Ancient History

Author : Subsplot

Alex carefully swung his arms back, making sure he kept his posture right and his hips level. The head of the gold club reached past its apex, and then smoothly but with some force he brought it back in a graceful arc that lifted the ball cleanly of it it’s makeshift tee, spinning it up and away from him. ‘Yep,’ he thought to himself, ‘that’s a good drive, it probably even reached escape velocity. Shame this suit gets so encumbering’.

His partner, chief pilot of the mining support vehicle, watched the ball zip away towards the lunar horizon before returning his attention to the sensor readouts of the flat-backed floater rig.

“I’m pretty sure these environmental conditions are considered cheating,” he remarked over the intercom. “Who brings a club and balls as their luxury items anyway?” Lex gestured at his face plate with the club in a mock show of anger, his intercom erupting in a burst of white noise.

“You, my friend, don’t know your history. The first missions here used golf to prove the laws of gravity. The simple physical model anyway.”

“Those twentieth century Neanderthals played golf! Did they have time between trying to kill each other? What are you aiming at, anyway?” Lex could tell by the tone in his colleague’s voice that he wasn’t really interested in the answers. Still, it wasn’t as if they had anything important or pressing to do so he decided to indulge him, as much to wind him up as anything.

“Golf is a truly ancient pastime, the sport of gentle men of all ages,” he mocked, “and I’m aiming at that piece of junk with the old flag on the Tranquil Sea. I stuck some piping and a location signal in the ground, there’s now a proper hole and I always know its direction.”

“Why? I mean, why trip over there?”

“Slight detour. I was doing some physical checks on a group of surface sweepers, I don’t know, was curious. It must be an old piece of junk, it’s a national flag, the United America’s I think. Pretty good way point actually, you should add it in to your template. I’ll give you the signal frequency.”

“Now who doesn’t know their history.” The driver laughed as he maneuvered over a particularly large crater rim, locking on to the atom forge contained deep at its center. “It’s a US flag, planted on one of the first ever missions, the junks some sort of landing strut, there’s already a locator there.

Lex started. “You mean I’ve been smashing golf balls at a piece of ancient heritage!”

“And desecrating a national flag. I hear they used to kill people for that.” More chuckling, Lex threw his partner an evil side glance as he lifted the gold cover on his face plate, the shadow in the crater making it less then helpful now.

“Who in mercy lands on the Tranquil Sea. There’s nothing there.”

“Think that was the point, makes a good soft landing. Space in case you overshoot.” Lex looked over his shoulder again in the direction of his makeshift green.

“You’re not going to tell control, are you?” Lex was suddenly nervous. This was less than the professional behavior expected of the Luna surface teams and his group liked to believe they were more than that, made a point of being the best, efficient, safe, consummate professionals.

“What’s the point, in one sixth of a G it’s not like you’re going to have dented it. Doubt you’ve even hit it.” Lex gave him another spiteful glare.

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The Jump

Author : Apollyn

So here we are. You and I on the verge of time. Ready to bungee jump right off the scariest edge my eyes have seen. I’ve done this and yet I am this close to turning my back on you and walking away. I can feel my heart all over my body – various pulses here and there, each and every one of them yelling at me to run away because the stakes are too high. And they are high indeed.

A bungee jump through time clears out pieces of you since every violent rush through the temporal matter causes severe untreatable amnesia. And after a whole lot of jumping around you’re up to your neck in Alzheimer’s. Because when we attained the innermost understanding of time we found out that jumping around it is fun. Later on we found out that travelling around it, never mind the purpose or the effect, causes some sort of temporal cancer. A disease that eats your memories out throwing you around your own sense of time. Which is… well, we all got it right in the end – our very own well known Alzheimer’s disease which twists your mind and memory around and leaves you a wrecked shell rushing through time. Only this one’s kind of self caused instead of genetic.

These are the risks of time bungeeing besides being lost in a temporal twist of course. But there are also the benefits. The adrenalin rush. The chance of going through time in a single jump and getting right where you long to be – this very high of falling in love with a particular one; the most precious first kiss; that first cry of your child; a very last goodbye…

And in the end it’s worth it. If even for the adrenalin of knowing when I’m going to be in just a few seconds. If even for the heartbeat in my throat leaving me breathless. If even for holding your hand on this verge. It’s not pretty around here, but I’m not here for pretty. I kind of hate this place with the inky sticky darkness, with the whispers coming from the endless down that’s waiting to devour my own time, with the horror shaking my hand each time I dare to take a breath. But I’m all prepped up now and the guys around the corner are screaming at me to jump. It takes just one step to be down there and fall in love with you once more. I’ll rush through us in the blink of an eye and maybe I’ll get to say the one goodbye you never heard me say in your own genetic Alzheimer’s temporal dimension. You’re nothing but a ghost now here on this verge.

