me a month’s pay.
I sucked back another beer. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t looking forward to what I’d been sent here to do. The puzzle pieces were falling into place.
She must have borrowed heavily to get the work done. Borrowed from my boss. I guess she’d defaulted on that loan a few times too many.
I was the one they sent in when things got physical. I was there to make sure that she wouldn’t be able to dance anymore. I was here to make her into an example.
She caught my eye. There was a rabbit-warren terror there. She recognized my job in my stare. She recognized what I was there to do and she knew that she could try to run. Both of us knew nothing was going to happen until after her songs finished.
She danced like it was the last time she would ever dance. I watched with a respectful awe. I’m no art expert I never saw anything like it. I didn’t want it to end.
I suppose that’s why she and I are here, in Devil’s End, two planet-hops away from that backwater moon. We have fake IDs and watch our backs.
She tells me she’s in love with me but I don’t buy it. I know I’m only around for protection. I don’t care. I know I love her. As long she needs me, I’m having the time of my life here. The days are a chase, I have someone to protect, I’m living in the moment, and every night is heaven.
I feel like I matter.
Author : Lliir
Mary Ellen Gratcke had never contemplated murder before. She’d never felt so betrayed, helpless, and naked before, either. A mere thought, a flip of a switch, and the killing began. The fluid levels in the special bath that protected her betrayer from the dangers of hyperspace flight ebbed, then began plunging.
She reflected long and bitterly on the deception that had rendered her nothing more than a brain in nourishing liquid, navigating a ship. So much for the Fountain of Youth. So much for saving her grandson, Frank.
“C’mon, Grandma! Faster!” Perpetual energy is amply manifest in small children, and though she’d put up a good fight, failing knees and lungs never let her keep up with the four year old whenever he came to visit. When she’d collapse into her chair, Frank would clamber onto her lap, nestle his head under her chin, and gently stroke her face.
“It’s okay, Grandma,” he’d say. “I have to take naps sometimes, too.”
“Grandma,” Frank had said, as he lie in that hospital bed, “I hope I live to be as old as you.”
Mary Ellen just chuckled, though her daughter and son-in-law had blanched.
“I hope you live to be even older, Sweetheart,” and she had clutched his tiny, shriveling hand. In her dying heart she whispered, “I hope you live to see next year.”
Doctor Lawton had given Frank seven months unless he could get Tranenamine, a rare medication that Lawton hadn’t been able to find anywhere within eighty parsecs–at least a year’s journey by the fastest ships Mary Ellen knew of.
“Mrs. Gratcke?” that calm voice of wickedness had said.
“How would you like to cheat death? You and your grandson?”
Too good to be true, but… “I’m listening.”
“I’ll try it first,” she’d told the liar. “To see if it’s safe for him.”
She hadn’t had the chance to see Frank a final time before the procedure. And now, she had no eyes to behold him anyway.
“Grandma,” he had whispered, half-coughing, the day before the liar came.
“They told me in church today that I’d go to Heaven. Will you come play with me when you get to Heaven?”
She could only turn away and hide the tears.
She wanted to smile at the victory she’d win for justice by ridding the universe of an awful man.
“Yes, Sweetheart,” she’d choked.
“They told me in church today ‘Thou shalt not kill.'”
In the now, Mary Ellen’s conscious gasped. The switch was reset. Her captor lived.
Three days later, Robert Choisse congratulated himself on his fastest delivery run ever–six months round trip for that toure– grateful for the cerebral navigation system that sped his flight. He regretted that the system had gone haywire, but pull a plug, problem solved.
“Thanks for your business, Mrs. Homan,” he said as a lady tearfully signed for the shipment of Tranenamine, “Give my regards to the little guy.”
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
“You know, Cyrus, you can’t violate the law of causality. Even a freshman Liberal Arts major understands Feinberg’s reinterpretation principle. I swear, if I’ve lugged this receiver out here for nothing, I’m going to kick your ass when I get back to Earth. Over.” Byran unstrapped himself from the communications console and floated toward the galley to find something to eat. His conventional electromagnetic radio transmission would take fifteen minutes to reach Cyrus, and another fifteen minutes for the reply to return to his one man cargo transport, the SS Grand Eastern.
A half an hour later, Cyrus’ reply arrived. “Stop complaining. You were going to Jupiter anyway. Besides, you need to look at the bright side; I’m going to make you famous. Just like Thomas Watson,” he added with a chuckle. “In addition, you moron, Feinberg was talking about sending messages into the past. Superluminal particles don’t violate any of the currently accepted theories of faster than light communication. Over.”
Byran activated his throat mic and said, “Superluminal particles? I thought your thesis involved evanescent wave coupling, or a quantum non-locality. Over.” He glanced at the chronometer and decided to go to the treadmill to start his daily workout.
Thirty minutes into his regiment, he heard Cyrus’ voice in his earpiece, “Stay focused, Byran. That was last year. Now, I’m working on creating a columnar beam of tachyons. They’re perfect for this application. Once created, they have to travel faster than light. It’s one of their properties. Although detecting them is easy enough, it’s next to impossible to create them with an extremely precise energy level. They’re super sensitive that way. The less energy they have, the faster they go. I won’t be able to send a coherent superluminal communication stream until I can get the power level drift of my transmitter to less than one picowatt. I’m getting close, though. Hopefully, I’ll have the bugs worked out soon. Over and out.”
The following day, the notification indicator on the tachyon receiver aboard the Grand Eastern chimed. Byran pushed himself off of the starboard bulkhead and drifted over to the receiver to read the monitor. The message was a continuous line of characters.
Byran studied the gibberish for several minutes before realizing its meaning. “Holy crap,” he said, as he launched himself toward the shielded safety room. After several hours, he emerged and sent Cyrus a radio reply.
“Thanks for the warning, Cyrus. I made it to the panic room just in time. However, you definitely need to work on the energy level of your particle stream. The characters are not traveling at the same velocity. The end of the message was traveling faster than the beginning. Thank God I’m dyslexic, or I’d be dead. Over.”