Author : Bryan Mulholland
“I’m afraid I can’t stay long Doctor Einstein, I really must go, I’ve stayed here for far too long” I apologised.
“Time, I have studied it, explained it and theorized it. Now it slips through my fingers” he muttered as he looked into the spring sunlit grounds.
Not looking up from my diary I explained “Yes, well it happens to us all I’m afraid. Now I really must go, I have to visit Planck, McIntyre and Lord Kelvin today, it’s a busy one”.
“I am not going to ask how, but can you tell me when?” he asked calmly. A little too calmly I thought, almost as if he was asking the time of day.
“A year precisely, as is our policy Doctor Einstein. Many thanks for the notes again” I said packing them away, “You have helped our cause greatly”.
He was still sitting gazing out the window when I pulled the cords connected to my backpack. All at once the world around me dissolved into red dust and all too soon I was back in my office.
The view from my windows was obscured by The Cloud. Must be low lying today. I missed the view; I hadn’t seen it since the weather shifted. I missed seeing the shuttles leaving for Col2 as it circled our grey marble.
Walking past my non-existent view to the data entry slot, I fed in the notes Einstein had given me. “I wonder where that boy has got to” I thought to myself as I fed the notes in and heard that strangely satisfying whirr click as the computer accepted them. The panel on my desk lit up confirming their acceptance. “Alistair!” I shouted; as soon as the words left my mouth I knew there was no point shouting for my assistant, he was probably off on one of his “personal visits” as he often was while I was away. I wondered who he was with today. Asimov? Wells? Hell, it might even be Adams, knowing Alistair.
After flicking through the notes on my display and not seeing anything new (what with time and fourth dimensional travel being my speciality) I decided it would be best to head to my next source. Checking my diary (I am old fashioned that way), I found that next was McIntyre, someone I had been looking forward to interviewing since I created the Archive Project. His complete notes would make a fantastic addition to our library, plus I had a few questions for the man who kick started my development in fourth dimensional travel and brought this project into existence. The father of time travel himself, next to him Einstein was but a pre-schooler. There were a few kinks in my backpack design I wanted to smooth out, and who better to ask than him?
There was a sound, a strange sound, as if the air itself was quietly being rent asunder. Looking up I noticed Alistair. Looking a lot more weathered than when I had last seen him not to mention a scar on his face. “Alistair!” I exclaimed “What the devil happened to you? Where did you get that scar?”
“Freud” he said simply, as if it explained everything. That’s when I noticed the backpack he was wearing. It was not of my design, although it looked like it incorporated many elements of it. “Alistair what…” I began to ask when he interrupted me and said the words I knew I would hear one day.
“Dr Corban, I am from the future, I am here for information only. I will not harm you”
Author : Jennifer C. Brown aka Laieanna
Shimmering just before, the dome door melted away into nothing. The vibrations that came with the shield opening left Henrick feeling a little nauseous. Between the clear slats of the dome’s walls were colors of light pink to lavender. Stepping outside the shield, Henrick saw the sky was painted in deep purples. He looked back at the surface of the outside wall for the indicator. It gave a tolerable reading.
“The shields really distort the true colors of this world.” A girl two feet taller said as she passed him.
Henrick looked back at the indicator, up at the sky, then at the girl and decided to follow. He ran to catch up with her long strides. “This is my first week here. I’ve only seen orange till now.”
“The toxins are pretty high today. When it’s bright green, you especially don’t want to be outside. That’s when you have trouble. I’m Patrish.” She only gave him a momentarily glance.
“Haven’t participated in the planet education class yet, have you?”
“No. I’m rarely out of the tech labs. How long have you been here?”
“Sixteen months. I’m part of the language classes. You better keep your eyes on the walkway.”
Henrick did as he was told, turning his attention from the sky to the shining white walkway that carried the students safely from one dome to the other without a single foot touching the massive jungle of alien plant life that filled the planet just ten feet below them. He glanced over the side. Something of a puke brown snapped in his direction, it’s razor leaves coming together in their search for lunch. Another plant just five feet further away was oozing a substance between it’s lumpy gold petals. Henrick looked around at all the disturbing plants and remembered why he usually stayed in the labs. Ever since he got a glimpse of the outside from a shuttle window, he opted to stay inside as much as possible. The vegetation growing over the planet’s surface terrified him.
The sky was getting lighter with a shade of forest green trying to eat at the purple near the horizon. Patrish quickened her pace. “This won’t be good soon. We should probably hurry.”