A single step over this edge will let me hold you again. You’re smiling.

I’ve done this a whole bunch of times. I close my eyes. I throw myself into this reality generated void. My last wish – when I’m through with this I hope the jump would send you right into oblivion.

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Author : Debbie Mac Rory

“This ship represents the cutting edge of our technologies. It’s fitted with both near-light and dark-light engines. It even has solar sails installed, if you ever wanted to cruise on silent. The ship is designed for a skeleton crew of 6, though it can accommodate up to 25 comfortably, while still allowing personal space for each crew member at maximum capacity. All resources, food, water, medical provisions, have been supplied for up to three times your estimated mission time, with apparatus to synthesize more should you wish. The data banks have been filled with the most up to date journals and papers, as well as a full directory of social materials. In short, this ship has everything you could need. It is a home away from home”

“And what do you want me to do with it?”

“Get lost”

* ** *** ** *

Gavin sighed, stretching tired muscles as he got up from his chair. His shift had finished over half an hour ago, but he hated giving up the view from the bridge. Alex nodded at him as he left. Brid, already deep into her spectral analysis data was too absorbed to notice his exit.

Morale on the ship was high, as you would expect following an all night party. The last solar system they’d encountered, while still primitive had a wealth of life, both micro- and macroscopic. Since the probes had started coming back with samples, he’d barely seen Selene, Liz or Niall and at times he wasn’t even sure they’d come out of their lab. He smiled as he walked by them, heads down, taking sample here, cuttings there, lost in their own little worlds, even without the haz-mat suits.

He turned shortly after passing the environmental section, entering his second favourite place on the ship; the library. The tones were muted and relaxing here, with plenty of seats for solitary of social relaxation. Elin was already there, and her eyes lit up as she saw him enter. Abandoning her e-book, she crossed the room to the sunken mid-section of the room, facing a wall-wide screen. The formal meeting room had been abandoned in favour of this area; it led to a much better atmosphere among the crew.

Elin quietly took a seat beside him as he tapped the notebook he had carried, connecting to and then loading the new data to the map that hung as the default view on the screen. A series of images, ones they’d taken themselves flickered by as the new data was incorporated. Slowly an image resolved on the screen, a flattened disk of the Milky Way, home shining as a bright blue dot on one edge. A small uneven ring of coloured information points surrounded the dot, conspicuous against the grey-scale of unexplored space. Piercing out from one side of this area, a thin wedge, making its winding way outwards. At the point of the wedge, a small cursor glimmered, indicating their current position.

“We’re doing well”, Elin said, leaning against his him.

Gavin smiled as he laid his arm across her shoulders.

“We haven’t even reaching mid-point yet. Do you think we’ll make it all the way to the centre?”

“With everyone still excited about the samples from Tryprin, I think you could bring them right out to the far side and they wouldn’t complain”.

Gavin chuckled, hugging Elin close before resting his head on top of hers.

“And do you think we might actually decide on a name for this boat by then?”

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The Alnitakians

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Approximately 800 light-years from Earth, the DSX-13 “dropped” out of hyperspace, and reentered conventional space-time. This was Earth’s first sojourn beyond the “local neighborhood” (100 light-year radius). It took fifteen jumps, and over two months, to reach the intended target, Zeta Orionis, a rare Type O, blue supergiant. The mission profile was simple: explore the system for a few weeks, collect some asteroid and comet samples, and return to Earth. However, when the DSX-13 was mapping the system, they detected an abandoned one-passenger spacecraft in orbit around a lifeless Class-M planet. The derelict ship was the first direct evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life discovered in the 83 star systems explored thus far. To make room for the alien ship, all of the expendable equipment in the primary cargo hold was jettisoned into space. The alien ship was stowed in the cargo hold, and two months later, it was transferred to a secure hangar at a Top Secret base in North America.