Henrick’s legs were thicker and shorter so he took another jog to keep up. Patrish still had him at her back by four steps. He put on a burst of speed to catch up. His right foot missed the edge and Henrick found himself falling to his nightmares. Heading face first, he could see a clearing between the thick plants and prayed he would land there. It was going to hurt since the planet itself was much further down than he assumed based on the tall vegetation, but a broken leg was better than being dinner.
Patrish was screaming behind him. His voice joined. Before he could feel the impact, a giant blue leaf caught him. It was tacky against his skin and smelled like an unwashed body. Henrick shut his weeping eyes and braced for the first crunch.
“Get up!” Patrish yelled only seconds later. Henrick opened his eyes to find himself back on the solid platform. The leaf was snaking back off the edge.
“I’m alive?” He asked as she pulled him to his feet.
“Of course. The plants just saved your life. If you had touched the soil you’d be dead, which will still happen if you don’t move. The sky is getting brighter. Can’t you see the planet is trying to kill us? Now run!”
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
When the 4 mile long asteroid hit, the damage was devastating. Billions died from the earthquakes, tsunamis, and fires. And billions more would have died of starvation, if not for the “fortuitous” intervention of the Dowliens. During the three years of perpetual cloud cover, their spaceships were able to provide food to keep us alive, but did little else. Much of our infrastructure collapsed, and our high tech industries and equipment became neglected and in disrepair. We became a welfare civilization completely dependent on the apparent kindness of the Dowliens. However, when the cloud cover eventually subsided, some of us amateur astronomers dusted off our telescopes and began making some troubling observations. Troubling enough, in fact, for a group of us to petition the Dowlien Embassy for an explanation.
The orange lizard-like assistant to the sub-minister of the regional secretary stood behind a stainless steel desk. Its vertical slit pupils were centered in large lidless yellow eyes. One of its leathery hands was balled into a fist, with its two opposable thumbs interlocked between three slender fingers. Its other hand held a combination data-padd/translator. “Purpose of visit?” questioned the baritone voice from the translator.
“You know why we’re here,” I replied, straining to control my anger. “You’re the tenth bureaucrat we’ve met with today. As I told them already, we’re on to you guys, and we demand action.”
“You’re damn right ‘we demand’. Something’s wrong in the sky. All the planets have disappeared, the moon’s phases are screwy, and the sun’s parallax is too large.”
“How do you know these things?” it hissed.
“Observations. And it wasn’t easy either. The restrictions that you guys impose on us make it next to impossible to get around, or to communicate with each other. It’s time that you admit what you’ve done.”
“Interesting. What is it that you believe we have done?”
“We think that during the three years of cloud cover, you built a Dyson sphere around our sun. And you replaced it with a small artificial sun 38,000 miles above the Earth. You thought that if it orbited the sky in exactly 24 hours, we would assume that it’s our sun.”
“Why would we do this incredible thing?”
“Energy, or course. The sun emits 250,000,000 times more energy than reaches the Earth. Your little satellite gives us our original share, and you keep all the rest.”
“We think that you forked tongued bastards planned this from the beginning. We were so grateful for the help; we never questioned how you managed to have so many supplies here in only a few weeks. We want our sun back, and we want you to get the hell out of our solar system.”
I guess it smiled. Who knows? It pressed a button, and six armed lizards formed a circle around us. “Remarkable reasoning, earthman,” it said. “Surprisingly, you got it right. Had it been up to me, I would have just built the sphere and let you furbags freeze to death. Unfortunately, the bleeding hearts on Dowl Prime passed legislation forcing us to preserve at least 50% of all sentient life forms. Frankly, I think it’s a policy that needs to be reevaluated.” He instructed the guards, “Go ahead and execute this group before they spread their theories.”
“What? You can’t execute us.”
“Sure I can. We’ve only killed 1.7 billion humans so far. The law lets me go to 3.4 billion. But honestly, what did you think we were going to do? Leave? Not even if you had said ‘pretty please’. Now, take them away.”
Author : Michelle Keeley
Frank stared impassively as the Floridian dawn crept silently across his bedroom, the line of accolades on his antique dresser cast long, foreboding shadows onto the elegant wallpaper. The day had come.
He showered as usual. He dressed as usual. Even the drive to mission control was now routine.
As he pulled up at security the nod from the guard was replaced by an earnest yet supportive ‘All the best Commander’. He parked up and entered, the automatic doors sliding silently open to reveal the soaring atrium beyond. Passing through, his stride was broken by an over-emotional receptionist planting a good luck kiss on his cheek, although appreciating the sentiment his discomfort was obvious.
Inside the debriefing room he took a seat alongside his crew as he fought the desire to run a thousand miles in the opposite direction. His exterior belied nothing, he was still ice cool Frank, top graduate in his year, the automatic choice, you could always count on Frank.
After some final words, the four headed across the launch site to suit-up, attire that had been almost as long in development as the shuttle itself. Each crew member had their personal fitter or space tailor as Frank used to call them.
He was surprised but slightly relieved to find no sign of his fitter as he perched on the edge of the grey tub chair in the kit room, his body too rigid to sit back. Joel entered moments later accompanied by some final items of kit and an oppressive silence.
Self consciously Frank stripped off his outer clothes and stepped into his pearlescent suit, its cumbersome nature soon leaving him in need of a second pair of hands. Frank tucked each arm in as Joel pulled from the waist before fastening the front, their close proximity thickened the air in a way that seemed inconceivable a few weeks ago.
They had practiced this procedure so often they completed it without a word. Glancing at the clock, Frank was well enough versed in the timetable to realise the next few minutes were allocated to family goodbyes. He made for the door, gaze firmly fixed floor wards and despite his broad stature, the strength to break the tension eluded him. The desire to apologise, to confess his feelings and admit his fear of intolerance were buried too deep. He left, closing the door behind him.
Two small children ran towards the crew as they appeared in the lounge doorway, a toddling girl and an older boy. Two of the crew hoisted their children into the air prompting fits of giggles, the third embraced his wife as best he could around her prominent bump.
A silver haired gentleman strode enthusiastically towards Frank, his Navy uniform resplendent with medals. ‘We’re so proud of you son’. ‘Thanks Dad’ Frank replied with a weak smile, his mother simpered quietly. After a few minutes small talk the klaxon sounded and the last goodbyes were said.
‘Right men, time to go’ Frank boomed, momentarily recharged with his Father’s praise.
The four walked across the pad and took their positions in the shuttle. As the countdown began tears welled up behind Franks visor, the roar of the engine masked the sob he could no longer contain.
Author : Martin Berka
Clawed front feet scrape rock away to the sides, while the back ones push forward. A sensor in the brain judges that the distance traveled is satisfactory. A thought — no, a feeling— is released: too little air. The ascent begins.
It has copious amounts of blood. Normal ground would have enough air to support one of its genus. But it is deep down, in bedrock, and irregular. Genetically, its size and strength have been greatly increased, also raising the amount of air required. Worse, a heavy, useless object has replaced much of its lower torso.
As it digs up into a mix of rock and soil, it steers slightly to one side, devouring a pair of deep-dwelling beetles. Food is sparse this far below the surface, and the lone traveler has not eaten in some time. Its energy is running out. Higher up, there will be nourishment.
The beetles are quickly chewed and transferred to what was once a stomach. There, they are gradually incinerated, powering motors in the titanium feet.
Several hours, the creature continues up. Air quality is improving, and so is the quantity of food available. Then, the claws brush a hard surface. Hard, but not too difficult for something that has spent days tunneling through solid stone. Deeper grooves appear in the concrete with each attack by the front feet. Eventually, it drags itself up through the new hole, into a different environment. Here, stagnant air sits all around. The only solids are the floor below and a concrete ceiling above.
Too much air. The mole is about to retreat, but the chip in its brain releases a brief pulse of electricity, which becomes a physical need (a strange one for a mole): go up — see light. The digger’s modified hind legs support it as it reaches for and carves open the ceiling. Up, into a place full of air and light, the mole struggles. Its underdeveloped eyes are partly blinded, and it staggers sideways, crashing out through the building’s wall. Humans scurry around it, shocked at the giant creature/machine. The intense light of the sun enters the mole’s eyes, activating a final signal in the brain. The huge object in its torso activates.
The mole ends first, followed a split-second later by the spectators and several square miles of the surrounding city. Even the safest residents of the metropolis can see the mushroom cloud in the sky.
In his secured office, the mayor receives a priority message:
Years ago, you and others like you destroyed the national government, believing your populations and technology made you invincible and independent. All because of your idealogical disagreements, your unwillingness to be part of one nation. Your isolation makes you weak. We have a weapon that none of your air defense systems or walls can stop. Start rebuilding this country now, or lose everything.
The Committee to Recreate the Government