Earth’s best scientists spent a year accessing the ship’s electronic systems and downloading the data into “The Brain,” Earth’s most sophisticated Mark VI supercomputer. Eventually, the Brain was able to translate the alien’s language and play the audio and video logs. The information contained within the logs terrorized the scientists to their very souls.

The alien ship belonged to an advanced race called the Alnitak. They were a fierce, super aggressive species that systematically plundered the resources of any world that they found, regardless of whether or not it was harboring life. Even sentient species were destroyed without the slightest consideration, because to the Alnitakians, they were less important than iron ore. In fact, indigenous intelligent life was considered a nuisance; to be disposed of as quickly as possible, in order to minimize interference with ground-based operations.

Since a dangerous alien species roaming the galaxy had serious survival implications, the scientists attempted to determine if the ship had been abandoned recently, or 100,000,000 years ago (perhaps indicating that the Alnitakians were now extinct). Unfortunately, a detailed analysis of the celestial positions recorded in the ship’s star charts revealed that the ship had been abandoned only a few decades earlier. In addition, the star charts also disclosed that the Alnitak sphere of expansion had a diameter of approximately 50 light years, and was expanding at a rate that would reach the Earth in about 200 years. This gave the scientists hope that there was time to prepare for the inevitable invasion.

The first order of business was to analyze the alien ship’s technology, in an attempt to advance Earth’s scientific knowledgebase, and to look for weaknesses in the Alnitakian’s defense capabilities. During an operation to remove access panels in the ship’s cockpit, a maintenance technician accidentally activated a switch on the instrument console. Seconds later, an alien voice was emanating from the ship’s speakers. The Brain was patched in to provide a translation. “Calling Fighter IDSG 2951413, your emergency distress signal was received. You are currently in an unexplored sector, but we are able to determine your coordinates. We are dispatching a rescue ship and fighter escort. Maintain your position. Help is on the way. ETA, six days.”

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We All Fall Down

Author : Todd Hammrich

On his final day of work the robot A9327R activated with a slight jerk. He was quite pleased that today he would be done with his projects. Long ago he had been created to serve as the monument upkeep specialist and had quite a job set before him. They were old, full of historical significance (though that sort of thing was beyond his grasp) and they were falling apart. Now, he was happy to report, things were much better.

He knew of course that they were not completely restored, heavens no, but they were as good as his abilities allowed him to make them. More could be done, if he knew how to run the great machines and tools of his creators, but his skills were simple and his intelligence not great enough to learn anything else. A few more simple tasks and the drain on his power pack (it had gone far too long without recharging, but he found no masters to help) would be too much and he would deactivate for the last time.

With careful measured steps, conserving as much energy as possible A9327R began his march to the monuments. It wasn’t a long walk, but it was dangerous because the roads were full of debris and other hazardous materials. Not in his monuments though. Oh no, not there. Once on his grounds he emerged into another land. It was crisp and clean, plants neatly tended, pathways always clear of anything that may get underfoot, and it was a slice of perfection. And it was his area to tend. Indeed, having seen no one else for many, many years, it was possible his alone.

Slowly he made his rounds checking that everything was in place. Cleaning where he saw it needed it and ignoring that which would take too long. He had to make it to the little ones today, as they were his final project. He was right on time though and would be able to finish this one right. This memorial was newer than the others. It had been installed the last time he had seen his masters.

It was beautiful (or to his circuits it seemed) all made of marble and delicately done. There were 4 young children hands together playing a game. Though A9327R knew they were statues, like the one of the very tall man, he couldn’t help but feel awe in reverence of them (little masters as they were). The only problem was that for the past week, they had not moved, as they should, around and around in their little circle. So he had saved it for last, knowing it would be the last thing he would do.

For nearly three hours, a master of restoration, he worked. Gears were cleaned, cables tested, and electronics doubly tested. Finally A9327R climbed out and away from the children and waited while the power ran through its own checks and finally, ever so slowly, the children began to rotate in their little circle, like an endless game of tag. And A9327R made his way over to the closest bench and sat like a master with a sense of pride and slowly deactivated.

The children rotated merrily on their endless circle singing their soft song in a place dedicated to the dead. The place where the walls hold the dead heroes of its dead nation. The place where Lincoln and Jefferson and the tower of Washington stand, like sentinels watching over the ruined wasteland of Washington D.C. The children sang slowly:

Ring-a-ring o’ roses,

A pocket full of posies,

Ashes! Ashes!

We all fall …

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